How to Write Faster with Scrivener

    Just imagine being able to write faster.

    Wouldn’t that make a huge difference?

    I’m not talking about becoming a writing automaton who spits out 5000 words a day.

    Because speed isn’t everything; it has to be balanced with quality. If you write 5000 words a day but most of what you write is rubbish, then it’s not worth cranking up your speed.


    Improving your writing speed by 40% or more would substantially increase your productivity—if your quality were to stay the same or even improve.

    I’ve always regarded myself as a slow writer. But just recently, I had an epiphany about writing faster with Scrivener.

    My timeframe was tight and I wanted to write a memorable post. So I had to develop a system that would allow me to write well and fast.

    How to Write Faster

    The system I developed allowed me to improve my speed of writing by 45%.

    I call it the Brainwave System because it supports the creative activity of the brain.

    The first piece I wrote with this system turned out to be one of my best posts: How to Write Better: 3 Secrets of Transmitting Naked Emotions. 

    Commenters said things like ‘Great by all standards,’ ‘Wow, what a fantastic post!’, ‘Brilliant article, Mary,’ ‘One of the best articles on writing that I’ve read,’ and so on.

    I’m not saying this to brag. I just want to point out that the danger of writing fast is that your piece may be feeble. But the method I used, actually improves your writing.

    I once got a guest post from a very well-known blogger whose claim to fame was that he had created a system of speedy writing. But the post was so poor, I had to ask for a rewrite.


    Okay, I’ve made my point: we need to be able to write fast and well.

    But what slows down the process of writing, and how to speed it up?

    Let’s take a medical approach. I’ll investigate symptoms, find the causes—and prescribe the cure.

    Slow Writitis, anyone?

    Imagine for a moment that you go to a ‘writing doctor’ to find a cure for slow writing.

    You enter the surgery.

    The doctor holds a stethoscope to your page and shakes her head, saying, “Yes, I can see that you’ve got a bad case of Slow Writitis. What are your symptoms?”

    I reckon that you’d come up with one of these three symptoms:

    • Can’t get started
    • Get part-way, then stop
    • Overwrite

    I think these are the most common symptoms. (Or do you have other, more exotic symptoms? If so, please share in the comments!)

    What are the causes?

    There are four main causes of Slow Writitis:

    • Confusion
    • Perfectionism
    • Overwriting
    • Doubts

    Let’s take a closer look at these four causes. Check out which ones you tend to suffer from!

    1. Confusion

    A couple of days ago, one of my A-List Blogging Masterclass students asked me to look at a guest post draft.

    She’d got stuck halfway through, which turned out to be a recurring problem for her.

    When I took a look at her draft, I saw a great intro, followed by a list of ideas all jumbled together. I immediately felt the urge to put the piece aside.


    Because of the confusion.

    When you have many ideas with no apparent order, the brain feels overwhelmed and creativity diminishes.

    In a way, it’s the curse of vivid creativity.

    If you spit out a myriad ideas—without being able to put them into some kind of framework—the confusion can derail the creative process.

    I’ve suffered from this in the past and it definitely slowed down my writing. A lot!

    2. Perfectionism

    Do you want to write well?

    Oh, that’s bad luck! Because trying to write well is one of the most common causes of slow writing.

    If you want to learn how to write faster, you need to embrace crummy first drafts!

    Here’s why…

    When your brain is in the creative mode, you’re using mainly the right hemisphere of your brain. However, the process of editing is a left-brain activity.

    If you try to write and edit at the same time, you’re sending opposing signals to your brain and your creativity shuts down.

    It’s like driving a car and stepping on the accelerator and the brake at the same time.

    Chances are, your car won’t go anywhere!

    3. Overwriting

    Do you sometimes write a lot more than you need—and then have to slash and prune? It used to happen to me all the time.

    I regularly ended up with a 3,000 word draft for a 1,200 word article. As you can imagine, that’s a waste of time and effort.

    Overwriting can be a sign of lack of focus. If your piece is tightly focused right from the start, and you watch the word count for each section, you’re much less likely to overwrite.

    I say more about this in the video below.

    The fourth cause of slow writing is insidious. It has to do with a hidden mindset.

    4. Doubts

    One of the key causes of slow writing is doubts about your ability.

    These doubts are perfectionism’s close companion. And they are fueled by low confidence.

    Here is the invisible script that low confidence implants in the mind: “Is this really good enough?”

    Do you recognize the thought pattern?

    Even if you’re not aware of your doubts, they may be there, hiding beneath your ordinary thoughts.

    Of course, when you have doubts about your ability, you hesitate to put anything to paper.

    This is how doubts fueled by low confidence act as a break and slow down your speed of writing.

    Doubts can actually stop your creative process altogether, and are a common cause for failing to complete pieces.

    I’ll say more about doubts—and how to overcome them—in the video below.

    How to Write Faster With Scrivener

    In the following video, I show the Brainwave System of fast writing. You can adapt this system to any writing software. However, it works best with Scrivener because of its flexibility.

    As I write mostly non-fiction, I developed the system for writing blogposts or articles, but it could also be used for larger pieces of non-fiction writing, as well as for writing novels.


    Did you find the video helpful?

    As you can see, the Brainwave System works with the brain, and not against it. The main thing is that this system creates a lattice on which you can hang your creative ideas.

    Of course, there are other ways to assemble a piece of writing. You can create a profusion of ideas and then slowly bring your piece into line—which can take a long time.

    Or you can write a piece in a linear fashion, starting at the beginning and ending with the completion, which can lead to dull writing because your creativity may not fire.

    If you want to write fast and well, try the Brainwave System and see if it works for you.

    I’m keen to know what you think.

    If you’ve enjoyed the post, please share it with your friends on social media. 🙂

    About the author

      Mary Jaksch

      Mary Jaksch is best known for her exceptional training for writers at and for her cutting-edge book, Youthful Aging Secrets. In her “spare” time, Mary is also the brains behind, a Zen Master, a mother, and a 5th Degree Black Belt.

    • Inspiring and motivating post on writing faster AND using Scrivener to do it. I plan to use this method right away to outline my 5 pending blog ideas. Thanks!

    • Shanika says:

      Thank you for this simple, yet highly effective technique. I was struggling with my writing because of overwriting from over thinking. Thanks for sharing a way to simplify it better. Much Heart

    • Richard says:

      Hi Mary,

      Like your article and especially like the video about Scrivener.

    • Shivesh says:


      I really enjoyed reading your post. It was really helpful although the I couldn’t watch the video but I understood what is the problem with slow writing.

      Thanks for the great post.
      Keep Writing, Keep Reading Keep Humming

      • Hi Shivesh – I’m sorry you couldn’t watch the video… but I’m glad you found the article helpful.

    • Darwin Garing says:

      Amazing! I didn’t realize “Perfectionism” can be a downside when it comes to writing. I’ve been editing while writing ever since I started writing for my blog and it honestly sometimes messed with my writing mood. Thank you for sharing your thoughts Mary….

      • Yeah, Darwin – the more we want to write ‘well’ when we sit down to write, the more it slows us down. Weird, eh?

    • Hi! I’m about to start writing the script for a startup pitch I’m doing next week. I get stuck in exactly the same way you explain it for writing blog posts. All the advice comes in very handy. Thanks!

      • Hey Laure, I keep my fingers crossed that your script takes shape more easily now. Please come back here after you’ve finished the script and tell us how it went, okay?

    • Roy says:

      Great guidance, Mary. I’m particularly encouraged by the idea of using separate folders. It isolates ideas, makes writing more manageable, and reduces the anxiety of viewing your project in its entirety. I give it The Duh Award, for those of us that hadn’t seen its beauty. Thank you, Mam.

      • Ha! I love the ‘Duh Award’. Very funny, Roy.

        What you say is very interesting. In particular I was struck with your ideas of why creating separate folders works: “It isolates ideas, makes writing more manageable, and reduces the anxiety of viewing your project in its entirety.”

        From a perspective of creativity, when you isolate ideas, they can bump up against each other and thus boost creativity. Does this make sense?

    • Thanks Mary. I have shyed away from investing in scrivener as I couldnt face learning/see myself learning how to use the software. You made the whole process seem very simple and doable and I love the idea of setting your goals (writting length) from the beginning. Jumping around from section to section is how my brain works best too and it is nice to have that pre-formatted structure/organised sections to play around in as I write. Ok…adding scrivener to my Wish List. Thank you. And happy-making blog.

      • Hey Nathu, nice to see you here! Yes, Scrivener is a great program. The good thing is that it can be used simply, but you an also learn to use it in a more sophisticated way.

        I just learned today that I could set up a template for writing blogposts (following my method). That would be great!

        I’ve been talking with Joseph Michael who has created a great little course on Scrivener. I’d like him to do a webinar for WTD readers.

    • As you know well, Mary – perfectionism is one of my worst enemies. It slows me down soooo much. It’s very easy to re-hash my writing over and over again until I’ve confused myself.

      This post is full of smart perspectives that should help a ton. Great work 🙂 Thanks!

      • Ah yes, Gary, your perfectionism… I know it well. You’re such a talented writer!

        Sometimes, I just want to grab you by the scruff of your neck and shake you, saying loudly, “YOU ARE BLOODY TALENTED, YOU…[deleted expletive]!”

        But that might not work (… I’m small and Gary towers over me).

        Here’s another tack. You see, something occurred to me today. I was talking with one of my Zen students whose self esteem tends to be a bit wobbly. She is just on the verge of a new relationship – and that’s when doubts tend to kick in, right?

        I’m sure you know the kind of thoughts, ‘Does he/she really like me?”, “Am I good enough for him/her?”, and so on. Now, this student of mine came up with an interesting way to work with these kind of thoughts: whenever she notices the thoughts, she says to herself, “But I’m worth it!”

        This might also work for doubts about one’s writing! Psychologically, the word ‘but’ has a way of erasing a previous statement. (That’s why ‘I like you, but …’ tends to backfire).

        So in this scenario, the inner statement of “… but I”m worth it!’ would wipe away the doubts around the quality of your writing.

        Please try it and let me know if it work, okay?

    • altaj says:

      i cant see this video mary:(

      • Oh, I’m so sorry you can’t see the video. I uploaded the video to Vimeo – which should theoretically mean that you can see the video on may device.

        Have you tried using another browser?

    • Great post Mary. Helpful and to the point. I liked your Star Wars reference too!

    • Anna says:

      I also have another symptom. Sometimes I just lose the structure of the articles, start jumping from one point to another without keeping a logical line.

      • Ah yes, that has happened to me too in the past, Anna. That’s why I like creating a structure first, so that every idea can be placed in a suitable place. Otherwise I end up with confusion.

    • Theresa says:

      Hi Mary,
      You have hit the nail on the head this time. If we can conquer our thoughts, (maximize our brain-power) we can accomplish our goals. This is one of the best articles I have ever read on writing, and I have read thousands, truly. The doctor theme is so apt! and combined with how you use Scrivener (NB: Note to self, get Scrivener) to plan and organise your thoughts is really great. I tried so many ‘writing software programs’ scrivener too, and the way you have shown how useful it is, is amazing. Thank you, you have helped me tremendously, as I suffered from Writitis and Doubt. You have cleared a lot of that up for me. You are a genius, thank you. I also learn programs on a need to know basis, our brains can only hold so much information and until we need to use it, why clutter the mechanics?

    • Tami Gilford says:

      Hi Mary!
      HAD to comment on your post AND video to say a great big THANK YOU! for taking the time to create and share this wonderfully useful technique! (adore your accent btw!you make it easy and a pleasure to learn!) I have been writing both in-house and freelance for nearly 2 decades and after sustaining a massive stroke (right side brain injury- creativity side of course!)I have found myself unable to get back into ‘the groove’! Organizing my work is probably one of the toughest things I have to cope with, overwriting is huge for me, focus, concentration, you name it! But your system;designed specifically with the individual’s own brain function- is absolutely the BEST I’ve come across! I LOVE IT AND RECOMMEND IT TO EVERYONE I KNOW IN THE INDUSTRY! I’ve shared on S.M. and will continue to recommend your methods to anyone who I think would benefit from YOUR brain type 😉
      All the Best-

      • Tami! I’m so impressed with your attitude of fortitude and positive energy! It must be so hard to come back to good function after a stroke and I’m delighted that my post and video has been of help.

        If anything’s not clear when you use my method, or you have other questions, please click on the Contact link and send me an email, okay?

        By the way, your reference to my accent make me chuckle. I grew up with two nationalities, English and German – and then emigrated to New Zealand.

    • Pat Lange says:

      Hello Mary, Wonderful post. This is very helpful.

    • Kimberly says:

      The learning and remembering curve with Scrivener has been the drawback for me. I’ve tried and remembering all the caveats is alot to remember when I would not be using them all the time. Not remembering them, leaves me out in the cold, as I see it, not knowing that there is a better or easier or more fun way to do something.
      So I make the outline by hand and get my writing done faster the old-fashion way. Maybe I’ll give it another try now that I’ve watched your video, but I’ll still write the outline by hand, if needed for a blog post. Thanks for posting it.

    • Patrick says:

      Thanks. I enjoyed your article.

      I disagree with the 5000 words of rubbish idea. I don’t think that could ever happen. Anyone who can manage 5000 words per day has overcome self doubt, confusion, and perfectionism.

      Mary, tell me you were mistaken.


      PS I don’t think overwriting is possible (under-editing, but not overwriting). Look at some of those 1,000 page novels out there.

      • Hi Patrick, ‘overwriting’ simply means writing much beyond what you need.

        Let’s say you’re planning to produce a big novel with 300,000 words. ‘Overwriting’ would mean ending up with 800,000 words and then having to delete half a million words.

        I used to write twice as many words as i needed for any given project. Now I aim for producing 10% more words – and then sharpening the piece by cutting away 10% of my final word count in a sharp edit.

        As to how many words you can write a day, I think it would depend on how your life is structured and how much time you can give to your writing. When I landed a book contract some years ago, I had to write about 2,000 words a day in order to meet my publishers deadline.

        In any case, thank you for stepping up and joining the discussion, Patrick!

    • Randal says:

      Thank you for your article and for a look see into how you use Scrivner to organize and create your final product.

    • This was a great post! I purchased Scrivener but it seemed like a huge program to understand so it’s been sitting here unused. Your video made it so simple! I can’t wait to use it to write my posts. Thank you!

      • Thanks for stopping by, Renayle. Please let me know how to go with using Scrivener for your next post.

    • Robert Robison says:

      Could you use evernote?

      Thanks for the post and video.

      • As I said above, in principle, you could use any writing program, including Evernote. I’ve tried it but I could never quite make it work. It could be that Evernote is good for holding collections of ideas, but not so good for then putting those ideas together in a meaningful way to make an article or post.

    • Thank you for this post, Mary. I was overwhelmed by Scrivener and let it sit for a bit as well. Gradually I started to use it and love it, but I think I utilize about the same percentage of its features as we humans reportedly do of our brains – in other words – not much 🙂

      Your post has given me a few more skills, and a few more reasons to love it!

      I saw from your screen on the video that you also use Evernote. Have you ever done a post on how you utilize it? I’m afraid Evernote is much the same as Scrivener for me – underutilized.

      Thanks again for the very helpful post!

      • I have to admit, Penny, that Evernote quickly turned into Nevernote for me.

        I had a look at it again in view or your comment, and I think it would be possible to use it, but I don’t think it would give me the strong structure and flexibility that Scrivener offers.

        There is something I didn’t include in the video,and that’s the Corkboard function in Scrivener. You can see it in the image below. You can drag and drop the boards (which correspond to post sections) in any order.

    • I’m in the proofreading stage of my first book and much of what I did in the first several chapters is poorly structured. I feel a little sick when I think of going back and trying to repair and organize what I’ve done. I’m grateful to you, Mary, for this video as I can see how helpful it will be not only for future writing, but to help me improve what I’ve already done. Thanks.

      • Hey Susan, re-organizing your novel in Scrivener is not going to be a huge task. What I would suggest, though, is that you buy this excellent (and cheapish) course: Learn Scrivener Fast.

        It has a lot of excellent training on how to use Scrivener for a novel.

    • Thank you for this great post, Mary. I was overwhelmed by Scrivener as well, but gradually started using it and love it, but utilize the same percentage of features as we do of our brains – not much :-).

      Now I have a few new skills to use and a few new reasons to love it.

      I saw from your screen on the video that you also use Evernote. Have you done a post on how you utilize it? I’m afraid Evernote is much the same as Scrivener for me – underutilized…

      Thanks again, Mary.

    • Brenda says:

      This is JUST what I needed to be able to use Scrivener more effectively and get my writing done! I’ve been avoiding writing because my pieces always seem to go wonky in the middle — I either find myself on a different tangent or muddled (confusion, like you said). I tried pushing through, to just keep writing to edit it down later, but my inspiration and motivation had already surrendered and wanted to go do something else.

      I know now that I can just open a new project with the new tangent and follow the process you outlined! I have hundreds of great post ideas started and saved in Word. It’s time to finish those out.

      Thanks for the education on Scrivener (I’m still wending my way through the tutorial I bought on how the “knobs” all work *yawn*), now I’m off to get some writing done!!

    • Kim says:

      This information is terrifically helpful, Mary. I, too, have owned Scrivener for some time, but have not been using it. Your framework for writing the post with the addition of the video makes this post incredibly useful, both for better and faster writing, as well as for putting Scrivener to work for me. Thanks so much!

      • I purchased Scrivener quite a while ago, and it just seemed too difficult.

        I’ve since got good at using software badly…!

        What I mean by that is that I focus on simple usage, and disregard a lot of complex features until I’m ready to learn them.

    • Jane says:

      Great piece Mary. Usually, my obstacle used to be writing and editing at the same time. I wanted every sentence of my draft to be perfect. I ended up wasting a lot of time (and energy in switching back and forth between write and edit modes).

      Not just that, if I edit when I write, I break the flow of my words and end up losing a lot of good writing.

      I realized this a while ago and fixed this. Now I just write and edit later – I end up finishing a post much quicker and usually with much improved quality.

      Thanks SO much for putting this up, Mary.


      • I like the sounds of how you’ve come to grips writing versus editing, Jane! It’s so important to lock the Editor in the cupboard while you write!

    • Neil says:

      Overwriting and perfectionism are the ones which I used to suffer from. Thankfully I have learned it control. Great post for those who are still not identifying the root problems to their writing. Good work.

      • Well done for overcoming perfectionism and overwriting, Neil!

        I think perfectionism is much more difficult to come to grips with because it’s a pervasive mindset.

        What’s your experience?

    • I’ve been a victim to all of these, except perfectionism. I get into the zone and just write. I don’t focus on wording, only concepts. As long as the idea is there I can see the scene when I edit. Mind you, it may take 3-5 hours to write the chapter, but 10-12 to edit. And this edit I still consider the first draft.

    • Barney Leith says:

      Thank you for a very helpful post and video. I suffer from all four of the causes of slow writing, so your system using Scrivener will be very helpful.

      The video was excellent, probably the simplest and best introduction to Scrivener I’ve seen! I’ve had Scrivener for years, but have never really got to grips with it. Now I shall try again, using your Brainwave System!

      Many thanks.

      • Hey Barney, Scrivener sat on my shelf for a long time too! There seemed to be just too many knobs to twiddle.

        But then I realized that I don’t have to use all the many functions! That’s when I started to using Scrivener in a very simple way that worked for me.

    • I’m glad you liked the post, Justine!

      As to your question: yes, you could use the same method with Word. Here’s how:

      Create a folder for your article or post. Then create a separate file for each of the big sections, like Introduction, Development, and Completion.

    • Justine Walker says:

      I enjoyed this post!

      The bit about the doctor was very funny …

      I thought the video made a lot of sense.

      I don’t have Scrivener. Would it be possible to use the same method with Word?

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