I remember when I was younger and how I truly hated writing. If I had a paper due in school I would wait until the absolute last night before it was due to start writing. In doing that I would always set myself up for failure. My papers ended up being a mish-mosh of ideas that didn’t make any sense, spelling mistakes, and usually a paper that didn’t meet the length requirements.
I then thought that writing was this sacred act that only “writers” could do, that it took a ton of time to get your thoughts down on paper, and that you had to have an advanced degree or tons of experience to know how to do it. Well, if you take a look at any of the millions of blogs online today you can see that my thoughts were nowhere near the truth. Writing is a pretty natural act that many people do on a regular basis.
In fact, to write well and to do it quickly doesn’t take some sort of magic. Most anyone can do it by following some simple guidelines.
We’ve talked before about the importance of writing every single day if you want to be a writer. Well, writing every single day doesn’t only put you on a fast track to actually writing something good, it helps you warm up for other types of writing. Think of it as a way to get the “junky” writing out of the way before you get to the good stuff.
Know what you want to say
The key to writing faster is knowing what your main idea is. A main idea should be something that you can explain in one sentence and doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand it. That is, unless you are writing about rocket science.
For “standard” types of articles and blog posts, being able to explain your main idea in one sentence will suffice and leads you to the next step.
Outline your ideas
Now that you have a main idea you can outline “sub-ideas” and explanations that lead you to that main idea. Knowing what you want to say is very important, but coming up with ideas and explanations to back up your ideas can be even more important.
Getting your article’s flow out in an outline form is a good way to see how your sub-ideas work together to explain what you actually want to say.
Let it sit
I’ve found that one of my biggest hurdles in writing is forcing myself to do it when I am “tapped out” of any good ideas. This is when I need to step away from the article or project and let the ideas “simmer” for a little while.
I always find myself refreshed and ready to write when I do this. So, if you are staring at a blank screen, step away from the computer. You can always come back to it and when you do, you will have a fresh perspective.
Write till your fingers hurt
Now that you are warmed up, have a main idea and outline, and aren’t burned out from writing, you need to get as much down on paper as possible. This is what some call “free writing”. Don’t let your fingers stop moving while you are doing this. Get out as much as you can regarding what you have outlined or even write more things that weren’t in your outline.
This is where you write something pretty crappy. But the idea is to not self-regulate your writing at this point; it’s to get out of your head as much as possible and then critique and edit afterwards.
Edit and restructure
Now that you have a bunch of writing down on your screen (unless you use paper) you can start to pick things apart, move them around to better match your outline and help further explain your main idea, and make your prose have a more logical flow. This is also a good time to spell check, find weird grammar and logic mistakes, and maybe even rephrase things with better choices of words.
When choosing words remember this: not too many people care that you are a “big time writer” and know a whole bunch of different, awesome words. What they do care about is being sucked into your writing and also being able to understand it. Don’t use big words for the sake of using big words. Always try to err on the side of making your work understandable, not fanciful.
Cut, cut, cut
Now that you have all those words you can start to cut out the “fluff”. This goes back to the last point; most people don’t care about how long your sentences are, but sure as hell care if they can or can’t understand what you are trying to say. So, find the things that are needless in your writing and cut them out completely.
And that’s about it. If you want to write faster and better follow these steps and see what a huge difference they will make in your writing flow. If you only take one thing away from this article, remember that writing faster and better is easy to do as long as you know what you want to say. Get a good main idea and the rest will fall into place.