As a writer, you already know the essence of learning how to write faster and putting out more writing work.
You hear other writers talk about, “I average 7k words per day” or “my weekly output is roughly 20k”.
But your fiction has been lingering around chapter one for months… What are you doing wrong?
I cannot diagnose your problem, but I will give you tips that you can use to perform a self-diagnosis and increase your writing speed.
Writing Is a Game of Numbers
For the 21st century freelance writers, novelists, or any other professional writer, quality matters but without quantity, you are just going to lumber in the abyss of the world wide web libraries.
Writing is a game of numbers; the more you put out, the more you get noticed; likewise, the more gigs you complete, the more money you get.
It’s ABC simple.
The faster you write, the faster the ‘cha-ching’ comes in, and once you learn how to write fast, you can put in more work in a short time and probably earn more.
So, writing-faster hacks are very essential life hacks for any serious writer.
23 Tips To Writing Faster (And Better)
Out of the 23 tips, 1 and 2 are the most essential. That is why I have given them more meat than all the rest.
1. Learn How to Increase Your Handwriting Speed
Almost everyone learns the art of handwriting at a very young age, but as we grow older, we tend to forget this important skill. This trend has been exacerbated by the more convenient computers and mobile phones.
With the dawn of the
Age of Ultron digital age, handwriting has become an even more obscure skill.
However, handwriting speed is still essential for people who take notes using pen and paper (students, for example).
There a couple of benefits of increased handwriting,
- Better performance. You take better handwritten notes and save time in an exam.
- Increased Automaticity. This means that your brain will have to burden itself with other important intellectual stuff rather than the physical movements of your hand.
- Less writing gaffes. We often commit errors because we think faster than we write. But if the writing pace catches up, there will be fewer errors.
Handwriting Speed Tips
Use Better Writing Tools: The type of pens you use affects your writing speed. Your ballpoint pens don’t rank in the speed ratings; you’d be better off having a fountain pen, a roller pen, or a gel pen.
Learn or Develop a Shorthand System: Instead of using bulky words, why not try symbols or abbreviations. There are no limits, so you can develop your own shorthand writing system or learn pre-existing ones like (Pitman, Gregg, Teeline).
Be comfortable: Somebody might have shown you the ‘best way’ to hold a pen, you tried it, and it didn’t feel comfortable at all. Don’t force it, it’ll just slow you down. Always hold the pen in a way that feels comfortable. The way you hold a pen doesn’t really affect writing speed, but if you are comfortable, your pace might improve.
Maintain a Good Posture: Writing is laborious; not only does it stress your fingers, but your spine also gets a beating too. There are ergonomic kneeling and upright sitting office chairs which help you to improve your sitting posture. The chairs should be complemented by your own efforts.
- your feet should lie flat on the floor,
- your knees should be at a 90-degree angle,
- the lower back should be supported by the chair.
2. Learn to Type Fast
The idea is that every finger should have its place on the keyboard. To help the fingers get used to ‘their’ position on the keyboard, you have to type without looking at the keyboard.
Home Row Finger Placement: place four fingers (from your index finger to the pinkie) on the ASDF and JKL. The keys are in the center row of the letter keys, also called the HOME ROW.
When you are typing, you should always start and return to the “ASDF – JKL” letters (that’s why they are called the middle row and are called the home row). The letters ‘F’ and ‘J’ have little ridges for your fingers to sense the initial position by groping the keys.
Your thumbs should always hover around the space bar, and the SHIFT key should be assigned to the pinkie opposite to the hand that is pressing the other key.
Good Sitting Posture for Typing
I also covered this when I wrote about ergonomic office chairs. But let me just hash over a couple of important tips:
- The top of your screen must be level with your head.
- Relieve the pressure in your shoulders, arms, and wrists. You can invest in a keyboard with a wrist rest so that your body weight isn’t shifted to your wrists.
- Sit straight.
- Keep a good distance between your eyes and the computer screen (at least 40cm).
- Keep the elbows bent at a 90-degree angle.
- DON’T SLOUCH.
3. Write Rhubarb, Edit Later
Hi writer, no one is going to see your very first draft: nobody but you.
When you start writing, all you need to do is pour raw thoughts, forget the typos and coherence; none of that matters, for now. Editing is actually the most arduous step of writing. That is because we tend to rewrite a lot of the initial stuff and pay a lot more attention to detail.
Have you ever written a whole page only to come back and erase it because it is pure garbage?
So, just focus on putting words to paper and leave the corrections to the other you, the editing you.
4. Follow the Cliché
“Practice makes perfect.”
This is the most overused cliché, and… the most accurate. You have to write every day. Do not force the writing speed. As long as you are applying the proper techniques and writing consistently, you will get better.
5. Write the Intro at the End
Writing the introduction earlier than the main body will slow you down, nine out of ten times. The introductory paragraphs (in some cases, an abstract) give a taste of the juice contained in the main body of your work. Writing this part first usually means setting unnecessary standards for yourself.
The introduction will always mess up your head, trying to align your content with the introduction.
But if you start with the main body, you will probably write faster and use the content to create an abstract afterward.
Introductions and abstracts write themselves.
6. Gather Information Before You Start Writing
Doing research is a vital part of writing. Literal work (especially academic) with unverifiable content exposes the writer’s knowledge gaps and stinks of unprofessionalism.
However, researching while writing is counterproductive. You spend huge chunks of time on the web or bookshelves instead of writing. And sometimes you are ready to write again, only to find out that all the creative juices have dried up.
Google your stuff beforehand, scour the bookshelves and take notes and pictures before the actual writing begins. When you sit down to write, you should WRITE.
Another cliché, “failing to plan is planning to?”
Freestyling is good because you just hop around and before you know it, you have 25k words. But, setting an outline helps you save time thinking about what to do next.
Write an outline, then freestyle inside the outlined topics. You can jump from the first topic to the last, then back to a middle section.
8. Set challenges
Challenging oneself is one of the greatest traits of successful people in any field. Most professionals, likely you too, work well with deadlines.
Give yourself word counts and deadlines. It may seem like a simple overused old hack, but when you start employing this technique you will realize that whatever the circumstance, failing feels bad.
You will zealously want to beat your deadlines.
9. Fragment Your Work
Writing a book may seem like a tough thing to do (that’s because it is). But if you break the book into chapters or scenes and work on them one by one, the workload seems a whole lot lighter.
As a matter of fact, Mark Twain did say something just like this, he said, “The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one”.
10. Play Typing Games
Thanks to apps and websites, learning to type faster has become fun. Nowadays, there are a squillion web-based or offline games, tests, and YouTube tutorials.
11. Go blind and Invent
You can do your research beforehand or completely write from your head. This is usually effective for fiction writers. Create worlds, words, names, cities, et cetera.
There’s a writing technique that I call “Blitzkrieg Freestyle Writing”. It’s something similar to the “write rhubarb, edit later” style, just that with blitzkrieg freestyle writing, you can include some nonexistent stuff and create your own stuff that can even make it past the final draft.
After setting up a few things beforehand, jump onto the chair and wing it! Just blitz through the pages without pressing backspace, googling, or verifying.
12. Ignore the Schedule (Sometimes)
Creativity is spontaneous and sparks of genius usually occur sporadically. If you are writing a scheduled article but the words aren’t coming, it’s better to disregard your schedule and look at something different.
It might be another article or your poems from five years ago. You need to be concerned with the magic, not the time frame.
Word of caution; do not mistake the “spontaneous creativity” that I’m talking about with that mischievous demon of procrastination.
13. Find Your Optimal Writing Times
The ‘night owls versus early risers’ thing isn’t genetic, you are not born to be a night owl or somebody that wakes early every morning.
Our bodies have a reprogrammable biological clock. If you keep late nights a lot, your body readjusts and you start to notice that instead of feeling sleepy in the after-hours, your eyelids usually give up in the wee hours of the morning.
The issue here is not trying to program the clock but understanding it (although it’s okay if you want to). You must observe what time(s) of the day you’re most active. It’s during those hours that you’ll write faster, and the content will be of better quality.
14. Always Stop Writing Mid-Sentence
This might seem counterintuitive at first; why would I stop writing mid-sentence? When my flow is so on point? So undue.
However, when you stop writing in the middle of an exciting, fully developed (in your head) plot, you exactly know what to write when you resume writing.
When you go back to write, you know where to pick from. It’s vroom vroom from the first keystroke, your phalanges going Luis Hamilton fast.
15. Set a timer
Just like the previous method, this seems counterintuitive too. Imagine blitzing through a paragraph, then the alarm rings.
I know, I know, it seems inconvenient but, there are a lot of hidden benefits.
Taking breaks after the clock runs down also helps you refresh the brain and stretch your body. A fresher brain means more productivity, and since you are probably going to stop writing mid-sentence, you will have a lot of content already thought out (hence faster writing), and you save yourself a world of pain and stress.
Sometimes the timer helps you pace up so that you can write a lot of stuff in the short given time.
16. Use The Pomodoro technique
The Pomodoro Technique is a time management scheme that helps people to effectively use time to their advantage when working.
This is similar to the previous hack (you obviously use a timer), but unlike the former, it has preset time margins.
It’s a simple system, you have 25-minute focused work sessions followed by five-minute breaks. The breaks are what are called pomodoros. After four pomodoros, the break should be longer (about 20 minutes).
Just like the normal timer setting, you get the benefits of stopping mid-sentence plus you save energy.
17. Schedule Undisturbed Writing Time or Just Hang a Sign.
For me, it is hard to hang a sign and expect that the other ‘creatures’ in the house will observe the new rules.
No no no no. Nope!
I live with toughies, and it’s almost impossible to tell them what not to do. My solution? Doing my writing when they’ve exhausted all their energy.
At night, the guys turn to sloths. That’s when I attack my keyboard with zero distractions. However, putting up a “don’t disturb sign” usually works, especially in a professional environment.
18. Start from Anywhere
When you are writing a book, one of the biggest mistakes you can make is to think that you MUST write it chapter by chapter, chronologically.
You might start off quite brilliantly, but you—will 9 out 10 times—get stuck somewhere before you even the first chapter.
Start from wherever content seems to flow seamlessly. After a while, some other parts will start revealing themselves.
19. Write drunk, edit sober
I first saw this advice on a certain blog, and I said to myself, “this is rubbish, these people just write things just to fill up articles”.
But I found out, from my writer circles, that this actually works for a lot of writers. Apparently, a hard drink (a gentleman’s quantity) can spur creativity since it snaps some wires in the head. However, you should expect some content to be utter rubbish, so you’ll have to follow the “write Rhubarb, edit later” hack.
20. Get a Journal
Not only will a journal help you increase your handwriting speed (because you will be writing frequently), it will also help you save your ideas. You can use the ideas later, reducing the time you spend on brainstorming during a writing session.
You can also use the journal to create characters or write some rhubarb to be edited later.
21. Switch Your Perspective
Looking at a writing project just in terms of the word count and workload is demotivating. Somehow, the word count always seems like a mountain to climb.
And hiking isn’t for everyone. Ha-ha.
But seriously, you have to switch the perspective and start looking at a blinking cursor as a metronome, your chance to write creative stuff that will wow millions – Your chance to shine.
22. Go Incommunicado
The digital space is full of distractions; Facebook, insta, Twitter, Pinterest, a movie perhaps.
Your computer or mobile phone can be both your ally and foe when you have some content to write.
One minute, you want to see your Facebook inbox and an hour letter you’re pinning stuff on Pinterest. A few days later and you still haven’t started typing that chapter.
Shut it off!
But if you use the computer for writing, then shutting it off is equally counter-productive. You have to have software that turns your computer into a digital offline typewriter.
23. Use Squiggly Line Reminders
Sometimes, your typing speed isn’t the problem. Sometimes, it is those missing words in your head.
You can blitz your way through a chapter only to get stuck explaining what kind of dress ‘Daisy’ wore. Then you go on the web and start scouring for dresses and fashion trends, and before you know it, you’ve spent a whole hour looking for a “dress”.
Many word processors use red squiggly lines to tell you that you’ve made a mistake. Using misspelled words or symbols when you get stuck helps you put markers to which you can come back to make corrections or fill with text.
Experiment, the tips are not a “one shoe fits all” type of solution. Trial and error won’t hurt.
And… one more cliché.
“If you want to be successful, you should do what you love.”
Make writing a top priority, a full-time thing. You’ll discover a lot of writing hacks on your own. Some things just come naturally.
Note: You cannot do all of them simultaneously, while some will work for you, others won’t make any sense at all. You just have to mix and match and see what works best for you.