How to Write An Article Like an Absolute Boss
“How to write an article.”
Seems easy enough, right?
Just sit down, open up your computer, and let the ideas flow onto the page, right?
If writing articles is so simple, how come few people ever do it? How come you don’t do it enough? Hmmm…
From my years of experience as a writer, I’d guess less than 10 percent of people who read blogs about blogging ever, you know, blog.
For whatever reason, sitting down to write an article seems daunting. If you find yourself lacking the ideas, motivation, or structure to write articles consistently, this is the post for you.
Once you learn and embrace the process fully, you’ll become unstoppable. You won’t need motivation to write, you’ll just do it. The ideas will flow easily, once you’ve built the foundation.
If you practice enough, you’ll get to the point where you can generate an entire article by simply opening up your computer and writing.
Would you like to be able to do that?
Are you tired of feeling blocked creatively?
Are you ready to become a writing machine?
Ok, cool. Let’s get started.
I Give The Same Piece of Advice to Start Every Post About Writing
Stop trying to be cute.
That’s your main problem. You look at writing like some special process that produces magic. In many ways, that’s true.
Writing does produce magic and beauty. But, as a rose rises from the ground, the foundation is always built from the dirt.
So, just give up your dreams of becoming the next great writer and learn basic blogging techniques, will ya?
You can get to your esoteric essays later. A few listicles won’t tarnish your reputation. If you never produce anything ever, then you have no reputation to tarnish anyway.
Just trust me on this. Leaning the basics, beginning to hit the publish button, and getting some positive feedback will lead to more creative and unique writing in the future.
I have a voice no writer on the planet can match because I started by blogging like everyone else does. Submit your ego, become a student, obey directions, and you’ll be miles ahead of most aspiring writers I come across.
Ok, let’s build the foundation.
The Biggest Myth in the Blogosphere
To keep things simple, let’s help you overcome a common hurdling block — your perfect little niche and audience. In my experience, the niche is overrated.
Again, stop being cute.
If you think you have five broad topics you want to write about, just pick one and focus on that for the next 90 days. Publishing 1–3 articles per week will teach you more about your writing preferences than thinking about them ever will.
I have a few guides on choosing a writing topic here. Read them, pick, and commit to writing in that space for 90 days:
- How to Pick a Writing Topic and Stick With It
- Read This if You Can’t Decide Which Topic to Write About
- How to Start Writing: The Ultimate Guide
Once you’ve chosen an area to write about, there are simple ways to find out what your potential audience likes to read:
- Find other writers in your niche and study the responses from their audience. You could go so far as copying and pasting certain responses to use in the future when you’re generating ideas.
- Study the other writers themselves. Read their articles thoroughly and make guesses about what works so well for them. Write these ideas down. Become an active student instead of a passive reader
- You can use exercises like creating a reader avatar or hunting through forums and Amazon reviews to get a crystal clear idea (although you don’t need it)
Once you have a “good enough” idea for your main topic, you’ll start to build the foundation for your article writing empire.
The Bedrock of Every Successful Article
Don’t simply open your computer and start writing. Dumb.
Instead, you want to have ideas waiting in the wings to write about. Those ideas will come in the form of a headline.
To this day, no matter how in-depth, nuanced, well researched, and balanced the content of my articles is, I will use a click-bait headline.
Understanding the building blocks of a great headline means you understand the building blocks of persuasion in general. Understanding persuasion makes you a better writer.
If you get good at headlines, it’ll be easier to write articles because:
- Headlines create the promise your post fulfills, so you’ll know how to direct your writing to that outcome
- Good headlines hit emotional cues that can direct your writing, e.g., a positive and inspirational headline means you’ll write with a tone that matches
- Since headlines are 80% of the success of an article, you’ll feel less pressure when it comes to the writing
There are formulas you can use to generate headlines, but understand these important elements:
- Good headlines promise to solve a problem. Think about what pains and frustrations your audience has and identify outcomes to solve those problems, then write the headline based on the outcome
- Good headlines promise a better future or transformation. People don’t want to diet, they want to look good naked. People don’t want to learn self-improvement techniques. They want health, wealth, love, and happiness.
- Good headlines play to fears and frustrations your audience has. Why do you think headlines like “Are You Making One of These 7 Mistakes When it Comes to Raising Your Newborn?” What parent wouldn’t at least be curious to read that article?
Understanding the foundation of a good headline, begin to start writing headlines within the framework of formulas.
Some great headline formula lists are:
- 10 Surefire Headline Formulas That Work
- 51 Headline Formulas to Skyrocket Conversions
- 47 Headline Examples: Steal These Nifty Formulas From Popular Blogs
I write down 10 headline ideas per day. Jon Morrow, who taught me most of what I know about blogging, wrote 50–100 headlines per day until he became a master.
The more you practice headlines the faster you’ll improve at writing great articles, period. Start practicing headlines and store the good ones in a document on your computer to draw from.
Ideally, before you sit down to write, you’ll have a bunch of ideas to choose from. Each session, you can choose the one that speaks to you most, and then you’ll do this.
Keep it Simple Stupid
If I were you, I’d stick with two basic formulas for articles, to begin with:
- The 5 point essay
Both are easy to use and provide a definitive structure for your post.
When you’re a beginner, trying to write a loose and open-ended article will frustrate you. You’re not skilled enough, creative enough, nor do you have the proper writing habit needed to stick with such an article.
This advice isn’t for everyone. My advice is aimed at bloggers. People who start as “just bloggers” go on to be creative and unique.
Often, people who aim to become stellar essay writers, memoirists, or any of the other esoteric forms of non-fiction, seem to have a harder time sticking with the process. Just my .02
So for each style, you can use a similar process to generate the structure of the article:
- Mind Map — Brainstorm the potential topics and sub-topics on a piece of paper using big bubbles and little bubbles
- Outline — Take those loose ideas and fit them into the frame of your article. Write down the main ideas and bullet points underneath each main idea. The simplest formula for the 5 point essay = intro, three main topics, three bullets underneath each topic, conclusion
Imagine how much easier it will be to write an article with:
- Background on your audience
- A headline ready to go that frames your brainstorming of the article
- Ideas plotted out before you pen a word
I’m telling you. Don’t be cute, structure your shit, and work within a frame to start. It will be 100 times easier.
Now, let’s look at some of the elements of writing an article people love.
Gone in Less Than 5 Seconds
“I smashed a lamp over my head. There was blood everywhere. And glass. And I took a picture.”
Regardless of how long you stay for the entire article, you’re at least reading the next few sentences are you read a line like that.
Copyblogger has a saying, “the goal of each sentence is to get the reader to the next one.”
You want people to be surprised when they finish your article. Like, “damn I’m done already?”
Your intro serves this purpose more than anything else.
By any means, you must grab their attention asap, or they will click away from your post.
Some of my go-to techniques are:
- Ask 3 questions you know your reader will mentally nod their head yes to
- Open with what pains and frustrates your reader and be mean to them, spelling out the consequences and painting the bleak future they’re already imagining
- Look at your first line and ask whether it will stop people dead in their tracks
Pro Tip: Don’t let the intro consume a ton of your time if it isn’t coming to you right away. Go ahead and write the main points first and circle back to both your intro and conclusion.
How to Write Your First Draft With Ease
For the main points, keep it simple. You have the three main ideas and the three sub-topics underneath.
Write the draft using that outline and don’t overthink it.
If you’re writing a listicle, you can use a similar formula. Depending on the length of your list, you won’t need to have elaborate sub-topics, just focus on the core idea of each point.
Some simple rules of thumb to help you stay focused:
- Use no more than 300 words per main point
- Open the point alluding to the idea, support the idea, and close the idea. Make an essay within the essay
- End each point by trying to segue into the next point. Here’s a great article on how to do that
I’m not going to go into a ton of depth here about the exact thing you should write because… that’s your part of the deal. In a bit, I’ll show you some of my techniques to make your articles shine, but the content of what you write comes from, well, you.
You’ll find your voice by writing articles.
You’ll find your voice by writing shitty articles.
The most important part of writing articles isn’t the writing itself, it’s publishing them. If you’re worried about people’s opinions, just know you won’t have many opinions to deal with because nobody knows who the fuck you are. Stop being cute.
You are a baby. Crawl. Bump your head on the coffee table. Imitate what you hear. Next thing you know, you’ll be walking, talking, and in consumer debt up to your ears with a loveless marriage.
Get it? Got it? Good.
The Book End Technique
If you get the intro and conclusion right, the content in between won’t matter as much.
You want a great intro and conclusion because people won’t remember much of the content they’ve just read.
They’ll remember the way you made them feel. You’ll build an audience by creating the type of feelings that attract people to you. Writing isn’t about … words.
Writing is about emotions. You can write well, fail to hit an emotional nerve, and fail. It happens all the time. So my approach always starts with things like:
You’re a manipulator of emotions who uses words to perform the manipulation. Thought that way, you understand how to make your words serve a purpose instead of being empty.
For your close, think about how you want your reader to feel.
What do you want them to take away?
What promise are you making?
How can you leave them scratching their heads in a way that makes them come back again and again?
Use the formula from start to finish, then add these stylistic elements to make your articles sing.
Elements of Style
Pay careful attention to the way your blog posts look.
Do you want to become a great writer? Are you afraid no one will ever read your work? What will your life, career, and dreams look like if you continue to struggle with writer’s block?
Do you want to become a great writer?
Are you afraid no one will ever read your work?
What will your life, career, and dreams look like if you continue to struggle with writer’s block?
The second version makes the reader pause and say yes three separate times. The former creates a blended together yes for all three.
Spacing has a huge impact on how your writing comes across. You don’t have to write the way I do. I’ve seen writers who write large walls of text and complicated paragraphs who do quite well. Often, though, they’re advanced.
You want every advantage you can get, right?
You want the process of writing an article to become easier, right?
Ok, use my tips then!
Well, not my tips, but rather the basic blogging tips you kind of already know:
- Use short sentences
- Use short paragraphs
- Bold to emphasize points overtly
- Add photos tactfully to break up the words and give the eyes a “mental break”
- Italicize to emphasize points subtly
- Use bulleted lists to organize information cleanly.
Use H2’s to Emphasize the Major Points Of Your Article
Use H3’s for Your Sub-Points
Go through some of my articles on the site. Some of them are very long — 5000 words or more. The only way to get people to read from start to finish is by using these stylistic techniques. In addition to that, there are some ways to craft better words themselves.
Notice I’m giving you more detail as you go through the article. Remember, the foundation is everything. Going from the “outside-in” gives you the blueprint to build the house.
The other way around is like someone dumping a bunch of wood, nails, and tools onto your lawn and saying “go build a house.
My Little Bag of Effective Writing Techniques
Learn my process, then create your own.
As far as the writing itself goes, you want it to punch and pop. Notice the words I just used. You can almost hear them. There is a percussion to them.
You can accomplish this in a few ways:
- Using onomatopoeia like I just did — punch, pop, crackle, spark, crack
- Strategically placed italics — you don’t people to read your writing, you want them to feel it
- Contractions — Instead of “you will” write “you’ll”
- Active voice — Instead of “John was hit by the car,” say “The car hit John”
- Use future pacing words — “Picture yourself” “Imagine” “What would your life look like if you [insert action?”
Also, here’s a super-detailed guide on persuasive writing you can reference later.
Aside from those little tricks, when you go back through to edit your article think about whether or not each line deserves to be there.
If you can learn to honestly assess your writing as if you were the reader, you’ll become a better writer. Many writers never get there. They have delusions of grandeur about how good they are.
Don’t be one of these people.
Don’t be a perfectionist either. Get your drafts to “good enough” and hit the publish button.
You Know This, I Know You Know This, and You Know I Know You Know This
You know how to write an article.
You get the gist of it.
I didn’t read articles like this when I first started writing. I just started writing. I’d been reading articles for years. I kind of just looked at popular articles and reverse engineered them without thinking too much about it.
I’m blessed to be the type of naive person who just dives and without fear.
But if that’s not you, you have to understand that you’ll learn more from actually writing articles than any “how to write an article” guide can teach you.
If you wrote a new article 1–3 times a week for the next 90 days, you’d be shocked at how good you’ll become.
Then, you can develop the path to doing all the things you know you want to do so so badly — make a living writing, publishing books, build a big audience, and spend the rest of your life doing what you love.
I’m sitting in a coffee shop right now — my office. I wake up when I want, write when I want, and get paid for it. It’s as nice as it sounds. The grass is greener over here. Believe me.
You can and will get there, one article at a time.
Write one today.
Want 3 Free Writing Guides? Get them here. Did I mention they’re free?
Originally published at http://www.ayothewriter.com on October 3, 2019.