7 Ways to Write Your Novel Faster
Are you struggling with:
1. Moving the cursor/pen across the screen/paper?
2. Spending hours analyzing your last paragraph in search of perfection?
3. Suffering from what you're absolutely sure is the worst case of writer's block known to man?
Read on. I was (and sometimes still am) just like you.
We've all been there. You've got a wonderful little idea for a novel, and you're ready to write it. You may even have an outline. You may have several paragraphs or even chapters written.
But your work is still creeping along like a slow-moving zombie from the vintage horror films of yore, before they all became Usain Bolt. You try to write, but there's a fog in front of your head. A big block sitting right on top of your brain preventing it from churning out any more words.
A literal "writers block."
In a figurative sense, of course.
What are you to do? Are you to just give up, assume you're not talented enough, and leave that novel forever unfinished?
No. That would be a silly thing to do. What you should do is read on to find out what may help. Don't be a quitter!
1. Don't Judge: Just Write
This is one that everyone struggles with. I honestly think all writers must go through this phase and come to this particular realization before they can truly become lucrative writers. Do not agonize over every word. Or every sentence. Or even every passage! Just get the first draft out. You can fix it later, in the editing. That's why they call it a "rough" draft. Once you get to where you can just keep putting words down, one after the other, you know you've got it going on. You know you're going to finish.
And once you've finished it you can fix it. Then fix it again. And again. And again. Until finally, after many many drafts, you're happy with it. It really doesn't take as look as it seems like it would if you really enjoy doing it, trust me.
2. Get Some Help From Software
There are plenty of programs that are specifically designed to give writers the push they need to keep going even when they want to slow down. The most famous, and in my opinion most effective, is Write or Die. The newer version has a lot more bells and whistles, but I haven't gotten around to trying them all out. I do know that if you slow down or stop writing the software starts to play a shrill sound of your choosing until you pick the pace back up again. You can even set it to start deleting your text if you're feeling especially brave.
A softer version that relies on positive reinforcement rather than negative would be Written? Kitten!, which shows a picture of a kitten for every word goal that you reach. I've had great success with this one myself, and there are a number of clones for various interests besides adorable cats you can find around the Internet if you know where to look.
Pictures or punishment not doing it for you? You can head over to 750 words and earn badges for every goal you complete. The competitive aspect works wonders for some.
3. Load Up on the Resources
Get yourself some books on writing to get you in the mood and give you some direction. For beginners I'm particularly fond of The Story Template and How to be a Writer, both great books that will give you an equally great start when it comes to writing.
You can also watch Brandon Sanderson's lectures on writing. They're all in the Creative Commons and available to watch on Youtube. I've got one embedded over there to the right. They're absolutely amazing, and I recommend every amateur writing watch them. It's so fantastic that he put this up for free.
Writing with a pen and paper gives you zero time to regret what you've written!
Spend some decent money on a pen you really like and you'll feel even more professional.
4. Get Vintage With Some Pen and Paper
Try your hand with some good old fashioned pen and paper. I write all my first drafts that way, and I'm twice as productive. No going back over my stuff (I can't since I'm using a pen) and no staring at a screen or wandering on to Facebook. Plus as soon as you type it up in digital form you can edit it as you go. Instant second draft!
My ideas and thoughts are also better formed when I physically write them down. I like the romance of it all. Legal pads are even more portable than a laptop, and it feels great to physically see the stack of pages written get thicker and thicker.
5. Do Some Word Sprints
Set the timer. Ten minutes. fifteen minutes. Five. Once it starts keep writing and do not under any circumstances let your fingers stop. Write or Die is a good way to do this. Will it be good? No. Will it be something workable that you can make good later? Of course. By the end you'll find you've added two or three hundred and maybe even a thousand words to your draft!
6. Ground Yourself in Your Story
Think of the major change that you're character is going to go through, or the climax in your story. With where you've eventually going to go in mind, you can write much faster. Something like this is discussed in detail in James Scott Bell's Write Your Novel From the Middle, a slim but fantastic volume about the importance of the often overlooked midpoint in story structure.
What do you do when you have trouble writing?
7. Re-evaluate What Kind of Writer You Are: a Plotter or a Pantser
Have you been trying to write as a "pantser", or someone who prefers to just sit down and write without any planning at all, when in reality you work much better with an outline of some sort and just don't know it yet? Pantsing is the absolute and only way for many writers to write, but if you're not one of them you'll know it for sure. Look up some resources on writing, like The Hero's Journey, the Snowflake Method, or the Beat Sheet and see if you can't make use of some of them.
I always thought I was a pantser. Most writers start off that way. After I got my hands on an outline or two however, I realized that I needed a direction to go in and something to refer to before I would ever stop getting stuck in my writing.
So that's it!
You can speed up your writing whether you're writing articles or fiction if you just shut down your critical mind while you're working on the rough draft. And for fiction there are countless resources out there that can help you, from lectures to online courses available for free to books written by experts. All it takes is a little Googling, a whole lot of imagination, and even more determination.
Good luck with your writing, and remember to never give up and never lose hope. There's often a period in everyone's writing career where they're just getting their footing and writing, for lack of a better word, crap. If you can break through this period in your career, you'll be out of the woods. For the most part, anyway. It can take years.
Just don't give up, don't judge a first draft, and remember that you can always edit.