This week I launched a new blog called Lean Decisions to help people make better decisions. In preparing for the launch, I wrote a month’s backlog of articles by writing one post a day. Since I have limited time, I had to learn how to write fast. Keep reading to see what I learned.
First, the key steps of writing a blog post:
- Write a Headline: 1-3 min
Learn to write catchy headlines. Use existing headline templates. Copyblogger has several excellent articles on writing headlines that attract readers. Use the headline as a guide to write the rest of the article.
- Create an Outline: 4-5 min
Outline the post before you write it. Write down the key points you want to make, in the order you want to make them. If you are creating lists, write down the title of each list item (I prefer lists with concise titles, then explanatory text). If key phrases or sentences come to you during this phase, write those down too.
- Write the Post: 8-12 min
Write the content of the post. Try to avoid editing while you write. Let the words flow as if you’re talking to a person next to you. If you get stuck on a section, move on and keep writing. Use 750 Words to practice getting into the flow of writing.
- Polish the Post: 5-10 min
Read and edit your post, then add links and images. Look for spelling or grammatical errors or places you could improve the wording. Save adding links and images until the end so you stay focused on the content.
Within this structure, some tricks I’ve learned to write faster include:
- Keep an Idea Log
Keep a log of post ideas. At a minimum, write a title and a quick description. If using WordPress, install the Post Ideas+ plugin. If you want to outline the post, write the outline as a post and save it as a Draft. Mark posts you’ve written but haven’t polished or published yet as Pending Review.
- Batch Each Stage
Brainstorm ideas for posts in one session, then write outlines for each of those ideas in a separate session, write each post in a third session and polish your posts in a fourth session. Brainstorming, outlining, writing and editing each require different skills. Switching into these modes takes time. You’ll be most effective doing multiple posts in each mode.
- Develop a Style
Use a consistent style to make your writing easier. As I mentioned above, most items in my lists have a short title and then a block of explanatory text. I use a declarative voice with minimal adjectives when writing on Fast Fedora or Lean Decisions. I try to keep my style lean and focused on what people can learn from me. I work to avoid qualifying words, unnecessary starting phrases and “in my opinion” qualifiers (it’s all my opinion, unless otherwise stated).
- Minimize Distractions
Close your door (or put on headphones if you can’t), turn off e-mail and switch your editor to full-screen mode so you can focus entirely on writing. If listening to music, avoid music with lyrics—you don’t want the language centers of your brain processing outside stimuli while you’re creating your own dialogue.
- Use a Timer
Set a time limit to help you stay focused. If doing all the stages together, set a timer for each stage of the process. For the writing phase, consider setting a warning timer 5 minutes before you need to finish. Determine ahead of time if it’s okay to snooze if you go too long and how many snoozes you’re allowed. Aim to write within your allotted time, but give yourself time to learn this skill.
That’s about it.
For the record, I conceived this post in the shower less than an hour ago. This post took me 1 minute to write the headline, 3 minutes to outline, 14 minutes to write and 25 minutes to polish for total of 43 minutes. Looks like I still need practice.
What techniques have you learned to write fast?