Can you learn to write faster?
One thing I’m asked frequently is how I write so much. I get asked by both readers and writers. This post is my answer to some of the specific questions I’ve received lately.
Writing fast is a skill that can be learned. Last summer, I was writing about 800 words in my ninety-minute writing time. Now I’m up to about 2,300 or so words in that same amount of time. One morning, I broke 2,800 words!
I published my first novel in the end of November of 2012. I now have ten titles published on Amazon with another almost ready to publish.
My chief goal is to turn this into a career. That’s why I treat it like one now.
This leads me to one of the most important factors in writing more….
Mindset doesn’t sound all that exciting. But then again, this is post about how to get your writing groove on. It’s not full of gimmicks that won’t help you in the long run. Mindset is crucial for long-term success in any endeavor.
If you knew me before I started writing fiction, you probably remember my personal growth blog. And if you remember that, you probably also remember my focus on the topic of mindset. Just because I now write about vampires, that doesn’t mean that I’ve forgotten what’s really important. I still keep track of where my thoughts are taking me.
No matter what your goals are, you must have the right frame of mind. Let’s get to work.
What Are Your Goals?
Before you go anywhere, you need to know what your goals are. Do you want write for fun? Make a little extra money? Turn it into a career? Become a best seller?
Know where you’re going before you start mapping your path.
Lose the Excuses
We always, always find time for what we really want out of life. Do you make time for your favorite show? Catching that new movie? Reading a favorite book? Hanging out with friends? Sleeping in on the weekends?
You can give up any of those to spend time writing – if you really want to. What’s more important?
When I first started writing fiction, I tried to fit it into my schedule. It didn’t take long to figure out that it wasn’t going to happen by chance. I knew I was going to have to make the time. I took a hard look at my schedule of parenting, homeschooling, and running a home preschool 50+ hours a week. The only way I was going to have any time for writing was to wake up earlier. And by earlier, I mean 4am.
I’m not saying you have to get up that early, but you might have to do something drastic, like giving up some TV time or partying with your friends. That’s something only you can decide.
You’ve decided what you’re going to do – bravo! You’re leaps and bounds ahead of others. Now get out there and get to it! Grab your new writing time by the horns and get to work.
Wait! What does that look like? Where should you start? Sitting down in front of a blank screen or page without a game plan is only going to waste the time you made all the effort to set aside. What you need is a….
A question I get from other authors is HOW do I manage to write so many words? What’s my process? How do I suffocate the internal editor? How do I plan my writing?
Keep in mind that what works for one person won’t necessarily work for another. Take what you will from my own process. This is what works for me.
Remember the mindset I mentioned earlier? Part of that is keeping my mind on writing all day long, no matter what I’m doing. If I’m cooking, in the car, or doing whatever, my stories are always on my mind. Anything can be a potential storyline. I’m always on the lookout.
I also spend time reading up on the craft of writing. I read blogs, converse with other writers, and listen to writing and publishing podcasts.
Before I go to sleep, I think about what I’m going to write the next day. I think about possible plot developments, conversations, and whatever else I expect to write about in the morning.
This is important because when we sleep, our minds work out our problems, and especially the last things we think about before sleep.
The majority of my prep is restricted to my mind. I rarely actually write anything down, and when I do, it’s at a minimum. When I outline, it’s bare bones. I write about 5-10 sentences before I start a book in most cases, unless it’s a new series. Then I need more for world building. I’ll usually write out a couple pages on paper.
For an example, this is the outline for my novella Fallen:
Samantha eating with Vince when he tells her that he heard a rumor about Marguerite being alive
She wants to check it out herself
Approaches M at the deli where she works. Totally not impressed; doubts it’s even her.
Back to Vince, they decide she should try to get in and be her “friend”
She finds that there aren’t any v’s around
Finds her to be to difficult to get through
Vince comes up with the plan to get to her through a guy, goes through a couple before finding T
Rel with T: fake story about her becoming a v
I wake up and start writing without doing anything else. I grab my laptop, get comfortable on the couch, and let my fingers run. I don’t listen to music or drink coffee. I don’t open my browser or check my email.
Nothing is allowed to get in the way of my writing time. The nice thing about 4am is that the only thing that can distract me (most of the time!) is myself. It’s all too easy to get distracted by social media or email, so I don’t allow it before I hit my word count for the day.
Last November, I shared some of my ninja tricks for writing faster. Those five tips will help you to speed up your actual writing. If you’re interested, check out that post.
Quiet the Internal Editor
One of the things that’s tempting is editing as I go. Other authors deal with this too, as I’ve been asked how I do it. The simple answer is: stop editing. No, it’s not easy. But it’s back to mindset: Think of your writing time as writing time. You can edit and run spell check another time.
Trust me. When you see how much faster you write when you stop editing, you won’t want to go back. Force yourself to keep going after you make an error. You will catch it later.
When is the Story Done?
Give up on the idea of a perfect novel. It isn’t going to happen. There is no book out there which is error-free. I’ve never read one, but I’ve been told that even the Harry Potter books have errors. Once you’ve given it your best efforts and written the best story you can, it’s time to put it out there.
Your best efforts should include having others critique and edit your work. Beta readers are invaluable – mine definitely are. You should have specific questions for them to answer, and if you’re not paying for a professional editor, you should have one or two betas who can help you with that.
The time definitely comes when you let your “baby” go out into the world so you can focus on the next one.
Image by @boetter