It’s one of the most common wishes that we authors have – to be able to write faster.
Nothing sells your book like the next book being released, or so the saying goes.
Here are some of my top tips to increase your writing speed:
Dictation can transform your writing speed, but it probably won’t happen immediately. Like any new skill, there’s a learning curve involved and many people give up before they master it. If you can get through that awkward phase, dictation could double your output – and that’s a conservative estimate. Many people are able to multiply their hourly writing output by mastering the art of dictation.
Get started by reading On Being a Dictator by prolific author (and nice-guy dictator) Kevin J Anderson.
02: Plan Your Writing Session
If your writing sessions are filled with typing pauses while you try to work out what needs to happen next in your WIP, you may benefit from taking a few minutes before each writing session to outline the scene you’re about to write.
Just spend a few minutes considering what the point of the next scene is. Who needs to be in it? What needs to happen? What will the reader be expecting at that point and how can you surprise them (in a good way)?
You can sit and jot down notes, or you can allow your mind to wander on a walk. Then get back and get the actual words down.
You can habit stack this before your dictation sessions to get even more words out!
03: Find Your Best Time
If I try to write in the evening, I’m going to be disappointed. And if I try to write after my hard curfew of 10pm, I’m going to be downright miserable.
Your body clock may be the opposite of mine, but whatever it is, you’ll be much more productive if you get in tune with it and write during your peak hours. If mornings are your jam, find a way to write first thing. If you come to life at 11am, don’t make that time of day when you go food shopping. And if you are a genuine night owl (most people who believe they are actually aren’t), you need to find a way to write during those hours while still getting enough sleep.
You can start mapping out each scene immediately before you write it, but if you have no bigger vision for where the book (or series even) is going, you’ll find that you waste valuable time by writing yourself into a plot hole.
If you’re nodding your head with the painful memories of being stuffed in those dusty corners, one way to reduce the chances of that happening again is to make a more detailed plot.
You may prefer to pants your way through a story, but if your output isn’t as fast as you’d like it to be, it may be time to ask whether that method really works for you.
05: Take a Break
You can’t chain yourself to your desk and expect to be productive for hours each day.
While I believe strongly that writing is a job rather than anything mystical and magical, it isn’t like other jobs. It taps into a different part of the mind and that part of the mind is a bit of a diva.
In my legal work, I can sit and work on a client’s file for a straight 12 hours day after day after day if I need to. It’s not that the work is easier but that it’s logical.
I cannot do the same for writing, and I strongly suspect anyone who says they can just hasn’t reached burn out yet.
Your creative mind needs a creative life, and that means you leaving the desk to go out into nature, to watch good TV and movies (they’re stories too), to laugh with friends, to read, to visit art galleries or travel to new places.
In short, whenever you feel your productivity stalling, you may need a break.
06: Switch It Up
If you’re struggling day after day after day with the same WIP, maybe you should start another project on the side. Something a little different, the kind of thing you can consider to be your writing mistress. A fun project.
Your main project may feel so serious and dull and demanding but your fun project on the side will let you be as wild, spontaneous or dirty as you like.
How do you stop your eye wandering to your fun project too much?
If your writing has completely stalled, you need to get back into the routine. So go wild with the fun project for a few days, then ease back into the first project.
If you’re still managing to write on your main project but not as fast as you’d like, set yourself a target for how many words you’ll write in your main project, and only if you meet that goal, allow yourself to have some fun with your bit on the side.
07: Fake External Expectation
Some of us are obligers, a term coined by Gretchen Rubin in her amazing book, The Four Tendencies. Obligers are people who will do all of the tasks assigned to them by other people, but who struggle to follow through on expectations they set for themselves.
I’m an obliger, and the way I get myself to meet targets that have come from nobody other than myself? I fake external expectation.
You can do this in many areas of your life by creating some kind of accountability.
For example, you may be very unlikely to go to a 6am gym class, but if you have a friend to accompany you, you will suddenly go because there’s an external expectation that you’ll be there (your friend is expecting you and you wouldn’t let a friend down).
How can you do that for your writing?
There are plenty of options, some more terrifying than others.
You can set your book for pre-order. This is perhaps the most real and the most scary method I use. It motivates me hugely. It may overwhelm you. Remember that at this time, if you cancel a pre-order on Amazon, you lose your pre-order rights for a year. That makes the stakes high, and some obligers love it when the external stakes are high.
If you’re not ready for that level of expectation, you can simply tell your readers that your next book will be out in a particular month. It isn’t as concrete as having a pre-order date, but your readers will still be disappointed if you change plans.
You can promise readers a snippet of the new book by a certain date, meaning you have to have that particular snippet done by that date.
You can order the cover before you’ve finished the book (in fact, you should do this so you’re not waiting around with a finished book and no cover for it) and that may help you see the book as a real thing separate from you.
And you can do that old trick of handing your most harsh friend an amount of your money that makes you uncomfortable, and allowing them to donate it to an organisation you can’t stand if you miss your self-imposed deadline. You have to choose a friend who will follow through, and the amount has to be high enough that it will be painful for you to see it leave you and head off to support an organisation do work that you are morally opposed to.
BONUS: Write in Comic Sans
I heard this idea doing the Internet rounds, that apparently if you write in Comic Sans it will increase your speed. Now, clearly, you won’t be publishing in Comic Sans, let’s make that clear!
But the drafting in that font apparently makes the writing process seem more fun and easy.
I gave it a try.
Oh. My. Goodness.
Not for everyone, of course. Nothing works for everyone.
But it works for enough people that it might work for you too.