How to Improve Your Writing Process

…and preserve other ideas along the way.

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Photo by Alejandro Escamilla on Unsplash

A great idea pops into your head. You decide it’s worth writing an article.

You create a title and start working on the intro.

A little further down, you realize…you don’t like the title anymore. So, you change it two or three times.

While you’re doing that, another brilliant topic comes up.

You open a new tab.

Now, you’re trying to multitask, causing a 40% drop in productivity.

Whether you’re a newbie or a seasoned veteran, an inefficient writing process can make or break your success.

Up until I started freelancing professionally, I didn’t have a structured way to organize my thoughts. I’d attempt to create a perfect piece from start to finish, editing and revising as I went.

Working this way caused rapid burnout. I no longer enjoyed creating stories. I spent hours upon hours spewing out half-finished ideas. I didn’t even publish a single Medium article from September of 2019 to January of 2020.

Sure, I was battling imposter syndrome and a little bit of anxiety about how my work would be judged.

Realistically though, I was just really terrible about finishing what I’d started.

My Original Draft Starts in Google Docs

I love Google Docs for many reasons.

The first being that it works with just about any operating system or device. If you’re broke, saving money for a laptop, and currently own a PC that takes eight years to load Microsoft Word (like mine did), opening up a project in Google Docs is faster and far more convenient.

Documents are saved into your drive automatically and can be accessed on-the-go. In case you’re planning to be without internet or wifi connection, there is an option that allows you to make the project available offline. Just be sure to open the document while you have internet FIRST so that the updated information can be downloaded into your device.

I’ve forgotten to do this on a few occasions and ended up going “offline” only to find a blank page with nothing on it. Annoying.

Google Docs also saves chronological drafts as the project progresses. If you feel like you’ve left out any pertinent information, you can always refer back to the earlier stages of the document.

Young woman stands beside a silver-grey train with red trim and scrolls through her phone.
Young woman stands beside a silver-grey train with red trim and scrolls through her phone.
Photo by Saketh Garuda on Unsplash

When you’re finished, download and save the document as PDF or Word. If anything ever happens to the Medium platform, you’ve still got two saved versions of your article. Your work isn’t lost forever.

On Medium specifically, there are lots of writers who will recommend that you skip the whole Google Doc scenario. Their perspective is that it’s convenient and allows you a preview of what your actual story will look like, and they’re not wrong.

…but can you imagine logging into Hubpages, or Medium, or any other platform that you normally use…just to find that your work has completely vanished. Forever.

I Deal With the Introduction Later

God, I hate writing introductions. Is there anything more anxiety-inducing than knowing the first few sentences you write could be what turns your reader off?

I used to OBSESS over the intro as much as I did the title. Now, I start with the body, grouping points together so that they connect smoothly. During this stage of the writing process, I literally just word vomit all over the screen.

Links, comments, and areas of major importance all go into their respective groups. Don’t worry about being grammatically correct or forming complete sentences here. You’re just trying to pull everything out of your mind and get it onto the page.

Afterward, you can come up with an intro and a conclusion that fits the body.

I Make a List of Titles and Headers

Headers, sub-headers, and article titles are important, but they can also be a nuisance. As I’m typing, I often come up with nifty, eye-catching headlines that I think would fit well with the final result. Instead of playing This or That for 45 minutes, I simply make a short list of title ideas and put them to the side in a comment.

Once the bulk of my writing is complete, I select the titles that work best with the fully put-together piece. Many writers do this backward; they end up wasting hours, even days rewriting stories just because what they’d written initially didn’t flow with the headline.

I’m not saying that details don’t matter. I’m saying that you can’t paint a house that doesn’t have any walls.

Focus on the structure first, then add the finishing touches. For now, keep a little bank of headlines saved up…they might come in handy.

I Write Down Other Article Ideas as I Go

I think that most writers tend to be a little A.D.D. at heart. We have more ideas than we know what to do with. One thought leads to another, and before we’re able to regain a handle on our focus, the process has gone completely off the rails.

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Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

I used to spend weeks trying to finish five or six blogs at a time, but they’d always end up lost in a draft folder. When I’d come up with an awesome spin-off topic for something I was already working on, I didn’t want to lose it. So, I started organizing those random, “pop-up” thoughts similarly to how I was organizing my titles. The difference is that I actually opened a whole new document instead of adding a side comment. I simply write the first title that comes to mind (so I can find it later), add a few questions and bulletins pertaining to the subject, and save it to my draft folder.

Then, I get back to work on completing the project at hand.

You can keep your story ideas in a side comment if you feel opening a new window will knock you off track. Just be sure not to delete them or forget about them later!

I Don’t Publish Every Day

Unless you’re a seasoned pro with elite WMP skills, you don’t have to publish every day. I don’t.

To me, 24 hours just isn’t enough time for anyone to sit down and put out a quality piece of work at 100% effort.

I want my stories to be useful. I want them to be relevant.

I want to connect with my readers and develop a relationship.

When someone finishes an article I wrote, I want them to feel as though they gained something from it.

As a general rule of thumb, I sleep on it for a minimum of 48 hours before posting anything.

Remember, you want to have the best stories, not necessarily the most.

Introverted animal lover and financial enthusiast.

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