How to Write Faster: The Brainwave Blueprint

By Mary Jaksch

how to write faster

Just imagine being able to write faster.

Wouldn’t that make a huge difference?

I’m not talking about becoming a writing automaton who spits out 5000 words a day.

Because speed isn’t everything; it has to be balanced with quality. If you write 5000 words a day but most of what you write is rubbish, then it’s not worth cranking up your speed.


But even improving your writing speed by just 20% or 40% would make a huge difference to your yearly productivity—if your quality stays the same or improves.

I’ve always regarded myself as a slow writer. But just recently, I had an epiphany about writing fast.

My timeframe was tight and I wanted to write a memorable post. So I had to develop a system that would allow me to write well and fast.

The system I developed allowed me to improve my speed of writing by 45%.

I call it the Brainwave System because it supports the creative activity of the brain.

The first piece I wrote with this system turned out to be one of my best posts: How to Write Better: 3 Secrets of Transmitting Naked Emotions.

Commenters said things like ‘Great by all standards,’ ‘Wow, what a fantastic post!’, ‘Brilliant article, Mary,’ ‘One of the best articles on writing that I’ve read,’ and so on.

I’m not saying this to brag. I just want to point out that the danger of writing fast is that your piece may be feeble.

I once got a guest post from a very well-known blogger whose claim to fame was that he had created a system of speedy writing. But the post was so poor, I had to ask for a rewrite.


Okay, I’ve made my point: we need to be able to write fast and well.

But what slows down the process of writing, and how to speed it >> READ MORE <<


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The Most Overlooked Market For Content Writers

By Guest Column


Editor’s Note: The following content is provided to Writer’s Digest by a writing community partner. This content is sponsored by American Writers & Artists Inc.

Writing content can be an extremely profitable option for working writers …

Sure, there are fiercely competitive content markets where writers fight over penny-a-word contracts. But, those more obvious opportunities in highly-competitive markets aren’t what I’m talking about.

There are far better opportunities for writers looking to make a living … and that’s my goal with this blog each week:

To help you learn about — and take advantage of — REAL opportunities that will allow you to make a living as a writer.

One in particular stands out in my mind right now — as we’re talking a lot about it over at AWAI

It’s a place where there are more jobs available than writers with time to do the work. Plus, the rates can climb to $2 (or more) per word.

The only catch? To see the vast opportunities here — and appreciate the scope of what’s on offer — you’re going to have to open your eyes to a world most writers have never realized existed.

The “Hidden” World of B2B Content Writing

Most of the time, if we think about advertising, we think about companies hooking into our feelings to sell us everything from clothes to laundry detergent.

But the personal consumer side of marketing is just a drop in the bucket compared to the overall business world …

Companies also sell things to each other, in what’s known as the Business-to-Business (B2B) market.

Instead of a bottle of laundry soap, picture the effort it would take for a company to sell an industrial washing machine to a cruise line.

In that kind of transaction, the sale is not so simple. Multiple people — a Purchasing Agent, >> READ MORE <<


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14th Annual Writer’s Digest Short Short Story Competition

By Cris Freese

Writer’s Digest would like to congratulate the 25 winners of the 14th Annual Short Short Story Competition (from 2013-14)! For full coverage of the awards, please see the July/August 2014 issue of Writer’s Digest. To read all 25 winners, please pick up a copy of the 14th Annual Writer’s Digest Short Short Story Competition Collection.

1. “Poetry by Keats” by Eleanore D. Trupkiewicz (read an extended Q&A with our winner here)
2. “The Gingko Tree” by Maria Maxham
3. “Life on the Red” by Jennifer Michael
4. “A Thousand Words” by David Ross
5. “It Was No Secret” by Justin Hightower
6. “Witchcraft” by Erin Richey
7. “Another Day in the Sun” by Jean Megarbane
8. “Your Secret’s Safe with Me” by Elizabeth Nebergall
9. “The Anands” by Anoushka Sinha
10. “Final Offer” by Anand Silodia
11. “Pine Wilt” by Kit Hamlen
12. “Away with Khasbulatov!” by Yannek Adar
13. “A Christmas Surprise” by Mary Flynn
14. “The Rhinoceros in the Driveway” by Larry Brook
15. “Sons and Their Fathers” by Joseph Solís
16. “Magnolia Fall” by Michelle Karene
17. “Playing with Matches” by Rebekah Gifford
18. “Gold Grand Prix” by Margarite Stever
19. “The Decline and Ascent of Miss Magdalena Santos” by Sean M. Tirman
20. “The Rebirth” by Martha Bermeo
21. “Play Time” by Kevin Kim
22. “Stolen Car” by Jim Long
23. “The Dialogue” by Ruthanne Connell
24. “Running from the Past” by Jared Aisher
25. “Angel’s Army” by Kathy Lynn



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Test Yourself: Do You Have What it Takes to Be a Go-To Writer?

By Guest Column

Winner Stamp

Editor’s Note: The following content is provided to Writer’s Digest by a writing community partner. This content is sponsored by American Writers & Artists Inc.

Go-to writers … I love them! These are the writers I reach out to again and again, because I know I can trust them to do great work, on time, and constantly suggest new projects.

My “inner circle” of writers was carefully built … and they’re very well paid. But I know what I’m doing with them isn’t unique.

Every publisher or marketer has a set of favorite writers. When they need something new … or have an opening on the Editorial Calendar … these are the writers they call.

The “preferred” writers … the trusted “go-to” partners … don’t struggle to make ends meet. They don’t wonder where their next project will come from — in fact, many have to turn away work because they have too much to do.

Would you like to join them? Can you imagine an inbox overflowing with projects … editors who are happy to take your calls … and seeing your name on publication after publication?

It is possible … if you have the right skills. I’ve outlined the top four here, with a short test so you can see if you have what it takes.

The Go-To Writer Test

  1. Do you have a positive attitude?
  1. Do you respond promptly to questions, editor queries, and follow-up emails?
  2. Do you consider yourself an “idea machine”?
  3. Do you always hit your deadlines?

I hope you were able to give a big “Yes!” to each of these questions. If not, don’t worry — you can still become a go-to writer (and now you know what to focus on to improve your odds of success).

Here’s why these four questions — and the skills they represent — are so important for >> READ MORE <<


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How to Write About Family in a Memoir

By Guest Column


There is no more potentially contentious group than family. Holidays spent with family members inevitably bring stress. Visits from parents prompt us to unlock the liquor cabinet. And, as memoirists, when we sit down to write the stories of our families—our childhoods, our relationships with parents and siblings, and so on—we often pause, our fingers both itchy and hesitant. Questions begin to stir. What will happen if I write about my family? How will my mom react? Or my brother? Should I tell the truth unflinchingly, or should I take care to write more gently—and less controversially?

To write honestly and compassionately about members of your family, you must first reflect on your purpose, your approach, the details of your story and the potential reactions your family members might have.

This guest post is excerpted from The Truth of Memoir by Kerry Cohen, with permission from Writer’s Digest Books. Kerry Cohen is a psychotherapist, writing faculty at The Red Earth Low-Residency MFA, and the author of Loose Girl, Dirty Little Secrets, Seeing Ezra; and the young adult novels Easy, The Good Girl, and It’s Not You, It’s Me. She lives with the author James Bernard Frost and their four children in Portland, Oregon.

Know Your Purpose

All memoir writing should have layered purposes. If you are writing about your relationship with your complicated mother, you might be writing about how we raise girls in the 21st century. If you write about struggling with obesity and growing up next to your stick-thin sister, you might also be writing about how our culture contributes to people’s struggles with weight.

Consider the classic family memoir The Liars’ Club by Mary Karr. While >> READ MORE <<


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New Literary Agent Alert: Lane Heymont of The Seymour Agency

By Chuck Sambuchino


Reminder: New literary agents (with this spotlight featuring Lane Heymont of The Seymour Agency) are golden opportunities for new writers because each one is a literary agent who is likely building his or her client list.

About Lane: Serving as a literary assistant for the past two years at The Seymour Agency, Lane Heymont has led the marketing efforts for their authors and enjoyed connecting clients with readers. As a lover of literature since childhood, he decided to pursue his passion as a literary agent to bring more well written books to the masses. With a bachelor’s degree in Psychology, business and literature, Lane continued his education in Creative Writing and English, attending Harvard. Lane is a member of HWA, ITW, and AAR membership is pending. He believes what John Gregory Dunne said: “Writing is manual labor of the mind.”

(Ever want to adapt your novel/memoir into a screenplay? Here are 7 tips.)

He is seeking: science fiction and fantasy (exceptional world building is a must), and nonfiction (the inspiring, intriguing, mysterious, and scientific).

How to connect: Send all queries to lane [at] The subject line should be “QUERY: (Title)”. Please past the first five pages in the body of the e-mail.

(Will an agent be interested in your degrees or where you went to school?)

The biggest literary agent database anywhere
is the Guide to Literary Agents. Pick up the
most recent updated edition online at a discount.

I (Chuck) Will Instruct At These Great Writing Events Soon:

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Character: The Heart of Your Novel

By Cris Freese

Creating Characters

The following is an excerpt from WD Books’ Creating Characters: The Complete Guide to Populating Your Fiction, a comprehensive reference to every stage of character development. In the book, you’ll find timely advice and helpful instruction from bestselling authors such as Nancy Kress, Elizabeth Sims, Orson Scott Card, Chuck Wendig, Hallie Ephron, Donald Maass, and James Scott Bell. Together they walk you through the important steps in bringing your fictional cast to life. In this excerpt from Joseph Bates (originally from his WD Book, The Nighttime Novelist), you’ll learn exactly why it’s your character that should be the start, and heart and soul, of your novel. Without a character that is in someway relatable and wholly understandable, there’s a chance your story, no matter how smartly written, could fall flat.

* * * * *

In Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, an unnamed father and son, survivors of some never-specified apocalyptic event, head south by foot in the hopes of finding some, any, more sustainable world than the wasteland around them. “Going south” is thus the stated, external goal of the two characters; it’s what they hope to accomplish in the most basic sense. And the external conflicts they face along the way—from desperate individuals hoping to steal their few resources to roving gangs of marauders rumbling up the road in diesel trucks to the hostile, unforgiving terrain itself—all stand in the way of that goal.

Does stating and understanding the external goal and conflicts of the story reveal the gripping emotional experience of reading The Road? Absolutely not. The external goal and conflict are aspects of pure plot, the general “what happens.” And the external motivation and conflict >> READ MORE <<


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The 3 Basic Building Blocks of Writing a Memoir

By Guest Column


Some people know exactly what they want to write about when they start their memoir. Others come to the computer expecting to purge their life onto the virtual page. If that’s you, take it from me, it won’t work—at least not for a book project. By focusing on the three foundational legs of memoir — Core Threads, Clarity, and Collective—you will create a book that is clear, relatable, and universal.

This guest post is by Colleen Haggerty, author of a memoir and personal essays. She has contributed to four anthologies: The Spirit of a Woman, He Said What? (penned as Colleen Robinson), Dancing at the Shame Prom, and Beyond Belief. After Colleen lost her leg at seventeen years old she found feeling marginalized. She developed a deep empathy for and desire to help others living on the fringe of society which led to her twenty year career in non-profit management and her latest book A Leg to Stand On. She is an inspiring public speaker and was a speaker at the 2013 Bellingham TEDx event where she talked about the power of forgiveness. Colleen writes about walking through life as an amputee at She makes her home in Bellingham, WA with her husband and two teenagers.

1. Core Threads

Finding the core themes of your story by outlining your book is much like laying the warp in a weaving project. The warp are the stable, fixed threads that support the weft, the cross threads that are woven through them. The weft threads are akin to the individual stories that support each of the warp threads of your book.

The core themes inform what parts of our story to tell. For instance, when I wrote about a court trial in my book, my emphasis was about my relationship >> READ MORE <<


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7 Things I’ve Learned So Far, by Robin Antalek

By Chuck Sambuchino

Screen Shot 2015-01-16 at 7.39.20 PM

Robin Antalek is the author of

This is a recurring column I’m calling “7 Things I’ve Learned So Far,” where writers (this installment written by Robin Antalek, author of THE GROWN UPS) at any stage of their career can talk about writing advice and instruction as well as how they possibly got their book agent — by sharing seven things they’ve learned along their writing journey that they wish they knew at the beginning.

GIVEAWAY: Robin is excited to give away a free copy of her novel to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (Please note that comments may take a little while to appear; this is normal).

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Robin Antalek is the author of THE SUMMER WE FELL APART (HarperCollins
2010; chosen as a Target Breakout Book) and the new novel, THE GROWN UPS
(William Morrow, Jan. 2015). Her short fiction has appeared in Salon, 52 Stories,
Five Chapters, Sun Dog, The Southeast Review and Literary Mama among
others. She has twice been a finalist in Glimmertrain Magazine, as well as
a finalist for The Tobias Wolff Award for Fiction. She lives in Saratoga
Springs, New York. Connect with her on Facebook and Instagram.

1. Tell The Best Story You Can. This sounds easier than it is. Telling the best story you can often means you might have to go someplace that makes you uncomfortable. If you’re worrying about criticism, if you’re worrying about a specific audience, if you’re worrying about anything but the characters and the world you’re creating, then you are not fully in that >> READ MORE <<


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Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 295

By Robert Lee Brewer


For this week’s prompt, write a free poem. Think free parking or a free space (in a board game). Think fat free, care free, or stone free (for all the Jimi Hendrix fans out there). Or think words with free in them, a la Freedom of Information Act. You’re free to take it in any free-wheeling direction you wish.


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Here’s my attempt at a Free Poem:


tag was a silly game we played
when we were young. running
around until someone tagged you
to make you freeze. but maybe

hide & seek was sillier. or just
tag, because the same kid always
ended up being IT and unable
to catch the others. & then

regardless, we just liked to run
& hide & jump fences & eventually
hear the call, ollie ollie oxenfree,
which meant figuring out what’s next.


Robert Lee Brewer is Senior Content Editor of the Writer’s Digest Writing Community and author of the poetry collection, Solving the World’s Problems (Press 53). He edits Poet’s Market, Writer’s Market, and Guide to Self-Publishing, in addition to writing a free weekly newsletter and poetry column for Writer’s Digest magazine.

He used to play tag with the best of ‘em.

Follow him on Twitter @robertleebrewer.


Find more poetic goodies here:



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