Interval Writing: Get Your Novel Done In Short Bursts

Saturday, November 03, 2012
by wwarby
Day three of NaNoWriMo is here. Whether you're participating in this month's writing craze or you just want to be productive on whatever you are working on, this method my critique group helped me figure out may be just the thing you need.

I love to write, and I have no idea why I resist working on my WIPs. I want to write and sell more books, so I do need to make progress. But sometimes it is almost painful to get started--however, then my fellow Lit Ladies taught me the following method on Thursday night--write as much as you can on your current manuscript without stopping for just fifteen minutes. At the end of fifteen minutes, we each shared how many words we had managed to write. It was amazing--one member who was writing a dialogue heavy-scene wrote 1007 words. I managed to write about 750. Then we did it again, and I wrote about another 750. So in a half an hour, I wrote more words on my WIP than I had in the past month, while I was busy marketing Finding My Place and doing my freelance work.

Another one of my critique group members said, "This really works for me." We both have kids, so we decided that on Sunday--when my husband works and hers is out of town--we are going to "interval write" (as her husband calls it) while the other one watches the children. Then we'll switch. This was her idea, and I think it's a brilliant one.

I'm not officially doing NaNoWriMo--in the sense that I'm not trying to write an entire novel of 50,000 words. I had started a novel over the summer, and I couldn't get back into the swing of things. So, when my group decided to do NaNoWriMo, I decided that my goal would be to finish the middle-grade novel I am currently working on, and I think I will be doing it in November with interval writing!

Have you ever tried setting a timer or writing as much as you can in short bursts of time? 

Margo Dill teaches WRITING FOR CHILDREN (on sale $75 this fall) in the WOW! classroom, starting 11/14. For more information, check the WOW! classroom:


Sal said...

Thanks for sharing your experience with interval writing. I sometimes use this technique, too.
It's great if you can't find longer periods of writing time throughout the day.


Anonymous said...

Great idea. I've used this technique, especially for short-stories, but I refer to it as "Oh for heaven's sake, just WRITE" technique. I get stuck, emotionally hiccuping, staring at the screen and lamenting that I'll never,ever be a real writer. Then something inside me, the parent writer perhaps, scolds myself. JUST WRITE. Bam-- you're spot-on. In the words of Nike, just do it for a short burst and lo and behold, words, paragraphs and pages emerge. Progress.

Good article and reminder, thanks.

Margo Dill said...

Sal--glad it works for you, too. I know it's not a new concept--sometimes it takes me a while to catch up with everybody else! :)

Julie--I think I like your name better! :)

Unknown said...

Margo, this interval writing makes sense!
I write when I can but with small children, in your case, it would be ideal to take advantage of intervals!

GunDiva said...

We do this during write-ins for NaNoWriMo and call it "word wars". The "winners" get a prize, usually candy of some sort, or an additional ticket for the raffle at the end of the month. It has helped tremendously, especially when you're stuck. I love them, and sometimes even win :)

Charlene said...

I enjoy using timers, and not just for writing. Sitting for thirty minutes working on a project then getting up and moving around has helped me get more done and keep from getting bored or lazy (or even sleepy).

Lately, I don't use them to write as I've been doing bursts of work too early in the morning to be waking family.

The babysitting-swap is a fantastic idea, you're the first person I've seen include it in the method.

Sioux Roslawski said...

A writer (I don't recall his name, but it is not one like Hemingway or Dickens or Grisham) once said upon getting up in the morning, he writes two pages before going to the bathroom and peeing. He said sometimes it is a very fast two pages, but it does push him to write.

I've never used a timer. But it might be a good idea to see how many words I can produce in a pre-determined amount of time.

Thanks, Margo.

Margo Dill said...

@Sioux--the pre-bathroom method is hysterical. I wonder if it works. . . :)

@Patricia--yes, with small children we must be creative!

@Charlene--you just gave me an idea for cleaning--anything awful can be done in short bursts--right?

@GunDiva--Yes, I've heard of "word wars" but I didn't realize that's what we were actually doing. And we had my friends' kids' Halloween candy we could have used as prizes too! :) LOL

Rose said...

I love the fifteen minute method! I use it for tackling unpleasant tasks. I usually find I can accomplish much more in fifteen minutes when I know I only have that amount of time to work on it. I tried it for writing a couple of times months ago, but that would be helpful to do daily. Thanks for this posting. It will help me get back on track :)

Diane Martin said...

I recommend the free software program "Write or Die." You can set word-count goals or timed goals. You write like crazy during that time, but if you stop for too long, there are different methods of persuasion you can choose from -- such as the screen turning a bright red, screaming sounds being blared at you, or (my favorite) kamakaze mode which actually begins deleting your words until you start typing again. Once you've met your goal, you copy-and-paste it into your own document. I LOVE Write or Die and find I'm most productive when I use it!

Charlene said...

Yes, ESPECIALLY just have to remember to come back and finish it ;)

Not sure I could do pre-bathroom writing. At one point you'd have to worry about trying to write through the "bathroom dance!"

Margo Dill said...

@Rose: It is a very good method for moms. I'm going to try to stick to it. We should hold each other accountable! :)

@hobbymomof4 That is hysterical. I've never heard of that. I'm not sure if I could deal with all that pressure, though. . .:)

LuAnn Schindler said...

It's one of the first methods I taught to freshman in English class. Write for 15, then stop, take a break and get back to it.

Write or Die - love it!

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