Wise Advice from a Best-Selling Author, and How to Write Amazing Content
A few weeks ago, my church hosted best-selling author and speaker, Jen Wilkin, for a women’s conference on gaining wisdom. I approached her after one of the sessions and asked what “wisdom” she’d offer to someone who wanted to grow in her writing skills. Smiling, she confessed when she first heard about blogging, she jokingly said, “Why would anyone ever want to do that? It’s so much work!” But the advice she gave wasn’t lost on me, because it was simple and rung true. She told me,
“Try new things and be willing to become your own first student. Writing is a very formative work.”Jen Wilkin
Writing forces us to reckon what we know, with what we can communicate. It is formative work. But at some point, you have to put actual words on a page. After you’ve written some things down, then you start asking, “Does this even make sense?”
Welcome to being a writer!
The truth is we often overcomplicate the task. You’ve been writing your whole life, but when you find yourself staring at a blank screen, that’s probably an indication that you need a better process. Having a repeatable system that helps you get what’s on your heart onto the page (faster and with better results). This looks different for everyone, but there are some steps every writer takes to turn their ideas into written words that will bless their readers. It may not be glamorous, but there is a better way to plan what you’re going to say.
Start with this Checklist
These are the 5 steps you’ll learn about inside: Pre-Writing, Writing, Editing, Publishing, and Marketing. Grab “The Christian Blogger’s Complete Checklist to Creating Amazing Content for Your Blog” now!
This checklist and planner were born from my own struggle to develop a system for writing my own blog posts. By using this download, you’ll learn how to plan and execute your work (better, faster, and more logically). Once you’re comfortable with it, wash, rinse, and repeat, and you’ll experience great gains.
As Jen Wilkin said, this is a formative work. It’ll change you before it changes anyone else. Are you ready? Let’s break down the steps.
“You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.”Jack London
The objective of prewriting is to organize your mind for writing. It’s like the warm-up before the workout. But don’t be fooled…you will burn calories during this phase. This is where you decide what knowledge you have and what knowledge you need before you can write. During your prewrite, you’ll research, gather information, ask questions, and write down all your ideas.
During this phase, I think it’s helpful to decide what your big idea or big takeaway you want to offer. What problem are you trying to solve? What new perspective are you offering your reader? Prewriting is about learning to observe the world around you and draw conclusions. Inspiration and ideas are everywhere…now go find them!
“Very few writers really know what they are doing until they’ve done it. Nor do they go about their business feeling dewy and thrilled. They do not type a few stiff warm-up sentences and then find themselves bounding along like huskies across the snow.”Anne Lamott
Writing is less husky bounding across the snow and more shaking the drool off your jowls like a Saint Bernard. Sometimes it’s just not very pretty. But isn’t it freeing to know that when writing is hard…it’s because it’s hard for everyone? Give yourself permission to write really crappy first, second, and even third drafts. The more you write the more you realize what you know and what you don’t know. This keeps us humble and keeps us always in a position of being a student first.
“Writing is 50% thinking, 5% typing, 45% deleting the bad parts. Get to — and I cannot stress this enough — the point.”Morgan Housel
Sure, it’s important to check your grammar…but trust what you already know. May I offer you a different perspective on editing you might not have considered? Read your work through different lenses. Just like when you sit down in the optometrist’s chair to check your vision, and they flip through different lenses, you need to flip through different lenses of your own writing.
Did you write through the…?
- Truthfulness lens: Did you truthfully reflect your own thoughts and feelings? Were you true to the biblical text (if you were using one)?
- Accuracy lens: Are you factually correct? Is it clear when you present your opinion vs. fact?
- Wordiness lens: Did you get to the point? Can you delete needless adjectives and clauses to make your sentences more succinct?
- Passive voice lens: Did you eliminate most of your passive voice and make your sentences more active? (Yoast is an excellent tool for this!)
- Newbie lens: Have you defined your terms and eliminated jargon? Would a newbie who’s never encountered your content before, understand what you’re saying?
“Writing is visual. It catches the eye before it catches the brain.”William Zinsser
Have you ever painted a room, and when you’ve finished, stepped back and admired your work? As the painter, know how hard it was to reach those high places, and you also know how you had to twist yourself into a pretzel to reach that space behind the piano. That’s the satisfaction of publishing.
But don’t let your hard work get lost in a poor visual presentation. Poor visuals include lackluster images, walls of text, too many fonts, lots of visual distractions on the page, and little or no white space. A great image is often the first thing that draws people into your post. Consider the vibe and feel of your blog when selecting images. Does your image reflect the tone of your blog post?
“Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing about.”Benjamin Franklin
It would be awesome if you could hit ‘Publish’ and be done, but that will not grow your platform as a writer. Whether we like it or not, writing is also about promoting your post to your email list, social media accounts, and beyond. One of my favorite writers on Medium, Tim Denning, (who has over 200K followers on this platform alone) suggests this writing formula for building a mini traffic machine as a writer:
- Write one article every week (SEO)
- Repurpose it as a thread (social)
- Send it to your list (email)
- Post it in relevant communities (referrals)
There are more ideas for how to repurpose your content inside the Checklist download, but it’s important that you make friends with the idea of marketing your work. Marketing is putting your work in a place where it has visibility. Over time, consistent marketing of your work builds trust. Spread the word about your words in a way that feels authentic to you, and not off-putting to your reader.
The Formative Work of Writing
Jen Wilkin is right. Writing is a very formative work. Internally, we learn what we believe, and we often write through many obstacles.
- Fear: because writing requires us to reveal ourselves and we all have insecurities.
- Frustration: because writing reminds us of our limitations in language (and this is God’s plan), and
- Faith: because writing through the lens of our faith challenges us to know what we believe and convey that winsomely to our reader.
Are you willing to be brave and try new things? Can you go through some temporary discomfort because you believe you have something to offer or say?
Similar to how you feel after painting your room, you might be a little sore afterward. But once it’s complete, you’ll be able to step back from your work and say with satisfaction, “I did that.” I pray this tool will aid you as writing informs and forms you. The ‘after’ will be worth it.
You are a writer!
P.S. When I create a download, I want it to be worth your while (and worth giving your email!). If you’re a beginner, don’t let the amount of content I’ve provided overwhelm you. Instead, incrementally add steps to your process. In time, it will become second nature. Use what’s valuable to you…ignore what’s not. The idea is to give you all the tools you need and let you make it your own. Enjoy!