Does this sound familiar at all? You get a great idea for a book. But between the rest of your responsibilities and taking care of any spontaneous problems that might arise, your great idea ends up taking longer to finish than you wanted. You pound away at the keyboard for what feels like forever, only to see a dismally small gain in word count at the end of the day. Between research, marketing, engaging, and planning, the day simply slips away from you. Then the week. Before you know it, a month has gone by and you’re still not as far along with your book as you want to be. You want to be able to write your book fast, but you just can’t seem to get there.
Here are a few things you can do to help speed up the process, make the most out of the writing time you have, and write your book fast.
Have a basic plan in place.
There is nothing more frustrating than staring at a blank screen, knowing you have a great idea for a story, but unable to figure out where to start. Having at least a simple plan can help with this. Even if all you do is list out four or five major plot points, those plot points can be used as a road map to help guide you to where you want to go. For many of us, myself included, trying to plot out the entire book can be daunting — especially for those of us who like the book to unfold as we write. Detailed outlines can sometimes feel as though they suck the creative process dry. Use only as many plot points as you need.
Sprint, sprint, sprint.
There are several tools available designed to help you with writing sprints. One of my favorites is a website called 4thewords, which gamifies your writing by sending you on quests to defeat monsters. There are also groups, apps, and multiple other tools and people that will help you plan and run a sprint.
Now, running a sprint is very similar to freestyle writing in the sense that once the clock starts you write. Write like you’ve never written before. Anything that comes to mind, preferably story related otherwise what’s the point. This is what makes having a basic plan in place so important: it’s much easier to sprint if you have a basic idea of what you’re going to be sprinting. You can easily pound out 200 words in five minutes if you have a plan. They might not all be pretty words, but that’s what editing is for.
Put together Daily Tasks Once a Week.
Then use them! My favorite day of the week to do this is Sunday. So every Sunday night I sit down with my bullet journal (I used to use a day planner but this year I decided to try something different) and set up tasks for the rest of the week. Things like “write fight scene” or “write big apology scene.”
Notice, I am not setting word count goals. I am not telling myself to sit down and write 1,000 words on Wednesday or 1,500 words on Thursday. There’s nothing wrong with setting word count goals like this, but I have found that setting up task lists help me get going in the morning. As soon as I sit down at my computer, I already know what I’m going to be writing: that fight scene! Or whatever scene I have told myself to write. This means less staring at the blank screen, reading what I wrote the day before, and trying to come up with something to write. It also means putting less emphasis on the number of words I’m writing and focus on the scenes or chapters I’m trying to include. After all, word counts are for finished manuscripts, sprints, and NaNoWriMo.
Try to Stop for the Night Mid-Scene.
This might sound counter-intuitive. After all, I did just get done explaining all the benefits of setting up daily tasks and now I’m about to tell you to stop at the end of the night before you’ve even finished that scene. But trust me on this, you will thank me.
If you’re really on a roll, and those fighters are just going at it and fists are flying and swear words are screaming – stopping before the end of that fight gives you an exciting place to pick up the next day. Even if you’re down to the last punch, less than 100 words before the end of the scene, it can be enough to really get the next day’s juices flowing and ready for the next task. And it helps you train yourself to get on a roll on demand. Those of us in the creative process know a lot of writing depends on whether or not we can get on those rolls and ride them out. Stopping just before the scene ends is one way to guarantee you get another roll when you need it.
Plus, you’ll be able to use that extra time to round up any research you might have to do for the next day’s scene — which will make it easier for you to get writing.
Turn off Your Inner-Editor.
I know, this is the stop that most people have the hardest time with. When we sit down to write, we want to pick out the right word. The best name. We understand, perhaps better than anyone, just how powerful words are. And we consider everything before allowing a word to claim a spot on that page. But here’s the deal — that is best done during editing — not when you’re trying to write out your first draft. And especially not if you’re trying to write your book fast).
I’ll tell you a secret: I have a list of 22 names: 6 of each gender and 10 genderless. Every single book I write, the characters get one of those names unless I think of one fast. And I mean fast: as in by the time I finish writing the sentence that introduces them. I just start at the top of my list and work my way down. I don’t worry about picking out the right name until after I’m done for the day. That way, it can’t interrupt my writing day.
And there you have it.
If you’re limited on writing time and need to make the most of it, these tips will get you there. With practice, you’ll soon find yourself able to spring several hundred words in less than an hour daily. No more staring at your computer for hours trying think of the words to tell your story. Just sit down, relax, and write your book fast.