How to write fast

Who else wants to write like a 33 1/3 record played at 78 rpm? Seven secrets to have you verbalizing like Alvin & the Chipmunks on Starbucks

I’ve been a professional writer for years now, but it’s been only recently that I have been alerted by online newsletter writers of a new, important challenge: how to write faster.

Frankly, even though I have written professionally for years, I never thought about how fast I write. I recognized a recurring problem in focusing my attention and sitting myself down to do the work, but I never thought about how fast I was writing once I got busy.

This has me reflecting back on my life and how much I could have accomplished if only I had recognized the importance of speed writing.

It’s kind of like I’ve never thought about how long it takes me to brush my teeth . . . but if I had been spitting once instead of twice all these years, I would have freed up enough time to write my answer to War and Peace.

The real reason I never contemplated actual writing time was because writing is but a small part of being a writer.

Take my years as a financial writer at asset management (mutual fund) companies.

Though my job title was “writer,” I’d estimate that I spent less than half of my time with my fingers curved above the keyboard, and much of that keyboard time was devoted to email and other typical corporate tasks. Perhaps a fourth of my time was spent on real writing.

So what did I do with the rest of my time?

  • Gather information from the “research” (i.e., stock selection) staff
  • Try to look intelligent and interested as accounting personnel debated the second decimal point on a single fund return for printing in the quarterly newsletter
  • Discuss how each concept, treatment and even word supported or detracted from our corporate mission and branding
  • Ferry drafts through the executive and legal review process
  • Attend meetings to monitor our firm’s market outlook
  • File draft and background data for regulatory review
  • Proofread for myself and others
  • Read the Wall Street Journal (boy, did that draw suspicious looks from passers-by)
  • Think about topics and what I was going to write (even more suspicious than reading)
  • Cut up coffee cake in preparation for department meetings
  • “Other duties as assigned.” Typical corporate stuff.

With all these other tasks claiming my time, speeding up my writing would not have made much of a difference in terms of productivity.

Freelance writing used to include many of these duties (with the obvious exception of cake cutting). However, as Elance and similar services reshape productivity expectations, I look like a slowpoke when others boast they can write and post an article in minutes.

Now let’s get down to business with seven secrets. Each of the following secrets leads with an explanatory bullet because I’m modeling how to write a quick article. Of course, my topic for this exercise is how to write an article fast.

  1. Don’t think too much about meaningful topics. Grab a long-tail keyword of three or more words and use this string in the title, first paragraph and sprinkled throughout.
  2. Don’t research. Quality consists of adequate word count and search term optimization, as well as passing through computerized plagiarism tests. You already know enough.
  3. Write about what you know. Like my next step for how to write quickly: coat your keyboard with oil to get those keys jumping up and down more quickly. Now’s the time to do it before OPEC raises its prices. (Well, I think they may raise their prices. I heard it somewhere and sooner or later they’ll raise prices so it’s right enough for me.)
  4. Write an introductory paragraph that uses the keyword phrase again and establish the relevance of the subject. Here’s the lead I should have written: You must learn to write quickly if you want to be a success by publishing articles on the Internet. How can you write quickly? Here are seven tips that will assure your success:
  5. Use bullets because they are easy. Why are they easy? Because they eliminate the need for transitions between paragraphs. Transitions take too much time relative to the word count they add.
  6. Fluff it up. If you don’t have enough words, fluff it up some more. And some more. And some more. Like air-popped popcorn. And more popcorn. And cotton candy. Whew, we’re at three lines now.
  7. Conclude with a summary paragraph that pulls it all together. In summary, it’s easy to write quickly when you understand the fundamentals. Don’t overanalyze. Don’t overresearch. Fluff it up while using your keywords at an optimal ratio (whatever that may be—it’s like fine art—I know it when I see it). Write what you know and summarize at the end.

Done! Turn off the stop watch!


8 responses to “How to write fast

  1. Funny stuff…but realistic these days. “Get ‘er done”, as Larry the Cable Guy says.

  2. Great post Diana! Sometimes the mood strikes me to write something but then when I sit down to write, my mind freezes when I think about all that blank space to write in. After reading this post, I think that I can sit down now and do exactly what you said, don’t overanalyze and don’t think too much, just let it flow. What a great way to start my day! Thank you!

  3. Lisa (lablady)

    Very funny! And this is exactly why freelance writers are having such trouble getting paid what they are worth. ~ sigh ~ Robert is right, however, it’s the norm now that anyone can write content – no one cares about the quality. Just the speed of writing and the quantity. Who cares if it doesn’t offer any valuable advice or help, much less grammatically correct? It fills the space! Everyone thinks fast is good these days. A sad state of affairs but nicely satirized here, Diana. Kudos! lol 🙂

  4. Elaine Lockard

    Thanks for the useful tips!! Very informative!! Now if I could only do better at “fluffing” I could have nice moderate length articles rather than short ones. lol

  5. Elaine,

    While is looking for longer articles, there’s no consensus yet. Some people favor brevity in blog entries and articles because most of us have ever-shortening attention spans.

    Some of the article banks are looking for length as a proxy for quality, which is more difficult to measure.

    Lately I have been submitting far fewer of my articles to the article banks because my writing style is too quirky and isn’t optimal for the way these services work. At a later date I’m going to write articles specific to this purpose that will be formatted just right for the purpose: headline that starts with keywords, lead paragraph to intro bullets, bullets, closing paragraph that summarizes.

  6. Sharon, you’re right, there is a bright side to the lack of writing quality out there. We don’t need to feel initimidated when we think how other people are tossing off articles in a few minutes.

  7. Diana, as we discussed over at Mark Silver’s place a while back, I’m not sure that the article banks do much for us that Google doesn’t do a better job of already. I don’t know, are they at least providing a reliable quality filter?

  8. While is trying to improve quality, I doubt that this is true of most article banks out there.

    Article banks are supposed to enhance optimization, not substitute for Google. The two should work in tandem. The article banks create inbound links (especially if the article is picked up for use elsewhere), and in turn, Google rankings should improve.

    I question how frequently articles are picked up for reuse (complete with bio box) by other blogs and websites. Of course, sometimes these article are used but they are presented as an honored guest writer.

    I just haven’t seen much article republishing or at least I haven’t recognized it when I have seen it. I think big article banks like boost Google ranking because EA’s website gets so many hits so its links back to the author’s websites add a lot of Google juice.

    Frankly, the whole thing is a mystery and that’s intentional. Google doesn’t want people to understand its algorithms. A lot of people are putting a lot of time and money into posting different versions of the same content to various article banks. They say it takes months to determine the effectiveness but why should this be the case when Google spiders are at work all the time?

    Oy, I’m getting a headache just trying to think about it…

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