Your Guide to Writing Sprints

If you’re looking to get words on the page and develop consistency in your writing practice, or just shake up your usual writing methods, writing sprints may be for you!

Here’s a quick guide to getting started and making the most of a sprint, including prompts to get the words flowing.

What is a writing sprint?

A sprint is a timed, non-stop writing session of anywhere from five minutes to an hour. It’s a chunk of dedicated time to simply put pen on paper/ fingers on keyboards and just write.

The idea is to write for the whole time without pausing, getting as many words down as possible: think quantity not quality. Your editor brain has no place here; as they say, you can’t edit a blank page.

A short, timed burst of writing can help you to get into a regular practice of putting words on the page, avoid procrastination, and power through any blocks or perfection paralysis. Similar to the practice of Morning Pages or automatic writing, the method is also often adopted by writers when they take part in NaNoWriMo, where quantity matters.

You can go solo, or get a group together. The Writers SA team stops work every Wednesday at 3pm ACDT for an half hour writing sprint, you can join us on Twitter.

How to get the most out of a writing sprint:

  • Set your intention. If you don’t have a specific project or scene you want to work on, you can free write, or use a writing prompt (see below)
  • If you want to make it a more social experience, tweet or post on your social media channel of choice to let others know you’ll be sprinting with the hashtag #WritingSprint
  • Turn off notifications and close your browser to minimise distractions
  • Set your timer. If you simply want to get into a regular habit of writing daily, try five or ten minutes to start with and build up to longer times. Most people sprint for around half an hour.
  • Go! Write. Don’t overthink it. The focus isn’t on editing or writing a masterpiece, it’s simply getting words down
  • Stop writing when the timer goes off, tally your words.

Writing sprint prompts

If you’re not working on a WIP or don’t have a specific aim in mind, here are a few prompts to help you get started:

  • Read a few pages from a favourite book, then write a passage emulating their style
  • Describe the same scene from the POV of someone who is a) overjoyed and optimistic b) sad and pessimistic
  • From John Gardner’s The Art of Fiction: describe a barn as seen by a man whose son has just been killed in a war. Do not mention the son, or war, or death
  • Write a letter from one of your characters to another
  • Describe a sunrise without using the words dawn, sky, sun, or day
  • From George Saunders’ Substack: Write a 200-word story. But (and here’s the trick), it has to be exactly 200 words long (not 199, not 200) and you can only use 50 unique words in the process
  • Transit.

Find more writing prompts here:

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