A Writer's Experience with an Editing Sprint

Thursday, May 11, 2023


Last week, I was frustrated with my current work in progress. I finished the first draft of the novel in November 2021 as my National Novel Writing Month project. When I have hard and fast deadlines (and when I blab to everyone I know that I’m writing a book in a month) the work gets completed. When I don’t have any sort of accountability, I fail. 

Last fall I left my full-time editing job, telling myself I would focus on my true crime podcast and finishing the revisions on the 2021 NaNoWriMo book. It is now seven months later and while I’m producing bi-weekly episodes of the podcast, the book revisions have stalled. I have scribbled a few notes about changing the family dynamics about the original characters, but that’s about it. In early 2023, I started reading over the pages again and got to around page 50. Then my progress came to a screeching halt.

This brings us to early last week, one of my “off” times when I don’t have a podcast episode to research or write. I pulled all the post-it notes for my book (a suspense thriller novel) off the wall and put them beside my computer. I told myself I was going to focus on going through the book chapter by chapter (note by note) and making revision notes and see how far I could get by Friday. 

I started at the very beginning. The manuscript had around 64,000 words and 227 pages when I began. As I read and made notes, ideas for new scenes came to me. Instead of stopping the flow of the editing, I made a post-it note with a brief scene description and added it in the wall timeline. (I added an asterisk to those notes, so I’d remember I still must write the scene). I worked as much as I could for three days, fitting in time to exercise, walk my dogs and other chores around the house I had. By Friday, I had gotten to page 158, added about 500 words, and planned five new scenes. (I noticed most of the new scenes fall into the area we writers call “the muddy middle”). 

The experiment helped me understand the way I write best. It’s the same when I’m writing podcast scripts. I have a notebook full of ideas, and on a podcast production week, I spend three to four compressed days researching, writing, and recording one 30-minute episode. I need to schedule time for my fiction the same way. I know others here have shared methods of writing sprints, and NaNoWriMo encourages them, but I’d never immersed myself in an editing sprint like this before. I felt like I got a lot of work done in those three days, by only focusing on edits and not working on specific scenes, and next week I plan to spend most of my time on WIP Editing Spring #2! 

Have you ever worked on a writing or editing sprint? What did it help you learn about your writing style?

Renee Roberson is an award-winning writer who also produces the true crime podcast, Missing in the Carolinas. 


Sue Bradford Edwards said...

I'm seeing more and more about sprints. This may be the way for me to get to the things I keep putting off. Like you, I respond to deadlines. No deadline = no progress.

Angela Mackintosh said...

That's awesome about the sprint! Since NaNoWriMo works for you, you might use the site for revision/editing sprints and other deadlines. I know they have Camp coming up soon, but I think you can use it any time, and just specify each project, deadline, and word count, and they'll prod you to complete it. :) One writer I know sets dates with writing on her Google calendar, and blocks out a couple hours for it each week.

Your podcast is a lot of work! Plus, you're writing posts, newsletter intros, judging contests, and more, so don't be too hard on yourself. You're getting a lot done. But I know how you feel and wish I could do more on my own creative work, too! Maybe we can all motivate each other.

Cathy C. Hall said...

I'm with Sue. When I have a book deadline, I'll do an editing sprint. Not because I want to but because that's the way it is: you turn in the draft and a few weeks later, there you are with edits--and three days to get it done!

But I'm kinda like that with any deadline these days. I'm not sure why I'm a last-minute writer now...I used to be so organized!

Sue Bradford Edwards said...

Deadlines are amazingly motivating!

When I'm drafting, I like to set goals on the NaNoWriMo site. Maybe it works for me because it is so visual?

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