On the surface, it makes little sense. Why should our drafting become more creative just because we hit the keys more rapidly? More likely, it would seem, all that would result would be a sloppy, unreadable mess. And yes, the words on the page may look pretty ugly and be hard to decipher and full of clichés. But often, we will also find that all too elusive mark of a great writer – author voice.
Ah. Ha. So how do we get that to happen?
Up Your Writing Speed
One of the main things slowing down our writing speed while drafting is the infernal, internal editor – the one that tells us to go back and put a period here, check that spelling, and oh, no, I left out a word. Here are three ways to override the need to write everything correctly the first time.
Say the Mantra “Always Forward Never Back”
This is the simplest and quickest to put into operation. Write the mantra: Always Forward. Never Back on an index card or sticky note and place it in a prominent place by your computer. Resolve not to go back and reread what you have just written or wrote yesterday or last week. If tempted, refer to the mantra.
If you are restarting on a draft after not working on it for a day or more, reread only the previous three paragraphs. Then start pounding away.
This one is more complicated, but provides timely feedback on your writing speed.
- Choose a digital or kitchen timer. (For digital timer ideas, see Productivity Online Timers) I find I like the one on my cell phone.
- Find a spot in your draft to start writing.
- Set the timer for 10 minutes. Type away.
- When the timer rings, stop and count the number of words written. This becomes your base speed. For more accuracy, you can do several ten-minute trials and average them together. However, usually one time test is enough.
- Once you have your base time, set a personal mental challenge to write slightly faster. In the beginning this can be minor, such as 5 to 10 more words every 10 minutes.
- Get ready to draft. Set the timer for the length of time you have put aside to write. (Note: if seeing or hearing the timer is annoying, find one that only buzzes at the end) Now write away.
- When done, record your word count for the session. Compare it to your base rate. If you exceeded the base rate, reward yourself with something comforting such as a warm drink, a time with a pet, a phone call with a friend.
- Slowly, but surely, you will find yourself writing more fluidly and worrying less about editing what you wrote.
Writing sprints are very popular in writer’s groups, and there is a reason for that. When we commit to write with other people for a short period of time, we have more encouragement to get the words down. Hearing the number of words others accomplished demonstrates a possible goal for ourselves. Sometimes, a group sets a goal, and our word count will help the group reach a pinnacle to be celebrated.
During a sprint, we can’t think about correcting or editing anything. We just write as fast as we humanly can. To avoid a total mess when done, try writing a long section of inner thought or a high action scene. For more ideas to focus a sprint, see my book Fast Draft Your Manuscript and Get It Done on sale for a limited time at 99 cents.
Putting It in Practice
Having a plot planned out and a good understanding of your characters will help tremendously in using the above techniques. It also helps to remember that all first drafts need to be revised and edited, messy or not.
These are just a few approaches to try when taking on the challenge of speeding up your writing and finding your author voice.