Writing at speed: how can this benefit authors?

Updated January 21st, 2020. Do you regard having to write stuff for work or other pursuit as a tedious chore to be done as fast as possible?


Is writing really one of those boring jobs like your accounts or your filing or washing the coffee cups that you want to get done and out of the way so you’re then free to do something interesting?

Has writing really become pure gruntwork along with these other humdrum procedures?

Or do you, by any chance, regard writing – whether for business or pleasure – OK, maybe not as creating wonderful art, but at least as creating something valuable and important?

If the latter, stick around and read on. This gets better and better.

Recently I have been researching for my next book which amazingly is all about how to write a book – better! Time and time again I have come across blog posts, articles and other books advertising writing speed as their key criterion.

Excuse my French, but WTF?

Maybe I’m just an old fashioned writing honky, but surely if you write something the key criterion is that it should be worth someone else’s time to read it.

And I don’t know about you, but I am not impressed if someone promotes a piece of writing … “the content is crap, the grammar is terrible and the spelling would embarrass a 5-year-old BUT it only took me 15 minutes to write!”

Sorry darling, but if speed is your inspiration you should try peeling potatoes for a living.

Here are some examples of what has been horrifying me recently (Disclaimer – some articles and books are helpful because they get the balance right between writing well and writing like a  Delta IV-Heavy on steroids. However, see the following…)

Write Your Book In A Flash (book)

How to Write Faster: 10 Crafty Ways to Hit 1,000 Words Per Hour … (blog post, including a suggestion that you write when you need to use the bathroom, so the pressing need speeds up your brain)

How to Write Faster: 12 Unusual Productivity Hacks (blog post, including a suggestion – and “research says,” so it must be true… – that you write best when you’re feeling groggy, like first thing in the morning)

And so-on. When I looked just now on Google for “how to write faster” there were “about 309,000,000 results.” It’s a popular topic.

The one that really made me reel back on my comfy Skecher shoes (plug for them – I love them!) sounds impossible. Just plain impossible:

Write Better, Faster: How To Triple Your Writing Speed and Write More Every Day

Now, I haven’t read the book but I do know that dictation is involved here and with digital transcription software now available, fast speeds of getting the words down are feasible. But wait a minute… the author claims that “she could easily write 10,000 words in a day, at speeds over 3500+ words per hour!”

Surely we’re missing the point here? Did she never hear of “quality, not quantity?”

Speed writing and/or dictating are related to another fluffy old cliché called “More haste, less speed.”

The better speed-led books and blog posts talk about saving time, which is not the same as writing quickly. Many talk about the need to get your ducks in a row before you start writing with a lot of good-sense advice on planning, structure, research etc. I’m all for that.

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What the Mach 2 writing promoters tend to brush under the astroturf, however, is that a book manuscript or even an article/blog post that is written at twice the speed of sound will take many times the speed of a tortoise with a sprained ankle, when it comes to editing.

It’s all very well for authors to pat themselves on the back for delivering first drafts at the rate of 3,500 words per minute or 10,000 words in a day. However if it then takes the said author and/or a frazzled and gibbering editor the following week, two or more to sort out the sprawling mess, how much time have we actually gained here in real terms?

Most writing coaches say you should “free write” your first draft. I don’t agree.

There are many writers, authors, bloggers – either keen or unwilling – who may have a touch of OCD about writing hundreds or thousands of words knowing that the finished muckheap will be:
a) full of spelling, punctuation, grammar and other gremlins
b) a jumble of content that needs to be re-ordered, refined, and in many cases rewritten

For these people, the advice to just keep writing whatever old garbage that emerges is enough to send them scuttling off to tidy their knicker drawers.

In writing just as in anything else, there is no one-size-fits-all

For me and my clients, if free writing at speed suits them, great. But that doesn’t suit everyone.

What matters is not just a high-quality end product: it’s also how we arrive at that high-quality end product

The writing journey needs to be an inspired experience, not a chore, if it is to lead to that high-quality end product.

And this can be done in a number of different ways, at various different speeds to suit the author.

What do you think?

Is it important to you to write as quickly as you can to get the job done and over with?

Or do you prefer to take as much time as you have available, to enjoy the experience and share it with your readers?

Please share your views!