Running & Writing: Learning to sprint

When I participated in high school track, I was a member of the distance crew. I could never be a sprinter because it took me too long to get warmed up. By the time I was ready to turn on the speed, the sprint was over.

In my writing life I function much the same way. I prefer to sit down for an endurance writing session – get lost in the world I’ve created and only re-emerge when my stomach is audibly growling, my muscles are cramping, and my head is utterly emptied. (Oddly enough, this is the same feeling I’d get after a long run!)

But my life doesn’t work like that. There are rare and wonderful days when I can lock myself away and write, but they’re the exception, not the norm. What I struggle with is how to get the most out of the stolen minutes that I smuggle and stack together to construct my writing time.

I’ve tried these tips:

* End your writing session with a half-finished sentence so you can pick up there tomorrow

* Start by reading and revising the previous two pages, then move forward

* End by creating a bulleted list of where you’d like to go next

None work all that well for me – I’m incapable of leaving a sentence half finished, I never want to go back just two pages, and once I start bulleting, I just want to write the scene. How can I teach myself to sprint when I want to run (er, write) a marathon?

How do you make the most of shorter writing sessions?

4 comments


  • I understand your pain. The best system I’ve found is to mentally rehearse the next scene I want to write during the free moments I have that I’m not able to sit down at the computer. Like driving and running (though I prefer to walk, much less painful!). When I do get to the computer, I’ve got that next bit mapped out pretty well, and I can start typing away. Most of the time.

    March 9, 2009
  • Kari, I do that too – I have notebooks stashed everywhere (always be prepared!) But then I can’t remember what I wrote in which notebook, where I put the notebooks, & there are the times where I’m conviced I jotted something down, but I really just thought it. I need a scribe!

    March 9, 2009
  • I rewrtie the scene a million times in my mind., when it comes out on paper it is never as a had pictured it

    March 9, 2009
  • What I love is how I can have it all laid out in my mind, then I start to actually write it down and the characters just sort of take off on their own, start saying things I never intended. Sometimes good, sometimes a tangent that doesn’t work, but always fun.

    March 9, 2009

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