Want to Write Faster for NaNoWriMo? Try This Trick

If you’ve downloaded our nifty NaNoWriMo calendar then you know that by the end of today, November 3, you should have already written 5,000 words. Depending on how fast you write, that could be a very intimidating number.

How do you write faster for NaNoWriMo? In this post, I’m going to share a trick I’ve used to help me write four books and over 600 blog posts.

write faster for nanowrimo

Photo by MPClemens (Creative Commons). Adapted by The Write Practice.

What Makes Writing Fast So Hard?

Before we talk about how to write faster, though, let’s talk about what slows us down.

The first thing that slows your writing down is lack of practice. As with any skill, whether it’s playing the saxophone or shooting a basketball, the more you write, the more effortless it gets. If you’re reading this blog, you probably already have a lot of practice writing, but do you have practice writing fiction? Do you have practice writing anything as long as a book? If not, perhaps NaNoWriMo is just the practice you need.

But remember, if you haven’t had a lot of practice, you shouldn’t expect the words to come pouring out of your fingertips like the river Nile flowing through Egypt.

The second thing that will slow your writing down is perfectionism.

You think: Oh no, Microsoft Word put a red squiggly under that word. I better fix it RIGHT NOW! What if I die in the middle of writing this and someone sees that it’s not perfect? I’ll be so humiliated!

It’s fine to seek excellence in your writing, but if you want to succeed at writing fast for NaNoWriMo, perfection will have to wait at least until December. If you haven’t read it already, here’s why one editor says you shouldn’t edit during NaNoWriMo.

3 Steps to Write Faster

The key to writing faster is to stop thinking so much, and the following mind trick helps you focus less on the words you’re writing and more on the feeling of writing.

Warning: If you write this way, you will make typos, grammar mistakes, and other humiliating writing errors. Be prepared to grit your teeth and write anyway. You can fix them all in December.

Step One: Don’t Look at the Words You’re Writing

The first step to writing faster is to keep yourself from looking at the words you’re writing. Instead, look around the room, go somewhere crowded and people watch, stare out the window.

Some people are too tempted by their computer and need to take extreme measures to keep from looking at the screen. Here are some ideas for the particularly editing inclined:

  • Change your font color to a very light grey, making it very difficult to see. With this trick, if you have to read back what you’ve already written, you can, but it will be too difficult to change the average typo.
  • Change your font to 4 pt, making it too small to see unless you get very close to the screen.
  • Turn off your computer monitor. For the very brave!
  • Alternatively, set the brightness on your computer screen so low you can’t see the words.
  • Remove your delete key. Here’s a video on how to remove a key from your keyboard.

If you can keep yourself from seeing the words you write, you’ll be forced to stop thinking so much trust your instincts.

Step Two: Focus on the Feeling of Writing

Now that you’re not looking at the screen, the next step to stop thinking so much and write faster is to focus on the feeling of writing.

Instead of thinking about the words, think about how your fingers feel as they hit the keys, the feel of your hands moving quickly over the keyboard. Focus on your posture, the feeling of your back in the chair. Focus on your breathing.

Let yourself feel your writing as it happens.

When you look back, you’ll be surprised at how much you’ve written.

Step Three: Later, Go Back and Edit!

Writing this way is sure to create a lot of imperfect prose. However, the knowledge that you’re going to go back and edit later will help you focus on creating now.

So every time you cringe at the typo you’ve just made, remind yourself that you’ll be fixing it in no time (just not NOW)!

Now, Go Write Faster!

Now that NaNoWriMo is finally here, it’s the perfect time to stop thinking so much and practice writing faster.

Stop watching the screen for every typo that you make. Stop looking at your writing at all. Instead, just take a deep breath and enjoy the feeling of writing.

After all, doesn’t it feel great to write?

How about you? How do you keep yourself from thinking too much so that you can write faster? Share in the comments section.


Work on your NaNoWriMo draft using this trick.

When you’ve reached your word count goal (1,667 words if you’re writing everyday), share how it felt to write fast in the comments section.

Happy writing!

About Joe Bunting

Joe Bunting is a writer and entrepreneur. He is the author of the #1 Amazon Bestseller Let's Write a Short Story! and the co-founder of Story Cartel. You can follow him on Twitter (@joebunting).

  • Jeff Ezell

    My fingers don’t exactly fly on the keyboard, more like taxiing down a bumpy runway filled with potholes. So I now use Scrivener (faster DEC editing) and Dragon (faster word generation) to dictate my story. Fabulous! Normally I’m an editing-perfectionist otherwise. Tooooo slow. But I’m still trying to peek at the words. Going to use smaller, light grey font. Thanks for all the great hints, Joe.

    • Susan Smith-Grier

      I have a Dragon too, but I haven’t trained him very well and I find myself spending way too much time trying to figure him out! I’m sure I’ll really like him eventually, just not this November. And I know what you mean about the bumpy highway. I can go fairly fast but it’s really more like going down a washboard road at too high a speed! I’ll have to check out Scrivener. So far I’ve heard lots of good things about it. Good luck! and if you’re interested, I’m StoryCoat on NaNo.

  • Miriam N

    Hmmm…. I don’t know about this one Joe… I don’t know if I’m brave enough to not look at my words when i type. The back key and I are very well acquainted… However… I’m going to trust you today and do it. I’ll let you know how it went…

    • It’s a bit scary, but I can’t wait to hear how it went!

  • Theses are great suggestions and not just for NaNo WriMo. I particularly liked changing the font color to a v. Pale grey.

  • Susan Smith-Grier

    I loved this post Joe and had to read the other ones about NaNo as well. I ended last night with 5491 words. I’m working to keep ahead because I know how I am. This is my third year and hopefully will be my third win. I’m connected with a great group of Wrimos in Minnesnowta and we rock on the word wars. I highly recommend them! They are exciting and it’s amazing how many words you can get in when you are in competition with others, especially if you already have a scene in mind. For me it means I don’t have time to sit and ponder, I’m just blazing through and hoping I don’t crash! I sometimes write with my eyes closed, imagining the scene I am writing about. I’m a perfectionist so the typos – the red squiggly lines, the green ones and blue ones always give me a bad case of hives, especially when I don’t correct them, unless it’s a made up word that doesn’t need correcting. My inner editor and I are always at war in November, but most of the time I win! I look forward to NaNo because I get to work on speed and it means I don’t get to procrastinate as much as I usually do. It’s a rush – yep, a real rush!!

  • I love that you mention focusing on the *feeling* of writing… I think it’s a point that’s frequently overlooked when discussing writing techniques/tips, but (for me at least) really sinking into the feeling of what I’m working on is the key to powerful prose!

    • Interesting, Jessica. I’d love to hear more about what writing feels like for you.

      • How to describe a feeling?

        On the good days it feels like joy and connection and grace and is both gutting and blissful at the same time.

        On the bad days it feels like agony and resistance and can feel like horror and shame and danger.

        It feels daring and vulnerable and inviolate and sometimes sacred.

        And it feels difficult and aching and endlessly wearying, too.

        But I think that at the end of the day if you’re feeling something, then what you’re feeling is raw and real and *true*. And the very best prose happens when we manage to dig deeper than simply telling stories and finally strike our truth.

  • Thanks for the nudge, Joe. I have used the “no-look” method for free writing in the past, but wasn’t sure if it was right for my first NaNoWriMo. I got a late start and ended Sunday with just a shade over 800 words. I was wavering. In fact, before I read your post this morning, I was about to bail on the project this year because I was already so far behind. After a couple of “bursts” at lunch and a couple more this evening, though, I’m right at 5000 words and back on track.

    • Wow! That’s so awesome, Adam. Congrats on participating and catching up. Best of luck for the rest of the month!

  • Miriam N

    Here’s the feedback on how this went Joe, as promised. After muttering to myself saying many things like ‘i can’t do this i need my back space and i need to look at my words,’ I was about to write a pretty good amount. In fact i was behind yesterday and was able to catch up today by doing this. thanks for this exercise Joe. 🙂

    • Wow. That’s so encouraging, Miriam. Congratulations!

      • Miriam N

        Thanks Joe 🙂 but knowing me i’m probably going to get behind again so this trick will come in handy. Thanks again for this trick really helped more than I thought it would.

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  • Vanessa

    As a blogger, I am torn in half with these tips. (Not your fault!) I totally agree with just letting the words flow. In fact, I am a flow-aholic! I am still brand new, so I have a long way to go! Lately, I have been trying to explore methods that will help me in writing. My biggest downfall is that I lack the simplicity to make it short and sweet. Why is that so bad? Rules. Ugh (damn them)! There are so many “professional insider tips” and a big one is having the ideal blog post in “x” amount of words. I find that SO hard! Also, although when I let my thoughts take over my writing it is PRETTY AWESOME, I lack format, and I get lost in my words. Before you know it, my writing time is up. I have to stop, and I’m left with a blog post that is way too long, and no where complete.
    Any suggestions for this?

    • Katekins

      Writing too much is not a big problem. Either you have written more than one post–break it up. Or, you can take the idea that you have explored thoroughly and focus it. Either way, you have material to work with. Happy Writing!

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  • This is so helpful, thank you. I’m going to take these tips and I’m going to complete a novel (even if it’s full of typos and mistakes) by the end of November.

  • Amanda Morris Johnson

    Tricky. But, I like handwriting of all things! The trick is not to rewrite as I type it in…so I will use that little gray font.

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