Timed writing sprints #writersblock #writingtips
I’ve been struggling with writer’s block/lack of motivation in my writing for several months now, and I’ve been battling it the way I’ve always battled it before—I sit my butt down in a chair and force myself to write, powering through the blah feeling and writing absolute crap as if I’ve forgotten everything I’ve learned about writing prose.
The problem with this is that if the writer’s block/lack of motivation lasts for a long time, that kind of “powering through it” can get really tiring. So I’ve also been reading writing books to try to glean some new trick or technique to use.
5000 Words Per Hour by Chris Fox and I really liked his concept of timed writing sprints. I found that the time pressure really helped me to turn off the internal editor and just write.
Rather than being stuck on a particular scene or page, I would force myself to just write whatever came to mind even if it was trite and bland, because I can always fix it later. If I really couldn’t think of something, I left a note for myself to add something later.
I really consciously tried to not stop writing—if I misspelled a word, I would insert an asterisk symbol, then type the word again rather than going back to correct it. If I didn’t like how I phrased something, I would insert an asterisk and retype the phrase how I wanted it to sound. If I didn’t know a word, I’d leave a note for myself. Or if I knew I needed to look a word up in a dictionary or thesaurus, I again just left a note for myself and kept going.
I realize that’s not really muting the internal editor, but it’s helped me to resist the urge to go back to correct, and it keeps me moving forward.
The page is incredibly messy, which really bothers me, but this enabled me to progress further on my book than I had before.
I also resisted the urge to edit what I’d written after the writing sprint was over. Chris Fox made a really good point, that you don’t know if what you write will remain in the book. You don’t know if you’ll cut the scene or revise it later because you decide on a major change in the book.
For example, I edited this one fight scene, but then later decided on a different sort of scene to convey the same information, and ended up cutting the original fight scene. Another scene that I had edited got completely revised into a different scene that happened later in the book, so I had to change a lot of what I’d written to conform to this new place in the plot.
All the time I’d spent editing those two scenes was completely wasted. I could have used those hours to instead write a (crappy) rough draft of a different scene.
So now I have to grit my teeth and ignore the incredibly messy rough draft I’m writing, and just keep plowing forward onto new scenes. My rough drafts were never this full of errors before, so it’s killing me to not go back and fix typos and stuff.
But I’m progressing on my rough draft much faster than I was in the past few months, and I consider that a huge plus.
On the r/writing subreddit, some people were making the point that every writer is different, and they have to edit as they’re writing. I completely understand that, because that’s my normal system. That’s how I wrote most of the books that I published before this.
But now that I’m in the middle of the worst writer’s block/lack of motivation that I’ve felt before, I’m willing to try different things to just finish the book. Since I’m a full-time writer, I don’t have the luxury of taking lots of time to finish a novel. I want to finish this one in the next month or two. So if my normal (and preferred) method of editing as I write is now not working for me, I am willing to do a messy rough draft in order to finish it in a shorter period of time.
Of course, that also means learning this new style of writing and not correcting myself. It’s been really hard, but I don’t regret it—if I can completely turn off my internal editor, I know I can write a lot faster and finish more books per year.