You’ve done the theoretical prep-work, I know. You’ve gone through and really gotten to know the ins and outs of your story, and you’re done with theory. Now you just want to get to how to literally writer faster, right
Let’s Talk Technique
This is the last piece in the Write Faster series. The first part was on knowing your goals as a writer to help you determine not only what you should set your pace at, but also why you need to set it in that way.
The second part of the Write Faster series was about getting to know your story. While you looked at your writing goals on a bigger spectrum in the first part, the second part is about knowing your goals not only for your current work in progress, or the piece you’re about to embark upon, but even down to the goal of the plot.
And at long last, this post is about the actual steps you can write to throwing words onto the page faster.
I should note that none of these are guaranteed ways. A lot of your outcome depends on you: how your mind works, how you write best, and of course, how much dedication you put into your writing speed. This might depend on whether you write by hand or type everything out, as well as a myriad of other factors.
I suggest that if you can, try each of these methods out, especially the 5th method. That one, more than any other, will get you writing faster.
Without further adue, ere are 5 ways you can amp up your writing speed.
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Regular Writing Time
The first step you should be taking to writing faster is to write regularly.
A huge hang-up for most writers when it comes to speedy output is that they either write when they feel like it, write when they have time, or write at different times each day, and only a couple of days a week.
Let me take you on a little bird walk.
My mother’s dog, Lily, has an ongoing ear problem, for which my mother has to give her a pill a day. She rolls the pill up in a piece of sliced chicken or ham or whatever, makes Lily sit, and then delivers the pill.
When I moved across seas, my mother inherited my own furbaby, my cat, Boot. Boot saw Lily get this treat ever day. He would be present and hopeful, though never got the treat. He started paying attention to what Lily was doing, and soon he started to sit when Lily sat. Mom was delighted and gave him a bit of lunch meat as well.
The result? Boot now knows how to sit on command.
Okay, cute story, I know (seriously, adorable when you know what a rebellious hellion Boot is), but what does that have to do with writing or writing faster?
The brain is like a dog that you have to train to sit when told to. This means, getting yourself to sit still, in the chair, or the floor, or wherever it is that you write, when you tell yourself to. That’s a trick all unto itself.
But Creativity is fare more unruly. While the brain needs to be trained, Creativity needs witness that training and, when the brain learns to sit down at will, Creativity will eventually figure it out as well.
As Louis L’Amour said,
Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.Louis L’Amour
Writing daily is you loosening the faucet so it’s easier to let the water flow at will.
Write Faster by
Writing fast can be like training for a race—you have to know what your starting time is for the 200m butterfly before you can improve it (sorry, we’re going with swimming metaphors here because I used to be a competitive swimmer).
As the first method points out, training the mind to stick to a task is one part of it. It’s what gets you to be able to focus on getting to the end of the goal.
The Inner Editor
Something that can really hinder you and your writing speed is that pesky inner editor.
The inner editor is that part of you that says, “no, that last paragraph/sentence/word/chapter/entire damn story was crap. I need to go back and fix it.”
Your editor can be a very helpful tool, when utilized at the right time. After all, it will be the steady mind that keeps self-doubt at bey and constructively and critically looks at your later drafts so you can improve them. During your first draft, however, your inner editor needs to die.
One way to kill the sonofaB is to get your mind so focused on moving forward that your typing drowns out the editor’s voice. How do you do that? Time yourself.
The Madness Behind the Method
Again, indulge me in a bird walk.
I grew up in the US, and thus, my education was there. I had never had an essay exam in my life until I got into university in England. They terrified me. I had a hand injury at the time that prevented me from being able to do my tests by hand, which meant I needed to prepare myself to write out my essays before hand.
For those of you who haven’t done this, the testing period was usually 2-3 hours, depending on the class, and I had to pick 3 questions to answer in essay format. At the best I had an essay an hour, and at the worst, I had an essay in 4 minutes. Considering that you wanted to give yourself x amount of time to plan your essay, and then x amount of time to quickly go over it and make sure it made sense, you were looking at between 30-50 minutes to write an essay, with only getting to know the topic of it a couple minutes before hand.
It was quite the intense lesson.
To prepare for this, I put practice questions that I thought I could answer, or on topics that I knew quite a bit about, onto index cards, shuffled them, started the timer and drew my card and started writing. I made myself enact the testing period as much as I possibly could.
After prepping for my first end-of-year testing, my writing speed more than doubled. I thought it was a good day if I could write 1667 words a day (the amount of words you need to write 50,000 words in 30 days). By the end of it, I was writing 5,000 words a day, no sweat. These days, I can write 10,000-13,000 words a day.
Because I had to write so quickly and with such focus, I drowned out the inner editor and just plowed ahead. I would do this in bursts, giving myself 30-50 minutes to write 1200 words, then I would take a break, and repeat. My writing routine currently looks more like 25 minutes of writing, five minutes off, usually managing 900-1200 words in that 25-minute sprint. Though this can change depending on the day.
Give it a go.
The Hang Up
There is one hang-up that people do have when doing this, and that’s the general distraction on the screen or with the internet.
There are a couple of ways to deal with these computer-related distractions.
Kill the Internet Along with the Inner Editor
I am so bad with the internet that sometimes I have to turn off the wifi for the house to get any work done. I generally do this when I’m home alone though. Otherwise, I turn my computer to airplane mode and put a sticker on the button to remind me to leave it alone.
That’s one solution.
Another solution is to turn your computer screen off. Then it’s just you and the keyboard. You won’t know what you’ve written, as in, if you have typos, and that’s okay. Just write through it.
The goal is to get words on the page, and to write quickly. Perfection will come with time, but first you have to be able to power through the words.Tweet
Returning to the swimming example—a perfect form will help to strengthen my body and move me through the water faster, but the first thing I need to do is know that I can get to the end of the race to begin with. I need to build up the energy and momentum to know I can complete the race and have a shot of competing. Once I have that durability, then I look graceful like a dolphin.
If you work on a laptop and don’t know how or don’t have the ability to turn off your screen, get a notebook and lean it against the screen. This takes some willpower to not pull it down, but it can be helpful. You can write the bullet notes of what needs to happen in your section to keep you going.
Give it a try, let me know how it goes.
Write Faster with
It wouldn’t be a piece about writing faster if I didn’t include dictation as a potential method. For those of you who don’t know, this is speech-to-text, meaning you speak into a microphone and it translates it into text for you.
Most people speak faster than they write, so this can be a very efficient method of writing faster, though it can be a difficult enough trick to master. It’s not that talking is difficult, but more than you need to train yourself as well as the dictation program you’re using. You need to be able to speak your punctuation, and learn the terms that your software likes to use for punctuation as well. You need to be able to speak clearly as well.
There are times when I turn to dictation, sometimes because the injury in my hand is acting up, and sometimes because it’s just something different to get my creative juices going again.
Here’s what my Word dictation looks like:
I’m using dictation on word so that I can write this blog post. I know that I’m gonna have to edit this heavily later on, because sometimes it won’t use capitalization where it needs to use capitalization. I also have to remember to say. Instead of use .. Because sometimes, word remembers that I speak with American usage, rather than British usage, and other times, it thinks that I’m using British usage , and thus switches to using. For a period. And then sometimes it forgets how to use a comma.Unedited usage of un-trained MS Word Dictation
Again, you need to have the patience to train your software as well as you. I don’t have the patience to train my software, so I just deal with the extra editing later on.
Using dictation as a method to write faster is a frequent go-to for writers. It works really well for some people, and for others, like me, it can be a hassle to get the hang of it. I find that if you’re a good orator, then you’ll do just fine with dictation.
It used to be that dictation software was extortionately expensive. But now it’s easier to come by and for a much more affordable price. Along with Word, which I’ve already mentioned, I’ve been known to use the app Speechy, which a client of mine turned me on to. Likewise, the most popular form of dictation is Dragon, which is getting more affordable as well as more accessible across devices.
Dragon is higher end, but from what I hear, it’s worth the extra money you spend on it.
As with all of these methods, dictation to write faster takes time to learn to use. You’ll spend extra time editing for a while, but that will get easier with time, too.
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Writing bullet points won’t necessarily make you type faster of get words on the page faster, but it might help you get through your rough draft faster.
Another client of mine uses this method, and I use it from time to time in my ghostwriting, during which I have to get out books at a fairly amped up speed.
Essentially, it’s using bullet points to write out each chapter as you go through. This might be considered outlining, but in my opinion, it depends on how detailed you make each bullet point.
There are two methods you can use for this.
Write Until You Drop
Alright, this might be a sensationalized heading, but the idea behind this is that you start you chapter or your scene, and you write as far as you can, as you would anyway. When you get stuck in a chapter or scene, but know what you want to do, you write the bullet points of what needs to happen for the rest of the scene.
This is helpful because it helps you still know what’s going on so you can come back to it later, but also means that you can “follow through” to the next chapter, where you can repeat the process.
There are a couple of benefits of writing your chapters in this way:
- You get a sense of accomplishment because you got to the next chapter, which can be enough to fuel you forward to keep you going.
- You have the chance to mull over how you want that chapter to go without actually stopping and hanging up the rest of your book. You’ll find that when you stop writing for the day, you’re still considering how you want to write the rest of that chapter.
- When you go to revise after you’ve completed your draft, writing the rest of the chapter comes more easily because you know where the next chapter starts. Therefore, you have a direction to aim for.
Bullet All the Way
This might sound like outlining, but as I mentioned earlier, it, to me, depends on how much detail you put into each bullet.
While your outline will tell you want to happen in each chapter, each bullet point will contain the step-by-step sequence of events. I think of this like a storyboard used in animation (if you ever got the VHS tapes of Disney movies back in the day, they would sometimes include the behind-the-scenes making of the movie, showing how these storyboards worked).
These bullet points can have full descriptions and segments of a scene that you want to include, meaning that all you have to do is go back later and connect them, or it can have pieces of dialogue you want to include, descriptions, reactions, or even things you need to research later to put in a certain detail.
This method helps you get the meat on the bones so that later on, you can hinge it all together with connective tissue and skin…I think that analogy works. Let me know if the comments how bad my understanding of anatomy and physiology are.
For now, we’ll ignore it and move on to method 5.
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Practice, Practice, Practice
I would not be a good writing coach if I left out the most essential way to write faster: practice, practice, practice.
None of these methods will make you faster overnight. All of them mean you need to practice. The more you write, the easier you’ll get your mind to switch into that mentality. The more you write, the easier you’ll find it is to stay focused on your task. The more you write, the better it’ll be to get back into your story when you’re interrupted.
You can read about writing all you want, but until you put pen to paper, fingers to keyboard, or lips to microphone, you’re just studying it without practice. Practice is what brings the art into fruition, and is the essential step you take to mastery.
So, pick something, and practice. Write every day. Time yourself. Try dictation. Utilize bullet points.
The best part is that you can use all of these methods in conjunction with one another. But you can’t do any of it just once and call it good. You have to repeat the process over and over to know if it is working for you and your writing.
Outline your novel as best as you can, and with as much detail as you can. That means knowing what happens in each chapter. Knowing your genre and knowing your book’s goals can help you determine how many chapters there should be in your book, and the general length of your book.
Write the basic outline of a chapter and approximately how many words you want in your chapter on an index card. For example, standard indie-published niche romance novels in a planned, ongoing series are about 40,000 words. The chapters run between 14 and 16 chapters. This means that your chapter length can be between 2500 and 2585 words.
Break each chapter up into 2 or 3 segments, so you have 1000-1200 words to write. Set a timer for an hour and go.
When you’ve finished, write down your time.
If you didn’t get all the way to the end of your segment, bullet out in your document what needs to happen to get to the next segment.
Take a five- or ten-minute break and do something completely different. But make sure you stand up, stretch, and at least get yourself a drink of water. Water does wonders for the brain.
After your break, work on the next 1000-1200-word segment, and see how far you get in the next 50 minutes. Write down that time.
Again, if you haven’t finished your segment, bullet what needs to happen before moving on.
Repeat this process for however long you plan to write your novel that day. And then repeat it the next day.
You’ll find that you gradually increase your speed, and you’re still making progress in your novel because you’re putting in notes of what needs to be connected when you get to your first pass of revisions.
How did you do with your first timed writing session? Share it with us in the comments. By sharing your own story, you help to build a writing community, and you learn that you’re not the only one going through this, or aiming high. You’ve got this. Let’s support each other and share how we’re all doing in the comments below.
If you want more tips and tricks for efficient writing, writing prompts, journal prompts, and to know about upcoming workshops and writing classes, either by me or others, add your name to the mailing list so you don’t miss out. You can fill out the form below or at the top of the page. I look forward to welcoming you into the Natural Writer community!