8 Ways to Become a More Productive Writer

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Writing speeds vary hugely.

Some would say 200 words in an hour is a perfectly good speed to work at. Others would consider writing 1,200 per hour disappointing.

A lot of the disparity depends on the kind of writing you’re undertaking. Genre fiction or blog posts often take less time to write than literary fiction. Regardless of these differences, you can become speedier.

How to become a more productive writer

There are many things you can try if you want to be a more productive writer. I’ll talk about 4 steps you can take before you write to give yourself the best chance of getting more written. Then I’ll pinpoint 4 things you can do to speed up the writing process. First, though, concern about how speeding up may impact quality plagues writers. Thus, I’ll start by addressing that worry.

Speed vs. quality

A worry most writers struggle with is thinking that if they try to write faster, they won’t produce high-quality work.

But that’s unlikely unless you push yourself to extremes. If you want to crank up your speed, give dictation a whirl. But typing often proves to be the less disruptive option if you’re working alongside others.

Speeding up can begin with simple things, like trying to cut out non-writing moments. Things like sitting, hoping inspiration will come, or scrolling through social media after writing a paragraph.

I’ll share some tips to help you speed up and you can see what works for you. If you’re worried about quality, try a few of these out for a week. Then you can look at what you’ve produced.

Does it differ from your usual work? You might find it’s improved. Maybe you didn’t censor yourself as much and created a more powerful, raw piece as a result.

Later, I’ll focus on what you can do to improve your efficiency and make it easier to get words down on the page. For now, let’s look at how you can create the best setup for you.

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Set things up for speed and efficiency

Eliminate distractions

To do this, start listing all potential distractions you face throughout the day.

Here are mine.

Alerts, notifications, and social media.

The internet, especially YouTube videos. (There are loads of entertaining, interesting videos made.)

Thinking of other things to do. ( Oh, I should have posted that letter. I need to write that birthday card, or I need to pick up some milk.)

Background noise or other people.

Text messages.

I can dispense with most of these. I can turn off notifications and alerts on my phone to rid myself of them. I can wear my headphones and play music to minimise distractions caused by the activities of people around me. To deal with extraneous thoughts, I can write them down as they come to me on a notepad. That way, I can get them off my mind and focus, knowing I can attend to those things later. If you don’t have a notebook handy, you can make a list on your phone.

I do a lot of research — much of it internet-based — so I can’t always avoid falling prey to distraction from it. I still try to collect all research on one topic in a single document. Keeping relevant information in one place helps lessen the temptation to look for more when I begin writing a piece.

So what simple action can you take to reduce the chance of interruptions before you start to write? Just doing one thing may set you on your way to becoming a more productive writer.

Get comfortable

It should go without saying that you’ll have a hard time writing faster if you have to keep getting up to stretch, stop your back hurting, or stop writing often to prevent pain in your hands

There’s a lot of advice out there about how crucial it is that your screen is at eye-level and the right distance away, as well as on how to position your keyboard and mouse.

Following this advice can be difficult, especially if you have the monitor in a fixed position. It’s still worth looking into potential fixes, such as trying out an ergonomic keyboard. You might also want to think about your posture and how you sit, or what you sit on. Investing in a footrest you can use might go a long way to making you more comfortable when writing.

Use music to help focus

Do you prefer silence when you work or do you like having music in the background as you write? If you’re like me, this can vary, but some find that putting music on can help them get into the rhythm of the work.

It’s up to you who you listen to. But to avoid distraction it might be a good idea to listen to music you already know with so it serves as background noise rather than another potential distraction. Experiment with different tempos and types of music. You could find that listening to some kinds of music when you undertake a certain type of writing is helpful. You may discover you like to listen to relaxing music when writing blog posts and kick up the tempo when you’re writing fiction. I’ve given some tips on how you might use music to your advantage in an earlier post.

Time yourself

This one can boost your productivity. Setting a timer as you write is quick and easy. 30 minutes is a good sprint to start with if you’re new to this. Set the timer and write until it time’s up. Replying to that email or looking up that fact can wait half an hour.

If you commit to writing for a set period, you might find it easier to focus and not get distracted. You can even set yourself a challenge when writing shorter pieces by setting a timer and seeing if you finish before the timer goes off. A good web-based app you can use to time yourself, set precise deadlines, hit word counts, and, as they say, put the prod in productivity is Write or Die. Using Write or Die, you can try its various features to help you write faster and get more words down on the page. Another way you can track your daily (or even hourly) word count is by using a spreadsheet. If tracking yourself like this is likely to stress you out, you can always look at what you’ve managed to write after a week to gauge your progress.

Get more words on the page

Now you can create the best possible writing set-up for yourself, it’s time to share tips on how you can make it easier for the words to flow.

Write things you enjoy

Where possible, choose projects you’re interested in and enjoy. I’ve found I’m able to write faster if I’m passionate and enthusiastic about what I’m writing rather than if you’re bored and unmotivated.

Since starting this blog, I find it much easier to write a post on something that sparks my interest than one that I chose to write simply because I think it would be most helpful to readers, regardless of how intrigued I am by the subject. Find another reason to write the piece that’s not just because you feel obligated to write it.

You can use this if you’re writing a novel too. If you’re struggling to write, give yourself a break, skip ahead and write that scene you’ve been dying to get to all week. If there’s nothing in the next scene you have to write that excites you, think about conjuring up another idea for the scene that elicits passion from you.

Having something interesting to write can help you use your time and energy in the best way possible and still be motivated.

Use proven structures

Making use of templates isn’t only good for writing blog posts, newsletters, and informational articles. Templates add structure to almost any piece of writing and save you the bother of having to think overmuch about the layout of your piece. This allows you to focus on the words and means you don’t have to keep thinking about the structure as you write.

Various types of writing need structure, even fiction. One of the most famous templates for writing fiction is the three-act story structure, an example of which can be found here.

Having something interesting to write can help you use your time and energy in the best way possible and still be motivated.

Make a plan

If you haven’t already got a plan for what you’re going to write (or you’ve planned a whole novel but now have to deal with a particular section) it may be wise to spend up to 10 minutes planning. Rachel Aaron recommends this for novelists in her book.

If you’re writing fiction you might use your planning time to sketch vital moments of a scene or section. For non-fiction works, you could plan by noting the points you want to talk about in the upcoming section.

Switch off your inner editor

One of the things which stops me from getting words down on the page is my own desire to constantly edit what I’ve written. But doing that too much can mean you end your writing session with little to work with and improve upon.

Remember that your first draft can be messy, no one else need ever see it. When you have even a rough plan of the piece, you’ve got something you can add to, revise and edit. Every time you add detail and refine the work, you’ll be closer to finishing. Sooner or later, you’ll find you’ve created a good — maybe even great —piece readers will love.

Summary

Even just trying out one of these tips could do wonders for your speed and productivity. To see bigger gains, try out as many as you like.

  • Eliminate distractions where you can, and avoid sacrificing too much writing time.
  • Get comfortable so there’s less chance you’ll be thrown off your writing stride by pain.
  • Listen to music you enjoy to focus and remain focused.
  • Time yourself as you write, to help yourself stay on track.
  • Choose projects you’re excited and passionate about so that you’ll feel motivated by the writing.
  • Use proven structures so that you can focus on the words, rather than thinking about the layout too much.
  • Take up to 10 minutes to plan what you’ll write so that when you start you’ll be able to make steady progress.
  • Switch off your inner editor and get a rough plan of a piece or scene written that you can build upon and refine.

All you’ve got to do now is decide which tip to follow first. Soon, you’ll be writing faster than you ever believed possible.

Published by Lizzie

Lizzie here. I'm a freelance copywriter and editor based in the UK. I'm also passionate about volunteering and hold a MA in History from the University of Warwick. I've written for a multitude of fantastic websites and companies, including a legal automation software company, a dog training site and more. Check out my reviews on Fiverr and Upwork for more info!

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