Sorry to drop out on you like that, guys. The last week’s been pretty hectic from a real life standpoint. Having a day job has definitely put a cramp in my writing time, but I did learn about a few new techniques for getting more writing done, faster.
Check this out.
Well, wait…before I begin, I should point out none of this represents new information. There is no secret to writing more words in the same time span. Most authors can manage about 1000 words per hour (wph), but some say with discipline and targeted sessions, you could, theoretically, output two- to three times that amount, or more. Without adding any BIC time (that “Butt-in-Chair” time, if you don’t know).
That being said, none of this information is my own. It comes from a lot of sources, and a few people are even selling books containing some or all of the ideas put forward here. I’m just offering them as general guidelines to help writers struggling with their output.
Okay, now let’s get started.
Guard the time
One of the best things writers can do to produce more, faster, is to simply carve out, and vigorously defend, writing time. Let everyone near you know this is writing time, and you’re not willing to sacrifice it. Communicate this to friends, family, and your dog or cat. (That last will have varying degrees of success.)
Make sure you have a block of time where you’re fairly sure you won’t be interrupted, whether it’s only fifteen minutes, or two hours, or a full day. Make sure you can guard the time you dedicate to writing, for writing.
Get your stuff together
Make sure you’re organized. This can’t be over-emphasized.
If you need tools, whether physical or electronic, to do your writing, make sure you gather those things before you’re sitting down to write. Do not let simple things like not having all the equipment you need to do your work interfere with your writing. Order or fire up your software of choice. Have your research files open and at the ready. Sharpen pencils, make sure pens have ink, get your legal pads or sticky notes out…whatever it is you need to write, have it on hand, ready to go.
The last thing you want is to break your session because you have to get up and go potty. (Yeah, do that beforehand, too.)
If you can turn off the Internet, it’s a good idea to do so. If you have the luxury of a dedicated writing computer or device, use that, but make sure it’s not connected to anything. Don’t use social media (that’s a big well-duh). Don’t turn on the TV. Don’t do anything that will avert you from your goal: writing.
If you can turn off the phone, land line or otherwise, that’s a good idea too. (Just remember, emergencies will not respect your writing time.)
During this time, your Twitter and Facebook friends don’t exist. Nothing does but you and the writing.
If someone told me three years ago (and someone tried about five or six years ago, to be honest) that I’d be ready to abandon my beloved Scrivener for something simpler, cleaner, and more flexible (yes, flexible, believe it or not), I’d have laughed right in their face.
But the fact is, writing software itself can be a distraction.
I’ve discovered – and yes, love – WriteMonkey, but there are others too. I like distraction-free writing tools for that reason – they’re distraction free. They remove the temptations around you and let you focus on the words. There are some other really good ones, but WM remains my favorite.
Word has the basic features a writer needs, namely the ability to move through the manuscript forward or backward easily and quickly, and a way to see all the scenes or chapters (depending on how you like to write) at a glance with the navigation pane. You can even drag and drop entire sections by their headers. And Word is a fine choice to make the writing about the writing instead of about the software.
But there’s a lot of “feature bloat” in Word, too. So, while WriteMonkey doesn’t offer the same horsepower, it does give you the basic navigation pane you can use to move around. It’s a clean, distraction-free environment. Choose your font, font color, and page color, and then you’re good to go.
There’s a lot of other really cool stuff WM can do, but then…you’re distracted by the features again.
Work in sprints
One of the key secrets to writing more faster is, write in sprints.
What’s a sprint? Well, a sprint is a predefined amount of time during which you write as fast and as much as you can. You do not, repeat, do NOT, edit during this time. Don’t even fix typos, some say. Just bang the keys, as fast as you can, for the entire time.
Start with smaller portions of time. Say, five minutes for the first time. Then increase that a bit, perhaps to seven or ten minutes, then up to fifteen or twenty, over time (not the same day, naturally). When you build up to twenty-five minutes, you’ll need to gauge yourself, but most sources say stop there. Don’t go past that twenty-five minute mark, or you fatigue (body and mind).
After the sprint, take a five minute break. Use the bathroom, get your water or coffee (any other drink is simply not writerly), and then come back to it after stretching your legs, fingers, arms, and staring at other things than your computer monitor. Like your family, for example.
But, in five minutes, go back for another round.
Write, rinse, repeat. Do this throughout your writing session until the time is used.
But again, do not edit.
Start each session by editing last session’s work
This one’s subjective (they all are, really, but this one mores0), but I like Dean Wesley Smith’s Writing into the Dark method. And in that method, each new writing session begins by editing the last session. (In his method, each new sprint begins that way too.)
But that’s tough if you only have a few minutes to work, say half an hour or less. I guess for me, I’d advise not editing at all until you have a larger, unbroken block of time. An hour or two on the weekends is ideal.
Or, alternate between writing one day for the dedicated time, then go back and do the editing the next day. I did this on my last novel. When short on time during weeknights, I’d cycle back over the words I wrote during my last writing session, and then the following session was all about new words.
I’m also a BIG advocate of not drafting and redrafting your book to death. Cycling back over my words and strengthening them, fixing things I see, or cleaning up the language and word choices was a fine way to work. But it started with me doing my very best work the first time through, and not giving myself permission to be sloppy or lazy in writing.
That’s me, though, and a lot of people have done just fine with a second draft after writing the first in sprints. The choice is yours, of course.
So that’s the crux of the idea – set up, get organized, unplug, and then write and write and write and don’t stop. This helps you learn how to shut the critical voice up, and how to make writing a daily habit. Eventually, the internal editor gets the point and will drop out of the process.
Next time, I’ll toss out a couple of additional things that might help.