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)

What Fuels Your Writing?

I’m sure I’m not alone in saying that I have a couple “writing crutches” – things that make it easier to get into the writing mood and transform those mediocre words in my head into flowing, magical prose on paper.

Writers are notorious for having their crutches (or vices). More often than not, writers are creatures of habit. Our chair has be adjusted at a certain height, the wine has to be red, and the phone must be unplugged. Whatever your criteria may be, creating the atmosphere for writing is a science. Or, perhaps a kind of magic, where everything comes together just so and coaxes the words onto the paper (or computer screen).

Some writers like Faulker require nothing more than a glass of good whiskey. Yet other, more eccentric wordsmiths, have needed private hotel rooms in order to write their masterpieces (Angelou) or have found that they can only write in the nude (Hugo) to get their writing done.

I’ve got some of my favorite requirements for writing here for your perusal (and judgement). While much of what I list here is optional, I’d much rather write with these things than without…

For Inspiration: Pinterest, random words from dictionaries, art
For Focus: Music (instrumental)
For Motivation: Snacks, coffee, tea, wine

So there you have it. Those are the key ingredients to get me in the writing zone.

But we’re all different! So what about you? Tell me what fuels your writing. What are your requirements/crutches/vices that keep you writing? I’ll be pulling some of your answers for my next post!

How Micro-Ficiton Can Help Build Your Fan Base

Note: This piece was originally written as a guest post for FridayPhrases.com – however, they’ll soon be taking down their blog and guest posts. I am the first to sing the praises of micro-fiction and wanted to share this article with you guys!

How Micro-Fiction Can Help Build Your Fan Base

When I began writing micro-fiction (super short stories under 1,000 words – also known as flash fiction), I had no idea how beneficial it would become to building an audience for my fiction writing. And I didn’t realize that I’d come to love the freedom of writing short fiction so much that I would focus nearly all my energies on it and become known for my micro-fiction – I thought I’d become known for writing the next great literary novel! But as I’ve explored the world of micro-fiction, I’ve come to find it’s one of the most useful tools that writers have at their disposal when looking to gain more readers.
Now, I have no formal training in the area and am still learning the in’s and out’s of cultivating one’s online presence. But I can tell you one thing I know for certain when it comes to building your readership: people love short, bite-sized stories.

Think about it – we live in a culture that, thanks to the vastness of the internet, has become accustomed to a fast and instantly gratifying way of life. Want to know who the prime minister of Prussia was in 1862? Google can tell you in 0.6 seconds. Looking for something new to read? Goodreads is full of immediate recommendations. And you can download it to your Kindle or other e-reader without even needing to leave the house to go to the bookstore or library.

We’re saturated with options and expect quick, satisfying experiences so that we can move on to the next as soon as possible.

So how do you set yourself apart from the countless other authors out there? By appealing to society’s shortened attention span, that’s how! And what more perfect form to do so with than micro-fiction?

Not convinced yet? Here are some reasons you should consider using micro-fiction to boost your readership:

People Have Short Attention Spans
I just discussed this, but it’s worth repeating. Often, in today’s culture, people are busy and want to read something fast! They don’t have time to sit down with a novel. Sometimes they just want a quick story on their commute to work or before bed. Micro-fiction, when written well, gives the reader a whole story with an engaging character and concept – all in a very short amount of time.

Readers Will Take A Risk On Shorter Works
If you’re a new author, it’s hard to get people to commit their time to reading your material if they haven’t heard about you before. A reader is much more likely to read one quick 500 word story than an entire 200 page novel.

You Become a Stronger Writer
Micro-fiction is a challenge. It’s a different kind of writing that not many authors are familiar with. Figuring out how to write a balanced and captivating story in so few words is sometimes difficult, but it forces you to grow as a writer. And when your writing improves, people are more likely to read more of your work and recommend it to their friends.

It’s Easier to Produce More Content
Because the stories are short, you can produce a large amount of micro-fiction quickly (but make sure each piece is of a high caliber – nobody is going to stick around to read more of your stuff if they don’t like it in the first place). Being able to create finished pieces quickly allows you to have something new to present to your audience on a more regular basis. This keeps people coming back more often.

What next?
Ok, so you’re off madly scribbling some micro fiction by now, right? But what do you do with it when you’re done? How do you get your glorious words to the masses?! Here are some ideas on how you can market your micro fiction blog in order to find new readers (and keep your existing ones coming back):

#FridayPhrases (#FP)
Participate in #FP on Twitter! Not only do you get to practice the most micro of micro-fiction (only 140 characters!), but you also get exposure to all those who follow the #FP hashtag. Plus, you get to interact with the ever wonderful #FP community in the process!

Post Them to Your Blog
If your micro-fiction is a bit longer than 140 characters, you can post it to your blog or site. Personally, I post a new, free story every week on my site. I’ve found it helps to showcase my work and create a base of loyal readers.

Ebooks
You can self-publish your micro-fiction stories as an ebook. And this way you might even turn a profit! I recently released a collection of flash fiction as an ebook and found that people loved that they could download the short stories to their e-readers and smart phones and then read the stories on the subway as they headed to work in the mornings. My only advice here is that if you do self publish, you do it in the most professional way (that means getting other people to edit your work and having a professional-looking cover). There’s nothing that chases potential readers away faster than a poorly formatted ebook riddled with spelling errors.

Contests
There are hundreds, if not thousands, of competitions for micro-fiction. Entering your writing may get you some exposure, and maybe even an award or title!

Publications
If you thought that there were a lot of micro-fiction contests out there, there are even more literary publications that now accept micro-fiction submissions. Like a contest, publication is a great way to reach new readers. Plus, you get to add the publication credit to your writing resume!

Other Micro-Fiction Writers
Reaching out to other writers of short fiction can do wonders for your readership. Making valuable connections with other writers helps you to learn more about the field. It also provides you with great opportunities (guest posting or cross-marketing) to get your writing into the hands of readers who love the micro-fiction length, but just haven’t heard of you yet.

Ultimately, don’t forget to have fun with micro fiction. The short form allows you to play around with different genres, characters, and concepts. And writing, no matter what length, should be fun. So enjoy your tiny tales! And make sure to let me know about your experience with micro fiction and your readers!

Guest Post: Script Chix – What’s in a Name?

At Script Chix, we read anywhere from five to 50 screenplays each week. Over the years of reading, we’ve come up with a number of familiar pitfalls we often see writers fall into when drafting scripts.

One of our biggest pet peeves is the issue of character names. Now, that might seem silly to some of you – after all, who cares what a character is named? Believe us when we say, a character by any other name does NOT smell as sweet.

Things to remember:

1) Differentiate, differentiate, differentiate. In the world of screenwriting, this is especially important. If you have an entire page of dialogue between Jennifer and Jenny, your reader is going to get confused really fast. And try to steer clear of rhyming, as well – not just alliteration. Both can confuse your readers, and, unless necessary for plot or character reasons, should be avoided.

Remember, someone, somewhere, is tearing her hair out trying to remember whether Jennifer is the hot doctor or the nerdy reporter – or is it Jenny who’s the hot doctor and Jennifer who’s the sleazy businesswoman?

One trick we’ve learned to suggest to writers is to keep the alphabet in mind. Name your lead character something beginning with A, and move on from there consecutively for every additional character (B, C, D, E, and so on). This will ensure there is no confusion between your protagonist and his proctologist.

2) This isn’t a necessity, as sometimes the best characters have the most bland names, but… try to come up with a name that really suits the character. Some writers we know have told us that the character picks their own name, but we tend to find that that’s not always the case.

Think about the tone of your piece; while “Satanico Pandemonium” works well in From Dusk Til Dawn, it might not work as well in The Hours. Maximus Decimus Meridius is great for Gladiator, but wouldn’t really work in Legally Blonde.

Think about time period, genre, and your character’s personality for guidance. That doesn’t mean the name must stand out – Elle Woods isn’t as memorable a name as Alotta Fagina – but it should suit who your character is.

3) Finally, and this should be obvious with any writing: remember to proofread. We can’t count the number of scripts we’ve read where a character’s name was full of typos (because spellcheck didn’t catch it), or where a name changed halfway through. Really doing a thorough proof of character names will help avert this frequent problem.

As for ways to come up with these brilliant, mind-blowing names, we do what lots of writers do: look at baby books, search the internet for inspiration, look through “meaning of flowers” books and dictionaries… and, of course, look to friends of ours to see if anyone we know has just the right name for our favorite character.

To wrap up, here are some of our own favorite character names, which truly seem to fit the people they represent:

Holden Caulfield. Maleficent. Hannibal Lecter. Atticus Finch. Ebenezer Scrooge.

What are your favorites?

~

ABOUT SCRIPT CHIXUntitled5

Miranda Sajdak and Sandra Leviton are writer/producers currently living in Los Angeles. They host events for writers in the Los Angeles area, and provide screenplay notes, help with proofreading, and numerous other writer services through their company Script Chix. They have a great appreciation for horror, thriller, complex female characters, and writers with a unique narrative voice. More can be found on their website at http://www.scriptchix.com.

 

Sprint Watch: Camp NaNo – April 1st Kick-Off Sprints!

Ah, spring time. The birds are singing, the flowers are blooming, and thousands of people are getting ready to embark on the maddening quest to write a LOT of words come April. That’s right, Camp NaNoWriMo is swiftly approaching and we here at the Sprint Shack are gearing up for all the fun that’s in store next month. We’re picking which projects we’ll be working on, figuring out our word count goals, and looking forward to cabin assignments.

And, of course, we’ll be doing what we do best: word sprinting.

To kick off Camp NaNo right this year, we’ll be hosting sprints on our Twitter account throughout the first day of Camp NaNo (April 1st)!

Here are the times we’ll be sprinting (we hope to add more times, but these are for sure our set sprinting times as of now):

2pm-4pm BST // 9am – 11am EDT // 6am – 8am PDT

5pm – 8pm BST // 12pm (noon)  – 3pm EDT // 9am – 12pm (noon) PDT

8pm – 11pm BST // 3pm – 6pm EDT // 12pm (noon) – 3pm PDT

12am (midnight) – 1am BST // 7pm – 8pm EDT // 4pm – 5pm PDT

1am – 2am BST // 8pm – 9pm EDT // 5pm – 6pm PDT

3am – 4am BST // 10pm-11pm EDT // 7pm – 8pm PDT

 4am – 6am BST // 11pm – 1am EDT // 8pm – 10pm PDT

We’ll be using the #SprintParty hashtag, so watch out for it!

Aside from the first day of Camp NaNo, we’ll also be hosting sprints throughout the entire month of April, so make sure you’re following us on Twitter!

Check back here for updates on our kick-off sprints!

~

Are you ready for Camp NaNo? What’s your word goal? What are you working on for April? Let us know in the comments below!

~

And here’s your Story Shuffle prompt for today!

Character: The ghost of a ghost-hunter
Setting: The Taj Mahal
Year/Era: Right after the first alien invasion
Item of interest: A mysterious parcel

Psyching Yourself Out

Psyching yourself out: Don't let fear paralyse your writingI’ve been having a problem lately. Or, at least, I was. And I think it’s a problem that many writers experience: self-imposed writer’s block (but really, isn’t nearly every form of writer’s block self-imposed?).

It’s not the first time I’ve experienced a block, but I think I came out of this particular bout of it stronger and a little bit wiser. I’d like to share my experience with you (because writing it down is pretty much the only way I can suss out exactly what I learned). So this post is about how I psyched myself out – and how I got over it.

But first, let me ask you this, my fellow writers: do you ever feel like you just can’t get the words out? Do you ever sit in front of your computer, willing yourself to write, but find yourself stuck in the middle of your WIP, not making any progress for days on end? Do you feel, some days, that if you have to look at your current writing project that you’re going to be physically ill because ohmygod you haven’t touched it in weeks and it’s starting to grow figurative literary mold? Do you ever get into funks like that?

Of course you do – we all do. That’s writer’s block, and it’s something all writers will likely encounter at least once (if not hundreds of times) in their writing career.

But this writer’s block that I’ve been experiencing has been a very specific brand of writer’s block. It was a block with a specific piece – a series of short stories that I’d strung into a serialized story on my micro-fiction blog. I was working on turning the series into a novella, but after the third or fourth installment in the series had been posted to my blog, the words just stopped coming.

It wasn’t that I was too busy to write – I had a week where I was on vacation from work and all I did was stare at my computer helplessly for hours on end. And it wasn’t that I didn’t know what to write. I had an outline for heaven’s sake!

No, no. This was a wily kind of block. It was stubborn, affecting only the one project. And even after two weeks of my usual block-busting tactics, I was still sitting at the same exact place in my WIP. So what was causing it?

The answer came to me when I spoke to my toughest critic – my father. After I’d moaned about my current project and how I’d been able to make no progress on it, my father took one look at me and said, “You’re psyching yourself out.”

I dismissed it at first, this idea that my block was coming from somewhere so simple. That it was MY fault. I told my dad (and not all too kindly) that I was doing everything I could. I was sitting down every day to write – I was showing up and trying. But it just wasn’t working. The story had gone stale.

“No,” he said. “You’ve created something that people like, and you’re afraid you’re going to choke and that you’re not going to be able to deliver. THAT is where your block is coming from. You’re scared to mess up.”

The next day, when I sat looking at my computer and the words simply weren’t coming, I gave some thought to my father’s diagnosis. I’d put the first parts of my story out there before the rest of the story had even been fleshed out. And peopled liked it. While this is exactly what I wanted, I hadn’t anticipated the positive feedback having a negative impact on me.

My father was right – I was scared that I’d made a promise of an epic sci-fi story to my readers and wouldn’t be able to follow through. I was afraid that I would write the next part, post it, and readers who had liked the previous pieces would turn their noses up at this new installment. And every time I sat down to write, that was all I could picture: my readers hating whatever words I produced next.

I let this stew for a few days, knowing that I needed to write. To turn off my internal editor and let go. But it wasn’t that simple. Something else was holding me back. What I needed, it turned out, was to give myself permission to fail. Not just to write a crappy first draft, but also to know that if I worked as hard as I could on the series and people ended up hating it anyway, that was okay. The world wouldn’t end. I would have still written the story I wanted to write.

So I sat down and told myself to start typing. Start typing and don’t look back – or forward for that matter. Just. Write.

And really, isn’t that the cure for any form of writer’s block? Just sit down and write? Do it? But I think it’s important to realize that sometimes we put additional roadblocks in place for ourselves. I’d put a lot of pressure on myself to keep my readers happy (which is important, but if you – as the author – don’t write what you want to write and how you want to write, it will be painfully clear to your readers), forgetting the most important reason I started writing the novella in the first place: because it made me happy.

In the future, I don’t know that I’ll approach a serial this way again. I don’t think I’ll attempt to put any of my work on display before the whole story is done. Perhaps my next serial will be completed before any of it is released. But even though this block (that lasted nearly the whole month of December) was tortuous, it was a good refresher for me. To be a writer means to put on your big-girl (or big-boy) pants and write. Even when you doubt yourself and even when you hate everything you write and even when you don’t know what to say. Show up every day and do your job. Get your words down. And stop psyching yourself out.

~

What was your worst writer’s block? And how did you overcome it? Have you ever shared something before it was entirely completed? Let me know in the comments below!

Editing While Sprinting (and NaNoWriMo’s “Now What?” Initiative!)

editing while sprintingOur main focus here at the Sprint Shack is word counts. We’re all for the quantity side of the quality vs. quantity debate (for first drafts, anyway!) and fully support frantic writing sessions riddled with typos and plot holes while sprinting. However, as writers, we know there comes a time when you have to pause. When you’ve exhausted your creativity, or finished a project, or want to polish what you’ve written thus far. It happens to us, too. And as much as we may want to avoid it, it’s the truth:

Eventually, we all have to edit.

Does that mean you should stop sprinting? Of course not! As we’ve reiterated before, the beauty of word sprinting isn’t limited to the amount of writing you can squeeze into one sitting. It’s about community and motivation, maybe even more so than it is about how many words you can string together in 20 minutes. And since editing is something so bittersweet we cringe at the very word, community and motivation are two things we can desperately use during the process.

When I first started word sprinting, I was confused to see writers editing during the allotted sprinting times, reporting to #WriteClub with meager 49-word counts. I wasn’t sure what the point was in reporting word counts one tenth of everyone else’s, when they could be using the opportunity to explore fresh ideas and return to edit on their own time. Then came Faye’s awesome idea, the #TalesAndTea Party.

If you’re unfamiliar, the #TalesAndTea Party is a sprinting party we host on our Twitter every Saturday from 08:00-10:00 PST/11:00-13:00 EST/16:00-18:00 GMT. We all get together with various attendees on Twitter with tea and snacks and write for 20-minute sprints. And while I try to make it every Saturday, it’s tough to always have some fresh idea to work on at that very time, every week, indefinitely. But I still wanted to make the party when I could—and that’s when editing while sprinting started to make sense.

Sure, sometimes while editing you may produce as little as single-digit word counts (or even negative ones—just don’t include those in #WriteClub or Stats Guy might get mad!). But being with other writers and talking about your projects is enough to push you forward and really focus, two things that can be pretty difficult when it feels like you’re ripping apart your characters and plot from the inside out. Sprinting gives you the opportunity to have fun while editing and take the scariness out of it. Simply sit down, stretch your wrists, and edit with as much focus and determination as you can during those sprints. Then take a breather with the rest of us!

Part of the fun of sprinting is reporting your word count, but those who are editing can still find fun stuff to tweet. If you have a positive word count, even if it’s just ten words, report it! If you’re working on cutting down a bulky manuscript and you want to show off how much you managed to trim down, quote your count in the negatives! If you’re somewhere in the middle—not quite adding or subtracting words but simply polishing them up—you can always use the hashtag #WIPLines to quote your favorite sentence in the section you’re currently working on. Even something as simple as finally getting that pesky paragraph to flow properly is a great achievement and deserves some cheer from your sprinting pals!

This is all especially helpful now that January is coming up. After November, lots of NaNoWriMo participants break from their messy beast of a project and get to work on something else (or, if they’re like me, take a much-deserved and needed break) through the holidays. But come January, it’s time to buckle down and edit that NaNo novel, or so NaNoWriMo’s founders say: in fact, NaNoWriMo.org names January and February the “Now What?” months, in which the founders support the revision and publishing process with pep talks, advice articles, webinars, and even a contract that binds you to revising (or else)! As a part of the new “badges” feature on the site, you’ll also have the opportunity to receive a brand-spanking-new revision badge for your dedication if you succeed.

So whether you’re in the throes of editing your NaNoWriMo novel, working on a new project, or simply trying to rein in a wayward character in one of your other pieces, come sprint with us! We host sprints daily over on our Twitter, and Faye, Taylor and I participate frequently in #WriteClub, #FridayPhrases, and other planned and spontaneous sprints.

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Do you edit while sprinting? Thinking of trying it? Let us know in the comments below!