So you’ve finally taken the plunge. You’ve committed to NaNoWriMo, maybe popped open a bottle of wine (I’m looking at you, Taylor Eaton!), and it’s now Week Three. You’re almost there! You decide to partake in a few word sprints to give yourself a kick in the butt. Always an excellent choice.
But if you open your word document and start tapping away, only to find the words aren’t coming as quickly as you’d like… then what? Chances are, the last sprint’s tallies came in a variety, like they always do: many in the hundreds, some in the thousands, some in only the double digits due to a distraction or a sprint spent editing. You want to be one of those in the higher-ups, right? So what do you do?
First and foremost, block out all distractions. Close your door, shut off your phone, warn your family of imminent death if they disturb you within the next X number of minutes. That may sound excessive, but words need to be written, people! You’re not going to get much down if you hear your phone buzzing away or have to stop every five minutes to respond to your spouse’s inquiries about whether or not you fed the dog. When I’m in the zone, I can write upwards of 1,500 words in a half hour. When I’m distracted, I’ve been guilty of writing less than 150. That’s ten times less productive because I’m distracted. So if you want to make your sprinting time count, get things done beforehand and block out that chunk of time to everything but your thoughts and your preferred medium.
Once you have that taken care of, be sure to have a plan. Do you know what the number one killer of productive sprints is? Thinking. Letting that little cursor on the screen blink for more than a few seconds at a time. You need to be prepared so that at any given time, you know what’s coming next—or, at least, a possible route with which you can get there. The key to successful, high-output sprinting is to just write. Which is why you could also…
Treat it as a free-writing session. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, freewriting is writing without pausing; in extreme cases, writing “blahblahblah wkemfomfwklf” until you can think of something coherent to put down. While I don’t think that writing gibberish is the most honest way to add to your word count, the practice does have some merit: it keeps you writing, not allowing your brain to pause, and pressures you into coming up with something so you can stop typing crap and subsequently stop feeling ridiculous.
If you have a hard time getting words down quickly, I suggest giving Write or Die a try. This is an awesome tool—you can turn up the settings so that it starts blasting annoying noises or even deleting your words if you don’t keep typing. Pause too long, and your word count starts dropping instead of rising or remaining stagnant. As someone who has way too much anxiety for that kind of thing, I personally can’t do it, but I can tell you from my one time trying it that it’s pretty darn effective.
Finally, keep a record. As I said above, I know my highs and my lows as well as my rough average. If you keep a record, you’ll be more motivated to push just a little harder past the burn and get those few more words down.
What are your sprinting techniques? Are you a freewriter? A shameless word-padder? Let us know in the comments below!