Now that we’re all digging out of 2020 and returning to “regular” life, you might have found a surprising downside to all the good news: less quiet time. In other words, less time to write. I will say that a completely blank calendar last year helped me be more productive in this part of my life, and based on what agents and editors are saying about being flooded with queries—so was everyone else. These days, my time for writing is shorter, which means to get anything done, I’m going to have to write faster. If you are also looking for a way to pick up the pace, read on!
I have a self-limiting belief that I’m a slow writer who doesn’t like to outline. This belief makes me think that the story will “come” in its time, and that any amount of “writer’s block” is all in my head.
On the other hand, I’m not sure any of that’s true. Maybe I’m slow because I don’t know what to say, and the writers block is a symptom of not knowing where a particular story goes next.
Lately, I’ve started to question this mentality. What if I reframe the proposition? Could a slow “pantster” become a fast plotter?
The first step to writing faster is to believe you can do it IF you’re willing to change.
Once we’re willing to make the mental changes necessary to get faster, next we need a system. This writing system will be the spine of our process, holding us up if we lose track of where we are in the manuscript or in the schedule. What does that process look like? It looks like a deadline, an outline, and a writing schedule.
Let’s start with the deadline. Make one. Look at your calendar, account for any time you might be out of town or incapable of working on the story. If you’re relatively clear for the next two to six months (or less, ideally two-four months), write down your due date. That’s when you want a first draft complete.
Next, you’ll need an outline. No, you don’t have to write the story before you write the story…but yes, you should have an idea of what happens next. There are many varying ways to do an outline that you can find online, so choose one that works for you. The most important part is that you need to know your characters and what will happen to them in the end. You can work backward from there.
Most writers block comes from not knowing what the heck is going to happen next. Maybe you dive in, find your voice, and then what? Literally? What happens now? If you have no clue, it’s hard to write because you don’t know what to say. It’s not writers block—it’s a lack of writers prep. If you at least know your destination (aka, how the book ends), you’re more likely to not experience this hold up.
Finally, once you have a deadline and an outline, commit to a writing schedule. Some people like word count. Others like to measure by scene or chapter. It’s up to you. Pick mini daily and weekly deadlines that will help you meet your overall goal of completing the book by a certain point.
Just Do It
After you’ve created a system for writing fast, do it! And by this, I mean, focusing on writing. If you’re trying to bang out a first draft ASAP, you’ll need to keep your eye on the prize. That means don’t waste time editing or trying to make everything perfect (hint: it won’t be perfect). Focus on getting the basic story to come to life out of those notes you jotted down in your outline. The final product will of course need polishing and editing, but that’s only possible after you have a full story…which is all the more reason to write it quickly!