Thanks for having me, Jennifer. My name is Carrie Ann Ryan and I’m a NYT and USA Today bestselling author of over forty novels and novellas. I’ve also done all of that within four years, which, as some of you know, is a little crazy. Jennifer asked me here today to discuss a little about my process and how sprinting helps me get things done. My process happens to work for me for now, but I know that eventually I might need to alter it a bit.
To start, I’m a plotter. I know the titles of my books for each series, which character goes with each book, and the main plot of each one before I even put a word on the page. While that can change, having an idea of where I’m going helps me focus.
I’m also a mathematician and chemist at heart, so numbers make me happy!
I set myself goals for each day when it comes to writing, 3k, 5k, 10k for that day so I can slowly work on my book. If I think about each book in parts, it helps me relax. Rather than worry that I have five weeks to write 100k, I can work on things per day. I also know I can’t do things alone!
I’m in a Sprint Loop of ten or so romance authors where we not only discuss business, but do sprints. We use SKYPE but only the text part. There’s no need for video without coffee! We’ve done 15, 20, and 30 min sprints where we focus solely on writing for that time and at the end, report how many words we have. Its not a competition as everyone works at different paces, but it keeps us accountable. I can usually get around 900 words in 20 min, but I know that not everyone can do that. Sometimes I can only get 400 words, but I know that I focused for those 20 min and at least wrote.
Why do small sprints and not #1k1hr? (1000 words in 1 hr)
Well I can’t focus for that long. If I have to sit at my computer and try to write for 60 min, my brain wants to do something else. I’ll start moving in my chair, I’ll get distracted by a cat, or literally a bird outside my window. By doing it in small spurts, I can focus for a smaller amount of time with less distractions.
That doesn’t mean I’m perfect and won’t get distracted, but I do my best to focus for those 20 min.
After those 20 min, we usually take 5-10 min breaks for social media, talking to our spouses, research, or bio breaks. More importantly, we force ourselves to get out of our chairs and stretch. Many of us have joint issues from sitting for so long and other health issues, so doing a group stretch actually is working wonders!
Another thing I have tried recently is using my FOCUS app. I set it for 20 min and that counts as my timer. (I used to use my iPhone rather than a web browser so I wouldn’t get distracted by the internet!) The FOCUS App refuses to let me get on the internet yet still let’s me keep on my Skype loop. You’ll be amazed how many times you go to your browser for something once you hit a sentence that pulls you out of the story. My writing output has increased nicely when I started using it.
One more thing you can do is keep a record of your writing. I have a wordcount record for each month, book, series etc. I’ve always kept it because I like numbers and it keeps me on target for a deadline. However I’ve also been doing a hand written one for daily counts. It has what my goals are for the day in increments of 1000 words on the left side, and I write the time of day when I hit that goal. It gives me an idea of how I’m doing during the day and where I get stuck.
All of this though, sprinting, focusing, writing down word counts, all of it is so my brain can relax and I can dig into the story. It keeps me on track because writing is a business and I have commitments, and it lets me know when I need to push a bit and when I can breathe and work on a special project on the side.
I hope this helps you if you’re looking for a way to focus and if you ever need anything, feel free to email me!
Thank you so much and happy sprinting!
New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author Carrie Ann Ryan never thought she’d be a writer. Not really. No, she loved math and science and even went on to graduate school in chemistry. Yes, she read as a kid and devoured teen fiction and Harry Potter, but it wasn’t until someone handed her a romance book in her late teens that she realized that there was something out there just for her. When another author suggested she use the voices in her head for good and not evil, The Redwood Pack and all her other stories were born.
Carrie Ann is a bestselling author of over twenty novels and novellas and has so much more on her mind (and on her spreadsheets *grins*) that she isn’t planning on giving up her dream anytime soon.
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March 21st, 2016 at 8:02 am · Link
Carrie Ann, thank you so much for stopping by to share your writing process! I love the idea of sprints for writing new pages and keeping the story moving forward.
LOL on no video without coffee. I don’t function at all without coffee
March 21st, 2016 at 9:12 am · Link
I bow to your productivity, Carrie Ann! My paltry 5 or 6 books a year was pushing it! I prefer the longer sprints and used to do #1k1hr a lot but then found I’d have to shift directions from writing to editing to procrastinating. I’m also a puzzler, which means I write in weird chunks/scenes rather than writing a linear story. I probably do a modified version of your short sprints when I write scenes of 250-800 words in a sitting. They can take from five minutes to a half hour.
Thanks so much for sharing your process with us! I am so NOT a numbers person (except during NaNoWriMo) so maybe I’ll start keeping a daily count. That might keep me from panicking as I hit close to deadline time.
March 21st, 2016 at 8:20 pm · Link
Sorry I’m late. Thanks for sharing about your process, Carrie Ann! I’m always looking for ways to improve. =o)
When I was doing NaNo, I kept spreadsheets of word counts. I need to get back to doing that again. Right now, though, I’m spending all my time editing. I really need to get back to juggling new words in with fixing old words. It’s more a gumption problem right now. ;o)