As a swimmer I was a sprinter. I swam the shortest possible distance in the fastest possible time, leaving no room for error. Too slow off the blocks = race lost. Too many breaths = someone else’s fingers hit the wall first. More than other distances the sprint is less about strategy and pacing and more about training and muscle memory.
When I embarked on my journey to write a novel and left behind my days of being coached in the water I thought I left behind sprinting as well. People compare writing a novel to running a marathon (I tried it once…it wasn’t pretty) and I see the similarities, but today when my writing group leader suggested sprints I was thrilled. I normally use the Pomodoro Technique of twenty-five minutes of focus before a break, but today we started with seven minutes. Seven minutes! My goal for the time in the group was to work on a premise line for the sequel to my YA novel. I had glimpses into parts of what I wanted for it but hadn’t thought through the whole plot line yet. I didn’t think there was any way I could get it done in that short amount of time. As with many other things, I was wrong.
She read an inspiring passage from a story collection to get our brains in writing mode and then started the timer. She also warned that we would have to read what we had written when the timer went off, so doodling was out of the question.
Within two sprints I had a tiny, thin, thread of a plot. I also had a list of questions in the margins but it was farther than I thought I would get today. In reading this very rudimentary plot line to others they were able to catch where the tension dropped (the muddy middle, my writing nemesis) and that sparked a few ideas on how to spice things up.
Now, when it comes to swimming I prefer a nice kick-and-chat workout, but when it comes to writing, it looks like I am a sprinter again.