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Day 23: Write Fast

One of the tricks to winning at NaNoWriMo is to write fast. It is pretty essential if you are going to try to crank out 1,667 a day or more.

Calibrating your expectations of yourself is one key to writing fast. The goal here is to produce a first draft and it’s okay if that draft is shitty. In fact, as I discussed on Day 8, a shitty first draft is a great ideal to aim for.

Here are several ideas to help you write faster.

Write thin.

By this I mean don’t over-compose your sentences or strive to provide too much description. Worrying about the way that you express yourself can be better tackled in a subsequent draft. If a word eludes you try bracketing, as in [adjective]—meaning you will come back later and figure out an evocative adjective to add. This helps you to not obsess over word choice and to keep moving.

Don’t edit.

Don’t mix editing and writing together during November. When you read over what you’ve written, only do so for the purpose of orienting yourself. Resist the urge to edit. And don’t rewrite as you’re composing. Using a light grey font (or if you’re really brave a white one!) really helps.


Track your progress.

You’ll need to do this anyway for Nano. Each day you will enter your daily word count on the website. Recording your progress at each session can motivate you. You can get even more mileage if you…

Set deadlines and mini-challenges.

Word wars (aka word sprints) are a fun way to jam out the words. These are competitions to see who can write the most in a given time period.

Word wars can take place online or in person at write-ins. A write-in is a meet-up where folks get together to write and many feature word wars. Check your regional Nano chapter for local write-ins.

Every time you sit down to write, challenge yourself with a word target. Keep trying to outdo yourself.

Plan scenes in advance.

We’ve talked a lot about advance planning, so you should have, at minimum, an outline that tells you what you’ll write next. More detailed scene planning can speed up your composition time. This advice comes from Rachel Aaron, in her book 2,000 to 10,000, (and yes, apparently she can write 10,000 words a day!). She recommends writing full-blown scene sketches, especially for your more daunting scenes.

Learn what gets you into the flow.

Study your habits to figure what gets you in the flow, and then, obviously, seek to create those conditions.

End the day’s writing mid-scene.

Knowing what to write helps with speed. One way to keep momentum going is to end the day’s writing mid-scene. This may sound counter-intuitive, but the idea is that when you come back the next day you will have a good idea where you are headed and you won’t be staring at a blank page (unless of course, you’re writing in white font!)

Keep a list of things to research/resolve later.

Hopefully, you’ll be getting all your necessary research done in October. But if you encounter things that need further research, resist the urge to jump on Google. If you’re using Scrivener, you can jot notes to yourself in the Inspector panel under Project Notes. It’s well worth taking a moment to capture the research question or to note the issue—if you don’t, you’ll use mental energy trying to remember the point. So get it out of your mind by making note of it.

Use full-screen composition mode.

This will help you avoid the temptations of other apps. MS Word has an “Enter Full Screen” mode that appears in the View menu. Just press escape when you want to exit. Scrivener has two full-screen modes: “Enter Full Screen” mode which still gives you access to the Inspector and Binder panes and “Composition” mode which provides only the composition pane.

So, hopefully, these tips will speed your writing and help you to [verb] out your words in November. Let me know if you have other tips to speedy writing.

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Looking for more support? I coach writers on the Nano process and I’m currently offering a free planning session to help you get started. You can sign up here.

Table of contents for other articles in the series.

Be sure to also check out the 5 Epic Clues to NaNoWriMo Success webinar.

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