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I write tech articles for my blog and for a news outlet here in my country (mostly in French).

I've been doing this for years, but I've always thought that I was slow in readying my stories. I am not talking about the 'seek-and-collect' information phase, but the actual writing of the article.

How long should it take to write e.g. a 1000-word article? How can I increase my efficiency and productivity during the desk hours?

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Thank you everybody for answering (and editing) the question. All your interactions are really helpful, but I think it would be 'unfair' to choose just one 'accepted answer' as all of the answers are 'accepted'. I forgot to mention that I write stories about technology. –  ahmed Jun 14 '13 at 1:26
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Hey everybody. This question is a bit of a problem - OP was talking about writing reports, essays, news articles; however, most of the responses talk about fiction (which is entirely different, and much looser/more individual). I'm not yet sure how we'll handle cleanup here, but cleanup there shall indeed be. –  Standback Jun 14 '13 at 5:59

4 Answers 4

Your assumption about hours rather than days for the mechanical processes of writing (a feature article, for example) is probably correct.

I have "text entered" 1000 words in a day more than once. The proviso is that the work has been built and rebuilt in my head over several days (possibly weeks) before I commit to the keyboard. On those occasions when the work flows, it is almost as though I am transcribing a tale being told to me. I am not "writing" for those few hours because all that work has been done before.

On the other hand, there are days when I sit down to turn out my 700-800 word masterpiece and never get past 200 because something that worked fine when running around in my head reveals dreadful flaws when viewed on the screen or page. Some authors of how-to books advise that when that happens you simply keep typing as planned and do the fixing later. I always think that I would like to do that, but when the issue arises I stop and tinker.

As in most aspects of writing, the short answer to your question is "It depends on ..."

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Hey Fortiter, as you can see, we've decided to delete the responses here that address fiction rather than journalism. One the one hand, on Stack Exchange it's crucial that the responses match the question - otherwise the Q&A format doesn't work. On the other hand, the question that many responded to here - "How long does it take to write a 1000-word fiction story" - would be very problematic here; fiction pace is extremely individual and isn't subjected to the same deadline pressure that news articles have. It comes out kind of an unhelpful poll. –  Standback Jun 14 '13 at 13:02
    
So, the mods have decided that the best course is to re-focus the original question as intended, and delete the answers that no longer match. I know this is annoying, but I hope you understand our reasoning. Of course, by all means feel free to re-answer, to edit this answer into something focused on OP's type of writing, or to use your content from the deleted post elsewhere. If you'd like to discuss this further, just ping me in chat :) –  Standback Jun 14 '13 at 13:03
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Sorry I misinterpreted. You didn't explicitly mention "fiction" in your answer, but you mention stories percolating for weeks, transcribing a "tale" told to you, and you refer to "authors" (rather than writers, reporters, or journalists). I'm un-deleting your answer, as you say it still applies. However, if you think you could make your intention clearer (and refer particularly to reporting), it'd be great if you could make an edit. –  Standback Jun 15 '13 at 18:15

The best way to increase your efficiency and productivity is writing. I mean, you can read 1000 books on the matter and listen to 1000 advised but the only thing that will make you more productive is actually writing. Of course you will be able to sit and put some of that theory to work also, but is the practice that it matters.

In any case, what I use to do is. Think in the manuscript during the day, while I'm not writing and, when I start to write, I cease to think in the manuscript and focus in transcribing what I already thought to the paper.

And another thing. For me, it works really great to have a specific time of the day to write.

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Thanks for the valuable answer. I think I should try thinking about the story (structure ...) before sitting to write it, and not actually while doing it. I guess it will help me improve the overall quality. To be honest, when I wrote the question above, I was thinking the answer(s) will be measured in terms of hours. But I guess it all depends on the subject treated. A little last question : do you use 'paper and pen' to think or prepare your pieces or you do it all in your laptop/other electronic device ? –  ahmed Jun 8 '13 at 12:10
    
P.S. : Sorry for not upvoting your answer, my 'reputation' is not yet enough. –  ahmed Jun 8 '13 at 12:16
    
I just said what was good to me, but it may not work for you. Of course, if something comes up while I'm writing, I change that... But normally I separate both things. And I never use pen. I guess in more then 10 years I don't use a pen. I have a netbook that I always carry with me and use it to take notes. –  Psicofrenia Jun 8 '13 at 19:27
    
Hey Psicofrenia, as I've noted above - we need to clean this question up. It's important on Stack Exchange that the answers be good matches for the questions; equally, it was important for us to focus on the OP's actual request - particularly since the pace at which fiction is written can be very individual; professional reporting OTOH is much more standardized. Therefore, I've deleted many of the answers that didn't fit. With yours, you raise many points about writing productivity beyond just the pace. So I'm making a (relatively heavy) edit, but leaving what fits intact. –  Standback Jun 14 '13 at 13:08
    
And when I say "what fits," I mean "what in-my-humble-opinion fits." You might see more of your original points as relevant, and I just didn't see the connection. By all means, feel free to re-edit, including reverting changes I've done, so long as your revised answer is appropriate to OP's type of writing. I know this is annoying, but I hope the mod's reasoning is clear here. :) –  Standback Jun 14 '13 at 13:08

As an ex-journalist my guideline is - just write it, two hours and done. Later try not to think too much about it, focus on the next story instead and come back. If you've got the time for it, review the text on the next day, correct the most obvious things and send it. Other way, if you spend too much time on it, you can pretty quickly get bored with writing at all, and you certainly don't want your job to be boring for you, right?

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Hey Derek, I've edited your response - as you noted, the question was about news stories rather than fiction; staying focused on that is better for the question. –  Standback Jun 14 '13 at 6:47
    
As far as I remember (I can't check it yet), when I was writing my answer, the only thing connected with journalism in the question was the "journalism" tag. And the other answers (except for ahmed, who self answered) are related to writing in general. So it seems that my answer was edited, because I was the only one who decided to write also something about journalism in particular. ;) –  Darek Wędrychowski Jun 14 '13 at 12:09
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Darek: We haven't decided yet how to deal with the other answers - it's possible we'll need to delete them entirely. Yours had an easy fix, so I handled yours first. I understand that this is annoying, but maintenance and keeping focus are the core of the Stack Exchange system. –  Standback Jun 14 '13 at 12:10
    
Yes, because I was rewriting it, as I've found my writing style a bit offensive. Thanks for answer, I understand it. :) –  Darek Wędrychowski Jun 14 '13 at 12:11
    
I completely understand. Thanks :) –  Standback Jun 14 '13 at 12:11

I write news stories about technology. This means that I have to be as quick as I can when reporting news. It's not very easy to keep up with such a pace and over the years I learned some 'tricks' on how to improve my efficiency.

A big part of this process is eliminating the distraction. So, when I sit to write, I close all the unnecessary tabs, especially those of GMail, Twitter, Facebook and other social networking sites. I use a simple and minimal online text-editor called Draft to write.

I also found out that, the quicker I finish a piece, the better it is. If It takes me more than 2 - 3 hours to write a 1000-word story, for example, I would know that it will be rubbish. Because I just start to rewrite every phrase three or four times, trying to make it 'perfect'.

So I started setting deadlines (I use this Task Timer for Google Chrome. Not very fancy but it's all I need), which helped improve both my efficiency and the quality of my articles. Thinking fast about the 'what to say' instead of wasting a lot of time on 'how to say it' made my stories better.

Style DOES matter, but I always remind myself that I am not a poet and that the people who are reading my stuff are looking for information not for art. In this case, a good writing style has one mission : keep the readers reading the article and and make simple to understand. As the Facebook motto says : it's better done than perfect.

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ahmed, I've moved some of your comments (the ones responding to other answers, not answering your question) to a comment on the original post. –  Standback Jun 14 '13 at 6:01
    
@Standback : Nice job making sure everything is in order :) –  ahmed Jun 15 '13 at 11:06

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