Highlights from Everybody Writes

Beth Dunn went from being an unemployable writer to a writing career that speaks for itself. In her talk, “How to Be a Writing god“, she hammered down the idea; disciplined writing is the only way to improved writing. Her story, alongside the Author, Ann Handley’s simple advice, makes it clear; every professional should take writing seriously.

Most people dislike writing. Maybe it’s all that forced writing we had to do in school? It was interesting to see the book encouraging us to let go of any writing advice you received at school.

“The difference between Good writing and bad writing is trying, trying and trying again”

In this book, you will discover many valuable ideas, though one stands out for me, the writing process; a detailed set of steps that shows you the way a finished piece when all you have is an idea.

Writing process

The following steps helped me. I’ll share a quick summary with you. Follow it in order and see the results for yourself.

  1. Have a clear goal. Write this goal down as the first thing on your draft and keep it at the top. Refer back to it often as you work on the piece.
  2. Restate your goal within the context of your reader. This is the more difficult part and I’m struggling to do this, but I think with practice it may become easier.
  3. Do research. Seek out data or others who have written about the topic or anything related to your goal. This helps give your post more credibility and builds trust.
  4. Organise your findings and thoughts. I normally just create one-sentence paragraphs in a draft. Write down everything that comes up related to your topic.
  5. Remember to write to one person. People hardly ever read in groups and if they do it will be only one person reading at a time so think about writing as a conversation.
  6. Create the Ugly first draft. Write like no-one cares. Just write. Don’t even care for structure. Just take the thoughts you have and expand on them as much as you want to.
  7. Walk away, do something else, give yourself space away from the content. Create another draft for another post.
  8. Rewrite the draft. I must share with you that I don’t really do this. I write on a computer and simply manipulate the draft document.
  9. Give it a great title. One that captures the essence. One that tells the prospective reader exactly what to expect. Don’t mislead your reader, trust is more valuable than views. Most times my writing starts because of a title that frames the idea.
  10. Have someone edit it. This is mainly for commercial content. I use Grammarly to check that all is in order.
  11. Add a call to action. What do you want the reader to do next?
  12. Have a final look at it and check that it reads clearly and is easy on the eye.
  13. Publish! Don’t allow perfect to be the enemy of good enough. This is just one step in your journey, so keep publishing.

The writing process helps you on a very practical level, but when you’ve got this process down there are many other important tips for writers.

To wrap up, I’ll share some final thoughts, but for the full experience, you’ll have to read the book.

3 Critical approaches to writing

1. Writing is a service to your users. A practical example of serving would be to place the most important parts first, providing the most value upfront. This is out of respect for the reader’s time making it easy for them to understand what you want to highlight. The same applies to sentences. First, give the content and then back it up with context. Instead of “According to John, mocking others is foolishness” write ” mocking others foolishness, according to John”. Respect the reader, keep writing to the point and remove cruft that doesn’t add value.

2. Discipline – All great writers practice their own version of a writing discipline. The main take away here is to practice daily, if that’s not possible set time a side on a weekly basis.

3. Show don’t tell – Most people do not appreciate being told what to do, so the better approach would be to make suggestions and provide great real life examples. Give them the example and let them decide what to do with it.

Conclusion

I hope some of the lessons I’ve learnt are applicable to your situation and I hope it inspires you read Everybody Writes for yourself. You can find the book here: Take A lot | Amazon

The process before the content

From my perspective, I still have a long way to go. I do however think that sharing what I know today is valuable, not for the sake of what I share, but for the process of refining the idea. I place the process before the content, with the hope that a refined process will lead to fine content.

Writing is thinking is a good metaphor for how I use this blog. I blog and share my posts public-ally so that I can exercise structured thinking. Looking for ways to better express my thoughts and find the best words to illustrate my ideas.

Both the content and the process really do matter, but as I shape my writing process I make sure that I continually fill my mind with things to write about. I believe that applying the correct writing style to great content will be a valuable skill in any context.

I have already started noticing a change in the way I write at work. Doing blog posts forces me to think through what I’m writing. Knowing that it will be shared publicly puts enough pressure on me to ensure it is at least decent.

Blogging is only for the successful, is how I used to think. Now I know that blogging leads to success. Being ables to communicate clearly is a skill worth practicing.