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How to write faster

Published over 1 year ago • 5 min read

Whew, this ends up being the longest note I've sent in a while! You can click here if you'd rather hear me read it out loud ;).

Who among us doesn't want to write faster, Reader?

Seasoned writers do.

New writers definitely do.

Intermediate writers probably suspect it's possible, but they're skeptical.

(I see you. I love you.)

But how do you write faster... without ruining the quality of the final product you deliver to your clients or boss?

Well, what if I told you there are three strategies you can use — today — to start writing faster and not only NOT ruin the quality of the work but actually improve it?

OK, here we go. The three techniques you can use to start writing faster.

Please note: I did not say they are not painful... Lol. These three may hurt. But it's the only way to get your chicken to the other side of the road, so to speak.

Write Faster Step No. 1: Treat your perfectionism

I'm so sorry if I'm the first person to tell you this, but if you're a writer, there's an 85% chance you have at least some level of perfectionism coded into your DNA.

It's not perfectionism like, "It must be written in 12pt Calibri, and so help me if it's 12.5," (though that pops up from time to time. Writer's block hack? Change from serif to non-serif or vice versa. Unblocks my brain every time.).

It's perfectionism like...

  • Laboring over a sentence or a paragraph in a first draft for more than two minutes (Fix: You need to have the thought and type it out)
  • Spending more than 1.5 hours on an outline of just about anything (Fix: Big ideas, short sentences, bam-bam-bam)
  • Letting almost any "feeling" interrupt the work you're doing (Fix: Writing, the kind we do at least, does feel personal, but we can train ourselves to not see it that way so that we can get through the early stages of the work more quickly)

Perfectionism seems like it's you holding yourself to a high standard (good thing).

But in reality, it's you preventing yourself from delivering anything that's not born fully-shaped and perfect all at once (bad thing).

That's called a high pressure situation, my friend. And usually you don't get into writing because you thrive under high pressure situations, you know?

So you might sit down and think to yourself, "If I think and labor on this, A+ content will come out of my hands and be on the page, and I will be done an inch at a time."

BUT ALAS. That's not how it works most of the time. Here's what really needs to go on behind the scenes of your writing day if you want to write fast:

"I will think and labor A+ content out onto the page for a half hour and create an outline.

"Then I will write literally any nonsense that comes to mind on this topic out to fill out that outline and create a first draft, maybe shooting for C+ content.

"Then, after a rest and an aperitif, I will come back to my desk and review what I wrote and edit it up to a B+ or an A-."

Where's the pressure? It dissipated.

You successfully tricked yourself into being a fast thinker and a fast writer because you only had to "be brilliant" for a half hour or so early on in the process.

Write Faster Step No. 2: Give yourself a time limit

You know that thing where a task will expand to fit the amount of time you have for it?

That's what's going on when one 800-word blog post requires 15 hours to write.

Frankly, I think you and I could make a cup of coffee and sit down to write 100 words and take all day if we had our way.

You + Me + Words.... it just exxppppannnnndddsssss.

So, the second step to writing faster is to assign yourself a reasonable but sturdy time limit.

The question is no longer, "How much time do I need to write an 800 word blog post?"

The question is, "How good a blog post can I write in 4 hours?"

A couple things happen when you set this limit for yourself:

  • Self-imposed adrenaline rush zolts you into action
  • A time limit gives you a clear goal that, even if you go over it, is a huge win (6 hours is just fine... it's still half as much as 15)
  • You start to become the expert on when something is sufficient or finished

It's that last one I want to highlight a whole bunch. Especially if you're just moving into B2B or long-form, it can be hard to know when it's done.

Because, well, you could keep going forever!

Giving yourself a time limit and doing your best to hit that goal requires you to step back, assess your work, and decide about it. That's power and agency you're taking from your boss or client and pulling into your own hands. And such a good thing to practice.

Note: If you can't make yourself stop at a time limit.... keep practicing it. This is not an optional skill if you want to make a living as a writer.

Most writers think you just need higher paying clients and more of them to make this work, but what you really need is the ability to write to a decently consistent level of quality on a clear time schedule.

Without that, no matter how many clients you have or how well they pay, you're in for a really miserable time of it!

Write Faster Step No. 3: Use an outline

Be real, you knew this was coming right? I just tricked you by putting this one last on the list.

Usually this is the first thing I'm wailing about, and I thought I'd get you invested before I brought you back to look in this mirror.

People try to get away from using an outline, and.... it just doesn't work.

By "it doesn't work," I mean that 8/10 times I can look at a first draft and tell you if you wrote with an outline or not.

When you write with no outline, I'm going to see things like:

  • Unfocused and random introduction
  • Rambly sentences and paragraphs
  • No sequence of logic to the whole caboodle

When you write with an outline, I'm going to see things like:

  • Focused introduction (and a conclusion that brings it to a sweeping, meaningful end)
  • Contained sentences and paragraphs that build on each other
  • Clear sequence of logic that carries throughout

But that's just the excellent end product!

The outline also makes you write faster because you're breaking up a large, significant project into smaller pieces.

Instead of "800 word blog post," it becomes "100 word introduction about X and a matching 100 word conclusion" + "three 200 word sections about X."

And then you can piece it all together without losing the sense that there IS a big picture you're bringing the reader to.

(Not to mention you can run this outline by your boss or client BEFORE you spend hours on it to create a first draft. You often catch major strategic or structural problems by doing it... which ultimately makes you faster.)

When you build an outline, you're thinking big picture and capturing that big picture on a map.

Using a map will get you through a forest faster.

Not using a map will get you through the forest slower, if at all.

Use a map.

Harder, faster, better, stronger,

Sarah G

P.S.

This email is toooootally my way of buttering you up to an announcement next week.

It's B2B Writing Seminar season.

I'm going to start talking a bit more about writing processes, quality of writing, and how you can become the writer they want to hire with the 8-week seminar I put on.

If you are SO NOT INTERESTED, just click here.

That will add a special tag to your email address so you don't see emails like this for the next week or so.

Write Content. Get Hired.

by Sarah @ The B2B Writing Institute

Sharing tried-and-true business principles for writers. I study and apply what’s working for the most profitable freelance writers and share it with 2600+ writers each week.

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