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Write Slow to Write Fast

By on Apr 3, 2014 in Writing | 2 comments

I wanted to write a post about writing fast while still writing well. And I will. But that’s not exactly what happened for me this week. I wrote fast and what I wrote was okay but not great.

So here’s my first insight on the Holy Grail of writing fast while writing well – it’s not always possible. If you’re frustrated that you can’t do both at the same time, take heart, you’re not alone. Rest assured that you can get faster and better. One of the ways to do that, however, is by giving in to writing slowly and well. This applies whether you’re writing a blog post, an email or a book.

This is what happened this week. I wrote an op ed for a client. It should have been easy since it’s a subject about which I am passionate. I started with a rough sense of how the article would be laid out: an intro to grab the reader, the point of the argument, back up to support the argument and a wrap up. As I frequently advise, I imagined that I was writing for just one person. I asked myself what would make this one person read past the first sentence?

I liked what I came up with. It was relevant and on point. I described the emotions around a situation, and I’d like to think it was gripping. I was quite please and ready to wrap things up and send it along, until I read it again a day later. Then, I realized that it was too long. It took too much time to get to the point of the argument and if a reader doesn’t quickly grasp why they’re reading something, they’re likely to stop.

My second lead went for the shock factor. The statement was so outrageous it would have unquestionably drawn in the reader. Again, I thought I was done – until I read it the next day. For this client in this situation, it was too shocking. We’d run the risk of alienating rather than influencing readers. So, I tried again.

Goldi locksOn my third attempt, I kept the emotion from the first attempt but scaled back on the description. It was like Goldilocks sitting down in baby bear’s chair – just right.

In total, this piece took three or four times what I would have liked.

Sometimes, you need time. You need to be able to write and then to go back and tinker with it until it says exactly what you want to say in the way you want to say it. Recognize and accept that. But here is the key: When you do rewrite, pay attention to the changes you make and why and that will make things go faster next time.  

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  1. Thanks Jen for this helpful writing lesson about the need for patience and practice.

    Amy Grossman

    April 3, 2014

  2. Thanks Jen for this helpful writing lesson about the need for patience and practice.

    Amy Grossman

    April 3, 2014

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