During Write Nonfiction November (WNFIN), writers must write fast to complete their projects in 30 days. Learning to turn out content quickly is a great skill to have. I know this, since I was trained as a magazine journalist and I now spend much of my time churning out content for my four…five if you count WNFIN…blogs and two online columns. However, writing quickly doesn’t serve you well if the content you produce isn’t good content.
I’ve often heard it said of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) that the focus is not on turning out good words, just words. The focus is on turning out a first draft—no matter how lousy that first draft might be. With WNFIN, I like to stress turning out a good first draft, writing a good book, article, essay, proposal, fast.
That’s why I asked my colleague, Lee Pound, to return this year for this final post in WNFIN’s series of posts on how to get your work written. (Next, the blog will focus on how to publish your work.) Lee is a fellow writing coach and book editor, as well as a publisher, and seminar producer. He also is the author of Profitable Social Media and 57 Steps to Better Writing as well as several other nonfiction books and novels. If you want to write fast and well, take the advice Lee offers in the excellently written post below that he turned around for me in about 24 hours—and wrote in much, much less time than that.
How to Write Fast and Well
By Lee Pound
How do you write quickly and write well at the same time? I’ve heard many people say it is impossible, that you must write and rewrite many times to produce good work.
However, many writers who have mastered their craft will tell you that good writing is a habit built up from experience. Many years ago, when I was a newspaper editor and reporter, I would return to the office at 11:30 at night with a mish-mash of notes and have to produce three front-page stories by midnight. I knew writers who could take hours to do this and still not produce good work. They didn’t survive in the pressure world of newspapers. Deadlines are unforgiving.
Over the 15 years of pressure writing for newspapers, years of writing fiction, and years of editing and publishing non-fiction, I’ve learned a few powerful tips that will enable you to write quickly and well every time.
The most important step is to make decisions. What is important and what isn’t? Is anyone going to want to read it? Do I have enough information to write about this right now? Where do I start? Where do I end? How long is my story? What are the key points and what can I leave out?
Many people can’t decide what to write because they censor themselves. They toss out every idea that comes up from the subconscious and wait for a better one that never comes because none of the ideas are good enough. Stop censoring if you want to write quickly.
Here are some tips I use with my clients and in everything I write. Some you will need to internalize with practice. Some you are already doing. All of them rely on you paying attention to your writing as you write. Be aware of what you write, be aware of the habitual words you use, and change them the next time they come up.
- Take a few minutes to plan out your writing. Decide your major theme, decide where you will begin and where you will end and jot down the three or four major topics you want to cover. This will eliminate several drafts and speed up the writing process because you have created a roadmap for your piece.
- Use the first sentence to grab the reader’s attention. This can be a question, bold statement, interesting fact, or some other item people want to know about. Raise a question the reader wants answered with this statement and don’t answer it until later.
- Train yourself to use the active voice as much as possible. In most situations, this will strengthen your writing because it will create a more forceful presence and direction. Your statements will be direct and firm.
- Vary the length of your sentences. This will get rid of the staccato feel of a lot of short sentences running together at once. It will also create a comfortable rhythm for the reader.
- Don’t use a lot of excess words. Sentences filled with flab and unnecessary words slow down the reader and hide much of the meaning of a sentence. Look for phrases beginning with “there is” and other such meaningless openers.
- Write shorter paragraphs. This creates a more pleasing interface for your reader and an unconscious feeling that your piece is easier to read.
- End with a call to action of some kind. Readers want you to tell them what to do with the information you have just given them. A call to action can be anything from a request to buy a product to implementing a process. Readers tend not to do anything if you don’t give them guidance.
- After you finish your piece, read it over once, looking for each of these items. Correct them and send it out.
Good writing consists of more than just technical steps. Your content is important as well. If you have very little to say, your writing will have no effect no matter how well it is crafted.
Make certain your content is interesting to your readers. This article is on writing and will go on a writing blog. Any other subject would be inappropriate. This blog is also about writing non-fiction so don’t write on how to create a novel. It won’t fly as well.
Be a resource for your readers. We read because we want to know more about a given subject. We want tips that will help us do our work better. Provide information that your readers can use this instant.
Follow these tips to create good, fast writing that works both for you and for your readers.
About the Author
Lee Pound is a writing coach, book editor, publisher, and seminar producer. He is the author of Profitable Social Media and 57 Steps to Better Writing, and editor and co-author of Coaching for the New Century, Adapt or Perish!, and Adapt! How to Survive and Thrive in the Changing World of Work. He has also written three novels and several family histories.
Lee is a sought after speaker on writing and social media, edited award-winning weekly newspapers for 15 years, and has a deep knowledge of public and private companies from 20 years as a chief financial officer in the publishing industry. He is co-producer of the Speak Your Way to Wealth seminars, where he shared the stage with many powerful speakers. His book clients write influential books in the fields of business, health, sales, and goal-setting.