Friday, October 17, 2014

The Ultimate Way to Write Faster

I always take loads and loads of time writing. I know. This can be painstaking and downright frustrating sometimes, as personal deadlines have to be met and numerous story ideas float by while I'm busy working on another. It is therefore beneficial to be able to write more efficiently – in order to make these deadlines and move on to the editing process as well as new works. Of course I realized this, but how was I supposed to know how to successfully improve my writing speed without making the quality of my work suffer in return?

First, I examined all of the tips that had been fired at me earlier – how other writers told me they learned to improve their speed:
  1. Think about the beginning and end of the story in order to know where to start and where to lead your work (and thus do so with a sense of direction).
  2. Write a strong first chapter. There should be a hook, and the reader should be pulled in at once.
  3. Write without stopping. Don't look for specific words or names when they won't come to you immediately, and if there is anything missing, look it up later. Simply make a note of it or highlight the section to look back at it later (otherwise the workflow will be interrupted and slowed down). In other words, write the main draft and get everything on paper. Then go back for the details.

These techniques worked well for me, yet the writing still seemed to take an incredibly long time. When several months ago I tried something new, however, I noticed an amazing improvement regarding speed (and quality) of my work.

So what is this trick I am talking about? Well, it is the putting down of my story longhand. By pen and paper. No computer.
I say pen, as, personally, I prefer writing with pen to writing with pencil (because I have less of a tendency to rub things out and I have a smoother and more thought-out writing process).

This is why I believe it is beneficial to use longhand:
  1. No typos to go back to and fix along the way (like on a computer, on which every slight error is underlined with that infuriating red squiggle). If there are spelling errors, these will eventually come out (as most likely you'll be typing up the work later when it is all finished).
  2. More thought goes into what you're writing, as it is more difficult to go back and fix things up when writing by hand than when using a computer.
  3. According to the Journal of Pragmatics, computer writers make 80% of revisions in the first draft, but for longhand writers this is only 50%. Longhand writers have a more systematic approach to the re-reading and editing process (from beginning to end) while computer writers revise small chunks throughout (partly because of those earlier-mentioned red squiggles). Because of this, computer writers have a more fragmented writing process, resulting in more pauses throughout as well as a bigger tendency to get distracted and/or search (unnecessary?) things throughout the process.

As Karen Dionne said in her post The Secret to Writing Faster,
I’m not the first author to advocate writing by hand. But when I did walk away from the keyboard and literally take up the pen, the difference in my creative output was astounding. Instead of writing 2,500 words in a typical week, I consistently wrote between 3,000 and 5,000 words a DAY. Good words too, that didn’t require so much tweaking and polishing.

Or, as Niven Govinden stated precisely, 
There's a greater sense of space when using a pen. A lined notebook is less judgmental. But most importantly, I write in a more economical way. I think harder about one good sentence following another, which for me is all that matters.

Below are several comments I found on a Life Hacker post on the same topic. People are both for and against writing by hand, but their remarks certainly do cast some new insight into the issue!


I believe everyone has a different way to tackle the writing process and improve his or her own speed, and I cannot possibly predict which one way would fit you better than another. It really just depends on each individual person. I believe it helps to switch techniques once in a while to experiment and keep your brain operating to its fullest, and, on top of that, to write daily. Certainly give it a try!

Oh, and don't forget to leave your own comments and tips in the box below!

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