With so many content creators out there today, you may think it’s easy to get published online. With all the bloggers and social media content out there, anybody can start writing on a whim, but not everybody should pursue writing as a career.
It may sound discouraging, but it’s true. If you’re somebody who believes your writing style is perfect the way it is and unique to you, you’re probably one of those people. You might as well stop reading right now.
The first step to developing your craft is acknowledging you have yet to master it. If you won’t acknowledge the fact that you can be better, you will never succeed in your chosen industry, writing or not.
Fortunately, if you’re reading this article, that’s almost certainly not the case, so let’s talk about ways to improve your writing and techniques professional writers use to deliver an amazing product.
By no means is this a definitive, be-all, end-all guide to mastering writing. Everyone develops their own style and learns things as they go. What works for one person isn’t necessarily great for another, so take from this guide what you will. At the very least, you should hope to come away from this with one new thought in mind that will help you become a better writer.
With that, let’s dive in.
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Table of Contents
Adopt A Novice Mindset
I’ve already touched on it, but the first step to improving your writing is your mindset.
If you aren’t ready to consider the fact that your writing is flawed and that there may be better techniques out there you’ve never thought of before, you aren’t ready to learn. You will never improve your writing if you’re convinced you’re already an amazing writer.
Many famous authors of our time have publicly acknowledged the fact that they believe they could be better writers. Case in point, Stephen King. At one point in his career, King believed his career was a fluke, and that if he hadn’t simply gotten lucky, he would never have become so successful. To test this, he began writing under the pseudonym Richard Bachman. Bachman soon became a cult hit, writing classics like The Long Walk that have stood the test of time and still stand out among King’s work today. King was eventually found out when some sharp readers noticed his name on the publishers page in one of his Bachman books.
It isn’t inherently pessimistic to doubt your abilities. Everyone suffers from imposter syndrome from time to time, where they believe they aren’t truly responsible for their achievements. It’s a very negative way to perceive your accomplishments, but by doubting yourself, you open the door for worlds of growth. You should be questioning your abilities in such a way that you promote self-improvement. After all, you can only improve once you’ve recognized a problem.
Fundamentally, you as a person should never reach the point of pride where you consider yourself beyond improvement. No matter what the topic, you will always hold yourself back from becoming truly great.
You also shouldn’t put yourself down beyond improvement. Your goal should be to achieve a level of confidence in your capabilities, but you don’t want to hold yourself above reproach.
Putting Theory Into Practice
Writing is a skill that gets better over time. You can learn all sorts of tricks, skills, and grammar, but if you don’t put any of it into practice, how can you grow as a writer?
Think of writing as a different kind of talent. Like exercise, your brain is a muscle that gets stronger with use. Like dancing, your style becomes more natural with repetition. Like mathematics, you become more proficient at your techniques with successive use.
The only way to get better at copy writing is to get better at writing in general. To offer some personal insight, I’m in school studying journalism. My writing style has changed vastly since I started, to the point that now, as I’m getting ready to write my thesis and graduate, I write completely differently than I did entering college.
With the writing techniques I’ve learned, together with frequent practice and evaluation, I’ve grown more as a writer than I thought possible. In high school, I believed I was an excellent writer. I had always had strong writing skills, and I consistently aced every writing class, but without the immersion, I’ve experienced in different techniques and formats, I could only become so skilled at my craft.
Practical experience is the only way to test yourself and grow. You can learn all sorts of new things about writing, but there’s only one way to see if it suits you and your style. If you can effectively incorporate a new tool in your writing, that’s one more tool that you had before, and that’s an improvement.
Let The World Be Your Teacher: Mindful Reading
This leads us to our next point. In order to take your writing beyond what you know, you need to discover new things you can use yourself. The way to discover new writing techniques yourself is by analyzing everything you read.
First off, if you aren’t reading for entertainment, you need to start. It doesn’t matter what it is, but you need to feed your brain examples of effective writing.
Every author has a distinct style. By reading other authors attentively, you serve to inform your own style. There’s no better place to look for tips than the pros, after all. Don’t be afraid to take notes as you read either.
If you enjoy reading William Shakespeare, you may notice that his plays were written in very different styles throughout his career. Some stories are heavy with iambic pentameter, a poetic style broken up by five syllable chunks of words, punctuated with a two syllable word that begins soft and ends hard. You can’t help but read it in an almost sing-song tone. It’s designed to be engaging when spoken on the stage. Shakespeare tends to use this technique in his comedies and love stories, such as Much Ado About Nothing.
But let’s step away from writing form. Plays such as Macbeth make heavy use of writing techniques like a pathetic fallacy. This is when the writer describes the environment to reflect the emotional state of the play. Macbeth, a play about regicide, suicide, and murder, features animals behaving erratically and heavy storms. The imagery is very dark, with some characters remarking that the day looks indistinguishable from the night. This is meant to give the impression that something is wrong in the world. At the end, when the conflict has been resolved, the language used is completely changed as the characters rejoice in their success. This signals the reader that everything is the way it should be now.
These are just a couple of subtle techniques that transfer from playwriting to writing for the web. By writing with a little rhythm, like in iambic pentameter, you can create a more playful tone. The reader can’t help but smile to themselves. This gives them a positive mental association with what they’re reading. If you’re writing copy on the homepage of a website about home cooking, for example, you want your reader to feel good. After reading Shakespeare with a little mindfulness, you’re now better equipped to influence your readers’ emotions through words and keep them engaged.
It can be a play, a novel, a comic book, or an ad. Whatever you find yourself reading, you should be ready to look for something deeper in the text than the content of the words. You can almost always glean something new from what you’re reading, even if it wasn’t the writer’s intention.
The Story Killer: How Do I Start?
There are some universal stumbling points when it comes to writing that everyone needs to learn to overcome.
Issues such as getting started and motivation go hand in hand. So many people will come up with an idea for a story or article that resonates with them, but then, for whatever reason, they just don’t do it. To overcome this challenge, you need a writing process that caters to the early idea stages.
First and foremost, write your ideas down. Sometimes inspiration will hit you in the dead of night, and you’ll think to yourself, “I’ll remember this one for sure. I’ll think about it more tomorrow.” That is a lie. You absolutely will not remember it. Take the time to jot down at least the basic premise of your idea, that way, even if it’s a little vague, you have something to work with. It doesn’t matter if you have some finer details in mind, all you need is the core story concept. It will serve to preserve the idea and kick start your memory when next you look at it. Not only will it will be easier to remember your idea, it will be easier to build on it too. Those details will come flooding back to you, and then some.
While it’s great that you can remember your writing ideas now, you still need to take the most important step: writing the first sentence.
Getting started is often the hardest part of writing. How do you kick off this piece? What should you say first?
It can be paralyzing to know what you want to write about without a single idea on how to write it. For this, it pays to be prepared. This is where that early stage writing process comes in.
Most people neglect the early writing process because they think they can write “naturally.” Nobody can just write “naturally.” Every great writer needs a plan. This is where brainstorming comes in.
You want to have an idea for your structure before you start writing. It’s not a major commitment that will go on to define your piece, but it will help guide you early on as you write. You don’t have to commit your entire piece to your plan, of course. There’s always room to change things up as you write in the future.
Things like brainstorming help you develop new ideas for topics and stories, as well as sub-ideas that you can use to flesh out your story.
A good next step is your story arc. Not just confined to fiction, a story arc helps you map your writing. Of course, different kinds of written pieces will call for different kinds of story arcs.
A novel usually calls for some sort of rising action. You want to have a sequence of events that culminates in a climactic scene, after which you slowly wind the reader down to your conclusion.
An article or blog post doesn’t usually deal with things like tension, so obviously that format doesn’t really apply. Instead, think about how you’re going to guide your reader through your topic. You want to start with an opener and end with a conclusion, naturally, but in between, you need a coherent flow from start to finish. Every topic should relate to the one before it and after it. This kind of story arc looks more like a flow chart, or a treasure map, with steps that lead to a satisfying conclusion.
If you take the time to brainstorm, plan, and map your writing, that feeling of dread when you approach a story will become a thing of the past.
Search Engine Optimization Will Skyrocket Your Online Visibility
The great thing about the internet is there’s an audience for everything. Unfortunately, there is also a lot of content already out there to compete with.
If you don’t have an established web presence, it can be hard to get eyes on your writing these days, and it’s only going to get harder in the future.
Cue SEO. SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is how you can take advantage of Google’s search algorithm to make your pages show up at the top of search results. SEO is one of the best writing tools to know about if you write for the web.
Today, it’s in your best interest to write everything with SEO practices in mind. That being said, what makes good SEO is becoming harder to pin down.
Over the last few years, people have focused on link building. The idea is to get your sites link onto as many reputable pages as possible, that way Google thinks your site is reputable too. We have our own guides on link building techniques, but what we’re going to look at here is incorporating SEO into your writing.
Since Google’s last update a couple of months ago, insiders have been saying that link building isn’t as important as it used to be. Now, the focus is on long-form content that informs the reader, keeps them engaged, and is relevant to search queries.
For example, if you write a 200-word article about hot dogs and try to pull in people searching for dogs, you aren’t likely going to have much luck on that. Your content isn’t relevant because dogs and hot dogs are two very different things.
The question now is how do you optimize your content to fit the new SEO standards? Well, for starters, you want good content. You want to be informative and unique. This affects your readers experience on-page.
Google tracks how long people stay on your pages. The longer your reader is engaged, and the longer it takes them to bounce out, the better, because this tells Google you have some good content.
Next, you want to incorporate keywords appropriately. For this, there is keyword research. You want your keywords to be searchable phrases that anyone would think of. Some phrases are more commonly used than others, and some phrases are more commonly optimized than others. This will affect your ability to rank for these phrases.
You can use tools such as Neill Patel’s Ubersuggest that provide vital information about a keyword. Ubersuggest will tell you if you should bother trying to rank for something, either because it has worthwhile search traffic or a certain amount of competition.
It’s good to think of some long tail search queries, as these tend to have less monthly traffic and less competition than shorter ones. If you’re looking at a phrase with next to no competition and about 40 monthly searches, that’s essentially 40 free visits per month. This is a great keyword to try and rank for.
You should only try to rank for a few phrases in each piece of writing you do. You also want to avoid using them too much throughout your piece. Google has gotten wise to various SEO tactics that try to manipulate it, so only include enough to make it clear your topics are related.
An important factor to consider with your keywords is search intent. Think of the dogs vs hot dogs example. People who search for dogs are looking for cute living doggos, not the tubes of pork on a bun. You always want your keywords to relate to your topics search intent as accurately as possible.
Fortunately, Ubersuggest also offers insight into similar searches when you’re researching your keywords. If your keyword has 40 hits per month, and all 40 of those hits are simply that keyword with another word following it, that’s the more specific search.
For example, you might be trying to rank for “Great local singles” to promote your new, locally sourced sliced cheese product, but a look at the similar search queries section would tell you that people who search for that are not, in fact, looking for cheese. This is a sign that you should think about a different phrase.
You also want to include lots of links in your writing. Don’t go overboard and make every other word an outbound link, of course, but include links wherever relevant. If you’re going to mention a service or site, link to them. If you’re going to mention a fact or tidbit of information you found elsewhere, link to that as well. If it’s a good, relevant link, it won’t divert traffic away from you. Anyone interested will click away, but they’re going to come right back once they’ve had their fill there.
Google likes seeing these selfless, natural links because it means you are actively trying to enhance the user experience. Since the last search algorithm update, Google has put a lot of stress on user experience and being as informative as possible, so always cite your sources for bonus SEO points.
In all, following these tips will lead to a written piece that is well associated with key search queries and falls in line with Google’s standards for a good article. If you can master optimizing SEO in your written work, you’ll slowly start to see better results than your competitors.
SEO isn’t an overnight phenomenon. It takes a while for it to kick in. Google needs time to crawl and rank your page, but one page alone does not a website make. If your writing for your own site, you want to make sure you optimize everything on your domain. That means your home page should be well made, copy should all be written to cater to your brand, and blog posts should be on topic.
As long as you can follow these SEO tips, however, you should be just fine.
Now You’re Writing With Power
This is everything you need to know to write for the web. While yes, you can always hone your craft, this post should give you everything you need to start writing competently online.
Obviously, this is not a be-all, end-all writing list. In the SEO field alone, things change from year to year. The way Google values targets has had drastic changes in the past to prevent people from taking advantage of the search engine. There have been huge collapses in traffic as sites and networks have had the rug pulled out from under them, but that only happens when people take advantage of unfair techniques that don’t actually benefit search authority. For years, people have been saying SEO is dead, when in fact it’s only changed to benefit end users more.
When it comes to writing, there are always ways you can improve. Just like a fancy recipe, you can incorporate many different elements into your writing to spice up your style. Moving forward, you can only improve on what you’ve read here. Go ahead and share what you’ve learned any way you can, whether it’s social media, word of mouth, or the occasional tip for a friend. For more informative blog posts like this, keep an eye on our Awesome Web Designs blog, where we have new content like this regularly.