If you’ve ever wished you could write more in a day, consider reading 5,000 Words Per Hour by Chris Fox. I found out about it when Shaunta Grimes sent an email to her mailing list about it and decided to buy it on Amazon. I read it in two days. It has some helpful tips and strategies that can improve a person’s writing productivity. I wanted to discuss the book's concepts and how you can use them to write more.
Chris Fox discusses several topics:
- Creating a suitable writing environment
- How to track your sprints
- How to eliminate distractions or “clear the decks.”
- How to complete a full sprint,
- How to increase your speed,
- How to complete an editing sprint,
- How to measure your progress
At the end of each chapter, he provides exercises to help you master different skills.
Create a suitable work environment or tortoise enclosure
The first thing Chris Fox discusses is how to create an environment that’s conducive to writing, or what he calls a “tortoise enclosure.” He covers how to set it up and the types of boundaries it should have, including physical and time boundaries.
He also talks about “eating the frog” or doing your hardest task first. If writing is the hardest thing you have to do, he argues you should do it first, even if it means getting up a few minutes earlier.
I do have a tortoise enclosure — the same office I use for my day job. Unfortunately, I don’t write first thing in the morning. During the week, my day job is a higher priority and my other morning habits.
In Chapter 3, Chris Fox discusses why it’s important to track everything, including your daily word count and words per hour. He provides a link to a spreadsheet he created and explains how to set up your own if you prefer not to download his.
How I track my sprints
I didn’t use Chris Fox’s spreadsheet, but I did create my own in Google Sheets. I have columns for the date, the length of my sprint, the number of words I wrote, my words per minute, and words per hour. I also paste a link to my draft in a column if I’m working on an article for one of my websites or Medium, and not just writing a journal entry.
Clear the decks
Chapter 4 talks about “clearing the decks” or eliminating distractions during your writing time. He gives ideas for how to take care of them before you start your writing sprint.
How I clear the decks
Since I do most of my writing on the weekends, I usually try to write when I know I’ll have no distractions. I put my phone in focus mode, so I only receive phone calls and notifications from certain apps, open up Google Docs, and start writing.
Organize your scene
This chapter discusses why it’s important to organize your scene. It’s written more for fiction authors. Nonfiction authors could use this time to outline or brainstorm what they want to write about. That way, they’re prepared when they start their sprint.
How I organize my scenes
I focus on nonfiction, so I don’t have scenes to organize. Before I start each new writing project, I make an outline in Dynalist. That way I have some idea what topics I want to write about during my writing sprint.
In this chapter, it’s finally time to do a full sprint. He talks about a few different topics in this chapter:
- The things you should have done before you start your sprint
- Tells you that your draft doesn’t have to be perfect — you have “permission to suck
- Explains how to handle the urge to make changes and additions and
- Suggests a few last-minute things to do before you start your first writing sprint.
Have I done this?
I haven’t attempted a full sprint yet. I’m still trying to fight the urge to make changes. I may try using a website like Ilys for my sprints; it doesn’t let you go back and make changes until you reach a certain word count.
Increasing your speed
In chapter 7, he discusses how to increase your speed. Techniques he suggests include working on increasing your typing speed and using voice dictation.
Have I done this?
I already type around 60 words per minute, and I’m comfortable with that. I’ve tried using the voice dictation feature in Google Docs. It works, but you need an outline or idea of what you want to write to make it work well.
I type much faster and more accurately than I talk. When I try to voice type, Google’s interpretation mistakes distract me.
Sprints aren’t only for writing. You can also use sprints for editing, and that’s what he discusses in Chapter 8. He talks about the proofread and the content edit, and the differences between the two.
Have I done this?
I haven’t completed any editing sprints yet. I usually edit in short bursts, when I’m not busy at my job or have a few extra minutes during the day. Once I start completing sprints for longer projects, I will do an editing sprint.
In Chapter 9, it’s time to talk about how to measure your progress. The two main metrics he talks about are words per hour and words per day. He also discusses ways to build stamina and explains writing fast doesn’t mean you’re writing poorly.
Have I done this?
I have measured my WPH and WPM a few times. My fastest rate currently hovers around 64. This means I’m writing around 734 words per hour. So far, I’ve only completed 5-minute writing sprints.
In Chapter 10, he starts talking about reward systems. He explains that eventually, writers will burn out using this system, so it’s important to keep it fun. Some of the methods he talks about include:
- Writing socially, like by going to a coffee shop.
- Joining a writing group
- Turning writing into a game.
How I make writing social.
I don’t go to coffee shops to write. If I write outside of my house, it’s usually in a hotel when Kevin and I travel. I try to make writing social by using platforms like Medium and the different Slack channels some publications have, like The Writing Cooperative and The Brave Writer.
I am also going to advantage of the Write-In Saloons that Shaunta Grimes provides for accountability. That could be a good way for me to stay focused and motivated.
In Chapter 11, he talks about why it’s important to have the right mindset. He discusses how important your mindset is to writing, how to become positive, raise your standards, and visualize the future.
My writing mindset progress
This is something I’m currently working on. It never occurred to me there was a specific mindset a writer needs to have. But it makes sense. I’ve started taking steps to make sure I’m in the right mindset when working on writing projects.
In the end, Chris Fox discusses the next steps and provides a list that summarizes the exercises he provides at the end of each chapter.
Additional thoughts about the book
If you follow through with all the exercises and do all the exercises he covers, your writing speed will increase. How much time and effort you put in is up to you. I haven’t done many sprints yet, but I’ve still seen my writing productivity increase, mostly because I’m more motivated to write.
If you want to improve your writing productivity, I definitely suggest checking out this book. It provides some excellent tips and strategies for increasing the number of words you write every day.