Some people are writing machines. They get an idea, pound it out in minutes, post it to their blog, and move on to something else. For the rest of the world, writing is often slow, grinding work.
But it doesn’t have to be. Anyone can write faster if they follow a 5-step formula for writing more efficiently. I call it S.P.E.E.D. Writing.
Before I describe this formula, let me admit that I write a lot. I serve dozens of clients, maintain two of my own blogs, write for a political blog, write articles for half a dozen other blogs, and do other miscellaneous writing. It seems I can never write fast enough.
I’m not slow. But I can’t whip out copy and walk away as some do. One problem I have is editing while I write. It slows me down. In fact, I rewrote this paragraph that you’re reading right now three times before moving on.
By studying my own bad habits and with the advice of others, I came up with the S.P.E.E.D. Writing formula to help myself write faster and be more productive. When I follow it, I can write twice as fast or faster.
S: Select a topic
Not having anything to say can cause writer’s block. But having too much to say is a problem too.
If you try to jam in every thought, you’ll end up with an unfocused post. This slows you down because you’ll have to figure out how to make all the extra stuff sound relevant. Then, because you know it’s not relevant, you’ll just spend more time deleting it later.
Narrow your topic to one idea. ONE idea. If other topics come to mind, make a note of them for other posts. By sticking to one and only one idea, you’ll force yourself to stay on-point, which will shorten your writing time and give your readers a better post.
P: Prepare your facts
When you find yourself staring helplessly at your computer screen, it’s almost always because you don’t have facts at hand. Gathering information before you start will usually get you writing quickly.
Before you write a single word, jot down a few notes. If you don’t have the facts in your head or if you need additional information, do a little research. That can be as simple as opening a book, scanning a magazine, or Googling a few key terms. Don’t “compose” while taking notes. Just get the facts all in one place.
Starting an idea file is a huge time-saver. I keep a simple text file on my computer desktop and jot down ideas as I get them. I also use Google Notebook to record notes from online reading. I don’t tear out magazine bits anymore because that creates clutter that I have to sort through later.
E: Establish a structure
Some writers like to think that writing should be free of rules. But that’s bunk.
Every piece of writing, especially blog writing, needs structure. It could be a short narrative, a Q&A, a series of bullet points, a numbered list, etc.
You can use this structure to outline your post. It doesn’t have to be a formal outline like the type you learned in school. Just take all your facts or ideas and arrange them in the order you want them to appear in your finished piece, using your chosen structure as a guide.
For this article, I decided to use an easy to remember acronym, S.P.E.E.D., to give me five points to cover. Once I collected my information, I divided it among these five points.
A set structure also helps you avoid the trap of linear writing. You don’t have to start at the beginning and write line-by-line to the end. With a structure, you can write in pieces, in any order you like. For this article, I’m writing the five points first, and I’ll write the introduction last.
E: Eliminate distractions
This is harder than it sounds. There are so many distractions in my day that I often take multitasking to the extreme. That slows down writing exponentially.
Like any other task you want to complete quickly, writing requires undivided attention. Turn off the TV, mute the phone, close your email program, get off your social networks, and just write.
D: Dash to the finish
This is the biggie. You can’t agonize over every word or sit and stare at your computer screen. Put your fingers on the keyboard and GO.
It doesn’t have to be perfect writing. Just get the words down. You might be surprised at how much you can get done and how good it is if you take off the brakes and let ‘er rip.
This means you can’t read and reread what you’re writing while you write. I’ll admit, this is tough for me. When I get stumped, I often go back and read what I’ve written to create momentum that can carry me forward.
It works sometimes. But it’s a bad idea for a first draft. You can read what you’ve written after you’ve written it all the way through.
It also means you shouldn’t edit while you write. Writing and editing should be separate tasks. Take off the editor hat and just plow through until you’re finished. Later, you can edit and revise.
(I have to laugh at myself for giving this advice, because if this were a crime, I’d get life in jail.)
If you follow this formula, you’ll quickly end up with a written post. You’ll want to edit right away, but don’t. Just walk away. Once all the words are down and in order, save your document and do something else.
Later, you can edit with a fresh eye. Objectivity always makes you a better editor. You’ll catch the mistakes. You’ll spot the extraneous details. You’ll cut the fat.
Okay. I’m done. Now I’m going to save this and . . . aw nuts. I just reread the article.
It’s easier to give this advice than to follow it.