It’s strategy, not talent, that will help you write thousands of words a day.
Two years into my writing career, I made a simple but career-changing realization: If I could double my writing speed, I could do twice the work in the same amount of time, allowing me to increase my income significantly.
More than just the money, though, one of my biggest frustrations as a writer until then—with a folder full of unfinished manuscripts to prove it—had been that the longer I took to finish a project, the more likely it was that I would get bored and abandon it midway. I knew that if I could teach myself to write faster, my freelance writing career would benefit from increased income and opportunities, and my books would actually get finished.
I made it my mission to learn how I could write thousands of words each day and, as a result, over the last fifteen years I have written 1,000+ articles for national and international publications, 3,000+ blog and newsletter posts, and almost a dozen books.
How fast you write impacts your work in a number of ways. It allows you to create more free time in your life if that’s what you choose; increase your income, if you need it; or simply create a larger body of work, giving you the room to experiment with new projects frequently instead of remaining stuck on a single one for years.
If you, too, want to learn how to write faster, here are some practical tips to boost your writing speed:
- Don’t start with a blank page
- Minimize distractions
- Use triggers to get into writing flow
- Honor your own creative process
- Create a workflow
- Use writing sprints
- Learn to type faster
- Try freewriting
- Use placeholders
- Know that editing is not writing
- Embrace the art of productive procrastination
- Be comfortable when you write
- Utilize the Pomodoro technique
- Write by hand
- Try dictation
- Improve by 1% each day
- Take part in writing challenges
- Be accountable
- Give it time
1. Don’t start with a blank page
Listen, the trope of the writer battling the blank page? It’s largely false when it comes to professional writers. Anyone who has a deadline and needs to meet it in order to pay their bills knows that starting with nothing is the domain of the uninformed. Most professional writers know what they want to say before they sit down to write, even if they’re not quite sure how they’re going to do it yet.
You don’t need an entire outline before you begin, though some people prefer to use one as a creative map. If you’re just beginning to get clarity on your writing project, begin with what you have.
- If you’re a journalist on deadline, jot down the main points of the story idea you’ve discussed with your editor and the questions your article will need to answer.
- A blogger wondering what your next post should be about? Do a brain dump of the topics your audience is interested in.
- If you’re a nonfiction author, jot down the main points that the next chapter will need to cover, and divide it up with subheadings.
- A first-time novelist stalled on the next scene? Use a character template to better understand your protagonist, or list out all the major events that happen in the next scene.
2. Minimize distractions
Hear me when I say this: If you leave Instagram or other social media open on a browser tab as you’re writing, you will be tempted to check in. It’s important to minimize and, when possible, eliminate distractions that can derail your focus, slow your progress, and sap your creative energy. Here are a few ways to maintain undivided focus:
- Have a dedicated writing space and make it a distraction-free zone.
- Silence devices and mute notifications when you’re writing.
- Block out any noise disturbances with headphones or soothing music.
- Keep your area organized.
- Let other people in your home know when you’re writing and would like to not be disturbed.
- Use apps like Freedom, which block distracting websites and apps for a set period of time.
- Use the full-screen option on your word processor or writing tool of choice, which eliminates everything on your screen, except your page. Most writing software, including Microsoft Word and Google Docs, offer this option.
3. Use triggers to get into writing flow
The best way to build a writing habit that results in faster writing? Trick your brain. Just as Pavlov’s dogs associated the bell ring with food, your brain associates the trigger with writing. This creates a conditioned response, making it easier to quickly shift your mental state from distraction to concentration, leading to improved writing speed and efficiency.
To use triggers effectively:
- Identify your trigger: It can be as simple as lighting a scented candle or playing a specific playlist.
- Create a routine: Implement your trigger consistently before each writing session, establishing a habit.
- Associate it with writing: Ensure the trigger is uniquely associated with the act of writing. Over time, your brain will connect the two.
4. Honor your own creative process
Some writers like to wake up in the morning and get their work done before anyone else is out of bed. Others are night owls. Some of us write full time, while others do it part time or as a hobby. Some writers prefer scene-by-scene outlines before they’ll commit a single word to the page while others fly by the seat of their pants.
If you’re a night owl who’s being forced to write in the morning, you’re not going to be your most creative self. That will show up in both your writing speed and the joy you experience in the actual writing process.
That’s why it’s important to be true to yourself and honor your unique creative process. When you work with your creative energy rather than against it, speed will naturally follow.
5. Create a workflow
One of the best things I did to increase my writing speed is to create templates and workflows for every piece of writing.
There are always going to be the same steps involved in writing a blog post—outline, research, first draft, editing, proofreading, finding or creating images, and publishing—and if I could systematize the process, then I’d spend less time worrying about the next step and more time actually doing it.
For example, I know from experience that I’m more productive when I’m batching my tasks. So I make a list of all the stories I have due to my editors over the next two weeks and do certain tasks, such as researching and setting up interviews, for all the stories in one go. Similarly, when I know I have a bunch of book chapters to write, I’ll outline as many as I can before I start the actual writing. The editing process? Far easier to get through ten posts at once when I’m in the self-editing zone than trying to do them one at a time.
6. Use writing sprints
This is the single most important writing tip I can give you to increase speed. Because when I started implementing writing sprints into my process, my word count practically exploded. I went from writing 500-1,000 words a day to 3,000-5,000 words, often effortlessly.
So what are writing sprints? They’re focused, time-limited writing sessions typically lasting from 10 minutes to 25 minutes, during which you commit to uninterrupted, intensive writing, with the goal of writing as much as possible. Sprints, especially when they’re short and focused, can be an excellent way to channel your focus and boost your productivity—and word count.
Sprints are an excellent writing tool for a few reasons:
- They encourage intense, concentrated speed writing by giving you limited writing time.
- They can help you push through writer’s block, resistance, and hesitation.
- The pressure of a sprint can lead to creative breakthroughs and innovative ideas.
- Completing multiple sprints in succession builds writing momentum and a sense of accomplishment without having to spend a lot of time in the chair.
- By sprinting with others, you can share writing goals and progress, fostering accountability and motivation.
- Word sprints allow you to allocate time specifically for writing and use it wisely.
- You don’t need to write every day to see results.
7. Learn to type faster
It’s not frequently talked about, but think about it: If you’re a slow typist, you’re limiting how many words you can get out on to the page, right?
The pecking and hunting of keys I was doing in my first year of freelancing wasn’t getting me to my goals fast enough, and so, the impatient writer that I am, I taught myself to touch type. This involves learning how to type without looking at the keyboard. By mastering touch typing, you can type faster and more accurately, and this automatically increases your writing speed.
To become proficient at touch typing:
- Familiarize yourself with your keyboard layout, since knowing the position of each key and its function is essential for efficient typing.
- Considering using typing software and apps designed to improve your typing speed and accuracy.
- The key to improving typing speed is consistent practice. You may find it incredibly frustrating in the beginning when you’re learning the basics and your speed crashes to a halt as you figure out where your fingers go. However, I can promise you that the more you practice, the more exponentially your speed will rise when you become proficient.
- Online typing games and tests can be both fun and educational. They provide real-time feedback on your typing speed and accuracy, motivating you to improve.
8. Try freewriting
To eliminate perfectionist tendencies, try freewriting.
Freewriting involves setting aside your inner critic and letting your thoughts flow freely on to the page or screen. It’s a process of writing without rules or structure. During a freewriting session, your goal is to generate stream of consciousness writing. Don’t worry about grammar, punctuation, or spelling errors. Let the grammar checker handle that later. For now, just focus on capturing your thoughts, feelings, and ideas as they arise.
Freewriting isn’t something you’ll be doing when you’re working on deadlines or work that’s meant for publication. Instead, use freewriting for practice. By learning to loosen up your mind and your fingers during freewriting sessions, you’ll find it easier to do when writing for publication as well.
9. Use placeholders
If all else fails, try using the old journalist’s trick of using TK as a placeholder when you need to check a fact or research something. TK stands for “to come” and easily stands out in a document because there’s no word in the English language where those two letters appear together.
Using TK as a placeholder allows you to do a global search of your document once you’ve finished the first draft and find areas you need to address without breaking the flow of your writing in the moment. This is an especially great tip for writers who waste time going down a rabbit hole of research and end up losing hours or days of writing time to aspects of the work that are better handled later.
10. Know that editing is not writing
The simplest answer to the question “How do I write faster?” is “By not stopping when you’re in the middle of it.”
That’s exactly what most writers do, of course. You’ll be in the flow with a scene and you’ll stop to fix a typo. Or you’re racing through your rough draft when you notice that the formatting is wonky and must be fixed before you can type another sentence.
Hear me when I say this: Researching is not writing. Revising is not writing. Proofreading? Not writing.
There will be time for all of that later. When you’re in the editing phase, you will come back to this manuscript and go through it with an editor’s eye. But when you’re writing, the creator in you needs to have the freedom to race ahead without being bound by the constraints of spell check.
If you want to become a faster writer, leave the editor at the door when you sit down to write.
11. Embrace the art of productive procrastination
Productive procrastination is my superpower and one of the main reasons I’m able to remain prolific even when I get creatively blocked on certain projects.
The concept itself refers to a situation where you delay or avoid working on a primary or essential task by engaging in other productive activities or tasks. These alternative activities, while unrelated to the primary task, are still productive in nature and can provide a sense of accomplishment.
For example, this morning I was meant to be working on a novel synopsis that an editor has requested. I found myself procrastinating on this job, but instead of watching Netflix or playing a video game, which is what I would have done a few years ago, I started writing this article. While I am still procrastinating on the synopsis, rather than engaging in unproductive or time-wasting behaviors, such as mindlessly browsing social media or watching TV, I’m bringing another project closer to the finish line instead.
12. Be comfortable when you write
While many writers like to get dressed and put on make-up before they sit down to write so they can feel more professional while “on the job,” I lean more towards comfort.
Being comfortable while I write, whether that’s in bed or in a coffee shop, is essential to nurturing my creativity and sustaining productivity. When I’m physically comfortable, I can focus on my plot and how my character’s situation is going to work out, rather than the cramp in my leg or the way the chair is digging into my back.
Create an environment that promotes focus and minimizes distractions. This can make a significant difference in the quality and quantity of your output. Consider investing in an ergonomic chair, a well-designed workspace, and proper lighting to enhance your comfort, especially during extended writing sessions. Maintaining good posture and taking short breaks to stretch can prevent discomfort and fatigue, allowing you to stay immersed in your writing without interruptions.
13. Utilize the Pomodoro technique
The Pomodoro technique is a time management and productivity method that’s designed to help individuals enhance their focus, manage distractions, and improve productivity by breaking work into intervals, traditionally 25 minutes in length, separated by short breaks.
With this method, you’d select a task you want to work on, set a timer for 25 minutes (a Pomodoro) and don’t stop writing until the timer goes off. When the Pomodoro timer rings, take a five-minute break, and then start another Pomodoro to continue working on the tasks. Typically, after completing four Pomodoros (about two hours of work), you’d take a longer break of 15-30 minutes.
Here are some ways in which the Pomodoro technique can be useful for writers and why I recommend you try it:
- Structured work intervals: The Pomodoro technique breaks your work into focused intervals, during which you commit to focused writing, eliminating distractions and maintaining a consistent pace.
- Time management: By allocating a specific duration to your writing tasks, the Pomodoro technique encourages you to manage your time effectively.
- Preventing burnout: The regular breaks built into the Pomodoro technique are crucial for preventing burnout. Extended writing sessions can lead to mental fatigue, which hampers your creativity and productivity. Short breaks provide an opportunity to recharge, clear your mind, and return to writing with renewed energy and focus.
- Incremental progress: Writing a large document or tackling a substantial project can feel overwhelming. This method encourages you to approach your work in smaller, more manageable chunks. Over time, these focused intervals accumulate, leading to a significant amount of written content.
- Tracking and reflection: The technique’s structured approach allows you to track your writing sessions more effectively. You can monitor how many Pomodoros you complete in a day and use that to assess your productivity.
- Enhanced concentration: One of the biggest benefits of the Pomodoro technique is in its ability to enhance concentration. During each Pomodoro, you’re encouraged to maintain a laser-like focus on your writing. Over time, this practice can improve your ability to concentrate for extended periods, making your writing sessions more efficient.
14. Write by hand
When it comes to the decision of whether to type or write by hand, the choice may not be solely about handwriting speed. It’s also about which method opens up a different creative part of your brain. Many writers find that picking up a fountain pen and putting it to paper can to be a conduit to a more profound connection with your thoughts and ideas.
So, how do you write faster when using this analog method? My recommendation would be to use this process for idea generation and deeper connections through journaling, especially if you’re stuck with a project and need to generate a path forward quickly.
15. Try dictation
Dictation can be a game-changing tool for many writers, especially if you’re a slow typist and find it difficult to keep pace with your thoughts. Dictation, which involves speaking your words aloud for transcription, uses voice recognition software to significantly boost your writing output. Here’s why.
- Faster than typing: For most people, speaking is faster than typing. You can articulate your thoughts quickly and naturally, and this speed advantage allows you to capture ideas as they flow.
- Hands-free multitasking: Dictation frees up your hands, allowing you to “write” while you’re doing household chores, taking a walk, or relaxing on the sofa.
- Conversational tone: Dictation often results in a more conversational tone in your writing. This can be particularly useful for dialogue in fiction, blog posts, or speeches.
To get started with dictation, you’ll need a compatible device or software, such as a smartphone with voice recognition capabilities or dedicated dictation software. It’s also important to remember that while dictation can be a powerful tool to increase your writing speed, it may take some practice to become proficient and start creating high-quality content.
16. Improve by 1% each day
The principle of improving by 1% each day is a powerful concept that can have a profound impact on your writing speed and overall productivity. It’s based on the idea that consistent, incremental progress can lead to significant improvements over time. While aiming for massive leaps in writing speed may seem daunting, committing to a 1% improvement over the next day is manageable and sustainable.
The beauty of this approach is that it allows you to focus on small, achievable goals. By dedicating a small portion of your time to deliberate practice and skill development, you gradually build proficiency. Over weeks and months, these incremental gains compound, resulting in noticeable enhancements in your writing speed.
Moreover, the 1% improvement mentality encourages consistency and perseverance, key traits for any writer.
17. Take part in writing challenges
If you want to level up quickly, on the other hand, a writing challenge can push you out of your comfort zone and be a powerful motivator. Knowing that you have a limited window of time to complete a writing task encourages you to focus and hit those word count goals efficiently. This time pressure can help you overcome procrastination and writer’s block, forcing you to dive into writing and maintain a steady pace. Over time, this practice improves your ability to work swiftly without compromising quality.
Here are the challenges I recommend for speeding up your writing:
- NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month): Write a 50,000-word novel in 30 days during the month of November. (If you’re doing this, don’t forget to check out our 30-day book writing plan.)
- Story a Day: A month-long short story challenge in which writers write a short story every day in May.
- 12 x 12: Write a children’s picture book every month of the year
- The 365 Writing Challenge: Write 1,000 words a day for a year.
- 30 Days, 30 Queries: Our very own freelance pitching challenge, in which writers write and send 30 pitches to national and international publications over 30 days.
18. Be accountable
There’s only so much you can do on your own. When your motivation starts lagging, it’s time to bring in some accountability. Accountability can look different from writer to writer, depending on how much help you need to say on track, your relationship with external validation, and your personal preferences.
Some ways to build accountability into your writing process include:
- Join a writing group: Participate in a group or workshop where members share their goals and progress.
- Find a writing partner: You can set goals together, as well as check in at a certain time of day or week, in order to track progress.
- Use apps: There are multiple apps and online tools designed to help writers set and track their goals. These can send reminders, track word count goals, and provide visual progress updates.
- Create a reward system: Reward yourself for meeting writing milestones. It could be a small treat, a special activity, or anything else that keeps you motivated.
- Publicly declare your goals: Share your writing goals on social media or with your friends and family. Knowing that others are aware of your objectives can boost your commitment.
19. Give it time
Fast writing doesn’t develop overnight. It’s a skill that evolves alongside your overall writing proficiency. As you progress along your journey, your writing skills and speed will naturally improve. However, it’s crucial to understand that achieving excellence in writing, whether in terms of speed or quality, primarily comes from practice and dedication.
Want to write better? Write more.
Want to be a writer faster? Write more.
Want to produce a larger body of work? Write more.
Good writing comes from practice. Make sure, daily, to practice more.
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Natasha Khullar Relph
Founder and Editor, The Wordling
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