A Writing Technique For the Distractible Writer

Write in super short sessions. Not short as in one hour, or thirty minutes, but really, really short. So short that there’s almost no chance your mind will wander, and every time your timer goes off, you’ve just been reminded of what you’re supposed to be doing.

Here’s why I’m giving this advice.

Three days ago, I started writing in 5 minute sessions.

I’ve written at a faster pace in the last three days than I’ve done since I started keeping track of that kind of thing in January 2013.

These 5 minute sessions have gotten me to 1,581 today on one story. I wrote almost all those words in eleven 5 minute sprints, although I did have one 15 minute session where I was just writing some stuff that I needed to get down before I stopped on that story—I had made it to 1,200 but wasn’t quite ready to stop. That’s 1,355 words an hour. My usual pace is 300–500 words an hour.

Last year, I spent a lot of time trying to reach 1,000 words an hour consistently. That didn’t work out. In case you’re thinking I’m losing time to the breaks between the sessions, I tracked the time and found that over 5 sessions, I spent 3 minutes in breaks, total.

This has made me really think about how easily distracted I am and how that’s been affecting my writing. I mean, I know it’s been affecting my writing, but I haven’t really had any way to see just how short a period I’m able to stay focused at a high level when I’m writing until this experiment started.

I don’t want to over think this, but I’m definitely having thoughts about it, and I’ll be keeping it up for as long as it works.

I haven’t yet reached 200 words in 5 minutes, but that’s what I’m aiming for.

For those not in the know, I write what I consider finished words. I don’t do rough drafting with the intent to fix stuff later. I make sure things are right before I move on from one sentence and paragraph to another. If I fix stuff later, it’s because there are mistakes that need fixed.

What that means is that I don’t allow spelling mistakes, typos, or other stuff to slide as I write. So 200 is a GREAT goal for me. And I’m just going to keep trying until I reach it. :D Someday I will.