Category: business writing

The formula for writing great content

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Welcome to the first Monday in May. Another month has come and gone, as they tend to do. The weather is doing what it does. The world continues to move as it’s supposed to. We’re all moving forward even when it feels like we’re standing still and experiencing the same day over and over. It’s a new day. Go do something with it.

Random quote: Always do the right thing even if it comes at great cost.

I hope you enjoy this week’s edition of The Editor’s Desk.

The formula for writing great content

Deep within the pages of one of my many notebooks, I discovered a secret formula for writing great articles and blog posts. Actually, it’s not that secret (I just don’t remember the source), but it’s a pretty simple formula when you break it down.

The formula is GREAT CONTENT = QUALITY + UNIQUENESS + AUTHORITY.

Quality

Write good copy. Keep your sentences tight. Make every word work hard.

Work on improving as a writer. Practice your writing. Study the craft. Read good writers. Write a lot. Work with an editor when needed.

Make your content look great. Follow good design principles (e.g., fonts, white space, bullet points, headings and subheadings). Hire a designer or learn to use the tools. Templates are your friend.

Uniqueness

Say something different. Don’t just repeat what other writers have said. Find a new angle on a popular topic. Be controversial. Explain topics in new and unique ways. Take a stand.

Create your own voice. State your opinions. Borrow another writer’s voice until you find your own if needed.

Authority

Be a journalist. Do deep research. Interview experts and authorities in their field. Cite your references. Back up statements with facts and data.

Become the expert in your field. Focus on a niche and get to know everything about it. Write on a topic or market to the exclusion of others. Be the authority that others seek out.

More from The Editor’s Desk

Here are a few articles and blog posts I found worth sharing.

  1. I don’t do UX (user experience) writing but I definitely appreciate good UX writing. We all hate instructions and writing that makes the user experience difficult or confusing. Check out How to write digital products with personality from UX Collective to learn about using words to make the user experience more interesting.
  2. I enjoy reading about what good writers do that makes their writing so readable. It’s a great way to learn and improve my own writing. Check out Writing tools I learned from Paul Graham from Built By Words for some great strategies on writing.
  3. I have written a few case studies in my day and would love to do more of it, as it suits my writing style (and pays well). It’s difficult to get into without some direction. Check out How to make a living writing case studies and white papers from The Write Life for strategies on getting into case study and white paper writing.
  4. Do you read a lot of articles or ebooks online but want to read them in a more convenient format? Check out How to read stuff posted online from Snakes and Ladders. It discusses two interesting services: Push to Kindle and Print Friendly.
  5. Many experts in the freelance writing field advocate for specializing in niches to be successful. I’m a generalist for the most part, which is why I enjoyed reading Range from David Epstein. Check out General education has a bad rap from Slate.com for an excerpt from Epstein’s book.
  6. In many cases, there is no need to reinvent the wheel and that includes writing headlines. Check out 332 incredible headlines with over 10,000 claps each from J.J. Pryor for some great headlines that have gotten readers to keep reading.
  7. I’ve written about word usage before. Because it’s such an important topic, as we should all use the right words, check out The 35 words you’re (probably) getting wrong from The Guardian to help you know when to use these words.
  8. First drafts are the bane of most writers’ existence. Getting started is harder than anything. Check out How to write a first draft of anything from Ann Handley for her thoughts on getting that first draft on the page.
  9. If you write a newsletter and you want to make a living from it, you’re going to need subscribers. Many experts have written on this topic, and if it was something I wanted, I should read more about it. Check out Foster’s real-world guide to getting your first 1,000 email subscribers from Foster if you’re looking to build your email list.
  10. Writers like cool things to store their cool things. Check out the Classiky Desk Tool Box from Wonder Pens. They are my favourite stationery store and I get nothing from promoting that fact.

Thanks for reading. If you liked what I wrote or think someone else would enjoy it, then please share it. And if you want to reach out, my email is contact@davidgargaro.com. 

David

Three keys to regularly writing better blog posts and articles

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Welcome to the final Monday in April. My daughter has a dentist appointment and an orthodontist appointment coming up this week. I expect a lot of pre-teen rage and tears over the next few days. Maybe I should schedule something fun in the middle of those appointments – the tasty filling between two terrible buns. Who would make such a sandwich?

Random quote: You don’t get anywhere by not “wasting” time.

I hope you enjoy this week’s edition of The Editor’s Desk.

Three keys to regularly writing better blog posts and articles

I recall reading on Copyblogger that there is a gap between the ability to write well and what we want to write. In other words, it sounds great in our head but that great writing doesn’t make it to the page. One issue is that there is too much focus on creative perfectionism. We expect our writing to be perfect and end up writing nothing.

We should be OK with writing what we are able to write today and accept its flaws. Respect the amount of effort and care that goes into the writing. Be kind to yourself on how you wrote at a particular time, as writing is a learning process. You start somewhere and get better as you write more. Appreciate the writer that you were and the one that you have become.

To writer strong blogs and articles on a more consistent basis, focus on these three keys:

  1. Care about what you write, writing it well, and writing something useful for the reader. Your writing will improve when you care about the effort you put into it and the results you get. Put some passion and effort into your writing. Hone your skill. Care about the reader and what they will get out of your writing. Give them value.
  2. Give yourself time to write a great blog or article. Good writing takes time. You might be able to write quickly when there is a deadline, but you need to put in time to make the writing its best. Spend time on research. Do a careful edit. Time makes us better writers as talent requires aging and development. Don’t rush the process. Let the writing sit for a while.
  3. Develop and follow clear editorial standards for your writing. Create and follow your own rules, whatever they may be. Set guidelines for spelling, grammar, formatting, fact checking, writing style, structure, etc. Make decisions based on those guidelines to determine what is OK and what is not.

Note: For more blog and article writing strategies, please read the following published blog posts:

More from The Editor’s Desk

Here are a few articles and blog posts I found worth sharing.

  1. Too many writers try to sound intelligent by using “big-sounding” words. Using these types of words just interferes with the readability of your content – and annoys readers. Check out Keep it simple: How to use plain English to improve your writing from Craft Your Content for tips and strategies on making your writing stronger.
  2. Journalists are not the only types of writers who are always on the hunt for good sources to provide quotes and context. B2B writers also need good sources to interview for their articles, which can be difficult to do at times. Check out Help a B2B Writer to submit your requests when you need to find the right person for your next article.
  3. Sometimes, it can be difficult to keep personal pronouns consistent and fair when they involve a person’s gender. Check out Gender-neutral pronouns in creative writing from CMOS Shop Talk tips and strategies on staying on top of those pronouns when writing about non-binary people.
  4. I’m sure you’ve heard the expression “You are what you eat.” That can apply to what you read and consume to feed your brain. Check out How to improve your content diet in 2021 from The Profile to learn about how to be more selective in what you read.
  5. Have you been “planning” to write and publish an e-book for some time now? Maybe it’s time to just get it done. Check out Publish an e-book: 6 strong-arm secrets to get it done from Make a Living Writing for strategies on moving forward on writing and publishing your e-book. And if you need an editor, you know who to contact.
  6. Do you want your writing to be tighter and more concise? Drop the passive voice. Check out Your grade school teachers were right: Avoid using the passive voice from The Write Life to learn more about the passive voice and how to avoid using it.
  7. Whether you are a new freelancer or have years of experienced, you will benefit from learning best practices on freelancing. Check out 52 tips for freelancers from Home Working Club for advice on finances, sales and marketing, enjoying the freelance lifestyle, and more. If you find one useful tip that improves your business, it’s worth the read.
  8. I’ve written about how to be a faster writer before (for example, here and here). Check out How to write faster (for bloggers and writers) from All Freelance Writing for why you should write faster and tips on how to do it.
  9. You already know you shouldn’t multi-task. That includes editing and proofreading at the same time. Check out The best proofreading and editing tips from Content Marketing Institute on why you shouldn’t do both at the same time, and how you can do each well.
  10. You’re probably sitting a lot more than usual these days – it’s part of being a writer or editor. Maybe you should get some exercise. So should I. Check out The benefits of stretching from Ness Labs on why you should find ways to move more often and some tips on how to do it.

Thanks for reading. If you liked what I wrote or think someone else would enjoy it, then please share it. And if you want to reach out, my email is contact@davidgargaro.com. 

David

Finding the right tone

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Welcome to the first Monday in April. The good news is that April 1st was last week, so there is no April fool’s joke. The bad news is that we could all use a good laugh right now and I have no jokes to share with you.

Random quote: When a vessel is empty, you can fill it up and empty it again. Is a vessel ever truly empty?

I hope you enjoy this week’s edition of The Editor’s Desk. It’s a bit late because of Easter and procrastination. I’ll try as hard as I did this week to make sure it’s not late again.

Finding the right (write) tone

Writing in the right tone for a new client – or even a current client – can be challenging and frustrating at times. Writers have ideas and styles that don’t always mesh with the client’s ideas and goals. However, there are some relatively simple strategies to help you get the right tone when writing a first draft:

  • Ask the client. They often know their audience better than you will, and the tone required to reach them. This will save the writer a lot of time.
  • Refer to the brand guidelines or style guide. If the client has a style guide, a lot of work and research went into it. Stick to the defined tone.
  • Ask for an example of desired tone. Sometimes, the client won’t know exactly how to describe the tone, but they probably know it when they see it in other work. Check examples and match the tone to them.
  • Ask for an example of what they don’t want. Clients will know what does not work, so the process of elimination will get you closer to what they do want.

What style elements go into defining tone?

  • Point of view = first person (I, we) vs. second person (you) vs. third person (he, she, they)
  • Sentence length
  • Paragraph length
  • Word choice
  • Marketing jargon
  • Em / en dashes
  • Sentence structure

Quick tip: If a client does not like a piece you’ve written, it often comes down to tone. Rewrite a paragraph (rather than the whole piece) in a different tone to get their reaction.

More from The Editor’s Desk

Here are a few articles and blog posts I found worth sharing.


Thanks for reading. If you liked what I wrote or think someone else would enjoy it, then please share it. And if you want to reach out, my email is contact@davidgargaro.com. 

David

Appealing to readers’ beliefs, feelings, and desires

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Welcome to the final Monday in March – that was a long month. It’s been a long 12 months for everyone. We should have asked for a refund.

Random quote: We suffer more in our imagination than in reality.

I hope you enjoy this week’s edition of The Editor’s Desk. If you want a refund, good luck on that because I don’t know how to refund free. That might cause a black hole or something.

Appealing to readers’ beliefs, feelings, and desires

When writing a blog post, article, case study or content with a purpose, one of your main goals should be to get the reader to feel something or reach in some way. There are many ways to do this, of course. One strategy for reaching readers on an intellectual, emotional, and personal feel is to understand their beliefs, feelings, and desires.

  • Beliefs: What does your reader believe? What is their attitude toward what you are writing about?
  • Feelings: How does your reader feel (e.g., nervous or confident)? What does the reader feel about major issues?
  • Desires: What does your reader want? What is the reader’s goal?

If you’ve been writing to your readers for some time, or have developed buyers’ personas as part of your marketing strategy, then you should understand your audience’s beliefs, feelings, and desires to some degree.

More from The Editor’s Desk

Here are a few articles and blog posts I found worth sharing.


Thanks for reading. If you liked what I wrote or think someone else would enjoy it, then please share it. And if you want to reach out, my email is contact@davidgargaro.com.

No one read this far last week or didn’t ask for a free copy of my book. I doubt you will either. But that’s OK. You read something.

David

Structuring your portfolio, finding your voice, organizing your writing life, and more

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Welcome to the second Monday in March. Sometimes the truth hurts, but it’s better than a lie that can hurt you in many different ways.

Here are a few things I’d like to share from The Editor’s Desk.

Structuring your writing portfolio

As a freelance content writer, potential clients always ask to see samples of my work. I have a website that includes samples of my work here and here, and I also have samples on my LinkedIn page. It’s important to have an online portfolio as it’s more efficient than having to send files to potential clients. However, you might not know how to structure the clips (e.g., work) in your portfolio to get the best results. Here are some suggestions for setting up a great writing portfolio:

  • Remember that the goal is to organize and highlight clips in your portfolio so that it makes sense and appeals to prospects in your desired market and niche
  • Regularly check your existing clips (remove any that don’t look good) and add new clips to keep your portfolio fresh
  • Put your high profile and most impressive clips first
  • Separate clips by categories – marketing, journalism, copywriting, etc.
  • Focus on the clips that your ideal clients would search for or want to see
  • Leave dates off the clips – it does not matter when they were done
  • Change the order of clips based on how many times they have been viewed – use page analytics to see the most viewed clips
  • Include brand names were applicable

How to find your voice

Many writers have difficulty writing in their own voice. Your writing voice sounds like you when you read it because it mirrors the voice in your head. That’s the voice you hear when thinking about what you will write before you write it. Sometimes that inner voice doesn’t make it to the page. We sometimes think we need to sound a certain way for our readers. Kayleigh Moore wrote a great blog post on how to write in the voice that’s in your head. She recommends:

  • Remove the filter
  • Add humour to your writing
  • Be brave and open to feedback

Here’s a great quote: Anyone can churn out another boring article. But if you can write with a voice that sparkles with charming personality, you’re doing something that truly only YOU can do. 

Note: I wrote a blog post about finding your writing style, which is similar.

Organizing your writing life

I consider myself somewhat organized when it comes to my business writing life. I keep track of my projects and have different notebooks for different projects. Ali Luke with Craft Your Content provides advice on ways to organize your writing life and be more creative. Some strategies include:

  • Having one notebook for each project (just like I said)
  • Keep your writing gear in a bag even if you only write from home (difficult to get out and write these days, but I like the idea)
  • Use one app or planner to track To Do items (I use a notebook and calendar to have multiple reminders)
  • Set aside blocks of time for different types of writing (I like this idea a lot)
  • Keep track of what you’ve submitted and where (this is how you run a business as a writer)
  • Have a foolproof way of tracking deadlines (I use a calendar and notebook)
  • Use an “end of day” routine to put everything back (I should do this)

Here is some great advice:

  • Today, gather your writing materials together. Find a bag or box—anything will do—where you can keep your essentials so that they’re ready for you. Then, spend no more than five minutes clearing a writing space where you have enough room to work.
  • During the rest of the week, set aside time to write and to get organized. You might want to schedule your writing for 30 minutes, then spend 5-10 minutes taking a simple next step to get more organized. 

Personalizing your B2B content

How often have you received an email or marketing message that felt generic? “Dear Sir”, “To the Marketing Manager,” etc. is a clear indicator that the person sending the email knows nothing about you. People connect with people. People buy from people. If you are in the business of writing B2B content, then you should learn to write to your reader rather than at them. Aaron Cullers at MarketingProfs wrote an article on writing more personalized B2B content, providing the following tips:

  1. Choose the audience you want to reach
  2. Relearn the digital context and competition within your buyers’ experiences
  3. Create personalized content building blocks for every buying stage
  4. Include messages and assets based on buyer behaviour triggers
  5. Test, measure, improve, repeat

Dealing with intrusive thoughts

I sometimes get stuck in my own head, as thoughts will get stuck there and bounce around, interfering with everything else I am trying to think about. I often thought that I was the only one who felt this way, but that’s never the case. Many people face the same challenges. Vivian Manning-Schaffel at Shondaland wrote a great article on coping with intrusive thoughts. Her advice includes:

  • Don’t push those thoughts away
  • Understand that you and the thoughts are not the same
  • Don’t overthink your thoughts
  • Take care of yourself

Here’s a great quote: Once you fully grasp that your thoughts are inconsequential and are unattached to any intention or outcome, they don’t matter as much. If they don’t matter as much, you stop worrying about them and stop anticipating that they will come back…

Quote on consistency

Here’s a great quote from James Clear on consistency:

Greatness is consistency. Meditating once is common. Meditating daily is rare. Exercising today is simple. Training every week is simply remarkable. Writing one essay rarely matters. Write every day and you’re practically a hero. Unheroic days can make for heroic decades.

What I wrote

Check out this blog post I wrote for SellerantHow to create marketing personas for your business.

What I read

I just finished reading The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. I had never seen the movie and had heard great things about it. I don’t usually go for books written in diary or letter format but this was enjoyable, and I was surprised by the shock reveal. I will have to check out the movie to see if it holds up.

What I watched

Upon the recommendation from a friend, I watched The Hunt with Betty Gilpin and Hillary Swank. It’s a commentary on the divide between groups in today’s society. It’s also an enjoyable view with some gruesome deaths and memorable lines.

What I listened to

I listened to the Tim Ferriss podcast episode #501 with Steven Pressfield, who talked about the artist’s journey, the wisdom of little successes, shadow careers, and overcoming resistance. Steven is a great author, who has written a fantastic book called The War of Art – a must read for freelance writers.


Thanks for reading. If you liked what I wrote or think someone else would enjoy it, then please share it. And if you want to reach out, my email is contact@davidgargaro.com.

David

Learning to write faster, turning away clients, compelling introductions, and more

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Welcome to the first Monday in March. I pulled a muscle in my side, which made me think I hurt my kidney somehow. It’s still painful after about a week, but I can still roll out of bed, so I have that going for me.

Here are a few things I’d like to share from The Editor’s Desk.

Learning to write faster

If you are a freelance writer and get paid by the hour, you probably don’t want to write faster than you already do. You actually lose money being a faster writer. However, for most other situations (especially when facing deadlines), it can pay to learn how to write your content more quickly. To follow are some quick tips on increasing your writing speed:

  • Write a bad first draft. There’s no need to be perfect with your first draft. Get the words on the page.
  • Walk away from the writing. Taking a break can re-energize you and make you faster when you return to the keyboard.
  • Write in your head. Think about what you want to say, how you want to say, how you want to organize your sections, etc. before putting the words down.
  • Find the best time of day to write the first draft. Some people are great in the morning, others work best at the end of the day or after lunch. You’ll know when you’re most productive.
  • Write to the quality of the project and the client’s needs. Some projects require more effort and quality than others. Don’t spend the time to write a thesis when you’re writing a blog post on the top 10 best pizza places in your city.
  • Outsource some of your tasks. Hire a virtual assistant to handle the administrative work while you spend time on writing.
  • Write about familiar topics. If you’ve written a few articles on one topic, you’ll be able to write more quickly on related topics because you already know the terminology and main issues.
  • Write blog posts in batches. If you have a calendar of assignments, or a plan to write blog posts on similar topics, bang them all out one after another when the words are flowing.
  • Reduce revisions. Don’t edit or revise when you’re writing. Limit the number of revisions that clients can make – charge more for each one.
  • Write longer pieces. Having to start a new project takes time. Writing long pieces keeps you immersed in the writing, and you’ll work at getting it done more quickly than starting something new.

PS. I wrote a blog post about being a faster writer here.

Turning away potential clients

As a freelance writer – or any self-employed person – there will be times when you need to turn clients away. It’s actually a way to grow your business. When you turn away the wrong clients, you make room for the right clients. It can be scary to turn down paying gigs, but there are a number of reasons why you should turn away potential clients:

  • The (hourly) rate is too low. It might be a “good” project rate, but the amount of work involved could reduce the hourly rate below minimum wage.
  • It’s a one-off assignment. If you have to choose between regular work and a one-off, it usually makes sense to turn down the one-off assignment because regular work just keeps bringing in money and opportunities. Of course, some one-off assignments are worth it, especially if they give you experience in a new industry.
  • The work is not in your niche. Again, if it’s a market you want to be in, it’s good experience for the portfolio. But if you don’t plan to work in this niche, pass it along to someone else.
  • Your writing style does not match the brand voice. Yes, you can learn to write in a new style or voice, but if it’s very different from you usual style, it will be challenging for you and a bad fit for the client.
  • The client is likely to be difficult. Stay away – the pay is rarely worth the grief.
  • The client’s desired strengths and requirements are different from yours. Don’t try to fit your square peg into their round hole.
  • There’s a mismatch of personalities. You work with people, not just words, so you need to be able to get along. If it’s not a fit, everyone will be unhappy, especially you.
  • You have a bad “feeling”. Trust your gut. If it does not feel like it’s right, walk away.

How to write compelling introductions

People will often decide to read an article or blog post based on the heading. However, a strong introduction will keep them reading. Kayleigh Moore wrote a great blog post on how to write compelling introductions. She breaks it down to three steps:

  • Step 1: Distill the point of your content into a single, concise sentence.
  • Step 2: Tease out the most interesting aspect of your sentence.
  • Step 3: Write three to four short, conversational sentences based on the first two steps.

Here’s a great quote: ... the short, abbreviated intro gives the reader a chance to warm up to you, your writing voice, and what you’re about to share with them. It doesn’t make any assumptions about the readers’ problems or concerns—and it’s conversational and light.

Editing mistakes to avoid

I know some writers hate editors because they don’t like other people changing what they wrote or commenting on their perfect words. (I’ve been there, and have developed an objective approach to writing for clients.) Unfortunately, too many writers will take to editing their own work, which can actually make it worse than before. Sola Kehinde at Craft Your Content wrote an article on six editing mistakes to avoid as a professional writer:

  • Depending on self-editing alone (we never see our own mistakes)
  • Asking family and friends to edit your work (I hate showing them the finished work!)
  • Not understanding the different types of editing (there are BIG differences between them)
  • Doing different edits in the wrong order (that can cause so many problems)
  • Hiring one editor for different types of editing (not always an issue)
  • Thinking of beta readers as editors (they have a specific role, and it’s not editing)

Here’s a great, self-serving quote: To ensure you get objective and honest feedback about your writing so you can achieve your writing goals, always choose a professional editor or an editing agency instead of family and friends who may only tell you what they think you want to hear. 

How to read more

Finding time to read can be a challenge. How much I read from year to year will vary, but I have been trying to make time to read – keeping books by my bed, turning off the TV to read, bringing a book with me during appointments, etc. Elaine Meyer at Doist wrote a blog post on how to read more. There is a lot of great information in this post, including how to build a reading habit:

  • Make it easy to start
  • Start small (this goes for everything you want to do)
  • Read at a certain time of day
  • Multi-task with audiobooks
  • Make time
  • Create a distraction-free environment
  • Try visual cues
  • Take notes (I’ve started keeping a notebook where I wrote two pages about the book I read)
  • Write reviews
  • Put down a book you’re not enjoying (YES!)
  • Make reading an enjoyment, not an obligation

Here’s a great quote: One of the most effective ways to spend less time on habits like social media, online shopping, or playing video games, is to build “friction” into how you access them. You can also use the friction principle the opposite way for reading. Reduce your reading friction by making it as easy as possible to read books. Plan how you’ll buy or borrow books and the tools you’ll use to read, like e-readers and audiobook apps.

Resource: How to create a profitable eBook and course

If you want to create your own eBook or mini-course, check out Felicia Sullivan‘s step-by-step guide I Created a 201-Page Profitable eBook & Mini Course in One Month. It is published on Medium so you might need a membership to read it (I have three free views per month, as should you, so choose wisely). The guide covers:

  • Selecting a topic
  • Building an outline
  • Pre-selling the book
  • Writing the book
  • Publishing the book

What I wrote

Check out this article I wrote for Nom Nom DataThe Impact of Turnover on Small Teams.

What I read

I just finished reading How to Pronounce Knife by Souvankham Thammavongsa. It’s a collection of short stories on different people, mostly Laotian immigrants, occupying the same world. It was a great read, as the stories flowed and the characters were interesting and real.

What I watched

My daughter and I watched the movie Finding ‘Ohana. It’s about two siblings from Brooklyn who go to Oahu with their mom to help take care of their grandfather, where they learn about their heritage and seek a mysterious treasure. It’s a fun family movie.

What I listened to

The Build Your Copywriting Business podcast, episode #15, described the 11 traits of the most successful copywriters. It’s an informative episode, so check it out.


Thanks for reading. If you liked what I wrote or think someone else would enjoy it, then please share it. And if you want to reach out, my email is contact@davidgargaro.com.

David

Asking questions before writing, dealing with procrastination, books for writers, and more

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Welcome to the first Monday in February. I hope you’re doing well… but if you’re not, I hope things get better. Keep going.

Here are a few things I’d like to share from The Editor’s Desk.

Questions to ask clients before writing

Many clients don’t provide comprehensive briefs for writing projects. Some will provide a topic or title idea and some keywords to include, and that’s about it. As a writer, you need to get as much information as possible before writing a single word. This will help you get as close as possible to what the client wants, and will save you time in rewriting. You could ask a lot of questions, but here are a few to get you started:

  • Who is the audience for this content? What do they value, and what problems are they trying to solve?
  • What is the goal of the content? Are you trying to sell, educate, inform, convince, etc.?
  • What is the desired length for the content? You don’t want to write 2,000 words when they only need 500.
  • What sources are required, and how many sources do you need?
  • What tone is required for the content? Ask for examples of tone they want, and tone they don’t want.

Dealing with procrastination

If you’re a writer – or a human being – you have had to deal with procrastination at some point in your life. It often occurs when you’re staring at a blank page and dealing with a deadline, and you’d rather do anything else except writing. Patricia Allen at Craft Your Content wrote a blog post on the art of avoiding procrastination.

Here’s a great quote: If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Rather than avoiding the task completely, organize your time into blocks. This will give you a clear plan to follow. Decide in advance what blocks of time you will allocate each week to family, entertainment, exercise, hobbies, and work. Your priorities will determine the order of these blocks of time, but making time for them all is the essential balance required. 

Books for writers

If you’re a writer, then you should also be a reader, and that includes books on writing. Farrah Daniel at The Write Life put together a list of the best books on writing. I know that “best” is subjective, but I own some of these books (including On Writing by Stephen King and Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott) and have to agree with them being on the list. Borrow them from the library or support your local used bookstore.

Virtual conferences for writers

Since we cannot go to physical events at the moment, we can attend virtual events to network with others, learn more about our craft, and have interesting experiences. Make a Living Writing put together a list of virtual conferences and events for writers. It’s worth checking out.

Creating a marketing style guide

Whether you are a one-person show or run a small business, you should create some rules around your marketing copy. Marketing style guides don’t have to be complicated. Nathan Collier at Groove published their marketing style guide, and it’s exactly what you need – all the basics on being consistent when publishing online. It covers voice and tone, headings and subheadings, punctuation, and a lot more

How to get better every day

Here’s a quote from James Clear:

“Improvement is a battle that must be fought anew each day. Your next workout doesn’t care how strong your last one was. Your next essay doesn’t care how popular your last one was. Your next investment doesn’t care how smart your last one was. Your best effort, again.”

What I wrote

Here’s an article I wrote for Business.com12 Best Ways to Use Business Texting.

What I read

Tim Ferriss is one of my favourite authors. In addition to his books, I enjoy reading his weekly blog posts and listening to his podcasts. He wrote an eye-opening blog post called 11 Reasons Not to Become Famous. I don’t expect to ever become famous, not to his level anyway. And given what I’ve read, I hope I never do.

What I watched

I watched this YouTube video on Kurt Vonnegut’s rules for writing a short story. As someone who wants to write stories, I was definitely interested. One great piece of advice: Write to please just one person.

What I listened to

I enjoy listening to The Pen Addict podcast. Mike Hurley and Brad Dowdy talk all things related to fountain pens, other types of pens, stationery, and things related to writing. If you’re into pens at all, or want to learn more about them, make sure to check it out.


Thanks for reading. If you liked what I wrote or think someone else would enjoy it, then please share it. And if you want to reach out, my email is contact@davidgargaro.com.

David

Using grammatical metaphors, creating an antilibrary, extracting content from subject matter experts, and more

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Welcome to another Monday. Here are a few things I’d like to share from The Editor’s Desk.

Using grammatical metaphors to say more with less

I’m a fan of being efficient with writing. Keep your writing tight (unless you get paid by the word). Vinh To for The Conversation published a post on using grammatical metaphors to say more with less. Grammatical metaphors involve expressing one type of grammatical form (e.g., verbs) in another form (e.g., nouns). Nominalization involves turning verbs, adverbs, and other grammatical forms into nouns. It offers a number of key benefits, including:

  • Shortening sentences.
  • Clearly showing how one thing causes another
  • Connecting ideas and structuring text
  • Formalizing the tone of your writing

Here is one example of using nominalization to shorten text:

  • Before: When humans cut down forests, land becomes exposed and is easily washed away by heavy rain. 
  • After: Deforestation causes soil erosion.

Creating an antilibrary

I enjoy buying and eventually reading books. I keep all the books I’ve read in a library, and what I haven’t read yet is organized in piles next to my bed – I can’t yet bear shelving books I haven’t read yet. However, there is a lot to be said about doing just that. Anne-Laure Le Cunff at Ness Labs wrote an article about building an antilibrary, which is a collection of unread books. It’s not a new concept, as many learned people have built antilibraries over the years. The goal is often to collect books on topics you want to learn about, and having those books at the ready will make it easier to do so. Some might argue that the Internet contains all known information, but there is something to be said about being able to reach out and actually read a book on something you want to learn about.

If you’re a freelance writer, consider accumulating an antilibrary of books on writing, marketing, and topics in your niche. When you want to do research or get a different perspective on writing, you can just reach out for one of your unread books.

Quote: When an author mentions another book, check the exact reference and make a note of it. By doing so, you will have a list of all the relevant sources for a book when you are done reading it. Then, research this constellation of books. It is unlikely all the sources on the list will seem interesting to you. Sometimes, only a short passage of the source was relevant to the book you just read. But other times, you will discover a book that genuinely piques your curiosity. Add this book to your antilibrary.

Extracting content from subject matter experts

Have you ever interviewed a subject matter expert who is not the greatest at sharing their knowledge with you in a way that makes sense? For various reasons, it can be difficult to do so. I know I’ve been challenged to get answers out of experts when deadlines are looming. Mindy Zissman at MarketingProfs wrote an article about six ways to extract content from subject matter experts. Her tips include:

  • Booking an Abstract Day (a scheduled date and time to ask questions and get content ideas)
  • Reuse one of their presentations
  • Jump on one of their scheduled client calls
  • Do background research before talking to the expert
  • Ask the expert to record their answers
  • Do a writing workshop lunch and learn

Creating a landing page

There is a lot of information on landing pages to be found online. For those who don’t know, a landing page is a page on your website (or on its own) where you offer something interesting and valuable (e.g., white paper, ebook, newsletter) to visitors in exchange for their email address. CJ Chilvers wrote an interesting post on lessons learned about writing landing pages, which are described briefly below:

  • Remember the basics of what the landing page is about
  • Focus on benefits over features
  • Think in 5 second intervals of what is being read
  • Focus on one action you want from the visitor
  • Everything is a trade-off – something you add / leave out will drive visitors away
  • Every page on your website is a landing page
  • Focus on customers first
  • Test everything
  • Be diplomatic with other members of your team

Creating a marketing plan for your small business

A marketing plan will help you to know more about your customers and how to reach them so they business with you. Matt Gladstone at Flocksy wrote a great article on marketing plan tips for small businesses. He suggested the following five steps for creating your own marketing plan:

  • Create and focus on your goals and objectives
  • Define your target audience
  • Do your research
  • Effectively and efficiently execute your plan
  • Plan a timeline and budget

Check out my blog posts on creating a marketing plan:

Thoughts on writing

Morgan Housel, a partner at Collaborative Fund, wrote a few of his thoughts on writing. This one stood out to me:

Good ideas are easy to write, bad ideas are hard. Difficulty is a quality signal, and writer’s block usually indicates more about your ideas than your writing.

What I wrote

Here’s an article I wrote for Digital Privacy News: Saskatchewan Law Against Domestic Violence Raises Privacy Concerns.

What I read

Here’s a great quote I read from Barbara Tuchman (source: The Book, Bulletin of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Vol. 34, No. 2 (Nov. 1980)) on the power of books:

“Books are the carriers of civilization. Without books, history is silent, literature dumb, science crippled, thought and speculation at a standstill. Without books, the development of civilization would have been impossible. They are engines of change (as the poet said), windows on the world and lighthouses erected in the sea of time. They are companions, teachers, magicians, bankers of the treasures of the mind. Books are humanity in print.”

What I watched

I’ve just finished watching the first season of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods. I read the book (and recommend it) many years ago, so I was pleasantly surprised by how much I did not remember about the story. I was able to enjoy it with fresh eyes, and I’m looking forward to watching season 2. And with season 3 here, I can catch up and watch it in “real time” instead of binging.

What I listened to

I watched this short clip of an interview between Polina Marinova Pompliano and James Clear on how to optimize your content diet.


Thanks for reading. If you liked what I wrote or think someone else would enjoy it, then please share it. And if you want to reach out, my email is contact@davidgargaro.com.

David

Making time to do your best work, becoming a content machine, writing the best call to action, and more

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Welcome to another Monday. If you’ve been a regular reader, you might have noticed a change in what and when I’m writing. I’ve decided to publish just on Mondays instead of twice a week. I might publish on the occasional Thursday if I write something that I want to stand out. Otherwise, it will be once a week. This will let me provide more information in each blog post. I’ve also changed the format a bit so you can learn more about what I like. Nothing is set in stone, but let’s see how this goes.

Here’s a few things I’d like to share from The Editor’s Desk.

Make time to do your best work

Do Lectures published an article on seven ways to make time to do your best work. Strategies include:

  • Saying no to things that take time away from what you want to do
  • Committing all of your attention to your work
  • Mastering the ability to be patient
  • Finding something that you love doing
  • Getting rid of your ego
  • Identifying your purpose
  • Going for big wins

Here’s a great quote: “To change that you will have to learn how to say ‘No’ to things. Saying ‘No’ will allow you to have more time to do things well. You can’t do everything to the best of your talent. But you can do a few things to your highest ability.”

Becoming a content machine

Luk Smeyers from The Visible Authority published an article on becoming a content machine in just one day per week. He takes a three-step approach to generating and promoting his content. They include:

  1. Identify your content inspiration sources. 
  2. Create a content hub that will centralize all your content efforts.
  3. Set up a system for promoting your content.

He also tells you four things you can start doing tomorrow – I love instructions that include things you can actually do. Those four things are:

  1. Gather insights about your audience. 
  2. Centralize your content.
  3. Collect and assess the data.
  4. Schedule and automate your content production and distribution.

Writing the best call to action

Ann Handley published an article on writing the best call to action. She gives an example from North Carolina’s Currituck County Economic Development home page. The CTA is different, personal, and effective.

Quote: “The most effective copywriting reflects who you are, not just what you sell.

If you want to learn more about calls to action, read my blog post, Begin at the end: The call to action.

How to tackle the big project

Kate McKean, publisher of the Agents & Books newsletter, wrote an article on how to tackle the big project. Here’s some of what she had to say:

  • Read it all the way through one more time. I really feel it necessary to have a good lay of the land before I start a big project, but admittedly this step takes a lot of time and you might not have that time. Still, a read-through will give you an idea of what the most pressing issues are (soggy middle? unconvincing ending? prologue you need to chop off?) so that you can prioritize. This is especially helpful if you haven’t read it through in a long while. If you did it recently, you might not need to do it again.
  • Don’t do the small stuff first. It might be tempting to do your Find > Replace Joe to Joey, but tbh, do that last. You’ll likely just be editing stuff that will be cut after you do the big stuff, so don’t spin your wheels. 
  • Do the big stuff first. Do the biggest thing first. I know that is daunting and you would rather ease into an edit, but you have to take all the furniture out of the room before you replace the floors. (That metaphor works, right? How many metaphors can we use today!!!!) If you know the ending isn’t working, go in and fix the ending, which may mean fixing the beginning. If you feel like the stakes aren’t high enough, go ratchet up those stakes! When you do the big thing first, the rest feels so easy you’ll glide right through it. Also, the big thing usually ripples throughout the whole manuscript, so there’s no point in going in and changing the tense on a section you may just have to cut anyway.
  • Next do the medium stuff. Do you need to change the tense? First person to third? That’s what I consider medium stuff. It can still be pretty big! But after you have most things in the right places, then you can go in and make changes that affect the global template, so to speak. Again, do these after the big moves, even though it’s tempting to do them first because they’re easier to wrap your brain around.
  • Then do the small stuff. I know this seems obvious, or at least simplistic. But I also know that the overwhelm caused by an impeding huge edit can really cloud one’s judgement. Save the little things for last. Name changes. Checking timelines, weather, dates, consistency. These will feel like a piece of cake after the other two steps, so enjoy that relative ease!

The benefits of a morning writing routine

Naomi Pham from Craft Your Craft wrote an article on six profound benefits of a morning writing routine (and how to build one yourself). I’ve toyed with a morning journal and writing notes in the morning but it has not stuck with me yet. I understand the benefits, and the article lays them out very nicely, including:

  • It frees your mind of clutter
  • It helps you become more self-disciplined
  • It can help with your well-being
  • It enables you to take advantage of your best state of mind
  • It will help you avoid willpower depletion
  • It allows you to enjoy distraction-free writing

Getting ideas onto the page

Kayleigh Moore wrote an article about getting ideas out of your head and onto the page. This is a common problem for many writers, as they get stuck in their head and can’t translate their thoughts into the written word. Or they just don’t know where to start writing. Here is what Kayleigh suggests:

  • Identify your motivation – why do you want to write what’s on your mind?
  • Be OK with sharing something that is not perfect
  • Get over the mentality of “Why bother?”

She also provides some steps on executing the process of putting your thoughts on paper.

What I wrote

Here’s an article I wrote for the November/December 2020 Issue of RHB Magazine2020 Taxation Report: Understanding the inequities in the taxation of multi-residential properties.

What I read

I finished reading Anxious People by Fredrik Backman. He is one of my newer favourite authors whose books I plan to continue adding to my bookshelf. It’s a story about a bank robbery gone wrong, which turns into a hostage situation at an apartment viewing. It’s more than that, of course. But to say more would take away the joy of reading and discovering what happens next.

What I watched

I finally got around to watching the movie Tenet. I’m a fan of Christopher Nolan, and this one messes with your mind. It involves moving backward and forward in time, the past is the future, etc.

I also watched the movie Palm Springs. To say anything more than it involves two people who meet at a wedding would be giving away the crux of the movie. I’ll let you discover that nugget for yourself.

What I listened to

Some of the podcasts I listened to this week:


Thanks for reading. If you liked what I wrote or think someone else would enjoy it, then please share it. And if you want to reach out, my email is contact@davidgargaro.com.

David

Creating a habits scorecard, tips for a better life, and taking a 31-day challenge

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Welcome to the first Monday of 2021. I hope you’re doing well. Here’s a few things I’d like to share with you from The Editor’s Desk.

Creating a Habits Scorecard

James Clear, author of Atomic Habits (currently in the to-read pile next to my bed), published an article (it’s an excerpt from the book) on creating a Habits Scorecard. This exercise will help you to discover what habits you should change. He discusses “pointing and calling” your habits so that you become more conscious of them. The Habits Scorecard enables you to list your habits, and rank them as positive, negative or neutral.

Quote from the article: “As you create your Habits Scorecard, there is no need to change anything at first. The goal is to simply notice what is actually going on. Observe your thoughts and actions without judgment or internal criticism. Don’t blame yourself for your faults. Don’t praise yourself for your successes.”

100 tips for a better life

Conor Barnes of ideopunk wrote an article called 100 Tips for a Better Life. Here’s a few that I liked:

  • Establish clear rules about when to throw out old junk. Once clear rules are established, junk will probably cease to be a problem. This is because any rule would be superior to our implicit rules (“keep this broken stereo for five years in case I learn how to fix it”). 
  • When googling a recipe, precede it with ‘best’. You’ll find better recipes. 
  • Learn keyboard shortcuts. They’re easy to learn and you’ll get tasks done faster and easier. 
  • Done is better than perfect. 
  • Exercise is the most important lifestyle intervention you can do. Even the bare minimum (15 minutes a week) has a huge impact. Start small. 
  • Discipline is superior to motivation. The former can be trained, the latter is fleeting. You won’t be able to accomplish great things if you’re only relying on motivation. 
  • Things that aren’t your fault can still be your responsibility. 
  • Compliment people more. Many people have trouble thinking of themselves as smart, or pretty, or kind, unless told by someone else. You can help them out. 

Taking the 31-day challenge

Austin Kleon created a template to help you follow a 31-day challenge. Basically, you pick something small and you do it every day. I would like to write something in a journal or notebook every day. I write for other people most of the time, so it would be nice to write something for myself.

Google Docs add-ons

I use Google Docs to write articles and blog posts for some clients because that is what they prefer. I’m OK with it, but I still prefer writing in Word – it’s just what I’m used to doing. However, Google Docs does have its advantages, like being able to share and enable comments with others (this can be a disadvantage as well). Farrah Daniel wrote about Google Docs add-ons that can help to make you more efficient with your writing. The ones that look most useful to me include:

  • GDoc SEO Assistant – it generates relevant SEO suggestions and related keywords based on the keywords you provide
  • i should be writing – it allows you to set a timer or word count to motivate you to write
  • OneLook Thesaurus – find synonyms, related words, adjectives, rhymes, and more

Grammar and editing tools

For those of you who need more help with your grammar and spelling, check out these grammar and editing tools from Write Life. Grammarly seems to have a lot of fans. I don’t use any of these tools, but you might like them.

What I wrote

Here’s something I wrote recently for Business.com7 Most Effective Lead Nurturing Strategies.

What I read in 2020

I track what I read in Goodreads and in a notebook; when I’m done reading, I write two pages about the book. According to the Goodreads annual review, I read 36 books in 2020. Here’s a list of some of my favourites (in no particular order):

What I watched

Over the holidays, I watched a lot of TV shows and movies – actually, I always watch TV shows and movies, it’s a thing I do. Here’s a bit of what I enjoyed watching:

  • Ozark (Season 2)
  • Wonder Woman 1984
  • The Mandalorian (Season 2)
  • The Queen’s Gambit (Season 1)
  • Roald Dahl’s The Witches
  • Writing on the Bathroom Wall

What I listened to

I listen to podcasts while I work. Sometimes I’ll select random podcasts when I’m all caught up on my subscribed episodes. One of my recent favourites was the Jerry Seinfeld episode on The Tim Ferriss Show – I’d recommend subscribing just for that episode. My newest podcasts are Build Your Copywriting Business from Filthy Rich Writer and Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me! from NPR.


Thanks for reading. Feel free to share it with people you know who you think would enjoy it.

David