How to Write Faster: An Experiment

April is Camp NaNoWrimo, which is basically like normal NaNoWriMo but with fewer rules. You get to choose your word count goals (instead of the required 50,000) in order to win, and you’re also assigned a cabin, just like summer camp, so it’s easier to find a community.

It’s cute and fun, and the writing community is always amazing. But it’s also really intimidating to me.

You see, my writing fluency is really low, and I feel like NaNoWriMo is full of people who have amazing writing fluency and can crank out thousands of words at a time, no problem.

Between it being Camp NaNo season and my own writing fluency frustrations from this past month, I thought it would be a great time to start an experiment on myself. After all, I am my favorite test subject!

But first–what even is writing fluency? And why is it an important skill for authors?

What is writing fluency?

When you think of the word fluent, it is probably within the context of speaking a language. Someone is considered fluent in a language if they are able to easily choose and put together words in a sentence to communicate and converse with someone else.

If you’re a teacher, you may think of fluency in the terms of reading fluency–how easily and quickly a student can put together the words on a page to decipher meaning and create a mental image about what’s going on.

As an English teacher, we also talk about something called writing fluency, and I have found that it really applies to writers and authors as well.

Writing fluency is the ability to choose words to put together on a page in order to tell a story. The more writing fluency you have, the quicker you write. And I don’t mean someone who can write 2,000 words in a day but takes all day to do it (which honestly is still impressive). I mean those people who can crank out 1,000 words in a single 30-minute writing sprint.

I like to think of writing fluency as a spectrum. You have the low end of the spectrum, where you sit down and write maybe 100 words in 30 minutes. Then you have the high end of the spectrum where you can sit down and write 1,000 words in that same time span.

That high end of the spectrum is what makes me intimidated by NaNoWriMo. I have never been able to write 1,000 words in 30 minutes or even come close.

Now remember, writing fluency doesn’t mean that the writing is objectively good. There are a lot of other skills that go into that. It simply means that you are able to put a lot of words down on a page quickly. There are a lot of factors that go into this, and it’s important to remember that there will be some days where writing is simply hard no matter what your fluency level is. Some days, you simply may not have the spoons to write, and if you sit down and force yourself, you’re going to think that you have low writing fluency and push yourself into burnout when what you really need is rest and to allow yourself the space to take care of yourself. For this post, I’m talking about writing fluency on a good writing day.

Currently, I fall on the low end of the writing fluency spectrum. Or at least, I feel like I do, which is a huge motivation killer.

I get super motivated to write, and I sit down to the computer to crank out some words, and then I write 81 words and get frustrated and open up TikTok. Or finally do the dishes. Or wash the dog. Or read a book because that’s research to be a better writer, right?

And then my word count never goes up.

It’s not because I’m not motivated, and it’s not because I don’t have a good attention span; it’s because that muscle is weak, and sitting down and writing a story for long stretches of time is hard for me. Even when I’m highly motivated and well-rested, I struggle to get out a lot of words. I could sit down and quickly crank out a blog post or an outline, but when I sit down to write, everything dams ups.

So I want to work on it, and I’d love if you joined me along the journey! Starting in April (and throughout the rest of the year), I’m going to test out different strategies to help with writing fluency and sharing the process with you here and on Instagram. If you have any suggestions to add to the list or a request on which one to try first, let me know in the comments!

The Experiment

How do I increase my writing fluency?

Popular Methods on How to Write Faster:

  • Minimize Distractions (e.g., keep your phone in another room, lock down your browser, use the Pomodoro method or a focus app like Forest)
  • External Rewards (e.g., reward yourself for hitting milestones, make a word count chart and cross off as you go)
  • Game-Based Writing (4theWords.com)
  • Body Doubling
  • Create a Writing Schedule
  • Pre-Write Brainstorming (write 2 paragraphs about what you want to write in that scene, then write in 15 minute sprints with breaks in between (found this tip on TikTok, BehindTheBook?)
  • Make it a Competition (race random objects in your house (like the dishwasher) (found this tip on TikTok)
  • Don’t Self Edit (The Most Dangerous Writing App: it deletes your words if you stop writing)
  • Just Write More!

I’ll post my starting point next week and update you on the progress as I go, but my hypothesis is that, based on my past writing experiences and how I studied best in college, I think that pre-writing, body doubling, and minimizing distractions will be the best methods to write more. We’ll see!

What about you? Which method do you think would work best to help YOU write more?

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