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Here Is Why “How to Write” Is Much More Important than “What to Write”

Here Is Why “How to Write” Is Much More Important than “What to Write”

It’s hard enough to find the motivation to work. When you have to worry about concentration and creativity on top of that, things can get pretty awkward. Nowadays, with tons of information available at the touch of a button, creating the right kind of content can make all the difference for someone trying to gain more customers or readers. A lot of writers and bloggers are fully aware of this, but have a problem finding something worth writing about.

What if I told you that it is more about how to write for people, than it is about the actual content? People will rarely sift through blocks upon blocks of monotonous text, even if it holds all the answers that they need. You need to engage them. Sell your story.

Why is writing style so important? And how do you develop a great style that people will eat up?

The internet is all about sharing great content, and the competition is tough

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As people a bit more qualified than me have already pointed out, content that is relatively good and original has become the norm – it’s no longer the ultimate goal to strive for. The competition is just too tough, and people always have a few other browser tabs to go to if your writing can’t draw them in within the first ten or so seconds. However, when even the broadest topics have been covered ad nauseam, you can’t really hope to create something totally unique. I know – I’ve been there myself many times.

There is, however, some hope. Desperate writers have been using the old “everything worth writing about has already been written” line since Ancient Egyptian times. And yet good literature is still alive and kicking thousands of years later. This is because it’s more about the common themes and emotions, told with different words and through a prism of a unique worldview. People will be drawn to the same life drama as they always were – hope, dignity, overcoming adversity, just reward and poetic justice are the kind of things that rile up a crowd – but it’s up to you to find a good way to talk about them.

You have to pull the readers in right from the start

You can say what you want about Hollywood’s tendency to hire hack writers, cannibalize original stories and rush their scripts, but some of them really know how to hook their viewers. Choosing the right niche and topic is still important, as you want to write what you know. But you mustn’t get bogged down in the details. The first paragraph has to give the reader a taste of what is to come, and really sell your content.

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Good bloggers often let people know who they are and what they are about within the first few sentences. Something like: “Look, I’ve been a Batman fan ever since I saw him make a sly comment about Vicky Vale’s weight nearly twenty years ago. But I draw the line at Bat-skates and Bat-nipples”, is far more engaging than: “The 97’ Batman and Robin left this reviewer shocked and appalled”. The introduction is there to give the viewers some information about who the writer is and the kind of style he uses – they want someone who thinks like they do, but has the language skills to bring these thoughts to life in a fun way.

Tell a story

Even journalists, who try to stay objective in their writing and pursue truth through stone cold facts, are careful to create a storyline and take their readers on a journey. In the example form the previous paragraph, the first reviewer introduces himself as a lifelong Batman fan. He infers that he is prepared to go to great lengths, to suspend his disbelief, in order to see his favorite character in action. But that even such a devoted fan was disappointed with Joel Schumacher’s train wreck of a film.

When you dig deeper, you see that this is a story of a young boy learning about what it meant to be a man of principle through a fictional character that became his role model, only to have all his hopes and expectations broken by an industry who no longer understands their own creation, and is merely interested in monetizing a brand. There are multiple layers to the story, and they are all being hinted at within the opening paragraph.

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The whole piece might take you on a journey that explores social corruption and human greed, drawing parallels between Gotham’s crime elite and Hollywood producers, which ultimately cause a hero’s name to be tarnished. It’s no longer a quick recap of the film with a star rating attached to it – the article is now a story of its own, which the readers will find incredibly interesting, despite hating the very movie that inspired it.

Old themes are worth revisiting and putting a spin on

There is a common tendency for people who become skilled or incredibly knowledgeable about a topic to gloss over basics when they explain things to people. It’s fairly natural for someone who has mastered these essential premises to think of them as common knowledge, and try to build more complex ideas on them. However, when you are dealing with a growing online audience, chances are that you will come across lots and lots of beginners who still have trouble understanding the simple stuff. It’s always good to revisit the basics, and expand on them, making sure to give things your own unique flavor.

For example, loads of articles have been written on self-improvement and a number of related topics. You’ll see points like: “Go to bed early”, “Start walking an hour every day”, “Face your fears” or “Get out of your comfort zone”, repeated time after time. It’s usually a short paragraph with vague concepts and a couple of quick tips. However, books upon books have been written on learning to cope with fear in one form or another, and people can talk for hours about the different tactics, implications and potential pros and cons of going to bed early.

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A short paragraph just isn’t going to cut it. A better strategy is to tackle the whole health and self-improvement topic from a more personal angle, and tell people what they can see, hear and learn during those hour long walks. If you cover your own personal experience and accounts of other people, it’s much easier for the readers to relate. Don’t paint things black and white or paint an idealistic picture – get down and dirty, and write about what it is like to be human. You can apply this to anything – food bloggers can explain how they got their kids to try out new foods, tech writers can write a piece about living technology free for a week, and so on. Take something people want to read about, and make it your own.

People want to hear a story told by someone whose writing they find fun and engaging, because we all ultimately love a good story-teller. Here’s a good modern example from the world of vlogging. Many gaming YouTube channels, like PewdiePie, have gained immense popularity with gameplay footage, while other similar channels struggle to gain 1000 subscribers – the only difference here being the presentation style and personality of the different YouTubers.

So, remember: Focus on developing a creative style based on your worldview. There’s only one you. Tell us your story and be passionate about what you write.

More by this author

Vladimir Zivanovic

CMO at MyCity-Web

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Last Updated on March 14, 2019

7 Questions to Ask in a Job Interview That Will Impress the Interviewer

7 Questions to Ask in a Job Interview That Will Impress the Interviewer

Recruiters might hold thousands of interviews in their careers and a lot of them are reporting the same thing—that most candidates play it safe with the questions they ask, or have no questions to ask in a job interview at all.

For job applicants, this approach is crazy! This is a job that you’re going to dedicate a lot of hours to and that might have a huge impact on your future career. Don’t throw away the chance to figure out if the position is perfect for you.

Here are 7 killer questions to ask in a job interview that will both impress your counterpart and give you some really useful insights into whether this job will be a dream … or a nightmare.

1. What are some challenges I might come up against this role?

A lesser candidate might ask, “what does a typical day look like in this role?” While this is a perfectly reasonable question to ask in an interview, focusing on potential challenges takes you much further because it indicates that you already are visualizing yourself in the role.

It’s impressive because it shows that you are not afraid of challenges, and you are prepared to strategize a game plan upfront to make sure you succeed if you get the job.

It can also open up a conversation about how you’ve solved problems in the past which can be a reassuring exercise for both you and the hiring manager.

How it helps you:

If you ask the interviewer to describe a typical day, you may get a vibrant picture of all the lovely things you’ll get to do in this job and all the lovely people you’ll get to do them with.

Asking about potential roadblocks means you hear the other side of the story—dysfunctional teams, internal politics, difficult clients, bootstrap budgets and so on. This can help you decide if you’re up for the challenge or whether, for the sake of your sanity, you should respectfully decline the job offer.

2. What are the qualities of really successful people in this role?

Employers don’t want to hire someone who goes through the motions; they want to hire someone who will excel.

Asking this question shows that you care about success, too. How could they not hire you with a dragon-slayer attitude like that?

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How it helps you:

Interviewers hire people who are great people to work with, but the definition of “great people” differs from person to person.

Does this company hire and promote people with a specific attitude, approach, worth ethic or communication style? Are the most successful people in this role strong extroverts who love to talk and socialize when you are studious and reserved? Does the company reward those who work insane hours when you’re happiest in a more relaxed environment?

If so, then this may not be the right match for you.

Whatever the answer is, you can decide whether you have what it takes for the manager to be happy with your performance in this role. And if the interviewer has no idea what success looks like for this position, this is a sign to proceed with extreme caution.

3. From the research I did on your company, I noticed the culture really supports XYZ. Can you tell me more about that element of the culture and how it impacts this job role?

Of course, you could just ask “what is the culture like here? ” but then you would miss a great opportunity to show that you’ve done your research!

Interviewers give BIG bonus point to those who read up and pay attention, and you’ve just pointed out that (a) you’re diligent in your research (b) you care about the company culture and (c) you’re committed to finding a great cultural fit.

How it helps you:

This question is so useful because it lets you pick an element of the culture that you really care about and that will have the most impact on whether you are happy with the organization.

For example, if training and development is important to you, then you need to know what’s on offer so you don’t end up in a dead-end job with no learning opportunities.

Companies often talk a good talk, and their press releases may be full of shiny CSR initiatives and all the headline-grabbing diversity programs they’re putting in place. This is your opportunity to look under the hood and see if the company lives its values on the ground.

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A company that says it is committed to doing the right thing by customers should not judge success by the number of up-sells an employee makes, for instance. Look for consistency, so you aren’t in for a culture shock after you start.

4. What is the promotion path for this role, and how would my performance on that path be measured?

To be clear, you are not asking when you will get promoted. Don’t go there—it’s presumptuous, and it indicates that you think you are better than the role you have applied for.

A career-minded candidate, on the other hand, usually has a plan that she’s working towards. This question shows you have a great drive toward growth and advancement and an intention to stick with the company beyond your current state.

How it helps you:

One word: hierarchy.

All organizations have levels of work and authority—executives, upper managers, line managers, the workforce, and so on. Understanding the hierarchical structure gives you power, because you can decide if you can work within it and are capable of climbing through its ranks, or whether it will be endlessly frustrating to you.

In a traditional pyramid hierarchy, for example, the people at the bottom tend to have very little autonomy to make decisions. This gets better as you rise up through the pyramid, but even middle managers have little power to create policy; they are more concerned with enforcing the rules the top leaders make.

If having a high degree of autonomy and accountability is important to you, you may do better in a flat hierarchy where work teams can design their own way of achieving the corporate goals.

5. What’s the most important thing the successful candidate could accomplish in their first 3 months/6 months/year?

Of all the questions to ask in a job interview, this one is impressive because it shows that you identify with and want to be a successful performer, and not just an average one.

Here, you’re drilling down into what the company needs, and needs quite urgently, proving that you’re all about adding value to the organization and not just about what’s in it for you.

How it helps you:

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Most job descriptions come with 8, 10 or 12 different job responsibilities and a lot of them with be boilerplate or responsibilities that someone in HR thinks are associated with this role. This question gives you a better sense of which responsibilities are the most important—and they may not be what initially attracted you to the role.

If you like the idea of training juniors, for example, but success is judged purely on your sales figures, then is this really the job you thought you were applying for?

This question will also give you an idea of what kind of learning curve you’re expected to have and whether you’ll get any ramp-up time before getting down to business. If you’re the type of person who likes to jump right in and get things done, for instance, you may not be thrilled to hear that you’re going to spend the first three months shadowing a peer.

6. What do you like about working here?

This simple question is all about building rapport with the interviewer. People like to talk about themselves, and the interviewer will be flattered that you’re interested in her opinions.

Hopefully, you’ll find some great connection points that the two of you share. What similar things drive you head into the office each day? How will you fit into the culture?

How it helps you:

You can learn a lot from this question. Someone who genuinely enjoys his job will be able to list several things they like, and their answers will sound passionate and sincere. If not….well, you might consider that a red flag.

Since you potentially can learn a lot about the company culture from this question, it’s a good idea to figure out upfront what’s important to you. Maybe you’re looking for a hands-off boss who values independent thought and creativity? Maybe you work better in environments that move at a rapid, exciting pace?

Whatever’s important to you, listen carefully and see if you can find any common ground.

7. Based on this interview, do you have any questions or concerns about my qualifications for the role?

What a great closing question to ask in a job interview! It shows that you’re not afraid of feedback—in fact, you are inviting it. Not being able to take criticism is a red flag for employers, who need to know that you’ll act on any “coaching moments” with a good heart.

As a bonus, asking this question shows that you are really interested in the position and wish to clear up anything that may be holding the company back from hiring you.

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How it helps you:

What a devious beast this question is! On the surface, it looks straightforward, but it’s actually giving you four key pieces of information.

First, is the manager capable of giving you feedback when put on the spot like this? Some managers are scared of giving feedback, or don’t think it’s important enough to bother outside of a formal performance appraisal. Do you want to work for a boss like that? How will you improve if no one is telling you what you did wrong?

Second, can the manager give feedback in a constructive way without being too pillowy or too confrontational? It’s unfair to expect the interviewer to have figured out your preferred way of receiving feedback in the space of an interview, but if she come back with a machine-gun fire of shortcomings or one of those corporate feedback “sandwiches” (the doozy slipped between two slices of compliment), then you need to ask yourself, can you work with someone who gives feedback like that?

Third, you get to learn the things the hiring manager is concerned about before you leave the interview. This gives you the chance to make a final, tailored sales pitch so you can convince the interviewer that she should not be worried about those things.

Fourth, you get to learn the things the hiring manager is concerned about period. If turnover is keeping him up at night, then your frequent job hopping might get a lot of additional scrutiny. If he’s facing some issues with conflict or communication, then he might raise concerns regarding your performance in this area.

Listen carefully: the concerns that are being raised about you might actually be a proxy for problems in the wider organization.

Making Your Interview Work for You

Interviews are a two-way street. While it is important to differentiate yourself from every other candidate, understand that convincing the interviewer you’re the right person for the role goes hand-in-hand with figuring out if the job is the right fit for you.

Would you feel happy in a work environment where the people, priorities, culture and management style were completely at odds with the way you work? Didn’t think so!

More Resources About Job Interviews

Featured photo credit: Amy Hirschi via unsplash.com

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