Most of the writers I know want to write faster. They want to get more words down on the page during every writing session. I’ve been one of those writers for as long as I can remember…and I probably always will be!
Over the years, I’ve gotten faster – and without learning how to type faster! Now, I’ve had friendly arguments with writers about why your typing speed does matter. You can think faster than you can talk. You can speak faster than you can type. So if your thoughts are in the writing flow, they are moving fast. So the faster you can physically type, the faster you can get those words down on the page.
So the fact that I learned to write faster over time was more about getting my thoughts deeper into the writing flow. If I also learned how to type faster, I would be able to get even more of the story down in each sitting.
Okay, so let’s say you’re not going to update your typing skills, and you’re not ready to try dictation. How can you write faster?
There are several ebooks for writers that have focused on or touched on this one main idea: organize your thoughts before you sit down, then set a timer and write as fast as you can for a set length of time.
Let me break it down.
Why organize your thoughts first?
Even if you’re a pantser, you probably have some idea of the very next scene you plan to write. Now, what if you spent 5-10 minutes and closed your eyes or doodled or whatever you do, and you really saw the scene fully in your mind? What if you didn’t start typing until you could really see it?
You’d probably write faster.
Why set a timer?
If you have an hour and that’s it, have you noticed that you tend to really get those words out on paper because you’re hurrying to beat the clock? (Let’s assume that you’ve organized your thoughts and know what you wanted to write at the beginning of the hour.) Or if you have 30 minutes, and you know what you want to say, and it comes rushing out – partially because you have to go do something else soon? That’s why setting a timer works so well even when you have 4 or 5 hours to work.
You end up getting more words on the page.
Why pick an arbitrary time to stop?
For the same reason you set the timer in the first place – you’re pushing to get your thoughts out on the page before something (the timer) tells you to stop. You don’t dawdle. You don’t take a bathroom break and then a snack break and then answer a text during that hour (or 20 or 30 or 40 minutes). You type. Then you can take a break, answer a text, check emails, and then come back to the next timed session ready to do it again.
And write even more than before.
I hesitated to try this until recently because I hadn’t fully understood the answers to the three questions above. Once I realized how and why the whole thing worked, I haven’t been able to stop using this method! I went from a record high of 5000 words in a day to 7157 words in a day – both at writer retreats where the only thing I had on my schedule for the day was to write.
On my previously record high day, I started my writing day at 7am, took a break a few hours later to exercise and shower, wrote some more, took an hour for lunch to watch TV and give my brain and eyes a rest, then worked again until dinner around 5 or 6, and sometimes put in another hour after dinner if I had the energy.
On my new record high day at a writing retreat with my friend Elena Dillon last month, I wrote in five 1-hour sessions between breakfast and dinner and wrote 43% more than when I worked more hours!