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5 quick tips to help you write efficiently

I’ve said it before and I will say it again: Writing is not a speed race. Writing fast has basically no other benefits besides writing fast. But how do you make the most out of your writing time, especially when you don’t get paid to write books and you have work and other responsibilities to take care of? In this post, I share some of the best ways for novelists to write efficiently without even having to up their typing speed.

Know your premise

The worst way to waste time while writing your book is to write without direction. All writing teaches us something and there’s nothing wrong with writing stuff that you eventually discard as unusable (in fact, it’s totally normal), but if you want to write a book efficiently, you do need to know what you’re writing about.

I admit, I’m not the best at writing snazzy tag lines about my stories, but when you’re just starting your story, it doesn’t really matter. You can make your premise sound cool and marketable when you’re ready to actually market your story.

At this point, YOU need to know what your premise is, and there’s a difference between “a woman has to save the world and the man she just met from killer ants” and “with the help of her new boyfriend, a woman escapes from deadly insects”. They could be the same story, but they have a very different focus.

Know what your characters want

Your protagonist’s wants and needs are THE driving force of your story. What your character wants and what they need to learn are essentially what your story is about, and without those things in check, your story is just a series of events.

This is something that I sometimes struggle with as well, so don’t feel bad if it’s difficult. I never get a solid plot idea at first and I have to mine for the rest of the story elements after some vague idea that I get. Sometimes it feels downright impossible to get all those pieces to fall into place, but it’s still absolutely crucial to your story to have them figured out. Otherwise, you’ll have your readers saying “yeah, and so what?” throughout your whole story, and I can guess you don’t want that.

Your character’s goals affect every scene you write

Your main character should have one big want, and then a series of goals for trying to reach it. When they learn new things, they change tactics, but trying to reach that ultimate goal should be the guiding light of every scene you write.

Knowing what each of your characters wants gives you focus for your writing, and with focus, you become more efficient. You’ll know exactly what should happen in each scene and what should come next, and you could even figure all that out during the outlining process.

Outline your story

I am NOT here to try and turn any pantsers into plotters and I would never say there’s only one way to succeed as a writer. But if you want to be efficient in writing your story, creating a good outline will help you make the most out of your writing time and minimises having to re-write things that don’t make sense after all.

I know it sounds a lot more fun to just start writing your story instead of spending time planning and outlining, but personally, I think outlining is really fun and there’s no reason why you should dread it. You will also save a lot of time in the long run if you just make a little more effort with your planning before diving into your first draft.

If you don’t yet know how to do this, you can read my post on the methods of outlining that I personally use and recommend. If you’d like an easy way to outline your story in just a month, you can find the exact steps for doing that in my Etsy shop.

Know the purpose of each draft

The purpose of the first draft is to get the story in front of you so you know what it is. You need to get the material on page so that you can work on to make it better. If you lose track of this and try to make your first draft “perfect”, you end up wasting a lot of time. Just keep writing and don’t look back.

Your other drafts should also have a set purpose. Are you adding more atmosphere? Or cutting out repetitive descriptions and exposition? Perhaps you’re working on making the characters sound like themselves. Instead of working from the first page all the way to the last page, reading every word in between, you should have one goal for each of your draft, whether it’s draft 2 or draft 10. Then close your eyes for anything else, and definitely don’t even think about your spelling and grammar until everything else is in place!

Know what works for you

Writing a book is not a science and that’s why there isn’t one true way that works for everyone. Although I’d encourage you to experiment with different methods, especially if you haven’t quite got the hang of your own process yet, you need to realise not everything is going to work for you.

It doesn’t matter how Stephen King writes his books. It doesn’t matter what your writer friends on Instagram are doing. When you’ve figured out what works for you when you’re writing your book, stick to it and perfect it. That’s how you become efficient.

5 tips for writing more efficiently: Know your premise, Know what your characters want, Outline your story, Have a purpose for each draft, Know what worls for YOU

Do you want to start writing your novel the right way?

There’s more than one way to write a novel, but if you’re just getting started and you don’t know what to do, it’s always better to follow in someone’s steps rather than postpone writing indefinitely. If you’d like to get started writing your next (or your first!) novel in less than a week, you’re going to need this free 5-day course for writers.

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