For writers who are big readers, and I think that’s most of us, it’s easy to fall into the trap of relaxing with our writing the same as we relax with a good book. We get into the habit of not exactly liking a sentence so we’ll stop and think about how to write it differently. Or we’ll need more information and spend an hour researching when all we needed was to find the answer to a specific question and get back to work.
Five ways we stretch out our writing time
1. Giving ourselves too much time to work on a writing assignment.
2. Researching a small item and spending hours reading more on our subject.
3. Reviewing before we finish the first draft.
4. Reviewing a finished piece again and again instead of moving on to new work.
5. Not feeling a sense of urgency because there’s no “boss” waiting for our work.
Getting back in race mode takes knowing some techniques to get around the problem that gets in your way.
Sometimes an article goes off in too many directions. There seem to be several different points to be made and the relationship between them is fuzzy. This happens when you don’t use an outline. Breaking your work into chunks makes your path clear.
Go through what you have written so far and break it into paragraphs wherever the topic changes and give each paragraph a title in bold. Now look at the paragraph titles and decide how they could best be arranged. Add new titles where you need them and a short sentence about what you want to write there.
Now fill in more details on all of your paragraphs and repeat the process. Don’t be afraid to wipe out paragraphs that don’t fit or move them into a new article. Sometimes a piece is too complex because it should be several pieces.
A method that works good for me on days I can’t get going is timing my writing assignments. There’s a good online timer at Tick Tock Timer.
A timer makes you hurry because you don’t want it to be time for the next assignment before you’ve done anything significant on the current one.
Also, even when you’ve had enough of a particular assignment before the time runs out, you’ll keep on with it because there are only a few minutes to go anyway. This is good for those articles or parts of articles you’d really rather not write but need to get done to complete a bigger picture.
I set the timer for 20 minutes. When the time is up, I move on to a different assignment unless I’m really hooked on the current one. Then it’s another 20 minutes.
How many assignments should you have at one time? I have at least a few dozen writing projects on the go. If I was to spend a little time on every project going round and round, by the time I hit on the same project twice it would be completely out of my mind. Instead, I focus on half a dozen articles and one full length manuscript. When I finish something, I look for a good replacement.
Every writer should be good at revising. If you’re stalling or can’t decide what to write next, switch to revision. Read what you’ve already written and make changes where needed.
The most common revision process uses three drafts. The first draft is quick and sloppy to just get all of the ideas or story written. The second draft fills in missing details and cleans up most of the mess from the first draft. The final draft is a last chance to clean up errors and tweak your writing before you call it complete.
Hit and Run Writing
This is similar to revision but with the focus on problems. Scan through your writing in progress and look for notes like “NEED STEPS” and fix them. Look for long paragraphs and break them up. Find sections that are light and add some details.
For fiction, story problems will either need some elaboration to clarify the issues or violence to destroy them. If you still can’t think of a solution, insert a note and ramble on about the problem. Next time through, the note may give you enough additional food for thought to work out an answer.
Writing As A Martial Art
You will often get bogged down when you try to write your final version in one sitting. Very few people write perfect copy the first time through. Unless you’re actually on the final draft, you will make faster progress with a different mindset.
Remember how you felt when you had a deadline at school or work that was suddenly too near. There’s not enough time! What to do? You abandoned all thoughts of getting the job done perfectly and concentrated on just getting it done. Anything would do to keep you moving on to the next part of the assignment. If your sense of urgency was strong enough, you completed the assignment with enough time left for revision. The final product was fine.
Do that with your writing. Since there is no deadline, you can polish the result to be more than fine.
Writing is a combination of quality and quantity. You need to produce interesting material or it’s not worth reading. You need to produce lots of material or there’s nothing to read. Given the same knowledge of your subject, putting quantity before quality results in the same quality in your final draft but you will produce more material.
Article by Ivan Izo.