As a freelance writer and a blogger, I find that one of my biggest obstacles is learning how to write faster. Maybe this is the same for you too?
It is easy to write down a bunch of sentences, however, I want my content to be useful interesting and fluff-talk-free while maintaining my deadlines.
I find this difficult as I’m certainly a slow worker.
Alas! I might not be Stephen King incarnate yet, but I have strung together a fair few tips that I use to improve the speed at which I work. This is a list of tips I use when I’m working on my blog as well as when I’m writing for clients who hired me.
Write Faster: Planning
1. Use a content ideas document
One of the most painful parts of blogging can be waking up in the morning, ready for work but with no ideas for new content. This doesn’t work for long-term consistency.
No matter what I’m doing while at home, I always have my content ideas document open. It is the most valuable document I have and it definitely allows me to write faster because I have to think a lot less.
While I’m writing or reading blogs I’m constantly thinking of new ideas. If I don’t write them down, they’ll be lost.
Having a document packed with a bunch of ideas will save you an incredible amount of time in the future. It doesn’t matter what you write in it as long as you’re constantly adding to it.
2. Create a content plan for the week
For some of us, we get a bit over-indulgent on the weekends and come Monday, this can leave us panicking about what we’re supposed to be doing.
This happens because we didn’t create a content plan for the upcoming week.
Along with my content ideas document, I use the space underneath to briefly outline the content I’m planning for that week.
Set aside an hour during the weekends to sift through your content ideas and work out what you’re going to work on during the next week.
The time invested will be returned to you with interest.
Using the content plan, I can often spend a little time thinking about my next planned piece of work before bed and this leaves me with fresh ideas for the next day and a ton of motivation.
With a content plan, I’m not left wondering what I’m supposed to do on the day.
3. Write faster by working with the intention of building habits
Logically, we know what we need to do to tackle a new piece of work and meet a deadline, but unfortunately, our brains are often not so logical.
Don’t make work difficult for yourself.
Work with the intention of building a habit. Creating habits gets a good flow going and tricks our brains into accepting the pressure of deadlines as well as giving us confidence in our ability.
If you’re constantly working for a few days and then leaving big gaps, you’ll never build a habit and rhythm in your work.
Make sure you face your work at least once every day. Never hide from it.
Write Faster: Preparation
4. Use tools like Buzzsumo to quickly research content
Buzzsumo is currently my favourite tool and it makes my work-life much easier.
After I have a content idea, I insert my main descriptive keywords into Buzzsumo and it will fetch many viral posts from the past year.
This is absolutely gold for researching your content. Right here you get to see which headlines worked well, great content on your topic to help you research it and the audience which found these posts useful.
At this stage, I use Buzzsumo to help me get a concrete understanding of what my article or blog post is about.
Once you know the topic of the content you are creating, read at least three articles from Buzzsumo on it before you begin working on your own.
Blogging and writing both have a certain rhythm you need to build to write well, you need to read other posts to get that spark of inspiration.
5. Make a bullet point list of all the points you want to cover
You might find you run out of ideas fast, that is fine.
Read the articles you found in Buzzsumo over again, this time, if the article made a point which you identify with or you think would interest your readers then add it to the list.
Keep researching other articles and writing down good points. Stop once you think you can cover approximately 1600 words.
Some of these points will become headings, others will combine into content for those headings.
You should have a rough outline of your blog post now which can begin to construct.
Your content will gradually take shape as you add and combine the list into clearly defined headings.
6. Quickly collect a list of URLs with data that is useful to support your post
If you see any graphs, statistics, infographics or other pieces of important data which support your post, then make a note of them too as it is important to use them in your post.
It is completely fine to link and display other people’s data as long as you give credit.
In fact, having your data linked from other websites is great for your blog and your client’s websites.
7. Don’t over-research
Sometimes we spend too much time trying to look for the perfect piece of data or trying to go the extra mile for our content.
This is why I find using a max word count is useful, it helps keep me from adding tons and tons of data which is only to the detriment of the post.
Keep your posts short and as to the point as possible and don’t keep on adding unless it is necessary. It is better to consistently complete work on time than create a few big articles which don’t meet deadlines and leave readers with information overload.
Write Faster: Execution
8. Don’t edit the first draft until it is finished
The first draft is the exercise of expanding on the points you wrote earlier in the brief outline of headings.
Our natural instinct is to complete the article sentence by sentence and box it off section by section. But if you want to work fast you should get that first draft completed quickly.
The benefit of this is an increased understanding of the content because you get a complete picture of what you’ve written as a whole.
I also find that the quality of the articles improves just through the technique of using a proper quickly written draft.
So keep your fingers away from the grammar correction and don’t bother formatting anything until the first draft is done.
9. Use Grammarly for faster editing
Grammarly picks up on a lot more errors than traditional spell checkers and has a bunch of helpful tools such as the synonyms tool which gives you interesting alternative words to use. You can even write articles from scratch inside their own Grammarly editor.
You can even write articles from scratch inside their own Grammarly editor.
The best thing about it, though, is that it speeds up the process of editing. The time saved not having to edit as much is well worth the money spent.
Even in this post, I had a ton of errors with my grammar that wouldn’t have been picked up without Grammarly.
The browser plugin is installed in one click and it will automatically begin correcting many mistakes, even inside the WordPress WYSIWYG editor.
10. Challenge yourself to complete the article quickly
Make a conscious effort to challenge yourself to be faster. A marathon runner didn’t start jogging and then accidentally run a four-hour marathon and you’re not going to accidently write a complete article in an hour if it usually takes you four.
This also links into creating habits, I place a post-it note above my desk which reminds me that I want to create good habits and I want to write faster so that I can be conscious of what weaknesses I need to work on each time I write.
11. Remove distractions completely
Removing distractions and creating a good working environment is essential to being consistent.
I talk a lot about this in my journey on How I discovered how to efficiently work from home and stop lazy and procrastinating tendencies.
I often find that I need a clean environment to think clearly and I usually work while no-one else is home. Check out my previous blog post for a ton of information to help you with this.
12. The power-hour technique
One of my favourite tips, which really helps me on the days when I really can’t be bothered working is to commit to the power-hour. I work really fast and really well during the power-hour.
The idea is simple, to only give my attention to actionable work for a single hour, without any kind of breaks.
I grab a little wind-up egg-timer alarm from the kitchen and set it to sixty minutes.
I crack open Spotify on my favourite playlist and cover my ears with headphones.
I make sure I have everything I need for the hour such as a drink, I’ve been to the toilet and I’ve locked the dogs away.
Then I follow a few simple rules:
- I’m not allowed to give my attention to anything other than my work and it has to be actionable. This means Facebook, Reddit, Twitter, Google Analytics, emails and anything else not related to actually doing work is off limits.
- I must not leave my seat for any reason.
- I put effort into being active. If I have writer’s block I have to still write something. No sitting there with brain fog wondering what to do.
What are your favourite tips on how to write faster? Let me know in the comments!