Famous authors may not be writing marketing blogs or industry white papers, but they know how to pen what people want to read – which is also our goal as content marketers. In fact, creating better content should be at the top of your 2018 goals.
As the amount of content being generated has grown from a steady stream to a deluge, we have reached a point of over saturation. In terms that marketers understand, the supply of content far exceeds the demand or amount we can consume. This means marketers must: 1) Focus on quality (creating better content) versus quantity (check out “Content – Why Less is More” ); and 2) Find a way to stand out from the crowd and capture (and hold) their readers’ attention.
How to Create Better Content
Accomplishing these tasks involves not only knowing what your audience wants and staying ahead of the trends (i.e., being the thought leader), but also finding a unique angle for your topics, adding an extra dose of creativity and employing solid writing skills. Who better to offer guidance on creating better content than some of the great authors:
George Orwell – “Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.”
Unless your content is written exclusively for industry experts (rarely the case), avoid jargon, which makes readability difficult, if not impossible. If your audience can’t understand what you’re saying, they’ll likely become frustrated and move on to a different source of information.
Elmore Leonard – “I try to leave out the parts that people skip.”
Most writers will tell you that editing is just as important as writing. Be sure to edit your work before publishing and remove anything ancillary or unnecessary. Ask yourself, “Will this information benefit my audience?” If the answer is no, take it out. Being concise is important in this age of information overload and limited time.
John Steinbeck – “Abandon the idea that you are ever going to finish. Lose track of the 400 pages and write just one page for each day. Then when you are finished, you are always surprised.”
Okay, so we’re not writing 400-page novels. However, the advice of simply getting started, putting words down and focusing on one piece of content (or one sentence) at a time is still valid. We all get overwhelmed at some point while staring into the abyss of an empty screen and a blinking cursor. When this happens, write something (anything really), which usually helps the process.
James Patterson – “I’m always pretending that I’m sitting across from somebody. I’m telling them a story and I don’t want them to get up until it’s finished.”
Writing that sounds stilted, academic or dry is not going to capture and retain the attention of most readers. On the other hand, people love a good story. What tale can you tell about your product or brand? How can you make that story more engaging? Just be sure the focus of your story is the customer and not your company/brand!
Stephen King – “If you want to be a good writer, you need to do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.”
Like any endeavor, good writing takes practice and research. The more you read (especially the content being produced by your competitors), the better you understand what your readers want. Perusing news sources and industry publications can also help you stay ahead of the trends and find interesting angles for your topics. Finally, the more you write, the stronger those “muscles” become.
Kurt Vonnegut – “Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.”
Effective content is relevant, useful, or in some cases, simply entertaining. Find out what your audience wants – What problems do they have that you can help them solve? What information are they seeking that you can provide? If you become a reliable, trustworthy source of whatever they’re looking for, you’ll earn a loyal audience.
Obviously, this is just a sampling of the many writing tips available. For instance, George Orwell offers six rules for writing.
Whether you’re a fan of human drama, science fiction or spine-tingling mysteries, you’re bound to find inspiration from your favorite authors for creating better content. After all, even the most seasoned writers can use a few reminders to keep their work fresh, pertinent and readable.