…according to 1.5 books on the subject.
I’m going to keep this post short because I don’t have much time to write today, and I want to spend most of it working on my current novel.
Since the “not much time” dilemma is a persistent theme for me these days, I recently read through one and a half books on how to write faster, with a goal of getting more out of my scant writing time. One book was good (2,000 to 10,000 by Rachel Aaron), and one was not (1,500 Words Per Hour by N.P. Martin).
Despite their varying quality, they both had the same basic message:
Plan your novel. Extensively.
Figuring out what you’re going to write — before your butt hits the chair — frees you from doing your heavy “where am I going with this” thinking at the keyboard. It allows you to focus all your mental resources on settling into a flow while composing. Extensive planning also helps by preventing major mistakes that require you to scrap and rewrite large portions of your book. You know, the “Oh wait, when did my protagonist lose the superpower that would have made the climactic battle a non-event?” kind of oopsies.
I actually arrived at some of these conclusions on my own via another path. On my last short story – which will be released as part of a collection I’m putting out this summer – I tried extensive planning, purely with the aim of writing better. My goal was to craft a story that was deeper than my previous work, and I knew that would require weaving certain themes consistently throughout the piece. I had just read a great post by Steven M. Long about outlining, and my guess was that imagining almost every beat of the story in advance would help me develop that depth. It did. I’m happier with that piece than with a lot of my other stories. But the unexpected bonus was how quickly I was able to compose it.
2,000 to 10,000 was a lot better in fleshing out these concepts. The writer, Rachel Aaron, has produced a ton of well-received novels, and she walks the reader through the plotting and diagramming process that she has honed over her career. The examples are supremely helpful, and I’m employing many of her methods as I map out my current project. The Martin book is less detailed and mostly repeats itself ad nauseum.
Both of these books could have used better line editors. They are riddled with typos, which undercuts their argument that writing quickly does not mean writing poorly. The Martin book was far worse in this respect — to the point where I stopped reading halfway through — and even had an egregious error in the first sentence of the first chapter.
Speaking of first chapters, I’m hoping to start laying down words on my new novel this weekend, so I better get my outline done. I wouldn’t want to start writing without it.
6 thoughts on “How to Write Faster”
I planned my current novel out quite extensively and I’ve done basic outlines for every chapter. It’s the first time I have planned in so much detail but it’s helped me no end
Did you find that it helped you in terms of quality or speed? Or both?
I think it’s definitely helping speed wise because I have a really good idea where I’m going with things and if I’m really really stuck I can move to the next chapter and come back to it. Not sure about quality though as I’m only on my first draft and when I write draft 1 I try not to think about what I’ve written or how good it is that comes at the step before draft 2 🙂
Pingback: The Joy of Hunting Tics | Nolan Edrik
Great post and thanks for extracting good bits from those books. I was wondering what you think about the typing speed itself? Doesn’t it also affect the speed of writing?
I’ve written a small post about improving writing speed in this manner, perhaps you would be interested in it.
Absolutely a faster typing speed would be a huge help. I’m lucky to have had a lot of typing instruction when I was younger, so I can pretty well type at the speed of thought. But for anyone who is hunting and pecking, investing some time in speeding up your hands is well worth it. Thanks for the comment!