PROFESSIONAL WRITER'S 5-STEP GUIDE TO WRITING ANYTHING
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1 the idea
Every article, whether a simple blog update or a 35,000+ word epic post with multiple chapters, starts with an idea. In college-level essays, it is called the thesis. In screenwriting, the logline.
Whatever you call it, the idea should be summarized in one sentence. But don’t worry if you need to write a paragraph or two before you feel like you have solidified the idea.
The idea is a promise to your reader that’s says, “If you take the time to read this article, I will explain X to you.” So refine it until you can express it in a single sentence. For example:
“Anyone can write any type of article if they follow a simple 5-step plan.”
“How any business, no matter how small, can tap into celebrity endorsements to gain brand visibility without spending a lot of money.”
Write down your idea. Try several variations until you feel you have a concrete, focused idea for your article.
An important part of defining & refining your idea is research. But don’t be put off. Research at this stage is simple, especially if you are writing from your own expertise.
Do enough research to uncover specific details that you can cover.
Also research what others have written on this subject. By discovering this, you can make sure your article is unique.
the structure 2
So many blog articles, even on massively popular blogs or professional publications, have little or no structure, making them little more than rambling monologues with no real value.
By properly structuring your article, you provide your reader with a logical progression though your argument. Structure also helps you maintain focus on your idea and keeps you from forgetting to include a salient point.
Structure is more than just an outline, although an outline will help you organize your idea.
Structure refers to the approach you take in organizing your article. Even with a simple, focused idea, you will have 3 to 5 or as many as 10+ points to make within that idea.
Professional writers use a variety of structures, depending on the type of article they are writing.
Reporters, for example, or anyone writing a news-type piece will typically use what’s called the inverted pyramid, which puts the most important information at the top, with supporting details, in descending order of importance, in subsequent paragraphs.
An argument piece, not unlike those essays you wrote in History class, are easily constructed around a 5-paragraph or section structure: tell ‘em what you’re going to say, say it 3 times in 3 different ways (each in its own paragraph), and conclude by telling ‘em what you just said.
[Both the inverted pyramid and 5-paragraph structures are explained in greater detail in the BONUS cheatsheet you get when you download your PDF copy of this guide!]
3 the writing
For most people, this is the hardest part; but if you have planned your idea and structure, and done some research, this part can be surprisingly easy.
Take a deep breath, and start. Look at your structural plan, review your idea and it’s promise, then just start. Don’t fret over word choice or grammar and spelling.
The important thing at this stage is to just get words on the page. Get the ideas out and let them mature.
Try not to edit at this point. Just keep moving forward.
Solid research is important, or to quote the old adage, “Write what you know.” … although I prefer the corollary, “Know what you write.” Either way, the better your research and knowledge of your topic, the easier the words will come.
But if you find yourself stuck for a specific fact, simply note that you need it and keep moving. Refer back to your structural plan and keep in mind your intended word count but those details can, again, be fixed in the rewrite stage.
Before you know it, you will be writing the conclusion, a nice summary of your promise and restating, one more time, the result of that promise.
Congratulations! You have just written your article. But you are not yet done.
the editing 4
Ernest Hemingway said it best: “The first draft of anything is sh*t!”
And that’s why every piece of writing must be edited. Only amateurs post their 1st drafts.
The editing stage is more than just running spell check and calling it done.
Editing includes reviewing the idea, structure, voice, style, and much more to ensure that the promise you made with your thesis is fulfilled. It ensures that the structure is solid, with no gaps in logic or explanation.
Ask yourself questions as you reread, like:
Does it make sense? Does it flow and feel like one point naturally evolves into the next? Am I answering the question or promise proposed at the beginning? Is this new information or just a rehash or other articles already out there?
And while there are certain techniques like reading out loud or reading your article backwards (described in detail in the 5-day email course) that you can use to self-edit, it is usually best to have someone else review & edit your writing.
A good editor will not only fix those nagging little errors in grammar and usage that make you look like an amateur, but will provide guidance on structure, voice, and flow.
A good editor is a second set of eyes and will find problems you may have overlooked.
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5 the rewriting
“Writing is rewriting.”
Especially if you followed Hemingway’s advice from Step 3 — Writing, the rewriting stage is critical.
By now, you have edited (or had someone edit it for you — always a good idea!) and you know what is working and what is not.
The rewriting stage is where you make those changes and polish your article, making it as close to perfect as any writing can be.
At this stage, it’s a good idea with go back to the beginning of this 5-step plan and reevaluate whether or not you fulfilled on the promise stated in your original idea.
As you reviewed your article in the editing stage, you marked or noted clumsy sentences. You may have found structural problems, or missing and incomplete information. This is the time to find and fill in those facts that you did not readily have when you wrote the 1st draft.
Take your own notes, or those you received from an editor, and work your way through them, one by one. Do not be afraid to cut your favorite line or paragraph if it does not fit.
That’s what writers call killing your darlings. Being willing to delete a favorite bit because it fails to support the overall article is a sign of a mature writer.
You may find just a bit of tweaking here and there is all you need, but be willing to start over from scratch.
And just because it is your 3rd or 4th draft, it may still stink!
Remember, writing is rewriting and rewriting and rewriting … until is as good as you can possibly make it.
the publishing 6
A BONUS step but one that is vital … pushing your article or epic post out to the world. On one hand, exhilarating. On the other terrifying.
But until you put your writing, and yourself, out there and are willing to take criticism, you are nothing more than a dreamer. And all the work you put into this piece is wasted.
Forge ahead boldly. Push your writing out there. If you have followed these 5 steps carefully, you can be confident that your article will do its job … whether that is to drive traffic to your website, establish or bolster your expertise, make an argument, or simply inform.
Then sit back and enjoy the satisfaction of having written! The best feeling in the world.
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