More, Faster, Better: Writing Hacks for Word Slayers
You’re on the prowl for writing hacks, huh?
Then you must not be messing around.
You must be ready to make huge strides in your writing, whether that means finishing your novel or perfecting your craft.
That, or you’ve begun your writing journey and discovered it’s a little tougher than expected. If that’s you, I can’t promise that a few writing hacks will make the process easy. But they might at least help you move a few unnecessary barriers out of the way.
No matter what goal has brought you here, you’ve come to the right place. You’re about to learn a ton of writing hacks for writing more, writing faster, and writing better.
Take what you can use. Leave what you can’t. This is your journey after all.
Hacks for Writing More
Whether your version of “more” means more words or more time put in, these writing hacks will help you create more space in your life for writing.
Make a Realistic Schedule and Commit
Block out writing time on your calendar.
Bam. That time is claimed now. Nothing else can go there.
Not only does scheduling writing sessions ensure they happen, it also cultivates consistency. And if you’re looking to get more writing done, consistency is your friend.
Let’s say you commit to writing from 9:00 p.m. to 10 p.m. every weeknight. Stick with that schedule for a couple weeks and you’ll inadvertently train your brain to be ready for those writing sessions. A ready brain is a productive brain.
Quick tip: Make sure your writing schedule is realistic. If it’s too ambitious to maintain, you’ll likely slip up, and that’s when most people are tempted to drop the commitment altogether.
Write Every Day
Daily writing is another simple trick for staying in the zone.
You don’t need to put in hours of time every day. Even if you can only steal fifteen or twenty minutes to chip away at your novel, do it.
By touching base with that part of your brain on a daily basis, you keep it fresh and ready to go.
Dabble Hack: Goal Setting in Dabble shows you your daily word counts for the last 30 days in bar graph form. I love this visual because it makes me want to make sure all those bars are colored in.
Set Goals and Track your Progress
Nothing motivates like a measurable goal—“measurable” being the operative word.
What does “more” actually mean to you in cold, hard data?
Set a word count goal and track your progress so you can see yourself crushing your goals in black and white.
If you’re a slow and thoughtful writer who finds word count goals more stressful than motivating, focus on hours. How many hours do you want to put in each day? Decide, commit, and track.
Dabble Hack: If you’re not feeling the math, Dabble’s Goal Setting does it for you. Enter your deadline, the number of words you want to write, and any days you plan to take off during your goal period. Dabble will calculate your daily word count goal and track your progress.
Now that you’ve set those goals, what do you get when you achieve them?
A double macchiato? That fancy pen you’ve been eyeballing? A leisurely lunch alone with a book at your favorite restaurant?
I’m a big fan of celebrating small wins, too, so consider creating a tiered system of rewards.
Maybe you don’t get your morning coffee until after you’ve put in an hour of writing. Maybe you treat yourself to a massage when you finish the first draft of your novel.
Not only do these rewards give you something to work towards, they also force you to affirm that you’re actually getting somewhere. You need that. We all do.
Dabble Hack: Did I mention that Goal Setting in Dabble reminds you to celebrate your daily wins?
Find an Accountability Partner
No one wants to fail in front of their friends. Give yourself a solid kick in the pants by sharing your goals with another writer.
Tell each other what you hope to accomplish by when and how you plan to go about doing this. Then schedule regular check-ins.
It’s not that you want your accountability partner to go full shame-monster when you slip up. In fact, the benefit of teaming up with another writer is that they get why those slip-ups happen. But they can also:
- Remind you how important your goal is to you
- Help you see when you’re using an obstacle as an excuse to avoid writing
- Encourage you through your writer’s block
- Share their own writing hacks
- Challenge you to get back to work
Get Support From Friends and Family
When we writers are on the lookout for more writing time, we often fail to consider that we might be able to just ask for it.
Could your spouse and children fend for themselves for a couple hours on the weekend? Can you borrow your friend’s home for a writing retreat the next time they go out of town?
Might your partner agree to either picking up a little slack or living with the chores half-done during NaNoWriMo?
It’s important to keep in mind that no one owes you a writing career. But go ahead and ask for a little help from time to time. You might be amazed how eager your loved ones are to help make your dreams come true.
Schedule Writing Retreats
If you can book a hotel and get out of the house for a weekend, great!
But even if travel isn’t possible, try scheduling an at-home writing retreat. Get it in the books well in advance so you can prepare yourself and any loved ones who will need to manage without you.
Your retreat can last a day, a weekend, or more. The only rule is the Neil Gaiman rule: you don’t have to write but you can’t do anything else.
Hacks for Writing Faster
Want to move the needle faster on your word count goals? These speed writing hacks will help.
Create Sensory Triggers
Light the same candle every time you write. Play epic movie scores every time you work on your fantasy novel. Wear the same cardigan or sip the same tea. Go for the full Pavlov and ring a bell at the beginning of each writing session.
Create some kind of sensory experience that you bust out every time you write and only when you write. Over time, this will become a signal to your brain. We’re writing now. We’re back in this imaginary world with these imaginary people.
Get in the zone sooner and the words will come faster.
Write Now, Revise Later
Of all the writing hacks in this list, this one might be the most controversial.
Some people get through projects faster by revising as they go so their “first draft” is more like a seventh draft that requires only minor fixes. If that’s you, more power to you.
But if you find that you’re never finishing that first draft or that finishing takes forever, stop fixing stuff. At least for now.
Tell yourself that your only job at this point in time is to tell the story. You don’t have to tell it well; just get the words on the page. If the words are wrong, you’ll fix them later. No big deal.
Dabble Hack: The Comments feature has truly saved my hide during NaNoWriMo. It’s absolute gold for tracking mid-process discoveries without pausing my momentum.
Let It Be Awful
Probably the biggest impediment to writing speed is our desire to write something masterful right out of the gate.
Not possible. Every first draft is a tangled knot of nonsense. The entire function of a first draft is to get the mess in your head on the page so you can make it fit for public consumption.
Once you embrace that, you’ll have an easier time letting the words flow without judgment. This isn’t only good for speed. It can also help you tap into the kind of free-thinking creativity your inner critic typically blocks.
Of course, accomplishing that sometimes means typing so frantically we drown the critic out. And that brings me to the next writing hack.
If you’re not familiar with the concept of a writing sprint, it goes like this:
You set a timer for any length of time. During that time, your goal is to write as much as you can as quickly as you can.
Won’t this lead to a ton of typos, accidental repetition, and rambling sentences?
Oh, you bet. At least in my experience, anyway.
But it also leads to creative discoveries that aren’t possible when you’re trying to make every word the right word. Plus, typos are easy to fix and repetition can be vanquished with one stroke of the delete key.
Dabble Hack: Use Dabble’s Word Sprint tool to time your writing sprints. It’s completely free, you don’t have to be a Dabble user, and you can even schedule group sprints so you and your friends can crush your word count goals together. Find the tool here.
This writing hack is less about blasting out words and more about speeding the process of writing a book.
Archetypes, story structure, character arcs… get to know these common storytelling blueprints and use them to construct your novel. When you do this from the very beginning, you spend less time in editing trying to fix your pacing and story arc.
And at no point do you waste time trying to invent a compelling story structure when plenty already exist.
Think of a template as a skeleton. It’s a stack of bones holding everything up. Your perspective, voice, and complex characters are what make your story a living, original creation.
Also create your own process templates as you continue on your writing journey. Was it way easier to find your characters’ voices once you built character profiles and asked them specific interview questions? Remember that and do it first when you’re ready to tackle the next book.
Dabble Hack: Dabble’s Plot Grid is the easiest, quickest tool I’ve found for plugging in structure templates and outlining my novel.
Hacks for Writing Better
Prioritizing craft over volume right now? These writing hacks are for you.
Read a lot. Too much, even. Pick up a book and set down the guilt of not writing, because the two best ways to become a better writer are to write more and read more. You must do both.
See what other authors are doing. Notice what works and what doesn’t. Read the classics in your genre, the bestsellers, and the books that intrigue you. Read books that will help you understand your characters better or inspire you to create a stronger sense of place.
If you come across a sentence or a passage that absolutely takes your breath away, copy it by hand. Name what you love about it. Return to it for inspiration when your own prose feels sluggish or empty.
The more you read, the better you write. Every author you admire will tell you this.
Assemble a Feedback Team
I say “team” not because you need to create some kind of formal group but because you need to think in terms of roles. You wouldn’t put together a basketball team of just point guards. (I assume. I don’t really know what a point guard does.)
It’s the same deal with your feedback team. Try to find:
- Experienced writers who can give you invaluable advice on craft
- Writers at your own level who will take the time to brainstorm solutions with you
- Avid readers of your genre who can give you feedback from the reader’s perspective
- Experts in topics that play a significant role in your novel
- Sensitivity readers who will help you ensure an authentic portrayal of characters whose cultures or life experiences are different from your own
Jerseys are optional.
Write When You’re at Your Best
When are you at your sharpest and most creative?
If you don’t know, start paying attention. Is there a specific time of day when it seems easiest to get into a flow? When are you the most sluggish or distracted? Are some days of the week better than others?
Once you know the answer, see if you can write at those optimal times. It may not be possible. As a freelancer with zero children, I acknowledge that being able to choose your writing time is a luxury.
But if you have that luxury or can adjust your schedule to create the luxury, do it.
Find Your Tick Words
When I start the self-editing process, the first thing I do is run a search for the word “just.” It’s my number one “tick word”—a word I overuse in my writing.
This word soothes me as I write, as tick words often do. It’s within easy reach and makes me feel like I’m emphasizing a point or creating a sense of voice, when really all I’m doing is using this one word a lot.
We all have a collection of tick words, and one way to sharpen your writing is to learn what your tick words are. You don’t have to obsess over them or shame yourself for leaning on them. You can simply run a search after you finish your first draft and delete or replace as needed.
It’s super easy, makes a big difference, and improves your creative agility.
Dabble Hack: Did you know Dabble has a built-in thesaurus? True story.
Read It Out Loud
This is one of my favorite writing hacks. You’ll be amazed what you discover when you read your work out loud. I’m talking about things you completely miss when you let your eyeballs do the editing.
You hear the rhythm of your prose. The pacing of your story. The voices of your characters. Your own narrative tone.
But it’s not just that.
You’ll also stumble on typos that somehow survived multiple rounds of editing.
Dabble Hack: There’s a Read to Me feature, too. Dabble is basically one giant hack (the good kind).
The Writing Hack That Rules All Other Writing Hacks
The number one writing hack is to write a lot.
And it all helps. Every word.
You improve by writing novels or short stories or personal essays or even a really nice thank you card. Writing exercises help, too.
And those writing sessions where you write and delete the same paragraph four times… even those experiences are making you a better writer.
So stick with it. Because that’s the only truly foolproof way to write more, faster, and better.
And if you like the sound of all the Dabble hacks but aren’t a Dabble user, I’ve got good news: you can try all Dabble’s Premium features for free for fourteen days, no credit card required. Just click here and get ready to hack.
The Chosen One. It’s a trope that many people love to hate despite its pervasiveness across popular culture. If you’re unfamiliar with the Chosen One, it’s a popular trope or narrative device used across books, TV shows, and movies where a character is destined to fulfill a certain role or mission, often because they have unique abilities or traits. These traits are frequently tied to magic, meaning you’ll see this trope a lot in fantasy and other types of speculative fiction, especially those with a young adult audience.
So how do you write well then? Realistically, there are a few things universally considered “good” writing. The story should follow a logical plot where one action feeds into another. The characters should behave in ways that align with their established personalities. There should be some high points and low points and stuff in between. Generally, good writing is also well edited and follows most of the conventions for grammar and punctuation. While you can write well with typos and mistakes, you run the risk of distracting the reader to a point where that good story becomes not so good because it’s unreadable. Ultimately, the success of things like your voice and your characters are going to be up to your reader and you’ll never please everyone. But we can take some steps to ensure we please more people than not.
That’s great—our fiction should reflect the world as it is and that means including people of various ethnic backgrounds and skin tones. But the history of writing about people of color is kind of… awful and it’s important to remember that you can’t just throw in a BIPOC character without giving some serious thought to how you represent and describe that character.