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Wednesday, January 21, 2015

How To Write Faster (Recycled)

For reasons explained in my "100 Things Every Beginning Writer Should Know" post, I'm bringing back another writing post, this time from 2012.  This one also got a few updates.  Enjoy!

I've never come across a writer who didn't wish they could write just a little faster.  Writing faster means faster progress.  More visible progress, at least.  More books.  More practice, more experience.

The trouble is, how does one write faster?  Here are some tips.   Keep in mind that these things still take time.  Some save no time at all, but instead break up the writing process a little to make the act of writing itself go a little smoother.
  • Don't procrastinate.  You definitely don't need to go on Twitter right now, trust me.  iFunny can wait for later.  If you don't allow yourself to procrastinate, you get your writing done faster.  Guaranteed.  Think about it.  If you sit down at your computer to write 500 words, and you spend half an hour doing things other than writing those words, it's going to take you half an hour longer to get it done.  Simple logic.
  • Write a lot.  The more you practice, the faster you'll get.  It used to take me an hour to pound out 200 words.  Now I can sometimes get close to 1,000 or more, if it's a good day for me.  The more you write, the more you'll develop your personal voice.  You'll learn the best ways to phrase things, you'll learn how to work with your inspiration and characters.  It works the same way as reading.  Do you remember, in elementary school, how it would take you a week to read a 50 page chapter book?  Now you might read around two 400 page books per week or more (okay, I read two books in the last two days).  Writing kind of works the same way.
  • Outline.  This is a good option if you spend a lot of time staring at your screen, trying to think of what should happen next.  If you outline, you save yourself that time.  Yes, it'll still take quite a bit of time making up the outline.  It doesn't have to be fancy--all it really has to do is tell you where your story is going.  That way, you've saved yourself all that time you would've spent racking your brains and instead turned it into valuable time putting down words. 
  • Don't second-guess yourself.  Don't edit as you go.  That last line you wrote...maybe it's not perfect.  Should you change it?  How could you rephrase it?  Don't think these thoughts.  No, your first draft won't be perfect.  That last line might well have been messy and unnecessary.  Save it for later.  Just keep writing.  If you have to analyze every single thing you write, as you write it, you'll never make progress.  Write now, edit later.  Yes, editing takes a lot of time, but this way you'll make much better use of your time.
  • (added 1/21/15) Set realistic goals.  It's easier to put off writing when you're working with an ambiguous "I'd like to finish this book someday."  Yeah, you can finish that chapter tomorrow.  If you work with that mentality, though, your progress with be slower than you'd like.  However, if you're working toward a goal, you'll have more motivation to actually write.  Be as specific as possible.  Maybe you want to write 3,000 words a week.  Maybe you want to have the book finished by October.  Whatever your goal is, make it manageable.  You'll find that you make more progress when you have a goal in mind.
  • (added 1/21/15) Set aside a specific block of time for writing.  This goes hand-in-hand with setting a goal.  It's easy to keep saying, "I'll write after I do this, and this, and this," and so on, and before you know it, you have no more time left in your day.  Instead, it's much easier to say, "I'm going to write from 8 pm to 9pm today."  Then, you'll be able to plan the rest of your day around this, and writing won't get pushed to the wayside.
  • (added 1/21/15) Know when you need to take a break.  This post is all about making more progress, but sometimes, that just isn't possible.  Sometimes, you'll sit down to finish a chapter, but only write 120 words for an entire hour.  This happens.  In many cases, it's better just to take a break than to try and force out more words.  Maybe this just isn't a good writing day.  You'll be fine tomorrow, or the day after, and you'll get so much more done.  Don't let yourself take a break every time the writing gets difficult, but don't unnecessarily drain your energy when you're just not having a good writing day, either.  
  • Get zapped by a radioactive laser beam.  It might just give you special speed-writing powers.  Or it might just give you cancer.  You never know.  Disclaimer: I haven't actually tried this.
An important thing to keep in mind is this: Don't compare yourself to other writers, in terms of writing speed.  Your critique buddy churns out three novels a year, while you struggle to finish one?  That's fine.  There's absolutely nothing wrong with that.  Everyone writes at their own pace.  Don't let others' writing speed discourage you.

Again, these tips aren't miracle cures.  They won't make you able to write 15,000 words a minute.  But they might just help.

Do you have any tips to add?
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