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Imagine it’s the start of a car race.
All the cars are lined up, people are cheering, and engines are roaring. Everyone’s waiting for the race to begin. The tension is high.
Bang! goes the pistol. The cars speed off, leaving only a cloud of fumes that dissipates into the sky. The drivers feel the adrenaline through their veins as they accelerate.
They know exactly what to do. Hopefully, that’s the feeling you get when you write, too. You sit down, open up a document, and start typing away furiously.
Except that’s probably not what happens.
When charged with the task of putting words to paper, you struggle. Like a sputtering engine, you feel directionless. You can’t think of a single word, let alone an entire article.
Struggle no more. Today, we’ll go over the process of writing an article, from finding a topic to writing it, and finally putting on the final touches.
Gather All the Evidence
When you start out, you shouldn’t even be thinking about writing. How can you write when you have nothing to write about? How can you present an argument when you have nothing to back yourself up?
Instead, you need to gather all the evidence first. Go and gather interesting ideas, facts, stories, thoughts, and put them all in one place. This will be your storage of ongoing ideas (I write more about that in greater detail here).
Then, sift through your ideas and compile it into a new document. You’ll probably have to do further research on additional anecdotes and facts. These points will form the basis of your article.
For example, awhile back I was intrigued about how some YouTubers earn a full time living, some making millions. Yet research showed that only a small percentage of YouTubers earn above the poverty line, let alone a high income. This reminded me of the “survivorship bias” concept in psychology, where we focus on successful people or “survivors” due to their higher visibility.
When I looked into this concept further, I realized that survivorship bias applies not only to YouTubers, but just about every other aspect of life where competition is involved. These ideas resulted in the article, “Survivorship Bias: Why Are YouTubers So Rich?”
Sometimes, one idea alone isn’t enough. But when multiple ideas are combined, you can create a fully fleshed out piece.
Create a Framework
After you’ve done the research and jotted down all the points you want to cover, it’s time to create a framework. This is where you put together a rough outline of how you want your article to be organized.
One popular way to organize your article (which I often use) is to: 1) start with a hook that pulls the reader in, 2) tell an interesting story, anecdote, or fact, 3) explain the significance of your story, anecdote, or fact to readers, 4) provide lessons and key takeaways, and 5) wrap up the piece with final insights.
Your framework doesn’t have to be perfect. After all, perfect is the enemy of good. Instead, your framework should provide a general guideline for organizing your points.
There are numerous ways to approach a topic. Here are some ideas:
- Explain why something happens a certain way.
- Explain how something works.
- Write a how-to guide.
- Write an opinion piece on whether you agree with a commonly accepted idea.
- Compare different ideas or solutions and explain which one is better.
- Write a list of different points, expanding on each point in a couple paragraphs.
A multi-faceted approach allows you to write about the same topic in different ways, giving you multiple article ideas. For example, I’ve written about reading in many ways, such as how books compare to TV, how to read properly, and ways to sneak reading into your daily routine.
When you look at ideas that way, you don’t have to worry about running out.
Do the Writing
Here’s a secret: the actual writing itself isn’t hard.
In fact, writing is like many other things in life: preparing a speech before you face the audience, practicing a skill before a performance, or studying for an exam. Most of the hard work is done beforehand. When it’s time to perform, you’re ready.
In writing, the hard work was done when you were brainstorming, researching, and outlining. The actual writing stage feels more like a flow. You follow the steps that you mapped out already.
At this stage, you fill out the points you made. They turn into sentences, some long and some short. Feel free to expand some points and cut down others as needed.
Reading should be easy for the person. That means breaking up your piece into paragraphs. Generally, aim for about three sentences or less in each paragraph.
How long should an article be? There’s an expression: “As long as a piece of string.” Your article should be long enough so that your points come across clearly, but not so long that the extra details take away from the article.
Around 1,000 words, give or take, is a good number for starters. You can adjust accordingly depending on the topic and your style.
Put On the Final Touches
After you’ve finished writing your article, there are a few things left to do. Final checking and touch-ups will take your writing from solid to sparkling. Don’t underestimate this part of the process.
If you haven’t done so, you need to create a heading or a title for your piece. It should be eye-catching, tempting the reader to see what’s next. The title might contain an element of surprise in it or promise the reader useful information.
For example, some headings I’ve created which elicited responses include “You Are Capable of Change, You Just Need Your Brain to Believe It Too” and “5 Types of Music That Will Increase Your Productivity, According to Science.” Even though the articles are different in style, they’re both relevant and beneficial to readers.
To get your heading right, try brainstorming at least five different titles. Choose the one that looks the most interesting.
For your article itself, be sure to periodically break the article into subheadings. Doing so makes reading easier and lets the reader know what to expect next. The subheadings should give a hint of what the next section is about.
Finally, let the article sit. Put it away for a couple days. Then review it with fresh eyes.
Check your article for flow, grammar, and whether to add or take away anything. To improve your piece, run it through ProWritingAid’s free Grammar Checker to check for correct grammar, sentence structure, and better styling. It’s like having a second pair of eyes double-check your writing.
Do It Once, Do It Again
Writing is not always an easy process. You trudge along, barely making any progress at times. It feels as if you’re marching two steps forward and stumbling one step back.
But if you have the patience to persevere, you get there. You make it to the end. You look back and you realize that you just accomplished something.
You did it. You feel elated. It feels great for a while. Then, you do it again. And again and again.
You do it simply because you must. To do otherwise is unimaginable. That’s why you go through the ordeal of struggling, striving, and becoming better.
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