Writing Secret 2: Increase Writing Speed When You Separate Writing From Editing

Too many nonfiction writers still listen to advice from their long-ago English teachers. That advice was, “Edit as you go.”

Editing as you go slows your writing and allows you to get stuck.

Instead, wait until you're done writing down before you edit. That's because our brains work differently when we write down vs. when we edit.

When I write down, I write in problem-explanation and problem-solving mode. I experiment. I edit in assessment mode, asking myself if I explained and solved the problem well.

When I write down, I have the same creative feelings as when I used to write code or tests. In the writing-down, I feel free to experiment with structure and content.

I tend to code and test in two modes:

  • Experimentation in problem-solving: Imagining a solution. Tinkering with design. Writing code and tests. This part requires fast feedback loops in my brain and with colleagues.
  • Assessment of the outputs: Code or test review. Running the tests. Understanding how the code and tests actually work.

Experimentation frees my thinking. Assessment solidifies my thinking.

When I separate the two modes, I get better results faster. I no longer write code or test for public consumption, but as you can tell, I write in public.

I need fast feedback loops to write fast. That's why I feel as if I'm experimenting. And the faster I write, the faster I can finish. My assessment is easier when I've experimented as I write down.

If you want to write fast, save your editing until you're “done” with the piece. That way, the editing doesn't slow you down.

If you want to learn how I do this, register for the Q3 Writing Workshop. It starts on Monday, so register now.

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