As writers, one of our most precious resources is time. Using a computer can significantly improve your writing speed over handwriting, but what if you’re a slow typer or prone to distractions? Or maybe you’re constantly rereading and editing your writing while you’re getting words down?
Maybe you haven’t been hitting your deadlines, you have a release date coming up, or you want to get more words down each day and need to increase your output. Luckily, there are things you can do to help you boost your writing speed and up your daily quota. If you’d like to produce more writing and do it faster, then check out our five tips to help boost your writing speed.
Increase Your Typing Speed
Computers have sped up our ability to get words down, but if you’re a slow typer, the first thing you’ll want to do to boost your writing speed is to increase your typing speed. Ideally, you’ll want to be able to type at least 60 WPM. There are many typing speed tests on the internet that you can use to find out how fast you currently type, including:
- Typingtest.com: Offers 1 minute, 3 minute, and 5 minute tests and will show your typing speed, number of mistyped words, and adjusted speed accounting for errors.
- Speedtypingonline.com: Offers tests from 30 seconds up to 20 minutes and shows your total entries, correct entries, incorrect entries, error rate, raw speed, and key speed.
- Thetypingcat.com: Offers 1 minute, 3 minute, and 5 minute tests and will show your words per minute and ranking over 24 hours against other users on the site.
If your typing speed is on the lower end, there are a few steps you can take to start improving. When typing, be sure to use proper hand placement, which will speed up your typing. Don’t look at the keyboard. As you work on increasing your typing speed, you’ll get a feel, literally, for where each key is and be able to type unconsciously and close your eyes while you type. Remember, all things come with practice.
Check out some of these free typing tutor tools to help increase your speed:
- Touchtypingtutor.net: Offers free tutorials from beginner to advanced levels.
- Typingclub.com: Offers free tutorials that take you from each row of the keyboard through basic and up to advanced tutorial levels. As a fun bonus, this site displays stars and ratings after each level completed.
Alternatively, speech-to-text software allows you to dictate your words to the computer and can be a faster alternative if you’re a slow typer. To increase your typing speed, first, check your current speed, and then use one or more typing tutor tools to help improve your speed.
Minimize or Eliminate Distractions
Distractions are all around us nowadays. You can watch almost any show or movie you want at any time. Your Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter feeds are full of funny memes, and clickbait news meant to pull your attention, and your inbox keeps getting fuller. It’s easy to fall into the trap of scrolling for “just a minute” or to feel the need to empty your inbox right this moment, but if you let yourself give in while you’re trying to write then your productivity will suffer.
So how do you minimize the distractions that are all around you so that you can improve your writing speed? One thing you can do is to set up a dedicated writing space or office. This is a place where you will not be disturbed while writing. Keep your door closed and a sign on it that lets the rest of the household know you’re not to be interrupted during writing time. If you don’t have a space in your home, try a library or a low-volume place like a cafe during off-hours, as long as you aren’t getting up every few minutes for more coffee.
It’s also important to keep the noise level down, and while some people swear by writing with background noise, most of us can’t focus well with noise. Try turning off the music and Netflix for an hour while writing and see how your output improves. If you must listen to music, try listening to classical music, or atmospheric music that doesn’t involve lyrics. If you’re writing horror, try some haunting music, or for fantasy, try listening to epic scores, anything that doesn’t have lyrics and takes you out of writing and into the song.
Now that some of your distractions have been limited, it’s time to talk about distracting websites. Even if you have a quiet space and have turned off the TV, it can be easy to lose time on social media or other websites. Thankfully, there are plug-ins and programs that can help block those out for you.
- Cold Turkey – getcoldturkey.com: is a downloadable app that blocks websites, games, and applications and doesn’t allow you to turn back during a block session (unless you turn off the locking feature). It’s up to you what you want to block and for how long.
- Strict Workflow: is a Chrome browser plug-in that uses the Pomodoro Technique of working in bursts, and blocks distracting websites. You can find it in the Chrome web store.
If that still doesn’t work and you find yourself turning off the blockers, try writing offline, just make sure you’ve done your research first! Without those pesky distractions, you’ll find your output increases as you’re able to put more focus on your writing.
Outline Ahead of Time
Outlining can help you get a clear idea of where you’re going, the high-level points that you need to flesh out, and can help you to stay focused. All of which will help boost your overall writing speed. If you’re writing a blog post, brainstorm your headlines and jot them down and then arrange them in an order that feels logical. If you’re writing something longer, like a novella or a novel, start by outlining your story arc and then move on to the individual beats.
No matter what you’re working on, it needs a structure to keep it together. This structure will help guide your writing. You can use bullet points, numbered lists, a short paragraph, or some notes written on a plot curve. Using one of these outlining methods will help keep you focused on the areas you need to elaborate on.
If you’re someone who likes to jump around, then having your main points plotted out will allow you to jump around without getting lost on tangents. This is especially true in blog post writing, where you can usually jump from section to section so long as you have your points plotted out. If you’re writing a novel, you can use your outline to write the ending and beginning and fill in the remaining areas, which can be useful if you find yourself getting stuck.
Doing this pre-writing work will help you focus on the parts that matter, keep you from going off on tangents, and improve your overall output.
Save Editing for After the First Draft
While it can be tempting to edit as you work you should try to avoid the temptation! While it may seem counterintuitive, editing as you write can make the whole process take longer. Editing sections after you’ve written them will break your flow, slowing down your overall writing speed.
When you’re going from writing to editing and back to writing, you’re switching tasks. Task switching slows down your focus as your brain switches between different things, thereby killing your momentum and making you start anew each time you go back to writing.
This also means no rereading what you write as you’re getting it down. To keep yourself from editing as you write, turn off spell-checkers and grammar checkers while you are writing your first draft. Those red lines and notes will pull you out of writing mode and straight into editing mode when you see something that needs fixing.
Your writing doesn’t have to be perfect. The key is to get the words down and keep momentum. Your goal in boosting your writing speed is to get as much writing done as you can, then you can come back and edit afterward. You’ll also do your best editing when you’re able to be objective and read the whole draft. Coming back after having written your piece gives you a fresh set of eyes, ready to catch mistakes, and put your perfectionism hat on.
As you’re writing, you’ll also build confidence, which will make writing easier and faster! While your confidence grows over time, you’ll likely see your editing mistakes decrease, and the whole process will become faster over time.
Give Yourself a Deadline
Without a deadline, it can be easy to let something sit for days, or weeks, or months so that there’s no pressing need to get it done. Setting a deadline sets an expectation that you will get the work done, and if you don’t, people tend to notice. So make sure to have some accountability partners or announce a release date. You’ll find that you’re more eager to get your writing done on time.
If we give ourselves too much room to do something then it ends up taking longer to do, as it will grow to fit the space we give it. It can be easy to procrastinate and put off your writing if you don’t feel there’s any urgency; setting a deadline can help you focus and get it written and done.
If you’re writing a novel, making a specific word per day or week commitment can help you stick to daily commitments while working towards a release date or later deadline. A good rule of thumb for creating a self-imposed deadline is to set the minimum amount of time you think you’ll need to get it done, and then stick to it.
Next time you start a writing session, try out some of the tips to boost your writing speed, and you’ll start seeing your output increase over time.