5 Writing Tips from Someone Learning to Write
Now, you may ask, why should you listen to me? That’s obvious, ain’t it?! I am learning to write, right now, so who better to let you in on the secrets than someone riding out the journey as we speak?
Yep, that’s the first thing you need to do, and for good reasons too. First, writing, like any other craft or activity, requires discipline. Contrary to popular belief, writing does not much depend on inspiration. It depends on constantly crunching out ideas for stories. And that my friends, happens when you train yourself to do so.
I am not BS-ing you here. After I decided to take writing seriously, I started sitting down with my laptop every single day. The first couple of days were the worst. The blank screen gave me a headache pretty fast, so I switched to old-school notebook and Pilot G2. The headache subsided, but the notebook continued to glare at me with its blank pages none the less.
But then magic happened. I got an idea, and then the next idea, and now I can’t stop getting ideas! GUYS! I CAN’T STOP…. HELLPPP… I am thinking about the next article in the shower, while ordering my usual burrito bowl at Chipotle, and even in my dreams!
Here’s what you should do. Block out some time every day dedicated to writing only. Put it on your calendar if need be. This will create intention and will help you get in the mood. The key is to be consistent. How long or how much you write is insignificant at this stage. You may write for 5 minutes, or just one sentence, but the key is to continue to do this EVERY.SINGLE.DAY!
(Pro-tip: When just starting out, if you have no clue what to write, write whatever. Really… the sky is blue, the guy next door is too loud in the mornings… kid at Starbucks smells like pee… JUST WRITE! That’s all you have got to do — WRITE!)
Learn the Rules
I know the fad is to forget all the rules. That’s all nice and dandy, but in order to break the rules you need to first internalize the rules. It’s like playing the piano. First, you practice for years to learn the rules, and then you can bend or even break the rules as you please, and still make a captivating sound. I’m not a pianist, but I’m quite certain that most jazz pianists would agree.
Writing works much the same way. You see, each genre of writing has its own set of do’s and don’ts. You need to follow a certain pattern for an academic essay, different rules for short stories, and yet more different rules for novels, or blog posts, or ad copy, or a perfect pitch. Learn the rules first, then bend or break them as you see fit.
Research what you want to write whenever possible. For example, I am trying to write more blog posts, so I spend some time every day researching what makes a blog post stand out: a captivating post title, an unconventional first line, short paragraphs and short sentences, headers and sub-headers, lists and how-tos, etc., for example.
The Difference in Writing for the Web vs. Just “Writing”
Writing is a skill that needs to be developed over time. Think of writing as any other professional sport, and you are a rookie player trying to reach the championships. As an athlete, you must train to perfect your craft.
And in 2020, just a few months ago, I created and launched a writing course just for teaching you internet writing standards. It’s a huge market need. Over 90% of our writing applicants at Express Writers don’t know how to structure and write for the internet.
Learn to Write Like a Pro: 9 Lessons that Will Help Your Writing Seriously Shine
It’s also more than the debate between whether or not to use semicolons. George Bernard Shaw says, “Do not use semicolons at all.” Other famous grammarians have agreed with his statement.
1. Tools: How Writers Set Themselves Up for Success
As a professional writer, the computer is the vessel in which you communicate. Most jobs require using the classic Microsoft Word coupled with the internet for extensive research.
Not only does this save memory on your computer, but now you can look at your screen without being overwhelmed.
2. Very Important: Set Routine for More Success
3. Before Writing: Research, Outlines and Structure
Outlines are the backbone of any written piece. They are a place to put down ideas and build on them with supportive evidence. They will also guide you through the writing process.
Content writers often learn to write on a variety of different subject matter. As the author, you must become an expert on the topic at hand and adjust your tone as needed. Every professional writer also becomes a professional researcher. You start as a student, and then transform into the teacher. A main part of learning to write is sifting through the internet to source from new, relevant and informative information that applies to your topic.
4. During Writing: Creating Engaging Content
All it takes is one word to begin and you’ll find your fingers swiftly typing away, and for this stage of writing, you should let them. Try to avoid editing yourself as you go. You can refine after you get your ideas down.
Creating engaging content doesn’t mean succumbing to cheap tactics without providing any quality material. Solid content is the opposite of clickbait. While “50 Proven Ways to Lose 10 lbs by Next Week” is appealing, a reader quickly loses interest once they figure out it’s just an ad for a diet pill.
- Put your audience first. You’ve probably heard the expression, “walk a mile in someone else’s shoes.” Try reading your blog through someone else’s perspective. Write for the reader above all else without getting bogged down by the latest SEO trends.
- Use a persuasive (not overbearing) tone. Online content is written with the purpose of selling an idea, brand or object. However, as a content writer you are not the typical salesperson. There is no need to convince the audience with flashy gimmicks. Find out what’s important to your readers and use those factors to support your arguments.
- Catch the reader with your hook. With the average attention span at eight seconds, you have limited time to keep your viewers reading on. Learning to write a killer intro for a blog or webpage, will grasp your reader’s attention. Don’t be afraid to make it conversational, be funny or start with a shocking statistic.
- Make it personal. The small, intimate details are what will set your writing apart from anyone else. It brings your anecdotes to life and allows the reader to feel like you are sharing something with them. It’s the difference between writing, “I went to the grocery store to pick up some chips” and “I went to HEB to snag a bag of Salsa Verde Doritos.” The details are what makes your writing you.
- Demonstrate your examples. Another common use of this phrase is “show your work.” If you say that popsicles are the number one snack for adolescents, then prove it. Provide readers with relevant links and sources to support your claims. Practice what you preach by giving readers no other choice than to believe you.
5. After Writing: Editing, Proofreading and Optimizing
What comes after the big task of writing, distinguishes great writers from the rest. The after writing stage is just the beginning of the editing stage. Editing is a crucial part of every writing process, especially when it comes to creating online content.
As a content writer, your work is two-fold. The content first and foremost needs to be high-quality, engaging writing. However, it also must be optimized to rank high in search engines. The editing process provides the time to refine headings, check your use of the keyword, hit the target word count and optimize the rest of the document based on the client’s needs.
Remember Done Is Better than Perfect
No piece of writing will ever be perfect – you have to know when it’s time to let it go. This is especially important in content marketing, because you’ll rarely (if ever) have the luxury of crafting agonizingly beautiful blog posts full of poignant sentences and evocative imagery. As you become more confident, the “writing” part of writing will become easier and faster, but never lose sight of the fact that deadlines, or editorial calendars, are just as much your masters as any boss or manager.
Summary: How to Improve Your Writing Skills
- Brush up on the basic principles of writing, grammar and spelling.
- Write like it’s your job and practice regularly.
- Read more so you develop an eye for what effective writing looks like.
- Find a partner. Ask them to read your writing and provide feedback.
- Join a workshop, meetup, or take a writing night class.
- Take the time to analyze writing you admire.
- Imitate writers you admire.
- Outline your writing.
- Edit your writing.
- Accept that first drafts are often bad and revise.
- Find an editor who demonstrates patience.
- Eliminate unnecessary words from your writing.
- Review your earlier work and see how you’ve grown.
- Don’t be afraid to say what you mean in what you write.
- Make sure you do adequate research on your topic.
- Don’t delay writing. Get it done now.
Meet The Author
Originally from the U.K., Dan Shewan is a journalist and web content specialist who now lives and writes in New England. Dan’s work has appeared in a wide range of publications in print and online, including The Guardian, The Daily Beast, Pacific Standard magazine, The Independent, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, and many other outlets.
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