2016 Announcements ~ A Hiatus

ss announcements 2016Happy 2016, everyone! We here at the Sprint Shack would like to wish you a wonderful new year filled with happiness, health, and lots of good writing.

Over the past years, we’ve been blown away by the amazing community that has sprung up around The Sprint Shack and word sprinting. We’ve loved sharing our writing advice and hearing yours. So many of you have accomplished amazing things with your writing and we’re sure that 2016 holds more of the same!

Unfortunately, we have an announcement to make – one that is somewhat difficult for us: as of today, the Sprint Shack will be going on an indefinite hiatus.

This decision was not one that was easy to make for us. But after much discussion and reflection, we’ve decided that putting the Sprint Shack on hiatus is the right thing to do as we all venture further into our own writing and personal projects.

We are not sure if, or when, the Sprint Shack might return, but we have decided to leave that open for the time being. As we pursue other projects, we’ll most certainly miss the Sprint Shack and this incredible community. So we’re leaving this open-ended for now. If, in the future, we feel we have the time to commit to the site again, we’ll pick everything back up.

But for now, we’re putting things on pause. And though this was a hard decision, we’re confident that it’s the right one.

We’re positive that 2016 is going to be a wonderful year for the writing community. We’re so glad to have been part of it for so long and thank you all for your participation, engagement, and enthusiasm you’ve brought to this site.

We’d love to keep in touch with you! You can find us at our respective websites/social media outlets:

Faye Kirwin
Writerology
writerology@gmail.com
twitter.com/writerology
facebook.com/writerology

Cristina Guarino
crgwrites.wordpress.com
cguarino.qg@gmail.com
twitter.com/crguarino

Taylor Eaton
Little Write Lies
littlewritelies@gmail.com
twitter.com/tayloreaton
facebook.com/littlewritelies

Thank you all for your support! Happy writing in 2016 and beyond!

Best,

The Sprint Shack Team
(Faye, Cristina, and Taylor)

Happy New Year! – Our 2015 Writing Resolutions

Happy holidays, and a belated Happy New Year from all of us at The Sprint Shack! As we were last year, we’re here to share our resolutions for 2015 with you and encourage you to set (and meet!) your own. This time, we’re reflecting on the past year and the resolutions we made on this very blog twelve months ago.

Cristina’s Writing goals for 2015

  • Finish the first draft of a WIP (Fleeting OR Underground) and send to beta readers
  • Develop a more regular blogging schedule
  • Fix up short story “The Spread” and pursue publication

Cristina’s Reflection

Cristina GuarinoIt seems like 2014 was a hard year for everyone. Like we mentioned in our post on Career vs. Creativity, all three of us went through major changes this year that affected our writing habits and productivity. I won’t rehash my excuses, because even though they were legitimate disruptions, they still feel like just that–excuses. But what I do know is that if it weren’t for the fact that I achieved quite a few things this year, one of which being a 42-link Write Chain (a big deal for me!), I’d be feeling like a bit of a failure right now.

As of this time last year, my optimism was soaring. The Sprint Shack was a few months old and thriving. I had just written a short story I was proud of, gotten great feedback from my beta readers Faye and Taylor, and was on my way to eventually obtaining professional feedback from the editor of a recognized literary journal. I was contributing to several online and print publications and was thriving at my job. I had a new, albeit rough, manuscript under my belt thanks to NaNoWriMo. I was more involved in the Twitter writing community than ever.

So it seemed like no great challenge for me to achieve my three main writing goals: To get “The Spread” published, to finish the first draft of my long-time WIP Fleeting, and to wrap up and edit my new NaNo novel Underground and eventually send it off for beta reads. Unfortunately, thanks to the aforementioned disruptions,  I met none of those goals. I hope to change that this year with my goals listed above.

Taylor’s Writing Goals for 2015

  • Write at least 5 pieces per week (flash fiction or blog post)
  • Independently publish at least 2 books/projects this year
  • Make writing a priority and develop it into a career

Taylor’s Reflection

Taylor EatonI won’t lie, 2014 was a trying year for my writing. I’ve taken a peek at my resolutions for 2014, and found that I fell a bit short of my goals. That’s not to say it was all bad – I added an extra weekly story to my site, Little Write Lies, and have successfully posted 2 stories each week! I also wrote and published (with help from Cristina and Faye!) my first collection of flash fiction, The Suicide of the Moon.

Why 2014 was so difficult for me, was that partway through the year I had a career change. With my new job, I found myself with less energy and time to write. So my writing goals took a backseat as I adjusted to my new work hours and demands. If 2014 taught me anything about my writing, it’s this: writing is what I love to do and it should not take a back seat. Not even to my career (considering that I want writing to be my career, and not what I currently do from 8-5 every day). Life is short, and I want to write. 2015 is the year I get my butt in gear and start writing more.


Faye’s Writing Goals for 2015:

  • Continue my Write Chain and write at least one page of fiction every day
  • Finish editing my steampunk work-in-progress, Her Clockwork Heart, and send it to beta readers

Faye’s Reflection

Faye Kirwin2014 has been a year of ups and downs in terms of my writing. One of my proudest achievements of the year is producing a page of fiction every day without fail, which taught me that it is possible to make writing part of my daily routine. Because of that experience, I was also able to write and launch my very first e-course, the Writember Workshop: 30 Days to Make Writing a Habit, and start taking myself seriously as a writer.

I feel incredibly fortunate to have met so many inspiring people, all with a similar goal: to write and move one step closer to a finished novel each day, every day. I may not have accomplished each goal I set myself at the start of 2014, but because of their help, I’ve been able to achieve so much more than I would have done otherwise. Now my goal is to continue focusing on the daily stuff in 2015 and make this my best year yet for writing.


What are your resolutions for 2015? Did you meet your goals for 2014? What do you plan on doing differently? Let’s talk!

Setting Manageable Goals

Note: As we mentioned in our NaNoWriMo Kickoff post, Mazie will be writing with us for a while as a contributor to The Sprint Shack! Give her a warm welcome and enjoy her first non-guest post!


For any writers out there who are balancing a 9 to 5 work week, taking care of their families (or fur babies!), and juggling the other responsibilities life throws at them, goal setting can mostly become overwhelming and–lets face it–faulty. But not if you know how to set manageable goals that are suited perfectly to your lifestyle! Whether you are a full time stay at home mom, working overtime, or finishing up your BA, with the right type of goal setting, anyone can achieve what they want to.

The biggest mistake that people make when setting a goal is immediately jumping to the highest tier as a means to push themselves. I am in no way saying not to shoot high, but while telling yourself that you are going to have your book published by the end of the year is possible, for example, there is no structure to the goal. This will make it super easy to lose momentum, which is something everyone needs to achieve such a hefty feat. Here is my 5 step process for setting effective goals:

Step 1: Define your goal! Example: Write and publish a book by the end of the year or even write 1000 words every day this year!

Step 2: Break down the stages! Example: 3 months: write first draft, 9 months: edit and revise, market, publish. *Note: The publishing stage can be unpredictable, so be sure to account for unexpected road blocks along the way in your timeline.

Step 3: Take it one stage a time. Feel free to break down your goals into monthly, weekly and even daily goals, whatever is more realistic for your lifestyle. If you are working full time, it may be more effective to break your monthly goal down into daily segments–because, let’s face it, it can be very difficult to write 10,000 words a week. But say you have weekends off, and you have free time, 5000 words a day is more than possible. Its all about planning!

Step 4: Divide and Conquer. As you hit your mini goals, you’ll start gaining this beautiful thing we’ve mentioned, called momentum! You’ll feel more inclined to write because you’ve been keeping up, and you’re right on track. As soon as you clear your monthly goal, keep going, plan your next month and just write your heart out! There is no stopping you now! You’re a power house, remember!?

Step 5
: Celebrate your ultimate success. At the end of the year, when your goal is close, keep pushing through until you hit it. It may involve you locking yourself in your room until you write 4000 words, denying yourself of Netflix and snacks until you hit your daily goals, but hey, in the end, you’ll have a book edited and ready for publishing–or whatever your goal might be.

Everyone will have a different goal style. For example, I write better in the morning and research better at night, but I also don’t have a fixed schedule for work every week, so a weekly break down is better suited for me because I never know what to expect. But for someone who works full time and definitely knows when their shifts start and end, daily goals would be best.

If there is any other tip that I could give to you this holiday, it would definitely be the recommendation of getting a separate planner for your writing. I know you might be saying “oh no no, I have a planner, I don’t need anything else! I can just track my writing to-dos in there with every single other thing I do with my life!”  Just trust me on this one: keeping a separate planner for writing will make it so much easier to focus on hitting those goals if all you see every day is a daily or weekly target by itself, not surrounded by notes about that potluck next week or the dance recital tomorrow.

I have so many tips for organizing a planner but alas, that is for another day! I hope this helped you start thinking about your goals for 2015, and maybe gave some insight on how to plan for those goals a little bit better!


Mazie-BishopMazie 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.

Starting from Zero

zeroSometimes, as we said in our post on reviving your New Years Resolutions, you fall a bit short of your goals. Sometimes, you fall way short.

When this happens, every writer handles it differently. Some brush themselves off and get right back on it, others regroup after a short break, and yet others take a little longer to stew over it. Some don’t let their shortcomings affect them at all, while others do. Case and point: we’re all different. But if there is one thing we should all strive for, it should be to not allow that let-down to affect our future progress.

Alas, we’re all human. Sometimes, despite our best efforts, we get discouraged. This is where starting from zero comes in handy.

This morning, I woke up and opened up a small spiral notebook. I drafted out a few major goals and decided that, despite being a bit disappointed with myself this new year, I’d drop the negativity and channel only positive energy into my goals moving forward. In addition, I decided I would treat the process as I would a rigorous workout routine: start slow and work my way up.

The goals—which read more like priorities—varied. I listed them in order of importance, with my fitness and health ranking at number one (of course, writing was in the top three). It felt silly to do this, especially since I have made countless similar lists over the years that proved ineffective. Why bother trying again, when I know I’ll only continue to break down my good habits over time—if I ever form them at all? My original resolve was already starting to weaken, victim to my negative and self-depreciating thinking, when I came across today’s horoscope:

You have a long list of things to do. Many of them are priorities. But you can only have so many priorities, and you may be fighting an uphill battle to get everything done. It may be time to reevaluate what you need to do, and the order in which you need to do it. This will also give you a chance to catch your breath, and to figure out if all your goals are just as important as they were when you started. Once you revise your plan, you will feel settled and confident.

This is what I call “starting from zero.” Taking a deep breath, organizing your thoughts, and accepting that you aren’t flawless. It may seem easier said than done, but ultimately, giving yourself permission to continue despite your past failures will only make you stronger… and less stressed!

It may sound odd, but I say “give yourself permission” to continue because that’s exactly what you need to do: stop berating yourself and allow yourself to move on. That “uphill battle” my perfectly-timed horoscope speaks of is often caused by our own self-criticism. And while there are some priorities we can’t just drop and pick back up later, it can be helpful to ease up on ourselves during these times instead of stacking on more responsibility.

If you’re having a hard time getting back to zero, try these steps. They may seem cheesy or cliché, but they work!

1) Start with a relaxing activity, such as some deep breathing or a warm bath.
2) Take out a notebook. Write down your goals and priorities in order of most important to least, and star the ones you’d like to improve on.
3) Brainstorm. Write out what you’re doing, saying, or thinking that’s causing you to stand in your own way.
4) If it helps, write out an actual pledge to yourself. It could be a pledge of forgiveness, a pledge to continue… whatever you need to keep going!
5) Take your goals further. Write out solid, measurable ways you can work toward these goals on a regular basis—this way, you aren’t vaguely saying “I’m going to achieve this.” Instead, you’re promising yourself “I’m going to do this, which will help me achieve this.”

Finally, give yourself some slack! Writing is hard enough on its own—let alone while berating yourself for missing a deadline or not writing at all. If you ever find yourself in a rut, stop by our Twitter for some motivation, sprints, or just plain fun. We promise to do our best to get you out!

Do you ever bully yourself into a corner? Do you find starting fresh helps? Let us know!

And now… here’s this week’s Story Shuffle prompt!

Character: An 8 year-old math genius who talks with a lisp

Setting: Vienna

Year/Era: 1066

Item of Interest: A fake voodoo doll

This one’s a toughie. ;) Good luck and let us know how it goes!

Saturday Surprise! A Collection of Writer Goodies

Saturday Surprise! A Collection of Writer Goodies: Revision and Querying Resources.As anyone who follows me on Twitter may have noticed, I’ve been in a kind of writing slump as of late. It happens to the best of us, especially those of us with a lot going on at the moment, but one thing’s for certain: the reason a writer must write, despite being busy or tired or plain fresh out of ideas, is that long hiatuses are the quickest way to dry up your creative well.

That’s something I’ve been experiencing: the longer I’ve been going without writing, the less I have to write about and the less I want to write. It’s a dreadful cycle I’ve found myself in time and time again.

As a result, when faced with today’s Sprint Shack post, I was stumped. I had no clue what to write about, and I still don’t have a topic. So instead, I’m going to let my bad habits be a lesson to all of you, and point toward some resources that can help keep you on the right track.

Over the years, I’ve collected magazines, links, and books on the writing craft, and they’ve all inspired me to keep going (or, depending on their subject, guided me during a specific stage of my writing), and most of them have been less about writing that first draft and more geared toward what to do with that raw copy. Dashing out those words during a furious word sprint is only part of the process; revising and submitting your work for consideration, whether it be a short story to an e-magazine or a novel to a literary agent, are the parts that take guts. That’s when you get your hands dirty.

Here are some of my top resources on revising and submitting your work. They’re the ones that I’ve been referencing or plan on turning to, depending on what part of the process they cover. Just remember not to get too wrapped up in researching this (it can get addictive!) and get back to your writing eventually!

Revisions
The First 250 Words of Your Manuscript by Janice Hardy – It goes without saying that you have to start strong to catch a reader’s attention, but I never realized how many mistakes I was making in my attempt at a captivating beginning until I read this article. Author Janice Hardy does a great job detailing why that first page of your manuscript (around 250 words) is so important, as well as what to do and not to do in order to draw a reader in. She even gives an extremely helpful breakdown of the first page of one of her novels, sentence by sentence, that demonstrates exactly what she preaches.

NaNoWriMo’s Now What? Initiative – As you may have seen on the Sprint Shack previously, the NaNoWriMo team is dedicating the beginning of 2014 to the revision of November’s novels. They’re offering fantastic pep talks, advice articles, and webinars/live chats dedicated to it, and as always, there’s a fantastic support network on the forums. Don’t have a NaNoWriMo novel? Here’s a dirty little secret: you don’t technically have to be a prior participant to benefit. Just sign up, pledge to revise a novel, and take part!

#amEditing: Need some live support? This Twitter hashtag is constantly live, streaming tweets from fellow writers who are editing their work that very moment. Whether you intend to seek some advice, vent some frustrations, or even announce your accomplishments, this is the place to do it (and the Sprint Shack, of course!)

Querying/Submitting
Let The Words Flow’s Query Week – I used to write over at Let The Words Flow, which is a now-retired blog dedicated to all stages of the writing process. Its current contributors have now moved over to Pub(lishing) Crawl, but LTWF has been left up, leaving behind a wonderful archive chock full of advice from authors at various stages of writing/revising/publishing. In 2011, LTWF hosted a “Query Week” in which its contributors offered advice, critiques, and Q&As on the process of querying literary agents. Though I’m personally not quite at that stage yet, I’ve had this bookmarked for a while, knowing it’ll prove to be an invaluable asset in the future.

Lessons from the Submission Desk by The Dreadful Cafe – Getting a link to this combination talk/PowerPoint presentation will cost you a $10 donation, but if you’re looking to submit a short story for publication, I consider it a must-see (hear?). This talk gives you unabashed, uncensored insight into what editors see regularly at the submissions desk—and most of it isn’t good. For those who want to avoid major, fatal mistakes in their submissions and writing, I highly recommend giving this a try.

#AskAgent and #PubTip – Two great hashtags that allow you round-the-clock access to agents and publishing professionals. Follow them for regular tips and Q&As or take to them with questions of your own. You’ll almost always get an answer—and if not, you’ll still walk away with plenty of tips, articles, and contacts for future reference.

And that’s it for now! What about you? Do you have any great links/resources/tips to dish out to fellow writers in need? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter—we’ll be sure to pass your advice along!

Revive Your New Year’s Resolutions

Revive your New Year's resolutions: 4 steps to getting back on trackIt’s almost a whole month into 2014 and those resolutions you made at the start of the year, back when you had such good intentions, may be looking rather… unappealing.

Now that you’ve had the chance to give them a go and get a feel for them, maybe you’re realising that they’re not for you. They were too ambitious or too vague or not interesting enough to hold your attention. Maybe you’re considering giving up on them—or maybe you already have.

Hold on a moment.

Remember why you want to change.

When you made those resolutions, what was the driving motivation behind them? Why did you want to change? To replace a bad habit or build a good one? To better yourself in some way? To make life more fulfilling? Reconnecting with the original incentive to change can instil new life and motivation in you.

ACTION POINT: Take 5 minutes to identify the core reason you want to change and write about it. What are the benefits? How will it make you feel to achieve your goal? How will it help you and others?

Identify what’s causing you problems.

Maybe your motivation to stick to your resolution is waning because you set the bar too high or didn’t make it challenging enough. Maybe it’s just inconvenient for you to do at this point in time. Whatever the obstacle to achieving your goal is, you can’t overcome it if you don’t know what it is.

ACTION POINT: Take another 5 minutes to write about why you’re having problems sticking with your resolution. Is it too much? Too little? Unmemorable? Or maybe you’re lacking the drive to do it? Identify the problem at its root and it becomes much easier to deal with.

Reassess your goals.

Now that you know what it is about your resolutions that’s causing you trouble, you can start to address it. Resolutions aren’t set in stone. They’re adaptable. If you know you can’t keep up your current resolution, change it to make it more manageable. It’s better to admit you couldn’t maintain your original goal and adjust it than give up on it entirely.

ACTION POINT: Keeping the problems you’ve had so far in mind, think of what parts of your original resolution need to change. It may be just one facet of it (e.g. altering a word count target), or the entire resolution may need to be revised (e.g. setting yourself a weekly goal instead of writing every day). Life is unpredictable and altering your goals to reflect that isn’t quitting or cheating—it’s being adaptive and efficient.

Set new, improved goals.

You have the benefit of practice. You know now what you can do and what you can’t, so reset your goals to reflect this.

ACTION POINT: Adjust your resolutions, keeping this checklist in mind. Make sure your new goals are:

  • Concrete and specific. Don’t be vague in your wording. Instead of ‘I want to write a novel,’ try ‘I want to write a chapter a week’ or ‘I want to write 500 words a day.’
  • Short-term as well as long-term. Having an end-of-year goal gives you something to aim for, but having short-term goals keep you on track. Break your long-term target down into smaller steps and cement your goals in time so that you work towards them gradually and don’t put them off for weeks or months at a time.
  • Phrased positively. Remember, your goals will help you to make positive changes in your life, so why phrase them negatively? For example, instead of ‘I want to stop procrastinating,’ try ‘I will do something writing-related for at least 15 minutes a day.’

Now that you have your new, improved resolutions for the year, you can start implementing the changes that you long to see. When you feel your resolve wavering, remember why you want to change and, if you stumble in your goals, don’t give up. Learn from it. Revisit this checklist. And come back fighting.

~

What were your New Year’s resolutions and how are you progressing with them so far? Have you had to make any adjustments to your goals?

Don’t Find Time to Write. Make Time.

Don't find time to write... Make time: How to track, identify and make time for your writingA new year, a new start. This is going to be a fantastic year for your writing, you can feel it in the whorls of your ink-stained fingers! You’ve made your resolutions, you want writing to be a big part of your life, and you’re formulating a plan to do it.

When you’re coming up with that master plan though, make one important distinction. Don’t just find time to write in 2014. Make time.

Finding time to write involves seeking out the free moments in your day and giving them over to writing. That in itself isn’t a bad idea, especially if you’re just starting to write. But what if you don’t have any free moments to give over to storytelling? And what if you want more time to write than you have available? That is when you make time.

Track Time

Start by keeping track of your day. Carry a small jotter around with you or take notes on your phone of what you’re doing, when you’re doing it, and how essential the activity is on a scale of 1 (not essential) to 5 (very essential). While things like ‘making dinner’ and ‘having a shower’ might be higher on the scale, activities like watching TV and surfing the Web will be lower.

Identify Time

After a week of tracking your daily activities, look back at what you’ve written down and circle the things you’ve labelled as 1 or 2 on the scale. Could you cut them from your day? If so, this will open up time that you can use for writing. If not, could you cut back on the amount of time you spend on them? For example, if you spend 3 hours watching TV on an evening, could you cut that back to just 1 hour instead?

If you can’t or don’t want to cut back on activities later in the day, consider waking up an hour or two earlier than usual each day and dedicate that time to writing. The #5amWritersClub is a good example of writers making time to write every day. @5amWritersClub hosts word sprints every weekday, so if you want to dedicate a couple of hours to writing, go join them!

Make note of activities spread throughout the day that could be grouped together. For example, if you spend 30 minutes on a morning replying to emails, then another 30 minutes on a night, plus an hour messaging on social media throughout the day, could you group these together so that they’re dealt with all in one go? By grouping similar activities together and putting a time limit on them, you can clear out space throughout the day for other activities.

Make Time

With the free time you’ve created by eliminating and cutting back on inessential activities, you now have much more time available to write!

If you can, set aside the same time each day and make a routine of sitting down to write. Within a few days, you’ll notice the difference it makes to your mood, within a few weeks, you’ll see the improvement in your writing, and by the year’s end, you’ll have achieved the goal you made at the start of 2014: to make writing a part of your life.

~

What things have you cut back on to make time for writing?