Writing and Publishing

Should You Write for Speed or Quality?

I often hear authors and instructors encourage writers to write quickly. They say things such as:

  • Just get your thoughts down.
  • Produce a crappy first draft.
  • Write first; edit later.
  • Let your words spew forth without evaluation.
  • Don’t do any editing until you finish your rough draft.

Their goal is speed

Given the number of people advocating such things, it seems this is how everyone should write. I comprehend the logic of this approach, but it doesn’t work for me—and it may not be right for you, either.

When I write, I write carefully. I compose a sentence, a paragraph, or more as the words flow. Then I pause. I take a pensive breath and write the next section with intention, repeating this process until I am done.

Then I read and fine-tune the completed piece. When the words are as I want them to be, I spell-check and then proofread using text-to-speech software. I do a final spellcheck, and I am done. This editing, tweaking, and proofing phase doesn’t usually take too much time.

My goal is quality—on the first pass

It may take me a bit longer to write, but there’s a lot less editing on the back end. I like that.

People who write quickly produce a rough draft; people who write carefully produce the first drafts. Rough drafts require a lot of editing; first drafts usually need much less.

I prefer to invest more time writing in order for editing to go faster. Overall, this quality first approach takes me less time.

By Peter Lyle DeHaan

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, publishes books about business, customer service, the call center industry, and business and writing.

3 replies on “Should You Write for Speed or Quality?”

Well said. It is a preference I suppose. I like the distinction between a rough draft and a first draft. Either way it’s drafty. (I never noticed how many e’s are in the word preference.)

That’s interesting approach Peter and I like it very much that you chose to do what works for you. Also, you’re sharing helps me understand myself better because I’m a more thoughtful writer like you.
I used to correct as I went along and then another writer told me not to worry about it but simply to write and come back later to edit. I tried that and it did free more to get my thoughts out quicker.
One of the ways it helped me was when I started writing my book because I was too stumped by whether or not I said it right and over correcting. However, then I thought that was suppose to be the way we wrote.
I’m glad you wrote this because it frees me to try the different approaches depending on what I’m writing about.
One is not right or wrong, it’s works for you and what works for the writing project.
Keep up the good writing!

Sharon, I appreciate your comments and thoughts.

Using this approach to writing, tweaking as I write, I just completed the first draft of my book on Friday. (Next week, I plan to review the entire thing, from start to finish. I guess that will be my second draft!)

What do you think? Please leave a comment!