I spent two weeks explaining how it was possible to train yourself to be prolific. Writing more words per hour is just a small part of the overall strategies that a prolific writer needs to employ, but it’s the one that gets the most resistance. After all, it’s not like you deliberately dawdle when you write. The words come out at the speed they emerge, right?
But you can write more words per hour and in thirty minutes you can prove that to yourself.
Find a timer–most operating systems have built-in timers, and there are many more on-line. (In fact, Google comes with one built-in, too. It’s here.)
Set the timer for 10 minutes.
Open your current manuscript, start the timer and write. If you edit as you go, do that now. If you use a thesaurus to find the right word, do that, too. You’re building a baseline wordcount here, so as much as you can, try to write exactly as you always write.
When the ten minutes are up, highlight what you wrote and take note of how many words you wrote in that time.
Reset the timer for another ten minutes.
Go back to your manuscript and read through what you just wrote. You are going to leave it there for now (although you can always trash it later).
What I want you to do for the next few minutes is figure out what comes next in the scene you’re writing.
Right there in the manuscript, scribble down some notes for yourself. They can be sketchy as hell, miss names, be full of typos–just get the beats down. For example:
- She jeers at him for being weak
- He hits her.
- She falls and smashes her head.
- She’s dead! Panic!
- He flounders about the apartment and finds the lighter fluid…
- Debates with himself, but the weak sides wins – can’t go to jail!
- spreads the lighter fluid around her, stands over her with the lighter…
You can be even more detailed than that, if the details occur to you: bits of dialogue, snatches of scenery or static moments you can see in your head.
You only need enough points to cover the next ten minutes of writing — but add one or two more than you think you need, just to be sure.
Read through the points once more, imagining the scene in your mind.
The listing of beats and imagining the scene should take five minutes, tops.
Round Two Rules
- Don’t stop. Don’t edit. Don’t search for words or fact check. Don’t move away from the manuscript screen at all.
- Put xxxs in your manuscript if you forget names or facts, or need to check something later. Or xxxput comments in to remind yourself of things, laterxxx
- Don’t write so fast you can’t think things through, but don’t write at your usual speed either. Aim to kick it up just a single gear (this time). Push to keep your fingers moving even if what you’re writing seems like pure nonsense. You can always delete later.
Now start the timer and start writing.
Now tote up
When the timer goes off, highlight what you wrote and get the word count.
If you didn’t sub-consciously push yourself to write faster in the first round, then don’t be surprised if you’ve written at least 15% more in round two.
If you like the leap in word count you get for the second round, then there are two additional rounds you can try as an experiment:
- Ten minutes of gas pedal to the floor, chassis-rattling pure speed. (Demonstrates your current maximum possible.)
- Longer “sprints” of 20 or 30 minutes at the one-gear-up speed you used in Round Two.
But you don’t have to do these experiments, because Round Two will give you the critical information: You can write faster, right now.
Armed with that knowledge, you can use middle-distance sprints of 30 or 50 minutes (50 minutes is my preferred length) to “crank out” serious wordage on your manuscript, and elevate your words-per-hour rate.
Just make sure you know what is coming next in your scene before you start a sprint, so you’re not making plotting decisions when you’re sprinting.
After a few days of sprinting when you write, even if you go back to “normal” writing you’ll find your speed stays elevated for a while. When you notice your word count dropping back to what you feel is too slow, you can do a few more days of sprints to pick up the pace once more.
By the way, you may have picked up that this exercise is a mash of two well-known writers’ speed techniques:
- Chris Fox’s writing sprints from 5,000 Words an Hour, and
- Rachel Aaron’s mini-outlining-as-you-go, from 2K to 10K.
I use this exact process to nudge my words-per-hour-rate upwards whenever it backslides.
Three or four days of sprinting when writing will zoom my rate for another few months at least.
It’s also fantastic for bringing a book in under the deadline. 😉
How did your experiment go? Share your results in comments!