Writing time is always a touchy subject, as there is no such thing as a set length of time wherein a writer can finish a piece of work. Whether it’s a blog post, an article for a magazine, a short story, or a novel, it does not matter. How long you write is not a one-size-fits-all matter.
There are, however, some things that writers can do to cut down on writing time. This is especially important for freelance writers who get “paid per piece or per word or perhaps”, as humorist Robert Benchley said. The writing process may be touch and go at times, but more often than not, we need to hunker down and finish articles as fast as we can without sacrificing quality.
I’ve been writing for a living for many years now, and I’d like to think I have reached the point where I can write really fast when I need to. I have to admit, however, that there is still room for improvement. Here are some of the things I have learned over the years, and I hope they can help you cut down writing time, too.
Have a running list of topics/ideas.
If you write for a blog – whether it’s your own or a client’s – this is one of the things that can make your life so much easier. We all know that ideas don’t always come when we need them to. Indeed, they always seem to run away when the need is dire, but come in droves when you’re drifting away to sleep.
The trick, I have found, is to have a running list of topics or ideas that come to you. That’s why a notebook is always handy, and I know that many of you carry one around with you. What I do, though, is always have TextEdit (any other similar program will do) open, where I can quickly jot down ideas.
Of course, if you write for several blogs, then you need to be a bit more organized with these lists. Evernote is a great app for that.
The point, though, is to have a list you can refer to whenever you find your well of inspiration drying up. And, if you get the “thinking of an idea” part away, you cut down on your total writing time.
More than having a running list, which does not have to be your default resource, by the way, you also need to plan. Planning can mean different things, depending on what you are working on.
For example, having an editorial calendar gives your blog a more cohesive “look” in terms of content. You can plan series of posts, and even if you don’t, at least you have an overview of what you are going to do for the month.
You can also take note of upcoming holidays so that you can plan topics that fit the theme.
Overthinking is something I am guilty of, and when it comes to writing, overthinking makes the process a whole lot longer than it should take. This applies to choosing the “perfect” word, making sure that the sentence structure is exactly how you want it to be, and so on. While these things are NOT bad – they actually make sure your piece is written well – overdoing them can be counterproductive.
This also applies to “research”. When writing for a client, you may need to do some research about the topic, product, niche, or business. This is essential to writing a high quality article. But, how much research do you need to do? How much of your research do you actually use in your piece? It may take a while, but you need to find the balance – don’t over research.
When you’re on a roll, ditch your other plans if possible.
When you’re on a roll, you’re on a roll. Your fingers fly across the keyboard like an F1 car heading toward the finish line. You probably already know that these moments are to be treasured, and that if possible, don’t stop even if you have other things planned. This way, you can get more things done in a shorter span of time.
What are your tricks to cut down writing time?
Derek Thompson says
All good ideas. I’d also recommend a simple filing system or list showing links between subjects. Sometimes a client will ask for ‘subject A’ and you can find a link or angle to ‘subject B’ that you already have information about.
Noemi Tasarra-Twigg says
That’s a good tip, Derek. Thanks!
KeriLynn Engel says
Nice tips! Having a list of topics & ideas always helps me.
Another way I’ve found to save a lot of time is to do everything in batches. I research a bunch of articles at a time, then write them all, then let them sit for a bit before I edit everything. Focusing on one task instead of constantly switching gears is much more efficient.
Noemi Tasarra-Twigg says
Thanks for dropping by, KeriLynn. I agree with doing tasks in batches. I actually do that at times, too. As for focusing on one task…you’re so right. That’s why I am trying my best to totally get rid of my multitasking habit.