Five Tips for Writing Fast


Faster, faster, write faster.

As a screenwriter, there are times you’ll be asked to write fast. Whether it’s a class, a contest, an opportunity to submit, or an assignment—a screenwriter’s life is full of deadlines. And, at the beginning of your career, you’ll get this question “We really liked your script, what else do you have?” In that moment, you’ll realize just how important writing fast can be. Here are a few ideas on how to get those juices flowing and keep them flowing.

No 1 – Outline.

People always ask me if I outline or fly by the seat of my pants. My typical answer is a little of both. I don’t recommend outlining to the point of perfection unless someone’s paying you to do that. I outline in a very half-assed, haphazard way until I get bored with that and have to start writing. So, does that save time? Absolutely. The biggest waste of your time is sitting looking at an empty screen not knowing what comes next. If you’re like me and only outline part way, stop when you run out of outline and outline some more. Knowing where you’re going, even if it’s just for the next twenty pages is a huge timesaver.

No. 2 — Write anything.

I’m going to repeat something I just said, the biggest waste of time is looking at a blank screen. If you really can’t think of anything to write, write characters descriptions, write scene descriptions. You’re going to need them eventually and you can write a description about a warehouse even if you don’t know what will happen in there. And… don’t worry if what you’re writing is good. Once you finish you will go back and edit. That’s when you worry if it’s good or not. And that’s when you fix it.

No. 3 — Keep count.

This may seem obsessive and something of a time-waster so if you’re not into it just move on. But, if you’re like me keeping a daily word count (or page count) is very important. Knowing that I wrote three thousand words yesterday makes me excited to come back to the project tomorrow. And if I’m excited I write faster. On those days when I don’t write three thousand words, it’s good to have an idea how much I did do. There’s nothing wrong with bribing yourself with a latte or an extra cookie when you’re three or four hundred words away from a milestone.

No. 4 — Quit while you’re ahead.

If you have trouble getting started first thing each morning, then quit writing half way through a scene. If you know what comes next makes it’s a lot easier to get started the next morning. Writing begets writing. By the time you finish the scene from last night you’ll have a good sense of where you need to go next.

No. 5 — Keep notes.

Most of these suggestions work well if you’re sitting at your desk writing all day long. But what if you’re grabbing bits of time here and there? If your day is broken up into many different activities and you only have a little bit of time to devote solely to writing then you need a little notebook (or a recording app) to carry around and take notes as things occur to you. If you do a good job taking notes when the ideas come then the next time you sit down to write, you’ll have a page or two of notes to input and that will, generally, grease the gears and get things going.

These tips should get you started writing fast. Do you have any good tricks for writing fast?


Marshall Thornton has an MFA from UCLA in screenwriting. He spent ten years writing spec scripts and has been a semi-finalist or better in the Nicholl, Samuel Goldwyn, American Accolades, One-In-Ten and Austin Film Festival contests. As a novelist, he writes the Lambda Award-winning Boystown Mysteries. The eight book series follows the cases of a gay detective in turbulent 1980s Chicago. Marshall has also been known to write the occasional romantic comedy. You can find him online at You can follow him on Twitter: @mrshllthornton

11 Replies to "Five Tips for Writing Fast"

  • comment-avatar
    Cathy J Drummond September 18, 2017 (4:52 am)

    Tip: Remember why you were writing in the first place. Because you wanted to do this!!!

  • comment-avatar
    jude mead September 18, 2017 (5:01 am)

    Great five tips and best of all they are easy to recall. Now I must practice them.

  • comment-avatar
    Robbert September 18, 2017 (8:02 pm)

    Great tips thank you. Another suggestion. Write down the eight major scenes that outline your story. Then write the linking incidents that lead you to and from the eight major scenes. You will find that writing becomes an interesting puzzle that inspires.

    • comment-avatar
      Marshall Thornton September 18, 2017 (9:01 pm)

      Thanks for the suggestion! You’re right moments and scenes you’re excited about writing pull you forward.

  • comment-avatar
    Jason Dolan September 22, 2017 (7:50 pm)

    These are great tips. Sometimes I go weeks without writing anything. Now I just surrender to the blocks. Haha. When I’m ready to write again, I’m definitely going to employ these suggestions!

    • comment-avatar
      Marshall Thornton September 22, 2017 (7:54 pm)

      Thanks for the comment. I’ve had periods where I didn’t write much. It happens. Sometimes you have to have some “life” so you have something to write about.

      • comment-avatar
        Jason Dolan September 22, 2017 (11:13 pm)

        That’s true! And sometimes you have so much “life” you don’t have time to write! LOL

  • comment-avatar
    Dean Cycon November 20, 2017 (11:40 am)

    Call me old fashioned (or make me another, please!) but I keep a dictaphone with me all day and on the bedstand at night. The creative ideas, the new scenes, the character flaws and reworked plot twists are captured right away. It sure beats waking in the middle of the night with a brainstorm and trying some mnemonic device to implant it into your brain until the morning (spoiler alert – I always forget them and feel awful). An inexpensive and thoughtful holiday gift for the writer in your life!

    • comment-avatar
      Marshall Thornton November 20, 2017 (12:15 pm)

      Thanks for the comment. Not a bad idea. I used to have a pad by my bed… but then I started remembering my ideas. 🙂

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