I actually drafted this a long time ago and just never got around to posting it. But given that this is NaNoWriMo, and all you participants are concerned with meeting that 50,000 word goal, I thought it might be relevant today. So. Let’s talk about another question I see a lot online: How much should I write in a day? or, How fast should I finish my novel?
I feel like you already know the answer by this point, but here it is in case you’re new here and you’ve missed it: Writing is subjective. You should write as fast, or as much, as you’re able, and not worry about the rest.
Here’s a better version of that question: How can I improve my writing speed?
A tourist walked up to a street musician in New York City. “How do I get to Carnegie Hall?” he asked.
The musician smiled. “Practice, man, practice!Source unknown
I know, that was bad and I should feel bad. But it’s the same idea. The more you write, the easier it gets. And the easier it gets, the faster you can do it. Practice, man, practice. (Obviously insert your gender in place of “man.” That’s just how the joke goes.)
Where to start if you want to write faster
There are several ways you can go about doing this, but I thought I’d share a few pointers to help get you started. This is yet another of those situations where you might have to try several things until you figure out what works best for you.
Create a routine
I’m not going to tell you to write every day, although that definitely helps. Instead, I’m going to advise you to create a weekly routine. Block out time in your schedule for writing, and then stick to it. Lock the door and turn off your phone if you have to. I have a post here with more details about creating a routine for yourself if you want to have a look at that.
Try writing sprints
I’m one of those people who has a hard time focusing. I’m either all over the place, or I get so deep in the zone that I don’t come up for hours–to a point where I don’t notice if I need to eat something or take a bathroom break. Sprints are really helpful for me because even when I’m at my most scatterbrained, I can set a timer for five minutes and write something. Then I take a short break, reset the timer for ten minutes, and go again.
Write short pieces to practice
It’s so much faster to write a short story than it is to write a novel. Plus with everything condensed into just a few pages, it’s easier to learn how to structure a story, and it’s easier to edit. If you don’t want to write a story, consider writing blog posts or doing some of the exercises that I post here on Fridays. You can even write letters or just personal journal entries if you want. Whatever gets the words flowing.
This is a great way to learn because you can start with simple ideas and themes, and build up to more complex pieces. It gives you a chance to explore things like writing styles. You can learn on a small scale whether you work better with an outline or without one, for example. You can practice sensory description, and showing and telling, and not have to worry about keeping it up for 150 pages.
Beta reading or giving critique on someone else’s work is a great way to learn how to identify problems. Once you get good at recognizing problems in other people’s writing, you should get better at spotting those same issues in your own. This helps you complete writing projects faster because it reduces the amount of time you spend on revisions.
The other thing that can really help boost your writing skill is reading. Read books in your genre so you get an idea of things like terminology, tropes, and trends. You can also read books or articles about writing. I especially like Stephen King’s memoir, On Writing, but there’s plenty to choose from out there. If you need help with some of the more technical aspects, check out The Elements of Style. It’s small, it’s easy to follow, and you can probably get a used copy for next to nothing. It was required for several of my college courses–and at $7, it was the cheapest “textbook” I ever had to buy. I still have it somewhere.
Much like critique, reading is going to help you write faster by helping you write better. The more you learn, the less time you’ll spend revising.
It’s all about putting in the effort
At the end of the day, if your book is good, it doesn’t matter whether you wrote it in a month or six months or five years. But if you want to learn how to write faster, the trick is that you need to write more frequently and try to work more words into your sessions. When I first started working on my novel, 500 words in a sitting was a good day for me. Now I can write over 2000 words in a session.
I hope this has been helpful for you. If you have any of your own tips or techniques you’d like to share, please leave a comment below. As always, hit those social media buttons if you loved this post and want to share it with your writer friends. I will be back tomorrow for another post in my November blogathon. In the meantime, please do your best to practice, man, practice.