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

Steve Aedy is a freelance writer and content manager at Fresh Essays—a company that provides online editing and writing services.

Comments

  1. 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.

  2. Marcelo Macedo says:

    Thanks for all the help you have given so far.

    A Fan from Brazil.

  3. 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.

  4. Love your page BTW. But the whole getting a cat thing. I have a cat. And he is the reason I end up losing my mind while I’m writing. I don’t know about other cats. But mine is a but head.

  5. I may not look and my channel does not suggest it it but I am a sinister perfectionist when it comes to ideas I finally have some source to set me free from that but after I finish writing those two books I’ll still have to return to being a perfectionist

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      Perfectionism is double-sided. On the one side, the ability to pursue perfection is a great thing that can only make us better writers. The problem is that it too often tends to run away with us.

  6. Great suggestions, very thoughtful.
    Writing requires a lot of work and effort.

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