Tag Archives: writing habits

Sprints Aren’t Just for Running

Stacey Kite

To me, writing and running have a lot in common. For the most part, they are solo endeavors. Listening to music is a must for me when doing either one, and I do both very slowly. And above all, the key to both is persistence.

I first got interested in running when I saw a man at the gym get on a treadmill and just go. He ran forever, effortlessly—no panting, no wheezing, no dropping dead. It was amazing. I was envious because I figured there was no way in the world that I could ever do anything like that. But then one morning, when the gym was deserted except for my husband, Fred, and I, I sheepishly got on a treadmill. After walking for a few minutes to figure out how to keep from face planting, I started to run. Seven minutes later, I was panting and wheezing with a killer stitch in my side. Obviously, I didn’t die, but it felt like a near thing. I could have given up right then. I can’t remember why I didn’t, but for some reason, I became more determined instead.

My first running goal was modest: to run one mile without feeling like Fred would have to call 911. Because I was so pathetic at it, I didn’t want anyone other than Fred to see me trying. (For safety’s sake, someone had to be there in case I really did need paramedics at some point.) So we started going to the gym at o’god-thirty in the morning when we knew it would be empty. (Fred is fabulous!)

At first, I’d run for three minutes, then walk for seven to recover, then rinse and repeat for an hour. Every week or two I’d increase the running intervals by 15 seconds and decrease the walk times by the same amount. Here and there I backslid, and it was always painful for a few days when I shifted times. There were plenty of mornings when I really didn’t want to go to the gym, but Fred got me through those days. If he was up and ready to go when the dog was still blissfully snoring and the bats were out, I couldn’t very well pass. With his help, I persisted and was eventually running for an hour straight without wheezing, gasping or dying of embarrassment. And there were even days when it just. Felt. Great!

Writing is the same for me in the sense that though there are times when it’s a joy, there are plenty of other times when I just don’t want to do it because I know it’s going to be frustrating and painful. But I also know I’ll never reach my writing goals without consistently working at it.

That’s where my writing buddy comes in. Though we live in different time zones, every morning we text each other to coordinate a time for a 30-minute writing sprint. (See—sprints aren’t just for running.) It’s like going to the gym together, only different. At the appointed time, when we both have a cup of tea, our respective computers fired up and our timers set, one of us texts go and we both start writing.

When times up, we text each other our results—how many words we wrote, net and/or gross, whether we flew or flailed or if we wasted 15 minutes trying to come up with a middle grade appropriate synonym for torpor. I normally score in the double digits while she is usually in the 150 to 200 range, but once I got 288 words! Which felt great, though I’ve also wound up with a net negative word count on my write-and-delete days.

If we both have a decent session and time permits, we’ll do one or two more follow-up sprints. If one of us is has a truly crappy session—like one of those net negative days—we’ll call and try to talk through the problem. Sometimes the other person has a perfect, simple solution. Sometimes the mere act of having to explain the issue is enough to spark inspiration. Even if we can’t find a good answer right then, it just helps to commiserate with someone who understands how frustrating writing can be.

Of course, the final word count really isn’t the point of the exercise. It’s putting in the time and working at it day after day that matters. That’s the only reliable way to make progress. And it’s a lot harder for me to procrastinate when I know my sprint buddy is counting on me to show up each day.

So, if you find yourself procrastinating instead of writing, try doing some writing sprints with a friend. It doesn’t matter if you live 2000 miles away from each other, you can still keep each other on track.

Getting Back to Writing

Megan Norris Jones

Habits are excruciating to make and oh-so-easy to break—especially the habit of writing. Most of us have been through one type of upheaval or another during the past 15 months that have thrown even long-established life habits out the window. For me, the most recent disturbance to my writing routine wasn’t the result of the pandemic, but the happier and more exciting process of moving house.

It was an in-town move. We found a house we loved in a ridiculously convenient location. It even has a writing room in it—one small enough that there’s no room for anyone else to intrude with toys or paperwork because there’s just enough space for my desk and a beautiful bay window overlooking the back yard. Visions of all the books I would write in that room burst across my vision the first time I laid eyes on it. This room was one of the major selling point of the house. But before I could start writing in my lovely little writing room, I had to, you know, pack and move all my worldly goods from one house to another. And then unpack them all and figure out how to organize everything in our new space. 

The house itself is a dream, but moving—as ever—is closer to nightmare. Why do I have all this stuff? More importantly, why do my family members have all that stuff? My stuff is obviously important. Of course I need the couple hundred boxes of books we hauled over from the old house. But surely somebody else could do without something else to make this process a little faster? Anybody? No? Yeah, that’s what I thought.

And so for the past couple of months, time I would normally have devoted to writing has been devoted instead to the sorting, packing, moving, and unpacking of stuff. We are currently sleeping, eating, and generally functioning in the new house. But every single room has boxes in the corner. Or in the middle of the floor. This process will go on for some time. If you know the time limit on the excuse—don’t mind the boxes; we just moved!—please let me know, because I will be pushing very hard and possibly leaping past that limit. 

But what I can’t do is continue devoting all my time to unpacking. I am still a writer, so I still must write. I knew this when I stopped writing to pack, and so I made a plan. I work best with goals and deadlines, so I took a look at my summer and found an occasion when I knew I would be free of all other obligations for several hours in a row. Then I marked the time down on my calendar as my get-back-to-writing date. I will continue unpacking, organizing, and arranging my house for the foreseeable future, but that task will not be allowed to usurp my writing time past June 12. Because on June 12, I go back to writing.

So, how about you? I know you’ve had writing routine upheaval at some point. How did you manage it and get back to your story? If you’re still struggling with that issue, try pinpointing a date on your calendar as go time. Then tell a writing partner, friend, or family member about the goal you’ve set. Getting back to normal won’t just happen. We have to work for it.

Write By Midnight Pep Talk 5-31-21

The pandemic challenged us in ways none of us could have anticipated, including how and where we write. Since we ended Write by Midnight, each of the Write Owls have received their COVID-19 vaccines and the communities we live in are seeing businesses opening their doors again. After writing from home for more than a year, often with little humans and spouses around more than they usually are, we’re ready to venture out to libraries, book stores and cafes to get our writing done in new spaces. Are you ready for a change of scenery too? Are you in a position to get back to a writing routine that reflects your pre-pandemic life? If so, now’s the time to reassess your goals, set new ones and create a new routine.

Using Write by Midnight to Finish Writing Our Books

Welcome to Write by Midnight 2021! With everything that’s happened this past year, it’s a good time to recenter and refocus on your writing. That’s what the WriteOwls plan to do this month. Each of us has a specific goal for the write-a-thon. You can read about them below. In the spirit of giving you time to concentrate on your own projects, we’ll be scaling back our posts throughout the month. But don’t worry. We’ll still surprise you from time to time with bits of inspiration or prompts to keep you going. Update us on your progress. In the mean time, get writing!

Laura Ayo

Laura’s 2021 Write by Midnight Goal: Revise 8 chapters of my manuscript.

I’ve learned over the years that if I don’t prioritize writing first thing in the morning, I just don’t do it, no matter how good my intentions may be. So, every morning, as soon as my kids are at school (or settled in their virtual learning environment, as has often been the case this year), I set aside an hour to write. It’s a daily habit I’ve been able to maintain consistently ever since the pandemic began. Most days, that one hour is the only dedicated writing time I get. But those 60 minutes add up to words that, for me in 2020, led to a completed first draft of a middle grade historical fiction novel. I’ve got my work cut out for me for Write by Midnight 2021, though. I’m a month into my SCBWI Midsouth mentorship with the talented and gracious Kristin O’Donnell Tubb, and I’m determined to finish revising and polishing this manuscript during the time I get to work with and learn from her. So, I’m challenging myself this month to stretch my writing time to 90 minutes each morning and two full hours each on Saturdays and Sundays. I typically revise a chapter a week, so my hope is that by increasing the amount of time I write each day, I’ll progress at a faster pace.

Megan Norris Jones

Megan’s 2021 Write by Midnight Goal: Complete an outline of my next manuscript.

I just sent the latest draft of my current manuscript out to a couple of beta readers, so it’s time to focus on what’s next for a bit until I get it back. I actually completed half of an outline for another middle grade novel last spring, but I got bogged down in the muddy middle. I had written it off, but when I was trying to decide which project to tackle for Write by Midnight, I reread what I’d written so far and fell in love with the characters and their story all over again. I also saw more clearly how to work through some of the plot snarls that had confounded me during my first go-round. Outlining can be tricky work, tweaking a plot point in one scene that means three more need to be updated—or realizing that an entire subplot has to go—but I’ve found that taking the time to really think through and plan my story makes a huge difference during the writing process and frees me up to be more creative. So, this year I am focusing my Write by Midnight energy on my outline, which should set me up for creative success throughout the year as I dig into writing my next book.

Stacey Kite

Stacey’s 2021 Write by Midnight Goals: Write 14 hours/week and write or revise 4 chapters.

I had three writing goals for 2021: finish my book, write for an hour and a half every day and limit myself to only reading/watching the news twice a week. That last goal went out the window on Jan. 6, when I spent the entire day, and the next few, bouncing between CNN, NPR and the Washington Post like a relapsed newsaholic on a binge. But I did still manage to average ten hours a week writing, so that was almost a win.

But now it’s February and time for Write by Midnight—time for me to focus on writing—not a Senate impeachment trial. My overall goal for the year has not changed. I will finish my book. To do that, I want to up my writing time to an average of 14 hours a week and plan to re-write/revise at least eight chapters of my book this month. It’s doable—if I don’t let myself get distracted!

Write by Midnight Pep Talk 1-25-21

It’s hard to believe 2021 marks our 5th year of hosting the Write by Midnight daily writing challenge. This year’s write-a-thon starts a week from today! For those of you new to our blog, we challenge ourselves and our readers to commit to writing every day – by midnight – in the month of February. Are you up to the task? Spend this week preparing so you’re ready to hit the ground writing on Feb. 1. Links to past blog posts, writing prompts, tips, a goal-tracking log and inspiration can be found on our Write by Midnight page. 2020 wasn’t the year we expected it to be, but now that we’ve adapted, let Write by Midnight be the springboard you need to get back into the habit of writing every day.