For those of you who are way too busy to read this post, here’s the secret to great writing according to Stephen King:
Take out the bad parts.
If this sounds like useless advice, you have yet to understand that great writing is all about rewriting. And you rewrite by taking out the words that aren’t necessary.
What words are necessary?
You must get rid of the words that serve no purpose. You cut out verbiage that slows down the reader and detracts from the persuasiveness of your writing instead of enhancing it.
Also, there are a lot of phrases that are there simply to stroke our egos. Yes, they may sound brilliant, but they serve no purpose.
The whole point of concise writing is to pack more power per sentence.
When every sentence of every paragraph of every page burns with focused intensity, people find it tough to stop reading.
Many online writers simply don’t say enough. They write the bare minimum, and expect that because they understand the value of the offer or idea, the reader will too.
But that’s pretty rare. Nike may say a lot with just do it, but they backed up those three words with hundreds of millions of dollars of some of the best image advertising the world has ever seen.
Something tells me that approach is out for you. So instead, say everything that needs to be said, but ruthlessly edit.
“Easy reading is damn hard writing.” – Nathaniel Hawthorne
When it comes to blogging, getting someone to read an entire article is usually a prerequisite for them to link to you or subscribe to your feed.
If people are interested in what you’re saying, they’ll keep reading as long as you’re imparting new and valuable information. However, you can lose even a perfectly-targeted reader if you don’t take steps to keep them engaged.
The trick is to make the reading easy without being lame.
Here are seven steps to make your readers stick with you until the end and be impressed when they get there.
The Seven Steps
I try to leave out the parts that people skip. – Elmore Leonard
- Beneficial Topic: Is what you’re writing of interest to the reader? Does it solve a problem they have and add value to their lives? If not, nothing else you read here matters.
- Magnetic Headline: Likewise, nothing else matters if your prospective reader never makes it past the title or headline. Your content could be amazing, but if no one is compelled to invest the time to read based on a boring or vague headline, all is lost.
- Strong Opening: The purpose of the headline is to get the first sentence read, and each subsequent sentence needs to keep the reader’s eyes glued to the screen until the end. The momentum you create with your opening can make your job easier the rest of the way.
- Helpful Structure: Are your transferable lessons easily digested via bullet points and numbered lists? Are you providing compelling subheads?
- Smooth Transitions: Good writing uses transitional words and phrases to help the content read more smoothly. But good writing also uses psychological connectors to persuade and keep the reader engaged.
- Instant Understanding: Orson Scott Card once said that metaphors have a way of holding the most truth in the least space. The same is true of stories, and being highly specific facilitates understanding, holds attention, and enhances credibility in ways that general assertions cannot.
- Actionable Close: How you close a piece is determined by what you are hoping to accomplish. If you’re not sure what you’re trying to accomplish, you might ask yourself why you’re writing it at all. That actually helps you to determine whether to revamp the content or to put it out of its misery.
Once you’re sure that every necessary point has been included, go back and take out the unnecessary words. Your goal is to deliver the most concise writing you can for the topic, whether it be 100, 1,000 or 10,000 words.
It’s that simple, and that complicated.
I could go on and on, but I think you get the point.