Whether writing is your livelihood or your side hustle, being able to produce content quickly is a skill you’ll never regret developing. And not only will a solid process help you write faster, it will ease editing frustrations by making your draft more organized from the start.
I write all day, every day, and although I’ll never be the fastest writer in the world, I’ve had to make some serious adjustments to my own process in order to get things done and meet my deadlines. Using the process of drafting this article as an example, I’ve laid out my strategies. May they have you writing with speed and clarity in no time flat!
Before You Begin
1 Do some reconnaissance.
No matter how well you know your topic, odds are good you’d benefit from a little inspiration. When I set out to write this article, I knew that I’d talk about my own workflow. But I also wanted to have a look at how other writers have approached the topic.
I did a Google search on my topic, and then scanned some of the top resulting articles. As I scanned, I took notes. My recon reading often helps me remember things I want to talk about. It also gives me a good idea of how other writers have covered this angle. Can I bring something new to the conversation that will help my post stand out?
2 Decide what you want to say.
As I read for inspiration, I begin to formulate a plan for my article in my head. I want what I offer to be unique somehow, and I want to add my own personal touch to whatever I write. That means I have to decide how I want to cover this topic.
With this article, I decided to present a few tips for solidifying an idea, writing about that idea, and editing a draft. I thought about my process and decided which of my writing habits were most conducive to writing quickly and easily. (Hint: Taking a break to look at cute animals on Instagram is not, as it turns out, very helpful. But still, aaawww!)
Keep your topic focus narrow. In this article, I focused on strategies for writing faster, honing in on a specific skill (fast writing) rather than a broad angle (writing in general.)
3 Create a quick outline.
Say it with me: Outlines are our friends!
When I was a managing editor, one of the biggest problems my writers had was organization. They tended to write as the ideas flowed into their heads, and often that made for a disjointed, rambling article.
If you’ve ever grown impatient while listening to someone tell a story, wanting them to just get to the point, then you know what it’s like to read an article that lacks organization. My dear content creators, no one wants to try to fish a few salient points out of your stream of consciousness. Let the stream flow as you outline so you can organize your article and create SEO-friendly headings.
And the bonus? Your article will be easier to write because you’ve gathered and organized your thoughts in advance.
When You’re Writing
4 Write when you’re groggy.
When I stumble out of bed, pre-coffee, writing is the last thing on my mind. And yet, once I’ve got my good friend joe (as in cuppa) by my side, I dig in. And my writing always flows a lot better than I think it will. I’m regularly surprised by this fact, but science tells me I shouldn’t be.
According to Research Digest:
Insight-based problem-solving requires a broad, unfocused approach. You’re more likely to achieve that Aha! revelatory moment when your inhibitory brain processes are at their weakest and your thoughts are meandering.
5 Get it down first.
Once you’ve got your outline created, you’re ready to put meat on the bones. Now is the time to get out of your own way and just write. Don’t retrace your steps, don’t edit as you go, and don’t stop for research.
If you’ve done some reconnaissance reading, you likely have enough information to start writing. I like to fill in my research blanks after my article is finished. Simply write everything off the cuff, and leave a placeholder where you want to add some research later. Journalists use the letters TK, which is journo lingo for “to come.” But I tend to just type “RESEARCH” and keep rolling.
6 Write in chunks.
I find that certain parts of my story spring to mind earlier than others. I may have something I want to say immediately about a certain topic, so I’ll get that down first, lest I lose the momentum. It’s perfectly okay to skip to different segments of your article as you’re inspired to write about them. In fact, as I’m writing this paragraph, my intro paragraph is still unwritten. I’ll get back to it.
When You’re Editing
7 Fill in your research holes and link to relevant posts.
Now that you’ve finished writing your draft, it’s time to connect the dots with research and add links. You may still have a little writing left to do to flesh out the research you’ve done, but it shouldn’t take much time since you’ll be working from reference material. Don’t forget to add links to relevant posts from your own site whenever you can.
I added the research from Research Digest and the Editorial Freelancers Association (below) to this article after I finished the draft. All I had to do was add the links and flesh out some text explaining the research. (Oh, and I also added this paragraph to explain the process.)
8 Do a developmental edit.
According to the Editorial Freelancers Association, “a developmental editor helps an author develop ideas—or develop a manuscript if it already exists—into a coherent, readable work.”
Congratulations! You’ve just become your own developmental editor. Now’s when you’re going to ensure that your article is indeed well organized (your outline should’ve helped with that.) Make sure you edit for clarity, and don’t forget to clean up any wordiness.
9 Proofread, proofread, proofread.
And finally, proofread. You’ve put all this effort into your article, so make sure you give it a thorough going-over to check for errors in spelling, grammar, and punctuation. If you need a little help, there’s an app for that.
Do you have some handy tips for speed writing? Share them in the comments below.