Would you say you’re an efficient medical writer? Or are you a writer who is easily distracted?
Lately, I’ve been trying to write more efficiently – essentially trying to be more organised, more productive and less distracted.
During this “efficiency project”, I’ve become well aware of the fact that efficiency starts way before the writing process even begins.
As writers, we have one thing in common: we all start out with a blank document. That’s usually where the commonality ends – the process of how we deal with that blankness varies tremendously. Yet it’s what happens outside of this writing process that can have the greatest influence on our efficiency.
What do I mean by this? Well, as you know, the art of writing isn’t just typing out words. Writing involves requirements gathering, background research, interviewing and reflection.
Benefits of being an efficient writer
Firstly, why should you care about efficiency? Here’s how it can benefit you both personally and professionally:
- Smooth completion of work – and when work runs smoothly you’re likely to feel in control, balanced and happier
- Writing projects don’t drag on – the longer you’re working on something, the more chance there is for enthusiasm to waver and burnout to kick in
- Happy clients, editors and employers – satisfied customers and co-workers can help to boost your work and financial prospects
- Positive feedback – testimonials and recommendations can be motivating as well as helpful in marketing your business if you’re a freelance medical writer
- Ability to take on more work – the more organised you are, the more work you can take on which can translate to increased income.
Start with requirements gathering
As I mentioned above, efficiency begins before you start writing – at the requirements gathering stage.
I just finished working on week 3 of my freelance medical writing course, and one of the modules was about efficient writing.
One of the points I really emphasised to my students was the importance of ensuring that you have all your requirements defined before you start writing.
This is true for any writing project – large or small. In order to be as prepared as possible before you start writing, you need to feel confident you have collected every piece of information you need.
Some if not all of the following will be required:
- A completed brief – a series of questions outlining every aspect of the core requirements of the project, as detailed as possible, including everything from word count per page to key competitors
- Relevant research – any details of clinical trials that need to be included or referenced
- High-quality references – ensure you’re learning the facts about a new health topic from peer-reviewed medical journals, textbooks, government libraries and high-quality medical websites
- Expert interviews – prepare and conduct interviews with health experts or key opinion leaders
- Creative guidelines – tone of voice and brand guidelines
- Risk analysis – does your copy need to adhere to strict guidelines? Are you writing content for doctors? You’ll need to be aware of relevant local advertising guidelines
Gathering all of these requirements before you even start thinking about writing your project can save time and enable you to be more resourceful during your writing process.
Efficient writing does not mean fast writing
If you Google “efficient writing” you’ll find tons of articles that explain how to write faster or bang out 1,000-word blog posts in one hour. But that’s not what I mean by efficient writing.
Because, in health & medical writing, rushing just to get work completed as quickly as possible inevitably reduces the quality. And, as you know, quality and attention to detail are vital in our field.
For me, efficient medical writing means:
- Efficient requirements gathering – ensuring you have everything you need before you get started, so no time is wasted going back to your client, editor or project owner to clarify requirements
- Writing without distraction – turn off social media, close your email program, turn off your phone, and only listen to music if it helps not hinders
- Plan your day – block out time to complete various projects, and know in advance what you have coming up so nothing takes you by surprise
- Writing in your most efficient writing process – whether you write methodically from start to finish, do a brain dump of notes and then tidy them up, start writing bullet points or have another writing process, do some trial and error to determine the type of writing process that works most effectively for you
- Writing with a clear head – when you feel confident and happy about your writing, you’ll produce great work – yet if you’re feeling stressed, anxious, overworked and tired, take some time away from writing to bring the balance back.
What are your best efficiency tips?