Whether you want to maximize your writing output or minimize your writing time, you will need to learn to think like a prolific writer to accomplish it. Prolific writers are always striving to write more material faster and looking for new methods to keep increasing their speed.
Start writing faster now
Whether you write using the multiple draft method (rough, edit, final) or write in one draft and correct as you go, you need to consciously speed it up. This means producing some bad writing and moving right along without fixing it. It sounds bad, but it’s necessary. If you’re using multiple drafts, major mistakes will get corrected anyway. If you’re a one draft as final kind of writer, a quick proofread can take less time than correcting as you go.
Orson Scott Card said in an interview that, “Since every writer has about ten thousand pages of utter drivel in them, you might as well start now so you can get a good portion of that out of your way while you’re still young.”
There’s no point taking your time with writing you’re just going to throw away or store. Learn to write fast as a habit and you’ll write fast whether it’s good or bad. Speed first; then perfection will come with practice.
How do you think like a prolific writer?
Look for anything that affects your writing speed. Discover what gets you going faster and use it. Find out what slows you down and kill it.
What are you doing that’s repetitive? Can you make it automatic? Can you reduce the frequency? Could you use a template? There’s good repetitive too. When you keep using the same writing methods over and over, you will discover shortcuts that speed you up even more.
For example, I like both the multiple draft writing method and the one draft as final method. My fastest writing seems to be a combo of the two. I’ll get an idea for an article and add it to the relevant idea file. If I know what the sections will be, I’ll add them immediately. If I also have a good idea what I want to write, I’ll fill out the sections. If I produce enough material and it’s good, I’ll cut and paste it into a final draft document. If there’s not enough material or it’s not good enough, I’ll give it another run through hoping to finalize it. I may get to the final version in one draft or several. The important thing is going for the fastest write possible.
Some prolific writing methods
Stick to the same project
Keep working on the same project as long as it’s hot for you. Jumping from one project to another slows you down as you’re forced to think about different subject matter. Switching between fiction and nonfiction is an even bigger transition.
On the other hand, if you find yourself stalled on a project, it’s better to switch projects for a while than to do nothing.
Find more writing time
Don’t wait until you have at least two hours free to write. Write in every spare minute. Waiting is also a time for writing or thinking about writing if it’s physically impossible to write (traffic jams, for example).
Write too much
Write more than you must. Writing you don’t use is never a waste. It’s more writing practice and when you’ve done it quickly it’s practice at becoming more prolific.
Research everything you don’t know well. Being prolific is not just about quantity. Quality matters because if all you write is crap it’s not getting published anywhere. Increasing your knowledge gives you more to write about. Put all of your research to good use and write about everything you learn.
Rejection is part of the writing game. Don’t let it get you down. Time spent depressed is not time spent writing. By the time a rejection letter comes back to you, you should have more writing already sent out. Don’t take the rejection personally. You may not have sent your writing to the right target. They may have had too much material already. The reader may have been distracted by personal problems. Never interpret rejection as meaning they didn’t like your work unless there’s a note attached to the rejection that gives specifics. If there is a note, take the advice as constructive criticism and use it to improve.
Interference is all of those little tasks that need to be gotten out of the way so you can write. If you don’t plan for them, they will come up when you should be writing. Instead, schedule them for later in the day and they will never get in the way again.
Teach yourself to always be thinking about what you can do for your writing. In anything that interests you, ask yourself how it can serve your writing. When you’re busy with a repetitive life task like doing laundry or mowing the lawn, think about what writing you’ll do at the next opportunity.
Not all great writers put writing first in their life. Martin Caidin was a scientist and aviator, yet he could write a bestseller (“Marooned”) in a week. What did he write about? His novels were heavy on science and aviation, of course. You only need to put writing first while you’re writing, but always have it in mind and you’ll be thinking like a prolific writer.