It’s true. Anyone can write.
No one is born a writer; the craft of writing is a learned skill like any other skill. Okay, maybe Tolstoy and Steinbeck were blessed with some extra literary genes, but most people must make a conscious effort to be able to write effectively.
It’s easier than you think, and the truth is this: if you can speak, you can write.
Follow these Top 10 strategies below for getting the thoughts that are in your head onto paper, in the most effective way possible.
#1 – The Enemy: The Blank Page
If you’re like many people, you start a writing task by sitting down with a pad and pen or at your computer and stare at the blank page, not knowing where to begin. You may take a stab at writing a few words or a sentence or two but soon get frustrated because you are trying to write to a blank page, with no cues or guidance at all. Most artists don’t start painting their masterpieces without first thinking about what they want the final result to look like, and first creating some sketches. Don’t write to a blank page.
#2 Write By Example
Of course, as a published writer I would never advocate plagiarizing another writers work, ever! However, there is nothing wrong with ‘borrowing’ ideas. For example, if you have to write a press release look through sites that publish press releases and start reading. Find a format that you like, and create your own outline (title, sub-heading, titled paragraphs, boilerplate etc.) to work from. If you have to write a compelling email to partners, review effective emails you have received from other companies and model your communication to theirs. Again, the blank page is your enemy so writing a document that is organized and gives you ‘prompts’ along the way will make your task much easier. You can ‘borrow’ formatting and outline ideas for any type of document that you want to create.
#3 Speak Before You Write
Okay, now you have decided what you want to write and have researched other pieces of similar writing. You have ‘borrowed’ some ideas, created an outline and are ready to write. But you are still finding it difficult. The best thing to do is speak out loud what it is you need to write. Call a friend and ask them if you can run something by them. In your normal conversational tone, tell them the gist of what it is you need to convey in your writing. Did they understand what you are trying to get across? If not, tell it again until they get it. Then simply write on paper what you had told your friend. Don’t have anyone to talk to? Tell your story to your fish, your dog or even to the fridge.
#4 Write in a Conversational Tone
The most powerful and effective form of writing is written in a conversational tone. It’s as though a friend is telling you about something and automatically, that puts you on a higher level of trust and authority with your readers. Conversational writing can elicit strong emotional impulses that sizzle and get results.
#5 Be Precise With Details
So often the writer leaves out pertinent details for the reader. Write exactly what you intend or want to convey. For example, if you were talking to a friend on the phone to ask them to attend an event, you would provide all the pertinent details that your friend needed to make a decision to join you. Be specific in your communications.
#6 Elicit Emotion
Let’s talk about emotion again, as this is the most powerful physiological response that you can hope to elicit from your readers. Emotion is what makes a reader decide to buy your product, come to your seminar, attend your party or buy your book. Emotions such as these are usually linked to solving a problem for readers. Write with passion to trigger powerful responses and you will attain the results you set out to achieve.
#7 Write It and Leave It
Let’s review so far. You have outlined your work and started filling in the blanks with copy. You are working in the emotion aspect by demonstrating how the reader can benefit from your copy and solve a problem or pain. Now leave it. That’s right. Flip over your notepad, or turn off your computer and forget about this piece of writing for an hour or a day or two, or even a week (if deadlines allow). Revisit the piece again and you will be amazed at the parts that jump out immediately and require fixing. Read your copy again for clarity. Does it all make sense and will the reader get it? Forward it to a friend or two for a sanity check if required and have a professional editor give it a once over if possible.
#8 Spellcheck and Editing Tips
Don’t forget to use your most basic yet necessary tool, the spellchecker! Here are two quick editing techniques that work. First, print out your document and place a ruler or paper underneath each line as you read down the page to catch errors more easily. Next, turn the page upside down to view. Editing and formatting errors can jump right out at you by looking at your writing in this unique way. Or, install a digital ruler to read the copy on the computer.
#9 Book Writing Number One Tip
Writing a book or ebook? The place to start is from the end by writing your book jacket copy first. This technique helps clarify the story to pave the way for outlining and writing the manuscript. From your own library or at a bookstore, pick up a number of books and read the book jackets that describe the contents of the book and the story. Effective book jacket copy entices the reader to want to read the whole book and buy it immediately! Look at books that are similar to the subject you plan to write about.
#10 Change of Scenery and Rituals
Now for my final writing tips. I do some of my best writing in cafés; preferably Parisian cafés and other exotic locations (wink). Sometimes a simple thing like a change in scenery can stimulate the creative juices to allow the words to flow. Some people use rituals such as putting on a special hat or using a beautiful pen for jotting writing ideas or editing. Do whatever it takes to get yourself into ‘writing mode.’