Have you ever wondered how you could write faster? Perhaps you’ve spent ages rewriting the same sentence over and over again? Or maybe you are someone who struggles to begin a book or a project in the first place. You have an idea in your mind, rattling away inside of you, but you are reluctant to get it out on paper. Perhaps you don’t even know where to start? Or, like me, you’ve seen other writers churn out numerous articles, books and blog posts and wondered how they’ve managed to write them so quickly.
Don’t worry – we’ve all been there!
If that sounds like you, some fast writing exercises might help you put aside some of your worries and actually focus on getting the words on the page. I know I, and many other authors, benefit from writing fast first drafts that we can later refine, and it might well be that this process can work for you too.
Many famous books have been written at speed. On the Road by Jack Kerouac was allegedly written in an impressive three weeks and John Boyne has claimed that it took him roughly two and a half days to write the first draft of The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas. Of course, in these cases, we are talking about drafts – but if you can get a fast draft down, the rest of your writing can develop quickly too.
In this article, we will discuss why writing quickly is useful and go through some tips to help you start writing faster today.
Are you ready to see how fast writing might just give you the kickstart you were looking for?
If so, sit back read on, and get ready to pick up that pen. The race is on so let’s not delay!
Why Writing Quickly Matters
There is certainly a great deal of value in writing faster, even if it’s just your first draft. Many authors and writers will attempt to get their initial drafts down quickly while the ideas are still fresh in their minds and while they are fully excited by the project. A lot of excitement in a new project is usually stacked at the beginning, so you need to tap into those feelings for as long as you can, and fast writing will really help you to achieve that aim.
Writing quickly really is about just getting those words down on the page – they don’t have to be structurally or grammatically perfect yet! The editing and refinement can come much later. Quick writing means you can simply have fun allowing your ideas to spill from your mind onto the page – and it is a great way to allow your creative juices to flow freely without too much interruption.
Also, by getting your words down on the page fast, you will help your brain remain engaged with your writing for as long as possible, and you will be able to stay in a flow state for longer. You will find you are less likely to lose focus or allow your mind to wander onto the next enticing project – or begin to worry if the project you are writing is even working. The faster and more productive you are at getting your words on the page – the more likely you will be able to have a finished project at the end of it that you can refine.
Regardless of the form you’re writing in, when you are writing faster you will hopefully reduce the occurrence of writers’ block, as you will be fully focused on getting words on the page. It’s fair to say that the faster you are writing, the less likely you are to be distracted or to have the time to pause and worry about what to add next. The fun of this exercise comes in the freewriting itself and letting the words flow. Yes, you may lose some content later and may have to make changes – but that comes at the next stage. For now, you need to simply enjoy the act of writing in its purest form.
I think it’s fair to say that we can appreciate that writing fast can be beneficial and a great way of writing in a free, expressive and limitless way, but how can we do it? Is it really that easy to remove the shackles and anxieties that you might be holding on to and simply allow yourself to write quickly and freely? In the next section, we will explore some tips and methods that will help you to write a book faster.
How To Write A Book Faster
Writing a book faster is not as daunting as it might sound – but it does require some commitment, determination and self-belief. You need to tell yourself that you can do this and make writing a priority even if it’s just for a short time each day. Writing in fast, sharp bursts is often a good method for writers who might fall victim to procrastination or dithering. This way of fast writing worked well for me when I was writing my debut YA novel Seven Days. At the time, I was working full time and raising two young children. An idea for a teenage story developed in my head and wouldn’t leave me. I was determined and energised to get the story on paper as quickly as I could. I set myself short periods of time where I made myself write and this forced me to write fast. The result was a first draft that was written in three months (quick for me!). Since then, I have always tried to write quickly and efficiently, often with self-imposed short deadlines to keep me motivated. This method doesn’t work for everyone, but it certainly did for me, and I would recommend that you give it a try. What is there to lose?
So, how can you become a fast writer? It might not be a skill that comes naturally to you, in which case some of these tips and methods may help you become a much quicker and more efficient writer and allow you to get that draft written at speed.
Try to set yourself a target to write something every day, either by hand or on a computer (whichever you feel most comfortable with). This could be a word count target, or it could be just a set amount of time – but by making yourself write a little bit each day, you will find that your project will develop much more quickly.
Set A Timer
This can be another useful tip, especially for those of us that work well under pressure or to tight deadlines. Set yourself a time limit. It doesn’t have to be long – perhaps 15 or 30 minutes – and then make yourself write nonstop within that period. Don’t stop to check back or edit your work. Simply keep writing and let the words flow as the time counts down. This can be an effective way of speed writing. Again, this method can be used for both writing by hand and typing.
Many people specifically like to use the Pomodoro technique, wherein you set a timer for 25 minutes, take a 5 minute break, and repeat this process. After four 25 minute writing sessions, you then take a longer break of 15 minutes or so and repeat the process again.
Write At A Time When You Are Most Focused
This is quite a useful tip, as it’s true that most writers have a time when they are most productive. I know writers that wake up very early in the morning and are most productive then. Others may find that they can write faster and better in the evenings. It might be that, due to other demands, you have a limited choice of when you can write – but if you can, try to pick a time when you are not too tired or overwhelmed by other projects. Your words are likely to flow better, and have greater clarity, if your mind is clear and your body is relaxed.
Eliminate Environmental Distractions
Again, this can be a tricky one, depending on your circumstances – but if you can, try to remove those external distractions. Ensure the dog is walked before starting, so they can’t badger you while you’re writing, tell family members that you are working and cannot be disturbed, and try to reduce the noise and distractions around you. I know that many writers value the use of noise cancellation headphones for such work as this helps to block out background noise.
However, once again, all writers are different, and some people (like me) actually write better in noisier environments. So, it is also about finding out what suits you best.
Create An Outline To Work From
Some writers work much better if they have a plan or an outline to follow, and know roughly what each scene will entail. So if you’re someone who likes structure, having that initial outline will help you write the first draft much more quickly. If you are a writer who tends to like planning out your ideas (rather than a panster who will just slam down whatever comes into their head) – it might be an idea to shape out your idea first. Consider drafting out a plan first to give you something to work from and allow your words to flow much faster.
Stay Away From The Internet!
This is an important tip. If you want to write fast and efficiently, you need to remove the lull of the phone and the internet during the time you are writing. Keep your phone away from your desk while you’re getting those words down and resist the temptation to hop onto the internet for a break. Searching houses or checking Facebook is not going to get those words down any faster!
This is one that I personally do myself. If I’ve met my word count for the day, I will give myself a little reward. It might be as small as a biscuit, or half an hour watching my favourite (naff) TV show, but it helps my writing brain to know that there’s a reward at the end and I do end up writing faster because of it.
Set A Word Count
This could be another daily target that you set yourself to get those words down on the page quickly. A common target is 1,000 words a day. Many authors will either work towards a daily word count, or will set themselves a certain amount of time to write in. Again, it will depend on the individual, as people have different preferences.
Make Sure You’re Comfortable
Ensure that your desktop is set up correctly and that you have the appropriate chair and desk. You won’t get many words down if your back is crying in pain – and you will thank me for this tip later!
Try not to see your writing time as a chore or as work. Enjoy it! If you’re having fun and are relaxed it will show in your writing. It makes a big difference if you’re writing about a topic, or in a genre, which you care about and enjoy.
Don’t Stop To Edit/Read Back
This is an important tip when it comes to writing fast. You shouldn’t stop to edit or read back through your work. Writing at speed is all about getting those words down on the page; you can worry about refinement and detail later.
The same can be said for research. This can be quite a time-consuming part of writing and although it is necessary – it is not essential at the speed writing point. You can go back and add the relevant research points later, but first, focus on getting your bare-boned structure down.
If it helps, you can always add notes- colour coded, in brackets, underlined etc- in your draft reminding you to go back and check certain details or add in some specific information.
Remember – It’s Not Meant To Be Perfect!
This can be a hard tip for perfectionists, or for those writers that are used to editing as they go, but if you want to try writing more quickly, it’s important to note that your first draft will probably end up quite rough and imperfect. This is fine, though, as you can then have fun refining it at the editing stage.
Use Other Devices (Tablet, Notebook, Whatever Works)
You might consider using other devices to speed write. Some people write faster by hand. Others prefer to use a tablet, whilst others will prefer to write straight onto a computer/laptop. Find what works for you and stick with it.
You could also use speech-to-text dictation and speak your writing aloud into your laptop. This works particularly well if you express yourself more coherently verbally than you do when writing, or if you’re a faster speaker than you are a typist.
This is a tip I’m happy to endorse. Quick snacks or drinks will help you avoid the temptation of trips to the kitchen!
How To Write Quickly
As writers we must always appreciate our own strengths and weaknesses and for some individuals, the fast-writing method may not appeal, or even work. It takes some people longer to write a book than others, and there’s nothing wrong with that. However, for many – this could be a very productive and motivating way to get words onto a page and to progress your writing onto the next level.
Remember that the key thing here is not to produce a polished and perfect draft – instead, you are looking to produce a working draft that can be edited and refined later.
Writing quickly can be a useful tool to learn, and can be especially handy if you are trying to squeeze your writing into an already packed schedule. But it’s not purely about learning how to speed write. The key is to be disciplined and self-motivated and write under the conditions which most inspire you. The results will speak for themselves. Perhaps you will be the next John Boyne and produce a draft within a few days, or perhaps, more realistically, you will have a workable document in a much faster time than you thought was otherwise possible. Either way, you have nothing to lose by giving it a go – so get rid of those distractions and set that timer! Let’s see where your speedy words take you!
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