In 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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org, 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.
“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!
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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