Taking the Pain out of Writing

The easiest way to take the pain out of writing is to have a professional writer–like me!–take over for you. But in the meantime, these hints are sure to help:

  1. Write first, leave the editing for later. Editing at the same time that you write is like taking a giant step back for every two steps forward–progress is real slow. First put all your ideas into words, then edit.
  2. Don’t get stalled on your opening sentence. More often than not, you’ll find your best opening sentence at the end of whatever you write, when your thoughts have coalesced–another reason to leave off editing until you finish writing.
  3. If nothing you write ever sounds organized, think in terms of structure: first to last, top to bottom, large to small, most important to least important or vice versa. Choose one structure and then (here’s the hard part) delete whatever doesn’t fit. You may discover 3 more blog posts, 2 more press releases and 4 tweets. That’s a good thing.
  4. If you can’t find the words to say what you mean, pull out a chair. Pretend the person you are writing to (whether your best customer or the customer you don’t have yet) is sitting in that chair and talk to the chair. Describe to the chair what you are trying to write. Make sure you record or immediately write down what you say–those are the words you want.
  5. If you believe every word you write is golden, put the finished piece away for at least 24 hours and then review it with a fresh eye. Look particularly for sentences longer than 18 words (no period, no colon), words longer than 3 syllables, strings of adjectives or adverbs and vague words (on time) when you could be specific (within 4 days). Shorter sentences, smaller words, prepositions to break up long strings of adjectives/adverbs and exact words strengthen your writing.
  6. Ask one or two people to review, not dozens. Multiple reviewers tend to edit each other, and you’ll be so demoralized that you’ll abandon the project. If you are part of a writing team and someone else is responsible for the final version, remember that you’ve done your part. Correct errors of fact; don’t start debates over synonyms or serial commas. Or in other words: know when to stop.

What approaches have you found helpful in easing the pain of writing? Please share them here or on Twitter. And if you would still like help, please contact TWP.