For the first time ever, I’m on deadline, so I’m putting everything I’ve learned about writing fast and writing a lot to the test. In June 2017, I wrote 22 days out of the month and added 62,298 words to the Project Roommates manuscript before hitting “The End” on June 30th. Since a few people have commented on my word counts, rather than blaming it on “desperation” and discounting all the research and work I’ve put into learning how to increase my output, I made a list of tools, suggestions, and resources to share.
As with all writing advice, take what works for you and junk the rest.
Know your best writing time
For me, that’s early mornings. It’s quiet. No emails. Noisy kids upstairs aren’t up yet. By hitting my word count first thing in the morning, I approach it fresh and rested, and it’s out of the way so I’m not worried about it for the rest of the day. Know what works for you and stick to that time. If early mornings are your thing, check out #5amwritersclub on Twitter. Bonus tip: Make sure you’re getting enough sleep!
Find a buddy
Having a virtual writing buddy to check in with is a godsend. This time around, my buddy was Sarah Morgenthaler, fellow 2017 Golden Heart finalist. We messaged each other when we woke up, declared our writing goals, and got to work. We checked in periodically, and the other Rebelles joined in and cheered us on throughout the day. I can’t overstate the value of a supportive writing community.
Uninterrupted writing time
When I’m deep into the story and someone interrupts me, it takes extra time to get back into it. Knowing I can sit down for a length of time and not have anyone interrupt me is invaluable. I bought a membership at my local writing space so I could achieve this, and it has made a huge difference in my output. Carve out your writing time and protect it from interruptions.
I know this is a contentious subject, but this is what works for me. When I have a limited amount of time, knowing exactly what I have to write when I sit down helps the words fly. I’m currently using an outline devised from Story Genius by Lisa Cron. There’s still a lot of flexibility in this outline, but having the emotional arc planned out made it easier to write the story quickly.
Nothing like a deadline to light a fire under your ass. Some people find them stressful. For me, nothing motivates me more than knowing someone is expecting me to turn something in, or that I’ll lose an opportunity if I’m not finished in time. Sure, I’m stressed out, but it makes it easier to turn off everything else and focus solely on meeting the deadline. No room for procrastination or self-induced writing drama.
“Qualitative Data,” I call it, thanks to Monica Leonelle (Write Better, Faster). It’s a place where I can complain, brainstorm, celebrate, and write about how the writing is going. I was shocked by how much I like having this extra doc in my Scrivener file, and I update it at the beginning and end of each writing session.
I go off caffeine every so often, but for this book, I started each day with a cup of earl grey. Not for the caffeine, but because I like the flavor. I didn’t realize I was hooked until I had two horrible days where I lazed around feeling awful, and didn’t write a single word. Those happened to be days where I didn’t have any tea. I’ll go off caffeine again soon, but for now, I’m not going to mess with what works. Bonus tip: drink lots of water!
A fun way of recording my word count
Some people use stickers or spreadsheets. I used to keep a spreadsheet that logged my writing sprints, similar to the Pomodoro method. Now I log my daily word count in a simple spreadsheet, and on big word count days, I draw a progress bar to color in every 500 words. I also log my word count every half hour in the notebook, so I know how quickly I’m writing. Each little colored rectangle is like a fun reward.
Turn off social media
Very important. I don’t think I need to explain why. Airplane mode is your friend.
I choose songs that match the tone of the story, or have lyrics that speak to the themes or the characters. Sometimes when I’m struggling to get started, I’ll realize I’m not listening to the right playlist. When I switch, it helps me get my head back into the story.
Since I’m using a communal writing space, I keep a white noise machine on the desk (provided by the venue) so I’m not worrying about every little noise I make, or any noises outside of my own headphones. I also listen to a white noise app called Relax Melodies when I’m really trying to focus.
Dragon is a powerful speech-to-text software. Alas, I can’t use it at my writing space, but this is a good tool for improving writing speed and saving your hands. I especially like it for dictating stuff like blog posts, or transcribing handwritten notes.
I’ve participated in National Novel Writing Month since 2004, so I have years of practice writing 50,000 words (or more) in one month and logging the results. Thanks to NaNo, I know how fast I can write without sacrificing quality.
This is probably the trickiest factor, but it played a big role in my June word count. Through a combination of luck and concerted effort, I’ve managed to set up my life so I have time to create, and the mental and physical energy to crank out the words at this rate. Not only that, but for the last two weeks of June, my freelance work was minimal, so I made the most of the free time and finished the first draft. You don’t find time to write, you make time, so do your best in this area (as much as your life allows) and then actually stick to it.
These are some of the books that helped me increase my writing output.
- Write Better, Faster: How To Triple Your Writing Speed and Write More Every Day (Growth Hacking For Storytellers 1) by Monica Leonelle
- Writing Faster FTW by L.A. Witt
- 2k to 10k: Writing Faster, Writing Better, and Writing More of What You Love by Rachel Aaron
It does take practice to increase your writing speed and word count, but there are tools that will help, like the ones listed above. I’ve combined them into a situation that works for me, but I recommend putting some effort into figuring out what works best for you. Always be on the lookout for little tweaks you can make to your process, especially since it might change over time. Now, I write for a few hours in the morning, and focus on other book-related tasks or freelance jobs the rest of the day. I still need to work on actually using airplane mode more often (why is it so hard for me to unplug?!) and fitting in trips to the gym, but each book I write is an opportunity to fine-tune my process.
What about you? What tips do you have for meeting word count goals?