A Quick Guide to Ruby Writing Sprints

Are you ready for some sprinting????

Woohoo! I hope so! I know I am.

So okay, here’s the deal. I thought I would jump in here and do a real quick how-to for Ruby sprinting. Many of you joined us in previous years (and I can’t wait to sprint with you again!), but I know there are others out there who just aren’t sold on sprints yet. Or maybe you’re a little shy about joining, or just not feeling quite “techy” enough. I’m here to allay your fears.

I also want to let you know that each and every last one of you is welcomed to attend, encouraged to attend, and to remind you that you can make the sprint times whatever YOU need the time to be. Not everyone does the same thing in a sprint, AND THAT’S OKAY!

Okay, below is our twelve step sprinting program. Let’s get started with the basics:

1)   To join a sprint, just go over to the Ruby Winter Writing Festival Site at In the upper left of the home page, you’ll see a blue box (Schedule Writing Sprints) with a link that says “chat room.” Easy Peasy!

2)  Once you click the link, you’ll get a pop up to enter the name you’d like to log in as. Simply enter your first name (or whatever you’d like us to call you), and you’ll be put immediately in the sprint room where you can see everyone else already logged in. Don’t worry: chatting is purely by text, so no one will see that you’ve spilled gravy on your blouse. Typed comments from participants appear on the chat room screen. To add a comment of your own, just type what you want into the long white box at the bottom and press enter.

3) Sprints usually start at the top and bottom of the hour.

4) Most sprints are for 20 minutes, though some hostesses make them longer. The hostess confirms everyone is ready to go, then types “GO,” at which point everyone scurries to their individual manuscript document to quietly and hurriedly work. (Leave the chat room screen open on your computer with your sound on so you’ll hear the “boop” that signals time is up.)

5)  At the end of the 20 minutes, the hostess types “STOP,” you’ll hear a “boop,” and then the whole group takes 10 minutes to “chat” (again, by typing). We usually start by reporting in on how we did, while oohing and aahing over each other’s hard work! We’ve also been known to do quick brainstorming sessions if someone gets stuck, or just generally spend time getting to know each other.

6)  Sometimes the sprint hostess has to get out the sprint whip and rein people in after those ten minutes in order to get going on the next sprint, but it’s all done in fun. :D Practically no one got hurt last year! ;)

A note about sprint times. Most hostesses start at the top/bottom of the hour just so those joining in have some idea what to expect if they are running late to the chat room, but everyone is welcome to jump in whenever they do arrive. If you join while a sprint is in progress, the hostess will welcome you, let you know how much longer to go in the current sprint, then return to working. You’re welcome to jump in and do a partial sprint, or simply gather your thoughts and prepare to start the next round. 

7)  You can log out and quit at any time. If you’ll let us know you’re leaving beforehand, I can promise a very nice goodbye. :)

8)  Sprints are held daily, with multiple slots scheduled per day, and we try to always hit both daytime and nighttime sprints. Three to four days of the schedule can always be found on the WWF site in the Scheduled Writing Sprints box. Some sprints happen at the same time each week; other sprint times change week to week, so do check.


And now for the extras:

9)      Everyone is welcome. Really! If you’ve never sprinted before, or never sprinted with us, please feel more than welcome to join us. We have a blast, and it only gets better with more people.

10)   You are under no pressure to be super chatty if you don’t feel like it. You can sprint with us and pretty much remain silent if you want to, but I can’t imagine you’ll want to for long! :)

11)   Not everyone does what you might think of when we say “sprint.” Some people are heads down writing new words (traditional sprinting), but others are heads down editing. Sometimes even heads down plotting. Whatever you need to do, you can do it there. It’s simply a terrific and encouraging way to get your butt in your chair and get something done!

12)   We really do have a lot of fun while also getting an amazing amount of work done! If you don’t think sprinting is for you, you might be right, maybe it’s not. But then, you might be amazed with how much you can accomplish in twenty minutes if you’ve never tried it before. Last year we regularly had people getting over 1,000 words in an hour, and that was with writing during only 40 minutes of that time. Some people worked up to getting between 1,500 and 2,000 words an hour on a regular basis. Simply amazing.

So that’s it for Ruby Sprints 101. What do you think? Easy enough? Fun? Honestly, many of us got more work done than we ever imagined during the festival during the last four years, all because we sat our rears down and encouraged each other along the way. I look forward to more of the same this year, and I do hope you’ll join us!

21 responses to “A Quick Guide to Ruby Writing Sprints”

  1. jbrayweber says:

    Awesome sprint tips, Kim. I admit, sprints have me spooked. But with these great explanations, I’m ready to join in the fun!


  2. Elisa Beatty says:

    I can’t emphasize enough how safe and friendly and easy sprints are. Nothing to be scared of.

    You can come in quiet and stay pretty quiet if you want. But everyone’s so nice, you’ll probably feel comfortable within moments of arriving and start feeling chatty.

    Introverts, join right in!!!

  3. I’ve never done the sprints before, but I am really willing to try. I am willing to do anything to get my writing speed up and get this book on paper! Thanks for this post! Super helpful. I am looking forward to it!

  4. The sprints are my favorite part of the Winter Writing Festival. They really help me reach my word count goals. Focusing for short periods of time, when there is a clock ticking, turns off my internal editor and my fingers just fly.

    I don’t look up anything (aka getting lost in researching on the web)or stop to contemplate what tattoo my hero should have on his butt (although that can be fun!). If I don’t know something, I just type “XXX” and then go back to it later when I’m not sprinting.

    I hope you all join us for some productive fun!

  5. Hope Ramsay says:

    Sprinting is a wonderful way to improve writing productivity. It forces you to turn off the internal editor and just go for it. It’s amazing, but some of the best stuff I’ve ever written came out during sprints. So like the old commercial — try it, you might like it!

  6. I’m going to try sprinting this year. I can’t wait.

  7. I find the sprints SO helpful and rejuvenating! I’m doing my stretches right now and will be able to “run” next week! 😉

  8. Vanessa Lillie says:

    Great post!

    Sprints (and all the sprinters) were so helpful last year, I’m SO looking forward to getting back to it!

  9. This is fantastic!!! So many people are asking me about this! Thanks, Kim!

  10. Thanks for the tips on sprinting. I hope, hope, hope to make it into the sprint room this year.

  11. Talia Pente says:

    I am SO PSYCHED for sprints! I found another chatroom back in November and I was able to win NANOWRIMO because of sprinting. I honestly would not have been able to win it otherwise.

    So count me in, ladies!

  12. […] You just click on the Chat Room link in the box near the upper left of the site (right under “Sprint Schedule), and you’ll jump to a screen where you can type in the name or nickname you want to use during the chat. Hit enter, and you’ll find yourself in a virtual space with other writers also eager to get work done. A Sprint Hostess will be there to greet you and show you the ropes. Sprint Czaress Kim Law has some great instructions here. […]


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