If you’re a self-published author (or you want to be), then you’ve probably heard all about these crazy authors who write nearly 10,000 words a day! Whenever I hear about these people, I wonder how many more fingers they have than me—and how many more hours in their day.
The truth is, writing faster is something that most authors want to do. But it’s not the easiest thing in the world. You can’t just sit down and tell yourself you’re going to write really fast. While this may work here and there, it won’t change your writing habits. And habits, my friend, are what will turn 500 words per hour into 2000 or more!
So let’s get to it! Here’s everything you need to know about how to write faster.
The Basics – Setting the Scene
Okay, before we get into more advanced tips for fast writing, I want to be clear on a few basics. These are things that you may or may not already do. Just because I say they’re “basics” doesn’t mean you should already know them. We all start somewhere!
And by the way, all these tips work whether you’re writing fiction, a blog post, an email, or an essay. But I’ll mostly be discussing them in terms of book writing.
Set a Writing Goal
This is the very first thing most professional writers will say. You need to set a goal. But not just any goal. A realistic one. This goal should be slightly uncomfortable, but not impossible.
If you’re working on a larger project, then set yourself an end date and a word count goal. Like 50,000 words in six months, or whatever it may be. Then, break that down into monthly, weekly, and then daily goals. If you only have time to write three days a week, break down your weekly goal by dividing it by three.
Create a spreadsheet or a simple document to record your progress. If you need to revise your goal, that’s okay. Just be honest with yourself. You know when you truly need to revise it and when you’re just doing it to cut yourself some slack.
Remember, writing faster isn’t supposed to be easy—but it’s also not supposed to feel like you’re Sisyphus rolling a boulder up to the top of the hill.
Ditch Those Distractions
Distracted writing is slow writing. So the first thing you should do to speed up your words per minute is to eliminate any potential distractions. This usually means finding a room with a door you can close. If that’s not an option, maybe a quiet corner and some noise-canceling headphones are in order.
Also, turn off your phone or leave it out of reach! If you’re like me, you don’t even realize you’re reaching for your phone until you have it in your hand. It’s a great way to waste writing time, so set it aside or just turn it off.
Find Your Focus
Now that you’re in your distraction-free environment, it’s time to focus on the task at hand. Most of us write on the computer with a writing tool like Atticus (my favorite) or Microsoft Word. If so, then close out all other tabs and silence any pop-up notifications. All you want is the page in front of you.
Straighten Your Spine
Finally, it’s important to maintain good posture while you write. If your chair doesn’t facilitate this, try another one. If you’re having to fidget to get comfortable every couple of minutes, it will seriously cut down on the time you spend actually writing.
Besides, health equals longevity, and we’re in this writing thing for the long haul. Taking care of your body is essential to pursuing your craft in the long term! 😉
Writing Faster: Pro Tips
Now for more advanced techniques. Implementing these all at once might be difficult, so you may want to choose just one or two to focus on. Once you have them down, add the other ones to your routine.
Make it a Habit
You’ve already done all the things above, right? Good. Now keep doing them just like that. Turn them into a habit. And try to do them at the same time every time. This doesn’t have to be every day. Maybe it’s Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays for you. Maybe it’s only one day a week.
Whatever the case, put it on your calendar. Schedule it like you would anything else of importance in your life. Because consistency is key to writing faster.
Test Your Writing Speed
In order to make progress, it’s important to know where we’re starting from and where we’re going. This is why I recommend using one of the many free online tools to test your typing speed. Here are a few good ones:
This can give you a baseline from which to start. And then, a few months down the line when you test it again, you can see the progress you’ve made! After all, if you can learn to type faster, you will be well on your way to writing faster.
But lest we forget that writing isn’t only about sitting down and punching keys. We also need to consider the entire writing process to ensure we’re doing everything we can to make a meaningful change to our writing speed. Which brings me to my next tip.
Research and Outline
Hey, Discovery Writer. Yeah, you! Don’t skip this section. It’s important. I know you have no plans to start outlining your novels, and that’s fine. But this tip can still help you.
It’s easy for writers of all kinds to think only about the time they spend actually putting words on the page. This is a dangerous habit to get into because it causes us to focus too much on that portion of the writing process.
Research is especially important to increase your overall writing speed because it can mean fewer interruptions when you have to stop and look something up. If you take the time to research your idea first, you can be ready with the pertinent information in your head or in a separate document.
The less time you spend switching between tasks (typing and researching, for instance), the more focus you’ll have and the easier it will be to get into that magical “flow” state that we all love so much.
If you like to outline, you may find it easier to put your research and outlining together. This is especially the case if you’re a nonfiction author, freelance writer, or blogger. Taking your time and doing a thorough job of researching and/or outlining can really streamline the writing process.
If you’re a discovery writer, you may simply need fifteen or twenty minutes at the beginning of every writing session to research the things you might need to know for the day’s writing.
Try Writing Sprints
Sometimes called word sprints, this technique involves setting a timer and writing nonstop until the timer goes off. Some people find this easier than looking at a whole hour or two-hour session. It allows you to break your writing session up into manageable chunks.
If it’s an hour, you can do three fifteen-minute sessions with a five-minute break after each one. Then you can increase your overall time as you see fit.
But remember how I said to keep your phone out of reach? Yeah, that still counts. Luckily, most operating systems come equipped with a timer tool. Or you can do like me and use the built-in writing sprint tool in Atticus. It allows you to choose your word sprint time along with a break if you need one.
Silence Spell Check
If you’re anything like me, you can’t help but stop and correct a mistake when one of those red lines appears under a misspelled word. While this may feel good, it’s not good for becoming a fast writer. This break in the writing flow can make starting again difficult.
So while you’re writing, turn off your spell check. This is easy to do no matter what word processor you’re using. The same goes for tools like ProWritingAid or Grammarly.
You can always take ten or fifteen minutes after you’re done writing to go back over the day’s words with spell check back on. Or, as many writers do, you can check the writing you did in the previous session before you start your next session.
Change Your Tactics
While this tip may not be for everyone, I think it’s worth a try. Some writers find that changing how they write works wonders for their writing time. There are two primary ways to do this.
The first is to try writing shorthand. If you’re already used to handwriting, getting your story or idea down in shorthand form using a pen and paper could actually increase your writing speed. Of course, shorthand is a skill that many people don’t have these days. That said, handwriting could be something to try if you think it will help your writing practice!
The other way to write faster is through dictation. There are plenty of options for dictation tools these days, and they keep getting better. Most people can talk faster than they write, so dictation could help you become a faster writer while still generating quality content.
Both these tactics take some getting used to, so if you try them, give yourself some time to see if they will work for you!
Buy yourself a trampoline and get to jumping! No, not really. By “jump around,” I mean to write what you already have in mind, even if it means jumping around in your novel. This is also a great way to combat writer’s block because it can keep you from getting stuck on one scene.
Similarly, you can use placeholder text if you come to a spot that will take some additional research you didn’t foresee. Just put a few sentences or a paragraph there to remind yourself what your idea for the scene was, then keep on moving!
Reward = Motivation
Writing a book is a seriously long endeavor, even if you’re one of those people who has a few extra fingers to help you along the way. This is why it’s important to create goals and break the writing up into smaller tasks. But to keep you motivated, it’s also important to reward yourself when you meet those goals.
These don’t have to be major rewards—save the big celebration for after you publish the book. Maybe you have a cup of coffee with your favorite creamer after you finish the day’s writing. Or you reward yourself with a movie after you hit your writing goal for the week.
These little rewards can help you keep going. Pretty soon, you’ll have a writing practice and you won’t need to focus so much on the little rewards. Your excellent writing skills will be reward enough!
Don’t Forget to Read!
Whether you’re a nonfiction content writer, a novelist, or a short story writer, it’s important to set aside reading time. Not only will reading help you become a better writer, but reading in your genre (or category, or industry) can help you become a faster writer.
When you know the tropes your readers are looking for, you don’t have to spend time wondering what to write. This is why reading in your genre is so important. It can help you determine things like which tense to use, whether to write in first or third person, and how to craft a story readers will love!
How to Write Faster: Wrapping Up
Faster writing isn’t just about increasing how fast your fingers fly across the keyboard (or your gel pen across your notepad). After all, writing faster won’t do you much good if you have to spend more time editing or revising afterward. The idea is to write faster while maintaining or increasing the quality of the content you produce. And by following the tips above (and making little changes to fit your unique writing practice), you can do just that!
I hope you’ve enjoyed this. I’m super pumped about helping you write faster so you can wow the world with your next great story sooner than you ever thought possible!