I just finished reading Chris Fox’s book 5,000 Words per Hour. It’s a quick Kindle read. I’m writing this post as a writing “sprint,” which is the main way he advocates as a way to increase your writing speed.
I’m familiar with the idea of doing “sprints” and have basically worked myself into a groove of doing a version of them — when I’m in the writing phase of a book, anyway. (I spend a lot of time planning first, so that I don’t have to make any decisions while I’m sprinting, because that’s one of the things that trips me up.) But I’ve generally done sprints of an hour long and get dangerously caught up in moving too slow and thinking too much and letting other things distract me.
Fox advocates starting with five minute sprints. This is a great idea because it gets you going in a timeframe that’s super easy to deal with. Everybody has five minutes to sit down and let words flow across the page! I can see this being helpful for anybody who’s trying to become a better and/or faster writer. You plan out a little bit about what you’re going to write about, then you set the timer, and go.
He recommends doing five minute sprints, then ten minutes, then up to thirty minutes, which he says is his ideal sprint. I tried a twenty minute one myself after doing three five-minute ones in a row, and my word count slowed quite a bit, mainly because I didn’t do much planning beforehand and ended up writing all the way through the scene I was working on in the first ten minutes or so of my twenty minute sprint. But the best part about all of it is that I wrote 1500 words in about thirty-five minutes overall. That’s insane!
OK, so that’s fast, and that’s great, and working this way definitely builds momentum, which is also great. Plus you don’t have time to think, so there’s no time to edit or second guess yourself, which is also great. But the question for me is, how do you sustain it? That’s been the biggest trick for me in the past. I can have a one-off amazing writing day, where I do 4,000 words, but the next day I crash hard and can usually get barely 1,000, if that. So the interesting thing for me will be seeing if this is something that I can keep making work.
Another thing that’s interesting so far is seeing the difference between my sprint word counts for a blog post versus mys print word counts for fiction. This is the first blog post sprint I’ve done, and I’m much faster than with fiction. Somehow with fiction I get bogged down and feel less free to just write the words down. Maybe there’s something there I can work on? Interesting, at the very least. (My WPH for this sprint ended up being 3606 … that’s assuming I could keep up the same pace that I kept for 9 minutes for as long as an hour. That’s so hard to imagine.)
I also like that he addresses the idea that writing fast means writing crap. Because the truth is that the more you write, the better you’ll get. You’ll always need editing, of course, but the best way to start developing more of a basic ear for how words sound on the page is by writing lots and lots of them. The more words you write, the better chance you have of writing something good. If writing faster gets me writing more, I’m all for it.
Fox, like every damn other person who writes about productivity, recommends a) getting up early (ugh) and b) doing the hard thing (your writing) first (also ugh). Neither of those things have worked for me in the past. I HATE getting up early. I KNOW it impacts my productivity positively when I do it, and I still hate it. When my brain’s still half-asleep I have zero willpower, and if I don’t have a threat of being fired hanging over my head, it’s super hard for me to roll out of bed before 9:30 am at best.
And starting my day with writing has never worked, either. My brain’s still asleep!
So I’m not sure all the advice here is useful, but being that it’s a $2.99 Kindle ebook, I’m going to go ahead and recommend it for its other positives. I mean, after all, I’ve already done 1500 words today, and I’m sitting her right now doing another 600, so that counts for a lot. If you want to become a faster writer, consider checking out Chris Fox’s 5,000 Words Per Hour.