October 15, 2020 by Sarra Cannon
Writing 50,000 words in 30 days can seem like an impossible task if you’ve never attempted it before, but one of the keys to winning is getting those words out as quickly as possible.
Today, I’m going to share 5 tips for how to write faster so that you will make it to the NaNoWriMo winner’s circle on November 30th.
In order to write quickly, it’s crucial to spend time planning before the month even begins. What planning looks like for you may be different from my version of planning, but whatever your process is, it’s important to get started and have some idea of your characters and storyline before the month starts.
One of the main things that slows writers down during NaNoWriMo is sitting down to write and having no idea what happens next. The real meat of the content and dialogue will flow faster and more naturally if you already have a pretty clear picture of who your characters are, what they care about, and what conflict they’re facing in your novel.
If you’ve never written in “Sprints”, this one tip could change your entire writing life. It did mine all the way back in 2008 when I completed my second NaNoWriMo. I went to my first write-in at a now-gone Border’s Books, and the NaN0WriMo Municipal Liaison (facilitator) there was running writing sprints of about 20 minutes each.
Basically, this is known as the Pomodoro Method, and here’s how it works. You set a timer for a specific amount of time (I like 20 or 25 minutes), turn off all distractions, set up your document, and start writing. You focus 100% on writing during that time and nothing else. When the timer goes off, you stop writing, check your word count, and take a short break (5 to 10 minutes).
When the break is over, you’re back to writing. It’s as simple as that, and you might wonder why something like this would make such a big difference for so many writers. Mainly, the power in sprints is that you’re totally focused for short bursts of time.
For most of us, writing casually for an hour or two will mean lots of distractions, checking messages, thinking through the perfect words for that next sentence, grabbing a snack, and just generally taking our time with it all. And even when you are focused, your mind can get fatigued. Most of us just aren’t wired to focus effectively for hours at a time without breaks, which means after a while, you start to get diminishing returns.
When you write in sprints, you start fresh each time, with a fresh, rested mind that’s ready to go. You focus and try to just keep typing the whole sprint, which forces you to put aside your perfectionist editor’s mind and just get the words down.
Trust me, writing sprints is the single most effective way to write more words in less time.
Community is one of the biggest benefits to NaNoWriMo, and having a group of writers who are all attempting to write a novel in a month is awesome for both accountability and motivation.
Know a friend who is also doing NaNo? Check in with them every day to see how they’re doing, and ask them to hold you accountable for your word count targets, too.
Join a group of writers like my Heart Breathings Word Sprint Challenge group (we have a virtual writing retreat in there every single month, and in fact, we have one coming up this weekend. Request to join us here.) Knowing you aren’t alone goes a long way toward writing more in a short period of time.
You can only write as fast as your fingers will move on the keyboard. If you’re a slow typer, consider doing some typing exercises or playing some typing games to increase your speed and accuracy.
There are free online typing lessons like Typing Academy (https://www.typing.academy/typing-tutor/lessons), and there are also some fun games out there to help you practice. (I love Typing of the Dead. I got it on Steam years ago and it’s so much fun!)
Alternately, you could also try dictating your novel. I have only tried this when I was having some issues with carpal tunnel, and my brain didn’t seem to want to think fast enough to speak a novel. It was also pretty awkward, if I’m being honest, to have my husband and kids listen to me. Getting privacy in this house isn’t always easy!
However, I have so many writer friends who swear by dictation and can often write up to 5,000 words (or more) a day in just a couple of hours by speaking their novel instead of typing it. This has a learning curve, though, so if you want to try it for this year’s NaNoWriMo, you better get started!
Basically, you have to give yourself permission to suck.
No, this doesn’t mean you should publish a crappy novel. It just means you have permission to write a really rough first draft of what will someday become an AMAZING novel.
Expecting your story to be perfect as it flows from your fingertips for the first time is just unrealistic for most of us mortals. Somehow, though, we still sometimes do this to ourselves and refuse to write anything until it’s all figured out and perfect.
If you want to write fast, you’re going to need to turn off that part of your brain that expects you to be the most amazing writer in the world.
Anything that doesn’t work can be fixed later. NaNo is the perfect time to just let loose, shake off that ever-present weight of perfectionism you carry on your shoulders, and just write with abandon.
Don’t judge yourself. Just put words on the paper. You can do this!
I have been self-publishing my books since 2010, and in that time, I've sold well over half a million copies of my books. I'm not a superstar or a huge bestseller, but I have built an amazing career that brings me great joy. Here at Heart Breathings, I hope to help you find that same level of success. Let's do this.