There are all kinds of writers in this world with different preferences about how, how often, and how much to write in one sitting. While there is nothing wrong with taking your time while you write, if you want to write faster, here are some helpful tips for doing so.
They might not all work for you, and their importance will vary from writer to writer. But hopefully, with these tips, your end goal of writing faster and boosting your daily word count will become a reality.
The Benefits of Writing Quickly
You’ll finish your manuscripts sooner.
I’d love it if that was the only thing I had to say in this section, but, surprise, there’s more! In my opinion, writing a story faster means less developmental editing afterward, partly because you’re planning your novel ahead of time. You should be able to catch all the major problems and pacing issues before you even start writing, meaning fewer to no major revisions when you’re done.
Finishing your manuscript quickly also produces a more cohesive work in general that is less likely to have plot holes or errors. If your book takes weeks or months to write, it will be very easy to forget that your MC lost that blue sweater in chapter 2 and therefore can’t be wearing it in chapter 17, no matter how much it brings out their eyes.
How to Write Faster
1. Get excited and be positive
I discussed the importance of motivation in my post How to Write 40k Words in 10 Days so I won’t go into it much here other than to say, you need to be amped about writing and enthusiastic about telling your story. Having the story on your mind while you eat, shower, go to work, or whatever else you have to do will really help when you sit down to write. Hopefully, you’ll be bursting with energy and excitement, and the words will flow out of you.
If you don’t believe you will succeed at writing quickly, you probably won’t. Try to be optimistic about your writing skills. If you absolutely can’t be positive, try not to think about it at all. Don’t dwell on whether or not you can write fast. Just go for it!
2. Plan and prepare
You can’t write fast if you’re stuck staring at your computer screen thinking. Brainstorming, planning, and researching your novel needs to be done before you sit down to write. How much or little you plot your manuscript is up to you: Maybe plot points will suffice, or maybe you need a detailed outline, or a rough sketch of each scene before you can write.
World building, character naming, place naming, time traveling laws, magic rules, and whatever else all needs to be established beforehand; Outlines, backstories, and character development should already be done too. If you create Pinterest boards or inspiration boards, have those ready.
Bonus tip: Create lists of names for new characters or places to have on hand while you’re writing. Or have filler words in mind: words as simple as TOWN or NAME are wonderfully functional until you have time to determine the name you want to use.
3. Set your writing time/Don’t multi-task
Focus, focus, focus. If you want to write faster, you need to devote your attention solely to writing. This one is a ‘duh’ sort of point, but seriously, don’t try to juggle multiple things. Decide when, where, and how long you are going to write and make it happen!
4. Prepare your space, reduce distractions, and plan for potential ones
With some trial and error, you should be able to figure out what times of day are your most productive and what writing locations work best for you. Something to consider though, is that distractions can ruin great writing spaces and keep you from seeing the potential in less-attractive looking locations.
My writing space is tucked into a tiny corner in between our dining room/kitchen and living room. The TV sits at two o’clock and the opening to the hallway, which leads to the bedrooms and bathroom, is at seven o’clock. Meaning, I’m basically set up in the center of the storm. But I like it. I’ve made it work and can still easily get in 5k word count writing days.
Things to think about:
- Have multiple playlists ready if you like to listen to music or will need to drown out background noise
- Non-salty snacks and water
- You can snack on whatever you want, but if you want to avoid excessive bathroom breaks, keep the salt to a minimum
- Plan your high-sugar or high-caffeine drinks wisely. You don’t want a sugar rush, sugar crash, or caffeine headache to ruin your writing time.
- Cold or warmth
- Dress in layers
- Have a cold or hot beverage on standby
- Word processing lines and autocorrect
- I write in Scrivener, so this isn’t really a problem for me. But I imagine seeing green and red lines under your writing would be very distracting. Turn the markers off, or write in a program better suited to your tastes.
- If you’ve got a weird character or town name you’re using, chances are your software will try to autocorrect it to something that makes sense. Type out a name list and do a massive “add to dictionary” before you start writing. Make sure to include the names with ‘s at the end as well as any abbreviated versions you intend to use.
- Turn of social media alerts
- Don’t break your body
- If you can’t sit for long periods of time, have back issues, have an uncomfortable chair, etc. don’t force it! You can’t write a full length novel in one day, so don’t kill yourself on day one out of over enthusiasm.
- Take breaks to stretch, walk around, go outside, and exercise.
- Wear wrist braces (this one is for me)
- Blink. Turn down the brightness on your computer. Have eyedrops on hand.
For more on how to minimize distractions check out my post How to Write 40k Words in 10 Days
5. Develop your story constantly
This might take the form of prewriting, scribbling random notes while cooking or at work, daydreaming, or imagining whole scenes in your head. Basically, whenever you aren’t writing in the traditional sense (sitting in front of your computer), write mentally. This will help too if you don’t like to do a lot of outlining or plotting ahead of time. Focus on the scenes or chapters you are going to write next, letting them play out fully in your mind. That way, when you do sit down to write, the story is already there ready to flood out.
If you can, take a few minutes at the beginning of each writing session to jot down your thoughts, bullet points, or an outline of what you intend to write during that session. Having it on a post-it note nearby or in separate document will help when your brain is too focused elsewhere to remember your master plan.
6. Don’t second guess yourself or edit
If you are 100% sure you need to change or revise something, go for it, but don’t waste your time agonizing over the words you just wrote. This goes back to point number 2. If you’re as prepared as you need to be, hopefully you won’t have major hiccups like this at all when it comes to the narrative.
Creating thought provoking, beautiful, poetic lines may or may not come easily for you. But unless you want your novel to solely consist of that type of writing, don’t dwell too much on your syntax on your first draft. It is after all, a rough draft. Being aware of repetitive language and varying your sentence structures is fine, but don’t let it distract you too much or slow you down.
Basically, save your editing for when you’re done. Keep your mind focused on writing the story and moving forward.
Writing on the go and other constraints
I’ve assumed throughout this post that writing would be done on a computer. If typing quickly is a problem for you, search for typing exercises that can help you improve your speed (FreeTypingGame.Net and WordGames.com).
Writing by hand or recording your narrative verbally might also be viable options for you. You could learn shorthand to help with writing speed and hand cramps if you need to or prefer to write by hand.
If you want to keep your daily word counts high but life demands otherwise in the form of running errands, parenting, or whatever else, try writing on a tablet, your phone, or on a notebook by hand.
I’ve tried to keep this post somewhat generic because I believe that every writer and, potentially, every writing project is different. Writing a complicated mystery-thriller will take a whole lot more careful planning than writing a character-driven story might. Certain types of stories need to come out organically, not be forced.
Also, creating thought-provoking syntax that has multiple meanings takes time and shouldn’t be rushed. So while some writers can focus on daily word counts and participate in writing sprints, for others, the main goal is creating a time and space for writing quality work on a regular basis.
I hope these tips were helpful in some way or another no matter what kind of writer you are or what kind of project you’re working on. If you’ve got more thoughts on how to write quickly or better prepare for your writing time, let me know in the comments!
For further reading:
- How to Write 40k Words in 10 Days by R.Q. Woodward
- How I Went From Writing 2,000 Words a Day to 10,000 Words a Day by Rachel Aaron
- Life on 10,000 Words a Day: How I’m Hacking My Writing Process by Kameron Hurley
- “Write 10,000 Words Everyday” is Terrible Advice by Viraj Patel