One of the most frequently asked questions in the Writing Centre is “how can I get faster at writing?”. Writing a document involves many complex skills, and writers who are new to those skills are going to take longer to complete them than an expert. Writers will naturally get faster as they become more skillful and confident, and in the meantime, here are some suggestions of how to make the best use of time while creating a document.
1. Understand the expectations of the work
When authors don’t understand the expectations of a work, it’s extremely difficult to write, never mind doing so quickly. If you’re not sure what you’re supposed to do, please ask for clarification. If you’re working on a course assignment, please see Understand the Assignment for a process of identifying the key instructions in an assignment description.
2. Understand the content
Your writing communicates your understanding of the topic, so if you’re not feeling comfortable with the content, it’s going to take you longer to express your ideas. If you’re unsure of the content, learn more about the topic and/or ask questions. The time you take to develop your understanding should reduce the overall writing time.
Note: The previous two items are common causes of procrastination because authors struggle to start a project when they don’t understand the objectives or content.
3. Plan the writing
When authors know what they want to write (e.g., content) and have planned how they want to express it (e.g., approach, structure, style), writing typically happens more quickly and requires fewer major revisions. Without mapping the document first, authors may try to complete many other tasks while writing, such as identifying ideas and making decisions about them, finding supporting research or information, deciding how to connect supporting details to major points in the work, and managing the flow and logic of the writing. Multi-tasking while writing typically results in a slow writing process or writer’s block. If most of the significant decisions about the document are made in the planning stage, writing simply involves following the plan, which speeds up the process.
The Writing Centre has numerous resources on different approaches to developing a plan for writing; please visit Planning the Paper for information.
4. Write the document and follow the plan
At some point, the planning has to stop and the writing must begin. When you reach that stage, write the first draft and follow your plan. If new ideas come to you while you’re writing, check them against your plan to see if and how they fit into the document, rather than taking the time to write about something that could end up being a tangent and a cause of major revisions in the editing stage.
5. Target specific aspects of the work during the editing stage
If you have limited time to edit your document, focus on the mistakes you tend to make. Feedback from other people about your writing can help to identify those mistakes, but you may also be aware of your own patterns. Keeping a checklist of errors makes it easy to know what to look for and ensures you’re using your time efficiently, versus trying to edit everything quickly. Try using tools to help you with your editing process; see Edit the Draft for suggestions.
6. Be realistic about how much time you’ll need
As this writing tip demonstrates, there’s so much more to writing a document than just typing. Be realistic about the time you’ll need to complete all the tasks involved so that you have achievable deadlines. For information on the steps involved in writing an essay, please visit the Four Feathers Writing Guide, How to Write an Undergraduate-Level Essay or How to Write a Graduate-Level Essay for a 12-step process. For assistance with assigning deadlines to the steps of writing an essay, please try the Assignment Calculator.