For as long as I’ve been writing, the people around me have mistakenly thought that writing was easy–an afterthought.
Non-writing colleagues always seem to believe that good writing is something that can be slapped together at the last minute.
When I was a technical writer, software development teams often left manual writing or online help writing tasks until last. Likewise, as a marketing writer I was expected to pull together complicated pieces in very little time. And of course, there’s blogging–often with daily deadlines.
Yet written materials are an important part of any business–a part worth spending time on. And that’s never been truer than now, in our content-hungry Internet environment. Writing definitely shouldn’t be left until the last minute.
For more examples of misperceptions about writing, read 5 Wrong Ideas About Freelance Writers.
So, what’s a writer (or a small business that uses content) to do? Rushed writing usually compromises quality (even if some writers claim it doesn’t).
Here’s what to do instead.
Whether you’re a writer working on developing content or a small business engaging a writer to create content for you, you need to plan. At the very least, make sure you know the following:
- Purpose of the content
- Audience for the content
Next, organize how you will present the material.
After writing a headline, I create an outline that maps out how I will present the information. I also decide whether I need any other materials (such as photos, graphics, videos, or any other type of media).
Now that you have your writing plan in place, you are ready to execute that plan. Use the following steps:
- Research. You’ll need to research to fill in any gaps in your own knowledge. Check and double-check your information before using it.
- Write the headline and/or lede. This is what the reader sees first. How they respond to it determines whether they read the rest.
- Write the rest. Fill in the rest of the piece from your research, adjusting your outline as needed.
- Add multi-media. If your assignment requires you to find images or other media to include with the piece, make sure that you have a license or use royalty free media. (Caution: This one step can take a bit of time.)
Often would-be writers and small businesses think they are done after they write the first draft, but they would be wrong. All you have now is a draft and it’s probably not really ready to be published.
Whenever possible, let some time elapse between writing your first draft and revising it. That’s necessary because you won’t be able to see mistakes in your work immediately after writing it.
During this stage you’ll want to check carefully for:
- Spelling and grammar mistakes
- Passive voice
- Unnecessarily long sentences and/or words
- Long sequences of unbroken text
- Formatting mistakes
- Broken hyperlinks
And really anything else that you see wrong.
Consider yourself lucky if you have someone available and willing to read your material before you publish it. But you can also check over your work yourself if you have to.
Finally, we come to the most overlooked writing step of all. Marketing.
More than ever, it’s important to market your content after it is published. The days of “write it and they will come” are over. (If indeed they ever existed.)
Posts and articles must be shared to be read. Social media sites, selective emails, newsletters, and even the company website are all excellent resources for sharing content.
One point of contention is whose job it is to market content. Some businesses (particularly small ones) feel that this is part of the writer’s responsibilities. While writers feel that the business should take care of marketing content. Make sure your contract is specific about this.
My own take is that it’s best for both to be involved if possible. The more people who spread the word, the better. But businesses should pay extra if they want the writer to also do marketing for them.
How hard is writing for you?
If you’re a small business struggling to publish content, don’t forget that you can hire a writer to help you get it done.
If you’re a writer, what’s your writing process like? Share your thoughts in the comments.