Back to the 8-Minute Writing Plan

It’s happening again. Even though I intend to work on my WIP every day, I’m not writing every day. I put that writing task down on my daily to-do list right next to the ‘collect eggs from chicken pen’ and ‘wash dishes’ and ‘tend incubator,’ but I’m not actually doing my daily writing on a daily basis.

I have excuses. I’ve always been inconsistent, I have Asperger Syndrome, and I’ve had a recent stroke that messed up my life bigtime. But I should be able to get my writing habit back on track.

A few years ago, I discovered Monica Leonelle’s book, The 8-Minute Writing Habit. I’ve found it a great inspiration. Why 8 minutes? It’s a tiny block of time, even smaller than 10 minutes. It’s kind of hard to say you don’t have 8 minutes for something that’s important to you. And you can tuck in 8 minutes of anything into your day fairly easily.

Monica Leonelle advises that you do your 8 minutes as a timed writing session, or Pomodoro. Write in flow, don’t stop to ponder or to look things up in a dictionary. You can always go back and adjust those things later, when you have words on a page.

It’s good to write down your word counts for each of your 8 minute sessions. In time, you can see if you are increasing your writing speed.

To write more speedily, it helps to plan certain things out ahead of your writing sessions. Create names for characters and places, and keep these names on a list you can reference if you need to while writing. Even if you are a pantser, writing with minimal outline/planning, a few basic plans/ideas before the 8 minute session begins will help you get going and stay in flow.

You want to stay in flow, writing effortlessly, rather than in the state where you stop and start, look things up, get distracted. Do those things in a planning session beforehand or during the rewrite process. ‘Flow,’ in writing, is where you want to be.

Since I tend to trick myself by writing more than 8 minutes at a session, maybe going as long as 2 hours, I am doing a strict 8 minutes at the moment. When the timed session is done, I stop, I check off ‘8 min WIP’ off the to-do list, I write a ‘W’ on my calendar page, and I go do something else. If I want to, I can add another 8 minute session later. Right now I’m just trying to get the 8 minutes done every single day, no matter what distractions present themselves. Like broken wash machines, pregnant cats, escaped sheep— you know, life.

Now, just because I like and recommend Monica Leonelle’s book doesn’t mean I like and practice everything in it. Monica wants me to use a writing app on my cell phone to write stuff in the grocery store. OK, she hasn’t seen my grocery store, and doesn’t know that such behavior wouldn’t be accepted there. And I don’t feel like writing like that, with witnesses, anyway. I write at home on my computer, I might write elsewhere on a legal pad or composition book if I had to, but I prefer not to as that adds more work. I like to write right in my Scrivener (as I am doing at this moment, yes, I write my blog posts on a Scrivener project.)

Do you ever have problems in making your writing habit into a daily event? What has helped you to make it more regular? What hinders you?

JUST 8 minutes: improving your writing habit

The problem with my daily writing habit is that I don’t have one. I mean to write every single day but then life happens— laundry, cooking, handling a sheep escape or a cat who wants to give birth in my lap— and writing is the thing that gets pushed out.

So I’ve gone back to Monica Leonelle’s book, ‘The 8-minute Writing Habit’ and started to do my 8 minute writing sprints. Miss Leonelle’s book has helped me— it’s gotten me to take up writing by dictation, and to track my writing sprints on a spreadsheet.

But this month I’ve checked my calendar and out of the 13 days in the month so far, I’ve only written on 3 of them (counting today.) What is wrong with me?

I’ve been thinking that over and I’ve decided this is the problem: though the Leonelle method would allow me to do just 1 writing sprint of 8 minutes and call it a day, I haven’t been doing that. I have been requiring myself to do 3 writing sprints. That’s 24 minutes of just writing, plus with writing down the results of the writing sprints, entering them into the spreadsheet, bathroom break, getting up to walk around a little to prepare for the next sprint— I’m doing 30 to 45 minutes, and even though I hadn’t calculated it out, my brain knows I’m not just asking myself to write for 8 minutes, but use up a significant chunk of time. So I put it off till later, and the late evening comes and my brain is tired from the day and just wants to play the Walking Dead game on my smartphone, and my body wants to take a bath and go to bed, and there went writing for that day.

So— change of plan. This morning instead of doing my writing just after getting dressed, I got up, put the cats off of me, and did urgent things like a bathroom visit and drinking a glass of water and feeding the cats, and then sat right down and did 8 minutes.

JUST 8 minutes. When I finished I put the result in my spreadsheet and put the flower sticker on my calendar (where I learned it was St. Anthony of Padua’s feast day) and now I have done my required writing for the day. I deliberately started to do other things to show my pesky subconscious mind that I really do mean ‘JUST 8 minutes’ now instead of ‘8 minutes that is really almost an hour.’

I may do more writing sprints today on my WIP. Or I may not. I have a lot of things to do today, like the blogging I’m doing right this second, or checking in with my online discussion groups, or folding clothes or moving the chicken pen with the GOOD chickens to somewhere the predator can’t find them….

As Miss Leonelle points out in her book, many writers who are NOT writing daily will do more words in a month with ONLY 8 minutes a day than they are doing now with longer writing sessions that they only manage to do 4 or 5 days a month.

EXERCISE: Stop right now. Close or minimize your browser, set a timer for 8 minutes, and WRITE! How many words did you do? How do you feel about it? Do you think you can do 8 minutes tomorrow? Please comment about it on this blog post.


My current WIP: Don’t have a title yet. It’s space colony fiction set in the same universe as some stories I’ve written. Main character is a girl from Earth who is sent to a colony where she ends up as a teacher of the children of a nobleman. I gave her the temporary name Amanda because my dictation software can spell Amanda, but the name is growing on me.

How to track your writing sprints

Have you ever done a writing sprint? This is when you write intensely for a certain number of minutes, hoping to increase your project’s word count. Many writers, such as Monica Leonelle and Chris Fox, recommend writing sprints both to build up a daily writing habit, and to learn to write more quickly. After all, much writing failure and abandoning of books takes place because we can’t get our brilliant ideas down on the page before we lose all interest in the project.

But doing your writing sprints isn’t enough. Both Monica Leonelle and Chris Fox recommend recording your writing sprints, to see how you are making progress. Chris Fox has a downloadable spreadsheet you can get at: https://www.chrisfoxwrites.com/5kwph/. I have used this on both my old Windows computer and my current Mac.

The spreadsheet can work for sprints of any length of time— 5 minutes, 8 minutes, 10 minutes, 25 minutes. It gives you your words-per-hour so you can compare how you are progressing, if you write more in shorter sprints, and so on.

Monica Leonelle recommends doing 8 minute sprints. Why? Because 8 minutes feels like a tiny time commitment. You can’t always work in time for an hour of writing, but 8 minutes? You can quick sit down and do that without much fuss. And if you start doing an 8 minute sprint every single writing day, and you learn to write a bit faster, you will in time be able to finish your writing project.

My most recent sprints
Yesterday I did an 8 minute session, writing by means of my dictation software. And then did 2 more 8 minute sessions. Dictation can be helpful if only because it can make us separate the first-draft writing process from the editing/fixing process, but I must admit that when I’m dictating, I do make corrections when I am afraid the interesting mistakes that my Mac’s Enhanced Dictation makes will mean that I will forget the clever words I actually said. When I do today’s sprint, I am going to try to minimize the corrections. My word counts on the 3 sprints were: 203, 125 and 185.

The spreadsheet gives you several choices to characterize the KIND of sprint you are doing: writing, editing, ‘other’… Since I do both dictation and keyboard writing, I use ‘writing’ to mean keyboard writing, and ‘other’ to mean dictation. I haven’t done any editing sprints yet.

What about you?

If you want to work on your writing habit using writing sprints, here are your assignments for today:

    1. Buy and download Monica Leonelle’s book ‘8-minute writing habit.‘ Start reading the book.
    2. Download Chris Fox’s spreadsheet. It’s free. https://www.chrisfoxwrites.com/5kwph/
    3. Do at least 1 writing sprint of 8 minutes. Use either keyboard writing or dictation. Or you can do one session of each. Record your word counts for each sprint and enter them into your spreadsheet.
    4. BONUS: buy Chris Fox’s 5000 Words Per Hour. Read that when you have finished the Monica Leonelle book.
    5. Accountability step: mention your word counts for today on your blog, Facebook page, or Twitter. Anyplace you can have a fairly supportive crowd.

Are you happy with the current state of your daily writing habit and your writing speed? If not, are you doing anything to improve your situation? Why aren’t you doing an 8-minute writing sprint RIGHT NOW? Go do one, I’ll wait. And brag about your word count for the sprint in a comment!

Why only 8 minutes to build a daily writing habit?

Lately I have been working on developing a daily writing habit. Main reason: when I take a day or two off from writing, that leads to a writingless week or even more. Which tends to turn current writing projects into ones that aren’t going anywhere.

What inspires me is the idea of doing a daily 8-minute timed writing stint (you are allowed to do more.)  To get more accountability, I post daily on Facebook, tagging a few friends who also are working on their writing habit.

But the question is, why 8 minutes? Wouldn’t it be better to do an hour or two? Or even three or four hours like most professional writers do?

The problem is this: if you are trying to build a writing habit, but you know you have to do an hour or more at each writing session, it’s too easy to decide you just don’t have time for writing today.

But 8 minutes— that’s not so much of a challenge. I once did my 8 minutes just before bedtime when I thought my brain was already asleep. My brain woke up and did its job surprisingly well.

The thing about doing 8 minutes of timed writing it leads to longer writing. If you really get on a roll, are you really going to stop at 8 minutes and not even add a sentence or two? Sometimes I do a few 8 minute sessions and then perhaps do 20 or 25 minutes because I’m really hot.

Monica Leonelle suggests in her book that you can use your 8 minute sessions to increase your writing speed, so that even if you can only fit in 8 minutes, you will get many more words in.

In my experience, timed writing increases my writing speed by eliminating distractions— I don’t look up facts on the internet or pull out one of my name books to name a new character. I skip that bit and do the research later. So I don’t end up spending 6 of my 8 minutes fooling around online.

The accountability partners really help. I feel a little silly when I tag the participants and interested persons on Facebook every day. But they can tell me not to do that if they don’t want to any more. The posting— and the comments and ‘likes’ of the others— motivate me. And it’s great to see other people doing their own daily 8 minute stints.

So— do you have a habit of writing (or blogging) daily? If yes, how did you build the habit? If no, are you doing anything to change it? Perhaps you could try the 8 minute writing method to see if it works for you.

If you want to join me and my friends/followers in the daily 8-minute writing, you can drop by my author page, https://www.facebook.com/nissalovescats/  and post your daily 8 minute triumphs there. You can also ask to be on my list of tagged people. I also do it on my personal FB page, https://www.facebook.com/nissa.amas.katoj  Though maybe you should mention on my author page if you are making a friend request?


Marian Elizabeth: The 8-Minute Writing Habit http://www.marian-elizabeth.com/2015/10/the-8-minute-writing-habit.html

Monica Leonelle Will Help You Develop a Consistent Writing Habit http://www.writewithimpact.com/monica-leonelle-will-help-you-develop-a-consistent-writing-habit/

Buy The 8-Minute Writing Habit on Amazon.com https://www.amazon.com/8-Minute-Writing-Habit-Consistent-Storytellers-ebook/dp/B013ZVSFFC