The Power of Write-A-Thons

For NaNoWriMo participants, the word “write-a-thon” tends to mean a few different things. It can either mean that you plan to plot out a bunch of chapters, set a daily goal and write your heart out until you hit that goal, or join an insane write-in event where you are surrounded by people who all plan to write a certain amount of words in a set period of time and will stop at nothing to get there. These options can all come with varying stress levels, but the common denominator is that you are setting a goal and not stopping until you write your way there.

Write-a-thons can be an amazing tool for people who find themselves procrastinating or falling behind in word count or who are just more goal driven. I personally do write-a-thons on a weekly basis during NaNo, and this year I plan on doing at least two 10,000 word days.

There are a few important things to plan before you sit yourself down for a day of intense writing, so here are my fool-proof tips to surviving a write-a-thon:

  1. Schedule your sprints and breaks. Do the math ahead of time and calculate your average word count within a set time. Then figure out how many sprints of that length you will need to do to get to your goal.
  2. With that information, you are going to want to set aside some time just for your write-a-thon and make sure that you won’t have any long-term interruptions. It is really easy to lose momentum when you are writing for a long period of time.
  3. If you need to be held accountable for your word count, pick a writing buddy or tweet your goal. I find that as soon as I put my goal on my social media or tell someone about it, it helps me hold myself accountable and push myself there.
  4. Race a friend! This will be a great motivation if you are a competitive person. (Co-founder note: Check out our past posts on NaNoWagers for inspiration!)
  5. Take 5 to 10 minute breaks in between each sprint. Make sure you are staying hydrated and snacking frequently. Stand up, walk around, and get the blood flowing!
  6. Reward yourself at the end or per sprint. If you are sitting down to write 5000 or 10,000 words you are more than deserving of a reward or two! I find guilt-free video game time or Netflix time to be a great reward so far this year.

I really hope that these tips help you a bit when getting ready for a write-a-thon and I hope that you consider trying it out. If you are used to writing the suggested daily goal of 1667 words, I would really recommend you try a 3k day or a 5k day—they are so rewarding and really can boost your NaNoWriMo spirit!

If you have any other tips for having a successful write-a-thon, please leave your tips in the comment below, and feel free to add me as a writing buddy on the NaNoWriMo website (username is DaisyforMazie)!


Mazie-Bishop

Mazie Bishop is a fiery 23 year-old writer and journalism graduate from
Canada. She is self-published and also has several poems and short fiction pieces published in various anthologies and magazines. Currently, she is in the process of writing her second novel, and is in the outlining stages of a quarter-life memoir. You can read about her little crafty adventures, read her work, and gander at her photos on www.theselittlepieces.com.

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Fallen Behind During NaNoWriMo? 5 Tips to Get Back on Track!

Behind During NaNo(1)How has the first week of NaNoWriMo been treating all of you? Are your novels coming to life as you zip through your words? I sure hope so!

But, realistically, a fair amount of us have already fallen behind.

*gasp*

It happens to the best of us. We all start out each November with a few thousand words and the undeniably optimism that this will be the year that we write AT LEAST those 1,667 words (the bare daily minimum to write 50,000 words in 30 days) each day during NaNoWriMo. But, while our muses and creativity are in a frenzied excitement, real life doesn’t slow down.

Maybe you had to work some unexpected extra hours, or maybe you caught a nasty cold. Or maybe you just couldn’t bring yourself to face another bout of writer’s block the other night. Whatever the reason, many of us have already fallen behind where we should be for the NaNo word count and are now playing the desperate game of catch up.

We’re all human and it happens to most WriMo’s. But you can’t beat yourself up about it if you still have your eye on that 50,000 target.

To aid you in your quest to claiming that NaNoWriMo victory this month, here are 5 tips to help you get back on track!

1. Do the Math

Go into your NaNoWriMo dashboard and see how many words you should have, then look at how many words you actually have. What’s the difference? If you’re behind by 1,000 words, just write 500 extra words (on top of the typical 1,667 per day) for two days. Or distribute the difference in smaller amounts over larger days. Whatever seems doable to you. In fact, NaNoWriMo’s site has a section that tells you how many words per day you need to average in order to finish on time. To find this, navigate to the stats page of your current novel and look on the sidebar for “Words Per Day To Finish On Time”. Use this is a guide for how much you need to write in order to catch up.

2. Take advantage of small pockets of time

If you find yourself at a loss for extra writing time, start using those little lulls throughout your day to get those words in. Use part of your lunch hour to write. Or if you find yourself in a waiting room, whip out your notebook or laptop and start writing. Even if you just get 50 words written, those little spurts of writing will add up and boost your word count.

3. Make time

If you can’t seem to find enough time to get your writing done, it may be necessary to go on the offensive and create the time you need. Get up 30 minutes earlier (or whatever is plausible for you) than usual, and use that time to write the extra words you need. Or maybe order in some food one night to save on cooking/clean up time. Start carving out time so you can get back to writing.

4. Set aside a whole day

Let’s say that you’re REALLY far behind. Or maybe you just can’t seem to work productively in short 30 minute spurts. If that’s the case, it may just be time to go all out. That’s right, pick a day in the next week or so and block out a huge chunk of time – if not the whole day. Don’t make any other plans for that time. This is your writing time and you’re going to use it to get back on track with your NaNo word count. It may be a bit drastic, but sometimes you need a whole day to do nothing but write in order to refocus on the goal at hand.

5. Keep writing

No matter what happens, don’t get discouraged! Keep writing and hitting your goals each day. But Don’t get down if you fall behind. You can only catch up and stay on track if you’re both optimistic and defensive of your writing time. So keep at it, hold that 50,000 word goal in your mind, and go for it! You can do this!

2015 NaNoWriMo Kickoff!

NaNo-2015-Participant-Banner

Happy NaNoWriMo, everyone! We’ve been hosting word sprints on our Twitter all day to celebrate and get a head start on our word counts, but we also thought it would be fun to throw together a little kick-off post as always.

Over the next 30 days, we’ll be toiling alongside you to churn out 50,000 words (and a few inspirational posts to help you chug along). This, of course, means one thing: word sprints! For the next 4 weeks, we’ll be hosting our usual #SundayScribes and #TalesAndTea word sprints, alongside spontaneous, unannounced sprints, as we grab spare moments to write throughout the days and nights. We hope to see you writing with us; NaNoWriMo is always more fun with company!

And, to hold us accountable, we thought we’d share our goals and what we’re working on for the next month. Feel free to comment below with a description of your story and/or goals!

CristinaCristina Guarino

I didn’t participate in NaNoWriMo last year and definitely missed the fun and camaraderie this month brings. This year is just as busy as the last (if not more so), but I’m going to try to take the plunge with a drama/thriller novel that I’ve been brainstorming throughout October.

I typically don’t go into too much detail about my novels before I start writing them, but let’s put it this way: I’ve been reading a lot of Gillian Flynn lately and I love how complex her characters are. I’m hoping to pull off something equally as amazing in this novel, although I know that’s ambitious for a first draft! My goal is to hit the 50,000 mark, but even if I miss it, I’ll be happy to know I tried.

Skye Fairwin

Faye

I’m a NaNo rebel at heart. Why work on one project when you can work on two? That’s my aim for the next month: 30,000 words on a fantasy-with-a-dash-of-steampunk novella and 20,000 words on a non-fiction e-book. The (hopeful) result: two first drafts by the end of November. We’ll see in 30 days whether or not I make it! I hope you’ll all keep me accountable (and I’ll return the favour, ’kay?).

TaylorTaylor Eaton

It’s already time for NaNoWriMo? How did that happen? This year has flown by, and I find myself unprepared for NaNo this year. But no matter! I’ll be working on a novel of mine, Firewalkers, which has been in progress since last year. I’ve currently been writing a chapter of it each week and posting it to Channillo. But now, I want to make a final push and wrap the whole book up. I think it’ll take at least the 50,000 words I’ll write during November – maybe even more!

I’m looking forward to getting back into the swing of word sprints this month and can’t wait to see how everyone does. Let’s write a novel this month, everyone!


What are you working on this month? Are you aiming for 50,000 words or less/more? Let us know!

Writerly Round Up: October 2015 (Plus, NaNoWriMo Kickoff Sprints!)

Writerly Round Up monthly templateHey there everyone, and happy Halloween!

It’s the last day of the month, and that means it’s time for our monthly writerly round up! In case you missed our first post, our writerly round ups are monthly posts with links to helpful blog posts and articles we’ve collected throughout the month. This month, we’re dedicated to bringing you articles that will hopefully help you through the trying month of NaNoWriMo ahead!

But before we delve into that, we just wanted to announce our kickoff sprints for NaNoWriMo! To celebrate the very first day of our adventures, we’ll be hosting some sprints throughout the day tomorrow to help you get a head-start on your word counts! We’ll be hosting sprints during the following times:

10:00-11:00 PDT / 13:00-14:00 EDT / 18:00-19:00 GMT – #SundayScribes, hosted by Taylor

05:00-7:00 PDT / 08:00-10:00 EDT / 13:00-15:00 GMT – word sprints hosted by Cristina  

12:00-15:00 PDT / 15:00-18:00 EDT / 20:00-23:00 GMT – word sprints hosted by Faye

We hope to see you there! And now, without further ado, some reading material for you last-minute NaNoWriMo planners.


5 Creative Ways To Take Writing Project Notes

Posted by: Alyssa Hollingsworth @ The Great Noveling Adventure

Just because you’re busy working on one project during NaNoWriMo doesn’t mean your muse brain will take it easy on you. Here are some ways to stay organized during the month so you can tuck away any new story ideas that come to you and keep focus strong on the task at hand until December.

Ten Questions To Ask When Beginning A Book

Posted by: Cheryl Reif

An oldie but goodie, this article helps writers start their novel on the right track. If you’re an outliner looking for a few pointers to square away the last of your details pre-NaNo, this article is for you; pantsers, you may still find this useful should you become stuck during the month.

10 Last-Minute NaNoWriMo Prep Tips

Posted by: Kristian Wilson @ Bustle

Bad case of procrastination? It happens to the best of us. This is a great go-to guide for those just beginning their first NaNoWriMo journey or procrastinating on their 10th.


There is only so much you can read about NaNoWriMo before biting the bullet, so we’ll leave you with these three this month. After all, there isn’t much time left for you to spend reading. Get to that last-minute outline or brainstorming session and we’ll see you on the other side!

Good luck, everyone!

NaNoWriMo Prep: 8 Things to Do Before NaNoWriMo Starts

Untitled

It’s that time of year again, when the leaves start to fall, the crisp air bites at your cheeks, and all of the coffee shops are full of the smell of pumpkin… and crazed over-caffeinated writers preparing for the impending storm. Okay, that might be a bit dramatic, but for people like me, this is the month of readying yourself for the battle against a novel that seemingly never wants to be written. Ideas for stories or novels swarm my brain on a regular basis, but as soon as NaNoWriMo is in arm’s-reach, it’s like they go into hiding.

There are millions of things we suddenly remember while NaNoWriMo is in progress that we wish we would have thought about before–or, at least, that’s the case for me. So I took it upon myself last year to keep a little ongoing list of all the things that I should have done before NaNoWriMo started. Here are some things you can think about or start working on now to have a more productive November.

Find Character Inspiration and Names:
We all know the struggle of character naming in the heat of the moment. Even if you are a “pantser” at heart, you know the time that building a character can take away from your word count. So why not do some minimal planning and figure out your characters before you have to stress about them?

Create/ Brainstorm your Cover Art:
If you are anything like me, you know the pain of going onto the NaNoWriMo forums and seeing all the beautiful cover art all ready in the signatures of all the eager and prepared Wrimos. You try to ignore them, but in the back of your mind, every sentence you write is backed up with an unbearable longing for your own cover. For me, it was my greatest downfall and distraction in the first week of last year’s festivities, and I will definitely be working on mine before November this year.

Research your Genre and Take Note of Any Applicable Conventions:
This is a great thing to do, especially if it is your first time writing within this genre. Knowing the conventions or other common features of your genre will really help you get in the groove, and it’s one less thing you will need to research when you get started.

Do the Math, Plan Your Numbers for the Month:
If you are a student or work full-time, you will need to work around your life’s schedule to win NaNoWriMo. The lovely word count tool on the website will try to tell you that you need to write roughly 1600 words a day, but for some people that’s simply not doable. So go through your schedule, find the best writing days, and try to amp up your word count on those days. This is also good if you suffer from chronic stress and need to give yourself a little break once or twice a week from novel land. If you need a few days off, just calculate that into your weekly numbers and make sure that you can make up for them on another day. The biggest part of NaNoWriMo is keeping a steady pace and making sure you take care of yourself and life outside your novel, as well.

Book Some Days Off for Catch Up or Damage Control:
This one kind of ties in with the last tip. Slipping and falling behind is pretty easy to do–life happens and you can’t expect the world to stop for NaNoWriMo (not yet at least). If you can afford to do so, I highly recommend keeping at least one day near the middle and end of the month dedicated to catching up. I personally keep a few days closer to the beginning of the month to get ahead so that I can focus on all my duties as a Municipal Liaison, and that works best for me.

Figure Out Your Goals and Rewards:
I’m a big believer in setting goals and planning rewards for when goals are achieved. If you are someone who finds themselves unmotivated often, then you should definitely set multiple short-term goals and rewards, such as for every 10,000 words written. But if you just need that one big push to get to the end, give yourself one big end goal and work towards that. Every year my reward is a winner shirt for the year and a big celebratory dinner with all the friends that had to put up with crazy-NaNoWriMo-me.

Prepare Your Inner Editor:
I want to talk more about this in a later post, but for now, I am going to explain what you can do to get ready for your novel frenzy month. Any seasoned Wrimo knows that the biggest word count killer is your inner editor. That little voice in your head that moves your fingers to that backspace button, makes you read back 8 pages, or convinces you to delete whole chapters. You need to start training yourself to fight against that little voice. I have some tips and tricks to help you beat it once and for all, but right now, you can start by practicing the ever so simple mantra “write now, edit later.” It will seriously change the way you write anything and everything. There are settings for you to turn off your word-processors editing tools if that helps you at all, but just start practicing, I promise it will make a huge difference.

Clear Your Workspace and Computer of Distractions:
Nothing is better than a well-organized workspace. All your references in order, the perfect little spot for your coffee… it all helps everything flow better when things are in place. I always make sure to clean up my computer while I’m in the cleaning mood. I hide all the distracting files or games in a folder and flood my desktop with motivational quotes and inspirational images or references. It’s really helped me out when I am looking around for something to distract myself.

How do you prepare for NaNoWriMo? Will you be trying any of these tips this October? Let us know!


Mazie-Bishop

Mazie Bishop is a fiery 23 year-old writer and journalism graduate from Canada. She is self-published and also has several poems and short fiction pieces published in various anthologies and magazines. Currently, she is in the process of writing her second novel, and is in the outlining stages of a quarter-life memoir. You can read about her little crafty adventures, read her work, and gander at her photos on www.theselittlepieces.com.

Finding Your Writing Niche (Plus, A Challenge!)

More often than not, when I am writing, I find myself questioning my choice in genre. It can be half way through a project or sometimes even in the middle of a novel, but when it hits, there is nothing more confusing. I haven’t managed to pinpoint the exact thing that triggers my indecision but I think it could be the fact that I, like many other writers, haven’t explored other genres.

I read a wide range of genres and have studied all of the different components that make a genre what it is, but I haven’t used that knowledge as a writer yet. Imagine an ice cream parlour, full of new flavours you could try: you can guess what they all taste like, but you have only tried butterscotch. So you play it safe, and just stick to what you know, but there are so many other possibilities for new favourites out there.

I mainly stick to contemporary fiction or fantasy/warfare but there are so many other genres I want to try my hand at. So that is why I have decided to dedicate this next couple of months to tasting some new genres. I will be exploring many genres as well as some sub-genres in the form of short stories.

I encourage all writers to join in on this challenge, no matter how many genres you have tried your hand at. Especially if you are feeling confused about where you stand as a writer.

Since I am familiar with poetry, contemporary and fantasy, I am not going to include those in my list of genres to conquer, but if you haven’t tried them yet, add those to your list for sure.

Here is my list of genres to try:

  • Sci-Fi
  • Romance
  • Mystery
  • Thriller
  • Adventure
  • YA
  • Paranormal
  • Slice of Life
  • Crime
  • Comedy
  • Satire

Everyone’s lists are going to vary, because all of our interests are different. For example, I didn’t choose Horror because I can barely watch or read anything in that genre. I have a pretty crazy imagination and it wouldn’t be good for anyone if I tried to write horror, but I’m going to push myself and try to write a thriller!

Challenge time! Let’s find our niches together.

Since this is going to vary so much from writer to writer, it would be difficult to formalize an actual schedule for everyone to stick to. There are 11 genres on my list, but someone else could only have a few, so I think that this would work better if everyone wrote at their own pace.

To stay connected throughout our journeys in genre, we will be using the hashtag #findyourniche. Whenever you write a post about your challenge or try a new genre, or even if you have some questions, please tweet using that hashtag and also mention @TheSprintShack to be sure we see it, since others use the hashtag for tweets not relating to our challenge.

I look forward to seeing how everyone decides to challenge themselves, and I can’t wait to hear about all of your adventures into the worlds of new genres! Let me know in the comments below what genres you are going to try out and if you have ever felt unsure about your genre choices. Time to go exploring!
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Mazie-Bishop

Mazie Bishop is a fiery 22 year-old writer and journalism student from Canada. She is self-published and also has several poems and short fiction pieces published in various anthologies and magazines. She is a big dreamer who hopes to be writing with the big guys some day and cannot wait for her career to start! Currently, she is in the process of writing her second novel, and is in the outlining stages of a quarter-life memoir. You can read about her little crafty adventures, read her work, and gander at her photos on www.theselittlepieces.com.

#WriteFit Challenge – 4 Steps to Using Fitness to Fuel Your Writing Life

WriteFit Blog Title PictureBack when The Sprint Shack was first founded, a fun hashtag was floating around the Twitterverse: #WriteFit. With such a simple yet descriptive name, I immediately knew it’d catch on quick.

From there, I witnessed the very first beginnings of the #WriteFit challenge, which encompasses something every writer I know struggles to balance: the goals of sedentary writer life with the goals of a fit and healthy life. How can we be productive writers–something that requires hours of sitting, often with harmful posture and bright screens glaring against our straining eyes–while still maintaining good health? Poor habits for the sake of productivity aren’t sustainable–just ask the writer and cartoonist Howard Tayler, who had to get spinal surgery from too many hours of sitting at his desk.

Unfortunately, the challenge took place during an extremely busy month and I was unable to participate, but good news: the #WriteFit challenge is back, this time for a whopping three months instead of its usual one!

Here to talk to us more about the challenge are its founders, Jessi Esparza and Katie Siuta O’Shea.

Can you tell us the basics of the #WriteFit challenge for anyone who’s new to it? The what, where, and when?

#WriteFit combines writing plus fitness (hence the Write and the Fit) in a month-long challenge with a social twist. We’ve found that a fitness regimen really helps us stick to our writing goals. There’s something about exercising that helps us clear our minds and focus on getting words onto the page.

By setting goals, we take the first steps to actually meeting them, and by sharing those goals with the #WriteFit community we have people cheering us on and ensuring that we do.  Participants tweet, blog, or otherwise share their progress in word counts, number of steps, number of miles, minutes of yoga (however they’ve decided to keep track) and encourage other participants. You can do #WriteFit anytime, anywhere—it’s meant to be flexible to fit your lifestyle!

Each challenge typically lasts for a month, but right now we’re doing a few consecutive months. People can start at any time!

How do people interested in the challenge participate?

It’s easy! You set goals, achieve goals, share your progress, and support other participants in the challenge.

Set Your Goals: Set specific goals for yourself, such as writing 20-30 minutes every day (or 3x a week—whatever you choose!), paired with fitness goals, such as 30 minutes of exercise a day or reaching 10,000 steps a day. It doesn’t even have to be “writing” new words—some people are in the revising or querying stages and set their goals to spend time on those things.

Achieve Your Goals: This part’s simple—you actually sit down and write, and jump up and exercise (or visa versa–the timing’s not important)!

Share Your Goals: Use the hashtag #WriteFit on Twitter, Instagram, or any other social media site to check in and share your progress with your friends and the other participants.

Support Each Other: Check the #WriteFit hashtag and tweet other participants encouragement. Favorite, retweet, friend – it’s easier to stay on target when you have a community around you. The more involved you are, the better your results will be. You can even schedule writing sprints (or real sprints!) with each other.

Why did you decide to start the #WriteFit challenge? What was your initial inspiration?

Jessi originally came up with the idea a) to make actual progress on her novel, b) to keep up with her other writing projects, and c) to counteract working a 40 hour desk job followed by coming home and sitting more.

Katie, who is way more social media savvy than Jessi, saw how much progress Jessi was making and decided that #WriteFit should be a legit thing. She posted on her blog and Twitter and invited others outside our small circle of friends to participate too.

What has participation been like in the last challenges?

We’ve done the challenge several times in the last two years and we’ve been overwhelmed by the level of enthusiasm. It really spread and took on a life of its own. Even when we weren’t specifically running a #WriteFit challenge month, we loved seeing that people were still making their own challenges, or keeping up with their goals.

After starting her YouTube channel, Katie O’Shea Books, Katie posted several official YouTube #WriteFit Challenges, and it has continued to grow from there.

From what I understand, there’s also a #ReadFit for non-writers and those who just want to read more! How does that work?

The same way as #WriteFit, except instead of writing goals, it’s reading goals. A lot of our friends who didn’t write but loved books wanted to join, so we created a hashtag for them too!

Will #WriteFit and #ReadFit be back in the future? Do you have a set schedule for future challenges, or are they as you have time?

Definitely! Our current challenge is going on through at least July. We don’t have a set schedule but typically we run at least two official challenges a year. Of course people can also continue to use the hashtag throughout the year.

Jessi Esparza is a writer, designer, and nerd of all tradesJessi Bio Picture, who loves cuddly animals, witty people and yummy food. You can find her on Twitter @jessimesparza or on her writing blog, jessiwritesthings.tumblr.com. She has an ongoing serial about what happens when the fairytale realms and modern day world collide. Read it at http://www.wattpad.com/story/1616693-tales. You can also check out her artwork at jessisketches.tumblr.com.

Katie Bio Picture

Katie Siuta O’Shea is lawyer by day and a writer by early morning/late night. She loves photography, music, traveling, and setting way too many goals. You can find her online on Twitter and Instagram @ktoshea, her YouTube Channel Katie O’Shea Books, or her blog, katieosheabooks.blogspot.com.