Are there any resources / how-to sources about how to write Chinese characters faster than normal while still being readable? It took me forever to take notes while in class.
In restaurants (茶餐廳) in Hong Kong, the "waiters" also face this problem because writing in a formal and clear way takes too much time. They developed methods so that they can take orders faster:
Write words with other words that has the same pronunciation.
For example, instead of writing the word 「飯」(faan6), they would write 「反」(faan2) because they both have similar pronunciations.
Draw symbols instead of words.
Instead of writing 「叉燒」, writing 「╳燒」takes less time and is still readable.
Try to write with less strokes. Instead of writing a stroke by another, try this:
Use a mixture of Traditional Chinese and Simplified Chinese: (applies to people who are outside of mainland China, mainly for users of Traditional Chinese)
A good way to write faster, apart from to "practice, practice, and practice", is learning the order in which strokes are supposed to be written. This order tipically arises logically from the radicals that are used to build each character, and from the ancient traditional writing, e.g: engraving in wood or stone, and, mainly, using feathers or brushes & ink.
When you write with a feather on thin sheets of rice paper, it is materially very hard to perform some movements without piercing through, such as a full circle, or a right-to-left horizontal line. That is one reason why most ideograms that should be circular in nature, are actually drawn as squares. This is the case, f. i., of the "sun": 日 (rì). In writing so, boxes are drawn using two strokes: the left, top and right sides of the aquare in one single movement, and then closing the box at the bottom from left to right.
There are some other unwritten rules, like writing from left to right, top-down, and adding the dots at the end. But watch out, since these rules do not work 100% of the times. In Chinese calligraphy, the stroke order is very unintuitive, because the lines are usually drawn in the less logical of orders, for reasons that only experienced calligraphers can explain (such as achieving more graceful manners, or avoiding blurring the ink at crossings). It is always a good idea to learn how to draw some complex characters of frequent use, such as 我 (wŏ). After a bit of practice with these, most other will come around quite naturally. This simple practice will greatly increase your handwriting speed.
Anyhow, calligraphy by itself is considered a rightful art in mainland China, so it is naturally hard to master. There are many abbreviations for the most common strokes, and also different calligraphies that may be used, outside of the canonical one. Many chinese brand designers seem to think that, the more unreadable the font, the more beautiful it looks when printed. Like it's the case in western calligraphy, usually the most unreadable of all, are the notes taken by professionals, who have to write the same text, over and over again, like medics and chemists. Studying their calligraphy will yield hints on how to optimize your writing speed, once you achieve some average level.
There are a number of websites where beginners can learn the right stroke order, such as ArchChinese.
First, make sure you are writing in the correct stroke sequence.
Then, just try to write faster, and don't care the strokes to be connected. While, try to keep the connecting line as light as possible.
Chinese characters are understandable even if the strokes are connected as long as the stroke sequence is correct. The strokes in many Chinese handwriting computer fonts are connected.
Chinese handwriting computer font:
There are ancient people think exactly like you, so they developed
草書, see wiki.
It's like drawing the
shape instead of
detail, i.g. stcakexhacnge and stackexchange will looks like identity at first glance. There are no rules but depend on your mind, sometimes it can be master pieces.
Learn the simplified characters. That's what they're there for.
IMHO, they aren't easier to learn. But they ARE easier to write.