We’ve probably all heard it before: practice makes perfect. The only way to improve a skill is to keep doing it, and you’ll get better over time.
Sounds fairly straight-forward, right? Not always.
Writing is a skill that often requires more than just practice in order to become more efficient, and I find that every time I write is a new, unique challenge. Even with the right process, I’ve found that writing can even become more difficult over time, especially if you are creating content regularly.
However, more and more positions in the workplace are expected to create good content – and provide it quickly. And that’s no easy task.
As writers (and readers), we know that while there might be benefits to being able to write faster, this doesn’t always translate into better quality.
Fortunately, there are a lot of tips you can use to write faster without having to compromise on quality.
Here are 5 of my favorites to help you out.
Get Your Research Done First
There have been many times that I’ve sat down and written blind, but I can tell you from experience – it’s a bad idea.
One of the biggest things that ended up slowing me down was the amount of times I had to stop to check facts and make sure all my information was correct. It not only costs you tons of time, but it’s also a very hard urge to resist.
To avoid this pitfall, get all your research done before you start writing and know what points you want to use in your post. This way you can write your first draft without stopping to read articles or do a bunch of online searches.
Chasing down articles can lead to reading off-topic articles and opening up your email to search down old links. It’s too easy to get distracted! You can write faster when you cut out unnecessary actions from your process.
Here are a few strategies you might find helpful for managing your research:
- Open up all the articles you plan to reference as tabs in your browser and then, write in a second window. This makes it easier to flip between your document and sources.
- Create a separate word document with all your research notes that you can reference while you’re writing (include links to make it easier later on).
- Put all your research into your post document so that you don’t have to leave your writing document at all.
The fewer distractions you have, the faster you’ll write. Plus, gathering your research notes together in one place with help you hit all the important points you want to cover.
Don’t Start with Your Introduction
To be honest, this is one of my least favorite tips, and one that I normally reserve for creative blocks. I prefer to finish my introduction first to help me organize my thoughts and keep me on topic.
Fast writers often save their introductions for last since this section of a piece is the one that people agonize over the longest. Plus, it’s often harder to write when you feel like you have to hit points that have already been laid out.
Writing your first paragraph last can speed up your process. You’ll have more time to think over the content you’ve create and what stands out the most, which makes it faster and easier to complete your introduction.
If you’re having a hard time skipping your lead, create a rough headline first instead. Copyblogger advocates starting with a headline as the basic idea for the rest of your post as a reminder of what you want to share with your readers.
Set a Timer
You can also try setting a timer to get yourself moving. I like to use this in my normal normal working process – not just for writing. It can feel restrictive at first, but it’s one of the most effective methods for writing faster.
Set a timer for 20 to 30 minutes, and then start writing. Once your time is up, you’ll have something down on the page. Stop, take a break, and then, start again.
I often get caught up in wording and end up losing time on re-writing. By setting a timer for myself, I give myself a mental time limit to get something written, even if it’s not perfect.
When you write anything, starting is the one of the biggest humps to tackle. It’s fun to come up with ideas and find research, but it’s darn right scary to actually get started. Taking that first step to get your thoughts down will make it easier to keep going every time you come back to it.
You Don’t Need Everything to Start
Another common problem that slows people down is thinking you need everything to start. But truthfully, it’s better to start with what you have than to wait.
For example, don’t hold back because you think you need a third point to round out your post. Instead of spending more time thinking and researching, it’s better to write down the first two. I’ve always found that as your thoughts start to take shape, whatever you’re missing will come to you naturally.
Besides, forcing yourself to have all your ideas completed before you start can be counterproductive. While having an outline or a plan of where you want to go can be a helpful writing tool, you should treat it as a rough sketch so that you can be flexible and have more freedom to express your ideas.
Turn Off Editing
Resist the urge to edit every step of the way. I struggle with this tip a lot since I am a writer that prefers to do some light editing as a I write. However, too much editing can end up slowing you down and even weaken your post since you’re making changes before you get the full picture formed.
Here are few things you can try to resist the urge to edit while you write:
- Write your posts out by hand.
- Disable your backspace.
- Turn off your spellcheck (there’s nothing like a red line to put the brakes on your writing).
- Write for a block of time and then, reward yourself with some editing time.
Over-editing can also make you feel bad about your writing. We all have those days: you hate every word you type, and all you want to do is delete, delete, delete. But I’ve found that if steam ahead and go back later – it’s never as bad as I remembered.
If you get stuck, move on. I bold or highlight problematic sections so that I can go back to rework them later. This removes any anxiety I have about forgetting to fix something, while keeping me in the moment. If you stop too much, it throws off the rhythm of your writing and breaks your momentum, which can be an extremely frustrating (not to mention – discouraging) experience.
Going with the flow is sometimes more important than find the perfect thought the first time around.
Bonus Tip: Don’t force it. If you’re spending too much time trying to make something fit in your post – maybe it shouldn’t be there. If you’re having trouble trying to make a point fit, then it’s probably not as relevant as you think.
Quality over quantity: sometimes a shorter post makes for stronger content.
Image Credit: Startup Stock Photos