Writing efficiency is important for at least two reasons. First, there’s the old deadline. If you need to finish a piece of writing by a due-date, inefficient or slow writing can be a killer. Second, even if you don’t have a deadline, if your writing is sporadic or inefficient, you may lose what may have started as a strong thought-thread, or even lose heart for your project. The first draft of an average book, for example, should probably be finished in less than six months.
So, here are some ways to improve your writing efficiency.
1. Prioritize your writing
If writing is a hobby, you can probably skip this suggestion. However, as stated above, even if writing is only a casual affair, having a loosey-goosey writing schedule is usually not productive. On the other hand, if you’re a serious writer or if writing is how you make all or part of your living, you’ll usually be under some time-pressure. That means writing has to have some priority, putting it ahead of other things you might do, or not using other-things-to-do as an excuse for not writing.
2. Don’t let writer’s-block get in your way
Almost every writer will one day hit a wall. How you deal with that event will impact your writing efficiency. If you’ve had this happen, or know that it can happen, there’s no need to panic. Maybe just take a break (hours to days), take a walk, change your writing location (e.g., go to a coffee shop or the park or the local library). The point is, don’t wallow in misery. Do something about it (e.g., do some research you’ve been putting off).
3. Write in the right place
Not all locations are conducive to efficient writing. Find yourself a writing nook. That often means away from the sights and sounds of the usual daily living. It can be a room with the door closed (even an attic or basement), or any of the locations listed above. Do you prefer silence? Or does some soft music in the background help? You can use ear-buds or comfortable head-phones. Do healthy snacks help? Or does a beverage make writing more fluid? (Pun intended.)
4. Write for a regular period of time
Whether you write for a half hour a day or four hours or whatever, make writing a regular part of your schedule. And promise yourself that you won’t think about or do anything else during that time (bathroom breaks are acceptable). No emails, no internet exploring, no research. This is writing time only. If this seems hard at first, set a timer, and don’t stop writing until the alarm sounds.
5. Separate writing from research
Amplifying the previous section, you need to do all your research for a specific section before you start that session. Avoid breaking your writing train-of-thought by stopping to search the internet for something. If need be, make a note to do that when the writing session is finished.
6. Avoid perfection
You have to designate the allotted session to writing, not editing. There’s plenty of time to edit when you finish a writing session. Too many authors, especially newbies, edit while they write. The result is that their precious creative thread gets all tangled up. Try to wear only one hat at a time.
7. A nifty editing technique
Some authors find that a great way to edit, especially the first round, is to read the work out loud. This may seem embarrassing the first few times you do it; but pretend that you’re doing a reading for a small audience, maybe looking for feedback. As you read aloud, check that punctuation is right, look for spelling errors and incomplete sentences. And watch for long sentences that make you grab a breath too many times in order to get through them. You can also bet that there’s some text that doesn’t seem to fit right, and maybe something you’d ad lib if you were actually doing a live reading. You’ll probably find that this technique will really improve your writing efficiency.
Hopefully, some of these ideas will improve your writing efficiency, and make writing less of a chore and, hence, more enjoyable.
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