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Well, your current method is more or less right. There is no simple solutions to this. As an alternative, you could try to convert the text contours to shape layers (CS3) and use a Trim Paths modifier on each segment, but it, too, will take some fiddling. Likewise, for versions prior to CS3, you could convert the contours to masks, have each contour a separate layer and then use conventional linear and radial wipes to reveal the individual strokes, but this will not work for all letters. For contiguous strokes as in letters like S, consider using a matte which is based on the Stroke effect applied to a suitably aligned mask path (or, again on CS3, on a stroked path with a Trim Paths modifier). Same with Write-On. Ultimately you will have to combine these techniques to get the best result.
*edit - nm, didn't read the OP properly.
Thank you for the insight Mylenium.