(Note: This is a guest post by Eric Gordon.)
Photo by Aaron Burdenon Unsplash
While people still herald paperback books and handwritten letters as wonderful traditions worth preserving, technological advances have made the writing process much more streamlined so production is faster than ever before.
Technology cannot generate content for you, however. Your writing projects need to be your own brainchild, but technology has a way of streamlining the process from conception all the way through to publication.
The right tools can help you with brainstorming and organization, and make the writing itself so much more seamless. These innovations have a way of sparking creativity and allowing writers to think outside of the box.
The Writing Process in the Digital Age
In the Digital Age, content is the backbone of marketing and sales. Businesses are constantly writing and creating new content. This includes business plans, blog posts, infographics, video scripts, magazine articles … the list goes on forever.
All that content conveys different messages, depending on the intended demographics and overall purpose, but there’s one thing it has in common: the writing process is typically the same.
While there is no overall consensus on how many steps the writing process has, with some saying four while others going as much as six or seven, experienced writers often combine some steps in the preliminary section. Overall, the most common process that’s used is:
In the pre-writing section, writers start with idea conception. This is where choosing your topic, brainstorming, and the gathering of ideas takes place.
The next step is organization. This is where ideas are put into an outline or a mind map. While you may not know the exact flow of thought at the beginning, you can see what ideas predicate others.
The actual writing process is what follows. Individuals have unique approaches to the way they tackle this step.
Some people believe the most effective way is to write one paragraph at a time. You write the first paragraph, then you go back and edit it. Then you write your next paragraph. You continue the process until you reach the end of the piece.
Others prefer the all-or-nothing method. This is where they put their stream of consciousness onto a piece of paper and they write from start to finish without stopping. Most people fall into an in-between category where there’s editing done as they go, but mostly they write first and revise later.
Last, there is the revision and editing step. This is where you go into your paper and add in sources, change grammar or sentence structure, and do final proofreading.
For each of these steps, there are various tools on the market that enhance the processes, make them more streamlined, help you research faster, or spellcheck automatically. Here are four great tech solutions that can help you write better content:
1. Mind Maps
Mind maps are brainstorming techniques and tools which help writers to conceptualize their ideas. They are used to join themes and topics, which normally wouldn’t be thought to be related. By seeing them on a mind map, you can think of new creative ways to link them together.
A good mind map tool is an app called Coggle. Coggle allows you to create colorful diagrams, which connect a variety of ideas, resources, and topics to encourage creativity in the initial stages of writing. It takes a bit to master mind mapping, but once you do, you’ll find new ideas for articles faster than ever.
2. Style Checkers
Style checkers, like the Hemingway app or Pro Writing Aid, are useful for the editing phase. While spell checkers and thesaurus apps are excellent for finding grammatical issues and helping writers choose more descriptive words, style checkers help writers determine the grade level at which they are writing. The choice of which one would be better for you is entirely up to you and your preferences.
This allows you to know if you’re too casual in writing, too formal, overly technical, or using too much jargon. This information helps you reach your targeted demographic. When marketing to seniors, for example, your language will differ greatly as opposed to writing about academic software for graduate students.
3. Cloud Sharing
Cloud computing has revolutionized the way content is produced, too. Instead of relying on onsite software, you can do everything from your browser with solutions like Google Docs or Office 365. Most are already familiar with Office 365 that comes with cloud apps (Word, Excel, and others) and their own storage solution: OneDrive. This allows you to have your entire writing project backed up online and accessible at any time.
Now, the beauty of cloud sharing is that you can share your drafts with collaborators. If you’re collaborating on a project, you can invite others and work on it simultaneously. This makes the editing and revision process much simpler since you have multiple pairs of eyes looking at a document within a short period of time. This means that not only will you have spellcheckers looking over your document, but will also have fellow proofreaders who will catch errors and think of other ideas to improve the content.
4. Speech to Text
Speech to text is actually how this article was written. Some people are verbal processors, while others do better by typing or handwriting their drafts. Whatever form of writing works for you, speech to text is an incredibly helpful tool for creating content in 2019.
By using speech to text tools for your drafting, not only do you really flesh out your ideas, but you have better chances of sounding more natural in your writing style. This will make your blog posts and scripts more relatable.
Technology has improved the writing process by making it more streamlined and given us great ways to explore new ideas with systems like mind maps. Collaboration is easier than ever now, thanks to cloud solutions.
Eric Gordon is an independent business development and marketing specialist for SMEs. He loves sharing his insights and experience to assist business owners in growing their revenues. You can find Eric on Twitter @ericdavidgordon
Most writers, at some point, experience writers’ block. Whether they write novels, work as copywriters, or write on a freelance basis, occasionally they hit a wall and inspiration fails them. They’ve got nothing to say, they can’t see the next step, or they’ve lost sight of who their characters are.
Of course, there’s no harm in a short block. Sometimes, you just need to switch off for the day and come back to your work in the morning. A good night’s sleep and some rest is often all that it takes to get your creative juices flowing again. But, it’s not always that simple.
Sometimes, creative blocks drag on. You end up so stressed out by your inability to write, that you are forgetting simple things and having to read https://setapp.com/how-to/how-to-reset-lost-mac-password because you’ve lost your password. This kind of block that starts to drag on and cause stress can lead to a loss of income, or a career reaching a standstill. When this happens, you need to find other ways to get past it.
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Take a Break
The first thing you should try is merely taking a break. Take as long as you can afford to. An afternoon, a week; whatever it is, take it. Turn your phone off, stay away from your computer and relax. Go on holiday, spend the day at the spa or walking in your local area. Just stay away from work.
Write Something Completely Different
Your creativity is like a muscle that needs exercising. If you write the same type of things, the same genre of medium all of the time, your brain gets used to it. It loses interest and motivation, and it stagnates. Give your creativity a total workout by writing something very different. Try poetry or nonfiction, write a journal, or just switch to a different writing voice. Don’t worry if it’s good; just write.
Write As a Different Character
You should know your characters inside and out. If you can’t imagine what your main character would do next, switch. Get a notepad and change your narrative voice. Either write in the third person for a while or write from a different character’s point of view. You could even write up a backstory or tell a tale from their past.
Try a New Creative Hobby
Often, writer’s block is complete. It’s not just your story you are stuck on. It’s everything. You could sit at your desk for hours unable to write a word. So, give your creativity a workout by trying a different creative hobby. Draw, scrapbook, take photographs and get messy with some paints. Just try to enjoy yourself.
Spend Some Time in Nature
When we’re sitting in the office, or facing a computer most of our waking time, it can be hard to find inspiration. So, get out. Go for a walk in the park or a hike. Spend some time taking in everything around you and drawing inspiration from the beauty of nature. You might even find trying to work outdoors will help.
With so many books and articles published every year, writers have had to up their game. It’s no longer enough to write something good; you have to seduce readers in a way that gets them intimately involved with your narrative. It doesn’t matter whether you’re writing fiction or something else—seduction is the name of the game.
Think about your own experiences. There have probably been times in your life when you’ve started reading a book, only to yawn after a few pages and wonder why you ever picked it up in the first place. Long-winded introductions, poorly constructed characters, and long sentences can all take the charm out of a book.
The trick to getting people’s attention isn’t so much in what you write, or even how well you write, but whether or not you create a desire in them. There has to be a reason for them to continue reading—whether it’s to discover a secret formula for losing weight, what’s going to happen to a key character, or how to do something they’ve always wanted to do. Emotions drive reading decisions—everything else is secondary.
But creating desire and seducing readers isn’t easy. Often, it requires you to step out of your comfort zone and write in a way that sees the story from their perspective. Once you get into your audience’s shoes, though, you can start to work your magic. Here’s how:
Express Strong Emotions In Action
One of the problems with J.R.R. Tolkien’s writings is that he rarely took the chance to express his character’s emotions in action. It was always the job of the reader to infer why they had done what they had done (which is why the films were such masterpieces). But today’s top fiction authors recognise that merely providing a catalogue of events isn’t enough to draw in readers. There needs to be strong emotional content.
Image: Flickr and credit: thedailyenglishshow.com
But what does that look like? It’s not about long monologues or in-depth descriptions of emotional experience. Readers don’t usually like this. It’s more about the nuance in the way characters talk to each other, and, importantly, what they do. This is actually a much more difficult thing to do than merely to report a character’s emotional experience. It takes time to think carefully about the way characters interact in their world in a way that is convincing and authentic.
Remember, although you may be writing a work of fiction, the emotions shouldn’t appear fanciful or unrealistic. Readers want to be able to connect to the people they read about, whether they are made up or not, and so they need to be believable.
The other thing to remember is that emotions in your story should follow a narrative trajectory. Feelings should build as your novel develops and, hopefully, reach a climax as the story resolves itself. Drip feeding readers emotional content helps to keep them invested in your work, safe in the knowledge that they’re going to be rewarded at some point.
Find Out What Scares Your Audience
Fear and desire are two fundamental driving forces in all human interactions, and they form the basis of many of the great works of fiction. These two emotions are so central to the human psyche that they can’t help but have universal appeal, as they have done throughout the centuries.
The characters in your story face these emotions all the time. Fear comes in the form of death, rejection and failure, while desire is related to love, peace and safety. It can sometimes be a little uncomfortable to explore these issues in your characters, but they’re things that everybody has to face and will strike a chord with your readership. Some writers can be downright afraid to put their creations in danger or reveal aspects of their personalities that they’d rather keep secret. But it’s these traits which can help transform a book from ho-hum into something gripping.
Think about the times when you’ve been most interested in a character. Almost always it will be times when they have been in danger or had to make a decision tempered by desire. Because your audience knows these feelings so well, they will empathize with your characters and wonder what they might do next. Characters help introduce readers to emotional danger, which can be very intoxicating.
Virtual Writing Tutor says that one of the biggest problems in people’s writing is the use of cliches. Although they may be a part of the vernacular, cliches almost always reduce immersion and make your writing less seductive.
The trick to engaging writing is to come up with your own way of saying things. Not only is it more interesting for the reader, but often it’s also more appropriate for the context. Cliches, unless used ironically, should be avoided.
Keep Your Readers Asking Questions
The screenplay for the TV series Lost was, in many ways, genius. The writers knew that to get people coming back season after season, they had to introduce random, unexplained elements which would be resolved later on. Many people watched the show just to find out how the writers were going to explain all the mysteries of the show. Their strategy worked, and Lost ran for a lot longer than initially intended.
Writers need to use this tactic too. They need to present something controversial, exciting or unexplained that requires an answer, such as a weird turn of phrase by a particular character, a strange event, or an inexplicable emotional reaction. Getting your reader to ask questions automatically generates interest in your book, forcing them to think about it differently than, say, if you gave them all the answers up front.
Get Right Into The Action
While setting the scene has its place, readers aren’t usually that interested in all the minutiae of your fictitious world; they want action. Smart writers create the scene as the action unfolds, rather than describing it separately, giving readers both something rich and compelling. Launching right into the action helps set the pace and provides interest immediately, making it easier to captivate than long, meandering descriptions.