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!

NaNo Prep: Making the Most of the Last Week of October

The clock is ticking. Only one week to go until NaNoWriMo. Just 7 days standing between you and your next novel.

Are you ready?

If not, here’s a last-minute guide to help you make sure you’re prepared for the month-long writing marathon.

Get your outline in order if you’re a planner
Get that outline cleaned up. Finish naming your characters and sketching out your villains. Clean it all up to make the writing process smoother once November 1st rolls around.

Start cooking ideas if you’re a pantser
Even if you prefer writing by the seat of your pants, it doesn’t hurt to start thinking about your story. Get a few ideas bouncing around you brain (What genre are you writing? Who is your protagonist?) and let them simmer over the next week.

Tell your friends and family that you’re participating in NaNoWriMo NOW
Seriously, send out a mass text or a Facebook post. Make an announcement with a mega-phone. Tell everyone you know that you’re doing NaNo. This not only keeps you on track (there’s nothing worse than a judgmental look from your significant other followed up with “why aren’t you writing?”), but it also lets the important people in your life know you’ll be busier than usual for the next month.

Set your daily word count goal now
How many days do you want to write each day in November? Do you want to do the standard 1,667 words per day? Do you want to write double that each day and be done by mid-November. Do you want to write less during the week and more during the weekend? Figure it out now and then stick to it come November.

Sign up for the Writember Workshop
Need help staying on track during November? Our very own Faye Kirwin is running a workshop that will keep you writing. For more info or to sign up, click here.

Get your playlists in order
Take some time to hand-pick your music before NaNo starts. Doing this will keep  you inspired through the month AND it saves you from creating more and falling into a pit of procrastination when you should be writing next month.

Create your Pinterest inspiration boards
Pin to your heart’s content. If you’re constantly looking for visual inspiration, create a board full of inspiring photos or quotes that will keep you writing through November.

Stock up on the snacks
Or coffee, tea, alcohol, etc. Make sure you’ve got enough of your favorite munchies to fuel your writing…at least for the first couple days of NaNo!

Pre-write your November blog posts
Or at least outline them. Instead of having to break from your NaNo novel to write your weekly blog post, get it done now.

Get pumped with pre-NaNo sprints
Head over to our Twitter account for sprinting throughout the week and get the creative juices pumping!


What do you have left to do to prep for NaNoWriMo? Let us know in the comments below!

NaNoWriMo Prep: Becoming a Pantser

A Pantser is Born
I’m VERY excited for NaNoWriMo this year. I’m sure we all are, but I’m excited because something new has happened. Something weird and strange and entirely out of character for me. You guys: I think I’ve become a Pantser.

It wasn’t until I read Cristina’s latest post that I began to identify what had been taking place during my NaNo “prep” – for once I wasn’t really prepping at all. I wasn’t outlining and I wasn’t picking out character names or world building. I wasn’t doing any planning. I was just…ready to wing it come November 1st.

Did you guys know that scientists STILL don’t fully understand HOW a caterpillar turns into a butterfly? Seriously, they don’t. Sure they go into their cocoons, but researchers can’t quite pin-point the details of how a little worm becomes a fragile, winged creature. I’m serious (hear more about it on Radiolab if you’re interested)!

My current transformation from Planner to Pantser kind of feels like a mysterious metamorphosis, too. I’m not sure when it started happening, or HOW, but I’ve noticed a huge difference in the way I’ve been approaching NaNoWriMo this year.
For those of you who don’t know, I’ve always considered myself to be a die-hard Planner. In past Octobers, I’ve always meticulously outlined and set up blank files in Scrivener for each and every scene in my yet-to-be-written book. And up until recently, I always regarded Pantsers as a different breed of writers. A wilder, more spontaneous kind.

But now I’m here, on October 11 – less than 20 days from the start of the biggest writing event of the year – and I have done absolutely zero planning.

Old Habits Die Hard
Okay, so I’ve done a little bit of planning. Shhh, don’t tell the rest of the Pantsers!

I do have a concept for my NaNo novel, and I have a main character in mind. I’m not running into NaNoWriMo entirely blind – I’m not that courageous! At least not yet. But these ideas haven’t touched paper.

Sorry, I don’t think you guys understand how big of a deal this is for me: I haven’t written ANYTHING down. Nothing. This coming from the woman who writes down things like “charge phone” on her to-do list just to have it written down.

I’m excited to see how NaNo goes with my new pantsing approach. But I’m also terrified. Will I run out of ideas or inspiration one week into November? Maybe half-way through? Will my story be full of plot holes and will some characters have no names? Will some have names I use interchangeably because I can’t remember who is who? Will my story make any sense? Will it be any good?

I’ll admit, I swaddled myself in a pretty thick blanket of panic the other day when I realized I had next to nothing prepared for NaNo yet. But I remembered by days as a Planner (aaaahh the good ol’ days) and recalled that having an outline didn’t make me feel any better about my NaNo projects. It never guaranteed that my writing itself would be good. Or that the story wouldn’t develop a bad case of plot-holes. Everyone has these worries. It’s part of being a writer.

So I’m embracing my new-found urge to start writing from scratch on November 1st. Maybe it’ll be a huge mistake. But maybe it’ll be wonderful.


Are you a Planner or Pantser (or a mix of the two)? Tell us about your NaNoWriMo Prep – or lack thereof –  in the comments below.

Happy Birthday to Us! The Sprint Shack is One Year Old!

ss bdayYep, you’ve read that right. Crazy, isn’t it?

Twelve whole months have passed since The Sprint Shack was born, and we’d like to thank our readers and fellow word sprinters for coming along on this crazy run with us. We’ve lapped the track several times over, slipped and fallen, and picked ourselves up for yet another round each time. We don’t plan on stopping any time soon and we can’t wait to see what the next twelve months hold.

And–surprise, surprise–we’re sprinting all day to celebrate it! Follow us on Twitter to join in on the word sprinting action throughout the day. We’d love to write with you!

First, we each have a few words about creating The Sprint Shack and what that’s been like for us and our writing.

Cristina R. Guarino

Starting The Sprint Shack alongside Faye and Taylor has done wonders for my writing. I couldn’t be happier that theCristina Guarinoy agreed to join me in this endeavor–I couldn’t have done it without them! They’re both fantastic, brilliant, motivated writers, and I’m learning a lot from and am inspired by them daily.

Not only has starting The Sprint Shack connected me with amazing and talented wordsmiths, it’s given me a type of liability to ensure I stay on top of my craft: how can I dispense advice about writing if I don’t stick with the number one rule, which is to write every day? So to ensure I stayed on top of my work, I recently started a Write Chain (Faye’s ingenious idea!) and am approaching a month straight of writing one page of fiction and/or one blog post per day. As of today, my WriteChain link is at 28. That’s probably the most days I’ve ever written in a row, including during NaNoWriMo—I always take a day or two break during that challenge.

And to know that it’s been a year and NaNoWriMo is approaching AGAIN–I can’t believe it’s already been an entire 12 months since we’ve gone live, and more than a year since I got involved in this wonderful Twitter-centric writing community! I still have a long way to go with my writing, but for the first time since I picked up a pen, I feel I’m getting close to fully understanding what it is to be a writer and what I want out of it. I have lots of goals I’m working toward thanks to my decision to delve into this community and start up The Sprint Shack, and while many of them are taking longer than I hoped or anticipated, I’m definitely enjoying the process.

Happy birthday to us, and a big, warm thank-you to all who have been around from day one!

Taylor Eaton

Has it really been one year since The Sprint Shack was born? Somehow it feels like it’s been longer. A lot longer.

ITaylor Eatonn the last year I’ve published my book, The Suicide of the Moon, and added an extra story per week to my site. I created a write chain so long that it could circle the world (365 days!). Not to mention, I’ve begun to learn the finer points of writing non-fiction posts for The Sprint Shack – something I’d not done much of before.

I’ve also seen myself go from writing over 2,000 words a day to writing less than 50 on some days. I’ve learned the challenges that come from trying to find a balance of pursuing a traditional career, maintaining relationships (with friends, family, significant others, and myself), and writing.

I can’t say I’m where I thought I might be one year out from the start of The Sprint Shack. I thought – for one – that I’d have written more than one book. But at the same time, I’m so proud of what I’ve accomplished in my writing. And I feel like I’m ready for bigger things – literally. I’m ready to take a stab at writing a more traditional length novel (though I’ll still continue with my flash fiction – I can’t quit that). And I’m so excited to see where my writing goes.

I can say, without any doubt, that my writing wouldn’t be at the point it is without the constant support that The Sprint Shack readers and word sprints have offered me. And not to mention the amazing co-founders I’ve had the honor of writing alongside.

Happy first birthday, Sprint Shack! Can’t wait to see where we’re at for our second!

Faye Kirwin

The past 12 months have brought a lot of change for me. I delved deeper into the blogging world, here at The Sprint Shack and at my personal blog, Writerology.net. I’ve met so many amazing people, both online and off. I graduated from university. I’ve just started a business and launched my first e-course, the Writember Workshop. And that’s just the non-fiction side of my life!

Happy birthday to us! The Sprint Shack is one year old! Here's what the founders have to say...My fiction and writing style have also undergone a metamorphosis. Since November 29th 2013, I’ve written every day as part of the Write Chain Challenge, which has let me make progress on my larger projects as well as try my hand at some flash fiction. I love that writing is now an integral part of my day, so much so that it feels strange to even think about not writing.

My expectations of myself and my mindset towards my goals have definitely changed. I know now that if I truly want to do something, I can make it happen. Even if I falter and fail at first, if I don’t give up and keep at it, I know I can do it. That’s made so much of a difference to my life.

How has word sprinting made a difference in your writing? Have you been a Sprint Shack reader from day one? Let us know–we’d love to hear from you! And don’t forget to sprint with us throughout the day on Twitter!

Thank you again, lovely readers, and here’s to yet another year!
-The Sprint Shack Team

Waiting for NaNoWriMo: Making October Count

I don’t know about you, but October usually marks a frantic, excitable timeUntitled in my writing calendar. The change in weather makes me pine for my laptop and a Pumpkin Spice Latte at all times of the day/night, the shift in scenery from Summer to Autumn inspires me with each changing leaf, and—of course—the knowledge that NaNoWriMo is on its way both excites and terrifies me. It’s a magical time of year, but how can you make the most of it?

It can be all too easy to lose the month in extensive NaNoWriMo planning or, on the other end, not doing any planning at all. For some, the knowledge that there’s still a whole 31 days until NaNoWriMo sweeps in and commandeers our lives is enough to kick that procrastination bug into overdrive; for others, realizing it’s only 31 days away is just what we need to set off an all-encompassing planning project. Since we thankfully still have a few days until October arrives, here’s how to find that elusive middle ground so you can both prepare for NaNo and still give much-needed attention to your other projects:

  1. Set a goal. Are you working on a few short stories or poems? Finishing the first draft of a novel? Making revisions to a completed one? Whatever your current situation is, come to terms with the fact that unless you’re using NaNoWriMo to chip away at a current work-in-progress, you’ll likely have to put your current project(s) aside for an entire month come November. This means making sure you’re able to finish what you’re working on or get to a logical stopping point before the month is over. Likewise, you’ll have to have some kind of plan to get through NaNoWriMo (unless you’re a true-blue discovery writer—in which case, we salute you), so you also have to determine what you need ready when the clock hits midnight on November first. Figure out what these goals are and write them down.
  2. Structure your time. It’s hard to tell when to stop yourself when you’re on a roll; there’s a fine line between putting a lid on your creativity and preventing yourself from going on a complete tangent. Only you can know your own writing process and habits, but to avoid getting carried away with either your current work or your planning, alot your time accordingly. If you write for an hour per day, for example, split that time up into sections that make sense for your current situation and do your best to stick to those time restrictions: for example, 45 minutes of writing and 15 minutes of NaNoWriMo planning per day, or 30/30, etc.
  3. Partake in a challenge. Last year, writers across Twitter took to #OctoWriMo to help them get into the habit for NaNoWriMo. If planning isn’t your concern, but the habit is, consider trying something like this out—it’ll get you into shape for NaNo while giving you an extra boost on your current projects! Either revive the old #OctoWriMo hashtag or create your own. Have fun with it! You’ll find that gathering some friends or writing buddies to try the challenge with you is always a great motivator. Likewise, you can always set a #WriteChain goal that encompasses both current and future work, such as “write one page of project X and work on one page of outlining for project Y per day,” and also gets you back into the habit of writing daily.

What are your writing plans for October? Does NaNoWriMo factor heavily into them? Let us know!

Ideas Getting Lazy? Take Them for a Sprint!


That’s the number, the measly, panic-inducing number, of days between now and NaNoWriMo.

Are you ready? For most of us, 50,000 words is a struggle in just one month, and we all have different ways of planning for them. Some plan all throughout October (or even write all throughout October, as this year’s #NaNoWarmUp and #OctoWriMo have shown us) and others jump in blindly. But regardless of our processes, we all have a goal to meet and stories to flesh out.

It’s obvious that sprinting can help you meet your word count goals, but in order to achieve those daily 1,667 words, you need ideas. And what writer hasn’t experienced that horrid, hollow sound of his or her brain screeching to a halt under the hulking weight of writer’s block? Just about every book, no matter how promising in the first couple thousand words of execution, harbors sneaky writer’s block gnomes hiding in the shadows, waiting to snatch up your plot bunnies.

Your best bet? Sprint after them! You never know where it will take you.

As someone who has written probably the last 25,000 words of her novel through word sprinting alone, I can say that the most deviating I’ve done in my work in progress thus far has been a result of sprinting. When you’re pressured to hunker down and write, there’s no time to think. No time to work out the logistics of your next scene. If you don’t have it plotted out, or if your existing ideas are too boring or posing some other kind of problem, that’s where your creative brain goes into overdrive. It’s like a pressure cooker for your creativity; eventually, the words need to burst through, and there’s a good chance of them veering in a direction you may not have anticipated.

Many writers might get nervous about this, but the best advice I can give for unanticipated creative detours is this: let them happen. If you’re the outlining type, or simply have your next scenes mapped out mentally, put them aside and let your sprint take you down whichever road it pleases. You may be pleasantly surprised at your destination. If not, you can always double back later, and count those words as practice. After all, NaNoWriMo is about being reckless. Save your editing and outlines for December; it’s time to let your work in progress out for a walk and some experimentation!

So if you’re stuck this NaNoWriMo, pop on over to our Twitter. We’ll be keeping our eyes out for and advertising whatever sprints and scrims we find, as well as hosting our own! It may just be the creativity boost you need. And at the end of those lightning fast 20 or 30 minutes, you may find yourself with a new scene, a new character… maybe even an entirely new plot to fuel your NaNoWriMo project.

Have you ever detoured during a sprint? Or during writing at all? If not, do you think it would be a scary experience? Let us know! We promise we won’t lead you TOO far astray.

Sprint Watch! #OctoWriMo and #NaNoWarmUp

Welcome back! Thanks for stopping by again, or if you’re just checking us out, thanks for your interest! I know we promised a fantastic post by the lovely Taylor Eaton (and there is certainly one coming), but first thing’s first: we’re on Sprint Watch, and we’ve sighted two awesome word count initiatives for the month of October!

It’s no secret that avid sprinters are crazy motivated, but it seems like our fellow word counters are stepping their writing goals up a bit this year. Normally, we’re all fidgeting anxiously by now, awaiting NaNoWriMo with chewed up pencils and caffeine at the ready. Maybe some of us are scribbling away at outlines, while others are preparing mentally to tackle the 50k word challenge from scratch. But this year, others are so excited for NaNoWriMo that they’ve started a month early!


The first sighting was that of #NaNoWarmUp, an awesome exercise in which writers stretch their literary muscles and take their characters for a jog around the block to prepare for November. The challenge: write 25k words, roughly 806 per day, in the month of October. That’s half of NaNoWriMo!

The #NaNoWarmUp challenge is the brainchild of Kat Zhang and Savannah J. Foley of the Pub(lishing) Crawl blog. Sprinters who participate on Twitter and on the NaNoWarmUp blog itself can earn some serious wordsmithing cred as well as fun goodies, such as free books!

But if you’re one of those awe-inspiring writers who bowls over the 50k minimum every NaNo, 25k may be a piece of cake. So, if you’re looking for an even tougher challenge, you might want to consider trying…


Just flat-out impatient for NaNoWriMo to start? That’s okay—it’s awesome, and we’re eagerly awaiting it too! If you’re about done tapping your foot, you can hop in on #OctoWriMo for a 50k writing challenge and earn your #NaNoWarmUp trophy in the process.

This hashtag was created by Katie O’Shea, who apparently decided two books are better than one and took it into her own hands to extend NaNoWriMo to October. Participants can write one 50k book in October and one in November, or write one longer novel over the two month span. The original rules for NaNoWriMo are that you begin and finish a book of a minimum of 50k words, but who will know if you just continue your #OctoWriMo project? We won’t, unless you confess. ;)

Katie also provides some fun giveaways on her blog to participating sprinters, so be sure to check it out!

Are you as excited as we are? We’re already well into October, but with numerous #WriteClubs and other planned sprints ahead, there’s still time to get cracking on your October NaNo feats! If you don’t have time, that’s okay, but we expect to see you in November. ;)