You may not realize it, but writers are everywhere. They work with lawyers, write instruction manuals, and almost every commercial and podcast is first structured by a writer. Whether it’s your primary skill or not, great writing is a cornerstone of effective communication. Harnessing this skill will benefit you greatly.
Disclaimer: I’m a young writer with a whole career ahead of me and an abundance of roadblocks to experience. I don’t have my 10,000 hours, but I have a degree centered on writing and write every day. Seasoned writers are years ahead of me, but I can definitely offer tips and pointers for the beginners.
As long as you’re writing, you’re improving. But here are some tips to accelerate that growth.
Read. Read again. And read some more.
Reading is probably the best avenue to build effective writing skills. Let’s use sports as an example. LeBron James has said multiple times that he used to watch tapes of Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan as a kid. Today, LeBron is a legend, he could retire right now and be in the NBA Hall of Fame tomorrow. Reading great, professional work is a writer’s version of watching film.
To grow your writing skills, you need to 1) read work from great writers 2) read within your own personal interests 3) read articles within your niche—i.e. science writers read Nature, bloggers read the HuffingPost—and 4) read from the best writers within that niche. Learning from your general interest, whether it be fiction, science, or politics, and meshing it with your industry style will grow your voice in your target market while adding personal flare.
Write. Write again. And write some more.
Try to write every day and establish a writing or even a creative routine. No writer has ever achieved perfection, but you will always come out a better writer afterwards—even after the most terrible session. Don’t always write for your work or livelihood, but write for yourself. Journal or start a personal blog, and maybe someday that blog will turn into income.
Grab attention and finish strong.
The average attention span in 2018 is roughly 8 seconds, not long enough to read your article. While the lead lacks detail and context, it’s one of the most crucial portions of your writing. If you’re struggling to think of a lead, finish the rest of the article and write the lead last. This will help you summarize and keep the creative juices flowing.
The last thing readers remember is the ending sentences. Save your finishing punchline and takeaways for the conclusion. Try to wrap it all up in an insightful ending so readers leave with clarity.
Pull your readers through the middle.
The middle section holds all the meat and is often the most informational; the whole purpose of your writing. Unfortunately, this is the same place where readers are lost. Keep the voice active, dense, and intense to pull readers to the next sentence. Every sentence should provide information, context, or insight. Plus, the shorter the article, the more likely it will be read to completion. Keep in mind, some stories still deserve a lengthy word count, but pick and choose sparingly. Writing is an art form and less of a means to an end.
Don’t be afraid to break rules and take chances.
But not all the rules.
With any creative, you have to think out of the box, try new things, knock down old barriers and build new ones. As long as your writing is not controversial, the worst thing that can happen is it sinks into the internet ocean, which will happen to even the best writers from time to time. But, it’s the great writing that people remember.
Never stop creating.
Actually, it’s okay to take a break. But when you get an idea, write it down, they can come from anywhere at any time. Even the simplest idea can turn into something special. Take Erin Chack’s story for example, when a simple article she wrote at BuzzFeed turned her into a Mediterranean sensation. Keep a notepad nearby or use your phone’s memo app to store any ideas when out of the office.
Criticism comes with any creative…it’s a vital part of the game. Take it to the chin, ignore the naysayers, and learn from the constructive critiques. And, remember…only bad writers write to please the world.