How I Write Thousands Of Words And Throw Away None Of Them

How I Write Thousands Of Words And Throw Away None Of ThemPhoto by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

The days when I write just a thousand words are rare, they are my down-days of relaxed scribbling rather than focused writing. Most of these words end up published in some way, either here on Medium, in short stories, in writing experiments or long-form reddit posts.

Type fast and often

No way around it: The more you write the easier it gets. I also type faster than most, courtesy of years of practice and also my programming job.

It’s worth noting that a tousand words takes under an hour to type if everything is lined up right where you just sit down and type.

That means I can produce a post per day, a thousand words just so happens to be where posts feel whole and useful. The easiest way to write a lot is to type a lot if that makes any sense.

Write with publications in mind

The stupidest thing that I assume we all have done is to write a really good post that doesn’t fit into any publication and never gets accepted.

So before I start actually writing I sit down and think about whether that title, that post provides value for and fits into a publication.

On Medium the best topics to write about (for me) are programming and productivity, but obviously there are many popular topics to write about and find publications for.

Begin from the end, finish at the start

Writing with a publication in mind already does the same of rolling the post up from the back towards the front — but this approach goes deeper. Once you know the topic and a raw form of the title or idea I recommend that you start with the takeaway.

Then you go back and write the subheadings, then you write the content, last the introduction. The introduction is the most important part of the post after the title and that is why I write it last, when I already know what the article is about. It’s too easy to lose someone in the first few lines that never gets to see the other hundred.

And then lastly I refine the raw title into a good a title/subtitle as I can possibly manage. Sometimes that is easy, often enough it’s hard.

Limit yourself and your stories

I could easily turn most of my thousand-words-posts into three times that before I have exhausted what I want to say. If you are anything like me you have stories to tell for days, musings and ramblings for weeks in you — and that is great.

It shows that you are not slaving away at this but rather grinding, that you like telling stories over just purporting ideas — but they don’t all belong inside a single post.

Some ideas, thoughts and stories don’t even belong in a post at all — even if they are true, powerful, meaningful to you. The reader may not care, or they may be put off, or get distracted from the actual point you are trying to make. Your post can be a masterpiece doomed to fail because you start the post with a controversy that did nothing to add to the story itself. That is not to say to avoid controversy — please don’t be afraid in case it makes sense to open up that discussion.

But a post on writing tips does not need to weigh in on gender issues, a post about self-improvement has no business opening up a war on two fronts with believers of opposing political sides. Time and place.

Split writing phases across multiple days

I have noticed that the best posts usually see the light of day across multiple days despite not changing in tone or context. That means to say that I often write the initial setup with the titles and headlines in one day, then come back to that same post at a later point to fill in the gaps.

This works for me and does so well, especially because I often start a post on my phone and finish it on my laptop.

On some days I want to write, but don’t want to think more than necessary and then I’m always thankful to have past-me providing the skeleton that I get to slap slices of meat on.

Have more than one area of interest

The easiest way to throw away a post is to mouse over the little green icon and just in time realize did I not write this before?

Writing is just real life refined and printed more concisely — and in real life if you run out of ideas you end up boring as well. In writing it just happens faster, more visibly when you focus on just one area or field.

Luckily it is easy enough to keep three, four revolving interests fresh at all times, find a cute little tidbit that you did not consider before and turn it into an interesting read, more importantly an interesting write-up for yourself as you sit down to create it.

Just bring your A-game

To end a series of factual, practical tips with a generalised bit of advice: Do your best. Well, duh, I hear you think, but it’s a valid point to make. In my experience a good post can flop and a bad one succeed — but for you as a writer the bad posts are that much more likely to be scrapped and never published if you care at all about your craft.

And that is a point that is a lot more fluent than you might think, I have scrapped posts that were honestly not half-bad simply because I didn’t like the way I wrote them and saw no real way to salvage without a complete rewrite.

Takeaway: writing a lot of words is easy when you make it a habit and plan ahead

As I said in the introduction I write thousands of words per day in some shape or form — and I try not to throw any of them away. Of course that still happens, of course I often go in and rewrite whole paragraphs — but generally speaking I publish what I write.

And that, without doing anything special gives me an extra hour or two in my days that I would have otherwise wasted. Enough to write another post if I have the ideas, enough to lean back and watch a video, listen to an audiobook, do the damned dishes. Enough to sit down and do nothing, come out the other end refreshed and eager to work.

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