How to Write Faster: 25 Ways to Be A Prolific Writer (without the burnout)

I’m on a mission. I want to write faster, be a more prolific writer.

I want to turn myself into a book writing, blogging machine so when you look at me, you’ll just see a swirling pile of words where once, a woman stood.

Actually, that last part is a complete lie.

I do want to be a more prolific writer.

I do want to produce more quality content (books, stories, articles) in less time.

But I do not want to destroy myself in the process or compromise any other part of my life.

I want to be a word machine, but I want to maintain a balance, stay healthy and not burnout.

So, here are 25 ways I’ve learned (or still learning) to write faster, produce more and remain human in the process

Disclaimer – the writing world, particular the indie community, is overwhelmed by a culture of super fast writing, with many an author claiming that writing (and publishing) at lightning speed is the only way to do the job. If this is you, and a novel a month fits your life, then go for it. If you’re a slow writer, with a lot of other life going on, then slow writing works too. This article is all about increasing the physical speed of word production, not the overall time it takes to write and publish a book. Work at the pace that keeps you productive, healthy and happy. Always.

tips for writing faster

25 Ways to Be A Prolific Writer

1. Respect and Strengthen Your Hands

Unless you produce your words with 100% dictation, your hands are the medium between your brain and the words on the page. Look after your hands! Any given writing project can involve thousands upon thousands of keystrokes. That’s thousands of individual movements relying on muscles, tends, bones, and nerves. Just like any other part of the body, overuse, especially under poor form, can and likely will lead to pain and injury. How fast can you write wrecked with carpal tunnel? Not very. I’m sorry to say I’ve learned this one the hard way.

For more info on hand health for writers, check this post.

2. Vary Your Input Methods

Type, handwrite, dictate. Use a touchscreen. Writing with different input methods speeds up your writing in a few different ways. It gives you the opportunity to write in different places, like on your commute, in waiting rooms, etc. The variation can also spark different neural pathways so, riding high on the novelty of the physical process can give your creativity and enthusiasm a burst.

Beware, it can go the other way too. If you’re learning a new process, like dictation, it can take time to become effective. Or so they tell me… I’ve so far not had the patience to stick with dictation for more than a few sentences.

3. Learn Efficient Typing

Developing efficient typing skills means pressing more keys in less time. That’s faster writing! Efficient typing also means your hands are under less stress and less likely to suffer an injury. I haven’t invested the time to learn formal touch typing, but I have worked on improving my mad restyling typing so that I can type more without my hands getting locked into a gnarled and aching claw by the end of the day.

4. Know What You’re Going To Write

Even if you’re a discovery writer (or pantser), knowing what you’re going to write before you sit down goes a long way in improving your writing speeds.

Why?

You spend less time sitting and wondering what to write next and more time getting the words out.

I end every writing session knowing where the next will start, and while I’m readying a session (waking up, making coffee), I’ve already got my brain in the first scene of the day.

5. Writing Sprints and Bursts

Set a timer.

Write!

Don’t Stop.

Writing sprints are a brilliant way of injecting some speed into your writing session. And if you do them in bursts, you’re less likely to hit the wall and fizzle out.

I don’t have all day every day to write, and all of my writing sessions are timed around doing parenting stuff. Knowing that my writing sessions are limited (before kid wakes, before the TV show finishes, etc.) means I’m writing in bursts. It creates a sense of urgency, and I always get more written on those days rather than the days when I have long stretches of writing time.

6. Write First. Research Later

You’re writing along, and you suddenly need to know a precise fact. Make a note, mark the draft in some way and keep on writing. Later, do that research and come back to it.

7. Turn Off Spelling and Grammar Checks

Those squiggly lines are distracting! Turn them off. You’ll write a lot faster if you’re not constantly fixing errors. My first drafts are typically 70% typos. You can find photographic evidence of that in this post where I reveal the honest roughness of my rough first drafts.

25 Tips for Writing Faster and not destroying yourself in the process.Click To Tweet

8. Free Flowing Ink (for the hand writers)

If you’re a hand writer, which I sometimes am, invest in a good pen with free flowing ink. It not only saves your hand health by requiring less downward pressure and a looser grip, the pen simply moves faster along the page. Fountain pens are the best option, but if they’re not for you, try a roller ball or at the very least a gel pen.

9. Flat, Responsive Keyboards (for the typists)

Ditch those old clunky keyboards with keys like jagged mountains. Most modern computers have nice, flat, highly responsive keyboards that make fast typing a breeze. They’re also less impact on the hands so you can write longer without hand and finger fatigue.

10. Write First, Edit Later

Get the words out. Finish the story. Write the article. Getting it to make sense and making the words pretty is a next draft problem.

11. Focus

When you sit down to write, just write. Don’t internet (can I use that as a verb?). Don’t email. Don’t watch TV or do anything else. Just write. Drinking coffee is excusable. And water. Maybe tea.

12. Write What You Love

In my years of professional writing, I’ve worked as ghostwriter and a freelance copywriter, and by jeepers I’ve written on some hellishly boring topics.

If my heart and mind isn’t in my work, then I have to drag the words out. It’s slow, and it’s tedious. When I’m writing something that I love, something that inspires and excites me, then the words can’t come out quick enough. I’ve also found this in writing fiction. If I’m loving the story, it’s super fast output.

13. Write Scenes Out of Order

If you’re struggling in a scene or section, skip it and write the next one. Jump ahead and write a fast paced action scene or whatever gets you motivated. If it comes time that you’ve only got the boring stuff left, think of that as being on the final stretch and let that exciting finishing energy drive you on.

14. Make it A Challenge

I’m a competitive person, so much so that I even compete with myself. I don’t work with formal deadlines (one of the joys of working indie), but I do set myself challenges. I want to finish this novel by *insert date*. Or, I want to batch three months worth of articles this weekend. Often, I don’t reach them, but in the pursuit of such lofty goals, I usually end up being a super prolific writer. And sometimes, I even hit those finish lines.

15. Use Accountability

Some people thrive on public accountability. If that’s you, then proclaim to the world you’re going to write X much in X time and then get to it. Personal accountability is far more effective for me. I might tell certain people I plan to do X, but not one person on earth can make me feel as guilty for not getting there as I can.

16. Find Your Peak Time

Most writers have a time of the day when their brains and fingers and ideas work together most harmoniously. I’m a first thing in the morning writer, so I always try to get my sprints and big bursts done in those times and work on the most pressing or valuable projects then. You might be a night writer, it doesn’t matter. Just find your personal peak time and exploit it.

17. Write the Familiar

I believe”Write what you know” is some of the worst advice for new writers simply because it disavows research and learning and not to mention the entire speculative fiction genre.

BUT…

I do know that if I’m writing about something familiar, a place, a person, an experience, an emotion, then I’m likely to write those sections a lot quicker and more freely.

18. Maintain Good Writing Habits

writing habits workbookProductivity all comes down to having a good writing habit, fine tuning it and maintaining it. I believe this is so damned important, I wrote a book on the subject. And then a workbook.

Writing Habit Hacks: How to Create and Maintain Smart Writing Habits

Writing Habit Hacks Workbook: How to Create and Maintain Smart Writing Habits: With Exercises to Start You Writing and Keep You Writing

19. Keep Lots of Ideas Around

Keep your ideas on record, and keep a lot of them, so you’ll always have a stock at the ready. This applies especially well to articles and blog posts, but can also work with fiction. You might not know it at the start, but the novel you’re working on at the moment might be the ideal place to insert that random character you made up by observing the weird guy on the bus last month.

20. Dangle Carrots

If you’re not inter carrots, find another temptation. I’m a chocoholic. A few months ago I swore off chocolate until I finished the first draft of my next novel. As I write this post, I’m actually on a hardcore nutrition tracking plan, so I’ll likely be using carrots for the next few weeks.

What’s your reward?

How fast should you write? Always work at the pace that keeps you productive, healthy and happy.Click To Tweet

21. Batch Your Projects

I work best in batches. For a given time, I’ll focus all (most) of my writing session on a specific fiction project, be that drafting or editing. After that, I’ll switch to blogging mode where I’ll just write blog posts. And then I’ll switch again. Batching allows focus, so your brain isn’t tangled in multitasking.

Writing fiction is a lot different to writing blogs or editing non-fiction. Batching also allows your brain to rest and renew by giving it different types of activities to work on.

22. Write When You’re Not Writing

I write in the shower, in the car, in the gym, in the car, while I’m walking, while I’m cleaning. While I’m sleeping.

OK, so I’m not technically writing during some of these times, but I am doing writing related mental work.

Find some time when your brain isn’t actually required, mindless physical tasks are a good time, and set your mind to your writing.

It’s amazing how many plot point have worked themselves out while I’ve been washing dishes, or just woken up.

23. Rest

Resting and renewing is not only physically vital, it’s also a critical part of the creative process.

Creatively speaking, this is the time when your subconscious works on problems and creates new ideas.

Physically, you need to rest your hands, your whole body, your brain after the physical act of writing.  If I’m tired, I’m a slow and sloppy writer, no matter how much caffeine I ingest.

For more detail on this concepts check out Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less by Alex Soojun-Kim Pang

24. Stay Healthy – Treat Your Body As A Word Machine

Writers write. It’s a physical process. By keeping your body in good shape, you’re simply a more effective writing machine.

Complex as it is, the body is a machine. To perform at its peak, it needs high-quality fuel (that’s food). It needs regular maintenance on parts  (that’s exercise and movement). It needs to be turned off regularly, so it doesn’t overheat or get worn out (that’s rest).

25. Track Your Writing Sessions

This was a tip I picked up from the guys at the SPP. After every writing session, log your hours and your word counts. Over time you’ll be able to see patterns in your productivity and start to repeat those situations.

It works for those guys, and I’ve heard other writers doing the same with great results.

Honestly, it doesn’t work for me. Maybe as I’m not that into hard productivity data. I still like the daily word count goal, and I do track the final word count of every draft of a project.

Kate Krake
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Kate Krake

Kate Krake writes speculative fiction and non-fiction. She is the author of the urban fantasy series Guessing Tales. Kate blogs about popular culture, health, wellness and creative writing. She lives in Brisbane, Australia with her husband, daughter and two beagles. Find out more on www.katekrake.com.
Kate Krake
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