The following is an article on how to write quickly, effectively and professionally.
If you follow the advice in this article, then you’ll be able to do this consistently over long periods of time.
Somebody on Reddit posted about doing a 10,000 word challenge. That’s 10,000 words in September.
10,000 words per month is a target of 300 words a day.
Then someone asked, “How many copywriters write 1000+ per day?”
Here’s my response, with honest figures and totals:
I write direct response copy, fiction and all sorts of other stuff too.
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I’ll write more than 1000 words on my days off. When a deadline is due, I can write 10,000+ a day easily.
Averaged out over the course of 2016, I wrote about 3400 a day. The year before was 4600.
Writing a lot is about knowing the form well enough to get into a flow state. Fiction/copywriting/whatever doesn’t matter. It’s how well you know the form and have researched what you need to, and how many hours you can put into the process.
Some innocent Reddit reader asked me the following:
What is the form? How do you write so much
… and that’s what we’ll discuss today.
Writing Quickly Is ALL About Getting In The Chair
I’ll talk about the mathematics of writing a lot consistently in a moment, but before I do, here are some key rules:
- You have to spend time in the chair typing.
- Everything you write must be intended as a final draft, professional job
- You must understand the form you’re writing
- Writing as a business is a business, not a mystical art form
- Writer’s block doesn’t exist… stop being a weakling
- If you’re a writer, your writing counts. Nothing else does.
Above all, you have to follow rule one. Whether you’re a full-time writer (I am) or you’re carving a space out from a professional life, family life or both, your success is predicated based on the amount of time you spend writing.
That’s not a moral or value judgement, it’s a simple if/then situation. If you spend ten minutes a day fumbling at the keyboard, you’ll get a maximum few hundred words. If you spend three hours a day concentrating and working hard, then you’ll get a few thousand.
You can work on your typing skills. That will help. Fundamentally though, a person who types at 500 words an hour consistently will outperform a person who writes inconsistently at higher levels.
So there’s that.
I think my Dad can type 500 words an hour and he only uses his index fingers. If you’re writing for money, you should feasibly get yourself to 1000 words an hour quickly. I hit 2,000 words an hour regularly. Your typing speed past a very basic level will never be a problem. Even a rubbish typist can get 60 words a minute. If all you had to do was type, you’d get 3600 words in an hour. Typing speed is thus never the issue.
Typing Speed Is Really Only Limited By Your Knowledge Of Form
I anticipate people reading this and thinking, “Yeah, but Jamie… your writing here isn’t perfect, professional or well-edited.”
It’s a free blog post for a site I write as a hobby. It’ll take me maybe twenty minutes to half-an-hour to write this, and I won’t edit it.
I can write short stories just as quickly. I can write sales letters quickly too. I’ll spend more time going over those and rewriting them before publishing them, but the basic principle behind my writing speed is this:
The better you understand the form, the quicker you write. If your writing is slow and sluggish, then it’s because you don’t understand the form of your writing genre.
If you write a short story and you think, “What should happen now?” or “How do I write about this?” then you’re being limited by your lack of understanding the form.
To answer the question from the guy above, the form is the structure and conventions of whatever your writing.
Form of a novel = beginning, middle and end. Then things like the hero’s journey, the various hook points of the genre and what not.
Form of a sales piece = AIDA. Headline followed by lead in followed by the zero-to-hero story followed by the bullets, social proof and call to action. Etc.
Each of these elements can be broken down until they’re internalised. If you said to me, “Jamie… I need you to write a call-to-action for an item that does X and costs Y,” then I could sit down and do that in a few minutes because I’ve read, copied and written so many before.
Internalise the form and your writing speed will sky rocket.
How To Write Consistently
A lot of writers fail at becoming or being professionals because they let their environment dictate their actions too much.
“Oh, I’m not feeling it.”
“I have writer’s block!”
“It’s so hard to write when I have a long hard day at work and then get home and have to cook dinner.”
Again… no moral judgement intended, but if you allow those thoughts to get into your head, then you’re going to have a tough time.
I could write tons of motivational material telling you to believe your dreams but instead I’ll be honest:
Writing consistently is a case of saying “At this time I’m going to sit and write and I won’t stop until I’ve done X words” or something along those lines.
Here’s the math:
If you can write 1000 words an hour (you can);
If you can set aside 2 hours a day (you can);
Should you do that every day for a year (you can);
You will have written 730,000 words.
That’s over ten full-length novels. It’s seventy-three massive video sales letters that go on for 45 minutes each. Or it’s 730 blog posts.
That’s part-time without breaking a sweat.
If you’re a full-time writer, then your figures can be through the roof. Imagine you can write consistently at 1,500 words an hour. You do this for six hours a day, five days a week. That’s 45,000 words a week. With two days off and not even a 9-5. Totally achievable.
(For what it’s worth, I work more hours than this, type quicker than this and rarely take days off.)
“But What About Writer’s Block?”
Writer’s block doesn’t exist if you push out that much volume. If you sit around and wait for inspiration, it takes forever to come to you. When you force yourself to sit and write no matter what happens, your brain gets the idea and before you know it, you have more ideas than you’ll ever have time to explore.
Combine the following exercises:
- Write even if you don’t have anything to write.
- Study the form of everything you want to write until you can literally roadmap any hypothetical piece of work in your mind.
For the first, I did this. I literally wrote “I don’t know what to write, I really wish I could write something, please, yes, no, not going to stop typing until the ideas come into my mind,” until eventually the ideas started flowing regularly.
For the second, you can do this. If someone gave me a hypothetical scenario for any of the genres I write fiction in, I could have the whole novel planned out in under an hour. When a client comes to me and says, “We need a sales letter for X product” I can map it out almost straight away, depending on my familiarity with the market and the amount of research I need.
I’m pretty obsessive about building better systems and optimising my process, but anyone can do the above exercises. It doesn’t require a massive brain or tons of funding. Just work out what you need to do and then do it.
Hopefully, if nothing else, this article has displayed that writing fast isn’t really about writing fast. It’s about the mental framework, the will to just do it and the knowledge of what you’re writing before you put pen to paper.
There’s absolutely no reason you can’t write a lot. With a bit of planning and a commitment to sit and write, you can quickly get to the point where you have more to write than you’ll ever have time for. Then it’s just optimise, optimise, optimise.