They say that every writer’s worst enemy is a blank page. I say every writer’s worst enemy is an impatient reader.
After hours or days of writing, getting zero page views, likes, shares, comments, or tweets are enough to get a writer sinking into depression and losing self-worth.
The solution here is actually easier than you think. No, you don’t need to go to writing workshops or get yourself in writing rehab (if that exists) – you have to style your content that will catch and hold the attention of your impatient reader.
As an art, writing has a few disciplines that remain consistent all throughout. Whether you’re a blogger, a web content writer, a novelist, or anyone who wants to write for a living, these keys to content writing below can help you become a better pro writer—no matter what writer hat you’re wearing. Of course they aren’t easy, but no one ever said being better at anything was going to be easy.
1. First Impression
Remember that you’re dealing with an impatient reader. Your article is not a suspense movie starring (insert your ultimate actor crush here) that they’ll seat through for 2 hours.
Don’t be too mysterious or dramatic in your first paragraph, instead keep it short and simple. This is where the “inverted pyramid” style of writing comes in. Let your reader know what they’ll be getting in the rest of your article by putting the most important things or your conclusion in your first paragraph. Don’t worry, they won’t hate you for being a spoiler.
The reality is, readers don’t actually ‘read’, they scan. Rather than getting frustrated by the fact that people nowadays are not fond of reading anymore, you need to adjust to their fondness of scanning.
Aside from catching the attention of your reader with your first paragraph, use the following styling to make your article scannable:
- Subheadings. Break down your article with mini headlines for a better first impression. Again,
- don’t be too mysterious. Use words for your subheadings that will also attract attention.
- Bulleting/Numbering. Long paragraphs look like they’ll take an eternity to read from start to end.
- Instead, bullet/number your key points to make it easier on the eyes of the reader.
- Bold/Italicize/Underline. If you have specific words or phrases that you want to give special attention to, make use of text formatting. Your reader will easily pick it out as important information.
3. Length of the Article
Imagine getting stuck in an elevator with someone who just can’t stop talking, annoying right? That’s the same thing with writing – the less you write, the better.
Readers don’t care if you can write perfect multiple sentence conjunctions. They want information, and they want it fast. If you realize that you’ve written a long paragraph, find a way to reduce it and contain fewer conjunctions.
In some cases, longer blog posts is just unavoidable. Hubspot wrote an article to answer this age-long question on how long should blog posts be.
Bonus Tips for Better Writing
Don’t wait for inspiration, chase it.
Sometimes with a baseball bat, or, as Jack London said in his original quote, “with a club.” When you have ho-hum topics and deadlines for them looming over your neck—or worse, no ideas whatsoever—you don’t really have any options here. Not as far as inspiration is concerned.
It’s won’t look as cinematic as a Rocky Balboa training montage (nor as inspiring, probably), but do what you have to do to finish what you need to. Research online. Take a walk to clear your head. Watch people. Hug your dog while researching online.
Then make sure you sit down and churn out those first few sentences. You’ll be surprised at how much smoother it gets once you get going.
Don’t correct yourself as you write, just go with it.
Part of the reason why it can be so hard to start writing anything is because we writers can be our own worst critic. This isn’t actually a bad thing, but when you start telling yourself a sentence is no good before you even write it down, you might end up with no sentences on a page. This is especially bad when you’re trying to write something in 140 characters or less.
When you’re ‘free-writing’, there’s nothing to it. As Ernest Hemingway put it, “all you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed”. Don’t worry about whether a certain word doesn’t fit a sentence, or whether you should use a comma or a colon or a double dash. Spill your thoughts on your chosen medium and let it all out.
Without any obstacles to trip and bump on—such as your own editorial voice—you’ll find yourself with enough raw material to express whatever idea you needed to.
Once you’re all thought out, then it’s time to unleash your inner editor.
Whether you’re a blogger, an aspiring novelist, or both, make sure you write every day. It doesn’t have to be a whole story or a finished post, but it does have to be something. One writer is known to write 10 pages a day no matter what. Some of those pages may have been heavily corrected or scrapped entirely, but this dedication has led him to write more than 60 novels—such as the Shining, It, and Carrie. With discipline like that, it’s no wonder Stephen King is so prolific.
Everyone has the same number of hours in a day: you, Barack Obama, Beyonce, and that person next to you in a coffee shop. It’s been said over and over, but if you want to be productive, being disciplined and keeping focused are your two best weapons. Even inborn talent is nothing without those two, so sit down, maybe listen to your favorite music, and write. Just for a while. Every day.
Read as much as you write.
“If you don’t have the time to read, you don’t have the time (or tools) to write. Simple as that.” It couldn’t have been blunter, but Stephen King couldn’t be more right. Reading influences your writing in ways that can’t be accomplished by regular teaching methods.
You can be taught to write correctly as far as grammar and structure are concerned, but it’s almost impossible to be taught inspiration, the magic of language, or the feel of whatever genre you want to write in.
These things are only imparted when you read. There isn’t a musician alive (or dead!) that didn’t listen to music themselves and still call themselves musicians. Anything you read and enjoy reading has a good many advantages for any writer, and I’m listing some of them down for you:
- It influences your style and helps you develop your own
- It widens your vocabulary in an infinitely more fun way that reading a dictionary
- It introduces you to the thought processes of the masters (so they can rub off you)
You can’t hope to sweep someone else with the force of your writing until it’s been done to you—and yes, Stephen King said that too.
Don’t stop at writing
Content marketing services involve a lot more work aside from writing scannable content. Even if you have a very well-written content, it doesn’t “exist” if nobody knows about it. Share it in your social media accounts and write copies that would make Oscar-winning movie trailers envy.
If these tips sound like harsh truths (though there are plenty of those in the world of writing), don’t be overwhelmed. Being able to take these tips and deliver is what takes your brand from content marketing novice to one that can actually use content to drive ROI!
How about you? What simple tricks do you use to lure in impatient readers to read your content?