How to Write More Words in an Hour
Fast drafting has many benefits beyond the obvious — getting more words on the page. When you're starting out, you don't have unlimited time to write. You have to fit it around your job and other responsibilities in your life. Being more efficient will help you progress as a writer much faster. This compounds over time and can make a huge difference to your career.
A common misconception is that you have to sacrifice quality to write faster. Manufacturing works that way, but your brain isn't an assembly line. You'll be hard-pressed to find any notable difference between your slow and fast first drafts. If you're prone to overthinking, writing faster may lead to higher-quality work over time.
In this post, you'll find 11 strategies that will help you write more words per hour.
Let's get started!
Before You Start Writing
How well you prepare determines, to a large degree, how fast you'll be able to write. Here are three things you can do to set yourself up for success before starting your writing session.
1. Improve Your Ability to Focus
Writing requires intense focus for extended periods. The better you can focus, the faster you'll be able to write.
Various studies link social media with shortening attention spans. While that may be true, the real issue is that people spend more time with the algorithm and less time focusing.
Balance your time on social media with activities that enhance your ability to focus. Read more books. Meditate. Get enough sleep and take care of your body.
Over time, your ability to focus will increase, which will make writing easier and let you work faster.
2. Check Your Writing Environment
Where you are impacts your ability to focus and, by extension, how fast you can breeze through the first draft.
You may think that there's something wrong with you because you're struggling to focus. In reality, you might be just overstimulated by the environment around you.
Before you start writing, ensure you're in an environment where intense focus is possible. Remove as many distractions as you can. Put your phone in your bag or leave it in another room. Don't have a hundred tabs open in your browser. Close everything except your writing app and any materials you'll be referring to during the session. Use a website blocker to prevent you from accessing social media.
If you're struggling to focus where you are, move somewhere where you won't be bothered. Work from a library or a coffee shop.
3. Plan Ahead
Writing is the process of figuring out what you want to say and communicating those ideas effectively. You can do both at once, but it won't be nearly as efficient as when you plan ahead.
Do all the necessary research and think through what you want to say before you start your writing session. Coming up with ideas and considering different arguments requires a different state of mind than you need to write fast.
For some, jotting down a few notes is enough. Other writers prepare extensive outlines. The goal is to already know what you want to say when you start writing the first draft.
When you plan ahead, you're breaking down the writing process into two parts. You focus on the creative part — the art — at the outlining stage. When you start writing, you'll be free to focus on the craft.
You'll be able to work significantly faster compared to trying to do both at the same time.
During Your Writing Sessions
You're well prepared and in a distraction-free environment. It's time to start writing the first draft. Here are four ways to make your writing session as efficient as possible.
1. Write with a Timer
Setting a timer while you write is an old trick many writers swear by. As soon as the timer is on, you cannot do anything else but write until it rings. Take a quick break and set the timer again.
It's a variation of the pomodoro technique. The clock is a ticking reminder that time is limited. Constraints like this make it easier for your mind to focus and reach the flow state. You lose track of time and become engrossed in your work.
If you're struggling to focus for longer periods, start by setting the timer to 15 minutes. Take a break when it rings. Then begin another short session.
Start a new session immediately if you're procrastinating when the timer rings. That way, you won't waste away hours at a time.
You'll be able to increase the length of each session over time to 30, 60 and even 90 minutes.
Any timer will work for this — an old-fashioned kitchen timer or the one on your phone.
Looking for something more advanced? Try the Forest App. The app will start growing a little tree when you set the timer. Exit the app before time is up, and the tree will die.
Writing Analytics comes with a built-in timer. You can set a time goal for each writing session and be notified when the time is up.
2. Skip Paragraphs or Even Whole Chapters
Occasionally, you'll run into something you don't know or can't quite figure out. Maybe you need to do more research or brainstorm additional ideas to make the right decision. As tempting as it may be to go down the rabbit hole and solve the issue immediately, it will slow you down.
Instead, leave a note in the draft and skip to the next section. Jumping back and forth between different ideas or researching while writing the first draft is very inefficient. It will exhaust you much faster.
Imagine going for a run and stopping for a minute every few hundred metres. Getting your body moving again after each stop won't feel great.
When you're writing, it's vital to keep the momentum going.
3. Don't Edit While You Write
Like many writers, you may be going back to rewrite what you already wrote. Editing while writing is another habit that slows you down. On top of that, the paragraph you're rewording three times over may not make it into the final draft.
Much like coming up with new ideas, editing requires a different state of mind than what you need to write fast. Switching between these will kill your momentum. Because you can't fully immerse yourself in either activity, both will be more difficult.
To write as fast as possible, resist the temptation to fix things. Leave the editing to the very end.
It may take a lot of effort to break this habit. That's why we built the editing lock into Writing Analytics.
When enabled, the app won't let you delete any words you already wrote. You can still reformat the draft and keep adding words. The editing lock is a backstop to help you to stay focused on moving forward.
4. Set a Deadline for Each Writing Session
Here's an underrated productivity hack: decide when you'll stop writing and stick to it.
Writing is a demanding activity. Getting started can be a challenge when you're not feeling it that day.
By setting a clear deadline for each session, you'll know exactly what you're signing up for. It's much easier to start when you know when the suffering will end. Get it done, and you'll be free to relax or do something else.
Deadlines also create a sense of urgency. Long, unstructured periods of writing time can paradoxically lead to lower productivity. There's plenty of time left until there isn't. Before you know it, you've wasted an entire day.
Increasing the number of words you can write in an hour only makes sense if you can keep it up over the long term. Writing is a marathon, not a sprint, after all.
Here are four more things to consider to make your productivity gains last beyond the first few weeks.
1. Build Momentum
Writing is a lot like training for a marathon. The first time you put your running shoes on and go out, it will be painful. You may be able to finish a mile, perhaps two. Running a distance of 26 miles will seem completely insane. No wonder the messenger that raced from Marathon to Athens collapsed and died after he delivered the news of the Greek triumph over the Persian invaders.
If you stick to it and train regularly, you'll get to three, then five miles. Six months later, you will be crossing the finish line of the 26-mile race.
The more you write, the easier it will become and the faster you'll be. You'll strengthen your "writing muscle" and reach levels you never thought possible.
When you stop writing for a while, your body will adjust again, and you will have to work to get in shape again.
Building and maintaining momentum is crucial.
2. Stay Accountable
Accountability isn't an issue when you feel motivated and are making good progress. This can work for some time, but it won't last forever. You will hit the wall on any project at some point. When it happens, you'll need as much support as possible to keep going.
Writers rarely have enough natural accountability for their projects. Unless you're on a deadline from a publisher, nothing will happen when you stop working on your book. Nobody will know.
Setting up an accountability system early on while you're still motivated is vital. It gives you something to fall back on when you don't feel like writing. This may include tracking your time or daily word count, setting goals or joining challenges. You may also benefit from joining a writing group.
This post covers accountability for writers in more detail.
3. Don't Compare Yourself to Others
Every writer has a slightly different process. Comparing your productivity to writers won't give you any useful information. You'll be comparing apples and oranges. If you come short, it may leave you feeling discouraged.
Besides, writers who post their daily word counts on social media do this on their best days. It's a highlight reel. This may give you the false impression that you're somehow one of the slowest writers out there.
Being efficient doesn't mean hitting a certain number of words per hour. It means working to the very best of your ability. The only worthy comparison is to your past performance to see how far you've come.
If you track your writing with Writing Analytics, you can pull up figures from any past month or year. You'll also see the overall trend on the activity chart.
This makes seeing how you improved super easy.
4. Keep Experimenting
Increasing your productivity as a writer is a journey, not a destination. As your lifestyle changes over the years, your writing habit will have to evolve with it.
Writing first thing in the morning may no longer be suitable after you get promoted at work or have kids. Some tools will become redundant after a while. You may need new tools and habits to address new issues that will inevitably arise.
New writing tools pop up all the time — from dictation software to AI assistants. Experiment with these and see what they do for your productivity.
Fast, prolific writers who maintain healthy writing habits over years or decades can do so because they take care of them. They make their writing process a priority and treat it with appropriate respect.
Writing has a steep learning curve as it is. Working on your speed may seem excessive when you have all these things to learn. Writing scenes, developing characters, pacing your narrative, creating suspense — the list goes on and on.
However, becoming an efficient writer early on will compound everything you learn elsewhere. You'll be able to work on more projects and try more things.
Although the improvements may seem inconsequential, they will compound over time. They can become the difference between a published author and a writer with a folder of unfinished manuscripts on their laptop.
Put these principles into practice. Soon, you'll be wondering how you could've worked without them.