Content writing is like a long distance relationship- everyone thinks they can do it, until they have to.
Writing- the backbone of most creative ideas- is somehow seen as a low-hanging fruit attainable by anyone venturing into the digital space. Amid the glitz of flashy visuals and hashtags, the quality of writing often takes a back seat in the mind of the client and sometimes even in the office of a creative agency. So if you’re looking to up your content game, here’s the ABC (and D and E!) to start off with.
Semantics means nothing unless backed by a lucid thought process.
Before you start writing, clarify the purpose of your piece to yourself – What does it aim to do? Who is it for? Individual interpretations of readers may vary, but as a writer you need to be decisive about what you wish to convey. Frame a precise, one-line response to the question “What is the objective of this write-up?” for your own reference. This will serve as a reality check each time you find yourself drifting from the central idea.
Verbosity is kryptonite to content; it can suck the magic out of even the most intriguing story. (And yet, ironically, there’s a lot to say about it!)
In the digital realm, economy effects eloquence. Ditch those weather-beaten tropes like “Content is king!” They add length without adding value. Similarly, resist the temptation to use ornate language in every instance- fancy vocabulary isn’t always the most fitting. Be it a fictional account, a biographical episode, a think piece, or even a Social Media post, the goal is to make maximum impact in the least number of words. Try this exercise- Articulate your point in the shortest possible (grammatically correct) sentence. That will help you shelve all those mildly suitable words and retain only the ones that nail the meaning of your message.
There’s a fine line between succinct and staccato; make sure you don’t cross it.
Brevity need not interfere with the flow of your story – both structurally and in terms of ideas. Aim for a seamless transition, from one sentence to the next, one thought to the next. What can help is, putting your work away once you’re done with it and revisiting it after a couple of hours, rather than reviewing it right away. In the midst of writing, you tend to become blind to even obvious errors and breaks in continuity. Switching off for some time puts you in a headspace that’s more conducive for critique. You can also put your writing through this fun vocal test to gauge how smooth it is – Read it out aloud. If the sequence of words flows off your tongue with ease, you’re good to go; if not, you know you need some edits.
A good narrative hinges on a clear point of view.
There’s almost nothing you can say today that hasn’t already been said by Google (or whatever your favourite search engine is). What you can offer is a unique perspective, be it on behalf of a brand or your own intimate musings. There are a million ways to look at the same thing, but the one you choose defines your story. Take a moment to reflect, to find your viewpoint. Now this doesn’t mean you have to be intense or melancholic. Even humour (good, original humour!) stems from incisive observation and depth of thought. Regardless of genre, let your writing style emerge from a distinct vantage point.
Experiences are important, but an eye for them is more so.
Beware of those wanderlusty memes that make you believe you’re worth nothing if you’re not a “traveller,” or those movies that tell you only dark moments can kindle creativity. A trek to Machu Picchu or a tryst with heartbreak could very well be life-changing events, but you don’t have to drain your bank account and you definitely don’t have to subject yourself to torture, to find inspiration. Seemingly mundane scenarios like a drive to work, a chat with a stranger, or an interesting line in a book can also be stimulating. Engage with your environment, look for layers, turn everything you possibly can into a storytelling opportunity.
Syntax cannot make up for a lack of substance. Invest as much effort in developing perceptive views, as you would in transcribing them. A writer’s job may take up a few hours of the day, but a writer’s vision is a permanent state of mind.