How to Write Faster and Better

Sometimes an idea hits, and there’s no stopping the flow of words. Like a flood, they stream onto the screen with such clarity that your readers can see themselves in your phrases and paragraphs.  

Then there are the times when the cursor blinks back at you, mocking your indecision as you hit backspace again and again. You wish you could write faster and better. (No one has time for writer’s block!) Those moments can be incredibly frustrating. The good news is there’s something you can do to get the words flowing freely.

For me, the latter seems to happen most frequently when I’m on a deadline—whether self-imposed or for a client. I need to get the writing done, but the words dam up behind a glass wall, pressing against it in a jumble. They’re right there. I just need to find the release valve.

Here’s a tactic to help you write faster and better when the words won’t flow freely:

Identify the goal.

Whether it’s a chapter, article, paragraph, or post, start by identifying its goal or purpose. What is the problem you’re trying to solve for your client or reader (or for fiction, for the character or scene)? What’s the point you’re trying to make? Is there more than one?

Ask questions.

With your goal in mind, pretend for a moment that you are the reader. What questions do you have about the topic? Write down those questions and then begin to answer them one by one.

Organize your answers.

You’ve done the hard part! You’ve turned the valve and gotten the words flowing. Now, put them in a logical order, add transitions, and fill in the blanks.

Add interest to connect with the reader.

In all likelihood, what you’ve written is clear, but it may be very direct and dry. That’s okay as a starting place, but it probably isn’t where you want to finish. (The first draft isn’t the final draft.) Where can you add interest or emotion to make your message connect with the reader? If you’re writing fiction, add layers of description to activate the senses.

While at the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writer’s Conference this spring, I sat at the dinner table with fiction author and literary agent Linda Glaz. She asked who at the table was a plotter and who was a pantser. (A plotter creates a detailed outline a pantser writes by the seat of his or her pants.)

Linda, like me, is neither. When she writes, she begins with a rough sketch of the story. Not an outline, but a complete, ugly, barebones draft. She said that writing this way keeps her focused long enough to get the full story out. Then she comes back and fills out the scenes, and adds to the characters, senses, and descriptions.

The first draft is just you telling yourself the story.

— Terry Pratchett

It’s a very similar process to the method above—and it works! I’ve used it for approximately a zillion (give or take) magazine articles and blog posts as well as for my books and the books I’ve ghostwritten for clients. Try it, and let me know how it goes.

How about you? Are you a “plotter,” a “pantser,” or somewhere in the middle?

Feature photo by Nick Morrison on Unsplash