If writing was easy, we would all be best-selling authors by now. Whether you’re a career author or an aspiring blogger, I invite you to consider these 7 habits of a good writer so you can develop quality content that your audience adores.
1. It’s not about you, it’s about them.
Before you even begin to write, you should ask yourself the following questions:
- Who am I writing for and what exactly do they struggle with?
- How am I going to help them through that struggle?
- Why do I want to help them? (hint: this is the most important one)
The best way to illustrate this habit is by example, so here’s how I would answer these questions: I write books for busy women who desire to lose fat and get fit so they can feel healthier and happier. They struggle with negative thoughts and limiting beliefs that make it difficult to find the motivation to begin a healthy living plan. I will help them by guiding them in the direction of increased self-confidence and mental strength, which will help them overcome the Mental Monsters they face every day. I want to help women specifically, because I have personally struggled with body-image issues, emotional eating, and low self-esteem myself. While men do face these struggles, they are far less likely to admit it (much less read a book about it), so I’d rather focus my attention on women since that is where I can make the greatest impact as a writer.
Who are you writing for? How are you going to help them? Why do you want to help them? Know the answers to these questions if you want to connect with your ideal audience; otherwise, you might find yourself performing for an empty house.
2. Brevity is the soul of wit.
The above saying, popularized by Mr. William Shakespeare, is something you should apply today. Do not interpret this to say you shouldn’t write a full-length novel epic in proportion; however, if you are adding content for the sole purpose of increasing your word count, I’m afraid you might find yourself with all fluff and no substance.
3. Condense, condense, condense.
When you have completed your blog, article, or book I encourage you to walk away from your finished project for at least a few hours (maybe even a few days). Look at it again with a fresh perspective and you’ll probably discover words and sentences that add little or no meaning to your work of art. If it doesn’t need to be there, cut it without mercy. The more quickly you can make your point, the more powerful it will be.
4. Analyze your competition before you start.
If you’re writing a book about how to become a successful freelance blogger, you should look up other books about that very subject on Amazon before you write a single word. Find the most highly-rated books in that niche and check out the reviews. What did people like the most about this book? Don’t rip-off their ideas, because nobody likes a copycat, but do seek inspiration wherever you can find it. Also, pay attention to the negative reviews, because if you see a common theme in the criticisms, you’ll have an advance heads-up telling you what to avoid in the publishing of your book. You might want to buy a few of the top-rated books in your niche while you’re at it for inspiration that might steer you in the right direction.
5. Talk to (not at) your audience.
Have you ever read a self-help book that was helpful, but you felt like they were talking in words that were over your head, as if they were speaking a different language (I’m talking to you, Stephen Covey!)? If you don’t consider the language your audience speaks, you could elicit the same reaction. Buy magazines that are targeted to your audience and do a little research. For example, if you write for women, you would be wise to buy a few issues of Women’s Health or Shape. Pay attention to the language used in articles and advertisements and decide how you can apply this style to your writing (while maintaining your own unique voice). Your reader should feel like they are having a friendly chat with you over coffee. Unless you’re in the business of writing dry technical manuals, the more conversational your writing, the better.
6. Feedback is your friend.
Wanna know a dirty secret that helped me craft a book that was so contagious it has now been read by over 20,000 people in 3 short months? My audience wrote it for me. I don’t mean that literally, because that would make me a dirty plagiarizing thief, but it isn’t far from the truth. During the writing process, I would post brief excerpts from my book on my Facebook page to see how they did in terms of interaction (i.e. likes, shares, and comments). This allowed me to quickly identify which ideas were winners and losers. If an excerpt exploded in interaction, I developed that idea further and made sure to highlight it in every way I could. If an excerpt didn’t do so well, this meant it needed to be modified, condensed, or cut. Assuming you have an audience of readers, you might consider giving away advance copies of your book in exchange for honest feedback. Just make sure you actually ask detailed questions like:
- What did you think was most and least helpful?
- Are there any sections that seemed out-of-place or beside the point?
- Did anything seem like it was lacking in detail and needed to be fleshed out in more detail?
- How do you think this book could be more interesting, helpful, and relevant?
While performing this process requires time and patience, it will greatly enhance the quality and relevance of your work. There is no better editor than the audience you are writing for, so let them help you make your work as powerful as possible. You could even ask them if they’d be willing to leave a review for your book as soon as you’re done, increasing the odds that browsers will consider it a worthy investment.
7. Always produce.
If you are an aspiring writer, the best advice I can give you is this: the only way to get better at writing is to write. People often tell me things like, “I’d love to put a blog out there, but I just don’t think I’m good enough yet.” I know putting your content out there for public consumption is scary, but it’s best to swallow your fear and click “Publish.” The sooner you become comfortable with the fact that not everyone will like your work, the better. Everybody is a critic and there is nothing you can do to change that. And besides, while you could receive some comments that are unnecessarily nasty, others might offer valuable feedback that will help you improve your craft. If you have a hard time finding the time or interest in writing, click here to check out the ultimate writing productivity resource.
Writers: What would you add to this list?
To help the aspiring creative types reading this, I invite you to drop a comment listing any additional habits of a good writer that you feel would be useful. I’d also love to hear questions from aspiring writers who haven’t developed the courage to begin: what is holding you back and how can I help?