Sunday, 29 March 2009

Dissecting quick and sharp writing

When it comes to writing, quantity is not quality, but it sure helps a lot. Would Agatha Christie have made a fortune as an author if she had not written 80 books at great speed? The same goes for novelist George Simenon, who in his prime years was able to produce a complete book in two weeks.

Both Agatha Christie and George Simenon were known for their quick and sharp prose. If you are a writer in the 21st century, chances are that you post daily on your blog. Is there a way to increase your flow of ideas and to speed up your production? The following six principles can be, in my own experience, mightily helpful.

1.- FIX YOURSELF A DAILY PRODUCTION QUOTA. No formula can be made universally applicable, since we all have different schedules. Nevertheless, whatever your personal constraints, I am convinced of the positive effects of establishing a daily production objective. Even if you do a lot of travelling, you can take your laptop with you and write on the plane. A little done consistently every day will amount to a lot in just a few months.

2.- IMPROVE CONSTANTLY BY READING WIDELY. Some writers read web pages, others prefer books, newspapers, or magazines. Which one is best? It doesn't really matter as long as you do it regularly. The more varied the materials you read, the farther your mind will expand with fresh knowledge.

3.- HAVE PATIENCE, BUT NOT TOO MUCH. Doing research for an article or a novel is fine, but keep it within reason. There are sensible limits to everything and perfection rarely pays. When you really need to check some facts, do take the necessary time. Gather information with patience, but don't overdo it.

4.- WRITE QUICKLY AND EDIT EXTENSIVELY. There is no reason why you shouldn't be able to write almost as fast as you can think. Of course, the quickest you can type, the better. Some writers are fond of dictating their work into a recorder. Get your first draft done fast. Then take ample time for editing and polishing.

5.- DEFINE YOUR THEMES CLEARLY. Before you sit down to write, you should know where you want to lead your reader. Determine your theme and let it permeate every aspect of the piece you are working on. Knowing your destination will prevent you from losing your thread. Move towards your objective and do not ramble.

6.- USE SHORT WORDS, SENTENCES, AND PARAGRAPHS. There is much to read in the world and audiences have become very demanding. Text should be not only well written, but also pleasing to the eye. Keep it brief, be concise, and get to the point fast. One idea per paragraph should do. Using simple words is the best way to communicate complex ideas.

How can you prevent your improvement from stalling? There is a straightforward method to sustain your motivation to do better:
  • Set reasonable goals for yourself
  • Establish a system to measure your results
  • Use that feedback to check on your progress.
Do your running every day and soon you'll be one of fastest kids on the blog.


[Image by fdecomite under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under]

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