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 writer friend to take over one of your assignments, but the long-term answer is to improve your efficiency.
Here are eight tips to help you save time writing articles starting today. You’ll earn more money in less time, and you’ll be more relaxed while you’re doing it.
“It doesn’t matter how many rejections you’ve had, if any part of your piece resonates with you, keep it for recycling.”
Recycling isn’t just for plastic bags: Don’t throw anything away. 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 part 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.
Here’s an example of my own recycling:
For ten years, I had an unpublished short story hanging around.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 decade 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.
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!
2. Use quotations.
Need to meet your word count, 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.
3. Give examples.
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 word count!
4. Throw in a rhetorical question.
Don’t overdo this one—too many questions annoy readers—but depending on the length of the piece, a rhetorical question or two can extend your word count in no time. Most people are naturally curious, so starting with a rhetorical question lengthens your word count, while often doubling as a hook to draw your reader in. The key here is to engage your reader i.e., make them an active participant in your piece. An easy method is to question what the reader might be doing wrong with regard to the subject of your article. For example: Why don’t you have a literary agent? Why aren’t you saving more money? Why are you not achieving your writing goals?
“A rhetorical question lengthens your word count, while often doubling as a hook to draw your reader in.”
5. Give an instruction.
Use the imperative, and watch your word count 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 (twenty 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 in no time.
6. Use subheadings, bullet or number points.
An easy way to save time article writing is to use subheadings, 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. This article is instructive; if my tips weren’t numbered, this wouldn’t be a smooth read for you or an easy edit for me. Imagine if I didn’t number the tips; I’d have to wade through paragraphs to ensure all eight tips are here.
7. 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. There are plenty of free images at Flickr.com, or you can pay for images on sites, such as Fotolia.com.
- Remember: Too many writers spend more time finding an image for their articles than writing the articles. Find a photo first. This will also improve the focus of the piece.
8. Use a timer.
If you want to dedicate thirty 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 subpar and might mean a lot of hours wasted in revision.
“While efficiency is a priority, you never want to sacrifice quality.”
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); Omm Writer also designed to block out distractions; and Draft, similar to Omm Writer.
All of these tips won’t work for everyone and won’t work for every type of article. 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. Step three, then, is producing well-written articles in as short amount of time as possible.
While efficiency is a priority, you never want to sacrifice quality; so don’t give up if these tips don’t work the first time or immediately. Good, efficient writing is also a matter of forming effective habits that match your personality and lifestyle, and that does take practice.
Canadian Gila Green moved to Israel in 1994. Her first novel King of the Class was released by NON Publishing Vancouver (2013). Gila has published tens of short stories in literary magazines including Fiction Magazine, Many Mountains Moving, The Dalhousie Review, Jewish Fiction, Bridges: A Jewish Feminist Journal, The Saranac Review, Noir Nation, South Circular, Kunapipi and others. Her collection, White Zion, is a finalist for the Doris Bakwin Award and her work has been short-listed for WordSmitten's TenTen Fiction Contest, the Walrus Literary Award, the Eric Hoffer Best New Writing Award and the Ha'aretz Short Fiction Award. She has two novels under agent submission in Toronto. Gila has an MA in Creative Writing and an undergraduate journalism and English literature degree. Please visit: www.gilagreenwrites.com
Gila is also an instructor for WOW! Women On Writing. Check out her upcoming courses on the Classroom Page.
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How to Successfully Repurpose Your Articles
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