When you write faster, you get more work completed in a given amount of time. If you write slowly, you make far less money per hour, you can’t do as many projects, and you have less time for the rest of your life.
The goal: Work Less ~ Earn More ~ Live More. Let’s dive in…
Write Faster: 12 Top Tips for Freelance Writers
1. Do the Right Amount of Research
Many freelance writers have an unfortunate tendency to research topics far beyond the point where they are still finding useful material. Don’t be one of those writers. Be smart about what you need to know and find it as efficiently as possible. You can always do a bit more research if you get to a point in your writing where you feel it’s necessary. (See best techniques for freelance writers doing research on the Internet here.)
2. Write During Your Peak Productivity Times
You crank out prose best at certain times of the day (or perhaps the night). Determine when these times are for you and do your freelance writing then. Get the cooperation of household members to make it happen.
3. Create a Good Outline
A thorough outline gives you both clarity about what you’re doing and a roadmap to push straight through from beginning to end. An outline isn’t set in stone, so don’t spend too much time creating it; add to it and move elements around as necessary.
4. Write One Paragraph at a Time
Break projects into small, easily completed chunks, and then do one chunk at a time. The paragraph is just a suggestion, but it’s ideal for many writers.
5. Learn to Type Fast
Use all 10 digits when you write by using the touch-type method. It will make you a faster writer and a happier writer. If you don’t know how, invest the time to learn: you’ll reap an enormous payoff over the long run. Several computer programs show you how to do it, or you may be able to take a course at your local college or adult education center.
6. Avoid Perfectionism
Know when pretty damned good is good enough. Definitely do a credible job (and definitely not a half-assed job), and make sure you thoroughly copyedit and proofread your work, but don’t go over and over the same piece. I usually do my writing in a 4-step process: quick first draft with some editing as I go along, thorough revision with editing and proofreading, second read with minor tweaking, final quick read to catch any last errors. See my post Why Writers Must Avoid Perfectionism for more info.
7. Focus on the Task At Hand
Keep your full attention on what you need to do right now. Whenever your mind wanders, bring it back to your writing.
8. Set and Meet Deadlines and Production Goals
Create deadlines for specific projects, or portions of projects. Be realistic, but also set deadlines that challenge you.
9. Work Against the Clock
This is one of my favorite techniques. Use a timer or a stopwatch, either a physical one or one you set up on your computer, and seek to get a certain amount of writing done in a given time. Another option: start the clock and tell yourself you will write with total concentration for 60 minutes, 30 minutes, or whatever period works for you.
10. Get Enough Sleep
You can’t write fast if you’re tired. Most people need 7-8 hours of restful sleep. I often take a 20-minute power nap in the early afternoon after lunch. I wake up refreshed and rarin’ to get back to my writing. Always set an alarm for your power nap: you can let yourself totally go into sleep or rest without your brain having to think about when you’ll get up, and you don’t have to worry about falling into a deep sleep for hours.
11. Eat Well
Be especially careful what you eat prior to your writing sessions. You want light, healthy meals that are easy to digest. Avoid large meals that leave you feeling full.
12. Be in the Flow State
Psychologists describe the “flow” state as the quality of mind and attention in which you are fully absorbed in what you are doing and you accomplish your work with a feeling of near effortlessness. You’ll know when you’re in the flow state; pay attention to what causes it and how you feel when you’re in it so you can more easily enter it at later times.
Which techniques do you find the most useful? Which ones aren’t you using, but you know you should? What would you add to the list?