#012: Eight Steps to Writing Faster, Better

One of the fastest ways to propel your writing business to the six-figure level is to become a MUCH more efficient writer. And in this week’s show, you’ll learn 8 simple steps to boosting your writing speed by 30% or more.

 My guest is Daphne Gray-Grant — an authority on writing faster. Daphne’s strategies are a big reason why I earn $200++ per hour when I write for clients.

The notes that follow are a very basic, unedited summary of the show. There’s a lot more detail in the audio version. You can listen to the show using the audio player below. Or you can subscribe in iTunes or on Stitcher to get this show delivered straight to the Podcasts app on your smart phone, tablet or iPod.

About This Show

The High-Income Business Writing podcast is a production of B2B Biz Launcher. It’s designed for business writers and copywriters who want to propel their writing business to the six-figure level (or the part-time equivalent).

Daphne grew up in the newspaper business. At 16, she started working in her family owned weekly newspaper, eventually running the business. From there she moved to a daily newspaper and then took time off to raise triplets.

In this episode, Daphne talks to us about something many of us encounter as writers: writing efficiencies and writer’s block.

Why is Writing So Difficult?

If we think back to our school days, no one ever taught us how to write. Sure, we all handed in papers and received comments about the grammar, punctuation or spelling errors. But, no one ever talked about the process of writing (i.e., how to stay focused and get the words on paper!).

Consequently, many people feel so embarrassed by their writing that it stops them from ever doing it.

Since freelancers only get paid for the work they produce, writing faster is necessary to bring in more opportunity and income. The faster and easier you can write, the faster you can make room for another project.

The Writing System

There are specific steps involved in writing. Following a particular order is crucial to staying efficient and helps to eliminate writer’s block and chaos. The three main steps are:

  1. Preparation
  2. Writing
  3. Editing and Rewriting

Daphne’s book, 8-1/2 Steps to Writing Faster, Better goes into detail about each step.

1) Make a plan

2) Do your research – interviewing, reading – whatever you need to do to get the information

3) Thinking and re-thinking

4) Finding your lead – how to begin

5) Writing

Notice there are four steps before you actually start writing

6) Letting it incubate

7) Revising

8) Copyediting

81/2  Continual reading – read good writing all the time

The biggest mistake people make is writing too soon. Many of us feel we’re procrastinating if we aren’t writing immediately.

Step 1 – Make your Plan

During the planning steps of the writing process, you really need to take time to identify your audience. Who are they? What do they do?

Try to identify a single person and write to that particular person.

For example, Daphne wrote to her mother when she worked in the newspaper business, because the paper had a wide readership and was highly diverse.

What are you trying to accomplish? Instead of focusing on the subject matter, spend your time identifying your objective.

Do this type of work away from your computer. Do something that allows you to think while keeping busy; go for a walk, wash the dishes, make dinner.

Step 2 – Research

This step could entail actual research online, interviews with subject matter experts or even field-level research.

In other words, this is where you’ll do your entire information gathering.

Step 3 – Think and Re-Think

Mindmapping (clustering) – it is the closest thing to a magic bullet in writing!

  • Take a blank piece of paper and turn it sideways (landscape). This tricks your brain into thinking you’re doing something different and it appears you have more space than on an 8-1/2 x 11 piece of paper
  • Write your topic in the center of the page
  • Draw a circle around it
  • Brainstorm – write words and/or phrases and draw lines to the center topic

Some people take to mindmapping immediately and others may have a problem with it. If you struggle with it and feel it isn’t working, go to Daphne’s website (see below) and sign up for her newsletter to get her free e-book on mindmapping.

Mindmapping is different than making an outline. We use the linear/logical part of our brains to make an outline and to edit. It isn’t the part of the brain you want to use when you write. Using this part of your brain can make you feel frustrated and makes you think you have writer’s block.

This is why mindmapping is so successful. It makes you use the creative part of your brain.

Step 4 – Finding Your Lead

A lead can be more than just the first paragraph or sentence. It can be 10 or 12 paragraphs. Although finding your lead is newspaper speak, it is a valuable word, because it doesn’t make any presumption about length.

There are a bunch of different kinds of leads you can use and Daphne’s book goes into much greater detail.

The technique is such a sensational way of beating the blank page problem.

Instead of asking how do I begin, take your list of leads and ask:

  • If I were to do an anecdotal lead, what would I do?
  • If I were to do a question lead, what would I do?
  • If I were to do (fill-in-the-blank) lead, what would I do?

You come up with different options and choose the best one.  It is a formula that takes away the sting of the blank page. The checklist that kick-starts the process!

Step 5 – Writing

The biggest mistake most people make is that they edit while they write. Never edit while you write! It makes writing much less painful and faster.

It is a hard habit to break. Especially when you think you wrote something ok and then you look at it the next day and think it is awful. That’s a tough feeling to get over.

How can you resist the urge to edit when writing?

The problem could be that you are actually editing while you write and don’t even realize it!

Here are some suggestions to use to resist the urge to edit when writing:

  • Pomodoro is a mental trick. Get a noisy timer, so you hear the click. Set it for 25-30 minutes and write. Force yourself to only focus on writing and nothing else.
  • Use an online tool from Dr. Wicket called “Write or Die,” which you can find here: http://writeordie.com/ Stick with the defaults. Note that if you don’t write fast enough, it will start erasing your words!

This tool is a great reminder about how much time we waste while writing.

Step 6 – Let it Incubate

When is it time to edit? Whatever you do, you must walk away for an extended period.

Put your writing away for at least a day. If it’s something long like a book, you should even put it away for weeks.

Go do something to clear your mind and forget about what you wrote.

Step 7 – Revising

There are two types of editing which are separate and distinct:

1) Substantive (Revising)
2) Copyediting (Editing)


  1. Substantive relates to the content
  • Have you covered all the necessary material?
  • Have you put it in the right order?
  • Are you reaching the right audience?
  • Are you accomplishing the objective?
  • Does it flow well?
  • Does it make sense?

Substantive editing isn’t about correcting punctuation, spelling or grammar. This type of editing is big picture revising.

A great way to do this editing is by reading the piece out loud. It helps give you a better understanding of the rhythm of your writing. Ask yourself questions about the article as you’re reading out loud to be sure you have met the objectives.

Step 8 – Editing


  1. Copyediting relates to punctuation, spelling, grammar, and style.

Not everyone is that detail oriented. Many times it is worthwhile to hire a copyeditor for bigger projects. If there isn’t a budget for a copyeditor, find someone who has a great eye — the person who finds all the typos in publications and mentions mistakes in printed materials.

In general it is important to follow these steps, but you can make it your own with two exceptions::

  1. Step 1, Make Your Plan – you must have a plan to write well
  2. Step 5, Writing – do not edit while you’re writing, because it really
    slows you down

Step 8-1/2 – Continual Reading

The corporate world is full of dreck! All writers should devote time every day  to reading the work of good writers. This alone will make you a better writer.

Another great exercise is to copy the words of other writers. This gives you a feel for the structure, word choice, and rhythm of good writing; you will start to pick it up in your own writing.

Items mentioned in this Podcast include:



Want More of This Stuff?

Want to get more tips and strategies for boosting your writing income? There are three ways you can enjoy these tips and strategies, share them with friends and help me grow this movement to propel more writers to the six-figure level:

  1. Sign up for this podcast on iTunes. Click here to subscribe to the podcast on iTunes.
  1. Subscribe to this podcast through the Podcast app on your iPhone or Android phone (free from the app store).
  1. Leave a review — Share an honest sentence or two about the show on the iTunes page and give it a star rating (this makes a HUGE difference in helping others find the show).
  1. Share the love — Share this episode with friends and colleagues. An easy way to do that is by using the social media buttons down below.

Finally, if you have a question you’d potentially like answered on a future show — or if you have any feedback in general — please let me know: ed at b2blauncher dot com.

Thanks again for your support!

Till next time,


  • Tom Bentley

    Another solid episode, Ed. I have some real trouble not editing what I write, because I’m also a copyeditor for clients, as well as being a business copywriter. So I’ll often go back and fuss and fiddle with a phrase, which as outlined in your show, can stifle getting substantive writing done. Finding the lead can really make the piece leap, though. Thanks!

    • edgandia

      Hey, Tom — good to hear from you! Great to hear this was helpful. I know exactly what you mean. I have the same issue! 😉

  • Anton Jeffery Rasmussen

    As a technical writer turned blogger, this is EXACTLY what I’ve been looking for. Wonderful content! Now that I know what to do… I’m gonna go *do* it.

    Thanks Ed (and Daphne)!!

    • edgandia

      Super! Thanks, Anton. Appreciate the feedback. 😉

  • Wendy Catalano

    Hey Ed… As an indexer and copyeditor working on developing my writing skills, this was a great discussion for me. It’s so hard for me to not edit while writing! And I enjoyed Daphne’s explanation of the difference between copyediting and substantive editing – something many people don’t grasp. Great suggestions all around, especially the thinking/mind mapping part, and I look forward to learning more from both you and Daphne! Thank you 🙂

    • Thanks for the feedback, Wendy! Appreciate your checking it out, and glad the podcast was helpful.

  • Angela Tanger

    Great information! Thanks to both of you for sharing such a wealth of knowledge.

  • kaycam

    I write while walking and doing the dishes.

  • Jérémy Bambini

    Great episode, Ed !

    I’ll follow that plan fot my next piece, definitely.
    I used mindmapping (electronically) for about a year and I just can’t stop using it now.

    That’s exactly what Daphne calls it: writing magic bullet.

  • schuzz

    Great info..Thanks!

  • Swaroop Deshmukh

    A lot goes in before one can actually think of becoming even an Amateur writer. Thanks for the insight!

  • Pingback: Six Great Resources for Newbie Freelancers | Alan Holbrook()

  • I agree with the underlying points of how writing has multiple steps, but I don’t agree so much on the applications. Different people organize such things in different ways.

    Like, I do a mind mapping step, but the bubble method doesn’t work for me—I use a bullet list or index cards instead. I also have a far easier time of writing and am far faster (as in, confirmed via timers and records) when I don’t fret about the lede until the end and when I edit as I write. It helps that I write in Scrivener, which lets me quickly not-delete something by command-shift-a, and easily rearrange things later.

    I also have a step you don’t, before the planning, which is prep work for the planning: overview research when I’m doing nonfiction, and writing some (until I hit writer’s block, which is the subconscious saying something’s wrong) in fiction (because of how I process story; this writer’s block hits at about 10% in the story).

    I even know prolific professional writers, particularly in nonfiction, who write best and fastest when their first step is writing, and they make the entire book off-the-cuff and then go back.

    Different writers are different. While advice like this is perfect for some folks, it’ll sabotage some others.

    ETA: The “types of editors” is a case in point that different environments have different delineations and definitions, too. I’m familiar with 5 types of editors (developmental, substantive, content, line, copy).