Most weeks, I write anywhere from 8,000-10,000 words for various projects. That’s some pretty serious writing, I think.
Remember in school when a 500-word paper seemed daunting? Yeah. Welcome to my life. I do that 20x a week sometimes.
But over time, I’ve learned how to write much more efficiently. Now those 10,000 word weeks ain’t no thang. Which is good news, too, since as a freelancer, time = money. If I’m not writing efficiently, I’m not maximizing my earning potential…and girlfriend has a shopping problem.
So, what can I share with you that will help you speed up your writing process, too? Here’s how I knock out assignment after assignment without burning out.
You know what makes writing happen a lot more quickly? Direction; AKA an outline.
Yes, outlining can feel tedious and unnecessary at times, but trust me—if you can put together a solid outline before you dive in, you’ll fly through putting the pieces together when it actually comes time to write.
Without an outline, you’re constantly hoping everything makes sense (and mostly winging it.) You’re moving ahead without a clear plan—and that can mean more time-consuming edits later on. Map it out first, and then it’s just a matter of getting some initial words onto the page.
Write an Ugly First Draft
I wrote over on Medium in greater detail why the ugly first draft is so effective at helping speed up the writing process, but the bottom line is this: The blank page is your biggest enemy. It’s intimidating. It’s so…blank.
I consider myself a fairly anxious person, so when I know I need to write a long, well-researched piece and get it in by a deadline…it makes my palms sweaty. But if I can hammer out a hideous first draft, I’ve got something to work with. I can fix it and make it pretty. No problem.
Write some garbage based on your outline without editing along the way, and your second pass will be faster and much more bearable.
Eliminate Distractions. Seriously.
Writing lengthy pieces of content takes focus. And I can’t maximize efficiency without saying, “BYEEEEEE!” to a million different distractions.
Close your email tab. Then close the tab with Twitter. If you don’t trust yourself, use a tool like StayFocusd that doesn’t let you access these distractions during specified time periods.
In order to get truly “in the zone” (I hate that phrase, BTW) and to crunch on your word count, you need time and space without interruptions. That means getting rid of those diversions and time sucks that pull at your attention.
I use the Pomodoro method (working in 25 minute sprints), but any amount of time will do as long as you’re not stopping every few minutes to tweet back at your Internet pal or falling down a rabbit hole on Reddit. Give yourself time to really find your stride. It works.
Yep, that’s it. Pretty simple, right? If you use some of the same techniques, I guarantee you’ll squash more assignments and earn more on a monthly/annual basis.
This article originally appeared in my newsletter, A Cup of Copy. Sign up and get these free tips sent right to your inbox every other Wednesday.