One of the best lessons I learned by doing NaNoWriMo was that I can absolutely write faster than I ever thought I could. All it took was one simple thing to quadruple my writing speed. Who knew?
Any Writing is Good Writing
Years ago, when I first started getting up early to write before work, I would be super proud of myself if I got 500 words in before the kids woke up. That took me about an hour. Not terrible. Hey, I was writing. Even 100 words a day adds up. But I now know, I can write faster.
These days, I’m writing about 2,000 words an hour.
I discovered that I could write at that pace during NaNoWriMo. There were days when I just didn’t have much time and I had to write fast, so I decided to try what the NaNoWriMo kids call a writing sprint. Basically, you just decide to write a certain number of words in a set period of time, and do it. For all you runners out there – think of it as interval training.
For me, a good goal was 1,000 words in 30 minutes. I would scribble my end time on a post-it note and stick it to my computer screen. Then I would write. About fifteen minutes in I would feel my shoulders slump and I would want to stop, but I would push on until I hit my predetermined end time and you know what? I hit my goal every time. It was awesome. Then I would get up, stretch, make some tea, use the bathroom, and go again. It really does feel like sprinting, and the breaks are important for catching your breath (so to speak).
After writing like that for a couple of weeks, I found the pace much easier to maintain. Those sprints were excellent training. These days, I’m writing about 2,000 words in an hour without really stressing about it. It’s shocking to me, but true. I simply trained myself to write faster.
The trick at first is to not give a damn about quality. Those first few sprints are hard. It’s best to not even look at what you just wrote. You have to completely silence your inner critic. Just tell that little voice in your head to shut up for 30 minutes.
If 1,000 words feels like too much, start with less. Maybe do a test run to see how much you’re currently writing in 30 minutes, then add 100 words to your goal for tomorrow. You have to find a word count goal that is obtainable, but pushes your limits. You should feel a little stressed while you’re doing it. That’s how you get faster. Maybe start with 500 words in half an hour. Then, next week, try 700 words in the same amount of time.
As I got used to the faster pace, I found that my brain anticipated better. The words came easier and with fewer glaring blemishes. It’s all still first draft material, but it’s not as ugly as it used to be. It will require less editing.
Of course, the main benefit of writing four times faster than I used to is that I’m hitting my goals more quickly. A draft of 100,000 words would have taken me 200 days of writing before. Now I can bust that first draft out in 50 days of writing. Less than two months. That, in itself, is encouraging and gets me super excited about writing.
How fast do you write? Maybe it doesn’t matter to you at all. Or maybe you think 2,000 words an hour is child’s play. I would love to hear your thoughts on it.