Note: This is a guest post from Nicole.
If you want to make money as a writer, it pays to not only write well, but fast. This is especially true if you are just starting out and working your way up from low paying, flat rate gigs.
To make these gigs worthwhile, you need to be able to write efficiently — otherwise you’ll be living the stereotypical writer’s life, subsisting on a dismal hourly rate.
You can learn to write faster with daily practice, and by taking advantage of these 7 hacks I’ve learned along the way.
And hey, you’ll benefit from writing quickly even when you start raking in the big bucks, having paid your dues and transformed yourself into a true wordsmith.
Ready? Let’s get hacking!
Hack #1: Pre-write
You’ll save time by simply having a plan. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy – a rough outline, some point form notes, and a general direction for the thrust of your piece.
If you’re right-brained, you may prefer a mind map drawn with paper or pencil – or download a free template online.
Hack #2: Limit Your Research
In modern times we have a glorious, free tool we can use to investigate, learn and fact check. It’s called the internet and it’s there to help writers write faster (as well as other things).
A key point: get familiar with reliable sources of information you can go to when it’s crunch time. Then spend no longer than ten minutes grabbing pithy quotes, interesting stats and a fact or two you didn’t know before from a credible online publication. Then go to town.
Hack #3: Just Do It
Remember when you had to write a paper on deadline for a high school/college/university class – and that looming deadline was mental agony? You couldn’t enjoy your weekend knowing it was unavoidable, but you procrastinated anyway.
Then it was ten times harder to start once you couldn’t put it off a second longer. Don’t do that. It makes the writing process slow and arduous when you create so much angst around just starting.
Set a time to begin your project and dive in. Believe what the pros tell you: first drafts are frequently crap. Accept that, and keep your fingers typing or your pen moving across the paper.
Hack #4: Write Like You Speak
Gone are the days when you had to be formal and stuffy to be a trusted authority on a topic. Here are the days when people want their information fast, easily digestible and delivered in a friendly, conversational manner.
Try to imitate a text book from the last century and you’ll slow down your mental process and lose your audience. Think friendly and approachable and you’ll avoid blocking your word flow with needless posing – in other words, just be yourself.
Hack #5: Use Plain Language
Every business out there has its special jargon for those in the know (and governments may be the worst at this kind of incomprehensible phrasing – ever get a letter from a federal agency and have no idea what you’re supposed to do with it? Then you know what I mean).
Cut to the point and you’ll not only write faster, your message will be clearer. Remove extra words, cliches, and industry-specific mumbo jumbo.
Believe me, your audience will thank you for it. And you’ll cut down your writing and revising time substantially.
Hack #6: Don’t Stop ‘Til You’re Done
Once you’re in the flow, no getting up from your writing until you’ve polished off your conclusion (unless, of course, you’re writing a 500 page thesis – then you’re allowed to call your Mom on Sunday).
Seriously, once you get writing, persist and enjoy the flow. Think of it like running a race. You don’t shave seconds off your time by meandering down a side street.
You put all your effort and energy in just crossing the finish line. In other words, don’t fret about spelling, grammar and all that jazz right now. Just finish.
Hack #7: Revise Later — Waayyyyy Later
OK, you’ve done it. You’ve finished your piece and you’ve completed it in record time. Hurray! Congratulate yourself on your efficiency and for earning a not-too-bad wage for your trouble.
Now save your work and do something fun. Eat a sandwich, have a beer, call your spouse, walk the dog, take a nap, mind the baby — whatever non-writing stuff you also want to fill your day with.
Tomorrow is a new day, and unless you’re down to the wire on a deadline, you’ll do a better job of revising your work – and do it more quickly — if you take a day or two away from it.
Come back to it later with fresh eyes and … giddy up! You’ll enjoy the clarity distance offers. You’ll get your proofreading done quickly, and can send that piece off to its boss lickety-split.
Nicole Breit is a freelance writer and editor based in Vancouver, Canada. She blogs about marketing, online reputation management and small business issues.