Writing can seem like an overwhelming task for any marketer. Adding structure to your thoughts and presenting them in a way people enjoy makes for good content writing. As content marketing becomes the most important marketing skill to have, creating content has suddenly taken the front seat. It is THE quality that any good marketer needs to possess to be successful at his job.
Let’s look at a few tips before going on to understand the three most important stages of writing.
Before You Write
- Read a few samples
This step is significant when writing for a brand, client or person. When writing for your own blog it’s easy to explore new structures. When content writing for others, you are expected to encapsulate the voice and design of the brand.
Read a few samples of their pre-existing work before you sit down to write for them. This process will ensure that you are tuning to the same frequency.
- Emulate styles
Reading is the first step to writing. Spend a lot of time reading books, newspapers and reliable blogs. When you read the work of others, you subconsciously learn sentence structures and writing formats. This practice is equivalent to going for a run to keep your fitness levels high.
Hereafter, make mental (or written) notes of the work that you find creditworthy. When you find an article that is too good to stop reading, dissect this work to see what makes it so attractive. Another way to find your voice is to slightly emulate the style of writers you like. While this is not the ideal way to create a voice, this will help you to carve out your own in a few weeks.
- Research hacks
Research is one of the most essential steps of content writing. This process adds credibility and authenticity to your work. Research is also the only way to fully understand which ideas would bring the most value to your readers. Here are a few suggestions:
- Use the time filter on Google Search. Once you hit Search for the topic, click on Tools and then filter by time. This tool filters articles based on week, year or month.
- Use a split-screen on your computer or phone to make notes as you read exciting points during your research. This will act as the outline of your work (discussed below).
- Keep handy a few links for images and quotes relevant to a topic.
Let’s now get to the most critical section — actually writing. Here are some strategies for creating a great first draft.
- Outline your work
This is one of the most crucial steps. Journalists and writers from around the world start all their work by first outlining. Write down the headings and subheadings on a blank page.
Later add some bullet points below each heading to indicate the information you would arrange in an order. Some writers also use a separate digital-notes file or notebook to make this outline. Here is a basic outline you can follow for content writing:
The introduction should offer a glimpse into what’s yet to come.
These are the first few paragraphs that establish the facts and points of the article. Most vital information should be given to readers in this part.
Elaborate on the points explained above and convince readers about your narrative.
Present examples, stories, anecdotes, case studies or statistics to drive the point home.
The wrap-up is supposed to tie the whole article into a neat bow. This part is where you share the takeaways, give parting tips or present a call to action.
- Refresh the basics
Over time, writing becomes like any other task; writers write as if on auto-pilot. When you reach this point, it’s important to jog your memory about the basics.
If you have just become a writer, then you should read about the basics of writing. Understand basic sentence structures and grammatical parameters. You do not need to enroll in a writing class, but pursuing a course every few months does help in keeping the writing muscles alive.
Ideally, every content writing enthusiast should own a copy of the book, The Elements Of Style, by William Strunk JR and EB White. This book proves to be an excellent guide for writers all along their career. .
- Faster writing hacks
Practically getting down to work is one of the most complex parts of writing. Here are some tips that will make this process simple:
- Use the same tool (Docs, Word, Notes-Application, etc.) each time you write. This practice reduces time as you get familiar with the keyboard shortcuts and formatting options.
- Work from a comfortable desk and seat yourself in a comfortable writing position.
- Writing is a habit; build one.
- Write the first draft without going back and correcting each spelling and typo; this helps you keep pace and write faster.
- Use the Pomodoro Technique to help you remain focused.
‘Writing without revising is the literary equivalent of waltzing gaily out of the house in your underwear.’ — Patricia Fuller
The first draft of content writing can never be the one you send out to publish. You will have to work on it a few times to eliminate any grammatical, syntax or spelling errors. Over time, you will see that your first drafts are getting better.
In Stephen King’s book, ‘On Writing’, he mentions how important it is to distance yourself from your work before you edit it. Do not jump right into editing after you finish writing. Give your mind the time to disconnect from the content and come back with a fresh perspective.
Remove, Reword, Rearrange, keep these three words in mind when you edit your work.
First, remove any words or sentences that do not add value to your article. These could be repetitions, overused words or incorrect sentences. Find a way to make every sentence as short as possible, and reduce words in the process.
Second, reword sentences or paragraphs to make them shorter. You should also check for consistency in the tense, voice and language type, for example, American English, UK English, etc.
Lastly, rearrange your sentences or paragraphs to make the final piece more meaningful. Ensure that there is a flow in content writing from top to bottom.
- Editing hacks
Here are a few hacks that can help you edit faster:
- Read your work aloud when you edit it.
- Increase the font size and font type when you edit.
- Use tools like Grammarly and Hemingway App to fine-tune your content.
- Use a Text-To-Speech tool online to listen to your writing. It helps you spot errors quickly.
- Seek help from friends or professional editors.
- Lastly, it demonstrates patience. Editing is an annoying and time-consuming process, so take time to edit.
You may make mistakes, but never stop writing. As author Richard Bach once said, “A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit.”
Writing takes time, effort and time (again!) to master. The more you work on it, the better you get at it. Write each day even if you have no content writing assignments to meet.
Everybody Writes by Ann Handley is another incredible book loaded with insights to make you a better writer. The book resonates with the philosophy, “Writing Can Be Learned”.