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I am no stranger to the struggle that is slow writing. Whether it’s procrastination or a lack of inspiration, we can all get stuck. I’ve spent far too much time staring at a blank document (or distracted from writing altogether), thinking, “there must be a better way.” Turns out there are many! Throughout my time as a writer, I’ve found tools that help me stay motivated, focused, and writing faster.
So, what are some ways to write more? With a combination of writing exercises, manipulation of your electronic devices, reward systems, and inspiration activities, you’ll have your novel written in no time.
If you’d like a deeper look into my fast-novel-writing-tricks, read on.
Sometimes our body is awake, our mind is awake, but our writing muscle isn’t. This might not be recognizable to some writers, as it seems illogical that one of our best attributes can simply turn off. However, it most certainly can and does. Here are a few writing exercises that will keep your mind sharp and focused:
1. Five-Minute Pre-Writing
This is an exercise that a creative writing professor introduced to me during a college workshop. The idea is that you take five minutes before you start your actual writing session to write anything. This may seem counteractive since you’re taking time away from writing your novel, but trust me. Think of this as a writing stretch.
Even writing down a non-creative grocery list works wonders on getting yourself in the right mindset. Give yourself the freedom to write absolutely anything you can think of. The important part is that you don’t let yourself take any breaks during those five minutes. If the word “ketchup” is the only thing you can think of for the entire 5 minutes, write it over and over again.
This works extra well if you write by hand while you do it! I find that once I take a five-minute pre-writing session, words flow more easily than when I don’t.
2. Writing Sprints
Writing sprints are the epitome of productive writing and are by far my favorite thing to do. It’s simple: you set a timer for however long you’d like (usually 10-30 minutes) and write continually with no breaks until you hear that timer go off.
I can’t tell you how many times writing sprints have tripled my word count by the end of a writing session. The best part is that I almost always write more than I think I’m going to. It’s amazing what our brains can do when they’re racing against a clock.
Another fun thing you can do with this is try to beat your “high score”. If you wrote 400 words during your last 20-minute writing sprint, try to write 450 during your next. I actually find writing sprints addictive, which is great when you’re trying to write a lot.
Getting rid of electronic distractions
We write best when we’re solely focused on the words we’re writing, and I think we can all agree that the majority of distraction in our modern age comes from the internet.
1. Your Phone’s Got to Go
Unless you’re using your phone as a word processor or as a timer for your writing sprints, it is in your best interest to keep it across the room from you while you’re writing.
We turn to our phones more often than we realize. You may only be on Twitter for 2 minutes, but those are 2 minutes that you’ve taken away from your writing. It’s important to take breaks, don’t get me wrong, but if the time reserved for actual writing is being disrupted by your phone, then that writing muscle is also being sabotaged.
2. Disable Your WiFi
Sometimes simply turning your wifi off isn’t enough. I mean, the button’s right there! You can just turn it back on. But what if you couldn’t?
For however long you set, your computer will be unable to gain access to the internet.
We all need a little push sometimes, and the non-guaranteed reward of publication simply isn’t enough most often. Smaller scale rewards can be very helpful in these cases.
1. Give Yourself A Break
We just talked about boycotting your phone and the internet while writing, so I think it’s important to recognize how important breaks are. Just like writing sprints are timed, your overall writing session increments should be as well. Try writing for 30 minutes to an hour and then allowing yourself 10 minutes to do non-writing things. Go on your phone. Have a snack.
If you’re thinking “How will that help me write faster?”, think of it as a long-term aid. You’re far more likely to enjoy your writing sessions if you know you’re getting breaks during them rather than writing for three hours straight. You’re also more likely to stay focused while you’re meant to be writing if you know you get to stop for a short time.
If you want to assure a certain amount of progress, you could also only allow yourself a break after you’ve written a certain amount of words.
2. Set Short-Term Goals
By short-term goals, I mean ones that can be accomplished weekly or monthly. And no, that does not mean NaNoWriMo-esque goals. Writing 50,000 words can be reserved for November. I’m talking about completely manageable goals that you can see yourself completing with relative ease.
It’s important to keep in mind that productivity is subjective. Some of us writers are immensely busy, so don’t feel like your goal is too small if it’s all you’ll have time for! If you make goals that are too large for yourself, all you’ll gain from them is discouragement.
Whether it’s setting an allotted time to write every day, writing 2,000 words by the end of the week, or finishing a chapter by the end of the month, it’s progress.
Think of something you can reward yourself with if you complete these goals. Make this equation a reality: writing = reward. You met your 2,000 weekly word goal? Great! You get to watch the newest episode of that show you’ve been liking. Only wrote 1,800 words…? Sorry. No episode. Not yet, at least. QUICK! GO WRITE 200 WORDS!
keep your inspiration flowing
Since novels are so long, it’s easy to get bored with a project or feel as though it’s “old news” halfway through writing it. I mean, I’ve been writing my current work-in-progress for over a year now and have thought of so many new, shiny ideas since then. We have to remind ourselves why we fell in love with our stories to begin with.
1. Pinterest is Your New Best Friend
Mood boards are a great way to keep yourself connected to your initial vision. With Pinterest, you can create a board for each of your projects and pin posts that remind you of them in any way.
Visuals are great tools when it comes to writing inspiration. The best part is that nothing on your board is permanently pinned. Your vision changed? Change your board!
2. Create Your Novel’s Soundtrack
When I’m not writing, I like to listen to songs that remind me of my story: songs that I feel could’ve been written by my characters, songs that fit the tone of my novel, etc. If you’re constantly thinking of your story, even when you’re not writing, odds are you’ll want to get to your keyboard more often.
3. Read, Read, Read!
A big motivator for me is reading books and falling in love with them. Why? Because I want people to feel that way about my book. If you never finish, no one’s ever going to read it. Is there anything more inspiring to a writer than a good book?
Writing habitually will inevitably make you a faster writer. The number of words you can write in a small amount of time will grow as you practice and strengthen your writing muscle.
Editing as you write is certainly the preferred method for some writers, but it also significantly slows down your drafting process. Your first draft will never be perfect, regardless of how much you edit as you write. If you find that you’re not actually making a lot of progress in terms of the timeline of your novel, consider writing while paying no mind to the quality of your work. Editing can come later.
Studies have actually shown that listening to music helps us focus on specific tasks. The key is this: classical music. If you like listening to music while you write, try listening to instrumental pieces! I enjoy using movie scores.