A while ago, a friend told me about a technique where you could write 5,000 words per hour. It’s from a book called, surprise, 5,000 Words Per Hour by Chris Fox. The book is good and has plenty of tips, tricks, and techniques to squeeze the most out of your precious writing time.
Last winter I took a little retreat and utilized his technique. It didn’t quite work the way he promised, but it did give me the added benefit of writing faster than before.
Here’s the ultimate problem with trying to write 5,000 words per hour. Even if you can pull that number off, your writing will be a grammatical trainwreck. I found myself having to erase half or more of what I wrote. Not good.
Granted, most people say you have to do that anyway with editing, but there has to be a happier medium. I refuse to believe that the first draft has to be a total wash.
For me, I think writing 3,000 words per hour rather than 5,000 is the Goldilocks of writing goals.
Okay, now to the nitty-gritty. How do I do it?
1. Get a Work Timer
You need to track your time. That’s almost a given. For me, I use the 30/30 app on the iPhone. It lets me create timers for various stages and it forces me to stay away from my phone. Once the timer is up it’ll move on to the next section. It’s likely other apps exist that are better or just as well suited, so find the one that works for you, but I’d recommend not getting one on your computer. Get it on your phone if possible.
2. Get a Spreadsheet
Track your time and your word count on a spreadsheet to see both your progress and your stats. I use Google Docs because it’s quick and easy. Tracking your numbers sounds like a drag, but it doesn’t take much time and it’s very important.
3. Practice, Practice, Practice
I’m about to launch an epic cliche missile at you. Promise you won’t roll your eyes. Okay? Practice makes perfect. There I said it. You won’t meet your goals right away. If you do, then, of course, that’s awesome and get to work, but don’t get discouraged if you fall far behind your intended goals or only make 1,200 an hour or something. Eventually, you’ll get better at it.
4. How to Write Like the Wind
There’s a whole host of tips on how to defeat the writer’s block monster, but I’ve found the most helpful one to be: Keep the door closed when you write and open when you edit. Or something to that effect. Stop criticizing your words while you write them. Be okay with the fact that the first draft is going to be bad. Now, take that mindset to the extreme and you’ll be an insanely fast writer and could probably write up to 5,000 words per hour. But, let’s get into why you shouldn’t do that.
5. Don’t Be that Writer
Chances are you hate editing your work. Most writers have to learn the skill of editing and even then they struggle with it and just wish someone else could do it. Since we’re not all famous writers with editors are our disposal, we have to clean our own slop. It makes more sense to clean up a mess that’s only half-dirty rather than a mess that might look like something that came off Hoarders. Right? 5,000 Words per hour, I have found, is the writer’s equivalent to Hoarders. Don’t do that to yourself. On the other hand, 3,000 words per hour will probably look like a messy room you can clean up much faster and it won’t be a major headache. It’ll also allow you to think through what you’re writing a little more rather than vomiting whatever comes out of your skull.
6. The Technique
There are various ways this can be done. I don’t think there’s just one way. But essentially, you create chunks of time devoted to writing and small pieces devoted to breaks. It would look something like this:
15 Mins – Write
3 Mins – Break
15 Mins – Write
3 Mins – Break
And so on… Honestly, you create the chunk of time that’s reasonable within a 60-minute timeframe. So, whether it’s 8, 10, 15, 20, 30, whatever. Use the breaks to write down the number of words you wrote within that 15-minute chunk on a spreadsheet, and then get super zen. Just chill and meditate. Don’t go read Facebook. Don’t read your Twitter. Social Media is the thief of writing. Use the break as a mind break to get back into gear. Then when the writing comes back, hop back into it. When you’ve finished your writing time for the day, you’ll see how much you were able to accomplish within an hour.
Most writers struggle to get anything down at all or only write 1,000 words in a single week. If you’re like me, you don’t have the luxury of sitting around and not getting stuff done. You need to utilize every second you have to make the most of it. Using this technique ensured that I was getting things down on paper. Or computer screen. (Pro tip: If you write by hand, Charles Dickens called and asked for his pen back. Sorry, bad joke.)
7. Let’s Do the Math
50,000 Words / 3,000 WPH = 16(ish) Hours
Theoretically, in sixteen hours, you could finish an entire novel. Then you’re a writer that has something rather than nothing. And that’ll put you over the mountain of writers out there.
But then you have to edit it. I’ll get to that later.