How to Become a Writer: Interview with Engage Magazine
Written by: Scott Baradell
The folks at ScribbleLive were kind enough to include me in a recent article in Engage Magazine, on the topic, “How to Become a Writer.” Some excerpts:
Q: How does someone who has little to no experience in writing get started? How can they get past the intimidation of writing for the first time?
A: I think too many people approach writing the way Jon Lovitz’s Master Thespian approached acting. They are so caught up in formalities and pretense that they forget to be themselves, which usually defeats the purpose. Start by writing the way you actually talk. Get something on paper and then adjust from there. When we work with clients, we generally start by interviewing their subject matter experts in a journalistic style, then we transcribe the interview and use that as the basis for the content, whether it’s a blog post or an ebook or a bylined article. If you have problems getting words on paper, why not start by recording yourself talking about the subject and then transcribing it? It beats a blinking cursor on a blank screen.
Q: Are there things you can do to increase the quality of what you’re writing, both before you start and while you’re writing?
A: The best thing you can do is to start with the end in mind. What do you want the piece to achieve? Who are you writing it for, and what impact do you want it to have on this audience? And than stay laser-focus on this audience and your objective for them. A next step can be to craft a simple outline to organize how your story will unfold. If you start with this level of focus, you can then have the freedom to be yourself in your writing without straying off topic or rambling about things your audience doesn’t care about.
Q: How can new writers brainstorm effectively? What tips would you offer for dealing with feedback and rejection?
A: We like to have good old-fashioned brainstorming sessions in our conference room as we build out editorial calendars for our clients. But if you don’t have access to this in your work environment, social media can be a great place for brainstorming as well. For example, I’ve been part of a private Facebook group of social media professionals for years, and I’m always turning to them for ideas and feedback. It’s a safe place for brainstorming even the craziest ideas. As for feedback and rejection, that has no place in brainstorming. If at the end of the day you settle on an idea or produce a piece of content that your boss or client doesn’t like, it’s important to understand the reasons, so ask questions and listen. You can’t improve if you’re defensive about feedback. But you also shouldn’t let it get you down.
Q: How do you know if what you wrote resonated? What sort of lessons can you draw from pieces that didn’t work?
A: Finding out whether something you wrote resonated used to be pretty anecdotal; an editor, a supervisor, your peers or others you trusted might tell you as much. But now it can be measured in clicks and shares. Increasingly that’s how both journalists and marketing writers are judged. The lessons you can draw from a piece that didn’t work vary quite a bit. Sometimes, it’s because the idea isn’t unique enough, or the story isn’t well written enough. Other times, it’s simply that you aren’t crafting your headlines in a way that attracts clicks, or that you aren’t sharing the content in the right places.