Episode 54 of Landscape Digital Show reveals a 5-step writing process formula for creating winning content that captivates your audience.
In this episode, I’m going to share my writing process that has evolved over the years by borrowing secrets from great writers, including novelists, non-fiction authors, editors, screenwriters, copywriters, bloggers and more.
Like any other activity, writing must follow a process. It’s the only way to consistently achieve results.
Every day billions of people jump on Facebook, LinkedIn, and so many other channels to share a message, often to accomplish a business purpose. That’s usually a written message, but if it’s the spoken word like this podcast or a video, I hope at least a portion of it is first written. Why?
Some people can indeed create amazing improv content, but they are rare.
If you doubt this, just rewind in your mind the rambling acceptance speeches of too many Academy Award winners. That’s what happens when there is no preparation, and that preparation you will discover is writing.
Whether you think you have writing talent or not, I can assure you anyone can do this better if they commit to studying and practicing to find and perfect his or her process for doing it well.
Here’s the writing process that works for me.
#1. Generate Ideas
The first, and in my opinion, most enjoyable step in any writing process is to start writing to discover new ideas worth writing about. You’re having a conversation with yourself that leads to accessing ideas that you may have long forgotten or not explored as they are in that moment.
This is one of the secrets of writing. By typing on those keys you are engaging your mind and body, and most likely your heart and soul too. Anyone that has not written a book may not understand this.
I know that I didn’t because I desperately wanted to write a book and it took me almost a decade to make it happen. Instead of writing to generate new ideas I was trying to create perfectly written content without doing the work of discovery.
You’ll never have everything perfectly organized, so just get started and put in the time to see what your mind, body, heart and soul come up with. And be prepared to thrash around, struggle and fail because that’s part of this too.
Trust the process and stay with it because what comes after that struggle will be the ideas for some of your best writing.
#2. Give It Structure
Once I have the thread of an idea I print it out and start looking for the structure. Typically, I’ll use a three-part beginning, middle and end structure, just like a screenwriter or playwright will use a three-act structure.
It’s a time-tested formula that always works. There are more advanced structures that I use, and that I’ve discussed in earlier episodes, but this one is foundational.
#3. Write to Completion
Now the true writing begins. And the cardinal rule is that I do not take my butt out of the seat until the article, podcast show, or chapter is complete. You’ve invested a fair amount of time to get to this point. That’s why it’s important to use that inspirational flow to go the distance.
It’s quite likely that before taking this step I’ve allowed my idea time to set, giving my conscious and subconscious mind time to work on it. This is something we all naturally do. It’s called the Zeigarnik Effect.
The mind tends to work on what’s not complete. So, you have to get started to have something, anything, that you can then take to the finish line.
It may work differently for you, but I’ve personally discovered that not writing to completion is like swimming halfway across a body of water. Turning around means starting over again.
#4. Take Time to Edit
Editing to most people means fixing misspellings and typos. Clearly, that has to be done but there is much more to it. Since most of the content you create will be published somewhere online, you have to ask yourself if you have been true to the theme that is represented by the headline or title.
Often I will find that I can come up with a better headline. After I do, I’ll usually have to eliminate, reorganize or rewrite some of the content. Then, I’ll create subheadings or improve those that I already have.
After that, I’ll scrutinize the paragraphs to make them as tight as possible. This includes breaking out key sentences that can stand on their own, thereby giving them more punch and making them retweetable.
Finally, everything has to pass a visual test for look and feel. People don’t read nowadays as much as the skim content for meaning. So keep your paragraphs short, usually no more than three sentences.
And be sure to highlight key phrases and sentences in some way. They can be bolded, italicized, numbered, or featured in a call-out box.
Congratulations. You are done, except that you aren’t.
#5. Rewrite, Reformat and Repurpose
If you haven’t heard the term writing is rewriting, get comfortable with it because that’s what should follow the initial publishing of your content.
A lot of people publish and stop. No, no, no, no, no.
You have to now publish your content in multiple formats to adapt to the desired learning or discovery preferences of your respective audience members.
The good news is each writing iteration makes your content that much better. Trust me, this phase of the process often will take on a life of its own that can go on for weeks, months, even years. And it should.
Think of this as a dialogue with your audience that never stops. If it does the relationship with that audience of customers, influencers, and potential buyers falls apart. This is why I go back to my archives to take earlier content and make it more relevant to my audience today.
Ideas become what they want to be at a particular moment in time, but they cannot get there on their own. You have to be the guide by rewriting them.
- Here are some of my favorite books on writing:
Nobody Wants to Read Your Sh*t, by Steven Pressfield – This easy read by one of the masters is informative and humorous. You’ll discover fiction and non-fiction writing have a lot in common.
On Writing, by Stephen King – This is both informative and hilariously entertaining. That’s why I suggest the audiobook that is recorded by the author.
The Story Grid, by Shawn Coyne – You probably need to be a lifelong writer to pursue this publication. It’s for serious writers.
- Check out How to Discover and Perfect Your Brand Story for additional ideas on story structure.
- 27 Writing Productivity Tools, Techniques and Resources is a monster blog post that I put together after writing my first book. It’s exactly what the title suggests, tools, tips, and resources.
- Never miss an episode. Subscribe to Landscape Digital Show on iTunes.
- And if you are on Facebook, please like the Landscape Digital Institute page. I’ll greatly appreciate that!
Call to Action
The call to action for this episode is to take my 5 step writing process and test it against yours. If you don’t have a reliable process make mine your own and borrow from those of other writers.
If you don’t have a reliable process make mine your own and borrow from those of other writers by exploring the links listed in the show notes.