How to Write Fast
Don’t believe anybody who tells you it’s easy to write fast.
They may mean it’s easy to write fast when your editor stands up in his cubicle on the other side of the newsroom and glares at you because it’s after 5 p.m. and your story was supposed to be filed before 4:30.
Or it’s easy to write fast when you have to be out of the newsroom by 5:25 so you can hit the freeway before traffic backs up and leaves you no chance of making it to the day care provider’s house by 6 when she starts charging overtime by the minute.
In other words, it’s easy to write fast under intense pressure.
Most freelance writers don’t face that kind of pressure. It’s probably why we stopped working in newsrooms in the first place. We don’t have daily deadlines and we’re not bound to getting things done during normal office hours because most of us work from home. Our pressure is self imposed. We take assignments – probably too many because who can say no to work when it means extra income – and then it’s up to us to figure out how to get it done on time.
So freelancers have to device other ways to meet deadlines.
This comes up a lot in freelance circles. Writers have some pretty creative solutions for pushing themselves to finish work on time. Some set a timer. Others use the carrot method and promise themselves a reward when they finish – a cookie, glass of wine or long soak in the tub. Sue Poremba, a freelance writer and editor in State College, Penn., meets electronically with a freelance writer friend once a day to freewrite for 30 minutes as a way of forcing themselves to work on tasks they’ve been putting off. David Fryxell, author of Write Faster, Write Better, (Writer’s Digest Books, 2004), is a big beliver in outlines for articles, even short ones. J.A. Konrath, author of the Lt. Jaqueline “Jack” Daniels thriller series, advocates getting words on the page no matter how bad you think they are.
I’ve come up with a few tricks of my own:
Work when you’re on – I work best early in the morning, so when I’m on deadline I get up early and write. For me, a solid hour at 5 a.m. is as productive as two or three draggy hours in the afternoon.
Unplug – Turn off email. Close the browser. Log off the message boards. Do whatever it takes to eliminate distractions. This is especially hard for me because I often fact check information on Websites as I write and checking one site can lead to checking MyYahoo, my blog stats, my favorite bloggers. Just pull the plug.
Don’t let yourself be disturbed – When I worked in a newsroom, I put a sign on top of my PC monitor to keep people from bugging me on deadline. Other writers used headphones to listen to music. Now I work in my den and if other people are around I just close the doors.
Be prepared – It’s easy to start writing a story if you’ve finished all the research and reporting, reviewed your notes and made an outline – written or mental – of what you want to say. By that point the words are practically oozing out of me. But cut corners on the basics and the words just won’t come. It’s your brain’s way of telling you that you’ve still got work to do.
Got your own secrets for writing fast?