Nearly month ago I finished Sprint: How to Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just Five Days by Jake Knapp, John Zeratsky, and Brad Kowitz. And I’ll admit, I was inspired. I thought, Why not design my own sprint? For writing?
A sprint is a term commonly used in UI/UX development, used to describe a time-frame in which a certain task is to be completed and reviewed. This trusty guide describes a sprint used to create and test a prototype in 5 days. The book is also geared more towards teams, and time management.
As you can already see, I had to make some changes.
The loner’s sprint
First, I could cut out 90% of the book’s advice, as it is geared towards teams. None of those exercises particularly mattered for my first sprint. Ideally, an editor might be involved, but for this, I decided to go solo.
Next, I had to grapple with the idea of a prototype. Writing works more in drafts, and the first draft is usually terrible. It’s a process of constant revisions. And coming up with something on the fly would end up with an immediate fail.
In the end, I decided to test two short stories – one a somewhat aged but polished literary short story, and the other a detective short in its second draft.
Defining the goals
The most important part of any sprint is your expectations for the end product. In the book, each team participating in the sprint saves Friday for the review day, during which they watch five test subjects react to the prototype(s).
At first I thought getting 10 reviews would be decent goal. But then I thought back to my fanfiction days in the early 2000s.
I knew that for this sprint, I wanted the opinion of general readers – writers I could hear from in the critique forum later. But finding readers in such a short time could be troublesome. The audience of much free online fiction centers around teenagers and lovers of romance. My stories fit in neither of these categories.
So I ended up with two basic beta readers: My mother-in-law and husband.
And no, it’s not because I scared of getting my feelings hurt. Trust me.
Both of these individuals are honest and open. Both love mysteries and a good story. I knew that they would comment immediately on anything they found off, awkward, or forced.
However, I decided I would still post my stories online on FictionPress and Wattpad to get a general understanding of organic traffic. Then I would post them in a critique circle, continue to revise the stories, and decide what’s next.
First off, I enjoyed the sprint week. Immensely.
I finished polishing both stories (just enough polishing, anyway) and was able to post them.
My two beta readers enjoyed the detective story – even though my original draft made the identity of the murderer a bit too obvious. Both gave me fantastic structural edits, which I incorporated before posting.
However, it was my literary short story that gained any attention – it was added to at least four favorites list across the two websites.
How many hits each story received, I believe, was impacted by the main audience on these two sites, which seem to prefer romantic fiction. Another issue might have been the covers. While having a cover image is better than none, mine were whipped up in a few hours on the day of posting.
Now I’m getting writer critiques on both stories, albeit I’m working through my detective story a bit more before submitting it. I now also have an idea for a few books and several more shorts.
One thing I can say is that I’m hoping to keep writing. 🙂 And while the sprint was not perfect, I can say I learned a lot from the experience. Stay tuned.