Writing fast isn't a virtue but it is a tool that allows me to better open myself to ideas. Careful, deliberate, self-conscious, slow writing often closes me, shuts the writing down. Fast writing allows me to begin with no more than a flash of an idea and write my way into and through it. Most of my fast writing occurs at a keyboard because I type faster than I write by hand. Once writing, I try not to stop or even pause because speed encourages me to let go and see what the ideas have to say for themselves. Words lead to words if I let them.
If you're the type who needs to know the process, here it is:
- Have just the beginning of an idea.
- Sit and write as though a countdown is ticking. Hurry!
- Stop when the draft is done.
I write fast without much worrying in order to get a complete first draft. Most people don't get as far as a complete draft. Hell, most writers struggle to get that far. If all I get out of fast writing is a draft that's good enough. I've done the hard part. Next up: revision.
I make a game of it. Other writers put the draft away but I go right back in with the aim of cutting at least twenty percent of the words. I read through until I have cut words doing no good work. "Omit Needless Words." Every extra word loses a reader and I have too few readers to let them get away. While cutting, I organize, insert missing pieces, and do other rewriting. The whole process usually requires two to four readings. Once in a while a piece dies in this process, but not very often.
Again, if you need the step-by-step:
- Count words and calculate the 20% threshold.
- Read the draft at least twice omitting all needless words.
- Read the piece aloud before publishing.
Yesterday's 1,400-word fast draft became, in under three hours, an 1,100-word finished piece of which I'm happy, maybe even proud.
Keith Olberman writes fast too and describes that process in an excerpt I call "On Composition."