All good writers know that quality is an essential component of success. Without fresh ideas, engaging content and grammatical rigor, nobody is going to want to read, share or publish your content.
Most bloggers and content writers also understand the merits of maximizing quantity. The more guest posts you can produce, the wider your exposure and the bigger your SEO gains. And the more blog posts you can write, the more frequently your readers will return to your site.
But too few writers realize that you can boost quantity and quality simultaneously. Here’s how:
Separate Idea Generation and Writing
If you treat idea generation as something to quickly get out of the way so you can get on with the ‘real’ task of writing, you’re doing it wrong. Good ideas are incredibly important – even the best penmanship can’t disguise a terrible concept. And the longer you spend brainstorming article titles, the better and more original your articles will be.
It might sound counter intuitive, but scheduling in a set, separate time just for idea generation will significantly increase your writing output. This is because thinking about a new title each time you start an article wastes a surprising amount of time and motivation, while those will an ideas list can plunge straight in.
Keep your ideas list separated by subject or topic, so you can quickly locate something suitable for a particular site. And have it constantly on-hand, so you can add to it whenever inspiration strikes.
Turn Off Phone/Email Alerts
When we get distracted, such as by incoming emails or text messages, it takes us an average of 16 minutes to refocus on the task at hand. Multi-tasking, in other words, slows you down considerably.
Significantly speeding up your writing time can be a simple as removing all possible disruptions. Switch off your email and phone off for an hour or two. Find a work space that is quiet and isolated. If there must be other people around you, plug in some lyric-free music to help you focus. Getting in ‘the zone’ might be cliche, but it works.
Just Start Writing
Yes, you want to produce your best work possible. Yes, the first draft of a sentence or paragraph will rarely be the best one. Don’t worry about it; just write. Write in over-simplistic or colloquial language, write with bad grammar and worse style. If you’re going to quote a fact or study but don’t have the details to hand, jot down the gist of it and leave it unreferenced for now.
Too many writers edit extensively from the second they start writing when their first concern should be simply committing their ideas to paper. Not only is this a great motivational tool (having a completed first draft, no matter how poorly written, makes us feel that most of the work is behind us) it also allows you to see the structure of the piece. You can then cut out the points that aren’t working and reverse the order of certain ideas without having wasted any time carefully crafting them into perfect sentences. Editing a completed document also means you can fully concentrate on improving the style of your sentences, without having to worry about creating the substance.
Write the Conclusion First and Intro Last
This unorthodox approach sounds odd, but makes sense when you think about it. Even if you don’t actually include an essay-style conclusion in your final piece, writing one out helps you consolidate your ideas and identify what the main thrust of the article should be. Keeping this in mind while writing the main body of text ensures your argument remains clear and focused.
In contrast, writing an introduction at the end allows you to pick out the most important points to highlight, and give an overview that is succinct but grabs people’s attention.
Know When to Quit
Think of your brain as a muscle. If you kept running and running, your body would soon start to hurt and you’d need to slow down and stop. The same is true of your mental faculties – they need to take regular breaks, otherwise they burn out.
Science has shown that taking 17-minute breaks for every 52 minutes of work improves our concentration and boosts our productivity. Similarly, working late into the night in order to get something done is often less effective than getting an early night and completing the task first thing in the morning.
Whenever you feel that your creativity has ground to a halt, stop and rest. If an article is getting nowhere, abandon it until the next day. You’ll be amazed how both the speed and quality of your work improves when you’re feeling refreshed.
Beth Leslie is a writer by profession and a bibliophile by nature. She is the editor of the Inspiring Interns blog, which gives career and lifestyle advice to students and graduates.