Using Spreadsheets To Organise Your Writing: Sprints

When I’m doing rough writing, or first drafts, I find that writing in sprints is a helpful technique. If I keep track of sprints, it motivates me to finish my project. I don’t necessarily think that writing faster will mean you write better, but it’s certainly a good way of making sure you finish something. If you practice writing regularly and writing quickly, in my opinion you will only get better. And let’s face it, you’ll need to edit it anyway, because very few people write a perfect first draft.

This particular spreadsheet is a mixture of actual data from some writing I did recently, and a bit of made-up data while I was testing things. I’ve kept it fairly simple, because when I tried to add fancier features, it messed other things up. But simple is sufficient.

You will note there are two tabs. The tab titled “sprints” is where I record my sprint data. I write the date, the device I’m using, the start and end word count, and how many minutes I write for.

I include the device because obviously I am quicker on my laptop than the phone, and I want to know which sprints are which.

The “word” column is automatically calculated. To find the start and end counts, assuming you are using Microsoft Word, the feature is in Tools in the toolbar.

When I’m timing myself, I either just use the computer or phone clock, or sometimes I use the Google timer or stopwatch. I know most people advocate setting sprints for a particular time, but I often find a sprint ends with an interruption – a cat jumping on me, someone asking me a question – and it’s easier to have a stopwatch going and click stop if an interruption means I can’t continue. So that’s why a lot of my real sprints are weird lengths. I do try and stop on a whole minute and no seconds, otherwise it skews the word count.

“Words per hour” and “Total words” are automatically calculated. I got the idea for doing sprints from a book I read called 5,000 Words Per Hour, which explains the author’s take on the sprinting process. (by Chris Fox, if you’re interested). I’ve adapted his technique to suit me, and at the moment, it’s rare that I get over 3,000 words per hour.

This spreadsheet is assuming that you do multiple short sprints a day. At that point, it’s then useful to see what one’s daily totals are. And this is where the other tab comes in. The first tab is called “pivot table” and this collates the data into totals for the day.

The pivot tells you daily word totals, how many minutes were spent sprinting in the day, and average word speed for the day. At the bottom is a grand total of words and minutes, with average words per hour for the whole thing.

The pivot table has different ‘pages’ at the top – where it says device. You can use the dropdown here to see the data for each individual device.

IMPORTANT – each time you add a line on the sprint spreadsheet you will need to REFRESH the pivot table. Click on the pivot table, right click and press refresh data.

And that’s it. Hope you find it useful!



  1. Alex

    June 25, 2016

    Wow, you’re doing really well! I’ve done two 5 minute sprints so far (they were flash pieces and I was focused on finishing my comic so I’ve only been doing one a day then finishing the piece, although next time I may just go with a stopwatch). One was 1800 WPH and the other was 1224. I was being a little fussy about the latter, so it’s probably closer to what I’d get if I actually tried a long sprint at the moment. Of course, I write longhand, so I have to work on writing fast and small at the same time. (I don’t like to waste too much paper.)

    Anyway, thanks for sharing! It was interesting to see your data and it looks like you’ve steadily improved, so I’ll trust that I will too.

    • magicwriter author

      June 25, 2016

      Yes if you keep the data, I think it’s easier to improve over time because you can track how you do! I try and plan out what I’m going to do first so I can just keep writing.

  2. Kristen Kooistra

    June 25, 2016

    I’ll never get over how organized you are about everything! I should attempt sprinting one day and see what happens.

    No wonder you’re onto book 4!

    • magicwriter author

      June 25, 2016

      Haha not quite. I’ll convert you to spreadsheets yet. Got you on Twitter, didn’t I 😀

  3. Heather Hayden

    June 30, 2016

    Wow, that’s so organized! I used to track my daily word count… Maybe I should get back into that. I love sprints as well–might be fun to start racing myself every day. 🙂

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