10 Tips to Writing Great Content and Finding your Voice
WRITE IT DOWN
I can’t stress this enough. Write. Document your life. It’s so easy to forget the day to day, so write it down. It doesn’t have to be profound, it just has to be for you. Sometimes I don’t journal because my thoughts aren’t composed the way I want them to be, sometimes I don’t know what to say. When you write, your thoughts start to organize naturally. When I am feeling upset or down about something if I start to write about it I start to see the positive side of the situation, and it helps me to feel better. Some people don’t like to write because they are afraid of what they might find. I say dive into the depths of your intellect and see what’s in there!
When you are journaling, that’s one thing. You can get all your thoughts out and it doesn’t have to be pretty, just get them down on paper. When you are writing for an audience, the game changes, now you have to make it make sense.
- Don’t censor yourself
Let your pen hit your paper or fingers hit the keys, just get started. Don’t edit along the way or censor what you have to say; just let the thoughts come out. Sometimes I get intimidated by my own ideas and think, “ I really want to write about this, but I don’t know how. What if my ideas aren’t translated the way I want and it’s a failure.” Sounds harsh I know, but I can be really hard on myself. I think we all can! We are our own worst critics after all, but “don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good”, as Voltaire says. Get all your ideas out and then go back and make sure they make sense. There are two people that you need to become when writing: the creative and the analytical. Let creative do their work first and then be analytical. It’s hard to be both those things at once, so don’t even try. Don’t let them compete as you write, give them both the love and attention they need by focusing on one and then the other.
- Take your time
When I first started blogging I just was so excited to get posts up that sometimes they would go up with grammatical errors or they didn’t sound as good as I thought they did. I did a rushed job and you could tell. I am still working on this. One time in the middle of the night Mike told me that in my Harper post I used the word ‘gay’ instead of ‘gate’. I used spell check, but didn’t reread what I had written. That’s not a good feeling! When you are getting your thoughts down you can do that part quickly, but go back and take time to revise. Get up walk around, have a cup of coffee, do something else and come back to it with fresh eyes. I read that good writers actually spend 30% of their time writing and 70% of their time revising. We could all adopt that habit to become more effective writers.
- Develop a clear point of view
So: you have written all your thoughts down, but once you read them it’s not clear what your point of view is. Make sure you know what you are trying to convey to your readers, and that this will come across clearly. Maybe before you even let that pen hit the paper you close your eyes think about your topic and develop your viewpoint and then you let the ideas flow. If you have a clear picture in your head then it’s much easier to translate that picture into words. Always think about your end goal, to create that same picture for your readers.
- Keep the focus on your readers.
This one can be a challenge. That is why it is so important to know who your readers are and what they want. I must admit I don’t know who my readers are just yet. (If you are reading this feel free to comment below and tell me about yourself!;) I really want to get to know them and give them what they want. When I think of my demographic I think very analytically, and according to Google analytics you are probably a woman age 17-35. If I try to target my writing to every woman age 17-35 it isn’t going to be worth reading. I want to write to that girl that needs to read what I have to say. When I was reading #girlboss I felt like she was talking directly to me, she had a clear vision of who she was writing for and even stated that her book wasn’t for just every girl, but the girl who has a vision and is trying to find her way. I want my posts to make the reader feel like I am talking directly to her about things relevant to her, so that needs to be in the back of my mind at all times. Write for your reader not for yourself. My goal for my writing is to make my readers feel welcomed and understood. Sometimes I write with the intention of impressing my audience, but that isn’t what readers truly want. They don’t want to be impressed by your vocabulary, they want to feel like they aren’t reading, but are instead having a conversation with you. They want to hear your voice, so use it. Write for your readers like you would talk to your friends.
- Write it out.
If you get stuck, and believe me you will get stuck, don’t stop to try to think through the issue. Open another document and keep pushing forward. Try different ways of saying something. Write a couple different sentences and then pick your best one. It’s much easier to envision what you have to say by reading it than it is to imagine it. Freewriting in the middle of your document and putting words to your issue, processes your worry into formulating a solution. My favorite writer, Cheryl Strayed’s advice to a young lady who wanted to become a writer, was “Write like a Mother Fu**er”. Please excuse the language, but I think that’s fitting advice! I absolutely love everything she says (even if she swears in the process), but because she gets straight to the point. It’s easier said than done, but don’t think about doing it, DO IT.
- Cut. It. Out.
Like the words of the beloved uncle Joey, cut it out. Sometimes when trying to explain things we use more words thinking it will get our point across better, but we can actually confuse our readers. Like Cheryl Strayed, be straightforward and get to the point. Say what you need to say, and the cut the rest out. Don’t add words just to add words, only keep what is imperative to what you have to say. Or if it’s a funny anecdotes I say keep it because I love funny anecdotes. Sometimes we fall in love with what we have written and we don’t want to get rid of our hard work. We feel that that word, sentence, or chapter can add to our overall message, when really less is more. Sometimes you have to sacrifice that amazing sentence for the benefit of the message and the benefit of your readers. Think of it this way, you want your readers to think, “Wow good point.” Not “alright already, I get it.” So, moving on!
- Sleep on it.
If I would have written my Harper postone day and come back to it the next, the movers would have left “the gate open,” rather than leaving “the gay open.” Give yourself time to come back to it. A day or two is ideal. You are much more objective about your writing the next day. Take some time to gain some perspective, you will be glad you did and so will your readers.
- Don’t rely on spell check
‘Gay’ was spelled right, it was just wasn’t the word I was going for. Don’t solely rely on spell check to check your mistakes. Read what you wrote. Have a friend read what you wrote. I have my friends Anne or Paula proof read for me, because let’s face it, I went to public school, and they went to private school. Just kidding, but really another set of eyes doesn’t hurt. If you don’t want to take their advice you don’t have to. Some people get joy out of proofreading so take advantage!
- Proof read out loud
I don’t know why, but sometimes I get nervous hearing my writing said out loud, even if it’s me saying it. Once my writing is complete, I almost want to close the computer and forget it ever happened. It’s out there, so get comfortable reading your writing out loud. Some mistakes are heard better than they are seen. You aren’t speed-reading or glancing over your work, you are dissecting each and every word to make sure it represents what you have to say. Take your time.
- Learn to love your voice
You are the only person in the world that has your voice. It’s up to you if you choose to share it. If you do decide to be heard, then learn to love what you have to say and be proud of it! This will show in your writing. Not everyone is going to like what you have to say, but you aren’t writing for everyone. Write for that one person that needs to hear your voice.
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“let me live, love, and say it well in good sentences” ―Sylvia Plath,The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath