How to Write Faster: 15 Tips for Maximum Productivity
Writes faster than a speeding bullet! Words more powerful than a locomotive! Able to leap from one metaphor to the next in a single bound! It’s a bird… it’s a plane… no! It’s Super Writer! 🚀
As great as that sounds, the truth is that writing quickly is no superpower, but a skill that takes time and practice to develop. After all, most writers struggle just getting the right words down on the page, much less speeding through them.
But don’t despair — learning how to write faster may not be easy, but it will be worth it! From essay crunch time to NaNoWriMo, there are endless scenarios in which speed-writing is an amazing asset. Follow these tips on how to write as fast as possible to start zooming through your projects… and maybe even take on that “Super Writer” alter ego after all.
1. Know your “golden hours”
One of the first things to do is determine your productivity peaks. Every writer has a different routine and lifestyle, which means this varies hugely from person to person: some of us may enjoy a late-night creativity spike, while others prefer the crisp concentration of the early morning.
Whenever this time is for you, max it out! For example, if you know you’re more focused at night, schedule as many after-dinner writing sessions as possible. Or if you work better in a kid-free environment, write when they’re at school or daycare. You may have to do a bit of trial-and-error to determine your own “golden hours” and arrange your schedule around them, but you’ll notice a HUGE difference in output once you do.
2. Create an outline first
Even if you’re a “pantser” who typically rejects structure, outlining is a must for anyone who wants to increase their writing speed. Anytime you sit down to write, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by the number of paths you might pursue — but an outline can rescue you by giving you a clear-cut roadmap. You don’t have to plan out every single detail, but having a solid idea of the overall story arc will help you spend more time writing quickly, and less time fretting over what should happen next.
3. Set concrete goals
Most writers understand that goal-setting is important, but for those trying to write faster, it’s absolutely paramount. Without deadlines, your progress will be uneven and you’ll likely lose focus within weeks (if not days). So before you dive in, set challenging-yet-doable goals for yourself at regular intervals.
Don’t worry; you can start off relatively easy. For example, 500 words per session is a reasonable goal for a first-timer. However, if your ultimate objective is to write faster, you should soon be pushing yourself to write 1,000 or even 2,000+ words every session.
Also remember to give yourself proportional rewards! For example, if you do a full week of writing sessions at 500 words/session, you might buy yourself a new book. But when you do your first full week of 2,000 words/session, treat yourself to a nice dinner or tickets to a show — whatever keeps you motivated.
4. Don’t stop to edit
Our next tip is for all you perfectionists out there: don’t stop to edit. There’s no greater productivity killer when trying to write — not only does editing interrupt your creative “flow,” but it's also just unnecessary. After all, you’re going to edit your book when you’re done, right? Why worry about it now, when you can always change things later?
Of course, this is way easier said than done. So here’s a more realistic proposal: you can edit typos and simple turns of phrase, but try not to spend more than 10 seconds on any correction. Any more and you’ll break your own rhythm and have to force yourself back into focus mode, which is (needless to say) counterproductive to fast writing.
5. Eliminate distractions
In this day and age, the only way you’ll ever finish any writing is by eliminating distractions. So turn off your phone and the WiFi on your computer — if you need it for research, use a site blocker to restrict access to distracting sites. Slap on some headphones, noise-cancelling if you have them, and open up your preferred writing software to get in the zone. (We recommend FocusWriter, which simulates writing on an actual desk.)
Most of all, be honest with yourself about what distracts you, and take conscious steps to avoid them. For example, if you’ve blocked social media sites, but still find yourself falling down Wikipedia rabbit holes, it might be time to nix the “research.” Yes, acknowledging your problem spots will be hard — but allowing them to compromise your writing is much worse.
6. Write every single day
There’s no getting around this one: like all other skills, the more you practice writing, the more efficient you’ll become. To that end, try to write every day, ideally during your “golden hours” to take advantage of your natural rhythm.
If you can’t write when you want to, make other times work — write on your morning commute, during your lunch break, while waiting for food to cook, and whenever you have a spare moment. As with other distractions, it’s easy to justify not writing when you’re kinda-sorta doing something else. However, if you really want to become a faster writer, you’ll have to embrace multitasking and start practicing as much as possible.
7. Use talk-to-text
Most of us think faster than we type, and many writers aren’t the most proficient typists to begin with. If this is a problem for you, consider using the talk-to-text function on your phone, Google Docs, or any number of apps in order to get your thoughts down quickly.
You’ll have to compose sentences in your head rather than testing them out on the page, but that’s the point! Some writers prefer dictation to writing because they don’t have to look at those sentences until later (which goes hand-in-hand with our third tip), and the lack of mediation enables their raw thoughts to actually appear on the page. You may end up a talk-to-text convert, too… especially when you see how much faster it helps you write.
8. Try writing sprints
You may have heard of writing sprints, which involve writing continuously for a short, pre-set amount of time. Writing sprints usually range from 10-15 minutes each, though ambitious writers may favor 20- or even 30-minute sprints.
Just like a sprint race, the idea behind writing sprints is to write as much as possible, as quickly as possible — so they’re ideal if you want to become a faster writer! Try just a 10-minute session at first, then push yourself to “sprint” for longer if you find that it opens your creative floodgates.
You can even get involved with collective writing sprints on social media, or as part of a writing community. For the former, check the #writingsprint and #wordsprint hashtags on Twitter and Facebook; for the latter, turn to this list of the best online writing communities. Both are great sources of support, especially during stressful times like NaNoWriMo.
9. Get an accountability buddy
There’s really no motivation quite like having another person writing with you. You might find an accountability buddy through one of those online communities, or if you’re lucky, you’ll know someone with whom you can meet up IRL!
Whether your buddy is virtual or tangible, come up with activities you can do together to boost each others’ productivity. You might do simultaneous writing sprints, or even entire writing sessions together, where you report on your respective word counts every hour. Try to set a friendly-yet-serious tone — while you don’t want to feel combative, you do want to have a sense of urgency around writing. As runners will know all too well, having someone nipping at your heels can quicken your pace like nothing else!
10. Write like a child
Remember being a kid who loved to write without worry? Another great speed-writing tactic is to adopt that childlike mindset once again: write as the words come to you, without trying to make them sound sophisticated or literary. This is also a stellar way to beat writer’s block, as it gives you permission to ignore that self-critical voice in your head and simply write.
For example, you might be struggling with a complex scene in which two characters fight. Instead of agonizing over how to phrase it exactly, you can write: “Then Sandy came inside. She was angry with Tim for leaving early the night before, then he got annoyed with her for forgetting his birthday, and the fight went on and on.” You’ll have to revise this scene later, but at least you’ve gotten it down and can move on for the time being.
11. Start wherever you want
Beginning a piece is undoubtedly the most daunting part of writing, closely followed by diving back into a piece after a long break. But here’s a secret: you can jump in wherever you like. As long as you have your outline, it doesn’t matter whether you write in the correct order, because you can always rearrange things at the end.
Many writers like to begin with dialogue, as it’s pretty easy to get into the “flow” of conversation. You may want to write all your flashbacks first, or all the sections from a certain narrator’s point of view. If you’re writing an article or non-fiction piece, start with a body paragraph and come back to the intro later. There’s only one rule here — wherever you start should get you excited for what's to come, effectively speeding up your writing.
12. Stop writing mid-sentence
Speaking of diving in after a break, this trick is guaranteed to recapture your previous session’s momentum every time: stop writing mid-sentence, so you can pick up right where you left off. This may seem like strange advice (why would you stop writing when you’re on a roll?), but it’s a tried-and-true psychological hack, vetted by Ernest Hemingway himself:
“Stop when you are going good and when you know what will happen next. If you do that every day… you will never be stuck.”
On that note, always leave at least one train of thought still “on the tracks.” Not only will this be a great entry point for your next writing session, but it also allows your thoughts to percolate in the meantime, so you can hit the ground running with new ideas.
13. Maintain mind-body harmony
If you aren’t taking care of yourself, you won’t be able to write fast or well. To that end, you need to care for both your body and your mind! Way too many writers neglect the former in favor of the latter — sacrificing sleep in order to get more writing done, for example, or skipping meals because they don’t want to break the flow.
But such “efficiency measures” have diminishing returns. How are you going to write when you can barely keep your eyes open, or when you’re dizzy from lack of food? Pay attention to your body’s signals, and stop working when you need a break. Trust us: in the long run, you’ll write much more (and at a higher quality) when you maintain mind-body harmony.
14. Sit up straight or use a standing desk
Sitting all day, especially with poor posture, is another major detriment to your health. Luckily, this problem has a simple solution: make a conscious effort to sit up straight. If you still find yourself slouching, invest in a standing desk.
This will improve your posture and overall physical wellbeing, plus you’ll likely find that it helps you focus up! Standing in particular can be a real productivity booster, as you’ll naturally feel more alert and proactive — except, instead of a journey on foot, you’ll be taking a journey of your imagination.
15. Write about anything
So you’ve tried everything in the book, and you still can’t get yourself to write quickly… or to write very much at all? Time to pull out the big guns: abandon your current project and write about literally anything else.
Sometimes all you need is a change of topic or tone to break up mental blocks and get the words flowing freely. Do some journaling, start a new story, try freewriting, or simply write a list of chores and errands you need to finish. Any kind of writing can get you back in that “flow” state, and then you just have to switch back to your original project. If your writer’s block hasn’t abated, supplement this strategy with any of the others we’ve suggested — try a different scene, write like a child, do a writing sprint, etc.
Indeed, while each of these individual tips will help you write faster, combining them all will propel you to Super Writer status! So the next time you’re stuck, run through our methods, and you may find yourself hitting your word count goals sooner than you think… so you can start aiming even higher. 💫
What are your best tips on how to write faster? Leave them in the comments below!