Retire29 started 17 months ago, and today I’ve finally done it…this is my 100th post!
After 100 posts, I’ve found that I learn a little something every time I publish. Today, I’m going to share with you a few thoughts I’ve put together on writing. But, since I’m still new to the writing scene, I wanted to get community input to make this post more “authoritative.” I received some awesome advice and opinions on writing from 14 of my favorite writers and bloggers (Thank You so much to all those who helped me write this). I really think their input will be far more valuable than my own.
If you are thinking of starting a blog of your own, which I highly recommend, then you must understand that it all starts with content. Good content. Everything else will come later. Readable, compelling, informed content drives everything else.
Without further adieu, let us all become better writers together. Enjoy!
Eric from Retire29 (Follow Retire29)
- After you write something, pretend your editor will pay you $100 for each word you can remove. After you’ve done that, read through it again pretending he’ll now pay you $200.
- If you don’t care when writing it, I certainly won’t care when reading it.
- Do you want an easy “Find and Replace” trick to quickly improve your writing? Do a search for the word “just,” and replace it with blank spaces.
- The greatest cure for writer’s block is to just start typing.
- The second greatest cure is to go out among the people. The world is filled with great material.
- The setup is important. It takes 300 words for your reader to start listening.
- Almost five years later, and this is still the best blog post I’ve ever read. It doesn’t need to be fancy to be amazing.
- I would pay $10 for each piece of critical feedback I receive. I would pay $1 for all other feedback.
- Expletives, when used carefully, really add some Goddamn personality to your writing.
- Metaphors are a lot like coworkers. One out of every five are actually useful.
- Case and point, by in large, for all intensive purposes, I could care less. Yes, I notice. Yes, it sounds stupid.
- Listicles, much like this one, tell me two things about the author:
- They couldn’t decide what to write about.
- They are not an expert on the subject.
- One day, you will be waist deep in an article when you say to yourself, “I don’t really care about this.” At that point, you might as well trash it, because anyone that was reading it stopped several pages back.
- If you are struggling to push out some content because you have to stay on schedule, you’ve chosen the wrong hobby. Writing is a little like a bus with a surly driver, it’ll come when it is damn well ready.
- If you write something that isn’t original and creative, it doesn’t mean your plagiarizing, but it does mean its useless.
- The purpose of a title isn’t to inform the reader. The purpose is to get the reader to click. Sad, but true.
- If your primary motivation to write is to make money, then I have a bridge I’d like to sell to you.
- Any threads of respect I once had for the “comments” section of the internet are gone. Writers put themselves on the line, creating something original and piece together a complete thought. Then, with incredible brashness and risking nothing, anonymous commenters use ad hominem and hasty remarks to take up whatever pet issue they have. I read these comments and say, “Yah, but what the f*ck do you know, anyway? You’re just a lazy commenter.”
- Description is nice. You are setting a scene for your reader to interpret however they wish. As Anton Chekhov said, “Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.”
- But, be limited in your exposition. Your readers are smarter than you think they are. You don’t need to describe how a snowball rolls. We have all seen it.
- Color, FoNt, emphasis, size. A little goes a long way. Use a very short leash; too much looks ridiculous.
- When in doubt, speak it out (loud).
- What is 100 pages long, 100 years old, and improves your writing 100-times over? Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style.
Doom from LivingAFI
- Eventually you should publish most of your drafts posts. Even the ones you’re not happy with.
- If you are writing on a particular topic and suddenly feel afraid or hesitant to share, force yourself to keep going. This is precisely when the content starts to get good.
- Don’t take yourself too seriously – you run the risk of generating extremely dry content.
- The only thing worse than a useless blog is a boring blog. Some absurdly unimportant blogs are very entertaining!
- Be a reader first. All good writers started out as insatiable readers. (Retire29 Addition: Stephen King once said “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time to write. Simple as that.”)
- That said, don’t read on the days you’re writing. Digesting the voices of other people can drown out your own.
- Outlining doesn’t hurt. If you’re having trouble with a particular post, try listing out your header sections which detail the main points you want to make in your post, then go fill them in.
- Emulate parts of other peoples’ blogs that you find pleasing. There’s no shame in borrowing ideas as long as you are not plagiarizing.
J. Money from Budgets Are Sexy and Rockstar Finance (Follow J$)
- Write about stuff when you’re IN THE MOOD and super passionate! The words always flow much better and readers can sense the emotions out of it much better.
- Don’t be afraid to get feisty. Take a stance on stuff that’s important to you even if it’s not the norm. ESPECIALLY when it’s not the norm.
- Have fun!!! Don’t write about stuff just because you think it’s what you’re supposed to be writing about. You’ll bore yourself right off the computer. Write about whatever interests you!!
- Make ups terms. Money hasn’t changed in thousands of years – get creative and refer to things differently using your own words and how you see it. Made up calculations to focus on different areas are fun too – people love NEW ways to look at money!
- Don’t write for the money. Write because you care and you enjoy it. There are plenty of other – faster – ways to make money if that’s all that interests you.
Matthew Sullivan, Blogger & Author of The Orphans and Stealing Christmas (Follow Matthew)
- Write for yourself. Write the kind of stories that you want to read in a way that’s interesting to you. Don’t write for trends or other people.
- Learn to love rewriting. Rewriting is damn near 80% of writing. Learn to step outside of yourself so you can look at your work objectively and enjoy improving your writing.
- Only begin rewriting after your first draft is finished. It’s easy to judge yourself and let doubt enter your mind by rewriting while you’re still writing.
- Don’t compare yourself to other people/writers. Accept that you’re on a journey and it takes time to become a great (or even decent) writer.
- Find a way to get excited about your writing. The only writer’s blocks I’ve ever had aren’t from a lack of ideas, they’re from a lack of enthusiasm about the idea that I have. To combat that, I make sure to always find a way to get excited about what I’m writing for the day.
- Do what works best for you. Everyone has different writing styles and is more productive at different times of the day. Find out what works best for you and roll with that.
Dr. Anthony Gustin, Friend and blogger at The Paleo Fix (Follow Dr. Gustin)
- Writing is a skill. Just like you need to use a muscle to get stronger, you must write to get better at writing.
- Simpler is better. Challenge yourself to use fewer words.
- If you can’t write in a way where children wouldn’t understand you, you either aren’t being clear enough or you don’t understand clearly.
- If you have apprehensions to publishing your written content, write something, then wait to publish it for a defined period of time. You will have less emotional connection to something you did in the past versus something you currently associate yourself with.
- Writing extended content is like driving in the dark. You can’t see how to get to your destination, only what is illuminated a few feet ahead of you. To get started, put your foot on the pedal. You’ll end up getting there.
Steve From WeRetiredEarly (Follow Steve)
- Use lots of white space to improve readability.
- Use pictures and video when appropriate but don’t go overboard with it.
- Make your headline impactful because without a hook, readers will not read your content.
- Use subheads that allow your readers to easily scan your blog post, this is especially important if your blogs with over 1,000 words.
- Bold words that matter, it causes your reader to read and re-read the sentence.
- Always add an About the Author section with links to similar articles you’ve written, it will spawn more blog views.
- Make it easy for the reader to share your work on social media.
- Create a good link for your URL but remove common words. For example, http://www.myblog.com/id=2 is not good. http://www.myblog.com/the-secret-to-a-long-lasting-friendship-explained-here is better.http://www.myblog.com/long-lasting-friendship-secret is better.
- Use a grammar checker (Grammarly and other tools are better than WordPress’s built in checker).
Blog distribution and SEO ideas:
- Repurpose your blogs on outlets like Medium, LinkedIn, and Pinterest.
- Use tools like Viral Content Buzz to share your blog posts with Twitter followers.
- Use tools like Yoast SEO within WordPress to ensure your blog post is optimized from an SEO perspective.
David Cain from Raptitude (Follow David)
- Understand how clichés suck the life out of a piece of writing. Orwell’s advice here is perfect: “Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.”
- For the most part, write how you talk. Don’t use words you don’t say.
- What makes writing good is how clearly you make your point. Among other things that means using the fewest words possible. Often I find I can reduce an entire paragraph to a single sentence.
- Learn the meaning of the phrase “Murder your darlings”, and learn to do it. (Retire29 Note: Here is some good background on the term.)
- Read high-quality periodicals like The New Yorker. Those people can write. Notice how they start pieces, how they move towards their points, how they arrange sentences. Notice how clear the writing is, how few words are wasted.
JC from Passive Income Pursuit (Follow JC)
- Take advantage of the times when the creative juices are flowing. They can stop any minute.
- If you’re struggling for ideas then go and read a book, interact with people, get out in nature, just go do something. Taking a break is sometimes the best way to get clarity on the direction of your writing.
- Keep a notepad (or your smartphone) with you at all times. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thought of a great idea for an article and didn’t make a note of it just to forget the concept later.
- Have an outline of what you want to accomplish with your post/article/book. It’ll help tremendously.
- Don’t be afraid to branch into other topics.
- For a bit of a personal one/goal – don’t forget to circle back to those drafts that you started a year ago. Even if the concept doesn’t work for an entire article there can be nuggets of genius lying in there.
Thias from It Pays Dividends (Follow Thias)
- Don’t use words you wouldn’t use in a normal conversation. Your readers can tell they don’t fit your voice.
- Length doesn’t equal quality.
- Everyone will write that one post that no one responds to and gets no traffic. Don’t let it discourage you. Use it as motivation to keep getting better.
- It is better to be write what you believe than write to please everyone, because you never will.
- Develop a fool-proof system of capturing topic ideas no matter where you are or what you are doing. You never know when a great idea will present itself.
Dominic from Gen Y Finance Guy (Follow Dominic)
- Share, don’t Sell, when you write. You don’t start a blog to pitch products, but if you find something that has been really useful to you, then share it with your community. Only share things that have made your life better and that you think will make the life of your reader better. If you happen to get a commission for that sharing, so be it. It’s okay to get paid for sharing, as long as it was something you would have shared without the commission.
- Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly at first. Don’t let the intimidation of “your writing sucks” hold you back from starting a blog. With practice you will find your voice and writing style. (Retire29 Note: I Love This.)
- Commit to at least a year. To give this thing a fair chance you need to be in it for at least a year to find out if it is for you or not. You have to get through the dip.
- To be interesting you have to be willing to do something that makes you stand out. That could mean taking an extreme view. It could mean providing absolute transparency (not many are willing to do this). It could mean using cartoons as your featured post picture (okay that was just me patting myself on the back). Or a combination of things that make you stand out from the crowded market. There is no such thing as competition when you are authentic.
- Proofread at least 3 times. Even better, find someone else that can proof read it again.
Alexander from Cash Flow Diaries (Follow Alexander)
- Write as you speak, its good to show personality.
- Write down your new article ideas as soon as you think of it, you will forget it if you don’t.
- If you have passion for the topic you are writing about, it will show and your readers will love it!
Steve from ThinkSaveRetire (Follow Steve)
- Readability is important; an understanding of paragraph breaks, headlines, bold and italicized text makes all the difference.
- Always strive to add something of value rather than rehash what has already been said.
- When writing, have a goal – otherwise, the content comes across as aimless.
- Never write like you talk because most of us don’t speak very well!
- I second [Retire29’s] bullet point about cursing, as a carefully-placed obscenity or two can turn a shitty article into one that is fucking awesome.
Sam from Financial Samurai (Follow Sam)
- Never fail due to a lack of effort. Effort requires no skill.
- If the amount you are saving each month doesn’t hurt, you are not saving enough. Here’s how much you should have saved by age.
- Never quit, get laid (off). If you quit, you don’t get unemployment benefits, a severance, health care benefits, deferred compensation, unvested options, etc. Give yourself as long of a financial runway as possible to do something new. Read How To Engineer Your Layoff in order to figure out how to negotiate a severance package.
- It takes effort to see the sunrise. It takes no effort to see the sunset. Wake up an hour or two earlier than your peers to do more with your life.
RetireBeforeDad from (you guessed it) RetireBeforeDad (Follow RetireBeforeDad):
- Stephen King wrote “I believe the road to hell is paved with adverbs…”
- If you don’t like the way a sentence flows, delete the whole thing and start over. Editing won’t fix it.
- Go back and read something you wrote a year ago. You’ll see how much your writing has improved.
- Tell a story that is unique to you and only you. Use it to make a point everyone can relate to. If you lack unique stories to tell, go travel.
Mel from BrokeGirlRich (Follow Mel)
(Retire29 Note: Somebody had to be last. I Love Mel’s Blog. She sums it all up in one final piece of advice.)
- Write about something you’re passionate about! When a post rolls right off my fingers and the only thing I have to fact check are any numbers, I’m writing about something I know and am interested it – and my readers can always tell. My highest read posts on any site I write for are topics I love to talk about in real life anyway.
I’m so thankful for being part of such a great online community of supportive, professional, and thoughtful contributors. My first 100 posts were fun, enlightening, and often a struggle. My next 100…well, I suppose you’ll have to follow along…
Thank you for reading Retire29.