Writing Fast Drafts

12 09 2013

adult hand helping child writeRecently, I was asked by Jacqueline Houtman to contribute tips on speed writing for her blog, Secrets of Super-Productive Writers. If you’re looking to speed up your production, several wonderful writers, including Shawn McGuire, Shannon Delany, Janet Fox, and Sarah Prineas, suggested ways to boost your productivity.

For years I meandered through my novels. I never kept track of word count, but if asked, I’d consider it a good day when I wrote 200-300 words in an hour. As I got more proficient, I sometimes managed 400-500. I spent 3-4 hours reaching my daily NaNo goal of 1667 words.

But when I started writing for book packagers and educational publishers, I discovered they had impossible deadlines. Six weeks to research, write, and edit 80,000 words. Three weeks to churn out 45,000 polished words of a novel. I had to write faster. Much faster.

I started with Candace Haven’s Fast Draft class online. I laughed when she said we could write 4,000-5,000 in two or three hours. She encouraged us to turn off our internal editors and write without judgment. I managed to bump my productivity to 1000 words an hour—double what I had been doing—but I needed more time after I finished my draft to develop characters, plug plot holes, and smooth out prose. Before I’d edited as I worked, so my final product was much cleaner. But I had improved my writing speed.

As I mentioned in Jacqueline’s blog, I found Write or Die to be a great motivator. I began with the free download, but it’s inexpensive and well worth the $9.99 price tag. You set the amount of time and word count. Whenever you stop typing, you face consequences that range from a fading screen or loud noises to the loss of all your work. I started with the gentle consequences, where the screen fades out to a color, but returns to normal once you start typing again. I was surprised at how often I drifted off into daydreams or got sidetracked. Bumping the consequences up to normal kept me writing 1500-2000 words an hour.

When I have a deadline, like I do now for the series I’m writing, I do writing sprints with Write or Die.  I set a word goal and a time limit. And I discovered Candace was right. I can manage between 4000-5000 words in about 3 hours. Write or Die is also great for writing during tlunch hour or in other small blocks of time.

If you need more motivation to write faster, check out Rachel Aaron’s blog. She went from writing 2000 words a day to 10,000.

However you do it, it’s important to get words down on paper. As they say, it’s impossible to edit until you have something on the page.

What have you found that keeps you motivated and writing?