If you’re feeling frustrated by how much writing you’re getting done, if you want to write fast – or at least, aim to write faster than you do now – then I’m afraid you’re going to have to smash your existing writing routine apart.
To be blunt, you need to take it outside and bring a brick down on its head.
Since if your productivity isn’t all you’d wish it to be, then clearly whatever you’re doing isn’t working and you’re going to have to change it.
Let me tell you my story.
(Okay, mine is the only experience I know, so I’m going to use myself as a case study every time I write about this. Yes, this might come across as ridiculously solipsistic, but you’re going to have to bear with me.)
For a while – with a full-time job Monday to Friday – I tried to just write on Saturday and Sunday afternoons. To give myself a routine where I stole myself away and wrote for an hour or two both days of the weekend. Occasionally I would try to do some work of a workday evening as well, but mostly it was those afternoons.
The problem was that writing for two days and then a large break meant I couldn’t get any real rhythm going. It meant that each time I came back to the story I was somewhat disconnected from it. My progress was halting right until the point it halted.
On my computer are dozens of stories that I started but could never finish.
I knew I had a problem. Obviously, I knew I had a problem, but I hadn’t yet had my moment of pain.
Then I reached the threshold beyond which I could take no more.
I knew I had to do something.
So, I broke my writing routine.
One morning on the train to work I took out a notepad and started to scribble down a short story. Hitherto I hadn’t really written more than notes on trains. I thought the sounds of the people around me would be an annoyance, I couldn’t guarantee that I’d have a seat, even the motion of the train I didn’t think would be conducive to writing. Also, there was the fact that the journey was only a twenty minutes/half-hour window, and how much could I really do with that?
But that morning I started scribbling and what I thought was just going to be a sketch, morphed into a short story, and by the end of the week into a novel. You see, when I was determined enough to do it, I realised I could write on trains. That I could make use of my commute and claim that time back.
Since I spent roughly an hour on trains each day, that gave me a whole five hours a week in which to write. Five hours when I could shut myself off and concentrate on the words, become enthused about writing again.
I was writing every day, making sure I used every journey, and because I was writing every day my confidence in myself as a writer increased. Suddenly it felt like I could finish something again!
Swiftly it didn’t matter if the person next to me was braying away on the phone. It didn’t even matter if I didn’t have a seat, I could just find a place to lean and read.
I’d broken my old routine, given myself a new space and time to write and suddenly I was flying.
Now, I know what you’re thinking, you don’t get the train to work.
You drive to work.
Or you don’t actually commute.
Obviously, your experience is not going to be identical to mine, but if you want to write faster, you are going to have to find – no, you are going to have to carve out – more time in the day with which to write.
Ideally, you are going to have to carve out more time every day in which to write.
Don’t wait for fabled inspiration, or for your mood to be right. You have to be able to sit down and write in your notepad (or on your tablet or laptop) when the allotted time comes.
If it requires getting up half an hour earlier or staying up half an hour later, then that’s what you’ll have to do. If you have to sacrifice the cup of tea you enjoy in front of the TV, or cut back on your favourite TV shows, then that’s what you’ll have to do.
Presuming that you don’t have lots of spare hours in every day where you do nothing, then you are going to have to sacrifice something to get yourself to the point where you can write quickly.
(I love to read on trains. It’s one of the great little pleasures of my life. I barely get to read on trains anymore.)
Other guides I’ve read talk about aiming for 500 words a day in the first instance, and that’s great, but I prefer to think of it in terms of time. If you can steal yourself twenty or thirty minutes a day, then you will easily hit that 500 words. You will quite possibly do more than that, maybe even a thousand.
If it’s a first draft you’re writing, don’t be precious about it. Just crash through the story, get the characters down, sort out their motivation. Don’t worry too much about the prose – that can all be rewritten and gone over later. (It’s a first draft, after all.) Carve yourself out twenty minutes a day, try to claim that time every day and before you know it you’ll really be in a really good writing rhythm. You’ll feel the momentum of it pushing you on. You’ll feel the exhilaration of it and very swiftly your story, novella, novel will start taking real and solid shape.
Do you struggle with writing fast? Any comments or queries you’d like me to address, please leave them below. I have a rough idea where I’m going with this, I know what points I want to address, but you may have an issue I haven’t thought of and maybe I can offer a pearl of wisdom.
Fancy a FREE FRJ short story collection? There’s one available here!