How to Save Time When You Write by Jan Christensen

Jan ChristensenFor several reasons, I’ve had an almost life-long interest in organization and time management. Thus, two published novels about a personal organizer, and work on a third. Of course, this interest bled over into my writing life. It’s a fact: you can save a lot of time by becoming better at what you do. In general, I believe this applies as much to writing as to most other things.


Think about it—you’ve probably spent a few years writing a shopping list, no? Aren’t you a bit faster than you were when you wrote your very first one? I bet so.


I’ll give you some examples for writing other, more complicated things than shopping lists, such as stories.


Learning from others:


  1. When I first joined a writer’s group after writing a full-length novel and a few short stories, they quickly pointed out three ways I could improve. One was no head-hopping in scenes—stay in point of view. Next up was learn to use active voice instead of passive voice. I began searching for “wases” like crazy. And third, search and destroy most (some say all) modifiers. If I hadn’t joined the group, who knows how long I would have gone on making those same mistakes?


  1. I have also read quite a few books about writing and the writing life. I can’t list all the things I’ve learned from them, but I know it’s stored in my brain and peeks out to help me when needed lots of times.


  1. Reading other’s people work, both fiction and nonfiction (since I write both). How does he do such great descriptions? How does she make her points so succinctly? Things like that.


Learned by myself:


Then there’s the actual writing. This is the best way to learn, of course. Almost everyone will get better as they write. I hope I’m better after having written probably around a million words than I was when I first put pencil to paper.


  1. How to write on a schedule. Seat in chair, brain on fire. Same time every day works best for me, and for lots of other writers I know.


  1. How to write to length. Tell me to write a 50-word story, and I can do it almost at once, give or take a word or two. Then I can fix it so I hit it exactly. Tell me you want between 2,000 and 5,000 words, I can hit that even better, without going under or over. Give me a novel length, again, I can hit it. This did not happen in the beginning. It took a while, and an awareness of word counts. It probably helped that I wrote a lot of short stories—for a few years I was writing one or two a month of different lengths.
  2. How to handle different aspects of writing—do better descriptions, for example. I still don’t think I’m great with descriptions, but I have learned a few tricks to make it easier for me to write them. You may have a different weakness that with time and effort will lessen.


Bottom line? You get better and faster the more you write. So, to save time later on, write a lot now. The more you write every day, the quicker you’ll improve.


Jan Christensen grew up in New Jersey and now resides in Texas. Organized to Death is her third published novel. She’s had over fifty short stories appear in various places over the last dozen years, two of which were nominated for a Derringer Award.


Jan mainly enjoys writing mysteries, but every once in awhile steps out of that comfort zone and goes for something else, including non-fiction articles. She has a column about reading in the ezine, “Mysterical-e” and blogs regularly at her website. Learn more from:




12 thoughts on “How to Save Time When You Write by Jan Christensen

  1. Good suggestions, Jan. It’s interesting how many of those things ‘stored in the brain’ pop out just when you need them most.

  2. EARL STAGGS says:

    You’re spot on, Jan, as always. I think every time I apply fingers to keys, I get a little better. All the how-to books and classes help, but the only way to get better at writing is to write more.

  3. Excellent tips, Jan. And so true about how to get better – practice, practice, practice.

  4. Thanks, John, Earl, and Carol. Glad you liked the post!

  5. Hi, Jan,

    You’re right about this. Reading is important to becoming a better writer, but the only way to become an excellent writer is to write consistently. Improvement is almost inevitable.

  6. Hi, Jacqueline–I never mind being told I’m right, so thanks! LOL

  7. Ben Solomon says:

    Writing ain’t easy, but the idea is simple enough, and everyone should appreciate your reinforcement. It’s a one-size-fits-all that really works. When anyone asks, “How do I…?”, the first part of the answer is always, just write.

  8. Anita Page says:

    Jan, good points all around. I also find working with a writers’ group very helpful. In addition to benefiting from the group’s suggestions, I’ve learned to read critically, which helps my own writing.

  9. Ben,I really never thought about your statement,”Writing ain’t easy, but the idea is simple enough…” I’m reminded of that old Nike saying, “Just do it.” And that’s pretty much the trick for doing anything that is kind of hard, isn’t it? Everyone who’s learned to read is a potential writer. It’s a wonder there aren’t more of us. Of course, we’ve all heard people tell us, “I’m going to write a book. Someday.” All I can do is nod and not hold my breath. LOL

    • Ben Solomon says:

      You’ve sure got that right, Jan. It’s staggering at times, the number of people who profess a passion and don’t do anything about it, or don’t follow through, or don’t finish a project. “Just doing it” puts you in a class by yourself.

  10. Anita, I lost count of how many writer’s groups I’ve been in over the years–seven or more. They were all helpful in one way or another. Plus these the added bonus of being with other writers. All that creativity sparking off of each other.

  11. Thank you. Wonderful points. it is so helpful to benefit from others on this journey.

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