How to Train Yourself to Write Faster

Are you a slow writer? Me too. It used to take me days to get a few hundred words onto the page. After a while I got frustrated of making such slow progress and decided to do something about it. The solution was oddly simple: timed writing sessions.

Have you ever heard of “Parkinson’s Law”? It’s the adage that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” If you apply that to writing, it means that if you give yourself two hours to write two hundred words, it will take two hours. But if you give yourself thirty minutes, it will take thirty minutes. So if you’re determined to increase your writing speed, here’s what I suggest:

Choose a word count goal and set a timer for 25 minutes or less.

In the beginning, be easy on yourself. Try giving yourself the goal of 100 words in 25 minutes. If that seems super easy, increase the word count goal or decrease the time until you find a speed that’s doable but not completely overwhelming.

When I put this method into practice, I went from writing a few hundred words over several days to writing 500 words in 25 minutes. No distractions, no time for research, no making cups of tea or checking my phone. Just straight writing. Suddenly, my word count goal of 1,000 words a day—which had seemed insurmountable before—was ridiculously easy. Whereas before I would languish for hours at the screen, drawing blanks and getting distracted, now all I had to do was two laser-focus sessions of 25 minutes each. No problem!

Your word count goals might be different than mine, and you might find that timed writing is not for you. But if you do try it, I recommend you do a timed session that’s not very long–5, 10, 15, 20, or 25 minutes at most.

The reason you want to stay to 25 minutes or under is that anything longer and you run the risk of getting tired and distracted.

If your mind is really prone to distraction, or if 25 minutes seems like a long time, start with 5 or 10 minutes.

You might be amazed how much you can get down with a concrete deadline.

A few more tips for your timed writing sessions:

  • I like to use the Howler Timer because instead of obnoxious beeping, it makes lovely animal noises. You can download it for free.
  • Turn off your phone.
  • Turn off all social media.
  • Make sure you have everything you need for your session, so that when you click “start” on the timer you’re ready to go. Personally, I go to the bathroom and make sure I have anything I want to drink before I start my 25 minute session.
  • Let others know not to bother you. If possible, shut the door to your room. If you can’t get away from people, at least wear headphones to discourage anyone from talking to you.
  • If you have to stop, make sure it’s for a good reason. Then pause the timer and re-start it once you’re writing again. (The idea here is to really train yourself about the difference between “on” and “off” time when it comes to your writing.)
  • You can spend a few minutes thinking about what you’ll write before starting, but don’t get sucked into thinking or outlining for longer than 5 minutes. The goal of this exercise is to get yourself out of your head and force you to put words on the page more quickly. Don’t postpone starting the timer because you’re scared.
  • If you wrote as fast as you could and stayed as focused as possible but didn’t make your word goal, it’s okay! You are practicing, and the more you work at it the better you will get.
  • Also, if you try this a few times and it’s really not for you–maybe it’s too overwhelming, or stressful, or makes writing harder instead of easier for some reason–that’s totally fine, too! Don’t beat yourself up. There are lots of successful slow writers out there.

Hope this helps!