I am a hunt-and-peck typist. Somehow I still get words out on the page.
The power of two or three fingers.
I muddle through.
But, of course, I would love to be able to write faster.
Wouldn’t we all?
And in looking for a way to increase my productivity, I’ve come across numerous folks singing the praises of books outlining methods to write faster – 5,000 words an hour, 2,000 to 10,000.
So I decided to give it a shot.
They tell me I can write faster
My books are generally in the 75,000 to 80,000 range so if I could hit 5,000 words per day, then I could crank out a draft in as little as 16 days.
Two weeks. Even if this experiment failed miserably and all I write was crap, it was only two weeks of my time.
On a side note, my previous novel took me more than 3 months to complete (after I had a pretty solid outline and while working a full time job as so many of us authors are.)
So, with all that in mind, I picked up a copy of 5,000 Words Per Hour: Write Faster, Write Smarter by Chris Fox and began the experiment.
We begin the experiment to write faster
Fox’s book is a simple read. Nothing fancy but straight to the point with actionable advice.
And that’s a plus in my mind. Too many books offering writing advice tend to not actually offer writing advice that I can immediately try out.
Some of the key take aways from the book center around a few simple ideas:
- Pre-plan your writing
- Create a writing space
- Write in sprints
- Track progress
The first two are things I had already been doing. I like to plot out my novels in advance. Otherwise they tend to come to a crashing stop halfway through. More on this later…
My writing space is upstairs away from the foot traffic of the house and either early in the morning or muffled with writing music in my headset.
The writing sprints were a new concept to me. The idea is to set the timer and write like a demon for the allotted time period, starting with smaller time chunks and working your way up to an optimal time (which varies with the individual.)
The results of the writing faster experiment
You’re probably wondering how the experiment worked out.
If you measure it on whether I was able to write 5,000 words an hour, I failed.
If you measure it on whether I could write a first draft in 16 days, strike two!
But I see the whole experiment as a huge success where on some days instead my usual 800 words a day I broke the 4,000-word mark.
So what really worked for me?
Writing sprints. This concept changed the way I write. It forced me to crank words out and while in the beginning of the novel, the writing felt like crap that’s no different from the feeling I have if I’m writing 800 words per day.
My optimal writing sprint was 20 minutes, and during that time I was writing between 700 and 800 words once I hit my stride. So an hour’s worth of actual writing meant more than 2,000 words per day.
I enjoyed tracking how quickly I was writing and seeing if I was writing faster. Some days, yes. Other days, no!
What didn’t work for me?
I started the project wrong. Instead of plotting out the novel down to the level of each section and each scene, I had a general outline and only detailed the scenes for the first third of the novel.
Inevitably, my writing accelerated past my scene outline and suddenly I had no idea where my story was going. This meant a grinding halt to the process, and it took me a week or so, to re-outline and get back on track.
Interestingly, after getting back on track, I stopped the writing sprints and recording each session. Instead I just sat down and wrote fast. I no longer needed the timer peering over my shoulder, and have still managed some 4,000-word days just by sitting down and writing hard.
Overall, I’d say it was a great success. The process created an accelerant to my writing.
And now the next step (when I finish this first draft) will be to see if I can incorporate editing sprints so that I can cut down on the time needed to bring my novel closer to the final draft.