An efficient writing process that results in quality work is difficult to achieve—especially for writers who are procrastinators, perfectionists, or just easily distracted. And who doesn’t fall into at least one of those categories? But don’t worry if you do.
There are certain keys to making your writing process go faster. Maximize your efficiency as a writer from start to finish, no matter if you are writing blog content, magazine articles, a novel, or copy for brochures, by incorporating the tips below.
1.) Get started as soon as possible
Procrastination may produce the illusion that you are an efficient writer, since you can cram the whole writing process into a single night. In reality, however, the writing process begins the moment you get the idea. Think about how much more efficient your writing process would become if you cut out all the hours you uneasily think about how you’re not writing. As soon as you get an idea, put words on a page, no matter how atrocious they are. If you’re nervous about making a mess, see tip 5. The point here is to get started NOW. You’ll end up with a better product and find yourself finishing up faster, too.
2.) Get started in a distraction-free workspace
Okay, I admit it. No workspace is completely distraction-free. Even if you decided to write on a blank pad of paper with a Number 2 pencil in a prison cell with no windows, you would still have to choose to focus. However, you can minimize distractions, and only you know what works for you. Sometimes I have to write about whatever is really bothering me before I can focus on anything else. Crank up some tunes that get you into the zone. Brew a cup of tea. We all have our ways of getting relaxed. Find yours and be intentional about using it.
3.) Get started by developing your topic
After you have actually sat down to write in a minimal-distraction work zone, it’s best to keep two simple things in mind. First, you have to know what you’re writing about, which means that you need to have a topic in mind, such as zoo animals. Depending on how much you already know about zoo animals, you may need to do some research on lions and tigers and bears before you can write authoritatively on them. Second, you have to know how you are going to write about zoo animals. I have found that outlines are extremely helpful at this point, even if they are very basic. Get a general set of sub-topics and build out your content.
4.) Get started with a good pace
Unless you have a rush of divine inspiration that grips you to write for hours at a time, choose to pace yourself. Write for 30 minutes. Take a 5 minute break. Write for another 30 minutes. Take another 5 minute break. Write for another…you get the picture.
Find a good balance between sustained attention to the project at hand and resting from time to time. Doing so can help keep you from zoning out with your eyes fixated on the computer screen. Also, taking a break between writing the rough draft and the final draft—maybe even sleeping on it—will result in a better product.
We all have different amounts of time we can sustain focus. Yours might only be 10 minutes today but yesterday was 45 minutes. That’s okay. Don’t get stressed. Take shorter breaks like standing up and stretching and get back to it.
5.) Make a mess then clean it up
Whenever I decide to re-organize my room, I begin by making a huge mess. Clothing, books, furniture, lamps, and shoes all coagulate in the middle of the floor. Then, I neatly re-arrange it all. This process is sometimes harrowing, but the end result is always better than it was before. So it is with writing.
A messy rough draft will eventually lead to a polished final draft. While it may seem counter-intuitive and inefficient, the truth is that an efficient writing process is flexible enough to account for making mistakes, re-thinking, and re-writing. There are too many variables for it to be any other way.
You may also find that throwing ideas together very quickly helps you get a lot of content on paper. Then it’s a lot easier to edit and improve what you’ve got. It’s almost always better to have a rough draft to work with than a blank screen staring back at you.
For instance, I often will begin by reading through research, throwing down random facts and references (if not my words or ideas), sometimes adding in complete paragraphs when an idea really strikes a chord, organizing the information, writing some more, editing, writing more, and proofreading for a final time. Other times if I am writing on a topic I know well, I simply start by throwing down a rough outline, filling in the holes with complete sentences and paragraphs, researching, filling in more holes, and then editing and proofing. Both of these processes look quite messy in the beginning, but I always end up with a polished, organized product by the end.
So how do you get in the zone? Do you have tricks you’ve learned for getting content knocked out fast?