Our main focus here at the Sprint Shack is word counts. We’re all for the quantity side of the quality vs. quantity debate (for first drafts, anyway!) and fully support frantic writing sessions riddled with typos and plot holes while sprinting. However, as writers, we know there comes a time when you have to pause. When you’ve exhausted your creativity, or finished a project, or want to polish what you’ve written thus far. It happens to us, too. And as much as we may want to avoid it, it’s the truth:
Eventually, we all have to edit.
Does that mean you should stop sprinting? Of course not! As we’ve reiterated before, the beauty of word sprinting isn’t limited to the amount of writing you can squeeze into one sitting. It’s about community and motivation, maybe even more so than it is about how many words you can string together in 20 minutes. And since editing is something so bittersweet we cringe at the very word, community and motivation are two things we can desperately use during the process.
When I first started word sprinting, I was confused to see writers editing during the allotted sprinting times, reporting to #WriteClub with meager 49-word counts. I wasn’t sure what the point was in reporting word counts one tenth of everyone else’s, when they could be using the opportunity to explore fresh ideas and return to edit on their own time. Then came Faye’s awesome idea, the #TalesAndTea Party.
If you’re unfamiliar, the #TalesAndTea Party is a sprinting party we host on our Twitter every Saturday from 08:00-10:00 PST/11:00-13:00 EST/16:00-18:00 GMT. We all get together with various attendees on Twitter with tea and snacks and write for 20-minute sprints. And while I try to make it every Saturday, it’s tough to always have some fresh idea to work on at that very time, every week, indefinitely. But I still wanted to make the party when I could—and that’s when editing while sprinting started to make sense.
Sure, sometimes while editing you may produce as little as single-digit word counts (or even negative ones—just don’t include those in #WriteClub or Stats Guy might get mad!). But being with other writers and talking about your projects is enough to push you forward and really focus, two things that can be pretty difficult when it feels like you’re ripping apart your characters and plot from the inside out. Sprinting gives you the opportunity to have fun while editing and take the scariness out of it. Simply sit down, stretch your wrists, and edit with as much focus and determination as you can during those sprints. Then take a breather with the rest of us!
Part of the fun of sprinting is reporting your word count, but those who are editing can still find fun stuff to tweet. If you have a positive word count, even if it’s just ten words, report it! If you’re working on cutting down a bulky manuscript and you want to show off how much you managed to trim down, quote your count in the negatives! If you’re somewhere in the middle—not quite adding or subtracting words but simply polishing them up—you can always use the hashtag #WIPLines to quote your favorite sentence in the section you’re currently working on. Even something as simple as finally getting that pesky paragraph to flow properly is a great achievement and deserves some cheer from your sprinting pals!
This is all especially helpful now that January is coming up. After November, lots of NaNoWriMo participants break from their messy beast of a project and get to work on something else (or, if they’re like me, take a much-deserved and needed break) through the holidays. But come January, it’s time to buckle down and edit that NaNo novel, or so NaNoWriMo’s founders say: in fact, NaNoWriMo.org names January and February the “Now What?” months, in which the founders support the revision and publishing process with pep talks, advice articles, webinars, and even a contract that binds you to revising (or else)! As a part of the new “badges” feature on the site, you’ll also have the opportunity to receive a brand-spanking-new revision badge for your dedication if you succeed.
So whether you’re in the throes of editing your NaNoWriMo novel, working on a new project, or simply trying to rein in a wayward character in one of your other pieces, come sprint with us! We host sprints daily over on our Twitter, and Faye, Taylor and I participate frequently in #WriteClub, #FridayPhrases, and other planned and spontaneous sprints.
Do you edit while sprinting? Thinking of trying it? Let us know in the comments below!