How to Write Fast (and Well)
I write a lot, usually pretty quickly. A writer asked me how I do it, so I typed up a quick explainer.
When I launched Wise & Well, a new health and wellness publication on Medium recently, I vowed to edit and mentor other writers, leveraging my 30-plus years in journalism to help those with clear talent, expertise and potential grow beyond wherever they are now, honing their craft to cultivate a larger audience. When one of my writers asked how to write fast and produce more stories, I initially bristled at the notion.
Write fast? How about write well?
But this young and emerging writer deserved an answer. So I let my mind run and soon my fingers were doing the thinking, as often happens, and the following response emerged all in one long paragraph because I was typing so fast I didn’t have time to mess around with rough-draft trivialities like spelling or punctuation or formatting.
I’ve added some much-needed paragraph returns and a few edits for clarity, but otherwise what follows is my verbatim response.
Speed. Hmm. I’ve always been told by colleagues that I’m an unusually fast and prolific writer (meaning I write a lot, not necessarily well—readers will be the judge of that). In 4–1/2 years writing on Medium, I’ve averaged 2.8 stories per week, modest compared to earlier in my journalism career. I honestly don’t know all the reasons why, but it’s definitely not due to any single trick or tactic, though there are some important traits and skills that contribute:
Curiosity above all else, dogged effort, pretty strong typing skills (thanks to Mr. Richmond’s 11th-grade typing class), intense focus, learning how to start and finish a story in a set time period thanks to my early years in newspapers where deadlines were firm and word limits dictated, and … outlines. Always an outline.
But it’s also the sum result of many other little things, like learning and knowing the rules and guidelines of the genre and the publications I write for (I have actually read the entire AP Style Guide, and every few years I re-read Strunk & White’s The Elements of Style — highly recommended), gaining confidence in my ability, and not trying to write in genres or formats or…