Let’s face it. Writing is hard work.
And it gets even harder if you’re like me, haven’t had enough practice, have a day job, have two young children, and other responsibilities.
So, I jump at any checklist or guide that would help me hone my writing skills.
Here’s 12 steps I adapted from reading Ann Handley’s book, Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content.
1. Begin with the end in mind
Every goal, every project, every task must begin with the end in mind. To make it even clearer, you need to ask yourself what is the objective you want to achieve? In the context of a lesson, this would be your learning objective. In the context of an article, this would be your goal of the piece you are creating.
However, there’s a catch here: the goal is not about you, but about how your readers, learners, audiences can benefit from it. Which leads me to…
2. Reframe it as a benefit for your audience
If I were to say to you that you have to be self-disciplined, you would think that I am a tyrant and run away from me. If I were to say to you that there’s a way to reach your goals and that’s by being disciplined, you might be wondering what is it I have to say that is different. However, if I were to say to you that to design a better life, there are several ways and one of it is to be disciplined, I might just get your attention.
Ask: so what? And keep asking as many times as necessary until you arrive at the core of what is essential for all human beings.
3. Evidences, examples, and experiences
This is also known as the white-coat phenomenon. If I were tell you that most people check their mobile devices the moment they’re awake. You’d probably call me out my BS. But if I were to tell you that, according an IDC Research report, 80 percent of 18- to 44-year-olds who check their mobile devices soon after they are awake, you’re more likely to believe me.
The learning point here is to back-up your benefits and claims with evidences and examples. But remember, you’re not writing an academic peer reviewed article here. And what if such data are not available? Relating your own experiences can count too.
4. Structures, structures, structures
Who wants to read a huge chunk of text? Certainly not me. In school, I learned to organize my essay starting with the introduction, body, and conclusion. But in truth, that doesn’t work for me. And it doesn’t work for my audience.
I am always explored different ways of organizing. One structure I’ve found particularly useful in telling a story is the hero’s journey. Briefly, here’s the structure:
- Ordinary world: The hero starts off in the ordinary world experiencing the status quo
- Call to adventure: The hero gets a call to embark on an adventure, typically outside of his comfort zone
- Refusal of the call: The hero goes through a series of battles starting with an internal battle, where the refusal of the call is experienced
- Battles: The hero will experience battles in the form of external and other people
- Transformation: Upon defeating the battles, the hero emerges victorious and is thereafter transformed
5. Write to one person
This is a simple but not an easy task to do when writing. Especially when I was starting to write in a blog, I tried to sound like some thought leader. But hey, who am I trying to kid. So now, I imagine myself writing to a one person. I’ve experimented with various “one person” but I found to be most useful is to imagine writing to my son.
To begin with, my writing here is to document and codify my learning, experiences, and wisdom so that my children can read this when I am gone.
6. Produce the Ugly First Draft
Vomit, as Guy Kawasaki calls it. This is the version one point zero (or perhaps even the beta version) that no one other than you will read it. You don’t have to be concerned about the grammar, the sentence structures, or even readability.
Just get it out and deal with dressing it up later.