Thursday, January 26, 2012

How to Write an Article - Fast!

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How to Write an Article - Fast!

Rob Parnell

I get asked this question a lot. I usually forget all about it when it comes to Friday newsletter time.

But it's pertinent today because I only have a limited time to write an article - probably less than an hour, so it will be a good test of any advice I have to offer.

It's now ten fifteen - so time me!

In the increasingly competitive world of the Net, you need to get articles and blogs out regularly. Not only do your friends and subscribers like it - Google does too. If you put out article sized messages often - at least weekly - then Google will recognize that you have something to say and start putting you in their search results.

If you're reading this article, you probably don't need to me to sell you on the importance of writing articles...

So, first, how long is an article?

In order to write quickly you need to have a clear idea of how long you've got to say something. I recommend around 500 to 800 words. Less than that and it's not really an article. More than 1000 words and your epistle will be too long for anyone but a devoted fan.

Let's say 720 words is perfect. That's twelve words a minute for an hour. Or fourteen minutes of writing if you write 50 words a minute.

The numbers are not relevant. They're only there to help you realize you have more than enough time to write something if you need to.

The hard part of course is having something to write about - and I understand completely when people tell me this is almost always the biggest stumbling block for a new writer.

My advice?

Don't think about it. Don't agonize - that will make it worse.

Simply sit down and start, even if you have no ideas at all.

Then just write.

There's a voice inside your head that chatters, right?

Write down what it's saying - without thinking.

You'll need to write quickly - type quickly - because the chatterer has often moved on before you finished writing the sentence. No matter, keep writing what the little fella is saying to you.

This is how you string together coherent thoughts on any subject.

The trick is not to stop, not to go back and read anything and NEVER edit until you've reached the end.

The basic structure of an article is something we all learned at school. As long as this structure is firmly entrenched in your mindset, you'll find that article writing feels natural.

The structure is this:

Paragraph one: introduction of the subject and the terms of reference, followed by:

Three or four points of a paragraph each that expand on or prove or demonstrate the subject you've chosen. You can use this section to cite examples, give your thoughts or merely explain the issues more fully.

Finally, you present the conclusion in the last paragraph where you either show you've proved your point of view or offered some logical 'call to action' based on your words.

That's it. Anything else is too complicated for the article format.

Of course the main thing these days is that nobody wants to read big blocks of text - so make your paragraphs short. One sentence each - never more than two or three.

Keep hitting that return button. It'll make your writing seem more punchy and dramatic - and will also get you to the end of your article sooner.

As an example, it's now ten forty - twenty five minutes after I started and you can see that I'm probably around two thirds of the way through.

Time for me to start wrapping up the first draft.

At this point I'm asking the chatterer: have I been answering the question set by the title? If not, is there anything more I can add? Something profound?

Perhaps the best advice I can offer is that it's all about practice.

I remember years back when I used to try and write articles for magazines that I simply couldn't think of anything to say - and even when I worked from notes or research I felt everything came out clunky and forced.

Nowadays - after writing an article a week for over a decade, I feel much less trepidation because - and this is key - I've trained myself to trust whatever my internal voice has to say. Completely.

Because for the first draft I just put down everything and then go back and edit after.

Okay, it's now ten forty five and I've decided I've probably written enough and will now go back and edit what I have.

So, first draft half an hour.

Second draft: probably ten minutes. Tidying up the text, fixing typos, editing out anything bad or embarrassing and generally making sure the THEME of the article is consistent from the start to the finish.

Done. It's now ten fifty seven.

I'll now spend about another half hour putting it up online - reading and editing it again each time - onto my website and my blog, and then send out notifications to FB, Twitter, Linked In and to my subscribers to tell them that it's now available.

That's it.

That's how it's done.

Easy! Fast! 889 words and just in time for lunch...

Keep Writing!

Rob at Home
Success is My Concern
Rob Parnell's Easy Way


"You need a certain amount of nerve to be a writer."
Margaret Atwood

Previous Newsletter includes:
Article: "The Pursuit of Perfection"
Quote by Phil Crosby

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