Personal tips and strategies for better writing
Gather Ideas First, Organize Them Later
Inspiration for a piece can hit suddenly, and rarely in the right way. The first stage of most pieces start as a haphazard collection of ideas and tangents written down before they’re forgotten. Don’t worry about organizing or focusing them in the start, just get them on a page.
Combine Different Ideas for Interesting Posts
Most ideas have been done before, to be honest. A good trick is playing with the ideas to write about them in new ways. They can be paired with similar yet technically different ones, or ideas from entirely different areas.
For instance, linked lists have been explained in plain terms many times before. But this piece explains linked lists with modern pop music.
Draft Early and Often
Start writing an early version as fast as possible. Take a little time when you can to update or improve on them. Posts can be built over a long period of time, as your availability and inspiration allow for.
Write Horrible First Drafts
All writing is horrible at the start, or at least not as good as it will be. Most of the quality comes from editing it afterwards, which usually brings in focus and style afterwards.
Break The Content Up
Each paragraph should focus around one basic idea or concept. Use headers and subheaders for sections. Always use actual lists for any times you’re just listing things out. If you can, mix in other media like images or blockquotes to add visual variety to help your readers stay interested.
If you see large, dense paragraphs make up most of your piece, you’re going to drive readers away since it’s like shoving a brick wall in their face.
Use a Grammer Checker
Grammarly and Hemingway are two popular choices. They help edit down your writing for accuracy, clarity, and conciseness. It’s easy to get so used to a piece you overlook issues, and these tools help avoid that.
Answer Five Questions About Each Post
- Simple - Can you sum up the focus in a single sentence? Does the title capture what the article aims to do?
- Understandable - Will your intended audience know what to expect from this piece?
- Worthwhile - What benefit will the article bring the reader? What benefit will it bring them? A new trick or understanding?
- Achievable - Is the solution your article offers achievable? Impossible solutions are pointless for anyone to try.
- Difficult - Is the solution something people couldn’t easily figure out otherwise? Easy solutions make for insubstantial articles.
Correct Mistakes Without Shame
If you or someone else finds an issue, whether in grammar or content, don’t be afraid to own up to it and fix it if possible. Everyone makes mistakes, and acknowledging it with a correction makes you more trustworthy in the long run.
Publishing a post isn’t the end of its lifecycle. Content can be reused in many ways, such as:
- Follow-up pieces
- Reposting part of all of it on different platforms
- Sharing pieces, or perspectives on it, on social media
- Translating it to different mediums, like slideshows or talks
The Big Picture
Writing is more Than Article
Writing is more than just a full article or blog post. It takes lots of different forms, such as:
- Comments on other articles
- Tweets, to your audience or specific users
- Chats with others, such as twitter chats or ones via Slack
- Encouraging emails or other messages
Writing is like a workout, there’s lots of different muscles involved. It takes a lot of different exercises put together to get in shape.
Don’t Compare Yourself to Others
Writing is not a zero-sum game, where someone must win while another loses. Some writers will reach and affect more people, that’s inevitable with so many people doing it. That’s entirely fine. It’s not about having the best effect out of everyone, it’s about contributing to the positive effect writing has as a whole.
A need for validation will only pull your writing away from your authentic voice. Plus no one likes anyone that’s too needy, in writing or anywhere else.
Pay it forward. Writing is about communication, and communication is a two-way street. That means it can’t be about you simply putting things online that people will rush towards as you silently watch.