“It’s none of their business that you have to learn to write. Let them think you were born that way.” Ernest Hemingway
While I may be encouraged by Hemingway’s quote, I also know that by the time I hit the publish button on this article, 1,999,999 other writers will be doing the same thing. That’s 2 million articles or enough to fill Time Magazine for 77 years. That is a lot of competition for readers. So what does it take to attract readers, followers and shares?
Readers are first attracted by a catchy or thought provoking title. However, if we don’t deliver content that’s informative, interesting. and keeps the reader engaged, we’ll lose our readers. One way to keep the reader until the end is to write well-paced narrative. Unfortunately, many people confuse well-paced narrative with what fiction writers have to do.
The reality is that pacing, creating emotional connections, and providing visual interests are the responsibility of non-fiction writers as well.
Developing our articles, going from point A to B, or a blank page to the finished article is a process. Even if you are unaware of your process, you have one. Review your last few articles and determine what course of action you took to complete that article.
- For instance, some writers have an idea, verify their facts, expand on their thoughts and feelings about the topic and start writing. It’s an organic form of processing.
- Others take their topic and create an outline. The Who, What, Why and Where of the piece. Then they begin to fill in the information allowing their talents to emerge.
However, all writers start out with the idea of creating an article that combines good craft with passion and heart, or the art of the article. Gerard de Marigny distinguishes art and craft, “There’s a difference between the ‘art’ of writing and the ‘craft’ of writing. Art is subjective; its beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder, but craft is objective. There is a right way and a wrong way to craft.” A good post unites the objective with the subjective. Regardless of your process, each topic has to have some basic types of information.
When I am researching a topic, I also have to consider if I will write about the topic from the perspective of breadth or depth. I often use a KWL table, developed by Dona Ogle. It simplifies:
When I define the KWL information, I create a better-structured article. As with most things in life, I’ve started out with:
- Limited knowledge: What I Know
- Desire to Learn More: What I Want to Know
When I’m finished researching, then I can develop what I learned into my post.
Analyzing the Outcomes
Some writers wait for inspiration to write, some of us follow a schedule and write a certain number of posts a week or month. I plan my articles and usually use an outline.
If you are writing for a site that manages your viewing statistics, see which of your articles readers gravitate to; those are the ones that will help you determine your best efforts.
Was it the topic, the pacing of your piece, or the overall content that drove readers to this particular article? Regardless of the topic, if there is heart, combined with craft, copying the process can help you with the next post and the next and so forth. However, I would caution you: Don’t create the ‘formula’ and just repeat. That can get tedious and boring. In analyzing your article and reviewing your statistics, think about the post from a number of perspectives, and ask yourself:
- Why was this topic appealing?
Without a compelling reason to get your attention, it won’t attract the reader, either.
- Were you knowledgeable about this subject?
Being confident in our topics comes through to the reader; they want to hear the authority in the piece.
- Was the research about this topic interesting to you?
If it isn’t that will come through to the reader. Simply linking to additional dry material loses the reader.
- Why was this article satisfying to write?
Good copywriters can produce words; however you cannot infuse emotion, heart and passion into the piece if you don’t like it; neither will the reader.
- Which articles attracted more readers and comments?
Beginning to End
Even knowing that a catchy title or good summary attracted the reader, it’s often in the comments that we learn how our content influenced the reader. And we need to be mindful of these remarks and observations to improve.
Solid writing craft means the art is well written. Therefore, improving at the craft of writing might mean defining your process, analyzing the results, maintaining a formula that works, or trying something different, enhancing your strengths and finding your voice, tone and style.
In addition, I think improving craft might just set us apart from those other 1,999,999 other writers.
Two Drops of Ink: The Literary Home for Collaborative Writing