Long ago, when I was an elementary school teacher, I used to write a book in one month. I worked at a year-round school which meant we worked three months and had one month off. During the month off, I wrote a novel, then I spent the next three months editing and rewriting. This allowed me to write quickly and produce two to three books a year.
But two things happened. The first was that I changed from writing relatively short romances to larger, more plot complex women’s fiction books. The second change was that I stopped teaching to raise my kids and my schedule became erratic.
At that point, I started writing one book a year.
Then when I started self-publishing and teaching courses outside of the university as well as teaching business writing and communication at the college, and adding more and more to my schedule, I moved to writing a book once every two or three years. This is not good.
So, I’d like to share what I’ve learned about productivity and writing quickly because I’ve been analyzing this for myself and I figured other writers could benefit from this too.
Write with the Door Closed
If you’ve read Steven King’s On Writing, he advises to write with the door closed and revise or edit with the door open. What he means is that as you write, do not let the outside world weigh in and disturb the flow of your writing. Don’t think of what critics will say, just write and focus on the story. Then after the story is finished and it’s time to edit, invite the critics (metaphorically) in and make changes to the novel.
I’m going to advise you to literally write with the door closed. You will write faster, and you’ll be more focused if you find a place to write where you will not be disturbed. Find a room in your house where you can close the door and isolate yourself for the rest of the family
The reason I was able to write a whole book in one month was because I had no other responsibilities. I didn’t have children. I was off-track from the school, so I didn’t have papers to grade or lesson plans to write. I had no distractions! This was even before the days of the Internet, so I didn’t have notifications going off every ten minutes. It was just me and my story.
Now, that isn’t my reality anymore and it probably isn’t your reality either. Still, when it’s time to write, close your door or escape — go find a park bench or a coffee shop and do nothing but write during the hours you have set aside to write. Turn your phone off. Do not go on the Internet. Just write.
Block Out Noise with Music
Music can help you write faster for a couple of reasons.
First it will block out distractions. Even with the door closed, you might still hear your children screeching in the living room, or your teenager’s own loud music, or the dog barking at the gardener. It’s difficult to concentrate when so much is going on around you and you might be tempted to step out of your room with the closed door and intervene. Just block out the noise.
Second, music can be inspiring. Choose the type of music for the mood of the scenes you’re writing. I sometimes like instrumental or music with no words, but other times, rock or emotional country music works for me. It depends on the mood I want to be in. And when listening to music I like, I tend to write faster and get deeper into my story.
Put Other Ideas on Hold
You might find that as you’re writing your novel, you have ideas for other great novels. And you might get super excited about pursuing those ideas. You don’t want to lose the inspiration for the new story, right? Well, resist this completely.
Write down the idea and put it aside. You will get to that idea when it’s time to write the next book. And if you write and finish your current book in a month or six months or a year, perfect! When you finish your current story, you’ll explore the new ideas and see which ones were really good ones.
Often, we get tired of our story and any new ideas seems like it has merit. When we read it months later, we’ll see that it wasn’t that great of an idea after all. But if it really was a great story idea, wonderful, then you can begin to write your next book.
To write fast, you have to be super focused. You can’t afford to be distracted by anything that doesn’t have to do with your current book. This includes other story ideas.
Prioritize the Book
When I wrote a book in a month, I prioritized the book I was writing. I used that time at home to work at writing as if it was my full-time job. And it was my full-time job for that month because I chose to be a writer and I wanted it to be my job.
I turned down vacations (actually one of the off-track months I did go on vacation otherwise my husband would have divorced me — probably not because he’s a nice guy, but my relationship was a top priority too). I turned down evenings with family and friends. I didn’t spend my day watching movies.
I wrote eight to ten hours a day. I did this because I knew I was on a deadline. At the end of the month, I would have to return to my teaching job, and it would occupy most of my time. So, I had to get the book done. This ticking clock works wonders for productivity. Use that when you write too. Why do you have to get the book done by a certain date?
Sometimes it’s not easy to turn down things or opportunities that come your way, but if you’re serious about getting your book finished, you have to do this, especially if you don’t have 8 to 10 hours to write. The few precious hours that you do have, writing has to be the priority.
Give Yourself a Deadline
As I just mentioned, I had a deadline. I needed to be finished at the end of the month, so this gave me the motivation to sit my bottom on the chair and write.
Give yourself a timeline. Finish before summer break so you can spend time with your kids when they’re not in school. Or finish before Christmas to give yourself the gift of an accomplished dream.
Deadlines work to keep us focused and they give us a goal to work for.
Write All the Time
Write even when you’re not writing. You’re thinking I’ve really gone crazy and am obsessed and you do not want to be like me. Really, I’m not that obsessed. Maybe I used to be, but I want to get back to the days when I was a more productive and prolific writer. And these things worked.
What I used to do was keep my story in my mind continuously. I kept a notebook with me and if I was out and thought of something that would work for a scene, I’d write it down so that when I got home, I could jump into my story and write it.
When you are in the heat of writing a story, your characters are always present, and they should be. So, take advantage of how your mind works and that part of you is still in the story world. When ideas about your story come to you, capture those thoughts.
I read lots of productivity books, mostly written for business professionals, and some of those ideas apply to writers also like keeping a schedule and planning and being consistent. But we need some productivity ideas just for writers to help us to write better and write faster.
When I evaluate the period in my life when I was the most effective, it was because I focused, I didn’t allow distractions to come between me and my story, I wrote every day, and I was committed to finishing my book by a certain date. This allowed me to write quickly. I plan to do this again and release a book this year and another one next year. What about you?
Have a story to tell? Want to learn how to record personal experiences before they’re lost or write a novel? Let started by downloading for free Julia Amante’s “Free Your Story” framework.