One friend of mine publishes multiple novels per year. He is incredibly prolific in a way that sickens those of us who struggle to get our words out. For the longest time, I thought he was doing it wrong. Turns out, I was the one who was wrong.
As a writer, I had this snobbish idea that the best, most meaningful work happened slowly and painstakingly. But that’s just not true.
One of the most important skills for a writer to learn is how to write quickly.
This is something I learned from NaNoWrimo, when I was in the middle of a mad dash to write 50,000 of a new novel from scratch. Not only was it the first time I’d written fiction in over ten years, it was the first time I’d ever attempted to write an entire book in one month, period.
What I learned from the process is that you can write faster than you think.
Why am I a fan of fast writing? A few reasons:
- Because the first step to writing anything is to get the words out. Whether that’s a book or a blog post, your job is to get it done, now.
- Because the faster you get the words out, the sooner you can start editing. And as we all know, all good writing is rewriting.
- Because the faster you write, the more you write. And the more you write, the better you write.
In the end, writing is about quantity. Quality follows quantity6, and we all have the power to get more of our writing out there, if we’re willing to learn how to become faster writers.
The faster you write, the more you write. The more you write, the better you write.
Write faster to write better
Blogging, coupled with the discipline of writing every day, allowed me to increase not only my writing output, but my writing speed. And as that’s happened, I’ve become a better and more prolific writer.
I think the same can be true for you. Here’s how you start writing faster without letting the quality of your work suffer.
1. Commit to writing daily
Just pick something. I shoot for at least 500 words a day, sometimes more. If I’m working on a blog post, I break it into chunks and tackle them one at a time. If I have a 1500-word article to write, I spend three days writing it.
The point is to get the words down as quickly as possible, and in order to do that you first have to have a time and place to write daily. For more on that, check out my free 31-day writing challenge at my500words.com (you’ll get access to a free writing accountability group along with it!).
2. Commit to editing later
When I was working on my novel, I misspelled obvious, ordinary words that I learned in grade school. Every grammar nerd bone in me wanted to go back and fix those mistakes, but I also knew that my job wasn’t to write a publishable book in a month. It was to finish a manuscript.
Understanding your goal is essential to crossing the finish line in any project. I knew that once the novel was finished, I’d have something to edit. But the editing comes after the writing, not before.
Remember, writing is three things, not one thing. It is coming up with ideas, drafting those ideas into pieces, then editing those pieces so they can be published.1 For more on that, see my three-bucket system.
3. Commit to a deadline
I always write fastest when I have a deadline. I’m not perfect at this, but I’ve noticed this is a major distinction between professional writers and amateurs. All the professionals I know are pretty crazy about hitting deadlines. They understand this is what separates them from the pretenders. The goal is not perfection, but consistency. And nothing moves a writer like a deadline.
In this case, I have to finish this article in the next five minutes before I pack up and go home for the day. And so I’m averaging about 90 words per minute.
You can do incredible things when you’re backed up against a wall. I like blogging for this reason, because it sets the expectation that you show up, and when you don’t, people notice. So set a deadline, let people know when it is, and make sure you don’t disappoint them.
Nothing moves a writer like a deadline.
It’s a means, not an end
Keep in mind that writing fast for the sake of being fast is not the goal. It’s about writing fast so that you can get more work done, which will allow you to get better, and to share more of your words with more people.
What you should measure is not how fast you are compared to me or anyone else, but how fast you are now to how fast you were yesterday. The goal is growth, not arriving at any given point.
As you grow in your writing speed, your quality and output will soon follow.
How fast do you typically write? Do you struggle with creating quality and quantity?