Content is king, right? We’ve all heard that cliché because we’re working in the era of blogging and thought leadership, where every position and department in the workplace is being asked to produce more content. But it doesn’t write itself. HR professionals, developers, salespeople, and other employees with no writing background are increasingly expected to create good content, and to do it quickly. That’s not an easy task.
To help you hone your skill, here are 5 tips on how to write faster.
Skip the Introduction
The first paragraph, known as the “lead,” is a very important part of any piece of writing. Knowing that, people often agonize over this section, spending more time on their lead than any other part of the text.
Your lead should captivate the reader, giving them no choice but to read on while also offering a snapshot of what the entire text contains. Considering it almost acts as a summary to the text, why would you write it before knowing exactly what the content will look like?
Fast writers often skip their introduction. This allows them to write the piece without trying to fit it into the constraints of a lead they laboured over in advance.
The blank page is your worst enemy. It doesn’t matter if you delete a paragraph as soon as you’ve written it; you have to prime the pump before the ideas start flowing. Skipping the lead also gives you more time to soak in the rest of your content and mull it over. You’ll get familiar with the content that stand out, which will likely form the basis of your introduction.
Note: The same thinking applies to the headline—it should be the last thing you write.
Don’t Get Caught Up In the Wording
“What’s a better way to say…?” “How can I make this sound better?” “What word can I use instead of…? These types of questions keep many writers up at night, when they really shouldn’t.
When you get caught up in your wording, you’re liable to spend tons of time on thesaurus.com or asking coworkers what to say. Don’t fall into this trap. You’re not Barack Obama’s speech writer. (Or, if you’re reading this Mr. Favreau, please share some of your own tips in the comments.) The odds of a single word significantly impacting how people respond to your blog post is very small.
If you get stuck on a word or sentence, move on. Just leave a placeholder (newspaper reporters traditionally use “TK” because it’s easy to spot in the text) and keep going. Writing quickly is about getting into a rhythm and staying with it. Momentum is more important than the perfect word. It’s always easier to go back and fill in the blanks later, when your ideas are more fully formed.
Keep Your Research In the Document
As soon as you leave the page you’re writing on, the chances of you coming back right away and continuing to write are substantially reduced. We’ve all been there: you go to your email for a piece of information, see another email, open it, start a new thread, open a new document, work on something else, etc.
The best way to avoid these distractions is to not leave your writing document at all. If you have information, quotes or statistics you’ll be referencing or using in your writing, copy it onto the bottom of your document before you start. Put a big line across the page (or my favourite, a -30-) so you can quickly distinguish between notes and your own writing. Then have at it.
Reducing your distractions will make you a faster blog writer for obvious reasons. But this technique also gives me the sense that I’ve included all the information I wanted to included before I started writing. Every time I reference a piece of information, I highlight it or cut it out of the doc altogether. When the notes section disappears, you know you haven’t left anything out, and you can focus instead on tying everything together with your own thoughts.
Gathering all these notes into the same place is also an effective way to identify the most important content. When building your “scratch document” or notes, you don’t need to think about things like structure and style—you’re just building a body of raw material to work with. Once you’ve got everything in one place, your strongest points and best evidence will be more obvious.
Write What You’ve Got
You know you want to write “4 tips about XYZ” but you can only think of 2. So you spend hours thinking and researching to try and find a new idea to add to the story. Don’t waste your time, just write what you’ve got.
First of all, as I mentioned above, don’t get locked into a headline or a concept in advance. These elements should come together after you’ve put all of your research and ideas on paper. Usually if you have to look hard for extra information to add, the content probably isn’t that important to the core idea anyways. When you try to force it, it will show in the writing.
Also, in the era of short attention spans, being concise is more effective anyways. Writing 20 tips for anything probably won’t get you the same amount of attention as writing 5 tips. People want to read — and learn — quickly, and move on. Make that easy for them to do.
Talk It Out
If you absolutely do need more content, you’re better off dealing with that in advance. Before you even start writing, ask a trusted colleague what they think about hackathons, or Pinterest, or golf or whatever it is you’re writing about. Maybe you won’t use anything they say, but often they’ll provide a new perspective you hadn’t thought of. You don’t have to interview them like a reporter, just casually ask them for their thoughts. The entire process should take a few minutes (unless you’re writing about the meaning of life, or something) and can have a big impact on your finished product.
The ability to write quickly can mean the difference between 100 blog views and 10,000 blog views, especially when you’re trying to capitalize on a new trend or announcement. Use these tips to speed up the process, and make writing a positive part of your workday.