If part of your job is writing, then there’s a good chance you want to be able to write faster. I hear ya. Here are a few tricks I use to help me make the most of my time.
1. Free write. It’s easy to get caught up in the structure of a piece. But if you just start writing, you open the door to a lot of great content. You can cut and paste it into the appropriate place later!
2. Skip the headline and the lede. Everyone knows the headline and the lede are two of the most important things you’ll write. And you could end up staring at a blank screen for hours while you craft them. To move things along, don’t worry about them right now. Start writing the body of the story. That way, you’ll feel productive, which encourages faster writing overall. Plus, I usually find the headline is easier to write once I have the body copy started anyway.
3. Leave blanks. It’s easy to get stuck on finding the perfect word. Maybe you start by using Word’s thesaurus function. If you still haven’t found it, maybe you find yourself on Visual Thesaurus or M-W.com … Then, you bounce over to Facebook — just for a second. But that turns into 10 minutes. During which time you click a link to an interesting article. It’s work-related, but still, a distraction. And by the time you return to your writing project, you can’t even remember why you cared so much about that one perfect word. And worse than the lost time, you’ve lost momentum. If you can’t think of the word, leave a blank and keep on writing as if that word is there. You can agonize over word choice during the editing process.
4. Use your intern. Just like taking a break to look up words costs time and momentum, the same is true of on-the-fly research. If you don’t have all the facts and figures you need right in front of you, consider using a research assistant or intern (if available to you) and have him or her do that research for you while you focus on the writing.
5. Keep everything you need in one document. Moving back and forth between interview notes, research files and web pages can cost time. Once you have a loose outline, consider pasting everything you need into one Word document in the order you think you’ll need it. For safety, try using a different font or color for anything you’re pasting verbatim from another source. That way, you lower your risk of accidentally plagiarizing.
Now it’s your turn. Share your own tips and tricks for faster writing in the comments.