There is a secret to how good you can become to write well.
In fact, there are 2 secrets to it.
And there is a guiding principle that is as old as a concept as it can be.
In short, the 2 secrets are:
1. you have to read, and
2. you have to write.
And the guiding principle is simply this:
You may be skeptical at my short answer, but the truth is, the 3 steps together form the bedrock of best content writing.
Rabindranath Tagore, the first non-European to win the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1913, was a prolific writer. His voluminous works include poems, novels, short stories, dramas, paintings, drawings, and also music.
I give Tagore’s example here not because he is a literary genius, but for the reason that he worked on many disciplines, and left behind a massive amount of work in his lifetime.
More than 100 years have passed since his Nobel, but he is still admired as much for the quality of work as for the quantity.
There wasn’t a moment, one would say, when he didn’t do something creative. Such was his love and passion for that! See the image below (source) which is an artwork accompanying a letter.
Secret 1 – You Have to Read
I’m a great believer in the mathematical expression –
Output ∝ Input
But I’m not the only person who believes that to write well depends a lot – in fact completely depends – on how much you are reading.
Stephen King, considered one of the most successful writers alive, held this view on the relationship between reading and writing:
Can I be blunt on this subject? If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.
Another luminary, Warren Buffet once said:
I just sit in my office and read all day.
On how to get smarter, Buffet’s formula is to read a lot (500 pages) because that’s how knowledge builds up, like compound interest.
How do you benefit as a reader?
In today’s web scenario these are the minimum that you gain when you read a lot:
- You will be in touch with the latest that is happening in your field
- You will know the views of experts in your field and what the other readers like you have to say
- You will know the style of writing and presentation of contents on the web
- You will get first-hand idea of what the viewers want in your field
Take a step back and read the 4 points again.
It should be clear that when you read a lot you improve your chances of writing something of value for your readers.
There is a fifth benefit that accrues to you which I guess is equally important if not more.
To give an example I have referred to at least 19 resources to write this article which I had collected in recent past (just check the outgoing links).
Secret 2 – You Have to Write
Hardly ever, if at all, will you write something really great in your first attempts.
The litany of woes for writers is long.
None makes it easier than writing a lot.
In the words of Molly Backes, an accomplished teacher and novelist, when asked what a wannabe writer should be doing:
You really do have to write a lot. I mean, that’s mostly it. You write a lot.
I have seen many people avoiding to write much because they think they won’t have many viewers to read them.
This is a mistake.
Writing helps you connect your thoughts with words and give them a meaning that people understand and can relate to.
The journey from just-writing to great-writing is long and tortuous.
And believe me it will be littered with your repeated attempts to improve upon what you wrote last.
To quote Molly Backes again:
I swear there’s no magic trick, no simple solution, no get-writerly-quick scheme. You have to write a lot of words. You have to write your heart out. And in the end, you discover that the writing’s what matters. Writing is its own reward. I promise.
There is no shortcut really.
Remember You Already Have It in You
Sometime back I came across the above comment, and I felt sad.
I think he writes fairly well, given that English is his second language (mine too by the way). I also believe he writes rather frequently – look at how he composed the sentences.
This man is looking for advice, which I think is rather an irony.
Success expert Brian Tracy once said:
Nothing in the world is more common than unsuccessful people with talent.
Don’t let your writing skill remain unnoticed, for talent in darkness is no talent at all.
In the words of Yann Girrard:
The only thing I know is that the only way you’ll become a better writer is to write.
Finally, here is the memorable advice from Copyblogger’s Brain Clark to become a better writer (image source):
Write More, Gain Even More
A study by HubSpot has found that:
Companies that blogged 16+ posts per month received 3.5 times more traffic compared to those that published between 0 – 4 monthly posts.
See the graphic below.
If you’re less concerned about inbound traffic there is still a strong reason for you to want to write.
Scientific research have found that:
No matter the quality of your prose, the act of writing itself leads to strong physical and mental health benefits, like long-term improvements in mood, stress levels and depressive symptoms.
The good effects of writing do not require you to be an expert.
One study says that:
Blogging might trigger dopamine release, similar to stimulants like music, running and looking at art.
Motivation Comes from Clear Thinking (and Planning)
I began by asking what’s the best way to write best contents. Let me qualify that by modifying the question as under:
What are the best ways to write consistently?
Well, we discussed you have to read, and you have to write.
But are they enough to motivate you to write consistently?
In my experience, there are 5 crucial factors that play part in writing consistently over a long time.
1. Do you know your topic?
I can’t say enough on this point. Ideally you should look at 3 factors here –
a. Your topic shouldn’t be too broad
b. It shouldn’t be too narrow
c. It should relate to your main business objective
Let me give an example.
Let’s say your business is about leisure tourism in Panama.
The question to consider is, should you focus only on places to see, or should you also write on food and culture, engaging with local people, local rituals, indigenous crafts, and things like that.
These make sense because an average tourist wants to know about the people of that place.
Taking a broader view, you may venture to write on real estate possibilities in Panama since you supposedly know that a few wealthy tourists may be interested in that.
Whatever you do, keep a balance in your contents so that you don’t lose sight of the main business objective.
2. Do you know the purpose of your writing?
You write something so that people read them. Right?
Usually people read something when it does at least one of the three:
a. it helps learn something (education), or
b. it informs something (information), or
c. it inspires to do something (inspiration).
When writing a new post, ensure that you go deep into one of these 3 triggers.
If you fail in this, your target readers may turn away from your writings.
3. Do you hoard lots of resources?
A writer needs no bigger a tool than hoarding inputs. ~Anonymous
I briefly mentioned earlier about linking out to 19 resources in this post.
Yes, these resources gave me ideas to write this post, but first off, I had to hoard them in safe place so that I can access them when I want.
Hoarding, aka bookmarking, is an essential piece in the jigsaw puzzle of consistent writing.
Pocket is a great tool to store away the good resources you come across on the web. It has free extensions for both Chrome and Firefox browsers, and also for small screens.
This is how my ‘Pocket’ looks like for my travel list.
4. Do you have a plan for writing?
Planning is the buzzword for the content writers in the corporate world. It makes sense for them since each piece of content needs involvement of several activities starting from incubation and ending at social media promotion.
There are great tools for corporate content writers like CoSchedule (image above) that turns marketing plans into real content with marketing calendars. CoSchedule also has a popular plugin for WordPress that is updated frequently.
This is what I do. Take a look at the following image of an Excel sheet.
Whenever I come across a good resource and I feel I can write a post in my own style, I put it in Pocket. And then I include that in the Excel sheet as above.
For each topic I have 3 columns –
» the likely page title,
» the likely article title, and
» the resource I’m going to refer to.
My topic list is fairly large (thinking of pruning it down).
I mostly write articles that go deep into a subject, making it easy for small do-it-yourself entrepreneurs to understand and replicate.
5. Do you have a schedule for writing?
Content scheduling is a part in the process of content planning for corporate sector. Not so for small websites.
Even so, you need some kind of schedule to adhere to.
So you may fix 4 days in a week for writing – let them be Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday.
On the evening before, decide the topic you’re going to write (you already have a list of topics ready).
Why empty stomach?
Because studies have proved that hunger is associated with advantageous decision making.
There is more to best content writing than what meets the eye.
For all that any piece of content does, the common denominator is the same.
Which is to attract and sustain visitors’ interest.
Quality of content has to be seen and understood. More importantly, from business perspective, the flow of content should ideally lead inward traffic to conversion along what is called the C-T-P-M tunnel.
Tell us what you think about best content writing.
Is it just an aggregation of words and sentences, or is there something more to it?
Share your thoughts in the comments below.