Last updated on February 9, 2021
If you can ask any aspiring or any writer for that matter, what they would like more than anything? The answer you are likely to get is – “Write more!”
The best way to pump out more material is to work on improving your writing speed. In previous articles we discussed ways to do this using left and right brain writing techniques. There is however another method that is more long-term oriented. We will discuss this method here.
In today’s article we will be focusing on goal setting and encouraging progressive speed building. An athlete working to break the 4 minute mile doesn’t expect to meet that goal overnight. It requires steadily pushing yourself over time. Eventually by keeping up with your training you do reach your ultimate goal.
The following is an exercise that you should adopt and continue to adopt throughout your writing career.
STEP 1: Track Your Progress
The first thing you will need to do is decide on a medium to track your progress. I use a simple EXCEL spreadsheet, but you can use a Word document or even a simple paper and pen.
In my case my spreadsheet consists of a single column for Date, one for Words Written and a third for Time. There is also an important forth column that I use to calculate words per minute. Finally there is a critical fifth column which we will discuss below.
STEP 2: Take That First Step
Once you’ve decided on your tracking preference, start (today) by setting a 30 minute writing spree. The aim of the exercise is to:
- Write for that 30 minute time slot. Set an alarm to ping you when your time is up
- Make your first entry to your writing time journal. Enter the date and then the word count of your writing session. Next, input the time (30 minutes). And lastly device the number of words by the time (in minutes). So if you wrote 500 words in 30 minutes your writing speed will be: 16.7 words/minute.
Things to consider:
- When doing this exercise it is important to keep writing no matter what. NEVER, go back and edit. Editing should be an exercise for a different session.
- Start with 30 minutes. You can (and should) continue to write longer but for the sake of this exercise the point is to measure your speed at any given time.
- The fifth column: This last column is a “Notes” field. Here you will write down information that you believe had an impact on your writing speed. For instance, you can write down:
“I wrote for 30 minutes. Felt good”
“Ten minutes into this exercise my phone rang.”
You may also want to include a sixth column or more that captures some of the following information:
- Time of Day
- Hours of sleep during previous night
- Day of the week
STEP 3: Repeat This Exercise Each Day
Continue doing this exercise each day. For at least several weeks. Each time you do so you should plan on pushing yourself “just a little more”. Try to break your record – but don’t worry if you don’t!
STEP 4: Analyze the Data
The overall speed chart. This step works best if you are in Excel. It requires that you chart your writing speed over time. If you do this correctly you should see a gradually improving slope to your graph. The take home message here is that this EXERCISE REALLY DOES WORK!
The second analysis requires that you look at the data on a more local level. Note, that this process works best if you have a few weeks under your belt. The objective here is to identify specific writing sessions that significantly improved or negatively impacted your writing speed. For instance, you may find that:
- I wrote fast today! Had 8 hours sleep last night.
- Nailed it. Skipped breakfast and got straight to writing.
- Blew it. Dog was barking….couldn’t get in the swing of things.
- Broke my speed record. Changed writing routine time from morning to night.
STEP 5: Make Adjustments
After collectively analyzing what works and what doesn’t the next step is to use this feedback to improve your writing speed.
For instance, if your dog’s barking keeps breaking your train of thought, see if a family member could babysit while you write. Does your phone ringing impact your writing? Turn off the ringer.
STEP 6: Continue
Continuing this exercise will boost your overall writing confidence and ultimately your writing speed.
As you continue you may want to experiment with time. For instance, if you find you can write continuously for one or more hours in a sitting, change the 30 minutes to that time. It will ultimately give you a more accurate rate of your overall writing speed. Remember to analyze whether adjusting your time variable has a negative or positive effect on your overall writing speed. You may find that you write best in spurts of 10 minutes. If this is the case you may want to adjust your overall writing sessions to several 10 minute spurts over the course of the day.
If you have any other tips feel free to post them here.