How to Write Fast (A Short Introduction to Speed Writing)
Is writing agony for you? Do you struggle over every word, lugging words like weights around your mind before putting them to paper?
I know how that feels. I used to live in that place. There are days when laziness drags me back there. But there is another way.
Writing can be a breeze. You can move beyond the struggle and find a new freedom and ease in your writing. That's not to say it will always be easy. You'll have good days and bad days, just like anyone doing any job. But you can put an end to the banes of the writer's life. You can say goodbye to writer's block. You no longer have to suffer for your art - or your business - unless you want to.
Fast writing isn't easy. As I implied above, slow writing is the lazy way. Slow writing involves giving into the constant distractions of the Internet, TV, and co-workers. Fast writing, by contrast, requires concentration and focus. But the more you write fast, the more energy you'll find in your writing. Slow writing drags on your energy and drains your creativity. Fast writing creates an upwards spiral of inspiration and imagination.
Most writers who've yet to be introduced to fast writing techniques can easily double their writing speed within a few days. If you can do that, you'll also double your daily word count. If you're paid per word, you'll double your earning potential too.
To complete this tutorial, you will need:
- word processing software
- a timer
Fast Writing Techniques
I remember when I was first introduced to fast writing techniques. I gave it a try, and I was stunned to discover I could create a 500 word blog post in under 30 minutes. That included planning, writing, and editing.
Fast writing creates an upwards spiral of inspiration and imagination.
Back then, I was struggling to write 2,000 words a day. Nowadays, when writing a rough draft, I can find myself exceeding 2,000 words an hour.
What's more, writing fast doesn't mean compromising on quality. Typically, I find the faster I write, the better the quality of my writing, and that's not just because writing fast frees up more time for editing. The words I've written fast usually require less editing. It's when I slow down and let my inner critic get in the way that my writing suffers.
In this tutorial, I'll reveal the secrets of hitting lightening fast writing speeds. I'll show you how to write a 500 word piece of writing in under 30 minutes. At that speed, you could create a 5,000 word ebook - long enough to be a Kindle Single - in an afternoon.
1. Create an Outline (5 Minutes)
The most difficult thing about writing is starting. Staring at the blank screen often fills writers with dread. What will you write? Where will you start? You're most likely to feel blocked if you haven't got a single word on the page. Putting together an outline solves that problem.
Step 1: Choose a Topic
What will your article be about? Write down a word or phrase that will be the topic of your article. Do this as quickly as you can, within a few seconds of starting. The most important thing is to get something down, to break the mesmerizing spell of the blank page. You can only create something by ruining the perfection of nothingness.
Step 2: Ask a Question
From your topic, create a question that you'll be answering in your piece of writing. Moving from a topic to a question focuses your mind, and helps to activate your creativity. Creativity works most effectively when it's harnessed, and a question is ideal for focusing and harnessing your creative energy.
Step 3: Pick 3 Words
What three words come to mind when you think about answering your question? Ideally, these will correspond to the three main points you'll be making in your article.
Don't worry if you're unsure what points you'll be making, these can come later, during your writing. Just choose three words.
Step 4 (Optional): Expand Your Outline
If you're working at high speed, you should have completed the first three steps in a couple of minutes. This gives you a few more minutes to flesh out your outline.
Try, if you can, to use an established article structure. The more you write, the more you'll get a sense of different article structures. For example, How-To articles usually pose a problem, then provide a solution to that problem. News articles begin with the most significant fact, and work down from there, finishing with the least significant fact. Novels and stories follow the three act structure.
2. Write (15 minutes)
After you've prepared your outline, it's time to start writing. This process is beautifully simple.
- Set your timer for 15 minutes.
- Write - without stopping - until the timer goes off.
That's all there is to it. You'll only see how easy it is - and how quickly the words come - if you try it.
Your question and three words will be your writing stepping stones, to keep you in the flow of writing.
As long as you can type at 35 words a minute, you will hit 500 words. If you're skilled at touch typing, you could well reach 750 or 1,000 words in that time.
That's all you need to know. However, if you need some extra motivation, consider the following hints.
Hint 1: Write to a Friend
Science fiction author Isaac Asimov wrote over 500 books in his lifetime, both fiction and nonfiction. He accredited his writing speed to his "simple and straightforward style".
If you're struggling to write at speed, stop thinking of yourself as writing. Instead imagine that you're talking to a friend. The words will flow, and you'll naturally write clearly, in a conversational tone.
Hint 2: The Word That Comes to Mind is the Right Word
This is the first draft. Don't let yourself get stuck plumbing the depths of your mind for the perfect word. While you're writing, your mind will deliver you a word. Even if it doesn't feel correct, put that word to the page, and keep going. You can go back and find the word you really wanted during the edit.
Hint 3: Make a Mess
You can only create something by ruining the perfection of nothingness.
You know why children are so creative? They're not afraid of making a mess. Creativity always means making a mess. Nothing you create will be perfect. It might be inspirational, helpful, entertaining, or funny, but it will never be perfect.
Never strive for perfection in your first drafts. Let your spelling and grammar be uncouth. Write with freedom and spontaneity. You can correct what goes "wrong" later, though often you'll find your best ideas emerging from what you initially saw as a mistake.
Hint 4: Don't Stop
Whatever happens, keep writing. If it comes to it, write "I don't know what to write here". You can always delete it later. You're teaching yourself the habit of keeping your fingers dancing on the keyboard.
3. Edit (10 Minutes)
Time's up! When the timer goes off, read through what you've created. I expect you'll be pleasantly surprised by the results. It probably needs some work, but it's not terrible either.
During the editing phase, I recommend reading through your work three times, once for each of the following steps.
Step 1: Assess What You've Got
Your first reading is to give your writing an overall appraisal. What have you created? It may flow well already, in which case you can skip to step 3. Or it may need some rearranging to give it the strongest possible structure, in which case you can go ahead to step 2.
In the highly unlikely even that you've created a Frankenstein, save it for later, and go back to planning. You've only spent 15 minutes, and you've learned a lot in the process. Always save everything you write, even if you hate it. You might come back to what you've written another day and discover hidden genius in your words.
Step 2: Make It Structurally Sound
Most non-writers and newbie writers make the mistake of assuming great writing is about style, spelling and grammar. While good writers have all of these, what makes writing great is its structure.
To give your writing a solid structure, do the following:
- Remove anything you've written that's not relevant to the topic (you can copy it and save it elsewhere for another time).
- Rearrange your sentences and paragraphs to give your piece of writing the best possible flow.
- Write any linking paragraphs needed to join up the new paragraphs.
- Add any information that's missing.
Step 3: Polish
Finally, with a strong structure in place, you're ready to clean up the spelling and grammar, and replace weak words with stronger ones.
Welcome to the Fast Writing Club
If you've read this far, you're obviously seriously interested in fast writing. Schedule 30 minutes in your calendar, and work through the three stages above. If you've got time now, do it now. Within thirty minutes, you'll know the delights of fast writing. Welcome to the fast writing club!
Please share your experiences of writing fast in the comments.
How long has this article taken me to write? It's 1,520 words, and I've written it in a busy office with lots of noise and distractions. Including planning, writing and editing, it's taken me 85 minutes.