October 21, 2013

Improving Your Writing Speed For NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo 2012 Web Badge.
    I love charts and math.  One of the things that I was excited to know in NaNoWriMo fairly early on was how fast  I was writing.  I timed myself and did the math.  When comparing those results to how fast they want secretaries to write it was depressing.  In fact it is depressing just to look at the number of words per minute.  But I thought it through.

     The typing tests are usually done with copying down something as opposed to writing from creative scratch.  Also I have heard of people who can type as much as 400 words per minute.  If a person did NaNoWriMo at 400 wpm(words per minute)  they could complete all 50k words in only 125 minutes.  Think I am lying?  Here is the math.

50000(word) ÷ 400(Words/minute)=
50000(words)÷ 400(Words/minute)=
50000(words)÷ 400(Words/minute)=
500 ÷ 4(minute)=

125 minutes.  That is two hours and five minutes.  I don’t really see that happening.  If it were that easy for quick typists, the goal would be a lot higher than 50k.  That is when I stopped being sad about my speed and started to compete with just myself.

    I created a lovely little spreadsheet and other simple tracking tools for myself.  I started tracking my word count and wph(words per hour) for each writing session.  I started out with a speed of between 300 and 500 words per hour.  I set a goal for myself of writing 1k words in an hour.  Not only did I reach that goal after quite a bit of work, I doubled it on some of my best days.  For comparison of tracking by the hour verses by the minute, 2k wph is only 33.3 wpm.  Over the time that I was doing this challenge with myself I learned a few things about writing faster.


    There are many things that can distract us.  And it is likely that you have heard this one before.  Close out of social media and all other sites, turn off the phone or toss it into the other room, and of course send the kids to the kennel and the dog to the sitter. Wait a minute strike that, reverse it.   One of the things I do is play music.  Back then it was often rock and metal.  I would use this music when I studied in order to literally block out all other distractions.  It doesn't work for everyone.  Some people find music very distracting.  Others prefer instrumental.  Just take the time and effort to find what works for you.


    Creating a routine really helped me improve my productivity.  I would sit down at my workstation(desk), open the programs I was going to use, get my writing music going, put in my earbuds, and start working.  By creating and following a starting routine I trained my brain to enter a state of productivity and creativity on command.  The command of course being a set sequence of activities.


    After all the challenges I have taken up and progress I have made I can tell you that having goals are a great way to push yourself.   Also, if you keep records, you can look back over your progress and see how much improvement you made.  Even when you've not made it to your goal seeing how much closer you’re getting can motivate you to do better and better.  Set yourself a goal.  Whether that goal is to write without stopping for thirty minutes or finish so many words by a certain date.  Aim high and see how close you come.


    It took me seven months of seriously writing to get from 300 wph to a top speed(for that month) of 1185.18 wph.  I suggest working on some other writing projects or just some writing exercises these last eleven days before NaNoWriMo hits.  Get into the habit of turning off your inner editor while you are writing first draft material.  It is first draft material, as long as you can read it later, just keep writing.  Try learning how to open up your mind and let the ideas flow.  The more practice you get the better you will get.

Bad Days Happen

    Understand that you will have bad days.  Don’t kick yourself for them.  Give it your best effort and if you just can’t do it try one of the many strategies out there to get your creative juices flowing again.  Sometimes a bad day(and this is from personal experience) will be the result of overworking yourself the day before.  On at least one occasion I cracked out 5k in a day.  I just couldn't write the next day.  I would try and I couldn't even force myself.  Or I would get a pathetic hundred or so words.  Now maybe for another person they would have to write 10k in a day to overwork themselves and still someone else can only write 3k.  Each person is different and that is natural.  This is also a number you can improve with practice and experience.

Find What Works For You

    The whole experience of challenging myself to write faster made me more familiar with myself.  I learned what distracted me, what motivated me, and how best I worked.  Try different things with your writing habits and find a method, whether it is ordered or some manner of chaos, that works for you.

Red Bottle Brush Bush Flowers
Picture taken by Lilian Brennan.

Now for the writing exercises!

Last weeks exercise: Your friendly Thesaurus
    Pick a random item.  Think of three adjectives that describe the item.  Write a short description of the item using the three adjectives.  Now look up those adjectives in the thesaurus.    Pick a synonym for each of your three adjectives.  Write a short description of the item using the three synonyms.  How different are the two descriptions?

    Item:  A bottle brush flower.  I absolutely love these bushes and trees.  They attract little buzzing bees to the flowers and I love to photograph them.  

    Initial adjectives:  fiery, straight, vibrant

    The red bottle brush flower is a long straight, soft green stem covered on all sides with little, fiery collections of needle like petals.  The vibrant collections are so closely clustered that they resemble a firework frozen in time.

    New adjectives: excitable, smooth, lively

    The red bottle brush bush flowers are an excitable sight to see.  Their smooth green stems are covered in lively, red sprays of petals.

    The initial adjectives I chose left a lot of room for interpretation.  The options for synonyms were interesting.  Some of the options I skipped over for synonyms were hot-headed, violent, short, successive, and vital.  This was quite fun to do.  On to today's exercise.

Writing Exercise:   Setting Scene and Mood

    In no more than 100 words illustrate the location that a story or scene will take place in.  Try to use as many of the senses as you can to help give a more complete picture.  Try to give a mood to the scene as well.  Is this location in a horror story or a comedy.  


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