With our hectic schedules, tactics for trimming time off or even getting started on a writing project can be invaluable. Everyone has their own preferred techniques, but here are a few I’ve learned:
1. Let Your First Drafts Be Stinkers
Don’t listen to your internal editor when you first begin writing. Just focus on getting words on the page or screen. If you do find yourself editing, try speedwriting or cutting and pasting text from your notes or source materials (with attribution as needed) directly into your document.
This rough draft will definitely need revision, but you won’t have wasted time agonizing over every word or flipping back and forth between your copy and reference material. Once you have the words down, you can edit the “ugly text” and shape it into an acceptable form.
Of course, some people spend loads of time on their first paragraph because that’s their way of planning the rest of the copy. If that’s you, move on to the other tactics below.
2. Organize Your Key Points
Start your writing project by making a list of points. Alternatively, you can focus on getting a rough draft done and then arrange the text into a more logical sequence later. I find that I rearrange my paragraphs on the second or third review round.
If you’ve already written a query letter or proposal, use it as a ready-made outline to keep you from going off topic.
3. Reuse Previous Material
In his book Write More, Sell More, copywriter Robert W. Bly suggests that for annual report projects, reusing chunks of previous annual reports or source documents is a great time-saver.
This tactic came in particularly handy on one very hectic day. I’d been working for nine hours straight when a client asked for a rush job on an ad blurb. I was so tired that trying to figure out what to write would have taken forever.
Instead, I looked at three previous ads that the client had used, put together the points that were consistent for all three, edited for length and style and had an ad blurb in less than an hour.
Of course, if you’re submitting articles on the same topic to different editors, I’d recommend that the copy for those articles differ by 95 percent or more.
4. Use Templates
Cut down on formatting time by using templates for as many materials as you can, e.g., ads, email promotions, proposals, articles, etc. The bonus is that promotional materials will have a consistent look that’ll be useful in branding efforts.
Once you finish drafting the piece to your satisfaction, you’ll have to slow down and take some time as you begin to edit and proofread your work. However, these four techniques can help you reach that stage in a fraction of your usual time.