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Writing Efficiently

Oh how I wish I had more time to write, but I have to do what I can with the little time I manage to find. My average writing pace is 1ooo new words in an hour, I am happy with that, but I wondered if I could do better?

I started thinking about writing efficiency after reading a post on Magical Words about Writing Even Faster, and tips from Rachel Aaron on how she went from writing 2000 words a day to 10,000 words per day.

So, inspired by the latter post, I started tracking my writing in a spreadsheet and making notes on where I was writing, the time spent, and began experimenting with my writing time.

Here are a few things I tried out and discovered over the course of a week:

1) I usually outline each scene before I sit down to the keyboard. What I observed while watching the clock was that I would spend half an hour to an hour outlining, which is not efficient at all. The next time I sat down to outline, I set a time limit of 10 minutes. I realized there was a point where outlining ceased to be outlining and I was really writing each scene twice (once by hand, and once on the computer). By enforcing a time limit, I am able only to jot down the key points in a scene. However, these sparser outlines still serve their purpose. I know what I have to write so I don't need to stop until the scene is done. It also gives me creative freedom to connect the dots. I still am a panster at heart ;)

2) Tried writing at different times of day: mornings, afternoons and evenings. I didn't notice any difference in writing speed, which is a relief! I usually only am able to find time in the late evenings.

3) Tried writing with the internet on (I usually switch off the wireless). I ended up typing 500 words in an hour instead of 1000. I really need to keep the internet connection disabled when I'm writing. I get too distracted otherwise.

4) Tried taking a breaks between scenes and chunking my writing time. Some breaks were hours long and some were only minutes long. I noticed less back strain, and also found it easier to concentrate than when I'd sit for one long unbroken stretch. I ended up with a 4000 word afternoon doing this, and didn't feel too mentally exhausted by the end of it.

5) I space out. I'll be sitting at the keyboard and my mind starts drifting off to nowhere land. I didn't notice this until I started timing myself. I've been working on staying focused. I don't have to sit down as long if I stay focused, so I've been trying to stay aware and minimize it.

Result after 5 days of tracking and adjusting: My writing output has increased to 1600 words per hour. On my fastest writing session, I clocked in at 2000 words per hour. All of this, not because I'm typing any faster, but because I've cut out the dead time in my writing.

There are probably a few things anyone can do to write a little faster, no matter the writing process. Tracking my time was eye opening. I had no idea I wasted so much of it!

Do you have any tips for writing more efficiently? When do you find the time to write?

Printed from: http://www.tsbazelli.com/blog/2011/08/writing-efficiently/ .
© Copyright T.S. Bazelli 2010 2014.

20 Comments  

  • That's an interesting way of looking at it. I've been thinking a lot about how I can improve my own writing and time efficiency. So far, the best thing I've got is a deadline. By writing to a deadline, no matter how artificial, I hope to actually accomplish something in a reasonable time frame.

    I, too, space out sometimes. But I'm not sure it's unproductive time. Usually, when I space out, I'm turning over some ideas in my head. That helps me achieve some clarity about what I'm doing.

    Like you, almost all of my writing time is in the evenings. I don't really even have the flexibility to try out other times, right now.

    • Yeah some spacing out time can be productive - mine really isn't (while I'm writing). It's usually me finding a sudden fascination for the pattern of the carpet, discovering my finger nails are too long, or listening to the TV in the other room. LOL I'm just easily distracted, I guess.

      Deadlines are good! I like having something to aim for/work towards. It keeps me on task and accountable I think.

  • Tiyana says:

    I am definitely not the most efficient writer, haha.

    Though, I can say that the more I've prepared myself for writing a scene as far as mood, inspiration and/or research go and the clearer my vision for what I'd like to see on the page is before going in, then the smoother the writing process seems to go, less interruptions. (Though, sometimes this may be hard to gauge until I'm in the middle of writing and realize, "Oh man, this aspect could actually use some more work/development.") Otherwise, I get endlessly distracted by shaky or weak details and ideas that I suddenly feel the need to ponder on or research further.

    And I think the more meticulous a writer you are, the easier it is to get mired down by this kind of thing because you want to analyze everything from every angle, lol. Leave no stone unturned, so to speak.

    That's the major challenge for me at this point, as I push through edits.

    • Edits always take longer for me than the drafting ;) I wish I knew a way of making that more efficient, but its hard enough to do as it is. hehe.

  • Rachel Aaron says:

    Wow, I'm so glad my post helped! I really love writing fast and seeing that I helped someone pick up their own words per hour just makes my day! So happy for you :D

    - Rachel

    • Thanks for dropping by Rachel! It was a great post, with some very practical advice ;) I'm surprised at the difference this has made. Thank you for writing it!

  • I don't track word count (well, I've started to keep a rough count ever since I realized my second novel was over 170,000 words -- I do think it's important to keep from going completely out of control), but I do try to maximize the writing time I have.

    Right now, I'm doing a second draft that's a complete rewrite (different POV), so I'm mostly writing but I'm also scavenging from the first draft. So, it's not just sitting and writing, there's also chopping and slicing and reorganizing and discarding (and then undiscarding), and that's hard to quantify.

    • Kristan says:

      Ditto. I try not to focus on word count, because doing that often keeps me from fully immersing in the story. Instead I try to sit down at roughly the same time every day, and put in a solid 2-4 hours, and work toward the best. I usually find my word count to be satisfactory (which, for me, is only like 500 words per hour).

      • I have a feeling your first drafts are a lot more polished than mine! They're a mess, and I know I'll have to put a lot of time into the editing after the fact.

    • I only count words in a first draft. When it comes to rewrites and edits, I have no idea how to measure progress. It is very difficult to quantify all that work.

  • Great tips on being more effective. Thanks for sharing!

    Oh: OUTLINES are a must. Great for organizing complex thoughts as well.

    • Yes! Even if it's just organizing the flow of what happens in a scene. They make things go so much smoother. Thanks for reading Ollin!

  • Dang! I'm jealous of how many words you've been writing an hour...I need to pull myself away from the evil internet! Glad to have found your blog! :)

  • J. P. Cabit says:

    One of my big timesucks is opening past works and re-reading — whether it be just for fun or under the farce of "I'm trying to get inspired." We can all see past that though, ;)

    But you're right, the internet is a timesuck! And Google is the writer's BFF/WEE (worst enemy ever), BFF when you're doing research, WEE when you're wondering what the latest dirt on Prince Harry is…

    My tip is not to let yourself get distracted. I know this sounds obvious but what can start as a simple checkup on your blog stats can end up as…British Royalty stalking. :D

    • I have to make myself not re-read while doing a first draft, or I'll never get anything done. A royal watcher are you? LOL

      • J. P. Cabit says:

        He he, you might call it a tiny obsession. :) I watched bits & pieces of Will & Kate's wedding, even considered hanging up a W♔K poster…

  • Aidan Fritz says:

    I think I mentioned this before, but I dictate all of my writing. Having internet or not attached doesn't seem to make much of a difference for me, but I think it is because I'm dictating and that makes it more difficult to branch away from that task. (And, I tend to browse internet on my iPad instead of on my writing computer).

    • Yes I think you did mention that! I don't know if I could do it, but maybe one of these days I'll give it a try just to see how it feels.

      • Aidan Fritz says:

        Be warned, it is a little like switching to a dvorak keyboard: initially, you might be less productive (I know I was... but then I hadn't been writing long at that point, so it was a good time to take the time to get used to creating via voice).

        However, I'm a lot more creative now than I would be typing but that is because I can't work my normal job requiring frequent typing and my writing job without getting RSI.

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