Tuesday, July 10, 2018

6 Ways to Double Your Writing Speed

By Laurence MacNaughton, @LMacNaughton  

Part of the How They Do It Series (Contributing Author)

“How can I find the time to write?” said every aspiring author ever. But time is only half of the equation. The other half is speed. The faster you write, the faster you will finish your story or novel and get it published. Can you learn how to write twice as fast, without sacrificing quality? Yes. I'll show you how.

How I doubled my writing speed. Then doubled it again.

My first traditionally published novel, It Happened One Doomsday, took me more than a year and a half to write. When the publisher asked me to deliver the second book within a year, I knew I was in trouble. They couldn't wait a year and a half, so I had to learn how to write faster. And the second book needed to be just as good as the first, if not better.

After much research, and some trial and error, I discovered several of the techniques I'll show you below. My second book, A Kiss Before Doomsday, took me only nine months to write. About half the time. And the reviews for that book were even better than the first.

I wondered: would the publisher want the third book in the series? Yes, it turned out, but due to a scheduling mishap my deadline was only a few months away. Big problem.

So I doubled down on my efforts and finished the third book, No Sleep Till Doomsday, in just four months. Again, I had doubled my writing speed.

There are six specific techniques you can use to do the same thing.

1. Measure your writing speed.

In order to increase your writing speed, you first need to measure your current speed. From today onward, you need to track your word output using a notebook or spreadsheet.

It's easy. Every time you sit down to write, note the time and the current word count of your document. Write down the same information when you finish writing. With a little basic math, you can calculate your words per hour.

This is your base number. The following tips will help you double that number. Soon, you'll be writing twice as fast.

Here's a super secret ninja trick: just tracking your writing speed will make it go up. I don't know why. Maybe it's a subconscious drive to beat your previous numbers. But whatever the reason is, it works. So measure your writing speed, starting today.

2. Write in 30 minute sprints.

A friend of mine calls these “dirty 30” writing sessions, because the point is not to write something perfect. The point is to write quick and dirty. Just get it down on the page.

Here's how it works. First, shut off your internet. (Use “airplane mode” if you can.) During the next 30 minutes, you will not be answering emails, checking notifications, jumping on social media, or doing anything else except writing.

Set a timer to 30 minutes and write. Don't stop. Don't second-guess yourself. If you get stuck, just put down the first thing that comes to mind and keep going. If you get really stuck, just leave a few blank lines, then skip ahead in the story and pick it up from there. Don't stop writing until that timer goes off.

When a distraction pops into mind (and it will), just jot it down on a piece of scratch paper. You can deal with it later. Right now, you’re writing.

At the end of your sprint, enter your word count in your notebook or spreadsheet. How much did you write? In that half hour, did you reach half of your words-per-hour goal?

Take a quick break. Get up, stretch, go get a glass of water. Come back in five or 10 minutes. Repeat.

You will probably find that in your second sprint, you'll be even faster. Because now, like an athlete, you're warmed up. Do another sprint.

Do as many sprints as your schedule allows. But do at least one every day.

3. Use the buddy system.

You can multiply your efforts by using an accountability partner. Find someone you trust, preferably another writer who is also trying to hit certain specific goals.

Message each other at the start and finish of your sprints. Send a status report. Did you reach your goal?

Just knowing that someone else is struggling at the same time to reach the same goals can motivate you to keep going. You might find yourself thinking that if they can do it, you can do it. And an encouraging word now and then works wonders.

4. Start with a bullet point outline.

It's easier to write for 30 minutes straight if you know what you're going to write. With that in mind, take at least five minutes before a sprint to mentally rehearse what will happen in your story during the next few pages.

It doesn't have to be a detailed outline. Just grab a sheet of paper and jot down bullet points: this character does this, that character does that, stuff happens.

Keep it quick. You're not even attempting perfection. After all, 30 minutes from now, you’re going to crumple up that paper and throw it away. Just cover the highlights of what you're going to write next, and that will help you launch your next sprint.

5. Have you tried dictation software?

I never gave dictation software a second thought until I talked to a best-selling author who had broken his wrist in 17 places and couldn't type anymore. Ouch.

Considering that my wrists are A-OK (luckily), I figured I didn't need dictation software. But I was wrong. Once I tried Dragon NaturallySpeaking, I found that I can dictate nearly twice as fast as I can type on a keyboard. That right there is a huge productivity boost.

By the way, here's an interesting factoid. Erle Stanley Gardner, the creator of Perry Mason, was the world's best-selling writer of his time, and he dictated his novels. But he had to do it the old-fashioned way. Early in his career, he hired a secretary to take dictation in a longhand notebook. Later, he used a Dictaphone (an early recording device) to dictate his novels while he traveled. As a result, he wrote 1.2 million words a year. Amazing.

So, try dictation software. There is a learning curve, but once you get the hang of it, it can double your output.

6. Read these ebooks about writing faster.

I understand you may be skeptical about doubling your writing speed. I would be, if I hadn't done it myself. Twice. But don't just take my word for it. There are some great ebooks out there that can help you write faster.
  • 2K to 10K by Rachel Aaron. This book was recommended to me by a major best-selling author, and the advice in it is spot on. I had to read it several times before its lessons truly sunk in. Get it today.
  • 5,000 Words Per Hour by Chris Fox. Personally, I'm skeptical about actually hitting 5,000 words per hour. But the author does a good job of explaining several very useful techniques, so this is also worth a read. Hint: you can get the book free from the author’s website. So you have no excuse not to read it.

Fact: you can double your writing speed.

You can do this. I've done it, and I'm not remotely the fastest writer around. A friend of mine writes 5,000 words a day, and publishes multiple books every year. (Granted, she writes six hours a day. But still.) Another friend of mine just finished her latest book in 13 days.

These are regular people like you and me. They use techniques like these. You can too. Start by measuring your current writing speed. Then adopt the rest of these techniques, one by one, and watch your speed shoot up.

Did you enjoy this article? Leave me a comment below, or contact me at my website.

Laurence MacNaughton is the author of more than a dozen novels, novellas, and short stories. His work has been praised by Booklist, Publishers Weekly, RT Book Reviews, Library Journal, and Kirkus Reviews. He lives in Colorado with his wife and too many old cars. Try his stories for free at www.laurencemacnaughton.com.

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About A Kiss Before Doomsday (Dru Jasper, Book 2)

When an undead motorcycle gang attacks Denver's sorcerers, only one person can decipher the cryptic clues left behind: newly minted crystal sorceress Dru Jasper. A necromancer is using forbidden sorcery to fulfill the prophecy of the apocalypse and bring about the end of the world. To learn the truth, Dru must infiltrate the necromancer's hidden lair and stop the prophecy. But she needs to do it fast, before legions of the undead rise to consume the souls of everyone on earth…

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes | Indie Bound | Kobo


  1. Replies
    1. I agree, Marti - an incredibly helpful post. Thanks Laurence and Janice!

    2. Thanks for the kind words, Marti and TLC! So glad to know that you enjoyed the article.

  2. wow! Some good advice here. Part of my overall problem is just sitting down for 30 minutes in general, to do anything. Having a plan is a great way to start. Thanks!

    1. You’ve got the right idea, Eva! Getting started is the hardest part. Just set that timer and go. You can do it!

  3. Thank you for sharing your tips. I found '2k to 10k' very helpful also. It did make me wish I'd learnt to touch type!

    1. Trust me, there are plenty of published authors out there who don't know how to touch type. Remember, dictation software can be a beautiful thing. : ) Have fun writing!

  4. I am a lousy typist so I put Dragon on my computer four years ago, got caught up moving again, and forgot about it. Thanks for the reminder!

  5. Sensibel Susan7/13/2018 2:23 PM

    Great tips! I'm going to try some for this week!