By Gila Green
The secret of getting ahead is getting started—Mark Twain
Three deadlines coming up, dinner's not made, and you haven't even hit the grocery store yet? The short answer might be fast food or begging a colleague to take one of your assignments, but the long-term answer is to improve your efficiency.
Here are eight tips to help you save time article writing starting today whether you're a freelance writer or you write your own blog posts and newsletters for your small business. You'll earn more money in less time and you'll be more relaxed while you're doing it.
- Recycle. Recycling isn't just for plastic bags. I have reused bits from novels, flash fiction, short stories, and blog posts. Almost everything can be reused in new work. It doesn't matter how many rejections you've had, if any of your piece resonates with you, keep it for recycling. You never know which couple of paragraphs might be reused later in an article or even the idea behind the paragraphs. This has saved me countless hours in the past and yes, you can recycle fiction ideas into non-fiction articles or into other fiction formats.
You can do it with Fiction
For 10 years I had an unpublished short story hanging around. When I reviewed my short story collection recently, I realized it wasn't on the same level as the other short stories and I cut it out, but I didn't delete it, though it had been rejected many times.
Recently I saw a call for submissions for Flash noir pieces that had to represent a specific city i.e., a story that could not happen in any other city in the world. I realized that old, many times rejected story took place in Jerusalem and could only happen in Jerusalem. I cut it down to a Flash piece, beefed up the Jerusalem angle and sent it in. Within six days it was accepted for publication.
You can do it with Nonfiction
That's fiction, what about articles? I published an in-depth article on Non-Verbal Learning Disorder in a magazine aimed at a religious market. It was such a hit the magazine requested a follow-up article. That was easy. I had saved all the interviews I never had room for.
I realized afterwards that I could rewrite the story for a secular market, plus the follow-up article and get paid again for essentially the same article, just by changing the wording (and letting the publication know a different version was once published somewhere else). That was essentially one article sold four times!
- Use quotations. Need to meet your wordcount and there's no time left on the clock? Google a great quotation from someone relevant to your article and voila! You should get in at least another couple of sentences right there. There are many sites, but I use Brainy Quote.
- This is a tweak on point number two. Don't waste a whole morning staring at the screen because you need another 150 words to finish off an article. Give an example of whatever topic you're discussing and move on to another project. Combine a quotation with an example and you've really saved a lot of time, while easily expanding your wordcount!
- Throw in a rhetorical question. Don't overdo this one–too many questions annoy readers—but a rhetorical question can extend your wordcount in no time. Please see the example in the first line of this article. Also, most people are naturally curious, so starting with a rhetorical question lengthens your wordcount, while often doubling as a hook to draw in your reader.
- Give an instruction. Yes, use the imperative and watch your wordcount extend as if by magic. If it's an article about how to make the best tomato sauce, tell the reader what to do in a future situation (how to dress up this recipe for a holiday), where to find more information (check out this great 'best sauces' site), what to do in an emergency situation (20 unexpected guests on the way?), or how to vary what you've already told them (ditch the sugar and go spicy for diabetic guests). It doesn't matter if you're writing about water conservation or arts and craft ideas, there's always something you can tell the reader to do at the end of your piece that will extend your article.
- Use sub-headings, bullet or number points. An easy way to save time article writing is to use sub-headings, add bullet or number points and easy-to-read paragraphs. Dense paragraphs take a lot longer to edit and revise. Bullet or number points are easier and faster to edit than regular paragraphs.
- Edit first. Write second. This may sound backwards, but if you edit your article before you write it, you'll save time.
Here's how you do it:
Choose your one main argument
Delete the rest (but save any great ideas or lines for future articles)
Choose your quotation and/or your example before you get going, so that you're sure they all fit your theme or main argument before you start writing.
Ditto for finding an image for your post.
Remember: Too many writers spend more time finding an image for their articles, than writing the articles. Find a post first. This will also improve the focus of the piece.
- Use a timer. If you want to dedicate 30 minutes to writing your article, set a timer to make sure you don't lose yourself surfing the internet or trying too hard. If you do find you're trying too hard, ease up on yourself. Consider moving on to something else for a while. It might sound counterproductive, but forced writing is usually sub-par and might mean a lot of hours wasted in revision.There are a variety of applications out there designed to help writers save time such as StayFocused (which restricts the amount of time you can stay on distracting websites), Ommwriter (also designed to block out distractions).
Depending on what type of person you are, using one of these or similar applications can sometimes make you less productive. All of these tips won't work for everyone and won't work for every type of article and this is not an exhaustive list, but admitting you're not working at maximum efficiency is step one. Step two is experimenting with new working methods and finding out what works for you.