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)

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6 Secrets To Winning NaNoWriMo Early

For most people, dedicating a whole month to writing 50,000 words can sound a bit shocking, and that number alone can scare a lot of newcomers out of even trying NaNoWriMo. But for the insane percentage of people who do participate in it every year, we know that 50,000 words is not that daunting once you break it down into daily goals of 1667. I know that I personally have a few people on my buddy list who stretch for 200,000 words in the month of November, which is way too intense for me, but all the power to them. It’s all just a matter of setting your daily goals a little higher than the suggested word count.

But sometimes the word count isn’t the scary part. Sometimes, it’s the time that people have to set aside to work on NaNoWriMo on a daily basis. It’s not always possible for people to work on their project for 30 days straight, and this is where finishing your 50k early comes to be most handy.

Today we are going to be talking about how I beat the clock and win NaNoWriMo early every year. Here are some of my secrets to getting ahead and staying above the suggested daily goals:

  1. I personally write an average of 2200-3000 words a day on days that I am working, and 5000 words on days that I am not working. I tend to split up my writing sessions into 3 separate times (early morning before work, before dinner, and before bed). This helps me split up the times and helps me gather my thoughts before binge writing.
  2. I try to do at least one write-a-thon a week. Sometimes I don’t even set big goals for them, but I don’t separate the sessions. If you want to learn more about my tips for write-a-thons, check out my post about them!
  3. Sprints are my absolute best friend during writing sessions. I am generally a focused writer and don’t have a procrastination issue, but I do get easily distracted by the Internet, by my kitten and by all kinds of chores and things I could be doing instead of writing. So I set up a schedule for my sprints. I will write down what sprint times I want to do, and then I will also schedule my break times and what tasks I want to do during the break times. Whether those tasks are switching my laundry over, or sweeping the apartment, or anything that helps me feel more productive, they really help me justify sitting down to write for longer periods of time.
  4. I scout out fast writers in the forums and add them as buddies on the NaNoWriMo website. I often find myself racing a lot of them or trying to keep up with them. I am very competitive by nature, so it’s really easy for me to get motivated when I see people 4000 words ahead of me. I keep a tab of my writing buddies page open at all times.
  5. If you don’t think setting a word count goal for yourself will motivate you, try using the daily-suggested word counts on the NaNo Stats page. Usually, if I can’t get motivated to write a bunch of words, I tell myself that I am going to write ahead two days and set my goal for the one on the website accordingly. For example, if it’s Day 5, I will tell myself to write ahead to get to Day 7 on that day instead. Even if you only write ahead one day, you are still a step ahead.
  6. When you get ahead, don’t stop writing. Even when I am 10,000 words ahead of the suggested goal I make sure I am writing at least the recommended number of words per day, because as soon as you stop writing you will start losing momentum and you will start losing progress. One day will turn into 2 days and that could and has easily turned into a week of no writing. The goal is to win early to give yourself free time at the end of the month. Obviously if you have plans on a day that you would normally be writing, don’t hesitate to take a day off if you have to, but do make sure that your reason is never lack of motivation.

I really hope that all these tips have given you some ideas on amping up your writing sessions and have given you some insight into the processes of those people who have already won. The biggest thing to remember is that while NaNoWriMo is supposed to be a challenge, it’s also supposed to be a fun experience full of writing habit-building as well as a way to meet other writers locally and around the world. Don’t rush through NaNo just to “get it over with.” With all that extra time, you could set a higher goal, you could start editing and take up some of the sponsors on their winner offers, or you could just spend the rest of the month cheering on your fellow Wrimos!

If you have any tips or tricks for getting ahead and winning NaNoWriMo early, please feel free to leave those in the comments below. I would love to hear them and maybe try a few out!


Mazie Bishop is a fiery 23 yeaMazie-Bishopr-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.

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.

Guest Post: Sara Letourneau – Seven Keys to Maintaining Your Writerly Well-Being

Our healGuest Post Template(1)th and wellness are two of the most important “possessions” we have. Yet as writers, sometimes we take them for granted. If we’re too engrossed in our work and lose track of time, or a crucial deadline on a blog post or a round of rewrites is looming, we might feel tempted to ignore sleep, hunger, and other needs.

Here’s what I can tell you from personal experience: It’s not worth it. In fact, it’s essential for us to step away from our craft now and then so we can take care of ourselves. And by remembering to balance creativity with self-care, we can be productive, happy, and healthy.

So, how can you maintain your well-being without sacrificing too much of your writing? Here are seven keys that focus on all-around areas of physical, emotional, and mental wellness.

Key #1: Hydration

Staying hydrated isn’t limited to physical exercise. Drinking enough beneficial liquids during the day can improve energy levels, mood, and concentration – all of which are crucial for writers. So, don’t wait until you’re thirsty. (It’s a sign that you’re already dehydrated.) Have a cup of water, coffee, tea, or other beverage of choice ready when you sit down to write and use your breaks to get refills.

Key #2: Nutrition

Do you find it impossible to write when you’re hungry? (I do!) Not only does hunger lead to a distracting sensation in one’s stomach, but it also throws the brain “off-balance” by forcing the hypothalamus (which regulates a body’s homeostasis) to work overtime. As a result, the body’s focus shifts to finding food. Malnutrition, or the state of not getting enough food or enough of the right foods, can also affect memory, sleep patterns, mood – even motor skills such as writing manually or typing.

Don’t let an empty stomach derail your ability to think or write. Instead, have a snack handy for when those familiar pangs pay a visit. Some healthy choices include fresh vegetables, dried fruit, cheese or peanut butter with crackers, or nuts and seeds. And when it comes to meals, take a break from writing to feed and refresh yourself, or set a deadline so you can wrap up your session at a reasonable time.

Key #3: Exercise

Not only is exercise good for your physical health, but it also has emotional and creative benefits. It can enhance your mood, improve energy levels, and boost self-esteem. It can also put your brain in a relaxed state that opens the spontaneous pathway, which happens during free association and idea-generation. (In other words, those “a-ha” moments that happen when you’re away from writing? Your spontaneous pathway is open then!)

Since every writer’s schedule differs, it’s important to fit in exercise when it works best for you. And whether you prefer cardio (aerobics, swimming), toning (yoga, pilates), or strength conditioning (weights, indoor rock climbing), there’s no shortage of activities to try. Also, have a journal or recording device ready for when your spontaneous pathway opens. If I’m outside walking, I take my cellphone with me for safety reasons – and for saving “text messages” when inspiration strikes.

Key #4: Rest

Some writers have no trouble sacrificing sleep for their craft’s sake. A few even advocate that insomnia boosts creativity. Not me. I’ve learned first-hand that sleep deprivation can hinder concentration, disrupt the ability to fight stress, and make you super-cranky. And when the cycle goes on for too long, it can force your body to shut down.

If this happens to you, listen to your body. Ensure you get enough sleep by going to bed and getting up at times that work for you. You’ll feel refreshed as well as mentally and emotionally prepared for your next writing session.

Key #5: Relaxation

One of the perks of being a writer is using our craft as a form of stress relief. When something troubles you, journaling can often help you find a solution. Not only does journaling allow you to acknowledge your current emotions, fears, or worries, but the act of writing by hand can also put you in a meditative state by slowing your breathing, relaxing your muscles, and clarifying your thoughts. I’ve kept a journal off and on for years, and it’s been a savior for problem-solving and for calming my (sometimes) anxious mind.

However, what about the times when a journal isn’t available? Try listening to new age music or guided meditations that can reduce stress and anxiety. Practice yoga, which promotes relaxation by combining stretching exercises with focused breathing. Other artsy hobbies such as knitting, painting, and adult coloring books can also help.

Key #6: Social Life

As much as we love writing, we shouldn’t let our passion turn us into hermits. ;) Take some time to meet up with friends, attend events that appeal to your interests, or volunteer for meaningful charities and causes. It nurtures your current relationships and helps you build new ones. And on a wellness level, it can buoy your energy and self-confidence.

Key #7: The Occasional Reward

Did you recently finish a draft? Or hit an important word count milestone? You should celebrate! A chocolate bar, a dinner at your favorite restaurant, a shopping trip, or a day at the beach – whatever brings you euphoria or peace, give yourself permission to indulge in it for the moment. Then, when you go back to writing, you’ll feel satisfied with your progress so far and even more motivated to reach for the next goal.

What are some of your tips for maintaining your “writerly well-being”? Is there one particular area you want or are trying to improve on?


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Sara Letourneau is a Massachusetts-based writer who practices joy and versatility in her work. In addition to revising a YA fantasy novel tentatively titled THE KEEPER’S CURSE, she reviews tea at A Bibliophile’s Reverie and contributes to the writing resource site DIY MFA. Her poetry has been published in The Curry Arts Journal, Soul-Lit, The Eunoia Review, Underground Voices, and two anthologies. Learn more about Sara at her website / blog, Twitter, and Goodreads.

A Tiny Guide: Prioritizing Your Writing Time

prioritizing your writing timeSomething’s been bothering me lately about my writing habits and, after a long week of solemn reflection, I came to a realization that I wanted to share with you: it is impossible to do it all.

That’s right. I’m talking to you over-achievers out there. And to those of you that are inundated with responsibilities outside of your writing life.

After switching into a new job a couple months ago, I’ve found that my time for writing has shrunk and my energy and motivation have been steadily declining.

After reaching a point last week where I felt that I could no longer keep up with all my writing commitments, I took a step back and evaluated the situation. What was really going on here? Why couldn’t I prioritize my time correctly and get into a good writing rhythm?

Then it hit me: I was overwhelmed. I’d taken on too much and assumed I could make it all work. And what was more, I had so many writing commitments on my plate that didn’t truly interest me, that I was avoiding them. So, to remedy this issue, I started breaking down my writing commitment and created a guide for myself that I’d like to share with you.

Below is a breakdown of the percent of my writing time that I spend on different kinds of writing (to make sure my time spent writing is manageable, productive, and enjoyable), as well as a list of questions to ask yourself when you need to figure out what you should cut from your writing workload.

Writing Time Spent on Different Projects

I’ve found that most of my writing projects fall into three different categories. I’ve broken down the percent of my writing time that I spend (or would like to spend) on each category every week.

Passion Projects (35%)

Blog Posts/Projects with Deadlines (25%)

Paid writing (40%)

Note: there might be some overlap between these categories – which sometimes makes things easier – or harder – to prioritize.

I’ve found that when I stick to this sort of writing schedule, I’m a happier, more motivated writer.

What Happens When Something Has to Give?

Sometimes there’s just too much. Sometimes, you have to make the tough call and resign from that editor position or give up trying to squeeze an extra blog post in each week. To help you make the decision on what to give up when you need to let something slide, use the below list of questions to determine what is really important to you and what you should let slide.

  • what makes you happy?
  • what allows your writing to grow?
  • what do you look forward to writing?
  • are you under a contract?
  • will you be letting anyone (including yourself) down if you don’t complete this?

The secret to being a great writer is loving your craft, devoting your time, and prioritizing your projects. Don’t let yourself get bogged down with uninspiring work or items that take up your time and leave no room for other projects.

Balance your writing life in order to let it grow.

~

Do you have any tips for prioritizing your writing time? Let us know in the comments below!

Use Cues to Make Writing a Habit

How can you use cues in your writing environment to make writing a habit? Using this one simple technique. | www.sprintshack.wordpress.comSo you want to make writing a habit. What’s the best way to do that? Write on a regular basis—every day, if possible.

That’s easier said than done though. Writing every day is hard work—there’s no getting away from that—but if there’s something you can do to make it that little bit easier, then you should take advantage of that, right? Today’s post features a technique that’s simple, quick and can save your writing streak when your will to write is sorely tested.

Have you heard of the when-then phrase? I first came across this trick in Write-A-Thon: Write Your Book in 26 Days (And Live to Tell About It) by Rochelle Melander (which I highly recommend for anyone who enjoys NaNoWriMo). A when-then phrase involves using cues in your environment to direct you towards a goal-oriented action.

For example, your computer or notebook are cues in your environment. A goal-oriented action is writing. Put them together in a when-then phrase and you get:

When I sit down with my computer/notebook, then I will write [x amount of] words.

If you add in a ‘so that I can…’ phrase at the end, it becomes an even stronger motivational tool. For instance..

When I sit down with my computer/notebook, then I will write [x amount of] words, so that I can achieve my goal of writing every day.

When-then phrases are very handy when it comes to steering you away from distractions and temptations too. Try modifying these when-then phrases to best suit you and the common difficulties you face:

1. When I feel like surfing the Internet, then I will first write 100 words, so that I can achieve my writing goal for the day.

2. When something unavoidable pulls me away from my writing time, then I will take a notebook with me to write in, so that I can achieve my goal of forging a writing streak.

3. When I don’t want to write, then I will set a timer for 10 minutes and write down as much as I can, so that I can achieve my goal of an unbroken writing streak.

The beauty of this technique is how it creates an association between the cue (the ‘when’) and the action (the ‘then’). Over time, whenever you encounter the cue, the action will become an automatic response. And habits are basically automatic behaviours, right?

Start making writing an automatic behaviour today. Create a few when-then phrases of your own, write them down and put them somewhere easy to see.

Why not share your when-then phrases with us too? Let us know in the comments section below!

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!
________________________________________________________________________
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.