Well, since I was in a slight rush when I started writing this article, I thought that I’d give you a few tips about how to write fast. Most of these tips will work regardless of whether you’re writing fiction or non-fiction, but there are some slight differences.
So, let’s get started.
1) Practice your typing (or write it by hand): As I mentioned in this other article, you don’t need a touch-typing course to learn how to type fast (although it might help). All you need is lots of practice.
But, even if you still type by poking each key individually, then just keep doing this until you get faster. Try to use two fingers, one on each hand for each side of the keyboard.
When you’ve learnt to type fast, words don’t feel like a collection of individual letters. Each word feels like a pattern of movement instead. You move your hands in one way to make one word, and in a different way to make another. Almost like playing chords on a guitar.
Likewise, if you can, use a word processing program without a spell-checker (I use WordPad) and, when you’ve finished, copy your writing into one that does have a spell-checker. This might sound convoluted, but going back and correcting spellings every couple of minutes when you’re writing can be a huge distraction (and not the good kind, like in the third point on this list).
But if, like I used to, you write faster by hand than you do with a keyboard, then write it out by hand first. Yes, copying up the first draft is a bit of a hassle, but it also gives you a chance to edit what you’ve written and it’s less difficult than having to write it for the first time.
2) Simplicity (or not): Unless you’re really on a roll, you don’t have time for either fancy prose or informal prose, or for prose that is too short or too long when you’re writing fast.
The emphasis when writing fast is on just getting your ideas down on paper or on the screen. Go with the style that feels the most natural to you, regardless of whether you feel more comfortable with formal or informal writing styles. Regardless of whether you love to write at length or if you prefer shorter things. Go with what feels natural.
If you’re worried about using repetitive speech tags (eg: “he said”, “she said” etc..) or repetitive sentence openings, then don’t worry. Although it doesn’t always look very elegant, it’s easier for the reader to absorb and skip past repeated things than it is for them to read ten different words or descriptions for the same thing.
One trick for reducing repeated sentence openings without losing writing speed is to have a few well-practiced stock phrases that you can throw in at the beginning of sentences in order to keep things interesting (eg: “Therefore..”, “Another…”, “Likewise…”, “Whilst…” etc..). It makes everything sound a bit like an old school essay, but at least it keeps things mixed up.
As for speech tags, just go with “he said” and “she said” as much as possible. Using too many other types of speech tags too often just makes the writing sound pretentious or it makes the writer sound inexperienced. So, keep it basic. This will also save you having to consult a thesaurus when your characters start talking.
3) Write in bursts (or don’t): Often, when I’m writing quickly, I don’t just sit there and do nothing but writing. I’ll fire out a few sentences and then I’ll pause to read a little bit of something, pause and do nothing, or pause to change the song I’m listening to. Then I’ll go back and fire out another few sentences.
Having lots of very short breaks might sound like the opposite of what you’re supposed to do when you’re writing fast, but it gives you a little bit of time to gather your thoughts. The little breaks also help you to keep your attention focused on what you’re writing, provided that they don’t last for too long (eg: try to keep them under a minute).
Different people have different attention spans and different ways of writing. So, go for what works for you. If you find that you focus better by doing nothing more than staring at what you’re writing, then do this. If this tends to make you feel worn out or bored, then try taking micro-breaks every few sentences.
4) Stock ideas and writer’s block: Of course, you can be experienced at writing quickly, but it won’t help you if you don’t know what to write. So, either prepare some ideas in advance or have a stock of ideas that you can dip into at any time.
This stock can include things like topics you know a lot about, things that fascinate you, types of character relationships, interesting places, your own memories etc… If you’ve got a good enough stock – and you probably have, even if you don’t realise it yet – then writer’s block can be a bit less of a challenge than it might otherwise be.
Whew, I wrote the first draft of this article in just under half an hour! Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂