speed typing

7 Ways to Speed Up Your Writing

Most of us don’t have the luxury of spending years and years penning our next literary masterpiece. Multiple writing assignments, looming deadlines, and . . . well . . . life in general tend to kick our butts on a daily basis. How is a writer to manage all these things? Writing faster is the most obvious solution, but it is much easier said than done.

Here are seven ways to speed up your writing. Hopefully, these tips will be encouraging and inspiring rather than intimidating and daunting!

1. Make Writing a Priority

Is writing a hobby or a career? If it’s a hobby, you probably don’t feel a sense of urgency. If it is a career, you must finish that piece of writing, or the kids won’t be able to eat dinner.  If you want to be a writer, be a writer. Make it a priority in your life. John Updike, who averaged a bestselling book each year, lamented, “I think that maybe what young writers have lost is the sense of writing as a trade.”

2. Don’t Panic

Sometimes, the perfect piece of prose is elusive. Writer’s block isn’t an urban myth. It can happen. In these instances, don’t panic. Instead, trust in your abilities. You’ve done it before; you can do it again.

If you need more encouragement, Jack Kerouac is willing to advise you: “You’re a Genius all the time.” He wrote On the Road in just three weeks.  With such a short turnaround, he obviously didn’t have time to sit and stew about what to write. He just did it.  You should too.

3. Get in the Zone

You must have a designated place to work. If you think you can pull out your laptop and accomplish anything while the kids are running amuck all around you, you are sorely mistaken. Go into a quiet room, close the door, and eliminate all distractions. Similarly, do what must be done to get you in the writing mood. Do you need soft music playing in the background?  Do you need a cup of coffee close by?

If all else fails, follow Muriel Spark’s advice—get a cat.  She says,

The serenity of the cat will gradually affect you so that all the excitable qualities that impede your concentration compose themselves and give your mind back the self-command it has lost.

Ms. Spark penned The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie in under a month.  Apparently she knows what she is talking about.

4. Race Against the Clock

After you have gotten yourself in the proper mindset, don’t risk losing it. Set a time limit for your writing. Tell yourself you won’t think of any other tasks for, say, 25 minutes. You’ll be surprised by how much you can accomplish when you focus on a single task for a designated amount of time.

A great tool is MyTomatoes. This online timer will help hold you accountable. Set the clock and don’t stop writing until it dings.

5. Don’t Be a Perfectionist

Mridu Khullar Relph is an award-winning freelance journalist who has written for a variety of national and international publications, including the New York Times.  In a recent blog post, she noted the following:

Perfection is a beast most of us will have to grapple with and I’m no exception. Even though I’ve written hundreds of thousands of words and should, by now, know better, I still expect perfection to flow from my fingertips each time I sit down to write.

Fortunately for all of us, there is this wonderful process called revision. Don’t spend an hour writing the first paragraph. Let your thoughts flow freely. Then, come back and edit.

6. Edit Your Writing by Reading It Aloud

After you have written everything you must, go back and edit it. The best way to catch errors is to read aloud. Christopher Hitchens always read his pieces aloud: “If something is worth hearing or listening to, it’s very probably worth reading.”   And, it obviously worked wonders.  He was able to compose a column for Slate in a mere 20 minutes—the day after an intense chemotherapy session.

7. Do All Your Research at Once

Nearly all writers face the same temptation: mindless Internet surfing. After all, the Internet, with all its wonderfulness, is just a click away.

However, mindless Internet surfing is one of the easiest ways to waste time. Instead of facing your temptation five times an hour, deal with it once. As you write, you will certainly come across topics that will need a bit more research. When you arrive at these places, leave an X or an underscore to mark your spot.  After you have written everything, address all your issues with a single research session.

John Boyne advises writers not to get overwhelmed by the quest to find facts:

I’m aware of the importance of research, of making decisions regarding what is and isn’t important to keep absolutely accurate. You’re writing a novel, after all, a work of fiction.

Mr. Boyne wrote The Boy in the Striped Pajamas in two days.  I’d say his strategy seems to work!

Follow these suggestions from the literary greats and you’re bound to make the writing process quicker, more efficient and more enjoyable.

Tell me your opinion: How do you keep yourself focused and your fingers flying over the keyboard?

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About Steve Aedy

This article was written by
Steve Aedy. He is a freelance writer and content manager at Fresh Essays—a company that provides online help with editing and writing
of academic papers. He likes to write on various educational topics and
specializes in writing of essays on literature and history. 

Comments

  1. Great advice. I already have some of them in motion with my writing, but a few are new to me. I’ll have to implement them when I’m writing. Thanks!

  2. Thanks. There’s one more (skipped) that is funny but useful: “Write drunk, edit sober” by Peter De Vries :)(often attributed to Ernest Hemingway).

  3. Thanks so much for sharing with us today, Steve!

  4. Loved this one, KM!

  5. Music is what really helps me focus on my writing. Without music, creative writing feels like being a fish out of water.

    And yes, I definitely could use work on all 7 steps here. Thanks for the tips, Steve. :D

  6. Thanks, Lara!

  7. Great column with plenty of solid advice. I’m not sure about getting a cat, though. Mine always wants to ‘help’ by sitting on the keyboard.

    Reading aloud is something I’ve always been reluctant to do, because I feel a bit silly talking to myself, but I have noticed that if you read your work to others you can quickly get a feel for whether it’s too wordy or hard to follow. It’s always gratifying if you get to the end of the passage and, like Oliver, they ask for more.

  8. All of the above. It’s not the first draft that time it’s the editing that takes the most time.

  9. I’d say that #1 is the gateway to all the others. If writing is a priority, then all the things you have to do to make it efficient will fall into place naturally.

    Sadly, I’d say that #1 is the very hardest, at least for me. I have often reflected on the insanity of my trying to write anything when I know that I prioritize it LAST most days.

  10. Thank you, Kathryn for sharing Steve’s article. For me, getting into the zone is key. I use suitable background music and start writing. For me, most of the other points are secondary to this one.
    If I’m not in the zone, I find reading other works can help get me there.
    Thanks again!

  11. Ah perfectionism. My biggest and most time-consuming flaw in writing. I’m glad to know it isn’t imperative to constantly nit-pick. Especially since I just realized that without a deadline, I could be writing my book forever!

  12. Great list! There are several points on here that I know I need to work on – most especially right now, I need to do that “research all at once, not every 10 minutes while I’m writing” thing. :-P When I do that, I usually find what I’m looking for pretty quickly, and then waste another 10 minutes on stupid stuff.

    The advice about getting a cat is good…but should not be a blanket statement. An older, calm kitty who purrs beside you is a great muse; a bouncing kitten who you have to follow around the house with a water gun or rolled up magazine is not as great for writing… I’ve had both. :-P

  13. Thats a large part of what it is, I can’t focus on writing when my aunt is talking to me about asking my what the plot of my story is. If you need to know what the plot is, it doesn’t really take much work to actually wait till the draft is finished.

    At least I don’t have kids. I remember in school when I used to write more, other kids stealing my notebook to see what I was writing. Its that same sort of thing when she asks me what my plot is, my reaction is “Why do you need to know before its finished?”

  14. Great article. I tend to let the internet distract me but at least I recognize my weakness and am working on it. I’ve read a few other posts suggesting reading your work aloud to yourself so you can see what flows and what doesn’t. I’m definitely incorporating that into my writing process.

  15. I do most of the above – and I’m still a slow writer. sigh. I’m a slow reader too. sigh. it’s okay though, I’ve learned to accept it and not let it discourage me. I am who I am and as long as I keep writing I no longer care if it takes me longer than I think it should.

  16. Ditto on being a slow writer, which is why I don’t do timed writing often.

  17. Thank you for the tips! I guess yes, it´s all about focus!
    M.

  18. I tend to GET IN WRITER MODE, but get distracted a bit, checking emails. BUT I usual bang out a good paragraph or two before I hit the mail button. That bit of time clears my thoughts to continue to the next segment. Somehow it works of for me.

  19. Thanks for the tips! I agree that the key to writing productively is getting in the zone and staying in it, without being distracted by grammar or pets or the internet or kids is key.

    However, I’d have to disagree with #1. As much as I’d like to make writing the top priority in my life, my kid being able to eat dinner will always trump that no matter what. And that means my day job will always take precedence over writing, until some day when (if) I make enough to write full time.

  20. “Instead of facing your temptation five times an hour, deal with it once. As you write, you will certainly come across topics that will need a bit more research. When you arrive at these places, leave an X or an underscore to mark your spot. After you have written everything, address all your issues with a single research session.”

    This is much like the method I use, except that I bold rather than underline. This simple tactic helps me to remain in writing mode, and it’s also makes the time I spend researching more productive.

    Now, if I could only write a novel in under a month.

  21. I will definitely put some of this tips into practice. I tend to do research as I go, and have noticed I do waste a lot of time surfing rather than writing. Thanks Steve!

  22. For all those worried about internet distractions, I know that Firefox (and probably other browsers too) have free apps that you can set to block sites during certain times. So if, like me, you are a Facebook addict, you can set the app to block the site during the time you write. I also made a separate account on my computer called “For Writing Only” that is less easy to access the internet with. Some suggestions, from someone who could stand to take her own advice. :-)

  23. I always find tricking my brain into thinking that I have got to do something hugely important after my writing seems to work. My brain seems to focus more then.

  24. I love the reading out loud point. I started doing that a while back and I never stopped. It’s crazy how easy you find problems in the text like that. Thank you for this post, it’s great!

    Iulian

  25. Amazing tips. Some of them may seem pretty simple, but they are still underused. My favourite part is not to be a perfectionist. This one resonates with me. It may seem that there’s nothing bad about polishing our pieces of writing. Yet, sometimes we should know when to stop.

  26. Marcelo Macedo says:

    Thanks for all the help you have given so far.

    A Fan from Brazil.

  27. Thanks for the much needed push. Since I am one of the biggest procrastinator :(
    But, by making writing my priority, I guess I will actually start doing it too. These days, I am really struggling with even my assigned writing time.
    Another issue is space. I haven’t and for certain amount of time; can’t make the space I need for my writing. These days, I am just working my best with all I can get and the results are worst than everyone think. It becomes impossible for me to get in the writing zone thanks to that.
    But I believe good things happen to those who seek them. So I am persisting, but these things have tremendous impact in productivity.

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