4 Points On Writing Faster To Break Out Of Your Writing Rut


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Do you like to write slow, waiting for inspiration to strike  and then jotting it down on paper?

Most writers I know cringe when I talk about writing fast. While others believe it to be the key ingredient in their success. I have a screenwriter friend that can write a screenplay in 48 hours. Yes, I’m talking about an entire screenplay! So what are the advantages of writing fast? I find it helps me break out of ruts. You might go through phases where writing a single page can take days. If that’s the case, then you need to borrow some of the techniques from journalists.

Roy Peter Clark just came out with a great article entitled ’12 tips to writing fast – or at least faster’. While this article focuses on the journalist, I’ve found some key points here that you can use if you’re writing fiction, or just enjoy creative writing.

1. Don’t separate the reporting and writing process. Integrate them. Begin writing it in your head from the moment you get the assignment and all during the research.

Although he talks about ‘reporting’, I like to think of ‘moments of insights’. How many times have you found yourself coming up with a great idea throughout the day? Do you just jot down the thought in your notebook, waiting for a ‘good time’ to begin expanding on it? I used to do that. I still have notes that sit there gathering dust. Remember, writing is a process. In order to get better at writing, you must write. Next time you have an idea, get out your notebook, computer, or mobile note taker. Start writing something. Anything. Do this for a few weeks and you’ll be shocked at how good your writing gets.

2. Annotate your notes while taking them: “This is lead.” “Goes up high.” “Transition.”

This is a great trick used by journalists to keep a visual summary of what they need to do when they begin writing the final piece. If you’re a visual person, this is an excellent trick to use. Instead of writing, I always have bubbles or images on my pages. These are notes. If I come up with a new character,  I might write above ‘who is his friend? his enemy?’. This allows me to expand my imagination when I go back to reading this section. You’ll be shocked how many great twists you can put on your story by doing this simple thing.

3. Lower your standards for the first draft. Let your hands do the thinking. You can raise your standards during revision.

This is a no brainer. Some of us can hit a wall due to procrastination, while others hit it due to perfectionism. Start getting used to setting a timer. Aim to finish a certain number of pages or chapters in that time frame. Don’t worry about the quality of your work. The more you do this, the more you’ll be able to get better at relying on your creative powers. You’d be surprised how creative you really are.

4. Keep it short: to borrow from Strunk & White, erect a pup tent, not a cathedral.

Say you want to write a 10 page chapter. Just thinking of that makes me cringe. All that goes through my head is ‘that’s going to take me all day’. One way to overcome this is to just start, and write a short chapter. That’s it. You’ll need to eventually go back and expand on it. By keeping your ideas simple, you’ll get better at getting to the point. I find it much easier to expand on something than to write way more than I need. You may be different. Try this technique and see if it’s right for you.

So next time an idea strikes you, think about learning the skill set of writing fast. Your writing process isn’t going to change, but the strategies you use will. What are your thoughts? Have you tried to learn how to write fast? Is it something you can add? Or have you tried something like this and found it didn’t resonate with you? Let us know! Share your thoughts below.

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