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April 15, 2015 - Posted to Writing
10 Essential Writing Process Tips – Yes, Another List, but This One’s Important!
Most of us either love or hate to write – there does not seem to be much middle ground, unless the topic is really exciting to a reluctant writer or one that is detested by a person who is normally quite prolific. Writing anything well, however, no matter what the genre, requires a process, and even the most reluctant writer who must produce paper writing for a course assignment can make the entire distasteful task easier by following a step-by-step process. And for those who are in the business of writing for a living (blogs and other web content), the right process is really necessary. So here are ten steps that every writer must adopt, though the details may vary based upon the purpose.
- Select a topic and a theme/thesis: This goes without saying. Nothing happens until there is something to write about. A student or a content writer must also have a thesis, otherwise there is no purpose to what is written. Often bloggers will select a theme for several posts over a period of time. Questions to ask, in order to get a thesis or a theme are: Why is what I am writing about important for others to know? What is the point I am trying to make or the opinion I am trying to present?
- Conduct a keyword search. For the student, the topic search will reveal important and perhaps the most current resource materials. For content writing, the keyword search will reveal which term(s) are the most popular or most shared. Select one of these and be certain to use it in the title of your article or post.
- Do the Research: For the student, this is a familiar task; for the content writer, it should be equally as familiar. If you want appear to be an authority or expert on the topic, then you must sound like one when you write. “Fluff” verbiage is not acceptable to the classroom instructor, and it certainly is not acceptable to a web audience that is looking for trustworthy information or education. And just as the student must cite his/her resources, content writers should be able to provide links to support the facts and data they are providing. Credibility is established over time, and it is established with fresh content that is backed up by other experts and authorities.
- Organize Your Content: For most types of writing, the outline is the best organizer, because it allows you to sequence your sub-topics logically and to include detail of what you will want to include in each of those sub-topics. Outlines do not have to be formal structures, unless an instructor is demanding to see it. They can be as simple as a numbered list of topics followed by notes to yourself of what you intend to include. Constructing an outline and using it as you write keeps your thoughts organized, and your writing will reflect that organization.
- Determine the Format Before You Write: This is the point at which academic and content writing will go into different directions:
Students will be provided a specified format for their essays and research papers, for font, spacing, margins, and both in-text and end-of-text citations. It is easier to follow this format when writing the rough draft, because revising for the final draft will so much easier.
- For the content writer, format often mean choosing the platform. To succeed in professional blogging, for example, a platform should be selected that allows easy editing and re-arranging, a variety of fonts, bold, italics, underline, and color features, etc. It should also allow easy uploading of images, which are a must, in order to captivate and keep reader attention. You will also want the ability to add tools such as sharing on social media, allowing responses and conversations, etc. WordPress is probably the best current platform for great blog posting.
- Write it Up: It’s “show time.” Take your outline and your notes and write the rough draft of your essay, paper, or content. Don’t worry too much about perfect grammar and punctuation at this point. If you have a good grammar and spell-check function within your word processing software or content platform, a lot of your mistakes will be caught and you can fix them quickly. But don’t count on these functions to catch everything, because they clearly do not.
- Review and Edit: Your best bet? Get someone else to read it – someone who is a good writer. Editing your own writing almost never works, because you are kind of “attached” to it and will miss errors in coherency, sentence structure, etc. And remember, scholarly style is correct for the classroom; it is not correct for web content. It must be simple, entertaining, and informal.
- Get a Great Title: Your title can be boring or it can be enticing. Which would you prefer as a reader? Academic works may “get away” with a less than engaging title, but content writing will not. A huge “draw” for readers who want to be informed and/or entertained is that title. Most articles and posts go unread because their titles lure no one.
- Media and Images: Here, we say good-bye to the student, for the last two writing tips apply only to content writers. Content without at least one really compelling or humorous image does not draw readers. You can use really unique original images if the quality is good. Otherwise, go online and find some great stock photos (or pay the small price for others) that relate to your content and captivate.
- Optimize, Publish, and Promote: SEO optimization is a matter of having images, titles and subtitles, bullet points, CTA’s, images and links to other related sites, as well as having your keyword in your title, your content, and in your meta-description. Publishing is self-explanatory. Get it up on the blog or submit it to article directories. Promotion involves key placement on social media that will actually get others to promote it by sharing the post with their “friends.” Get colleagues and friends to post it and share it; you and the same colleagues and friends should send out Twitter “teasers” with a link to the post. As you become more adept at this content writing, you will begin to learn many more strategies for promotion, so learn and keep current.