- Read a lot
- Write a lot
- Read and write a lot
OK, there you have it. Now go forth into the world and write your heart out!
Right, there’s a bit more to it than that. Isn’t there? Obviously, being highly literate definitely helps anyone. But as an article writer, constantly taking in new ideas is very important. Too often, we as writers just get stuck for what to write. The funny thing is, you never actually run out of things to write about. It’s just that any writer can get stuck on how to write about what they want to write about.
Appease the Skimmers
Especially in the online world, most readers do exactly what we writers don’t want them to do. That is, they skim. So, what do you do to appease the skimmers? People like sub-headings and little blocks of text that drive home important parts. Sometimes when reading an article online, those little blocks of text even allow us to share this bit of wisdom as a 140-character tweet. Then, you can make a button for anyone to share it with the world. It makes you look so smart!
Basically, something like 80 to 90 percent of online readers aren’t going to read every single word you write. It’s not quite that way for ebooks and traditional paperback and hardcover books. But even then, you still have to make your reading easily digestible. Whether it’s a good thing or not, most readers just don’t sit there and digest writing one word at a time. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t.
You’ve probably heard the saying, easy reading is hard writing, or something to that effect. No one is quite certain who said it first, but it’s true. If you’re writing online, it’s even harder. Why’s that? Because it’s harder to stand out among all of the millions of articles being published daily. So what you have to do is please both crowds: the skimmers and the close-readers. Yes, the majority of your readers will probably be skimmers when it comes to search engine traffic. But for the serious, critical members of your audience, your attention to detail will not go unappreciated.
You Can’t Make Everyone Happy. Just Make Sure They Can Learn Something.
While it’s important to find that balance of making your writing easy to skim, but also detailed and engaging enough to be search-engine friendly and useful to anyone who reads it, no matter how closely. Essentially, you want every reader that comes across your writing to take something away from it. This doesn’t mean making everyone happy. Don’t spend every last second furiously checking a thesaurus. And don't get stuck rewording the same sentence a dozen times until it sounds “perfect.” Make your points as well and as concisely as you can and move on to the next topic. Don’t get hung up.
So what if you do get hung up? What if it’s an assignment and it keeps getting sent back for revision? Well, if it’s worth your time, then just make the edits that you can and move on. The worst thing that can happen is to get burnt out on one piece. As a writer, that is very bad. Writers need to write. This is why writer burnout happens.
Some clients, venues, and some readers are simply never going to be satisfied with anything. Once you keep that in mind, you’ll understand which clients and venues are worth working for and which aren’t. Micromanaging as an editor may be fine in some cases, but sometimes you just write what you can. You can’t beat yourself up over any one piece. There will be plenty more to be written.
Learn All You Can, Even If You Don't Think You Need It
You've probably heard of always trying to venture outside of your comfort zone in both reading and writing. It's a good idea. Even reading fiction can give you article ideas! Diversifying your knowledge can only make you a better reader and writer. It can also help you to think of topics that you may never had considered before. Also, by reading all sorts of things, it opens you up to more writing opportunities.
Basically, to become a better writer, you need to read and write a lot. Sometimes you just have to write for the sake of putting thoughts together. It doesn't have to always be an assignment. In fact, reading and writing are like intense exercise for your brain. By exercising your brain more often, not only will you become more literate, but a more intelligent and thoughtful human being, as well.