For most writers, achieving excellence is a process that requires skill, perseverance, time and patience. Good writing doesn’t just happen. Even the most talented writers work hard to perfect their craft. In this month’s blog, the Ten22 team offers tips for overcoming our most difficult writing challenges. Here are six common pitfalls along with creative solutions to consider.
1. Getting started, finding a creative angle for an article in the first few paragraphs. The mental struggle can be debilitating. Procrastination is the enemy.
- Take a walk and think about an angle before diving into writing. Once you have an introductory hook or theme, set aside two hours or so to write the first couple of paragraphs, title and subtitle. The rest usually flows easily.
- Research the subject matter. Surf the internet for related content such as news, studies and websites. Brainstorm with colleagues for creative inspiration. Draft a short outline to help create a mental picture of the article and how it will flow.
- Leave the blank screen, where inspiration is nowhere to be found, and take a break. Go for a bike ride. Sit on the porch. Do yoga. Read a magazine article or a few chapters of a good mystery. If your brain feels totally blocked, it may take an entire novel to restore your energy. Best practice is to make time for leisurely reading throughout your work week.
- Give yourself permission to write a worst first draft. Just get it all down. This practice allows you to write freely, unencumbered by rigid rules, organization and format. Then you can relax, revise the second draft and refine the third.
2. Topic intimidation when faced with unfamiliar subject matter.
- Explore reputable resources to build confidence and begin a first draft. Collaborate with knowledgeable colleagues to flesh out the content.
- Research. Research. Create a list of well-informed questions and interview a subject matter expert. Then begin writing in chunks, not necessarily in chronological order, as the story unfolds.
3. Time management when handling projects for multiple clients. Dedicated writing seems unattainable while juggling calls and meetings throughout the day.
- At the beginning of each week, schedule time for writing just as you would for a client meeting. Enter time slots on your calendar and set reminders.
- Make writing a top priority until it becomes a habit. No excuses. Honor the commitment.
4. Finding the right voice—the tone and style of your client and the intended audience.
- Get to know your clients and their styles. Read existing content to become familiar with the preferred tone and style.
- While it’s important to align your writing with the voice of the client and the intended audience, trying something slightly new or different can make the content more memorable and compelling.
- Use your expertise to offer creative suggestions. Maybe an eBook instead of a staid white paper. Most clients are open to new ideas and welcome a fresh approach.
5. Avoiding business jargon. With pressure to meet deadlines and convey key messages, it’s easy to fall into the buzzword trap.
- Post a list of common buzzwords as a reminder not to use them. Forbes has published a list along with helpful tips.
- Keep track of the times you use business jargon and make a conscious effort to avoid those annoying words.
- Make a list of more meaningful words and phrases to replace overused corporate language.
6. Adhering to various guidelines—The Associated Press Stylebook, The Chicago Manual of Style, client-specific guidelines, publication guidelines. Some clients and editors follow AP or CMOS while others create their own guidelines.
- Determine the guidelines required by clients and publication editors. Request copies of any customized style guides.
- Subscribe to online versions of AP and CMOS style guides or purchase hard copies.
- Keep up with ever-changing rules via periodic updates.
- Build relationships with clients and publication editors. They appreciate efforts to expedite the editing process by following their guidelines.
A Final Note
As a writer and editor, I am fortunate to work with a team of professionals who care about the quality and integrity of writing. We constantly strive to give our clients creative, compelling and meaningful content. The end results are well worth the effort.