July 31, 2014

5 Things Famous Writers Can Teach Us About Content Marketing

Published: 31 July 2014 

Creating powerful online content can be a tricky process. You need to be good at coming up with ideas, translating those ideas into engaging copy and hitting your target audience’s sweet spot. When you think about it, these skills have always been at the heart of what famous novelists and old school journos do. So let’s have a look at what we can learn from them about creating powerful content.

Make sure you have a worthy topic

You don't write because you want to say something, you write because you have something to say. -F. Scott Fitzgerald

The internet is full of an overwhelming amount of content. It boggles the mind. The last thing the world (and your client for that matter) needs is for you to add more ‘nothing’ content. If it’s been done before is your approach a fresh one? If it hasn’t been done before, do people really want to read about it? Generic content doesn’t rank well organically, it doesn’t engage readers and doesn’t attract shares. It’s more profitable to spend a little extra time developing a fresh angle for one article than to churn out 5 generic articles.

Always keep learning

The most important thing is to read as much as you can, like I did. It will give you an understanding of what makes good writing and it will enlarge your vocabulary. -J.K. Rowling

Be like the sponge. There is no ‘ultimate writer’ status you can achieve, where you know everything. A good content marketer will strive to continually hone their skills, to be a better writer and marketer. Even the most famous writers out there know how valuable it is to keep learning.

Understand and respect your audience

I try to leave out the parts that people skip. -Elmore Leonard

Don’t just write about things that interest you. Go beyond your own preferences and understand what your audience wants to read. In his Daily UX Crash Course, Joel Marsh sums this up well:

  1. You want things that don’t matter to users.
  2. You know things that don’t matter to users.

Keep this at the front of your mind throughout the writing process – from ideation to proof reading. When you think you are finished, run your content past someone else so they can help you identify areas that people might skip over.

Don’t waste words

Never use the word, 'very.' It is the weakest word in the English language; doesn't mean anything. If you feel the urge of 'very' coming on, just write the word, 'damn,' in the place of 'very.' The editor will strike out the word, 'damn,' and you will have a good sentence. -William Allen White

Speaking of respecting your audience, don’t make them read lazy writing. Keep it tight and leave out weak and redundant words and phrases such as:

crumpled words

You get the point. You might find a suitable context to use these words, but in most cases they are fillers or have more accurate substitutes. Make it a habit to evaluate your words.

Write, proof, edit, repeat

It is perfectly okay to write garbage—as long as you edit brilliantly. -C. J. Cherryh

‘That article was perfect the first time I wrote it,’ said no writer ever. Get rid of the misconception that great writers create masterpieces straight off the bat. The truth is, awesome content requires writing, proofing, editing and rewriting. It’s a process of refinement. If you have ever written something you thought was the bees knees only to come back later and realise it’s garbage, you will understand how important this is. 7 steps you might like to consider are:

  1. Write
  2. Walk away and do something else
  3. Come back with fresh eyes
  4. Edit
  5. Let your team proofread and suggest change
  6. Final polish
  7. Have a web designer look over it
  8. Publish

If the greats can teach us anything it’s to never stop. Never stop learning, never stop honing your skills, never stop listening and never allow yourself to settle for average.

TL;DR

  • Take the time to create fresh content.
  • Keep learning, asking questions and honing your skills.
  • Understand what your audience wants.
  • Leave out weak words.
  • Write, proof, edit, repeat.

Do you have a favourite writer quote? Share below!

Ben Maden

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