The Top 10 Ultimate Writing Tips You Gotta Use in 2014

I’ve been writing seriously for about three years and now that I’m a full-time writer, here are some things I wish I knew starting out:

1. Writing is almost never just about the writing. It is often more about presentation, marketing and networking. If your website looks absolutely terrible, that is a contributing factor to why you don’t have many readers.

2.Your writing can be terrible as long as it is interesting. Seriously, 95% of readers don’t care about Grammar Nazi things such as tense, oxford commas, typos, sentence fragments, run-ons, etc.

None of those matter as much as writers think. If the majority of the world were English majors, this would change.

As long as the message is clear—that is clear enough to let the writing be entertaining—that is what matters most.

3. Publish less and edit more. I’m not saying don’t write a lot—you should—but don’t hit the publish button as often. 1 great or even good blog post is better than 40 mediocre ones.

Don’t try to compete with other writers putting out more posts or words than you are. You’ll never win.

4. Headlines are ABSOLUTELY critical to your success. Without a great headline, it is very likely only your mom and a few bored Facebook friends that read your posts.

5. Most advice about how to do things is just a preference. Very few other rules apply today as things change so quickly.

6. Your writing is not about you. If you want to write for yourself, that is fine, but let’s be clear—that is called a journal or a diary. That is not something to share online. You must write for a particular audience or you will spend the majority of your time spinning your wheels. Write to help the audience. Even if you write fiction, you want to take the audience on an adventure and solve the problem of boredom.

7. If you want to be a writer, you have to be a marketer as well. It is UNAVOIDABLE. Marketing is NOT a dirty word. It is just how you spread a message or share a story. Don’t let the sleazy, pushy guy in an ugly sportcoat skew how you view marketing or sales.

Marketing is just storytelling. And if you write a good story, over time, some of them will spread.

8-10. But most importantly, write these three things forever on your brain to  find success with your writing:

Entertain. Inform. Don’t be a jerk.

That’s it. I’m not saying this is easy though. Even this post is competing with MILLIONS if not billions of other options fighting for your attention.

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Got anything you would add to this list? I’d love to hear it in the comments!

  • Hi Jim, most of these lists are kind of dumb but I think this list is very well done. And even thought I hate it, you are right that you can be a terrible writer and still be successful online if you have a good headline and interesting content. It’s a good reminder whenever I have typos or mediocre sentences that it won’t necessarily be the end of me!

    I found you through Elizabeth Hyndman and have been following along for a while now, but wanted to say hello.

    • Thanks for stopping by to say hi! I really appreciate that. I hate lists for the most part–but this is literally what I wish I knew when starting out. I’m not saying I like these “rules” either–but it totally makes sense–that we really just want to be entertained and informed by someone who is not a jerk right 😉 Great to meet you Mary Beth. Elizabeth is awesome!

  • Number 3 resonated with me as I can sometimes edit a draft up to a dozen or more times before clicking publish. Number 4 is a work in progress as headlines are critical and yet sometimes even a.”good one” misses the mark.

    • Sometimes I think a good headline can not match up with the content itself as well–so that can be an issue too.

  • Martyn J Wood

    Love tips 8-10 a good reminder to keep my ego in check and keep the purity of the craft and the fun element alive way to go Jim.

    • Jim

      Thanks so much Martyn. Really appreciate that! Where do you do your writing?

  • This is perfect. I’m writing a post about writing today. Thanks for the great food for thought! And I totally agree with these, especially 1 & 7. Writing is much more than writing, and a lot of that involves marketing—something most people hate. Once you get over that and embrace it, though, you’re headed in the right direction (and things get easier from there).

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