Today’s post is written by Yali Saar, CEO and Co-Founder of Tailor Brands.
As a professional journalist you often find yourself writing seven to ten articles a week. Your ability to handle those deadlines makes the difference between having a job and writing as a hobby.
Back in 2008, while I was working as a military correspondent in the Middle East, I learned several methods for handling these deadlines without compromising the quality of my posts.
Whether you’re an aspiring journalist or an avid blogger, these three simple tricks can make your life easier.
1. Write before you edit.
It’s 3 AM and you have a deadline in four hours. You’re in the middle of the desert and you find it hard to keep your eyes open. Every sentence you write takes you half an hour, and the fact that you keep checking your watch isn’t helping.
Most of us have experienced this situation at least once—the realization that you spent the last four hours trying to perfect an opening paragraph.
The problem, I’ve learned, after years of mistakes, lies in trying to write and edit at the same time.
As someone who has played both sides of the field, I can tell you that editing while writing is a huge waste of time. These are completely different tasks that involve different sides of your brain. You’re moving from a task that requires creativity to one that revolves around nitpicking. As a result, your head needs to constantly reboot.
The solution I learned is fairly simple. Writing is a task most people can’t perform tired; editing is. So, divide your time accordingly. Use the first few hours you have gathering as much text as you can on paper. Do not dare to edit—simply keep on writing your thoughts until you have enough text.
Once you’re done with that, then you can move on to editing. Believe me, you’ll find it’s a lot easier to edit text once it’s already there.
2. Ask the 3 W’s before writing anything.
Who are you writing for?
What do they want to read about?
Why is your article interesting?
Answering these three questions should be the first thing you do before writing anything, to keep you from having to go back and write everything all over again.
As for your headline, you can only define it after you have those three answers. It’s only once a headline is set that you can truly write a solid piece. Why? A headline is more that just click bait, it’s a way for you to structure your piece and understand what to focus on.
At Tailor Brands, we write for small-business owners who want to read about ways design can leverage their business. Our articles are interesting because they manage to simplify things that would otherwise require our readers to be very design savvy. After we have these answers we can decide whether our article about how typography affects your brain should be titled “Why Sans-Serif Fonts Sell More Shoes” or “What Fonts to Use to Sell More Products.”
And I can promise you that despite having the same subject, these two articles are not remotely similar.
3. Work from your thesis backwards.
This last piece of advice I got while investigating a train accident close to Jordan. I spent two weeks interviewing and ended up more confused than when I started. When I called my editor, he asked me a simple question:
“What do you think happened?”
Writers are like investigators; they need to lead their readers and their witnesses.
Sometimes, that might lead to a dead end. When you write, you need to have your thesis before you even start. As you incorporate the facts into the text, you’ll start to understand whether or not your thesis was correct.
Starting to write anything without knowing where you want to lead it is like sailing without a compass—the odds of finding land on the other side of the ocean aren’t in your favour.
While these three tricks may seem obvious to some, they can be completely life-changing to others. We all love to write, but writing professionally isn’t just about writing. It’s about producing content that people want to read, doing it on time, and making sure that the information you’re supplying is useful. Writing is a job that requires hard work as much as it requires talent. It’s often stressful, but if you do it right, it’s as rewarding as it can get.