Re: SIAI: Donate Today and Tomorrow

From: BillK (
Date: Sun Oct 24 2004 - 11:30:26 MDT

On Sun, 24 Oct 2004 10:54:17 -0400, Eliezer Yudkowsky wrote:
> <snip>
> But oh, the time required! Gobs and endless gobs of time! I shudder just
> to think of it. And *it might still not work*, and I'd *still* have to do
> all the FAI theory and I wouldn't be as young when I did. All my life has
> taught me the value of not being distracted. That's why I account it a
> last resort.
> I wish I wasn't such a slow writer. It would open up more options. But
> that's not something I've figured out how to change.

Ah, you are probably writing like the scribes of Ancient Egypt. :)

Stand back and think laterally for a minute. With all our modern
technology and literary training, what techniques do we have that
might speed up the process?

You may be confusing the research and thinking process with the
writing process. They are not the same thing and don't have to be done
at the same time. Once you have done the research, the actual writing
can indeed be done more efficiently.

You can research this for yourself, now that I've drawn your attention
to it, but here are a few suggestions.

First, you don't have to do it all yourself.
The most prolific authors dictate to a secretary or voice recorder.
The menial job of keying all the data into a word processor is then
taken away from you. The secretary can also do grammar and spell
checking, page layout, etc.

Second, it's one thing to be a writer, it's quite another actually doing it.
For many, writing well in a compressed period of time seems impossible.
But you can write quickly and write well.

Here are some hints that might help.

# Do the research first. Collect your facts and examples. Research
thoroughly before you begin writing. Get what you need to address who,
what, when, where, why, and how. Be sure to verify names, titles, and
anything else you'll need to include.

# Organize your research data. Make a map connecting each piece of information.
It might be a simple or elaborate outline -- whatever works for you.
Write the headings on 3 x 5 cards and organize your research
(clippings, notes, etc.) beside each card.

# Write it / Dictate it. Quickly. Stack your research and start
working through the pile as fast as you can. Don't worry about
transitions or try to write perfectly the first time. Relax, have fun,
and get something into the word processor. Just keep writing all the
thoughts that occur as you work through your research, even if they
are incomplete.

# Leave it. Walk away. When you've exhausted your research pile and/or
feel you're struggling, stop. Take a break. Let it cool off. Your
secretary will do all the transcribing while you have a run round the

# Clean it up afterwards. Good writing is concise. Use no more and no
fewer words than necessary. Cut the fluff. No matter how magical a
phrase seems, cut it if it doesn't fit the flow or the core point.
Rewrite and rearrange your paragraphs. Often a buried paragraph makes
the best lead. Double check your facts and attribute all your quotes.

# Say what you need to say and then stop! Stick to the point and don't
write past it.

# Read what you've written out loud and fix what doesn't sound right.
The ear hears what the eye misses. You will be amazed at how this
dramatically improves the quality of your writing.

# Know when to let it go. Stop tweaking it to death. You're good at
what you do so have confidence in what you've written.

Best wishes, BillK

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