Our theme this week is writing for the Web.
If you missed the first article in this series, here it is. In that article, we talked about what you’ll write, and for whom you’ll write it, as well as how much you’ll charge.
In this article, let’s discuss fast writing.
Lightning write: write fast, write well
(More on lightning writing here.)
Whenever I discuss fast writing, a writer says: “Yes, but what about quality writing?” as if the two things were mutually exclusive.
My usual response to that is: “If you’re a professional, you use a writing process which works. Therefore, you’re fast, and you produce quality work. That does without saying. On the other hand, you’re not writing literary material. You’re writing to persuade, to inform, or to entertain. You’re also writing to a deadline.”
By “deadline”, I mean your own deadline, as well as the client’s. When you send a client a quote, you’re estimating the time it will take to complete the project. You charge accordingly.
For example, let’s say that a client’s asked you to write ten articles on parking garages. He’s provided all the information you need, as well as keywords. You’ve budgeted six hours for his project. Your hourly rate is $150 dollars, so 6 x $150 is $900. You add on an hour for revisions. That brings your fee to $1,050.
That’s straightforward. You have all the material you need to write.
What if you don’t?
Let’s say that the client’s asked you to do some research for his articles. He wants you to talk to his staff, as well as to his customers. Primary research like this takes time. Not only do you need to interview these sources, you also need to set up the interviews. If the client asks for photos, that takes yet more time – you either need to take them yourself, or sub-contract that out.
Therefore, you budget that time too – you estimate that interviewing to get quotes will take you another three hours. So you add that onto your quote to the client.
Here’s where it gets interesting. The articles you write as a result of interviewing sources will be “better” than the articles you wrote without doing that. You’ll be able to get some good anecdotes and quotes.
The writers who think that fast writing and quality writing are mutually exclusive are right, in one way. With more time to write, you can do more, which will (usually) improve the quality of the writing.
Your clients pay for the amount of “quality” they need
A client who wants you to write about parking garages may not want to pay the extra it would cost to do primary research.
On the other hand, a client who wants you to write Web content for a site which is selling houses on a new development might be prepared to do that.
Therefore, when you quote, be clear on what you intend to do for your fees. Make sure that you describe a “scope of work” on the Terms of Service document you send the client. If the client wants you to do more – interviews, or whatever – that broadens the scope, and you’ll invoice the client again.
With that out of the way, let’s talk about lightning writing – writing FAST.
Lightning Writing Starts With Who, What, When, Where and Why (and How, if you like)
Journalism’s “Five Ws” form the foundation of most of your writing. So, when you want to write something quickly, get those out of the way first.
I like to set up a mind map with the topic in the center, and the 5 Ws leading off it, as a tool to guide any preliminary research I do for a project. It helps me to think, and the clearer your thinking, the more quickly you’ll be able to write.
You need to know WHO you’re writing for, what they want to know, and what you want to cover.
Tip: do most of your research AFTER you write a first draft, not before, as I suggested in this article on lightning writing:
Research takes time. Therefore, make the most of your research. Write several articles from one research session. When writing books, do most of the research while you’re in the process of writing your nonfiction, otherwise “research” is an excuse for procrastination. If you’re writing a novel, and short nonfiction, research AFTER the first draft.
Speed counts, but you can’t sacrifice quality
If you’re a new writer, even a simple article will take you a couple of hours. That’s OK… You’ll get faster as your writing muscles develop. You’ll also get faster when you use tools which speed your writing. I use mind mapping extensively, as a form of outlining. Even a short article has an outline – it may just be a simple list.
As we’ve said, your writing will only be as good as your thinking. This is why you write shitty first drafts. Your first drafts are your “thinking” drafts. You write them to discover what you want to write.
Writing like lightning in a nutshell
To sum up:
The faster you write, while writing well, the more money you will make from writing for the Web;
Your client pays for amount of “quality” he wants;
Remember the 5Ws, they help you to think;
You’ll write faster with experience;
First drafts are your thinking drafts.
Previous articles in this series
Writing for the Web has never been more important, because businesses want content. Web content is the new advertising. While everyone has paid lip service to “content is king yada yada” for years – few companies believed it. That’s changed.
Here’s our scenario. You’re a new writer, and you want to make $500 a day writing for the Web. You’re starting with absolutely nothing. How would you go about achieving your goal of making $500 a day from your Web writing within a few months?
Enjoy the series… and get started writing for the Web if you haven’t started already.