Writing In Short Bursts

photoFriday afternoons are full of breaks between projects, and perfect for sneaking in some writing.  I’ve found that these ten minute snippets of time are often the best moments to knock out those smaller tasks that require short bursts of intense concentration.

Right now I’m finishing some backstory on one of the characters in my next book.  The character happens to be the antagonist of the story (though that isn’t to say he’s the worst character the reader will meet), and I’m finding that these short bursts of characterization are perfect for fleshing out individual aspects of his personality, or small, pivotal moments in his past.  It was during one of these writing bursts at work a few weeks ago that I even came up with his name: Ivan Ashford.

What about you? Do you find that working in short bursts can sometimes help your writing? Have you ever tried it? What’s more fun, creating your protagonist or antagonist? What’s the best bad-guy name you’ve come across?

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I'm a 25 year old recent college graduate (who still clings to that title over two years after graduating) and aspiring author. I also love sports and going out with my friends.

24 thoughts on “Writing In Short Bursts

  1. I definitely agree with this! I find that when I have a time restriction on how much I can write, I’ll get more done in that brief, intense spurt than if I have the whole day to write. This isn’t always the case, but a lot of the time it’s true.

    And oh – recently I’ve been having a lot of fun writing my villans. I’ve been focusing more on them and their backgrounds, motivations, etc – it’s very entertaining. Usually, though, I focus more on my protagonists.

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    1. I’m glad you agree – sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. It’s just a nice change of pace every once in a while.

      And yes, villains are awesome. I focus on my protagonists more but sometimes I have more fun with the antagonists. I like to start with their backgrounds and motivation and then get really into who they are and what they do in the book (and how the other characters feel about them).

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  2. I am envious. I can pull off mindless tasks in 10 minute bursts, but trying to write in short bursts just ends up with a choppy story for me. I hand-write first and then type so the 10-15 minute windows are good for typing. When I’ve tried to write in the little moments, I can’t find my characters voice or the setting or the plot. I usually need a 45 minute block or more. It takes me 10 minutes to really get started.

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    1. You know I actually totally agree. If I’m trying to write an intense scene in the actual manuscript, sometimes it’s hard to get into it in just 10 minutes (although sometimes it does work). Those 10 minute bursts are sometimes great for outlining/character development/or any of those 100 little tasks that lie outside of the actual writing itself.

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  3. If you can do anything in ten minute bursts, I’m impressed. I can spend thirty minutes, playing around with one sentence. Ideas come like flashes of lightning but writing them out, that takes time, at least, for me 🙂

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  4. I hate writing in short bursts. I did that quite a bit when I was a caregiver. I’d just get into something, and then I’d have to quit and take care of my late husband. If it works for you, that’s great.

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  5. I don’t think I could achieve anything in ten minutes haha so kudos to you! But I guess if you have less time to write you have less time to question yourself, so maybe I’ll have to give this a try! And I much prefer my protagonist – what can I say, I’m a sucker for the hero! And in terms of my best bad guy name? Probably Darius Blackwood – he featured in a short creative piece I wrote back in middle school 🙂

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  6. I think this is a great idea, and I plan to try it. I’m working on a novel right now and I could certainly give myself ten minutes to “explode the moment,” take something that needs to be explored more and just set a timer and write. Thanks for the inspiration.

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    1. “Explode the moment” – that is definitely the phrase I was looking for but couldn’t think of it. Yes, 10-15 minutes is the perfect amount of time to just start writing and see what happens.

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  7. I definitely write better in short bursts. If I leave off wanting to keep writing, then I come back to it a lot more willingly than if I’ve sat there until I can’t think any more. Even if I just go away for a few hours and then come back, it’s like recharging my creative batteries.

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    1. I hadn’t even thought about it like that but you’re definitely right. Cutting yourself off a little early so you’re more excited to get back to writing is a great idea – although don’t cut yourself off too soon or you could be losing valuable writing time!

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  8. Actually, I find I write better in short bursts almost all the time, often when I’m at work! For some reason, when I just have a small amount of time, it seems help concentrate my creative efforts, or maybe its just because I know I shouldn’t really be doing it, so it makes it more exciting. Conversely, when I have a day off at home, I struggle to get going, especially if its supposed to be ‘writing time.’

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    1. Yes – just the thought of “writing time” makes me want to go do something else. I always find time to write during the day, but I leave it unplanned on purpose (I know a lot of people would disagree with me here). The spontaneity of being able to just sit down and write when I want to takes a lot of dread out of the time for me.

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  9. Lots of great ideas here. My trick is to set a page limit for the day. I keep it short, so it’s not intimidating. As long as I hit that quota, it actually doesn’t matter what I write (as long as it’s related to the project I’m working on). It doesn’t matter if it ever gets into the book. As long as I hit that quota–even as little as a single handwritten page (I write small). Once I’m done, I’m done.
    As you may expect, I usually end up writing more than my quota. Once you get going, you keep going. It’s getting going that can be hard.

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    1. I like that – I generally set my quota as a unit of time, but like you I keep it manageable. I set mine at 30 minutes even though I usually write for about an hour or more. If I set it too high it’s too intimidating to sit down in the first place. Thanks for sharing!

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  10. Unfortunately, short bursts are all that I seem to be able to do. My mind works in images, so by the time I finish writing 25% of my image, I am already bored. I have found it take a lot of practice to sit down and write consistently for a long amount of time. Also, just out of curiosity, do you write as if the characters are speaking to you, or do you see images and then write what you see?

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    1. That’s actually a really interesting question that I’ve never thought about before. I had to take a second to figure out which it actually was. I think I’m much more of an image person – I kind of ‘look’ at the scene in my head then I start writing what’s happening. Not sure I’ve ever had a character speak to me. Wonder what that would be like.

      Thanks for stopping by and leaving the thought-provoking question!

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  11. I need to write once a day. I want to be able to say, “I’ve done my writing for the day. I can do something else now.”

    Terrible thought process, yes, but it is what keeps me writing.

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