In the Art of Being Prolific #6 we talk about correcting your mistakes last. To be honest, I don’t always do this. Sometimes I simply forget to correct my mistakes last. I think it’s safe to say that when a little red or blue line shows up under a couple words on your screen the feeling of anxiety forcing me to go back and fix those problems is something just shy of having an ulcer. However, what I’ve found is that when it comes to saving time, correcting those minor spelling and grammar errors last saves a ton of time.
This is how I do it, and some stats to justify how correcting your mistakes last can help you in your goal to being prolific.
Break out of the Gates
If you read my blog you’ll know that while I do some degree of outlining I am not emphatic about it. I prefer sitting down and typing – fast and furiously! But, I also have found that people who don’t type quickly will still benefit from just sitting down and going. So, my suggestion is to do just that. Sit down and begin typing. Don’t look back. Don’t stop to fix a word, add or remove a comma, or retype a homophone. Your goal is to put up words and all else can come later. As you see your word count grow you will understand the euphoric feeling of writing and producing text.
So, tip #1. Just write.
Correct spelling and grammar at the end of the day.
Those red and blue underlines can squeek like nails on a chalkboard. Maybe your heart clenches for a few seconds, or you feel pressure on your lungs. I know that’s how I often feel. In fact, glancing up a few lines I see I’ve spelled the word “squeak” wrong and it is driving me nuts. But, you will get over it. The longer you practice, the easier it becomes. Yet, you may never really overcome your fear of a misspelled word. Even though right now as you type it doesn’t matter in the least. Just think about it. You will reread and edit your manuscript countless times from now until you are ready to send off to a publisher or you self-publish your book. If you correct every mistake you come across now, and then many more later, you may be duplicating efforts, or worse, correcting something you decide to delete later. So, all of those little mistakes aren’t a big deal.
I may not outline much, but I do plan my writing sessions. For example, if I am going to write for four hours one morning I know that every forty-five minutes I will stand up, stretch, get coffee, and linger about for fifteen minutes. My personal rule is if I am having a marathon session to not write more than forty-five minutes at a time. It will only lead to resentment of my work. I also reserve five minutes for every hour written to correct those mistakes. After four hours that may seem like a lot. But from the stats below you’ll see the difference.
Tip #2: Put aside five minutes per hour of your writing session to correct simple mistakes.
Never research while writing.
This is difficult too, but does save a lot of time. I try to separate my research from writing. The reason is because writing time (quiet time) is limited for most people. Kids play a role, friends or family call, you need to run errands. Whatever the case, writing is limited. However, research can be done almost anytime you carry your laptop into the living room. Copy and paste links and articles into a Word document or OneNote, and before you go to bed read over the material, or highlight the information you need for later.
So, instead of researching and adding to writing while writing, I break out another session strictly for research. While I write I add comments to my document so I know what I want to research, words I want to improve on, historical background I’m lacking or other ideas.
I’ve gone so far as to write an entire draft without research, and then go back to add all the research info later. This is one way to write very fast. It’s amazing how much you get done without the internet to distract you.
Tip #3: Use comments to identify research areas, and do your research later.
When it comes to stats I tried to compare similar documents with similar problems. So, while not completely scientific you will see a substantial difference. So, I have two categories: 1500 words and 2500 words. These word counts represent one and two-hour writing sessions.
1500 word session
1. 1498 words (edited as I went) – 30 mistakes. Time to correct: 7.5 minutes.
2. 1502 words (edited at end) – 28 mistakes. Time to correct: 1.75 minutes.
I guess I can’t explain why the difference is so huge. None of the mistakes were more than a “right click and change,” but I think the time it takes away from writing to change an error, and then back to the writing is a big difference. This time can also lead to distraction.
2500 word session
1. 2510 words (edited as I went) – 43 mistakes. Time to correct: 12 minutes.
2. 2499 words (edited at end) – 44 mistakes. Time to correct 3.33 minutes.
I’d always speculated that correcting mistakes at the end was faster, but until I took the time to calculate how much time was saved I was only taking an educated stab at the idea. However, it’s clear that to be a prolific writer, correcting your mistakes at the end does save you time. This saved time might not seem like a lot in one writing session. But, let’s expand that time. Say you are writing your novel and give yourself fifteen hours a week. That would add nearly another hour and a half of writing time per week. In the end it’s managing these little time-savers that help you to a prolific writing career.
Just write, skip simple editing for the end of your session, and research later are all ways to speed up your process. In fact, while miserably difficult, if you manage to wait until your first draft is complete before going back and finishing simple edits, you’ll likely save even more time.
I’d love to hear some of your time-saving techniques when writing. Feel free to comment below so other writers can benefit from your experiences.