work life

How to Write Faster (Bonus: You’ll write better, too!)

Creating content takes time.

If your business relies on fresh, new content (really, though, whose doesn’t?), you know how long it takes to take a piece from concept to publish.

What if you could cut out a huge chunk of time, the chunk that often takes the most time, and still produce quality work?

How to Write Faster and Better _ maggiemarton.com

In the years I spent teaching writing, and in the subsequent years I spent consulting, the one complaint I’ve heard over and over and over again is this: “It just takes forever to get the writing done.”

Said, of course, with a deep whine.

I get it. Writing is hard.

But, it doesn’t have to take forever. 

However, it seems most people sit down at their computer, open their software, and stare. And wait. And open Facebook. Then close Facebook. Then stare. Then refresh Twitter. Then feel panicked because nothing is coming to you and you need to write, write, write! So, you open Facebook. Refresh Twitter. Wait for the ideas and words that only come in fits and starts…

No wonder people complain about writing and how long it takes! But that method doesn’t actually finish the work–and, in many cases, it doesn’t even start the work!

Instead, your writing time must be structured, purposeful, and systematized.

For those of you who are aghast right now, like OMG NO I can’t make my writing systematized… argh! I can’t systematize my inspiration! What if the spirit isn’t with me in that structure?!?!? I’m here to tell you: Your writing will improve and you’ll finish more projects if you follow this method. If you wait until the spirit moves you to write, you’re not writing enough or well. #hardtruth

So, let’s dig in.

Here’s your three-part strategy for how to write faster (and better):

  1. Pre-write. Herein lies the key to prolific, quality writing. You must pre-write. I like good old paper and pencil for this, but use whatever tool works for you. I structure this into a handful of distinct parts:
    • Brainstorm: Get down every idea, good or bad. Make one big, long list that you can refer to often.
    • Pick: Select the one idea you want to think about now. NOTE: I didn’t say the one idea you want to write now… you’re just going to think.
    • Think: On that sheet of paper, jot down everything you know, think or know, or need to look up about that idea. Do any topics jump out? Does it bring up new ideas (jot those on that original brainstorm list to tackle later)? Does it eliminate itself for being too complicated or too unknown or too vague? If so, cut it and pick another from the list to think through! If not, move onto the next step.
    • Google: Jump into Google and do some searches to see if the keywords work for you, your business, and your post idea. If you use keyword research tools, start exploring–and notating–everything that comes up. You may find you have to ditch your idea at this stage and go back to your list to think through another. Or, you might hit a goldmine of awesome post ideas (capture them on the brainstorm list before you move on because forgetting is the worst). At the end of this stage, you have a thought-through idea and results of your keyword research. It’s time to…
    • Outline: On a fresh sheet of paper or new Doc, write your topic at the top, then work your way down with bullet points, hashmarks, or numbers. Figure out where your keywords and phrases fit. Are they headers? Subheads? Set aside for another post for another day? Get it all down on this sheet of paper.
    • TIP: Batch this pre-writing task. Set aside time to brainstorm ideas, then pick a handful of topics to think through and research. Draft a handful of outlines, and keep them on hand. If you do this thought work a couple times a month, you’ll have a solid set of researched outlines to pull from when it comes time to write. Just think: You could have five, fully-thought-out post starters ready to go, and all you have to do is flesh ’em out super quickly. Which leads us to…
  2. Word vomit. Put your outline into WordPress or Google Docs or wherever you work, and fill it in with sentences. Do not stop to think through words. Do not stop to edit or revise. Barf up all the sentences you can to turn that outline into a draft of a blog post. If you get stuck somewhere, just do what I do: PERFECT WORD GOES HERE or WITTY LEDE TK. Highlight that text so you don’t forget to go back to it later, but don’t stress or fret or stop now. If you do, you might get stuck, and that will slooooowwwwwww you way down. Just keep moving forward filling in that outline. BTW, once you get used to this process, you might find that your word-vomit drafts are twice as long–and maybe even twice as good–as anything it took you to produce in the past. That certainly was the case for me: Once I nailed down my pre-writing routine, the actual writing became more prolific and better all around.
  3. Edit. Revise, refine, review. Go through your draft and catch typos. Read for flow. Note if any points are missing or should be removed and saved for another post. This is when you pause to look up missing words or to draft that witty lede you couldn’t think of before.

Bottom line: The writing stage is the shortest and fastest of the three steps, and each of these three steps can be batched together to make your work more efficient. In fact, you could even farm out the editing step to a freelance editor like me and take that off your plate entirely.

If you hesitate over your writing, trust me on this one. Follow these three strategies and your writing will speed up without diminishing the quality of your work. In fact, I’d argue your writing will improve in you follow this protocol. You’ll produce more content faster, and your work will improve over time.

Try it and see–then let me know how it goes!

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