Top 3 Tips for New Writers from a New Writer
I'm a relatively new writer. While I've been publishing blog posts for over a year it's still a short time for a writer. I've learned quite a bit from blogging for a year. Now why would I be giving my top tips for new writers? Wouldn't you rather take advice from someone who's successful, like Stephen King (see my article about advice from him). Who is the definition of a successful fiction writer.
Maybe not. I'm currently reading a book about copywriting, which is the strategy of creating persuasive content with the goal of generating conversions and sales. In Junior: Writing Your Way Ahead in Advertising the author states one of the best people you can learn from is someone whose a step up above you. Not a person who's had years of experience and this time in their career is a distant memory. But someone who just got past the beginner stage. Why? Because they remember what it's like to be you.
Do you remember those teachers in school who were smart but were terrible at teaching? You could tell they knew the material but had no idea how to actually teach someone it. One reason is because of the "expertise bias", which I talked about in my 5 Lessons about Writing. It's something that happens when you become an expert in a subject. Everything that seems obvious to you may not be obvious to someone else. This makes it difficult to explaining your knowledge to others. Teaching is a skill. You can be intelligent, but it doesn't automatically make you a good teacher.
Another reason why you might want to take advice from a beginner: a person may be successful because of luck. Yes, while they might be talented, there are plenty of other talented people we don't know about it. Too often we attribute our success to being 100% something in our control, but that isn't the case. It reminds of of survivor bias, where we focus on those that outperformed the rest and come to conclusions based on their attributes, without looking more broadly at the whole dataset (source).
I heard a story I on the Art of Manliness podcast episode (I don't remember the specific episode). Back in WWII the air force noticed the only planes that came back were ones who were shot in the wings. They wanted reinforced that part of the plane because they thought it was essential for the plane to keep flying. But when they actually went to look at planes that went down, they saw all of them had damage in the engine. It was this damage that was fatal to the plane, not the wings. But if they only looked at the survivors, they would've gotten this wrong.
The author of Psychology of Money, Morgan Housel also mentions the importance that luck plays a role in finance. I'll be writing a post about the lessons I've learned from his book. Subscribe to my newsletter to stay up-to-date with me.
I'd like to note my advice is for digital content creators. It is a totally different world when you're writing a novel, especially fiction. Now that we've gone into the background of this post. Let's get into the advice.
Simplicity > complexity
Focus on getting words on the page
Remember your story
Keep It Simple
Back in school English teachers loved complex and wordy sentences. They could spend hours talking about how the blue curtains was symbolism for the character's struggle to come to terms with the death of their partner and a loss of self. When in reality the author liked the color blue. In higher education (academia) they love these types of sentences as well. In content creation and in business, it's the opposite.
I currently use a tool called hemingwayapp, which helps make your writing bold and clear. After using this tool I wasn't the only one who noticed a changed in my writing quality. One of my biggest fans (my dad) did as well. The famous Stephen King gave similar advice, you cut out everything that isn't necessary to your "story".
First drafts are typically wordy than needed. They are filled with words such as "that" and "just". At least mine are. Focus on readability, the easier it is for people to read your work, the more it will be read.
Before writing consistently I had trouble articulating my ideas on paper. I was too obsessed with perfection on the first draft. I would write a sentence or two, re-read it, then delete it because it was terrible. Writing and editing are two different skills and should be two different sessions. You want to focus on getting the ideas out of your head, then edit later.
For my writing sessions now, unless I already have a dedicated blog post ready. I write whatever is on my mind without thinking about a specific topic. I wrote about my new method in this article. This is also similar to an idea I wrote about, clearing the creativity faucet (see article on that here).
Remember the Story
The most important thing to remember is you want to focus on your story. The main purpose of your article. In this Ship 30 for 30 article there are for main types of articles you can have:
actionable (here's how)
analytical (here are the numbers)
aspirational (yes, you can)
anthropological (here's why)
In reality there are numerous types of articles. You can educate, inspire, etc. What's the message you want to convey? It doesn't matter how beautifully written your article is, or if your formatting is on point. If your readers don't get your story, what you're trying to convey. Then you haven't made your writing clear enough. Your story (message) should drive your entire work. You're looking for clarity. Clarity > complexity. Especially for non-fiction content writers. Fiction writers have more liberty and can often have ambiguous works.