How to Be a Faster Writer and Get Clear on Your Ultimate Writing Life

There are many ways to train yourself to write faster, but none of it is going to work if you don’t have something to work toward.

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Speed comes with clarity.
Get clear on your ultimate writing life to write faster.
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The writing world is changing. Remember the days when all there was to writing was to write the book and submit it to a publisher? From there you would either make money or you wouldn’t? Maybe you’d teach a class on it?

I might be dating myself. Also, I might be going off my very romanticized idea of what the professional writing process was pre-2005.

These days it’s more about speed and frequency of an author’s writing rather than whatever the publisher wants to throw down for promotion. Self-publishing has been a complete game changer to the publishing and marketing world, from how we read books to the plethora of books that are released every day.

Here are some fun statistics and facts for you

In 2015, 700,000 books were self-published. Keep in mind, this is everything, from promotional give-aways to pamphlets, to novels of all genres, poetry collections, children’s books, and the plethora of non-fiction books.
You can bet that as the self-publishing industry has grown more and more populated in the five years since, that there are more published each year.
700,000 books a year is about 1917 books every day, or 79 every hour. That’s just over than a book a minute.

Publishers want you to write more than one book. It’s preferable for a second one to be in the works, if not completed, at the time that you submit the first one. It shows that if your book does well, there’s another already lined up that they can get to print quicker.
Michael Laget of WriterServices (linked above) says, “Publishers want authors who will be able to write additional publishable books or stories or features for them. They prefer an author who continues to write books in the same genre as their first work, rather than one who is a jack-of-all-trades.”

The current rapid release trend is to have a regularly scheduled book release schedule which can range from weekly to quarterly. M. L. Keller of The Manuscript Shredder writes that it’s a method of capitalizing on the Amazon algorithms to make for better sales. What does this mean? Releasing between 4 and 52 books a year.

It’s a lot, right?

Getting out enough words to successfully plow through NaNoWriMo is hard enough, but how in the blue lagoon are you meant to pump out a book, completed and ready to market every three weeks?

The simple answer is, you don’t quite do it like that, but that’s a post for another time.

As a ghostwriter, I write a lot of books. I mean a ton. In the last eight months, I’ve written over 20 books, all but three were fiction, and all were full-length. That isn’t including the short stories and novellas I’ve written as well, and my own work. Oh, and I took a three-week vacation somewhere in there, plus weekly days off—it averages out to be a little over 4,5000 words per day.

I try to make that my minimum word count on the days that I’m ghost-working. On my best days I write 10-13,000 words.

I’m not showing off here. I’m telling you that it’s possible. And I’ll show you how it’s possible.

Know Your Goal and Why

The first thing you need to do is set your word count goal. Are you looking for just a daily word count goal? A goal for the month? The year?

Knowing what you want your word count goal is actually more dependent on what your goal is for your book or your writing career, if that’s the path you’re going down.

Let’s break this down a little bit.

Your Writing Goals

I yammer on about goals a lot. But that’s because they are essential if you want to be successful, no matter how you define success—another thing I won’t shut up about.

Get to the heart of what you want your writing life to look like by spending some time journaling. Here are some questions to get you started:

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Designing your Writer goals Journal Questions:
1. Where do I want my writing to take me?
2. Without limitation, what does a day in my ultimate writing life look like?
3. What does my daily writing life look like now?
4. What is success?
5. What is success to me personally?
6. how much writing do I need to produce to feel successful?
7. How do others in my field find writing success and how does that resonate with me?
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  1. Where do I want my writing to take me?
  2. If there were no limitations, what would a day in the life of my successful writing life look like?
  3. What does my daily writing life look like now?
  4. What is success?
  5. What is success to me personally, as in, what would I need to feel successful?
  6. How many books/collections/articles would I need to publish to feel successful? And by whom?
  7. How do others in my field of writing find success? As in, in the self-published alien romance field? The travel writing field? The Shakespearian mock-sonnet field? The traditionally published epic western space-opera field? Get specific and spend some time researching this.
  8. What do I need to do to find similar success? As in, how many books do I need to write to make a profit? Do I need to traditionally publish or self-publish? What kind of marketing goes into this success?

I know, you just want to write. I get that. But as I’ve said, the publishing world has changed drastically. Even if you are traditionally published, you are still expected to do a lot of heavy lifting to market your book. What’s more, you’re expected to have an online following already cultivated.

Annoying, I know. I was pretty upset when I learned that one.

When you consider all of these things, you need to ask yourself how much work you want to put into your writing end-goal. Do you want to make a living off your writing? Do you just want to get your book out there? Do you want to write to express yourself and then you’ll figure it out later?

Knowing how much work you want to put into your ultimate writing destination is important. It will determine not only your objectives, but your timeline as well. And it can take some research if you really want to hone your goals.

If you’re planning on making a living off your writing, you must treat it like a business, which painfully goes against the fluid creativity we just want to indulge in. I know. I resisted it for a long time, but the unfortunate truth is that it is essential.

Furthermore, depending on your genre, if you want to traditionally publish, or if you want to be successful in the self-publishing world, you need to have more than one book lined up. Repetition will gain followers which increase sales. The easy way of doing this is through a series, but not all genres or topics lend easily to multiple books. Either way, publishers want to see more than one book at the ready or soon to be ready, and self-pub wants all the books, all the time, and fast.

Bottom Line?

  1. Figure out what you want your writing career to look like
  2. Determine what that looks like annually
  3. Set your word count goal from there

Word Count goals

Now that we’ve looked at the big picture goals, let’s look at word-count goals.

Like your career goals, you want to look at the big picture of your ultimate writing life, then move it on down to a smaller goal.

However, this is nowhere near as essential, but is more dependent on how your mind works and deals with numbers.

Annual Word Count Goal

There are a lot of writers out there who set an annual word count goal. This can be beneficial if you like the really big goals to aim toward.

You can set your wordcount goal to be whatever you want, and this can be especially beneficial if your goal is to write your first novel in a year. If you estimate that your first novel should be 75k words, then your annual goal is 75,000 words.

If you want to write your trilogy in a year, then your goal, if each are to be at least 75k words, would be 225,000 words for the year.

Knowing what your overall goal is will help you determine this. If you want to be a full time self-published writer, know what your market demands of you. For romances, for example, most books are between 40- and 55,000 words. It’s also suggested that you release a book every 2 to 3 weeks. This makes about 17-21 books a year to release. I’ve even read of some romance authors aiming for 40 books a year.

With this model, that makes your annual word-count goal anywhere from 680,000 to 2.2 million words a year (if the higher end is 40 books in a year at 55,000 words per book). And it’s possible.

Monthly Word Count

This is a far more common goal, especially with the popularity of National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, and it’s sibling, CampNaNoWriMo. If you’re unfamiliar, NaNoWriMo occurs in December and sets the goal for writers to write 50,000 words in a month.

I know, that sounds terrifying. I thought so too when I first heard about it in 2008.

Setting monthly word-count goals can be a short-term enough goal to know that the end is in sight, but long-term enough that you can use it to light the fire under you to get your project done, or at least, mostly done.

You can use this as your starting point for your goal, or you can look at an annual word count and divide that word count into months.

If you’re interested in updates on writing events like NaNoWriMo or CampNaNoWriMo, or other fun writing challenges and events, subscribe to my mail list. I’ll keep you in the loop.

Daily Word Count

Yes, writing for profit is a business, and business owners rarely get to take time off, but mental health is important. Be sure to take in consideration mental health days, as well as family days, too.

Again, as we break things down, those massive annual word-count goals don’t seem so bad. Returning to the high-production self-published romance-writing career goal of 40 books a year, that makes 6,028 words a day. When you learn to up your writing speed, that’s not bad at all.

However, determining your daily word count when comparing to your annual or your monthly word count, you want to ask yourself about days off.

There are writers out there who swear that you must write every single day, religiously, without fail.

In theory, I completely agree. I akin it to working out. When I work out, I have to do it every day. As soon as a miss a day, my habit goes out the window. I feel the urge and the want to do it, but I’ll find an excuse for why I can’t do it once I miss that day. The next missed day might be a week from them, but the third and fourth missed day are likely to be in the same week, and once it gets to the fifth missed day, it’s game over until I can get myself back in the habit again.

Thankfully, writers are unique creatures. Out minds all work differently. So if you can take the days off, then go for it.

Furthermore, you should be allowed to take days off. Yes, writing for profit is a business, and business owners rarely get to take time off, but mental health is important. Be sure to take in consideration mental health days, as well as family days, too.

Knowing yourself can determine how many days a week you want to write.

But know this:

The closer you stick to a schedule, the easier you form the habit. The easier you form the habit, the easier it is to learn to write fast, and thus, the more words you’ll produce.

The Take-Away

As you move through this series, you’ll build on your skills to increase your writing speed. This is looking at more than just literally producing words faster, but also at completing projects faster.

Getting clear on your overall goals for your writing life, whether it’s as a hobby, sharing your story or message with the world, or to make writing a career, knowing exactly what you want is going to make the difference in how you go about setting and achieving your goals.

From there, you can break your goal down into whatever works for you—annual word count or book production, monthly word count, or daily word count.

But knowing the end goal is essential so setting the daily and short-term goal.

In the next post, you’ll read about the planning stages, which are absolutely necessary for streamlining your writing. And as a philosophy major, I don’t use the terms “absolutely” or “necessary” lightly.

Your Homework

Your homework assignment is simple in nature but probably more complex in practice.

You’re going to determine what you want out of your writing career. Explore and expand on these journal prompts. They’re the ones from above, but I’ve expanded on them a little to get you started on your own expansion.  

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Designing Your Writer Goals Homework:
1. Get Clear on your writing goals in your writing career
2. Use this goal to look at your annual goal, your monthly goal, and your daily goal
3. Journal your findings: How does that look? How does it make you feel?
  1. Where do I want my writing to take me?
    Really dig deep into this. If there were no limitations, if you could be the next J. K. Rowling, or George R. R. Martin, what would your life look like? Where would you live? What projects would you have on the go? What would your fans know you for?
    Then take this down to a practical level. What does your life look like on a Tom Clancy level, or a Dan Brown, Janet Evanovich, Judy Blume, Robert Jordan, etc. level?
  2. If there were no limitations, what would a day in the life of my successful writing life look like?
    This is a follow up to the first part of the first question.
    If you were the author who literally everyone knew the name of, what would your daily life look like? Write this all out, from the time you get up, to when you take snack breaks—hell, even look at what you would eat for a snack and in what setting—to the time you go to bed. Have fun with this. What do your workdays look like versus your weekends?
  3. What does my daily writing life look like now?
    Get detailed, again. If one day differs from another, write them each out. The goal here is clarity on all levels.
  4. What is success?
  5. What is success to me personally, as in, what would I need to feel successful?
    often times we have a definition of what success is that’s instilled in us from society. For example, society’s idea that success is the house and family with the 2.75 children and a white picket fence. It sounds nice, but for many, their idea of success is just to not be in debt, or to have a family  that is comfortable. While others need the flash cars. There’s no wrong answers to this, only introspection to find your own answers.
    What we personally define as successful can be observed when we first look at what our ideal writing life looks like. When we know how we feel during writing and after writing, then we can figure out our own personal brand of success.
  6. How many books/collections/stories/poems/articles would I need to publish to feel successful?
  7. How do others in my field of writing find success? As in, in the self-published alien romance field? The travel writing field? The Shakespearian mock-sonnet field? The traditionally published epic western space-opera field? Get specific and spend some time researching this.
  8. What do I need to do to find similar success? As in, how many books do I need to write to make a profit? Do I need to traditionally publish or self-publish? What kind of marketing goes into this success?
    Again, this is an exercise to make sure you’re defining your own success. But, this also is paying attention to what the market demands of you. For example, if you want to be a full time fantasy writer who self-publishes, you need to leverage your idea of success with the market’s demand.

Once you’ve spent a good amount of time—and I do mean quality time—with these prompts, then think about what would be good goals to set for yourself regarding your writing. Do you do best when looking at an annual picture? A daily picture?

Share your experience and how you’ve found this exercise in the comments below. What are your goals and how do you plan on measuring them?

Or send me an email. Tell me what your goals are. I love hearing about writers and their ambitions and where they are on their journey. Use the contact form below or click the button.

 Don’t worry, there are no wrong answers!

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