Writing faster and more efficiently is something I’ve learned to adapt to gradually over the years of being a full-time writer.
Time efficiency and quality when you’re a full-timer are, let’s just say, hella important.
Well, the more quality work we churn out, the more money we can potentially earn by gaining higher-paid gigs, right? I’m not an aerospace engineer, but that isn’t exactly rocket science, is it?
You’re aware of that already, and I’m not here to insult your intelligence … so I’ll get to the point now.
We all need as much cash as possible to get through the month. Bills need to be paid—and it’s a tough grind. You can quote me on that. We need to smash those deadlines on time, to the best of our abilities.
And if your schedule is jam-packed, it can be tough to sustain that high level of quality while trying to plow through those drafts with one eye on the clock.
But we can’t abandon quality. Never ever abandon quality. If your work looks rushed, you’re going to run into more problems. And in the long term, you’re not going to get those high-paying clients because your work will … well, suck.
Combining both time efficiency and quality is the master plan, here. This intersection is where it can get tricky for some.
I used to scroll up and down my articles for hours upon hours, deliberating over stupid crap like adding a few words here and there, while I had a word count of only 200 on the page. Always in pursuit of perfection; which was fine, but it was badly timed. In reality, it’s just something I didn’t need to be doing at that specific point—and wasting so much time doing it.
I needed a smarter strategy. Something that worked better for me. Something that enabled me to work faster and earn faster while churning out quality content, all the time. With the help of some research and experimenting, I found a three-step tactic that worked best for me. And it’s a strategy I’d like to share with you.
See, I’m generous like that!
Plan Your Work in Advance Before You Start Writing
First things first. Before you even begin to think about battering on your keypads, plan your work out. That means, get your draft article organized so that when you start writing, you’ve got a road map.
Strategically categorize your piece by sorting your draft into sections. It’s gotta be done. Don’t neglect it. Be smarter than that.
Once you have a plan, you will know right off the bat what you’re going to write about, which will save a lot of messing around wondering, “what the hell is next, then?”
Being organized will raise the standard of quality in your work, also. Your work won’t be flawed and messy. It will flow much better.
I can always tell when someone’s work hasn’t been given a lot of thought or thoroughness. It doesn’t read well. That won’t bode well for your reputation as a writer.
So here’s what you should do:
- Think of a title beforehand, firstly. Of course, things can change, and it is possible this title might not be your absolute final title, but will just be a preliminary one; at least it gives you an idea of where your piece is heading. It will give you direction.
- Develop subheadings next. Your subheadings, again, can change. But they’re good ideas for what topic you’re about to write about. The bulk of your piece. Your juices will flow when you know where your piece is going. This kind of planning saves precious time. Subheadings will get your train of thought going right from the get-go. No stop-starting.
- Do your research: If there’s any research that needs to be done, do it before you start! Save any links, quotes, or useful snippets of information from websites you need in another document (and open the file) that you can refer to quickly.
If these steps sound like creating an outline, well, that’s because it is an outline. Think of the title as your topic and hook, and the subheadings as your main sections. The research helps you fill in the supporting points in each section.
The key here is to, by all means available, prevent as much distraction to your train of thought and momentum by planning ahead. Know exactly what you’re going to write about and where you’re going with it before you start.
OK, it’s not the most exciting part of the job I find, but hey-ho, we gotta do what we gotta do.
Stop Worrying About Typos … Until the Very End
Get those fingers in tune. Like Elton John on the piano, belting out a live version of “Rocket Man”—minus the shades, unless that’s the way you roll. In that case, wear the shades, man. But just don’t stop! Just keep those fingers dancing. I always find that when I’m not distracted by anything, I produce my best work.
While you might resolve not to look at Twitter or turn off the 24-hour cable news, the big distraction I mean is the one already on your page: all the little mistakes you make while typing. Forget about those red highlighted typos for now, and keep your flow of thought … piping hot.
When you stop to correct spelling, it can stop you in your tracks.
It goes a little something like this:
Phase one: badly timed typo edits.
“OK, that’s those typos sorted. Now, where was I? Damn, what the hell was I thinking of just then?”
Phase two: getting frustrated.
“What the hell was it? I’m such an idiot; I can’t remember. Why did I stop? Arghh.”
Phase three: needing a break to recuperate.
“Arghh, what the hell. I need more caffeine. Screw this; I’ll do it later.” (“ … Crap. I’m out of coffee.”)
I’ve been there. We’ve all been there, I’m sure. Cut out this time-wasting practice and you’ll see a vast improvement in productivity and quality. Leave the typos to the very end of the article, blog post, or whatever it is you’re working on. Then go back and run spell-check, do a thorough proofread, and deal with your typos.
Just remember … “Rocket Man.”
Stop Reading Over Your Work … Just Keep Writing!
There’s nothing worse than overanalyzing your work while you’re midway through your piece. I used to be guilty of it. It was by far my worst habit as a writer.
It looks a little something like this:
“Hmm, I wonder if there’s a more suitable phrase for this?”
“Does this sound right? Perhaps I should Google some synonyms for this word to make it sound better.”
“Oh, maybe a nice useful fact here would look good. I’ll go research it now.”
Look familiar? It did for me. Only now, I don’t stop writing. I’ve learned my lesson.
I just keep writing, writing, and writing until I’ve completely emptied my thought process, ideas, and thoughts onto a Word document. That way, I don’t forget what was on my mind and I won’t lose that “buzz.”
Chances are, if you keep stopping to read over your work after every sentence, you’ll never get anything done. You’ll over analyze and overthink things too much.
By the end of the week, rather than having 10 articles done, you’ll have only five. Less money in the bank. Think of all that coffee you can’t buy now. Damn!
Just keep writing until you’re done. Sure, read over your work after. Cut as much fat off of that bad boy as you like. Hell, add some pepper sauce if you want. But please, do not taste during the cooking process. Let that baby sizzle until golden brown.
Words on paper first; read over after.
Plan, Then Write, Write, and Write
Stay organized and do your research before you start. Your quality of work will get better as you’ve remained in the “writing zone” throughout without any needless distractions to your train of thought.
Leave all your typos and edits to the end. I know it’s hard, and it can be distracting, but just power on through that draft! You’ll thank me for it after you’re finished writing.
Keep writing. Don’t stop until you’ve reached your targeted word count. Sustain your momentum throughout the writing process, and stop for nothing.
If you follow these three strategies, you’ll find yourself writing well and writing efficiently.
Trust me! Let the drafts roll out and the dollars roll in.