Episode # 107 – Writing 5,000 Words an Hour with Chris Fox

In Uncategorized by Angela McConnell43 Comments

chriscovernewIn an effort to 10x his book sales goals, Chris Fox realized he needed to increase his writing speed…and ended up developing an app and a book to help others do it too! Find out how he went from writing his first novel in 18 months to writing his most recent novel — some of his best work, he says — in 13 days.


 

Links:

Chris Fox Author Website

Amazon Author Page

5,000 Words Per Hour – the app

5,000 Words Per Hour – the book

Chris Fox’s (excellent) Marketing Principles series: Part 1 – The Fundamentals, Part 2 – Passive Marketing, and Part 3 – Paid Advertising

10x Thinking: Applying startup methodology to indie publishing

How Gamification Will Dramatically Increase Your Word Count

Mentions:

RSP Episode # 81 – Chris Fox on Applying the Startup Mindset to Writing

The Author Biz (podcast): How a First Time Novelist Used Silicon Valley Tactics to Launch his Book – With Chris Fox

Take Off Your Pants!: Outline Your Books for Faster, Better Writing by Libbie Hawker

2k to 10k: Writing Faster, Writing Better, and Writing More of What You Love by Rachel Aaron

Brandon Sanderson (author)

Write Better, Faster: How To Triple Your Writing Speed and Write More Every Day (Growth Hacking For Storytellers #1) by Monica Leonelle

The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss

Momentumdash.com – Chrome Productivity plug-in

Mark Dawson (author)

Show notes:

Background:

When we first had Chris on the show back in January, we discussed 10x thinking, “the art of Dreaming Big,” and how he’s been applying it to his writing career. It’s no surprise he is an advocate of 10x thinking. He currently works 60+ hours a week in Silicon Valley as a lead developer for a medical app, and he’s published four titles since October 2014, when he debuted his popular No Such Thing As Werewolves, Book 1 in his Deathless series.

At the time of our first interview, Chris had set a goal to sell 60,000 books this year…but after the show, decided to 10x that goal and make it an even 600,000. He realized that in order to achieve such an incredible goal, he was going to have to learn to write faster. And so he did. Incredibly, he “went from never writing more than two hundred words a day to never less than three thousand,” cranking out “a minimum of 5,000 words every single day,” an impressive feat that Chris regularly accomplishes in less than an hour and a half, occasionally in a single hour (from 5,000 Words Per Hour).

Getting Up to Speed

Chris built up his enviable writing speed by leveraging basic principles of neuroscience. Just as experienced drivers don’t have to consciously think about how to drive, he reasoned he could train his brain to enter a similar flow state while writing and produce consistently high word counts…as easy as driving to the store.

He started by doing writing sprints, 20-minute sessions, no corrections, no stopping, no editing. His initial word counts came in around 2,200-2,500 words an hour, working in shorter time sprints. He soon began to figure out little efficiencies and trained himself to use voice dictation. Today, his average is 3,900 words per  hour, with occasional spikes up to 5,200 words an hour!

Chris has found that he can work up to 30 minutes straight before needing a break. Typically, he’ll do three 30-minute writing sprints each day, sometimes four if he has extra time. The first sprint he’ll do on the way to work, take a break, give himself 5-10 minutes to figure out the next scene, and then repeat. Depending on where he is on his goal of 5,000 words a day, he’ll sometimes add another sprint on the way home. And that is how he wrote his last book in 13 days.

5,000 Words Per Hour: Write Faster, Write Smarter

Chris originally created the app for himself, to help him with his speed training, but when people started asking him about it, he made it available…along with a book that streamlines his process. He believes that anybody can hit 5,000 words an hour, and he’s getting enthusiastic feedback from writers already reporting great results.

The app itself is basically a timer that allows the user to input either the project total or the number of words that you have, and the app tracks all the metrics you might want to track about the speed of your writing. It’s free, with a premium version available for $2.99 that allows you to track over the length of a project or time and download the data into a CSV file. At this time, the app is only available for iOS, but Chris is actively seeking an Android developer. (So if you are an Android app developer and are interested, please contact Chris at chris@chrisfoxwrites.com, or leave a message in the comments at the bottom. :) )

The Next Big Thing

Chris’s next book in his Deathless series is Vampires Don’t Sparkle, due out Halloween 2015. In November, Project Solaris, his first in a new series, comes out, with Books 2 and 3 to follow within the next few months afterwards.

Quotes:

“Ironically, I found that the faster that I write, the cleaner that the prose that comes out is.” – Chris Fox

Action Steps to Become a Faster Writer:

  • Start in the morning when you’re fresh. Chris has found that he’s two times more productive in the morning than in the evening.
  • Know what you’re going to write before you sit down to write. Chris stresses that his strategy is absolutely geared towards plotters. It’s important to know what you’re writing. If you’re a pantser, it’s difficult, he says, to write for speed.
  • Build up your speed and focus with mini-sprints. Start with mini-sprints, 5 or 10 minutes at a time, and slowly increase the length of time as  you become more proficient at fast-drafting. Anybody can hit 5,000 words an hour, Chris says.
  • Don’t stop to correct, edit, or ruminate. Just keep moving forward.
  • Use voice-to-text speech recognition software like Dragon NaturallySpeaking to up your speed and reduce keyboard time. A typical person speaks at about 150 words per minute, faster than most people can type. Chris likes to dictate for 5-10 minutes while waiting at his bus stop in the morning, then switch to a keyboard once he boards the bus.
  • Track your data to discover your best writing times. Keep a spreadsheet or a log…or better yet, download Chris’s app.
  • Keep at it. Practice every day. Consistency, repetition, and mindful effort are necessary to build good habits…and this is definitely a habit most writers want!

Simon Asks:

How many words do you write in an hour? a day? How long does it take you to write a book? How long do you wish it took you to write a book?

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Leave a comment below or get in touch with Simon by email at simon@rockingselfpublishing.com

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Angela McConnellEpisode # 107 – Writing 5,000 Words an Hour with Chris Fox
  • Kim

    Loved this episode. Chris is such an inspiration. I will be cheering him on all the way to 600,000 books!

    Simon, looking forward to your behind-the-scenes youtube video.

    • Chris Fox

      Likewise. I’d love to see Simon’s process. Thanks for the kind words, Kim =)

    • SimonRSP

      Working on it this afternoon!

  • Richard Keller

    Simon and Chris, an intriguing episode which I’ll need to listen to again and read the show notes. I want … no, I need 10x 10x 10x to move ahead. I really need to break the invisible wall which keeps me blocked.

    • SimonRSP

      Yeah! 10X is a fantastic way to break through those blocks!

    • Chris Fox

      I have complete faith in you, Richard. Believe and you will achieve.

  • Jon

    Good show, Chris. Maybe you said this and I missed it, but what is your voice dictation program? Thanks

    • SimonRSP

      Chris is following the comments I think, but I hear very good things about Dragon Dictation 🙂

    • Chris Fox

      Simon was spot on. Dragon is the one I use. They have a version for both Mac and PC. It isn’t cheap, but it is very worth it =)

  • mtr amg

    I think the key to hitting his goal is that Chris has to plan it out in small steps. He’s plotting his success as well as his books!
    Libbie’s book is excellent and after reading it I went back and plotted out a lot of story ideas I had in a very rough form. It helped me to see where the blockages were in some and to see past them. To see what the story needed.
    It sounds funny but I need the ticking sound of the timer to do my writing sprints… that ticking reminds me what I am doing. So I had to go on a search of the mall for an older style one when mine died 🙁
    I wrote 43k in five days for the last nanowrimo but it killed me at the time… but like everything, you get used to it. And starting earlier means you hit that goal faster!
    Wow Simon – you’re on Apple’s radar! Neat!

    • SimonRSP

      Ha, I don’t need the ticking, but I need the regular bleeps. I work with a Pomodoro timer (25 minutes work, 5 minutes break) often, and those little chimes keep me motivated 😉

      • mtr amg

        that’ll work. Is it a real tomato shaped one? lol

        • SimonRSP

          Mine is just a digital one, but the tomato shaped ones do exist!

    • Chris Fox

      Planning is definitely a huge part of my success plan. See where you want to go, then make a plan to get there.

      I wonder if I should add a ticking option to the app?

      • mtr amg

        I have kids on the autism spectrum and sound is a big trigger for them – both good and bad. I saw someone else comment on it recently too – so there might be a demand for it. I don’t even own a smart phone… yet. One day I will succumb.

        • Chris Fox

          Hmm, I’ll look into it. Now I’m curious how I might do that =)

          I’m coming out with a Mac version of the app as well, but probably not PC any time soon.

        • Greg Thomas

          Not to go off on a tangent (and I realize this is an old post), but how do your kids respond positively to sound triggers? My 5 yr old daughter is autistic and we have challenges with sound triggers (vacuums, hair dryers, motorcycles, etc.). Suggestions for using sounds to our advantage would be awesome. You can email me directly if you’d like (gregthomasbooks@gmail.com).
          Simon, great show as always.
          Chris, once again you’ve inspired me to work harder AND smarter. I need an app called “KeepingUpWithChris” so I can challenge myself to stick with your pace!

          • mtr amg

            They are all nearly grown up now, but I will have a think and reply to your email.

  • Is it weird I find Chris’s speaking speed perfectly normal? (His thinking speed, on the other hand, is fast!)

    The idea of sprints is brilliant! Chris, do you know if this works for rewriting (I’m doing the second pass of a novella now), or is this just for first drafts?

    • SimonRSP

      It was probably his thinking speed that tripped me up more 😉

    • Chris Fox

      It should work for all drafts. The next version of the app will include sprint types (editing, proofing, writing, or other).

  • Great show, guys. I got the book and the app. So far I’m loving both!

    • SimonRSP

      Thanks for listening Ron 🙂

    • Chris Fox

      Awesome, thanks Ron. I’d love to hear how it goes!

  • M.A. Robbins

    Coming from a software development background, sprints makes total sense. I wonder if Chris could expound more about his use of dictation software. He mentioned he uses it while waiting for the bus, then switches to typing while on the bus. What is his setup? Does he use Scrivener and how does he get the dictated text into it?

    • SimonRSP

      I know he uses Dragon Dictate, but I’m not sure of the process outside of that. Hopefully Chris will chime in 🙂

    • Chris Fox

      I do use Scrivener. Dragon has a simple word processor, so I dump the audio file into that, then copy and paste the words into a chapter document in Scrivener. The process is a little convoluted, but I’ve gotten used to it and it’s working. I’ll write it up in a blog post in the next week, if you think that will be helpful =)

      I much prefer typing to voice dictation, but voice is such a powerful tool it’s hard to ignore.

      • M.A. Robbins

        Thanks, Chris. I’d love to see it in a blog post.

  • Carolyn Jewel

    If you want to port to android take a look at the titanium dev platform.

    • SimonRSP

      Thanks Carolyn, I know Chris is watching these comments, so I’m sure he’ll see this 🙂

    • Chris Fox

      I’m familiar with it. Native development offers a lot more advantages, so if I were going to learn a new one I’d definitely pick up Java instead. I wish I had the time!

  • Carolyn Jewel

    Second. I’m dying here. Being a pantser does NOT mean staring at a blank page with no idea what to write. That’s such a misunderstanding. I am a pantser with 30 published novels, novellas, and short stories. I have written 100k word novels in 90 days. I have a full time job. At one point I wrote a contracted novel in 90 days while working full time and while in Grad school.

    • SimonRSP

      I’ll let Chris jump in on this one, but I would say that I don’t think Chris was implying that pantsers can’t write fast, just maybe not as fast as someone who knows exactly what they need to write, and it’s just a matter of getting the words on the page.

    • Chris Fox

      That’s awesome, Carolyn! Once upon a time I was a pantser, and I wasn’t nearly so fortunate. I spent a lot of time staring at a blank cursor, and I know a lot of other pantsers who suffer from the same problem. George R.R. Martin seems to be one of them. So I’d argue that you’re an exception. Most plotters haven’t even put out the body of work you have, much less pantsers.

      How do you plot your stories from scratch so consistently as a pantser? I think that’s amazing. Do you ever have days where it’s harder?

      • Carolyn Jewel

        I will submit to you that you were never a pantser. You were a plotter using a writing process that does not work for the way your brain is wired. I have tried plotting methods and they do not work for me. The goal is to find the method that gets words on the page. There’s a continuum. Some writers use a combination of structured methods and unstructured ones. I’ve been writing and publishing since 1987 and as you note in your book the more you write the more you understand about story and yourself as a writer. It’s beyond the scope of a comment to fully answer your question but being in the groove, as it were, is crucial to writing without plotting. I think pantsers are less common but there are plenty of us. I wrote a blog post about this a month or so ago. The good news is that your core system of tracking and pushing through is a benefit to plotters and pantsers. As to consistently getting story on the page, for me it’s characters first. Plot arises (for me) from character. There’s no point in me plotting without knowing my characters and I know my characters by writing them. It’s more complex than that, as everything is.

  • I was just listening to this show again this morning and wanted to ask Chris whether he’s read Jane MacGonigal’s Reality is broken? In Chapter 8, Leveling up in life, she writes that she would have loved a Writing+ system (like Nike+) while writing her book and then goes on to describe what that potential app could do (p. 163 in my print edition) … Mission accomplished. 🙂 Chris, you should totally send her a link!

    • Chris Fox

      Wow. I have read her book, though it was a while ago. Maybe I’ll ping her on Twitter and see if she responds =)

  • Great interview. I’ve been doing something similar 15 mins blocks of writing, works great. I have dragon dictations on my phone and use it in the car on the way to and from work.

    • Chris Fox

      I love that you’re doing it on your phone too. It feels so good to make use of that commute!

  • Brannon Hollingsworth

    Simon and Chris – loved the show! Lots of info in just a little time. Wonderful! Chris, I would love to chat with you more about some of the details about what you’re doing in a larger context. As a self-published author and small press publisher, I would love to “pick your brain” for a bit. Would it be appropriate if I emailed you directly? Thanks so much, and congrats on these achievements – amazing! 😀

    • Chris Fox

      Absolutely, Brannon. Feel free to shoot me an email at chris@chrisfoxwrites.com

      • Brannon Hollingsworth

        Awesome! Thanks so much, Chris!