Timed writing, anyone?

- by Delilah Devlin

I don’t know about you, but for me, the hardest part of writing is sitting my butt in a chair then focusing on what needs to be done. I’d much rather check email, facebook, tweet, etc. However, I’ve found a way to stay focused for short bursts. And the wordcounts I achieve in those short focused bursts surprise me every time.

Every writing day, I troll the loops for sprinting partners. “Timed writing, anyone?” I ask. Then I gather a group in an AOL Instant Message (IM) chat. This is how it works.

Someone has to be the Time Nazi. The TN sets the starting time and asks everyone what they are going to work on so that every writer commits to a goal. You break quickly to grab coffee or pee. Then at the appointed time, the TN says, “Go!” Each sprinter jots down the current wordcount for their Work in Progress. Then the sprinters write like their hair is on fire.

Forget grammar, punctuation, spelling , anything that makes you pause. I often leave out quote marks, description, and dialogue tags, and concentrate on slamming dialogue, separating it with returns only. You write fast and dirty for the specified time—could be 30 or 45 minutes. At the end of that time, the TN will ask for the count. Because you’ve kept your IM window open, you will hear the pings as everyone begins to chime in with their totals.

Then you take 15 minutes to talk about what went right, what’s giving you grief, and again to grab more coffee and pee, because at the end of the 15 minutes, you will be back in another sprint. It’s easy. It’s fun. The competition spurs you to increase your count every session. I’ve written 12-20 pages in three sessions—and I’m done for the day. A whole day’s work completed in three hours. If you think this might be for you, be sure to answer when I ask, “Timed writing, anyone?”

I’d love to hear what spurs your productivity!


  1. Delilah, you’re spot on about timed writing getting you revved up and WRITING! Timed writing not only makes you produce but gives you a “community” to write in and with! It’s wonderful to sit down to write and not feel that isolation surrounding you and your creativity. Add a little theme music in the background and I’m “gone!” For 30 – 45 minutes, at least!

  2. Delilah, I can’t thank you enough for introducing me to sprints. I completed my first novel that way and won NANO! All because of sprinting.

    It’s like having an exercise buddy. Once you commit to being there and know someone else is waiting on you you feel compelled to show up. Once you’re in the chatroom you can’t back out and lots of writing is accomplished.
    (Sigh) If only I could work out in a chatroom …

  3. Thanks Delilah. This explains everything and it’s just what I need. I kill too much time going back and editing. I will definitely jump in – next week. This weekend I have the boys (2 & 4) I’m channeling my inner child.

  4. They have something similiar on Romance Divas. And yes, knowing I’m going to share my word count will keep my fingers on the keyboard typing and not checking to see what’s happening on Twitter!

    Great post!


  5. That sounds like it would work–I like it! Me, I don’t have any trick and since I haven’t been able to string more than two sentences together in longer than I can say, I suppose I’d try anything if it might work at this point. Good post! Thanks :)

  6. I see some of my sprinting buddies here! Hiya! Gail, most every day next week you will find my on AIM ready to go!

  7. You know, I think I’ve heard this sprinting thing w/the timer works with other tasks, too… um, like cleaning the house. Which I probably ought to go do.. sigh ;)

  8. Fedora! I need to do some of that today. Would gladly sprint with you while I mop. :)