We live in extremely uncertain times.
From stores closing and factories shutting down, to entire countries being quarantined, it’s safe to say COVID-19 is hitting the world pretty hard, with no signs of slowing down any time soon.
Many people have lost their jobs as a result and have begun looking for alternate sources of income, such as becoming a full-time writer. However, many of these aspiring writers have no idea who, what, when, where, why, or how to even begin!
For some, this has been their dream job for years, and only now do they have the time available to get started. For others, writing seems like the logical next step, since all you need to start is a good Wi-Fi connection and a creative mind.
Whichever category you fall under, don’t worry. We’ve got you covered. Here are five tips to get you started in your new writing career.
You have the ability to write about anything, yes, anything you want!
There are limitless possibilities out there for good topics. Have a funny story? Know any good recipes? Oh, I know! Maybe you know the best ways to stay safe during this outbreak. Write about it!
The best topics are those that reflect what you are passionate about. So focus on that.
Whatever topic you end up choosing, make sure you find the appropriate audience to share it with. Just because you hold one opinion doesn’t mean the rest of the world will agree.
You wouldn’t want to publish an article about the best ice cream shops in town to a lactose intolerant audience (that’s just one example, but you get my point).
Be sure to keep your audience at the forefront of your mind at all times.
Understanding who you’re writing for is essential for crafting a successful piece. Outside of all the marketing and SEO (search engine optimization) that goes into bringing more traffic to your work, knowing your audience well enough to write what they need (or want) to hear is what will drive its success.
This is where research comes in handy. As of right now, the internet is still open for business (and it’s unlikely this virus has the ability to quarantine the internet). This means you still have its resources at your disposal. Use them.
Find out how your topic usually fares when brought up in casual conversation. Are other writers talking about it? How much engagement are their stories getting? Is the response positive or negative?
And don’t stop there. Others have been doing this research for years and have made posts, articles, and even videos about it. Google is a wonderful tool. Just be careful. Not all information is completely accurate. Some could be out of date or just flat out wrong. Make sure to take any and all information with a grain of salt and double-check your resources.
This may not seem like the most fun part of the job, but it is certainly the most rewarding. Once you’ve completed your research, you’ll be filled with enough know-how to write 10 successful pieces for your group.
The next thing you have to decide is how to present it.
Knowing is only half the battle. The other half comes with how you present your information.
Every time you write, you are essentially selling an idea or concept to your audience. Whether it’s something as simple as keeping them interested in your writing or convincing them you are a reliable source of information, the tone you choose to take will not only say a lot about you but also what you think of your readers.
Some common tone mishaps include being a know-it-all, coming off as too aggressive, and even belittling the intelligence of your readers.
I can assure you, any of these “writing sins” will get you one of two results: Either you’ll receive very negative feedback on your post, or your readers will just simply stop reading.
Now, there is no one correct tone to use for all pieces of writing. It depends on who you’re writing for. So do your research (there’s that word again) by looking at the tone other writers are using for the same subject as you. See what kind of comments their readers are leaving, and use that to pick the right words to make sure your writing is geared for success!
Once you’ve finished your piece and feel it’s ready for the world, please, I’m begging you, read over it at least one more time.
Chances are your first draft isn’t going to be your best work. But that’s OK! It doesn’t mean it’s time to quit or that you’re no good! Even the most successful writers need multiple rounds of editing before their piece is ready for the world.
Go back over your writing, and check for anything that doesn’t sound quite right. Remember, try to be as impartial as you can. Look at your piece from the perspective of your readers. Most of the time, you’ll make at least one or two changes to your content before the end. Maybe you’ll even catch a few grammar mistakes along the way. Don’t worry, we all do it.
One of the best practices to help with this is done by stepping away from it for a few hours, or even a day, allowing your piece time to “cool off.” Allowing this time off usually helps reveal gaps in your writing and possible places readers might get confused.
After you’ve looked over your writing a few times and made all necessary changes, it’s finally time to publish your work … right?
There’s still one more step you should take before sending off your writing for all the world to see.
Getting another set of eyes on your creation is always a very important step in the success of our writing. As impartial as we try to be, we can still fail to have a full outside perspective in terms of the information being presented.
Gaining an outside perspective can help you find issues with tone or presentation that seem clear as day to you. That’s one of the drawbacks of doing all that research beforehand. You now know your topic too well and can accidentally use language that to you seems normal, but can easily confuse those unfamiliar with your topic of choice.
An extra set of eyes can help catch these small inconveniences for your readers, allowing you to make final changes before you hit submit.
Now, while calling up your friend and having them rush over to read your work might seem like the best idea, remember: We are in the middle of an epidemic!
Please stay safe, and continue to practice social distancing at all times. Use resources such as email or Google Docs to send your work back and forth. While getting a second pair of eyes on your work may be a great advantage, it’s certainly not worth risking your health over.
Depending on how serious you are about the success of your writing, you may want to consider hiring a professional editor to look over your piece for you. While your friend from down the street can certainly give you a special degree of feedback, a professional editor will be able to give you full, unbiased constructive criticism of your piece and may even offer specific suggestions on how to go about improving your piece.
Switching career paths can be hard and confusing at times, especially now. Writing during times like these can certainly be a tough endeavor for any creator. Fortunately, there are many experienced writers out there who are always willing to help newcomers to the field and offer their advice along the way.
Don’t be afraid to reach out to other writers and ask for advice. It’s easy to make contact through sources like email or Twitter. And you’ll especially make us happy if you engage with our content. Most of us love to share and help in any way we can. We’re all in this together!
The best thing we can all do right now is keep ourselves safe and healthy, both physically and mentally. And don’t forget to wash those hands! They’re a writer’s greatest tool! Yes, that includes you, too.
Welcome to the club and get writing!
D. T. Yates graduated from the University of South Carolina Upstate with a degree in Theatre Performance and a minor in creative writing. He has worked as an actor, editor for a literary magazine, and studies piano in his spare time. His hopes are to one day start his own entertainment company that specializes in film and television production, as well as book publishing.