Tips to Improve Your Writing

Great writing doesn’t happen by accident. Like any other art or trade, it requires lots of discipline, careful study, and a great deal of time. If you find yourself struggling every time you sit down at your laptop (or, if you’re more old fashioned, with a pencil and paper), you’re not alone. Every great writer struggles from time to time, but the ability to push through the rough spots usually helps you emerge better at your craft. Here are seven tips to help you improve your writing.

1. Do it Often

Think of writing like you’d think of running. You wouldn’t just wake up one morning and expect to run a marathon — you’d need to train and practice for a long time before you were able to go a long distance without difficulty. The same holds true for writing. You’ve got to write frequently — every day if you can. The more you do it, the more natural it feels, and the easier your thoughts will transfer to written (or typed) words. If you need inspiration or a prompt, there are many books and even more websites full of prompts for creative writers. Pick one and get going.

2. Rewrite

Your first draft is never your best. Your second draft isn’t much better. Read, re-read, and carefully examine your drafts, using hard copies if you can to physically cross things out and write down comments. If you can, leave some time between writing and revising; you’ll have an easier time reading what’s actually there instead of what you want to be there.

3. Keep Reading

Read great writing — as much as you possibly can. Think of yourself as an apprentice learning a sacred craft. Look at the masters and see how they do it. Plot, sentence structure, character development, dialogue — you can learn a great deal about all of these things by reading great books on a regular basis.

4. Nouns and Verbs

Great writing typically means strong nouns and verbs rather than long strings of adjectives and adverbs. They’re often more specific and get right to the heart of what you’re trying to say. Remember: quality isn’t always quantity. If you find yourself using lots of adjectives and adverbs, see if you can replace your qualified noun or verb with a stronger, unqualified one. For example, you can run really super fast, or you can spring. You can eat a big whole lot, or you can gorge. For pithy writing with few adjectives and adverbs, try some short stories by Ernest Hemingway or Gertrude Stein.

5. Do it Properly

English is your tool, so it’s essential to use it properly. There are zero excuses for poor grammar, misspelled words, or improper usage. If you’re unsure of something, look it up. Lots of reading will help you learn how to use English properly, but if you want to go one step further, get a copy of Strunk and White’s Elements of Style and read a few pages each day. It’s a favorite reference book of many writers, and it explains the rules of the language in an easy to understand manner.

6. Intelligence and Honesty

Many beginning writers try to make their writing cute, trite glib, or flippant. Others go in the complete opposite direction and come across sounding pretentious. Any of these approaches is a mistake, however. Instead, show respect for your subject matter, and offer your true voice to your reader. Be smart, and be honest. It’s always the right thing to do.

7. Know and Learn

Regular reading will help you with this, but make a point to learn as much as you can. In our look-it-up society, there’s no good excuse for not having an answer, not knowing about a topic, or not doing your research. Trust your senses and be inquisitive. It’s a characteristic that will serve you well as you embark on your journey as a writer.

How to Write a Salesletter Even If You’re Not a Copywriter

 I wrote my first real salesletter back in 2002 in an effort to sell a tiny little music accessory (called an oboe reed) on the internet. By all accounts, the salesletter was terrible. Except that it sold a lot of our products. I was excited and thought it meant I knew something about writing copy.

As it turns out, I had stumbled onto the secret for writing effective copy, which I’ll reveal in just a moment.

While there are countless books written about how to write copy, many of them can be completely overwhelming. So at the risk of underwhelming you, what follows is probably the world’s shortest guide for how to write a salesletter.

It is written with a single focus: to give you a framework to follow, starting just 5 minutes from now, to write a salesletter even if you’re not a copywriter.

One tip before we jump in:

While writing a sales letter is about “writing,” it’s best not to put on your writing cap. Stop trying to “write” and simply transcribe what you would say if you were talking to a single person about what you have. That makes this process much easier.

So let’s get started…

STEP 1: Shine Your Spotlight on the Right Target

Writing effective sales copy is about making a connection, on an emotional level, with your reader. This is difficult to do if you focus only on your own wants and needs.

The way to create an instant connection is to structure what you write from the perspective of your reader. Step into their shoes and stay there.

The goal is to develop a clear understanding of the emotional condition of your reader. What are they feeling? Once you know what that is, practice feeling it yourself. This will inform the way you write and it will allow you to truly understand the perspective of your reader.

Writing a salesletter is about them, not you. Stop thinking about what you are trying to achieve with the letter and start thinking about what they are trying to achieve in their life. Shine the spotlight on your reader and keep it there.

How are you supposed to get them to want what you have if you’re not shining the spotlight on it?

You don’t have to create desire in your prospects for what you are offering. Your prospective buyers already have wants and desires. What are those wants and desires? That’s what you focus on. The trick is to position what you are offering as the vehicle to get them those wants and desires.

Instead of “trying to sell,” the goal is to create an environment where they want to buy.

STEP 2: Uncover the “Big Idea”

Building your salesletter on a single Big Idea is how you keep your reader interested. Your copy is focused on the big idea and keeps referring back to it to revitalize the reader’s emotions.

For example, imagine that you design websites for clients to sell their products/services on. This is a small idea. Your potential clients would be far more interested, inspired and excited by the idea of buying “virtual oil wells” that are setup for them to create revenue on demand. Your “web design” becomes a “virtual oil well.” That’s a big idea.

What is the big idea that your product is built on? If you don’t know yet, figure it out before you start writing.

This clarity helps your writing because it gives you the “main idea” that everything you write about relates back to. It serves as the foundation of your writing because it’s exciting/inspiring/empowering to your reader.

STEP 3: Write a Headline That Conveys Your “Big Idea” in a Way That Prompts Your Reader to Have to Know More

If you were walking down the street and your reader was approaching you from the other direction, what would you have to say to the stranger to instantly attract their attention about what you have?

Your headline doesn’t need to solve their problem in one sentence, it simply needs to get their attention. You’re not closing the sale here, you’re simply opening the door.

After you’ve written your headline, step into the shoes of your reader and ask yourself, “Does this make me want to read more or not?”

That will tell you if there’s more work to be done.

STEP 4: Transport Them Somewhere Else

You can’t sell much if no one reads your letter. So the first priority once you earn your reader’s attention is to keep that attention.

The beginning of your salesletter is not something you gloss over just to get to the part where you tell them what you have. The beginning of your letter is where you earn (or lose) the opportunity to tell your reader about how you can help them. After the headline, this is the most important part to get right!

If the beginning of the letter bores them or turns them off, you are done.

This is why starting with a story is so effective. People love stories. They love to see how stories end. Stories are a very simple way to draw your reader into a new world and transport them away from what they were just doing.

So start your letter with a story, or a little known fact, or a mystery or something else extremely interesting. This really IS important, so take time on this step.

Ask yourself, “What is the best thing for me to say right now that would make my reader want to know more?”

STEP 5: Tell Them What You Have

Once your reader is sold on reading your letter, that’s when you can move into the body of your writing and introduce what you have.

Remember, the goal here isn’t to sell them, it’s to engineer an environment where they can’t help but buy.

This is why positioning what you have as a clear and effective solution to a problem they have is so effective. People already want solutions, so half of your work is done.

The body of your letter is where you tell them what you have. It’s where you mention the features and benefits of your product or service. And it’s where you make promises and claims that you support with proof.

The body of the letter has to appeal to your reader’s mind while not losing the connection to their emotions. This is why the Big Idea is so important. Referring back to the Big Idea rekindles the emotional flame in your reader.

STEP 6: Is Your Offer Good? Is It Great?

At some point in the body of your letter, you’re going to spell out exactly what your buyer will get and for how much. This is called your offer.

Do you think your offer is good enough to sell? That’s the starting point. Good enough is not good enough. Great is where you want to aim. When in doubt, increase the value of your offer.

The goal is to make your offer such a “no-brainer” value that they want to buy it. Great offers make everything else easier.

That way you can get out of the “selling” mindset and into the mindset where you’re simply offering people diamonds in exchange for pennies.

Put yourself in the shoes of your reader (again) and ask, “Would I buy this without even having to think? Is it that good? Or would it be something I’d have to consider?”

STEP 7: Filling in the Holes

Effective copy leaves nothing to chance. Have you left any questions unanswered? Have you left any objections unresolved?

Is there any other information required for your reader to take action?

Have you made it clear what action is to be taken and given a believable reason for that action to be taken sooner than later?

You need to imagine both sides of the conversation. Writing effective sales copy is not about talking at your reader, it is about having an “imaginary” conversation with them.

The Copywriting Secret I Discovered in My First Salesletter

Back when I wrote that first salesletter for my products, I stumbled upon a big secret to writing effective sales copy.

Here’s the secret:

What you say is much more important than how you say it.

And figuring out what to say has everything to do with the person who’s going to read your letter.

Never take your focus off of that person. And do the work required to truly understand that person on a level deeper than they even understand themselves.

That’s the work to be done.

Creative Writing For Kids A Great Endeavour

If you are one of the many parents who are seeking ways of helping your kids learn creative writing, and want them to enjoy writing, you are not alone! Writing is an essential life-skill and creative writing in personal letter, blog or research paper form can help students in all aspects of their lives.

There are various incentives parents can use to encourage creative writing for kids and one of them is with regard to their particular interests and everyday lives – a daily journal! The main point is to guide them into a creative writing habit and therefore, it is not important what their creative writing relates to, provided they are writing something! A daily journal should not concentrate too much on grammar, punctuation and spelling, which can be introduced at a later stage.

The criteria at this stage of creative writing are to stimulate a flow of thought and ideas, as well as allowing kids to enjoy themselves while writing. As they start with creative writing the imagination will be activated as woould an awareness of self expression. It becomes their personal world, and with this creative writing is a means of release for kids’ frustrations and conflicts. Children can become lost in themselves while writing, and this form of creative writing should become a regular exercise. You could even use this as a method of self-imposing their particular ambitions and goals in life!

Various research conducted has shown that for many children, especially boys, the concept of creative writing does not produce any degree of enthusiastic response. It is therefore essential that they are motivated to appreciate the value of what they have written and that it is their own creation. Creative writing for kids can be a means of freedom and release that is not yet influenced by the turbulence of adulthood. This is a stage of their lives where their imagination and inherent creative writing abilities can be brought to the forefront.

With correct guidance in creative writing, kids can transfer their imagination into the creative sphere. It is also means of introducing them to the process of logical thinking, as well as providing them with a valuable learning and communication tool. Various studies conducted revealed that those who have been exposed to creative writing at an early stage, have a tendency to excel in a wide variety of professions.

These professions, it was discovered, generally involve expression and imagination. In addition, those who have experienced creative writing as kids tend to achieve an enhanced academic record, in subjects that again relate to capabilities in expression. Encouraging creative writing in kids has in many cases resulted in extraordinary surprises. Children are frequently amazing and original storytellers, because they do not fear failure or ridicule of their work. Their creative writing is full of expression and uninhibited, because of the lack of preconceived notions.

Creative writing for kids is an adventure for everyone concerned and is something that can lead to amazing developments in the future!

Organizing and Starting Your Writing Project

Organizing and Starting Your Writing Project If you’ve ever been involved in a writing project that went off the rails after only a few pages, the odds are that the project manager did not spend sufficient time organizing the project before beginning the actual writing. The bigger the project, the more organization and planning it will take up front to ensure success. Even for small projects written by a single individual such as is done with most small business proposals getting organized up front is just as important.

In the organization phase, there are many questions that must be answered. These are all discussed below.

Who is the audience?

Sometimes, as in the case of answering an RFP (Request for Proposal) or applying for a grant from a specific committee, you have a very precise idea of who will read and judge your writing. In other cases, such as writing a report or a proposal for a product or service, you may need to gather information about the audience you will write for. Who are they? What do they already know? What do they need? What do they want to know?

You might need to do some research to get this information. If you are working inside a big organization, question the marketing and customer service departments to find out what they already know. If you’re writing a proposal, it might make sense to talk to the prospective clients or recipients of your proposal so you can be sure you understand their perspective.

What is the objective?

What do you plan to accomplish with the writing project? If you’re writing a business proposal, your goal is usually to pitch products or services to a customer. Project proposals are usually written to get a project approved by your company or client. If you’re writing instructions for users or if you’re working on a public service campaign, your goal is to provide information the readers need. If you’re writing a report, your objective is usually to document the methodology of a research project and explain its results. In any writing project, you always need to keep your objective in mind so that you don’t waste time on tangents that may be distracting and don’t add value.

What are you promising to deliver?

Are you describing a need and explaining how you will fill that need? Are you providing instructions for using a product? Are you describing all the aspects of a proposed business venture and providing statistics to show why it’s a good investment? Are you comparing alternatives so your readers can make the best choice? Make sure you understand all the elements your writing project must include. If you are not familiar with the type of writing project you have been assigned, you may want to start by looking for samples of that sort of document to see what they typically include.

If you are pitching products or services, check competitors’ web sites and marketing information, too, so that you’ll be sure to include all the information they do. If you are responding to an RFP, make sure to read all the instructions carefully to understand what you must provide and the format in which you must deliver it. If you have not been given a list of contents for your writing project, make an outline for your project and get your manager and other team members to sign off on it, and decide whether you need to deliver a printed document, a PDF file, or both.

What resources do you have to work with?

Your organization probably already has existing web site content, brochures, or other advertising or information content. If you’re describing a not-yet-developed product, you most likely have access to a white paper, specifications, or other descriptions. Proposing a new business venture? You should have statistics and financial information. Don’t forget that many of your resources may also be people who have information you need.

What tools or supplies do you need?

For most writing projects, the basic requirements will be a word processing program on your computer, but in some cases you may need more components, such as photos or charts to include. Make sure you have them in hand or know where and when you can get them before starting your project.

You may also want to invest in business packages that can help you with your writing project. A proposal kit is one such type of package you should consider: these kits are specially designed for writing proposals, business plans, reports, as well as other general business documents. A kit contains thousands of templates with extensive examples and instructions to guide you, as well as detailed sample proposals and reports for you to study. All of a pre-made kit’s templates will be visually appealing or you can customize them with your own company logo and design theme. And the templates work with basic word processing software, so using it will speed up your project instead of inserting a big learning curve into your schedule.

What’s the schedule?

If you are responding to an RFP, writing a grant application, or proposing a project to a potential client, you will have a very specific deadline to aim for. Make a schedule for your writing project. If others are providing information or producing parts of your project, assign one person as the project leader, and make sure all participants agree to meet their assigned deadlines well before the final delivery date of the whole project. Be sure to allow time for editors or other team members to review the writing in each section, as well as time to make changes and incorporate new information.

At the high end, large companies have entire teams of people working for months on a proposal for multi-million or billion dollar proposals. Most groups spend days or weeks preparing proposals in small groups. Many small businesses have a single person responsible for writing proposals. Small businesses are also more likely to be the ones who’s schedule is “tomorrow” or over the weekend on short notice. The shorter your schedule the better off you will be starting with a ready-made proposal writing kit and doing it yourself. If your idea is to hire a proposal writer be aware that many professional writers will reject clients who are not already organized or who have very short deadlines.

Don’t forget the delivery stage of the writing project. If you are delivering a printed document or a PDF that must be included in a software package, you may need to schedule time to produce and deliver the final format. Make sure you have people assigned to complete every phase of the writing project.

Now the writing begins…

After you have answered all the questions discussed above and completed any advance research you need to do, you’re ready to sit down at the computer and write. With good organization and a well thought out plan in place, you should be able to efficiently fill in the outline for your proposal , business plan or report or provide all the information required for your RFP or funding application. You’ll look like an expert when you deliver your writing project on time in a thoroughly professional manner.