Most of us have the luxury of taking our time when writing our novels. And with the ever increasing popularity of self-publishing, a growing number of authors will never have the pressure of an editor or agent standing over their shoulder to make sure they meet their publishing deadlines.
However, there are still times when we have to write quickly, whether that is from a self-imposed deadline or some outside factor. National Novel Writing Month is a great example of a need to write fast. When you have to crank out 50,000 words in thirty days, you can’t afford to write slowly. Other reasons include a prescheduled publish date (either by a publisher or you), limited time to write due to a full-time life, or a weekly content need (such as a regular blogging schedule).
There are four simple and practical steps that I take to get more writing done during my designated time. You can use one or all of these same steps in your own writing life.
1. Eliminate Distractions
Find a secluded place
If you have a designated writing corner in your house, this is the perfect place to go every time you write. Over time, your brain may subconsciously associate sitting there with writing words, making it easier to write. Having a specific writing place isn’t required though. You just need to be able to get away from people so that you can focus. For me, I can write effectively at my desk in my bedroom or at a table in Starbucks. Some people like the “white noise” of other people around at a coffee shop, and others need complete silence to work. Find what works best for you, and use that as your writing space as much as possible.
Turn Off Your Phone
This won’t be possible for everyone, but this is a great way to eliminate distractions. Our phones are always going off from all of our different notifications. One ding, and we’ve suddenly wasted an hour of writing time. If you can’t turn off your phone, try turning off all of your notifications or turning your phone to the “do not disturb” setting.
Stay Off Social Media
I don’t think I have to tell you why it’s important to stay off your social media sites. They are serious time suckers. There are websites and programs that will actually block you from social media sites during a period of time that you set. I’ve never tried them, but I know some people use them. However, a little bit of self-control is all you really need to keep off those sites (plus turning off your social media notifications on your phone or computer).
This time saving step is for plotters (those who like to outline) and pantsers (those who do not like to outline).
Just imagine the difference this could make in your writing life. On one hand, you could sit down at your computer or with your pen and paper and have no idea what to write. Maybe this chance to discover your story is exciting to you. But in your allotted one hour of writing time, you may only write for about 30 minutes because you spent the other half of the time trying to discover what to write. Let’s say that means you wrote 1,000 words during that hour, and you do it every day of the week. By the end of the week, you’d have 7,000 words written.
If, however, you took one hour to outline all your writing for the week, that would leave you six days of preplanned writing, allowing you to devote the entire hour to simply put words on paper. This means you write for the entire one hour, and you average 1,500 words. By the end of the week, having written for six days, you have 9,000 words written. An extra 2,000 words every week can add up quickly. That’s an extra 8,000 words a month just from planning ahead.
For some of you, this may mean that you create detailed outlines of the scenes you’re going to write, where it takes place, whose in it, and every action listed point for point.
For others, this means that you only plan out which scenes you’re going to write during the week. You don’t know exactly what’s going to happen in those scenes, but you know the setting and the major plot points that have to happen.
It doesn’t have to be fancy and elaborate. The point is to determine ahead of time what you are going to write so that you’re not left staring at a blank screen. Experiment with outlining more or less until you find what helps you write the fastest.
If you’re not sure where to start, focus on the main points of your story, listing them in order. When you write a scene, make sure it includes the next major event in the plot. This could be your character loosing his job, the villain successfully stealing a prototype weapon, or the love interest finally expressing her feelings for the hero. Sometimes the one main plot point is all you need to know to be able to start writing the scene.
3. Set a Word Goal & Timer
Setting a word goal gives you a target to aim at. It gives you something to work toward. This helps me most on my off days, the days when I’m just not in the mood to write. When I look and see my word goal for the day is 500 words, I think, I can do that at least!
Setting a timer forces you to focus. You’re making a point by saying, “For these next (10, 20, 60, etc.) minutes, I’m going to write.” It helps get you in the mind set that this specific amount of time is for writing and writing only.
The only thing better than these two tactics is using them together. Now, this has the possibility of being a little stressful, especially when you see on the timer that you’ve only got two minutes left to hit your goal. But combining these two goals helps you remain focused on the task at hand, and it prevents you from stopping to edit.
4. Don’t Edit
Even though we’re writers, I think all of us have a natural urge to edit our own writing. We write one sentence, read over it, back space a few times, write a little more, read it again, and then rewrite some more. We may do this five, six, seven times before we finally deem that one sentence “good enough” and move on to write the next sentence and repeat the process.
As hard as it is, I suggest you resist this urge. By editing everything you write, you drastically limit how much you’ll actually be able to get written. It will take you way too long to write your novel this way. I even stress this to the point of saying don’t even stop to change “yuo” to “you.” It took me participating in NaNoWriMo to finally train myself not to edit, and I am so glad I finally learned this (that’s a lot coming from an editor).
If, once you’ve finished with your predetermined writing period, you still have time to work on your book, you can then look back over what you’ve written and edit as you see fit. But you must make sure that you’ve reached your word goal or written for your allotted time period for the day before going back to edit.
So, there you have my four steps to writing faster. You can apply these tips to any type of writing: fiction, nonfiction, blogging, essays, etc.
Which one of these tricks did you find the most helpful? Do you have any you could add to this list? Help us out by letting us know in the comments.