We often discuss the concept of content marketing – what type of articles you should be writing, or means of distribution to ensure your blog will be read – but rarely do we go into the gritty detail of how to write content.
Given how often it is stressed that marketers need to ensure that their content is as reader-friendly as it can be – it´s all about the user experience, so it is – it´s perhaps a little strange that we don´t go into more detail about what comprises high quality writing.
Perhaps it supports theories that we´re moving away from the written word, with video and other visual content types shown on numerous occasions to have a higher Click-Through Rate (CTR) than purely text (tweets with images receive 18% more clicks, 89% more favourites and 150% more retweets, according to Buffer).
However, whilst it´s hard to argue with the statistics, images and videos often don´t work exclusively of the written word. I mean, even when a brand creates a video that is intended to work as a sole piece, a written script will be relied upon – there´s only so much ad-libbing markers and actors alike will be able to get away with.
But as any writer will testify (unless they are either superhuman or supercilious), writing doesn´t always come easy. If you write for a living, you´d hope that you have days when it all seems to flow, with words and ideas seemingly falling over each other. However, what about for those ´off´ days?
An article on the Inc. website certainly makes for interesting reading. Contributor Andrew Griffiths, who claims to have written 20 books and 3,000 articles over 20 years, offers up some tips for those of us who are prone to running into a writing wall on a Wednesday afternoon…
1. Try and visualise your reader
Frankly, as you sit down to write a piece you should have a clear picture in your mind of what your reader looks like. Otherwise, how do you confidently go about selecting the tone to adopt for the piece or the level at which to pitch the article? If you´re struggling to construct an image of your audience in your mind, it might mean going back to the drawing board. Once you do, though, you´ll be amazed by how easily things start to, just, flow…
2. Keep the tone consistent
Look back at previous articles: is there a definite and consistent voice emanating out from the posts? Here at M2 we have adopted a chatty-but-informative style, which hopefully opens the articles up to everyone. Maintaining that style is crucial so that your readers know what to expect – if we suddenly go ultra-serious on them, for example, what would that mean for the prospect of them reading our next piece?
3. If it isn´t working, shelve it
If you get to the stage that any old excuse is enough to distract you away from the page, you might be best to set aside writing of that article for a day or so. It depends what type of person you are, though – if you´re easily distracted, persistence might be key. If you rarely find yourself succumbing to distractions, however, give it 15 minutes, then move on and go back to it another day.
<4. Keep an anecdote and ideas diary
Keeping a diary is often one those things you set out to do but never get round to. When it comes to writing it can prove damn handy, however, as not only will the anecdotes make for some great intros (the most important bit, of course) but the ideas will also plug those gaps in your imagination when you´re having a bit of a slow day.
5. Concentrate solely on writing
Multitasking comes easy to us nowadays – it has to. Often we can´t afford to merrily go about our work without checking emails, or taking calls, but are they detracting from being able to write our best work? Yes, says Griffiths, who says he has tried writing while multitasking many times and has yet to be able to replicate the quality of work when he is in the writing ´zone´. So, minimise that email tab for an hour and see how you go.
6. Get a second opinion
Griffiths calls striving for perfectionism a “convenient form of procrastination”. We´d be inclined to agree with him – it´s much easier, of course, to read over all that wonderful copy time and time again rather than get to work on finishing the article. It´s a tactic we´re all guilty of once in a while, but the truth is you´re wasting valuable time. Instead, tell yourself that you´re going to leave that fault-finding mission to an editor, allowing you to concentrate on the important stuff – the actual writing.
At M2 Bespoke, we are lucky enough to have a team of writers who can bounce ideas off each other. All our writers are tasked with editing each other´s work too, which helps eliminate errors and ensures readability.
However, before they set to work on a piece they, too, have to take the time to map out how an article is going to unfold in their heads. That initial idea generation process is something all writers have to grapple with, regardless of whether they´re part of a pack of scribblers or a lone wolf.
So, what tips do you have for writers tasked with producing content time and time again? Whether you´re a writer or a marketer, generating ideas is a big part of what you do, after all.