You want to write a book, but you fear that it will take too long. Or you’ve already started and it’s taking longer than you thought. How can you write your book faster?
In this video, I’ll share the surprising secret to writing your book faster from someone who hasn’t even written a book. Plus, I’ll share seven things you can do today to make it happen.
The Two Obvious Ways to Write Your Book Faster
The obvious way to write your book faster is to type faster. But I think we both know that’s not going to make a lot of difference.
The second obvious way is to spend more time writing. But this is not always possible and doesn’t always produce better results.
The big challenge here is that the longer you take to write your book, the less likely you are to finish it and the longer it will take to gain any rewards from it.
The Goldilocks Principle
But the opposite is also true. If you write your book too fast you are more likely to finish it, but you still may not gain any rewards from it.
A poorly written book may do more harm to your reputation than no book at all.
Just like, in Goldilocks and the Three Bears, you can write your book too slow, too fast, or just right.
The Best Strategy for Writing Your Book Faster
Surprisingly, the best strategy for writing your book faster comes from eight-time Olympic Gold Medallist, Usain Bolt.
At his peak, Bolt was the fastest man in the world. His two pet events were the 100 metres and 200 metres sprint. His races only went for 10-20 seconds. In that short amount of time, there are only so many things you can do to make you go faster. It’s not like you can check if your shoelaces are undone while you’re hurtling down the track. And it’s a bit late to give yourself a pep talk when you’ve only got seconds between the gun going off and hitting the finish line.
Bolt’s secret, as all elite athletes know, is that it’s what he did off the running track that made Usain Bolt the fastest man in the world. Think about that relative to your book. The secret to writing your book faster comes from what you do when you’re not writing your book.
Do you need a moment to think about that?
The Game Plan for Authors
This is the fourth and final part in a series of videos on The Game Plan for Authors. It’s based on my book, The Done Game Plan.
And that’s based on the four universal principles of all games. You need to:
- Know how you win
- Keep score to maintain your motivation
- Define the rules of your game
- And choose the right actions to win
And there are two main types of right actions. They are:
- On-field actions – this is Usain Bolt running his races
- Off-field actions – this is everything Usain Bolt does when he’s not running his races to help him run faster.
If you want to write your book faster, then this is how you must think about it. What are the on-field actions and off-field actions you need to take?
My Best Seven Writing Tips for Writing Your Book Faster
Now, here are my top seven tips for writing your book faster.
I’ll share the tips and then we can review them to see which ones are on-field and which are off-field actions.
Most of these examples are taken from my book Weekly Done, which is filled with productivity hacks.
1 Write the Right Book
One of the big reasons I have 25 unfinished books on my computer is that I chose the wrong type of book to write. But when I wrote the right type of book for me, I was able to finish things because I was working in my strengths. That’s like running downhill with the wind behind your back being chased by a lion.
For instance, A Home Office You Love is the story of The Design Coach meeting a client. The book is a record of their conversations. And the chapters are based on a seven-part framework. I wrote the first draft in two weeks – from zero to hero.
For more on this check out the video, 18 different ways to write a book.
2 Sprint Versus Marathon
Is writing a book a marathon or a sprint?
Sorry, trick question – It’s both. Your daily writing is best done as short bursts or sprints. And you need to stick at it for long enough to finish it. That’s probably months or possibly a year. That’s a marathon.
My personal favourite strategy is to use the Pomodoro technique. This two-minute video, which I produced five years ago, tells you all you need to start working in short bursts.
3 The Four Best Ways to Work
How I write works for me. But it might not work for you. You must find your best way to write.
One of my all-time favourite books is Deep Work by Cal Newport. I talked about in this post. And one thing Cal shares in that book are four ways to design your work that you can use to write your book. They are:
- One-hour chunks – if you have a busy schedule steal writing time in one-hour chunks. Not recommended for beginners.
- Work at the same time every day. This is a good one if you have a day job or client work to complete – just start your day writing for one or two hours.
- A split week – Schedule all your activities in one half of the week and then write for the rest of the week. For instance, you can attend to your business and work on Monday through Wednesday and then write on Thursday and Friday.
- Monthly – I bet you want this one! But this might be harder to organise… It’s to take a month off to write. Think of Hemingway hiding away in his log cabin with no distractions.
4 Pay Attention
Which is more valuable: time, energy, or attention?
Many people think that time is our most valuable resource because we have a limited amount of it. But have you ever had the time to do something but been too tired to do it? And have you ever had the time and the energy but just couldn’t concentrate? In my view, attention is more important than energy or time.
And the key to training your attention is the practice of meditation and mindfulness. I write best when I’m calm and clear in my head. You might too.
5 Take a Break
On the surface, this one doesn’t make sense. But here goes… To write your book faster, stop writing and take more breaks.
The latest neuroscience resource points to two sides of the brain. But probably not the ones you’re thinking of. The first is the Uptime Brain which is task-focused. That’s you sitting at your desk writing your book. And the second is the Downtime Brain. That’s when you’re letting your mind wander or play while you’re having a shower or doing the dishes. My best writing ideas come from taking a long walk because it allows my downtime brain to kick in and connect the dots around my writing.
Too much uptime brain will dull your creativity and dampen your insights. This is one reason why writing more hours may not help you write your book faster.
6 Bring your H-Game
Now, for the classic example of off-field preparation.
Imagine trying to write your best work when you’re coughing and spluttering with a cold. If you’re not in your best health, then you won’t write at your best.
Athletes like Usain Bolt spend a lot of time at the gym, stretching, getting massages, resting, and eating the right foods. Their training is all focused on being at their best on game day.
What do you need to write at your best?
7 Build Writing Habits
The key to elite performance is not having a blinding performance on a single day. It’s about consistent high performance over time.
Usain Bolt’s races might have only lasted ten or 20 seconds, but his true champion qualities are that he was consistently the fastest man on the planet for over eight years.
How did he do that? He built habits that were practised over time to consistently perform at a high level.
Think about the things you need to do consistently to write your book. Then look at how you can turn them into habits.
Review: Are these On-Field or Off-Field Actions?
Let’s recap our seven writing tips. Which ones are on-field actions? And which ones are off-field actions? Here’s how I see it…
- Write the right book – on-field or off-field? I think off-field. You do it before you write.
- Sprint versus Marathon – This sprint side of this is mostly on-field. But the marathon side of sticking to your book requires both types of actions.
- The Four Best Ways to Work – Off-field. This is how you schedule your writing time.
- Pay Attention – The big part of this is off-field in your practising of mindfulness. But it’s also something you need while you write.
- Take a Break – Mostly, this is an off-field action. The break refreshes your brain and clears your thinking. But sometimes when I’m walking, I do finish up pulling out my transcription app and taking notes so there is a little bit of both.
- Bring your H-Game – This one is the classic off-field action.
- Build Writing Habits – This is both. Ideally, you’ll build habits that support your writing plus, you’ll practice some of them while you write.
The Big Lesson for Writing Your Book Faster
The big lesson here is best captured by the book that I named my Book of the Year in 2011.
And the winner was… Obliquity by John Kay. Kay is a highly respected economist and professor at the London School of Economics and the University of Oxford. (A longer review of Obliquity is here)
The surprising subtitle of this book is: Why Our Goals are Best Achieved Indirectly. Several of his chapter titles highlight this idea:
- How the happiest people do not pursue happiness
- How the most profitable companies are not the most profit-oriented.
- And, how the wealthiest people are not the most materialistic
The same applies here: The fastest way to write your book is not typing faster. And it’s not spending more time writing. Like Usain Bolt, the fastest way to write your book happens off-field.
More on How to Write a Book
This has been the fourth and final post in a series on The Game Plan for Authors. It’s an example of how to use the ideas in my new book, The Done Game Plan.
To dig deeper and learn more about how to write a book, check out the other three videos in this series:
- Answer this before you start writing your book
- The surprising secret to finishing your book
- Book Writing Tips – Write your book the easy way
What did you think of the surprising secret in this post? And which of the seven strategies will you use today?