Writing Sprints – what are they and a how to use them

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Writing sprints are writing exercises in which one writes against the clock for a shorter period of time. The following is both a blog entry and the script of a vlog post. I’d hoped to be publishing them simultaneously, but I was over optimistic. The vlog post will come later this week.

Vlog transcript for Writing Sprints

I’m a writer and I’m trying to get better at writing. To that end I want to describe and demonstrate a few elements of my writing process as it looks at present. This is the first in what I hope will build into a series of vlogs.

It’s possible that nothing I have to share is of any interest to anyone but me. In that case these videos are going to be a personal exercise for me to put into words what my practice is at present. A benchmark I can come back and check myself against in the future.

But maybe there’ll be someone out there who finds what I have to share interesting. If so, please leave a comment.

It’s a bit windy outside, so if you hear some whistling on the soundtrack, that’s what it is.

This week’s topic is Writing Sprints.

This is the scenario: I sit down with a pad of paper and a pen, set the kitchen alarm for 20 to 25 minutes and turn it away from me so I can’t see the countdown. Then I start to write, and I don’t stop till the alarm goes off or I reach a natural end in what I’m writing. Whichever comes first.

Or if the bell rings and I think I’m almost done, I can write on for a minute or so, but not much more.

What can I sprint about?

Anything at all. Sometimes I sprint on a random topic – something suggested by a website I’m following or by a book I’m reading.

Sometimes I’ll pick a character in a story I’m working on – tell what’s happening, perhaps, from the character’s point of view.

Sometimes I’ll start writing myself a letter, trying to describe a problem I’ve encountered with the story that’s my current work-in-progress. It’s a way of overcoming a block, perhaps, or of making concrete a problem that I’m vague about.

Or sometimes, as now, I write notes in preparation for a blog article.

I work as intensely and quickly as I can for the period the timer gives me. I can correct myself now and again hop back to add things, cross things out. But generally I try to push on.

I also try not to pause too much for thought, and when I’m writing dialogue I often don’t bother with the punctuation. All so as not to break the onward flow.

Once the text is written

Once the text is written, scribbled and rushed, once the timer has sounded, then I take the writing sprint text away and dictate it into the computer. (I use voice recognition software. I’ll do a vlog entry about that in the future I hope.)

When I’m dictating, I often find myself editing what I’ve written. Sometimes because better formulations come to me. Sometimes because I think of something I forgot in the onward rush of the initial sprint. Sometimes, I admit, because I can’t read my own writing and can’t work out what it was I wanted to say!

Once the text is in the computer, then I can let it rest. Or I can add it to my longer work-in-progress, or publish it on a website. It all depends on the text.

I’ve been doing sprint writing regularly for a few months now, often once or twice a week. Sometimes it’s a way of kick-starting my writing week or my writing day. Sometimes it’s a way of forcing myself to loosen up, if I fear I’m falling into a block. Sometimes it’s a way of letting my imagination free.


I’ve seen some fantastic videos on YouTube where artists draw or paint and you can watch their process and see their images appear. I fear that watching someone writing is not nearly as fascinating. Boring is perhaps the kindest word.

Now, I’m filming all of this writing sprint and I’m going to post it complete. But because it really isn’t visually interesting, I’ll see if I can find some way to make it a little less boring. We’ll see.

What I’m writing in the sprint here, now, is the script for this video, the text for this blog. It’s not as imaginative as the texts I usually sprint with, but it’s a way of producing the raw material I’ll turn into a post.

Writing sprints: John writing, still from video

In conclusion

I’ll post the transcript of this film as my blog entry for the week At the Quill on TheSupercargo website. And maybe I’ll publish the unedited and full length film of me writing as a kind of ASMR video.

Thanks for watching, if you have. And as I said before, if you’ve got any comments, do post them on YouTube or TheSupercargo. I’ll be interested to read them.

Cheerio for now!

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