These days, writing fast is essential. You can’t get out from underneath the Everest of your email Inbox without it, much less accomplish anything of value.
Please don’t get sniffy. Writing fast needn’t mean writing badly. Indeed, you may be surprised that the quality of your writing improves. Your mind thinks in wholes – in patterns. If you spend too long thinking before you start writing you’ll forget what you want to say.
Make it a habit to think on the page:
Before I start a book I’ve usually got four hundred pages of notes. Most of them are almost incoherent. But there’s always a moment when you feel you’ve got a novel started. You can more or less see how it’s going to work out. After that it’s just a question of detail.
PG Wodehouse wrote 96 books, as well as stage plays and collections of short stories. He was amazingly prolific, and a master of language. Thinking on the page worked for him; try it.
Have fun with these tips. They’ll help you to write faster. (And better.)
1. Start. And keep going.
I’m a horrible typist, and didn’t get my first computer – an Apple IIe – until 1983. This meant that I spent my early years retyping manuscripts, over and over. Even then, the pages looked pock-marked by White-Out.
Over the years, I’ve blessed that early training, because it taught me to keep going: I discovered that thinking too much made my mind and fingers stumble.
Launch yourself into your writing – keep going, no matter what. Don’t stop to think, don’t worry about spelling or grammar mistakes, just keep your fingers tapping. You’ll write faster, and better, once you build this habit.
2. Write about your writing: write a letter, if you can’t get started. What’s your point?
PG Wodehouse wrote 400 pages of notes, before he started a novel. You’ll write faster if you write about your writing.
Let’s say you need to write a blog post. OK, start writing. Write yourself a letter about your writing.
I picked up the letter-writing trick from novelist David Morrell:
… my letter to myself, which can go on as long as 24 single-spaced pages—this is a long document—and as I go in, why is this project so important that you would write about it for a year or more, why do you want to write it, where’d the idea come from, and what I begin doing is asking myself questions … and [in one instance in particular] it took me pages to work that out, and so in a way I was outlining, but I was just doing it a different way.
Writing yourself a message is another way of getting started. It breaks your inertia – primes the pump, if you like.
Whenever you get stuck in a project, write to yourself about it. One of my students writes herself email messages; she emails these messages to her Evernote account.
When you write to yourself about your project, you’ll soon discover the point you want to make. Once that’s done, your writing will flow.
3. Use word associations in mind maps.
I’m a huge fan of mind maps. Currently, I use MindMeister. Create a central topic, then just free-associate around your topic. Don’t stop – keep going.
Yes, this is a form of brainstorming. Give yourself five minutes to brainstorm. Mind mapping fixes the “I don’t know where to start” problem; where to start becomes obvious, and you’ll find that you have a lot to say.
4. “XXX” marks the spot.
As we said in the first tip: keep going! Don’t stop. If you need to look up something type XXX. You can search for these items later, once your draft is done. If you stop, you’ll lose the flow. On bad days, it will take you 20 minutes to get your flow back.
5. Research later.
Does this sound counter-intuitive? Maybe so, but it saves time. What’s the point of researching, until you know what you need? “I need to research” is a just a way of procrastinating.
If you truly know nothing about the topic you’re writing about, create a research plan, and limit your research time. I love research, but it’s a huge time sink. Do minimal research before you start writing, but only if you must.
Then write a draft. Now you know what you need to know, look it up, and write your next draft. If you’ve been writing fast, this draft will flow, and it may well be your final draft.
Writing fast is an essential skill. The benefit? Not only will you get more done, you’ll have more fun too. :-)
Want to write fast and well?
My Easy-Write process will help.