Books take a long time to write.
If you start getting bogged down, they can end up taking forever. Literally—because you’ll stop writing altogether.
But just because publishing a book can take a long time, it doesn’t mean the writing itself has to go slow.
In fact, it shouldn’t. You should move steadily through your writing sessions.
When you move steadily through the writing process, you won’t get bogged down by writers’ block, research, or any of the other common problems that can stand in a writer’s way.
Which means you’ll be able to write your book in no time.
But if you skip a step, things will go slower in the long run.
In this article, I’ll show you how to write faster—in 8 easy steps.
8 Ways to Write Faster
1. Properly Position Your Book in the Market
Want a guaranteed way to get stuck? Start writing without a clear idea of what your book is about.
It’s like trying to follow a recipe without even knowing whether you have the ingredients in the cupboard. It’s not going to end well, and you’ll waste time when you have to make a grocery run mid-cooking.
If you don’t want to go down a lot of aimless rabbit holes while you’re writing, you have to be clear on your idea from the get-go.
Writing a book isn’t just about putting your thoughts on paper. It’s about serving a reader and meeting their needs. Every good book has to be properly positioned.
What does that mean? Quite simply, answering these 3 questions:
- Why are you writing your book?
- Who is it for?
- Why will they care?
When you know the answers to these questions, you’ll be able to write a lot faster.
You’ll have a clearer idea of what to say to your audience and how to solve their problems. That will keep your writing focused. It will also keep you from getting writer’s block down the line.
To save even more time, try to be as specific as possible with your answers to these 3 questions.
For example, you’ll save yourself a lot of time if you know who your target audience is. And here’s a hint: it’s not “everyone.”
Authors frequently make the mistake of thinking their audience is larger than it really is.
In fact, the most successful books are actually written with a specific niche audience in mind.
That’s true even of the biggest bestsellers.
Know your audience inside out. Will they be familiar with industry lingo? What kind of tone will resonate with them? Are they more convinced by stories or data?
Having answers to those specific questions will help your ideas flow faster. You won’t have to stop and wonder, Will my audience already know this? Will this be valuable information to them?
Positioning can sometimes be the hardest part of a book, but it significantly reduces your writing time because you won’t have to constantly second-guess yourself.
2. Write a Solid Outline
Some writers just put pen to paper and hope for the best. Then, they spend months in the editing phase, trying to make sense out of the chaos.
Don’t do that. You’ll save yourself an immense amount of time if you create a solid outline before you start writing.
The outline will help you break your book into chapters and sections. This makes the project a lot easier to tackle.
You won’t waste time trying to organize random material, writing stuff you later discard or having to add new sections later on.
Having an outline means you’ll already know what you want to say, who you’re saying it to, and how you’re going to say it.
Then, you just have to say it.
A great outline includes a full table of contents, broken into chapters. It also includes the loose structure for each chapter:
- A hook: a personal story, anecdote, or question to grab the reader’s attention.
- A thesis: what’s going to be taught or discussed in the chapter
- Supporting content: the main points, key ideas, evidence, and content to back up your argument. This doesn’t have to be too in-depth, but it should be thorough enough to give yourself a clear sense of what you’re going to include.
- Stories and examples: the specific and relevant stories that will make your information memorable.
- The key takeaway: the main point you want the reader to remember
- Callback and segue: most books tie the end of the chapter back to its hook and then segue to the beginning of the next.
If you want to save even more writing time, use this book outline template to quickly corral all the information you need.
3. Create a Writing Plan
You shouldn’t just wait to write until inspiration strikes. If you do, you’ll fail. Inspiration isn’t reliable—and some people never have that lightning bolt moment.
The key to successfully finishing your book has nothing to do with inspiration and everything to do with discipline. And that discipline starts with a writing plan.
A writing plan is different from an outline. An outline tells you what you’re going to write. A writing plan tells you when you’re going to write.
Everyone’s writing plan will be different. Some people are night owls, while others prefer a different time of day. Some people have tons of time to work on their books, while others need to fit writing into tiny windows.
No matter what your plan looks like, you need one if you want to improve your writing speed.
Here’s a simple 5-step formula for developing a writing plan:
- Schedule a consistent time and place to write.
- Set specific writing goals.
- Build deadlines
- Announce the book and hold yourself accountable
- Keep yourself accountable throughout the whole writing process
Developing a writing habit will give you the structure you need to complete your long-term book project (in a shorter amount of time).
If you’re still struggling to find writing time, here are some more tips for committing to your plan.
4. Tackle It in Small Pieces
When you stare at the project as a whole, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. You’ll take less time each day if you know exactly how much you have to write that specific day.
I recommend having a word count goal. Every day you must write 250 words.
Why 250? That’s roughly the number of words that fit on a printed page in a book.
A page per day may seem like a low goal.
But a low goal is a great place to start. You won’t feel intimidated by the amount of time writing will take every day. And you’ll feel great when you plow through that 250-word goal and keep going.
Those small, manageable pieces add up quickly. At a pace of 250 words per day, you can finish a 120-page first draft in 4 months.
Writing a book doesn’t take a lot of time every day. It just takes consistency.
Instead of—or in addition to—your word count goals, you could try a time goal. You’re not allowed to leave your chair for 25 minutes, no matter what. That’s the idea behind the Pomodoro Technique. In my experience, this isn’t the best method, but you’re welcome to try it.
Or, you could try a content goal. Don’t let yourself stop writing until you’ve passed your 250-word limit and finished a particular section or anecdote.
Whatever method you choose, I recommend leaving off at a clear stopping point. That way, you can jump back in the next day without trying to figure out what you were talking about.
Remember: when you already know what you need to say, it will take much less time to write.
5. Write a Vomit Draft
If you want to plow through the writing process, you’ll need a vomit draft. That’s what we call the first draft.
The best way to write a great book is to let yourself write a bad first draft. That may sound counterintuitive, so let me explain.
If you’re hung up on perfectionism, you’re never going to make progress.
You’ll write the first paragraph, edit it, read it again, delete it, and start over. You’ll have a blank page staring at you all over again.
That loop can go on forever, and you’ll never finish.
When you allow yourself to write a vomit draft, you’ll at least have something complete. You’ll have something on the page to edit.
It’s a lot easier to fix bad writing than to fix nonexistent writing.
We tell our Authors not to worry about being perfect. Don’t edit yourself. Turn off your inner critic. Vomit your information onto the page. Let your writing flow and get the words onto the page as fast as possible.
It’s going to be messy. But trust your outline, and write like there’s no one watching—because there’s not.
No one will see your rough draft until you edit it, so it can be very rough, and that’s OK. They’re called “rough” for a reason.
6. Try Speech-to-Text Tools
Many people are more comfortable speaking than writing. Their thoughts flow better, their language is more conversational, and it’s a lot faster.
If this sounds like you, you might save time by trying speech-to-text tools.
These fall into 2 groups:
- Dictation software
- Transcription services
Dictation software converts your speech to text in real-time. A lot of this software is free. For example, Google Docs has a built-in Voice Typing option, and every Mac comes preloaded with Apple Dictation.
These are great for people who like to write on the go, but they have accuracy limitations. Also, they can slow you down because you have to speak very clearly.
That’s why we prefer transcription services at Scribe. They convert speech to text after-the-fact. You create a recording, send it to the service, and they send you back a text transcription of the content.
You could dictate every chapter of your book, send all the files off at once, and have a functional vomit draft in a matter of minutes.
Of course, you’ll have to do a lot of editing. There will inevitably be “um”s, tangents, and missing information.
But this is a great way to save time if you’re more comfortable speaking.
Overall, it will probably increase your writing speed.
7. Get Someone to Ask You Questions
Even if you’re a talker, it’s usually more natural to talk to someone else than to talk to yourself.
If you have a tendency to get stuck when you write, recruit a friend or colleague to ask you questions about the material and record your answers.
This will take a lot less time than trudging through writer’s block on your own.
Even better, it will probably make your writing sound more natural. You’ll be a lot more comfortable answering a friend’s questions than agonizing over the “perfect” way to say something.
Usually, explaining something the way you would explain it to a friend will give you the clearest and best results.
Talk with a friend, learn to write better, and write faster? Sounds like a good deal.
8. Beat Writer’s Block
If you followed the other 8 writing tips and still feel stuck, your problem probably isn’t the writing.
Fear is at the root of every single case of writer’s block.
Maybe you’re afraid that your book isn’t original enough or that people won’t care about your book. Maybe you’re afraid that people won’t like your book or that your book will make you look stupid.
Those are fears that every Author faces, no matter how successful they are.
In fact, success can sometimes make those fears more acute because people feel like they have more to live up to.
If you’re afraid, the best thing you can do is admit it.
Then you can deal with it and face your fear head-on.
Ask yourself, What am I afraid of?
Get to the root of the problem and then try to solve it.
It can also be helpful to talk your fear out with a trusted friend.
But my #1 solution is to focus on the reader.
Remember that niche audience we talked about? If you’re clear on who they are, what problem they’re having, and how your book can solve it, you’ll stay grounded.
You’re writing a book to help people. If you imagine yourself talking to a specific reader, face-to-face, it’s a lot easier than staring at a sea of words.
Thinking of your book as a dialogue will take your mind off your own fear and put it back where it belongs: on the people your book is designed to help.
Don’t let fear stop you from writing your book. Your idea matters. It deserves to be heard.