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5 Ways You Can Write Better Articles by Studying Fiction

Yes, it’s true — you should study your specific craft. If you want to write great informative and shareable articles for the Internet, then that’s what you should study. But do you know what the people who write those articles are studying? It may come as a surprise to you, but many of them study the principles of fiction writing.

Proof That Stories Propel Content

The people over at Buffer (a social media app company that specializes in effective communication) suspected that storytelling could be a useful tool and used their own audience as a test. They did an A/B test where some of their readers were sent to a version of an article with no story at the beginning. The rest of the readers were sent to a second version that opened with a story.

And according to Buffer: “The post with the narrative intro had nearly 300% more people scroll all the way to the bottom, and average time on page was more than five times higher!” So that’s just one real-world example of the same information being presented with and without a story — and the difference in audience engagement that resulted. Imagine if every one of your blog posts or articles had 300% more people scrolling all the way through.

And if you have that many more engaged readers, imagine then how that can snowball into more social media shares, more mailing list sign-ups, and more members of your personal tribe. If people enjoy reading your pieces, they become part of your audience.

5 Ways You Can Incorporate Storytelling

  1. Open with a story: What story can you tell that relates to the lesson you’re teaching? Is there a personal experience from your life you can share to create empathy with the reader?
  2. Paint a scene: How can you put your lesson into a real-life and dramatic scenario?
  3. Rely on the senses: What does it feel like to do what you’re telling us to do? Or to make the mistake you are helping us solve?
  4. Re-tell a story your audience already knows: Maybe a folk story or anecdote exists that illustrates your point and that many people will be familiar with and therefore relate to?
  5. Persuade with a story: Is there a testimonial that will speak to the power of what you are teaching, sharing, or selling?

To learn more about each of these techniques, sign up for my How to Write Meaningful Content for the Internet online class. Classes begin in July and September and you can work through the course materials at your own pace.

P.S. Read My Micro-Fiction

Writing fiction doesn’t mean you have to commit a year of your life to writing a novel. You can write flash fiction in one night! Flash fiction is generally defined as anything 1000 words or less. Check out my most recently published piece of flash: The Downed. It’s only a couple hundred words long — it won’t take you much time at all!

Sign up for the next session of my class:
How to Write Meaningful Content for the Internet

Why Successful Guest Posting Is Just Like Speed Dating

I remember when speed dating first became a “thing.” People decried it as yet another sign we were going the way of the Romans, or television was ruining our society, or human connection wasn’t valued anymore. After trying a few rounds of speed-dating in my younger years, I think it’s not actually a bad thing and its usefulness all comes down to your execution.

In fact, successful guest posting is a lot like speed dating. Pitching guest posts can leave you frustrated, feeling like your dream girl won’t give you the time of day or there’s too many fish in the sea to even figure out which one you’re after. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Just like in dating, successful guest posting is all about your strategy. If you come prepared, you’ll go home with a bunch of “numbers” – whether we’re talking phone numbers or traffic numbers to your website.

Here are the three essential steps to successfully pitch yourself and/or your guest post:

1. Know What You Want

Many of us fall into the dating trap of trying to please the other person and not remembering our own goals and needs. This happens in guest posting, too. We’re so eager to get a “yes” that we forget our own strategy. What audience are you trying to reach? What metrics define what a successful guest post is for you? What sort of referral traffic, newsletter sign-ups, or sales are you looking for? Know what you want – don’t just fall for the next pretty website you see.

2. Know What Questions to Ask

If you’re a speed-dating pro, you have a list of questions to ask quickly before your time is up. You use these questions to determine if the person opposite you is in the ballpark of being a match. In guest posting, this looks like doing your research on traffic, reader engagement, post frequency, demographics, and keywords. Find out if your potential suitor has what you’re looking for.

3. Know Who Is Worth the Pursuit

Value yourself and what you have to say. Don’t say yes to just anyone. Your time and content are worth something. Make sure you’re entering into a relationship with an equal partner – one who appreciates you for everything you have to offer. And if this is an ongoing relationship, but you’re not seeing the benefits roll in, remember you can call this thing off at any time.

The Key to Successful Guest Posting

It’s easy in guest posting to fall into the trap of wanting to be liked. We all want to get a “yes” and we’re often so eager to get our name out there that we forget to do our homework and find our perfect match. Like in dating, though, when you do find that right match, it’s mutually beneficial – not to mention fun and enjoyable.

Would you like to become the Don Juan of guest posting?

Take my online class:

The 3 Essential Steps to Landing a Guest Post

 

You Don’t Have to Be the Best Writer to Get the Best Job

It doesn’t matter if you write the most intriguing query letter and it doesn’t matter if you write the perfect article, if you’re making any one of the mistakes I’m about to share with you.

The hard truth is, the best writers don’t necessarily get the best writing jobs.

The best writers don’t necessarily get any jobs. Talent alone will not get you hired.

What This Truth Means for You

Depending on how you feel about your own writing skills, reading that might have made you feel better or worse. But whether you believe writing skills are the product of inherent talent or years of practice, there are simple steps you can take to ensure you score regular gigs. These steps really don’t have anything to do with talent, but they do indicate whether you are a professional.

As a managing editor of a major website, I sought out professionals. Typos, misspellings, factual errors, and sloppy writing are all hallmarks of unprofessionalism. You don’t want that label.

You want to be the opposite of that. You want to stand out from the crowd because you do care and you do comb through every detail of your work. Remember, an editor is typically overworked and overwhelmed. He or she is likely primarily looking for a reason to delete emails, and secondarily looking for quality materials.

6 Things to Look for Before You Hit Send

Here are six things you should look for in your article, manuscript, pitch, or query before you hit the send button. These might seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how often I see them in my inbox. And let’s be real, we all know we’ve committed at least a couple of these.

  1. Spelling – Misspellings are an instant reason for an editor to hit “delete.” Keep an eye out especially for things that spellcheckers won’t recognize, such as “their” instead of “there.”
  2. Adjectives and adverbs – These should not be the heart of your writing. Superfluous use of them is the sign of an immature writer (in years or in experience). Delete as many as you can.
  3. Grammar – I don’t expect all writers to be grammar nerds, but I do expect them to have a general understanding of their craft. Look for non-sequiturs and noun-verb agreement in particular.
  4. Repetition – Repetitive use of the same word is another sign of either a young writer or someone who hasn’t reread and refined her draft. If you see the same word popping up, it’s time to bust out your thesaurus.
  5. Clichés – By definition, clichés bring nothing new to your work. Delete them all.
  6. Incorrect clichés – It is not a “mute point” and there’s no such thing as “intensive purposes.”

Aside from all that technical stuff, there’s another level editors look for in potential writers. They look for people they actually want to work with. People they might even enjoy working with. This is something you should seek out, as well, because if someone enjoys working with you, he or she may hire you again.

If you can handle that on top of having an excellent query letter and article, then you’ll be shoulder to shoulder with a small percentage of capable people any editor would be eager to hire.

Photo of “Monkey-typing” by New York Zoological Society – Picture on Early Office Museum. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Copyright 2015 Hunt Gather Brew