Last week we talked about taking ownership of your content, about the need to back up your writing with belief and passion. Part of that was the fact that it is virtually impossible to write about something no one else has thought of. It’s how you say a thing that makes it all yours.
So, considering that we are rewriting other people’s thoughts and ideas – and they’re writing ours – here are five tip to ensure the content you produce is thought-provoking, adds value, and is uniquely yours:
1. Read, read and read some more
If you are writing with belief in and passion for your subject, you will not mind reading more about it. There is so much information available on any given topic that you will be hard pushed not to find at least a couple of opposing opinions that will make you think more deeply about whether your side of the fence is the one you want to be on.
The more you read, the more information you will be able to percolate – yes, just like a coffee pot percolating coffee – to form your new knowledge. At some stage you will reach a point at which you can form a concrete opinion that you can draw on for your writing tasks. It is also important to read opinions that differ from your own, since you can’t argue against a point if you don’t know what that point actually is, or if you don’t fully understand it. So, when I say read around your subject, I mean from all directions. Get to know the beast, and then you can tame it, and bend it to your will.
2. Consider the source
If you read a single article on a subject and then write your own piece, two very bad things could happen. The first is that you could be had up for plagiarism, and the second is that you would be expressing a single opinion on a subject and – here’s the clanger – it could be a faulty opinion. You should always read a great deal around a subject, as mentioned above, but you must also consider the source of the articles you are reading.
If you are writing about fishing and have based your research on articles written by people who have never picked up a fishing rod, chances are you will not get a full picture of the subject: something fundamental could actually be missing. If you read a thing and think: ‘Wow, that’s fascinating!’, but you can’t find another teensy scrap of information out there about it, there’s a good chance it is not really a ‘thing’ at all. Verifying information means that you can form a credible opinion of your subject so that the whole ‘owning your content’ thing really sticks.
3. Answer a question
Whenever I write a blog post I try to answer a question that my readers might have. For instance, I often get asked ‘How do you make your writing different to everybody else who’s writing about the same thing?’ And… well, here I am answering it. So, you need to think about the question you want to answer with your post.
Once you have considered the question, you also need to think about how you are going to go about answering it. There are plenty of different choices for this. You could provide a graph and then go on to explain it, or you could write a lengthy – albeit interesting – article. You could provide a ‘how to’, an ‘ultimate guide’, or a list of ways to do something (this article falls into this category with its attempt to provide ‘5 ways to write unique content’).
4. Listen with the intent to understand
How do you know what questions your readers are interested in having answered for them? If you are listening to your clients or customers, family or friends, you will hear an almost endless stream of questions that are relevant to your topic of choice.
As you read you will also find questions that you have that remain unanswered by the text you are focused on. So listen to your inner monologue. If you are anything like me that voice in your head never seems to stop. You might be inclined to ignore it as often as you possibly can, but stop and listen sometimes too. The questions you have are also questions millions of other internet browsers will have. Try to answer those questions for yourself, and in the process, for your readers.
5. Write, revise, repeat
This is a bit of a mantra of mine, and with good reason. The first draft of anything I write is average to say the least. It lacks my voice, my preferred turn of phrase and, quite often doesn’t pack much of a punch. What it does have is the foundation I need to build my article on.
Once I’ve written that first draft, I go back and look at my article and craft it into something that says exactly what I want it to say, the way I want to say it. Since nobody else has my unique frame of reference to wrap around the world, nobody else can craft the same content into the same piece of finished work. That’s not to say another writer couldn’t do a better job, just not the same job.
Being a writer takes practice, thought, and hard work, but as your writing improves it becomes unbelievably rewarding. As you practice, think about and work on your writing, and you become a better writer, the possibilities become endless.
What other things could be added to this list to help us improve our writing? What items are on your own personal list for creating great content?