The January 2015 Netcraft survey pulled the number of websites at 876 million+. Proof there are enough writers online to start a continent.
So how can a greenhorn build a writing skill that breaks through the noise to build a raving audience for his writings?
To answer this, I contacted fifteen writing experts (including prolific editors and journalists) to gain their thoughts on this question: "What's your best writing lesson for new writers?"
And here, they gave their BEST hacks for budding writers:
1. Natalie Sayin
Founder, Turkish Travel
New writers often focus too much on word count rather than word quality, especially if they drift into content writing or jobs paid on a per word basis. Readers do not care about word count and writing one paragraph about a topic that can easily be summed up in a sentence is the perfect way to frustrate and lose them.
Every writer should edit and proofread their work and during this time, look out for fluff words. Examples include "has, had, there is, that, very, rather, were, was, are, am" etc. Generally, sentences containing these words can be re-written in a more meaningful and shorter way. Writing and editing software will also pick out these words for you.
2. Susan Maccarelli
Founder, Beyond Your Blog
I've seen a lot of newer writers assume things about themselves that are not true. 'I don't have an MFA so I'm not a real writer', or 'I have never been published before so I shouldn't submit my writing for publication', are both common assumptions.
This sneaks into payment as well: 'I've never been paid to write, so I shouldn't apply for paid opportunities' or 'I've only ever been paid 'x' so I can only apply for opportunities in that range'.
Many publications are excited about finding new voices and are a lot less concerned with a writer's credentials or experience than you might think.
While there are editors and publishers who will put a lot of weight on those things, don't count yourself out before someone else even has a chance to.
3. Cari Twitchell
Founder, Custom Content Solutions LLC
The best first step you can take is to partner with a strong referral source. That source can be an individual such as a graphic designer or an editor. Alternatively, you could locate an agency that needs some amount of ongoing copywriting services.
Finding a partner in your preferred niche brings with it two benefits. First, this person can quickly become a solid source of leads for new business, which is invaluable when you're starting out. Second, finding the right referral partner can lead to having a close colleague--someone you can turn to for support and guidance as you hit the inevitable stumbling blocks that come along.
If you are unsure of where to look for a referral source, search LinkedIn or attend in-person networking events such as Meetup, Network After Work and Business Networking International. Failure to do this will equal failure to launch.
4. Daniel Rose
Keep writing. It sounds obvious, but if you're starting this as a business with the intention of making money, you'll suddenly find a million other tasks all fighting for your attention. It's important to not let those tasks push your writing out.
Make your writing a priority, a regular habit.
5. Mridu Khullar Relph
Freelance Journalist and Author
The best thing you can do as a new writer is to start building relationships right away, not only with the people who will give you work, but with other writers.
You'll find that, especially in the early days, it will be other writers who will become your guides to the writing world. They'll show you how to market, how to handle sticky situations, and who's assigning what.
Your personal writing community will support you when things are going well, and when they aren't. So it's important that you find one right from the start.
6. Lanre Solarin
And when you learn, apply what you learn. Learning isn't complete without application. That's what increases your practical experience and your credibility.
I did start off as a writer who was usually handed the article topics and concepts. Then blogging taught me to brainstorm ideas. Through writing email newsletters, I learned more about copywriting. This eventually showed in my articles. Tweaking my WordPress site taught me about web design and it's direct relationship with Content Marketing.
Asides writing, learn more about other marketing practices, like SEO, or responsive website design (and apply as far as your abilities can take you). Doing this makes you more of a solution to your client than just a "handyman". And you'll command higher rates too.
7. Susan Shain
Founder, Susan Shain
Read everything you can get your hands on. From poetry to novels to news articles, all types of written words have something to teach you. The more you read, the better a writer you'll become. And amidst all that reading, start writing! Nobody's reading it -- so who cares if it sucks? Just start putting words on a page.
8. Danny Margulies
Founder, Freelance Towin
Most new writers spend months or years honing their chops before trying to charge for their work. That's a big mistake!
With online freelance marketplaces like Upwork (formerly Elance), you can find entry level writing jobs that let you build your skills and make money at the same time.
It doesn't matter how new you are... There are tons of clients who will pay you good money to write emails, simple blog posts, short product descriptions, and much, much more. So there's no need to wait.
You'll learn 10x more as a freelance writer anyway, and you'll get paid -- win-win.
9. Lorraine Reguly
Founder, Wording Well
Writing must be practiced in order to be perfected. No one begins writing and is magically considered to be the best writer in the world! However, there are people who possess an innate talent to write. These people make the best writers.
But writing can be learned, too.
New writers need to realize their words won't be perfect right off the bat. They will need editing, then polishing. Things will need to be rearranged. Paragraphs will need to flow consistently, from one idea to the next.
Basically, the words of a new writer will need a lot of attention!
The writing process will be different for each individual, depending on the level of knowledge and skill each has. For most, however, crafting compelling articles, blog posts, essays, or other works should follow these basic steps:
- Brainstorm. Jot down all ideas and main points.
- Outline. Choose an order in which to present the ideas.
- Draft #1. Write a paragraph or two about each main idea, using stream-of-consciousness writing.
- Edit the first draft. Fix typos. Create legible sentences and paragraphs. Ensure your grammar is correct. For blog posts, add additional white space and create bullet points for easier reading.
- Let the work sit for a day or two.
- Add any additional points you may have missed, thus creating Draft #2.
- Edit the second draft. Keep a copy of each draft, too. (You might regret it if you don't!)
- Polish your work, thus creating a final version.
- Repeat as needed. Draft, edit, write, edit... until you think things are perfect.
- Get someone else's take on what you wrote. Often, people in writing groups or communities are good for this. It's better to have another person's perspective as well as another set of eyes to catch pesky little things you will miss because you are too close to your work and won't be able to see them yourself! (Most often, these things will be misused homophones such as their, there, and they're.)
I could go on and on about the different writing processes people use, depending upon what they are writing, but the best advice I can give new writers is to practice and persevere!
And hire someone to help you or coach you when you need assistance.
10. Lesley Vos
Blogger at Bid4Papers
Everyone can write words and sentences, but far from everyone can be a writer. If everything was that easy, we all would be Hemingways and Godins already, wouldn't we?
With that said, if you plan to write a novel and become new Stephen King at the max or new E. L. James at least, my best writing lesson for you would be:
Don't think about morality, topicality, and composition. Let your characters do what they want to do. Remember: plots' set-ups are around us, and their unravellings are inside of us.
Lifehack: every good story begins with "and what if..."
But if you plan to become a web content writer and share your awesome tips with newbies *smile*, my best lesson would be:
Write about something you know. If you don't know anything on the topic, learn it backward and forward before writing about it. Online readers are not stupid: they do understand when you are out of your depth. Lifehack: imagine yourself a reader of your content; would you consider it useful and interesting to check?
11. Maj Wismann
Founder of MajWismann
Just write! Really. It is very simple, but hard. Write at least 30 minutes each day even on days you are not working in the first 6 month. The more you train yourself the better you get and the quicker you get into your writing-mojo.
Writing is a skill like all other things you can be more or less good at. New writers don´t know that you really have to just sit down and write everyday in the beginning. You really don´t need to be inspired first - you´ll get inspired writing - so just write - at least 30 minutes when you do not do anything else. No jumping on social media, picking up the phone, don't call anyone, don't do the laundry. Just write. Even though you don't know what to write - then just write that! And wait and see. The inspiration and writing flow will join you on the way.
12. Aron James
Founder, Stubble Patrol
When you begin to write anything, you have to allow the words to simply flow. You can always edit and perfect what you have written in its following drafts. Do not judge your writing while making your first draft. Let it pour out of you and remember that you cannot fix wording that does not exist.
If you are allowing yourself to open up and to create that first very rough draft, you are avoiding the dreaded writer's block. If you use this method, writer's block will not be a part of your vocabulary. You will then be well on your way to becoming a writer that others will respect and admire.
13. Tuhin Adhikary
I'd suggest to all the budding writers that, Never Let the Rejection Stop You. Go and check out the history, all the great writers have faced the rejections and failures. But this didn't allow them to stop there. Many a times, at the initial stage of your writing career, you will face tons of rejections, you will receive lot of messages like: "Thank you for your submissions, but we can't use it at this time."
Never, let those rejections stop you there, you're born to become the great writer and the few rejections cannot stop you from becoming the great writer. All you have to do is, continue writing. Don't lose your heart over the failures and write as much as you can daily.
I'd suggest you to never to quit writing when you don't feel like writing anymore because the great writers write at anytime, in any situations and on any terms. Consider these rejections like Sea Storms and yourself as the sailor. And a smooth sea never made a Skillful sailor. Remember that!
14. Sasa Kovacevic
Head of PPC, Partner at Obsidian Digital
When publishing articles online I always recommend you to do a keyword research before you start writing. Everybody uses search engines like Google and Bing, so why not get the most of it and use the words people actually search for?
Use tools like keywordtool.io and Askthepublic for keyword suggestions and use Google Keyword Planner to validate which of the suggested keywords have most traffic.
Also remember that Google is a semantic-based search engine. So include the necessary proof and related terms in the text for Google to understand the semantic context in which the keywords are used.
15. Eli Seekins
Entrepreneur, Launch Your Dream
Becoming an incredible writer takes hard work. Read and write every day. Keep a journal, it might be the most impactful thing you ever do as a writer. Put a stack of books next to your bedside. Writing takes practice, just like anything you want to get better at.