NaNo What Now?

Finding your editing process, revising your NaNoWriMo book and building a writing career through publishing and beyond

Building a Writing Life

start a writing habit, find time to write, discover your process and commit to your writing dreams Non-Fiction

StopwatchFor years, I used to wait until I had a good stretch of time to write. I’d get myself comfy in my favorite chair, get my favorite drink ready, have my special writing music playing and work on my book for hours.

Sounds good, right? Except for the fact that long stretches of time to actually sit in perfect silence to write are few and far between so, in reality, I’d only sit down to write once every few weeks, if then.

If you’re writing a novel this month as part of NaNoWriMo, you’re learning the hard way that you can’t just write when you’re inspired, you need to force yourself to write when you don’t want to, and that it can be difficult to find the time. Especially because most of us get hung up on writing time as this special thing that requires a big chunk of time we just don’t have and that’s actually not true at all.

You know when I finally made the move from aspiring writer to the real published deal? When I finally realized that we all write much faster than we give ourselves credit for and that a few word sprints of just a few minutes each of focused writing can get so much more words down than you’d think. And that, while finding a big chunk of time to work on your writing is hard, grabbing a minute or two here and there is easy. The waiting room at the doctors, your commute on public transport, waiting for them to call out your order for lunch… all of these and more are writing opportunities you’re letting pass you by because you don’t realize how much you can accomplish in a little bit of time.

Set a timer. Do nothing but write for just 15 minutes. Take a break. Repeat. You will be amazed at how fast the words pile up.

I’ve got a program on my computer that tracks my words per minute. It says I average 50 words per minute which means that I can crank out about 750 words in a 15 minute sprint. That means I could write the entire 50,000 words of NaNoWriMo in 30 days by just doing two 15 minute sprints a day. That’s it.

That’s not some crazy witchcraft; it’s just math.

Now, OK, I may type freakily fast because I went to Catholic school where the nuns taught me ninja home-row keyboard skills. Let’s say you write much slower so it might take three or four sprints a day to reach the goal. Not only is that still a very doable amount of time to find throughout your day, the more often you sprint, the better you’ll get at it so the more you’ll write per sprint. And, once you’re in the habit of writing whenever you have a few minutes, the more you’ll discover the writing time hidden in plain sight in your regularly scheduled life.

Come on. Set a timer. Use something like Write or Die if you can’t focus on your own. Do whatever it takes to just focus on your writing and nothing else for just 15 little minutes. It’s a tiny burst of time that I promise you will show you huge results.


  1. Erica

    This is amusingly timely, since I just discovered the awesome power of word sprinting yesterday from peeps at the Rockaway Library write-in! Managed nearly 4k words yesterday just by doing sprints throughout the day, which still left plenty of time for socializing. Didn’t feel burnt out at all, which is typical when I try for that many words in one session (where my word-per-minute count decreases dramatically). 😀

    • Hillary DePiano

      It seems like every year someone has their, “Where have sprints been all my life?” moment and it chances everything for them!



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About the Author

Hillary DePiano is a playwright, fiction and non-fiction writer who loves writing of all kinds except for writing bios like this.

Books and Plays by Hillary DePiano