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Lessons Learned from The Great Writing Sprint

Or, the benefits and drawbacks of writing, editing, drafting, revising, and/or outlining for the sake of using SEO terms in my subtitle.

By Addison HornerPublished about a year ago 4 min read
Lessons Learned from The Great Writing Sprint
Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

First, I must beg your forgiveness.

Did I intentionally choose that image of Scrabble tiles spelling out DONE IS BETTER THAN PERFECT as the header for my article?


Is it hokey, cheesy, and worthy of any other dismal disyllabic descriptors you could come up with?

Yeah, I suppose.

But we don't have time to dwell on the past – unless, when you say "the past," you're referring to the week I stretched my finger-legs on a typing sprint for my YA fantasy novel.

Thanks, generic GIF search result!

The past may have passed, but it is not passé. Let's dive in.

The Great Writing Sprint of 2023

For this sprint, I had to write as many words as possible in five days. You can read about the details here:

My ordinarium opus (like a magnum opus, but just kinda normal) is a YA fantasy series centered around a teenage street thief, her little brother with Down's Syndrome, and a collection of magical Tablets. I finished the first manuscript in December (read about that here) and spent the last few months preparing the outline for the second book.

Next, I set the ground rules.

  • I had to write a minimum of 10,000 words.
  • For every new subcriber to my newsletter, I had to add 250 words to my goal.

That was it. As ground rules go, fairly grounded.

What were the results?

Great question, imaginary reader! Here you go:

The results of the Great Writing Sprint of 2023. Please look away if you're allergic to percentages or prideful infographicality.

I way overshot my goal for two reasons.

  1. I didn't get a lot of new subscribers.
  2. I like writing.

Looking back on last week's sprint, I'm feeling a strange mix of emotions (though, to be fair, that describes every one of us at all times). Happiness at setting and surpassing a goal. Frustration at mediocre metrics outside of my control. Weariness at the idea of finishing and editing yet another manuscript. Excitement at seeing another story come together.

What did you learn?

You're on frickin' point with these questions. Gold star for you.

(It's like an NFT, except lacking any intrinsic value, an NFT.)

I learned a lot, thanks for asking. And, like any good Baptist preacher, I've distilled my experience into three takeaways.

1. I could have WRITTEN MORE.

Despite having virtually no scheduled work over the five-day sprint, I never wrote more than four hours in a day. On my most productive day, I wrote over 1,500 words an hour. If I'd pushed through for a single eight-hour day, I could have written well over 10,000 words. Multiply that times five to get...well, half a fantasy novel in a week.

The nihilistic pessimist in me says, "Addison, you naive cucumber of a man, you're not cut out for this. Even with unlimited free time, you only managed to write a few hours a day. How could you ever become a published author? Obviously, you're a failure of a human being who needs to—"

I stopped listening at that point because he was making me sad.

The juvenile, carefree optimist has a different view. "Addison," he says, resting a reassuring hand on my shoulder, "you just wrote twenty-four thousand words in a week. That's incredible. Your novel is thirty percent done after two weeks of work because you put in the effort."

Here's the lesson: celebrate the victories, however small. Novel writing is a marathon. Every checkpoint deserves commendation.


In my pre-sprint article, I described my dreams of gaining twenty, fifty, even a hundred new subscribers to my newsletter. At the low end of the spectrum was ten, a number that felt like Andy Dywer's face in the "Soda Tax" episode of Parks and Rec.

What a legend.

I gained seven subscribers.


The impossible questions floated through my mind as the week plodded on.

Should I post more reels on Instagram? Should I make more stories? Should I run ads? Should I offer more incentives for subscribing?

As the week came to a close, the "shoulds" morphed into "should haves." Remember that thing from Frozen's "Let It Go" about the past being in the past? My brain has a hard time accepting that. It would rather find things I could have done than move forward in confidence.

But the lesson I learned here was a classic, familiar from the hundreds of times it's been drilled into my thick skull: you can't control the outcome.

You can't make people follow you. But you can show them your journey and ask, "Wanna come with?" The rest is up to them.

3. I could have GIVEN UP.

I've quit a fair number of projects in my lifetime – YouTube channels, music releases, entreprenurial ventures (and I use the term ventures with extreme generosity).

But I've toiled over the past five years to become a writer and, one day, a published author. I've written hundreds of thousands of words, finished two first drafts, placed in half a dozen Vocal contests, and learned lessons of incalculable value along the way.

Most importantly, I've learned that I like writing.

That's it. That's the lesson. If you like writing, but find yourself feeling discouraged in the daunting process of CREATING STUFF, keep going. It's difficult and frustrating and cathartic and worthy of any other trisyllabic truisms you could conjure.

I kept writing. Last week, I wrote a lot. This week, I'll carry on.

Wanna come with?

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About the Creator

Addison Horner

I love fantasy epics, action thrillers, and those blurbs about farmers on boxes of organic mac and cheese. MARROW AND SOUL (YA fantasy) available February 5, 2024.

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  • HandsomelouiiThePoet (Lonzo ward)about a year ago


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