Productivity Tips for Writers

If you’re a writer, whether you write eBooks, articles,  content for blogs, or all of the above, it’s  important to make sure your productive. In this blog post, three writers share their productivity tips.

Questions we’ve been discussing:

Q. What kind of writing do you do?

A. Sharon Hurley Hall (Professional blogger)

I have a varied writing portfolio. I’ve got a background in journalism, which has come in handy for writing feature articles for online magazines. I’ve written up customer stories for corporate clients based on interviews. In addition to that,  I regularly blog on topics including social media, SEO, analytics, content marketing and more.

A. Alicia Lawrence (Content Specialist and Blogger)

I mostly do blog-style writing and I write for dozens of blogs from Lifehack to Examiner.com to my personal blog MarCom Land, all of which have different styles. However, I also do sales copywriting and ghostwriting for clients.

I also enjoy writing short stories and poetry but I don’t usually share those.

A. David Leonhardt (President, THGM )

I write a lot of blog posts and web content, some speeches (especially wedding speeches – I love those!) an occasional press release, as well as assorted business materials and lately, oddly enough, I have been helping with research proposals.  I write pretty much anything that is not fiction or highly technical in nature.

A. Lukasz Zelezny (Head of Organic Acquisition)

– Avoid the obvious content that nobody cares

– Take the less usual side

– Use simple language where Yes means Yes, No means No and fool is fool

– Avoid jargon that nobody understand

– Describe real, live examples

– Do research, use platforms like buzzsumo or majesticseo to figure out what topics get virality

A. Don Sturgill (Writer, Dreamer, Believer)

My focus is on providing strategy and copy for email and direct marketing. I also write articles, ebooks, and website content.

As a seasoned professional (that’s another way of saying “an old guy”), I began writing for newspapers, helping businesses with advertising content and hand-setting copy for the printing press.

As the world has changed, so have I. My work has primarily been online since 1999.

Q. Approximately how much writing do you do per day?

A. Sharon Hurley Hall (Professional blogger)

I usually allocate between 8am and 2pm to my writing business each day, though I don’t write from scratch every day. At least two days a week, I spend time drafting articles, usually producing around 4000 words in a day. (The most I’ve ever written in a day was 10,000 words). And the rest of the time I’ll edit what I’ve written before and produce second or final drafts.

A. Alicia Lawrence (Content Specialist and Blogger)

For blogs, at least 2 posts per day. A lot of my sales copywriting and some blog posts I actually outsource and then heavily edit it. For those, I would put together a detailed outline with additional info to get my vision across to the writer and then when they send it back I go through and edit for grammar, spelling, SEO and word smith. I usually will write my own introduction for those pieces.

A. David Leonhardt (President, THGM )

It varies like crazy.  There are many days that I do none.  There are other days that writing is the bulk of my day.  I am not someone to keep a time clock, since I often find myself multitasking, especially to keep on top of social media throughout the day.

A. Don Sturgill (Writer, Dreamer, Believer)

There is no typical day or typical job, but I am actively engaged in writing about eight hours each day. Since much of writing is dependent on good research, it often takes several hours (or an entire day) to get out one finished page.

Newsletters can require two or more days of research and writing for one edition. Emails can go quicker, depending upon my knowledge of the client’s purpose and audience.

Of course, there are times when my familiarity with the topic can allow me to pump out a 500-word article in less than an hour, but that is not the norm.

Q. What are your top productivity tips?

A. Sharon Hurley Hall (Professional blogger)

I find it helpful to batch my work so I do writing at the times when I’m most productive (usually early in the morning) and editing when I’m less productive (later in the day). I’ve also experimented with taking a short break at least once an hour to refresh my creativity. In addition, I use tools like Dragon Naturally Speaking for dictation and Scrivener for storing research and planning work. Those help with productivity too.

A. Alicia Lawrence (Content Specialist and Blogger)

You can read more about my writing process here: http://www.marcomland.com/writing-process-blog-tour/

My best tips:

Before writing, decide on your One True Sentence. It will help your post stay on track and get the main message across without losing the reader.

Stop worrying about originality and the perfect wording. One thing I had to learn early on in order to write quickly is to just let  it go (LET IT GOOO! 🙂 ) Get your thoughts and idea and phrases if they come to you down but don’t worry about word smithing till the end.

Start with heavy research and your main points, I don’t always create an outline. Instead I get up all the sites/books on the subject and start putting down anything I read that I would like to make mention of in my own article. I reorganize all the info when I think I have enough and then I start actually writing. This helps me create a framework for the article and afterwards I can focus on putting my own voice to bring that content to life.

Take breaks when you need them. In order to stay productive you need to listen to when your brain gets tired. There’s no point in wasting time trying to push through (unless you are on a tight deadline, but you should always start early so you have this flex time); instead, go take a walk or talk with someone to get your mind off of it for awhile and freshen up.

A. David Leonhardt (President, THGM )

This should come as no surprise, given my previous answer, but turning off social media is the top thing that I do to be productive as a writer.  Of course, that makes me less productive as a social media promoter, so balance is needed.  But when I really need to focus on writing, the best thing I can do is just turn off the whole Internet.  The second best thing I can do is put on a movie.  And make the kids watch it.  Social media is the top distraction, but that doesn’t stop the kids sometimes from congregating in my office.

A. Lukasz Zelezny (Head of Organic Acquisition)

– Use Titillating Adjectives

– Use Numbers or “Listicles” – 5 things you should know, top 10 things, top 20 things (avoid high numbers “1001 things that… nobody cares about”)

– Make A Promise – And Deliver

– You’ll Sell More When You Use These Headlines

– Make it Catchy

– State the Benefits

– Be Specific

A. Don Sturgill (Writer, Dreamer, Believer)

My primary tip is to never sacrifice quality for quantity. You may impress a client with your speed and low price for a short time, but lasting relationships and building a brand take attention to detail and necessarily require more of your time.

Experience will allow you to balance time, quality, and certain intangible factors to make the work appropriate to the job.

How to write more and stress less:

  1. Research is the backbone of every writing project. You need to know the client, the audience, and the topic. Always figure research time into your quotes, or you will end up scurrying breathlessly, trying to make a dollar an hour. The best scenario is when you can work with clients over an extended period. The more you know their goals and voice, the easier and faster you can write focused copy for them.
  2. Start by stopping. Reflect on who you are and what you are doing. Know your priorities and your day’s calendar. I use a time-life management system I wrote for the Small Business Administration a few years back. It works magnificiently to keep me out of the ditch and on track. See my website (donsturgill.com) to find out more about Roadturn Principles, or use any system you have … but always know what is ahead of you before you begin.
  3. Know your point. The best articles, emails, and web pages most always center around a central point or take-away. If you find yourself getting scattered, collect the sideroad ideas and turn them into separate projects later. Know the point you want to make and present it in a way your chosen audience can understand. Even a numbered list (like this one) can, and should, be held together by a single thread.
  4. Keep at it, but take breaks. My writing goes in spurts. After a period of time (sometimes 15 minutes and sometimes more than an hour), I need to get up to stretch, take a walk, let things settle, get a drink of water … I call it “chunking.” I learned the value of taking a break from my love of music. When I am trying to learn a certain song on the guitar and hit a point where I’m stuck, taking a break works like magic to get me past the stuck point. When I return to the task, my fingers go right where they need to go. Writing works the same.
  5. Avoid bailing out. Thinking is the most difficult work you can do. Splitting firewood is easier by a long shot. Minds under strain want to get out from under the load, whether by getting drowsy or drifting off to get caught up with something inconsequential as a diversion (like checking email). Get tough on yourself. The program I mentioned in #2 has a tool called the MAP (My Action Plan). When I get siderailed, I go back to the MAP and the system. It wakes me up and keeps me on a straight path. Again, use any plan you want … but ALWAYS have a plan.

 

2 thoughts on “Productivity Tips for Writers

  1. Sharing is caring and thank for sharing tips of many bloggers here. I always focus on writing what i see my readers like on my blog keeping in mind that i provide them the best possible solution of their queries and build trust.

    Thanks you for sharing these details. Keep doing good work.

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