So you want to learn how to write faster, eh? Got those itchy typing fingers and a need for creative speed? You’ve come to the right place.
If you want to write more books, sell more books, or get better at your craft, getting words on the page faster will unlock your goals. In the independent publishing landscape of the here and now, folks who publish frequently get more visibility. That means learning how to write faster can and will correlate with your success in the publishing business.
The theory is simple:
Just a note: I’m not prescribing that you have to write a bajillion words an hour to be a successful author. There are plenty of independent authors who write a book a year and succeed. It all depends on your personal goals.
One more note: I'm also not saying that simply writing words leads to success. To quote memoir coach Marion Roach Smith, you have to “write with intent.” And in this article, we'll cover steps that ensure what you're writing will be on topic and useful.
Psss… If you’re not writing a book and want to learn how to write faster for another project, this article will still be of use to you. Simply skip to Step 4.
In this article, you will learn:
- How to write faster (hey, it’s right there in the title)
- What’s stopping you from achieving your goals
- How to set aside time to write and stick to it
- The secret to using the Pomodoro Method for success
- How to silence a bit of that self-doubt (let’s face it, some will always remain)
- What it takes to be consistent and stay motivated
Step 1: Know What You’re Going to Write
The mechanics of getting the words down might be “hands on keyboard, butt in the chair, and go!” The theory behind it and how to attain that speed is a little more… psychological.
How can you write faster if you don’t know what you’re going to write?
You can’t. So let’s learn how to fix that.
Know Your Genre:
To know your genre, you must become your genre. Or rather, you need to pick a genre that you’re passionate about and that you’ve preferably read a lot of books in. There’s this myth that reading books in your genre at the same time as writing them will affect the creative end product.
I don't personally believe that myth. You should be reading the books and bestsellers in the genre that you want to write.
How does that help you write faster? It equips you with knowledge: you know what’s expected of you; therefore, you’re more confident when writing. You pause less and question less. You edit less. You spend more time actually writing.
So how do you get to know your genre and what you should write in it?
Do some research. You can use PublisherRocket to find competing books with the Competition Analyzer tool. See the example below.
- Identify your genre (let’s say urban fantasy as above).
- Find your competitors (indies specifically).
- Read their bestselling books.
- Note down information about: tropes, setting, character types and more.
Outline Your Story:
After you’ve familiarized yourself with your genre, you need to outline your specific story. A lot of writers are pantsers, meaning they sit down and write instead of plotting out their story first, and that’s great–the creative process is varied and colorful–but I’ve found that outlining really helps with writing faster.
Think about it this way, if you outline, you’ll be tripped up less and spend more time getting words down because you'll know what you want to write.
Understanding your characters and their motivations, as well as the setting and scene, is paramount. Everyone has their own process for this, and I’m not going to get into the meat and potatoes of outlining here, but the basics you’ll need for each chapter are listed below.
You must know:
- Your setting (get some pictures for inspiration)
- Your characters, their conflicts, the stakes of the scene, and their goals
- What’s going to happen in the scene or chapter: the beginning, middle, and end
At the very least, have a line or two written down for each chapter, so you know what to write when you get there.
- A Quick Way to Outline Without Outlining by Janice Hardy
- How to Plot Your Novel Part One by Sarra Cannon
- Take Off Your Pants! by Libbie Hawker (Yes, it's about outlining.)
Check out the awesomely intimidating Stephen King quote below. Read it and weep. Or insert that Morgan Freeman meme here: “He’s right, you know.”
He is right.
But… while you shouldn’t be sitting around waiting for inspiration to strike, you should be getting yourself excited to do the writing part. Let’s not get it twisted: writing can be pretty sucky. It’s hard–the cliché “blood, sweat and tears” hard. It puts strain on your back, your eyes, and often… your mental health.
If you’re not excited to write, what are you really doing this for?
Passion needs to be a part of this business. Even if you’re writing in a genre you don’t like that much, you have to find a reason to enjoy it. Any element of the process that excites you, whether it’s snappy dialogue or a gorgeous setting that you’ve dreamed of visiting one day–find it, and use it.
Get excited by:
- Reading another author’s book.
- Finding a soundtrack to your story and listening to it.
- Reading your outline.
Step 2: Schedule Undisturbed Writing Time
This is probably the simplest step in learning how to write faster. It might be the most difficult for you. A lot of authors who are starting out have day-jobs, and most of us have families. Or pets. Or social obligations.
All of these draw on your writing time and sap your inspiration. And your speed.
We like to believe that we’re all doing as much as possible, that we’re fully utilizing our time for maximum benefit. That might be true for you, but it’s certainly not for me, I can tell you that. There’s always more time in a day; the trick is finding it and using it for your writing.
It can be one hour a day or one hour a week. Find that slot of time and note it down as your writing time. Set an alarm on your phone or in your Google Calendar, and when it goes off, stick to it.
Know yourself. If you’re not a morning person, don’t feel obligated to schedule a 5 am writing time because that’s not a habit you’re going to keep. Too exhausted after work? Schedule a time on the weekend. If you’re full-up on the weekend, do it after work.
During your writing time, stick to the following rules so you can write faster:
- Internet off.
- No distractions (phone, apps, email, social media)
- Don't get up.
If you're like many young writers I know, this is your desired future career, and you can and should put it first.
Step 3: Destroy the Blank Page
To create, one must destroy. I believe it was Chuck Wendig who wrote a blog post about that.
Your words are the wrecking ball (minus Miley Cyrus), your page is the building, and you are the operator of the machinery.
Psss… The below is prep work you’ll do before the writing block you scheduled above.
Before you start your story, free write in your journal. Note down anything that comes to mind. You can do this at the beginning of the day. It’s not an essential ‘must-do’ page-destroyer, but it will help get you in the right mindset for writing.
Close your eyes, take a few deep breaths, and visualize the scene you’re about to write. Do this for two to three minutes, keeping your breathing calm and steady. Again, this isn't absolutely essential for you to start up your writing, but if your brain’s cluttered with everything that happened in the day, this will help you.
Here’s a writer’s meditation guide you can check out.
Try not to spend too long on meditating, though. Your goal is to write faster, not to lose yourself in the natural flow of the world.
Write the First Line
Come up with the first hooky line of your story before you pen the rest of your scene. Writing that first line will help you unlock your creativity and inspire you to write more of the chapter you’re working on.
It’s also a wicked way to destroy the blank page.
Step 4: Use the Pomodoro Technique
Now, we’re really getting into it. Pick a favorite main course meal and visualize it. Mmm… tacos. That’s the part you’re at now. You’re going to write fast. And you’re going to do it by using the Pomodoro Technique.
This is how:
- Shut your door and put up the ‘Disturbed Writers Will Bite’ sign. You’re using your scheduled writing time now.
- Set a timer for 10, 15, or 20 minutes. The time length depends on how much time you are comfortable writing for. You’re going to write for the entirety of this time without stopping. Start with 10 minutes at first. 10 minutes isn’t that intimidating.
- Go! Write for the full 10, 15 or 20 minutes. This is the pomodoro. Do not stop for anything–not for coffee, not for typos. Do not backspace. Just write the scene. Challenge yourself to write fast.
- Beep! The timer goes off. Wow, did you really just write for 10 minutes straight? Heck yeah, you did. Well done. Now, you get to take a five minute break. After that, you’re going to go again. You’re going to repeat this until an hour is up. Then you can take a longer break and come back to it.
- Document. For every pomodoro you write, note down how many words you wrote during it. Aim to write faster and beat or match that word count in your next pomodoro.
Time yourself, challenge yourself, don’t allow yourself to be disturbed.
Optional Bonus Step: Use Dictation
I’m not going to spend a lot of time on this optional step because I don’t have a lot of experience with it, but it’s a great method of increasing writing speed.
Dictation is basically talking instead of writing. And since you probably talk faster than you write, it’s a method worth looking into. There are plenty of fantastic apps and software out there that you can use to dictate.
You’ll spend more time editing after you've finished your words for the day, but you’ll likely get more done when you dictate.
Step 5: Silence the Inner Editor
This is a tricky step for most writers because we’re critical of ourselves. And probably, there’s a bit of Imposter Syndrome thrown in there for good measure. I’m not suggesting that you shouldn't edit your work at all — far from it — I’m just suggesting that you don’t edit while you write.
What does this look like?
You writing and seeing that typo, itching to backspace. It looks like you ignoring that typo and writing some more.
The same goes for a clunky sentence, or a misspelled name, or that moment where you think “Oh man, this is the worst thing ever written. I just want to bury my shame in a pint of ice cream.” Ignore it all and keep going.
A great tip you could use: turn off spell check while you’re drafting. You won’t even notice the mistakes.
This is going to hurt you a little, but it’s going to pay off massively.
Step 6: Reward Yourself
This is a nifty trick I picked up from Sarra Cannon’s Heart Breathings Youtube Channel. When it comes to motivating yourself to write and to write faster, use rewards. Rewards don’t have to be financially draining, and they’re a great way to train yourself to write faster.
Think of yourself as a Pavlovian dog. The bell rings, and you drool for your reward. You’ve also completed a load of words and are closer to your publishing goals.
Below are the rewards I use.
The ‘Cross It Out’ Method
This is the first time I’ve shared my dirty little secret. I keep an entire notebook of scratched out word counts. I’m sharing this immensely powerful (read the sarcasm) tool here so that you can benefit from it too.
- Get yourself a notebook.
- Write the title of your story at the top of a page.
- On each line, write a subset of your total word count. 1000, 2000, 3000. 500, 1000, 1500. Either or.
- When you’ve written 1000 words, cross it out in your notebook. Not exactly environmentally friendly, but oh so satisfying.
Candies, Clothes, and Books, Oh My!
Set a reward for when you complete your pomodoros for the day. It can be a new book to read or some time spent with your family watching movies. You can buy yourself a healthy snack or candy.
For bigger milestones, you earn bigger rewards. Finished a book? Go out to eat at your favorite restaurant. Wrote 2000 words in an hour and beat your best score? Buy yourself that gilded monocle you’ve been eyeing out. What, you don’t like wearing monocles? Are you even a writer? Kidding.
Once again, this doesn’t have to be a financial reward, it can be you doing something to unwind, but the psychological aspect of this is huge. You’ll feel relieved and ultimately more motivated the next day.
Step 7: Remain Consistent
You are the creator of your fate. You’re also the creator of your book. Here’s an inconvenient–or convenient, depending on your mental state–truth: no one is going to write your story for you.
That’s both amazing and scary.
You can follow every step above, but you won’t see results if you’re not consistent.
What does that look like? Consistency is a habit. It’s setting aside a time of day–it doesn’t have to be every day–where you write and do nothing else. And it's working at your goal when you don't feel like it. It’s realizing that you’re the one in control and that, with practice, you’ll be producing an incredible amount of words an hour.
Disclaimer: writing a load of words an hour doesn’t equal success.
But I guarantee you that writing as much as possible, consistently, will not only improve your writing, but help you meet your goals and targets. That leads to more published works whether traditional or indie.
So, how do you remain consistent when you’d much rather be binging Netflix?
- Get rid of distractions. I’m not suggesting you lock your kids and hubby or wife out of the room but… wait, yes I am. Lock them out. Switch off your phone. Disconnect the internet.
- Listen to music to get yourself in the mood. This could be music that you’ve picked out to inspire you to write your story, or it can be white noise. I’ve found white noise very effective for concentration.
- Pick a time and stick to it. No matter what. Guard that time with your life. Be diligent and tough on yourself when it comes to this.
There you have it. Be consistent. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Use the Pomodoro Technique. Challenge yourself to beat your own word count score. Practice makes perfect. That’s how to write faster.
Honest truth: There’s no “get rich quick, write fast easy” scheme. There’s hard work. And there’s your success. Go for it.
Pictures created with canva.com