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Content Writing

Don’t Get Burned Out on Content Writing; Follow a Strategy for Success

Strategy is where I’d say the basis of all good writing begins. Whether you’re sitting down to write a 500-word blog post, or an 85,000-word novel, strategy is the ink that fills the pen. Strategy is the little spring beneath the keys on your keyboard.

I say that because I’ve only recently discovered the difference between writing with a strategy and simply hammering away at a keyboard. Regardless of your writing style, it’s a must to remember that different kinds of writing require different strategies.

Below I’ll discuss a few different strategies that I’ve found have worked for me as a content writer.

“Vomiting”

It’s an interesting title, but an interesting writing strategy deserves an interesting title. I refer to this strategy of writing as vomiting because that’s essentially what your brain is doing. Let the ideas flow; type as much as you can as fast as you can, and don’t worry about mistakes. You’ll come back to them later.

Keep in mind that when you “vomit” thousands of words, going back to edit them will be quite the task. You’ll no doubt find dozens of spelling and grammar errors, and editing this kind of work can be tedious. You may even discover that what you wrote is complete bullshit, and you never should’ve written it in the first place. Don’t be in love with what you vomit (that advice probably applies to more than just writing).

This kind of writing strategy likely won’t produce the next great American novel, but nevertheless you can produce good work if you do a lot of writing. Sometimes it’s good to ignore the traditional writing process and switch things up a little bit.

“The Abyss”

I learned this strategy from a copywriter at one of the most creative advertising agencies in the world, and it works. I truly believe that the human brain only can write for so long per day before it runs out of gas, and this strategy ensures that you’ll make the most out of that precious time.

Grab some sort of timer; it can be on your phone, the microwave, or a stopwatch if you’ve got one near you for some reason. Set that timer for 33 minutes, and when you hit go simply sit down and write. During the 33 minutes, you must do nothing but write, drink coffee, and stare into nothingness. Ignore all the callings of reality, and completely dedicate yourself to your craft.

Once the timer buzzes, take a break. Don’t work a minute longer. Spend the next hour doing whatever it is you want, but try not to think about writing. When you’re ready for the next 33 minutes, fill up your coffee cup and go. Doing this six times per day means you’re getting three hours of solid writing done, without any sort of interruption. It’s a strategy that works.

“The Outline”

Like I mentioned earlier, different types of writing require different strategic approaches. I’ve found that using a strategy based around outlining tends to work more effectively when your writing requires heavy research. Outlining what you plan on writing about means your final product will be clearer, and will likely flow better when compared to writing without an outline.

It can be tedious to sit down and hash out an outline, and many writers dislike outlining because the writing can feel too structured. But structure is never a bad thing, and having an outline means you usually won’t hit a wall while writing, since everything is already planned out.

“The Prewrite”

I will be honest; most of the writing I do is done without any sort of prewriting. But for specific projects that I’ve done in the past, prewriting has been key to helping me produce quality work.

I’ve usually found that doing some prewriting helps with more specific projects that I’m working on, since it lets me get out the basis of my ideas without focusing too much on quality. For me, prewriting involves jotting down anywhere from a few sentences to a few paragraphs on the specific topic. I use these short notes to get me back on track if I get lost or stuck, and I find having something to reference can be helpful. It’s almost like having a more detailed outline; one that’s more colorful and useful for creative writing when compared to a traditional outline.

Every writer does prewriting differently. For some, it’s about brainstorming keywords. For others, it’s about answering the traditional journalists’ questions.

Finding Your Time

In addition to approaching writing with an overall strategy, it’s also important to be strategic in other ways. While not a writing “strategy” per se, understanding when you write your best is key to getting the most out of the strategies discussed above.

It’s important to understand when you’re at your peak throughout the day, or even throughout the week. When I was young and living at home, my dad would always wake up around 4 a.m. and write for a few hours. He found the wee hours of the morning to be his most productive.

I, on the other hand, work best in the mid morning. My writing between the hours of 9 a.m. and noon is much more polished and clear when compared with my writing in the afternoon. I have no idea why that is, but I know that’s what it is. Other writers I know struggle to put pen to paper in the morning, and instead flourish in the afternoon.

If you do a lot of writing, chances are you know what time works best for you. If you feel like you aren’t getting the most out of your writing, trying to write at a different time might be a good thing.

Strategy is important for writing, just as it’s important for business. Having one that works for you as a writer is the difference between producing writing that people want to read and simply fodder that people ignore. If these strategies work for you, awesome; if they don’t, figure out what does. Just because they work for me doesn’t mean they work for anybody else.

Ted Levin is a freelance writer and editor currently focusing on SEO consulting. Ted enjoys blogging about social media, content marketing, and storytelling.

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{ 11 comments… add one }

  • Bernard Z. July 13, 2013, 9:03 am

    Interesting. I noticed that for me personally I tend to do a lot of “vomiting” then I go back and sculpt my vomit/edit my writing after I get all my points across. But it makes me wonder what would happen if I where to combine all those different strategies into one. I’m a fanatic when it comes to combining different things in order to be time efficient.

    What if:
    We where to “vomit” for 33 minutes during the time your brain is most active in the form of prewriting. And if there is any time left we “outline” if not we can outline for the next 33 minutes. Any 33 minutes that are left we can touch up, proofread whatever you would like to call it. It still might take 3 hours or it might take less, but the article or content might come out better. I will give it a try!

    Thanks for sharing!

    ~Bernard
    Bernard Z. recently posted..How to Do 5 Things at OnceMy Profile

  • Silviu July 13, 2013, 5:38 am

    Hi Ted,

    This is an interesting article that reveals a real writing talent. “Vomiting”, “The Abyss” .. you really know how to create headlines. Among the methods you presented here, the only one that interests me is the Outline method.
    Preparing in advance, planning your article, creating an outline helps you very much to write a high quality article. It will be more structured, indeed. However, as you said, this is not a bad thing. On the contrary. And I don’t think this applies to scientific articles only. I really believe that every article you write must be carefully planned and structured in advance. Even when you are an artist and hate planning, you need at least a simple outline to guide your thoughts. Otherwise you will get lost in the woods and never find your way back.

    Thanks for the post. Interesting and high quality.

    Have a nice day
    Silviu recently posted..Creative Bloggers Series: Tim BonnerMy Profile

  • Raj kumar July 12, 2013, 11:42 am

    Hey Ted, it is very true that we need to follow some strategies while writing the content, this will definitely lead to success. I liked the points you have covered in your post. Keep it Up!
    Raj kumar recently posted..Eight Simple Strategies to Get Substantial Website TrafficMy Profile

  • Darek July 11, 2013, 10:22 am

    Great share Ted,

    I’m going to try out the “The Abyss” strategy as I really get distracted a lot when I write my articles. Sometime I even get so distracted I just stop and don’t write anything for the rest of the day.

  • Gilbert Samuel July 11, 2013, 8:54 am

    i actually can’t do without prewriting, and yea! writing in the midmorning, everywhere is gonna be silent, and quality writing is going to flow out
    Gilbert Samuel recently posted..20 Successful Bloggers and what they have to OfferMy Profile

  • Lori Highby July 10, 2013, 11:14 am

    I’m like Melanie. Am definitely a “vomiter” when it comes to writing. I have never tried the “abyss” but am curious and want to give it a try. Normally, what happens is as I’m working on other projects, a random idea comes to mind, “that’d make a great blog post” and I either crank it out if I’m able, or “vomit” out as much of it as I can in a short period to get the thought out and then come back and finish it at a later time. Great post!
    Lori Highby recently posted..Five things you can do today to increase your web presenceMy Profile

  • Dave Patrick July 10, 2013, 5:20 am

    Hi Ted
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on strategy. It confirms to me that I’m going the “right way”.
    Timing
    I use a little gizmo on my phone called a Pomodoro. You can get it for the iPhone and probably other “smart phones” too.
    It’s preset for 25 minutes and 5 minutes. So you scribble furiously for that time. At the end of 25 min it pings. You then press the 5 min button take a walk round the room or stare out the window. When it pings again you hit the 25 min and get back to work.
    The guy who invented it reckons we scriveners can’t concentrate for more than 25 min at a time. ‘Don’t know if that’s true but it works for me.

    Outlines
    Lordy, Lordy, the wasted hours of writing! The time I could have saved if I’d started making outlines sooner. Now I can’t even begin to write anything till I have created my outline.
    As most of my work is ghost writing articles for I.M’s I use the old army formula:
    Tell ‘em what you’re gonna tell ‘em
    Tell ‘em it
    Tell ‘em what ya told ‘em
    Prosperity to all scribblers!
    davethescribe
    Dave Patrick recently posted..How to Write a Product Review When You Don’t Own The ProductMy Profile

  • Hina Thorn July 10, 2013, 3:15 am

    Excellent tips actually while writing a particular blog these things are must be considered. Thanks for sharing the blog.

  • Mitz Pantic July 9, 2013, 9:46 pm

    I love geting in the ZONE for writing and creating! I can pump out a massive amount of content that way…but then the phone rings.. Bang !!! I am out of the zone and this is when I have a break and try to get back to where I was. :)
    Mitz Pantic recently posted..29 Dollars a Month for Aweber – Profit $500 From One Email Message – PricelessMy Profile

  • Ryan Biddulph July 9, 2013, 3:23 pm

    I do most of my writing in The Abyss. Love the tips Ted!

    I set a timer for 50/10 intervals. Between 1 and 50 minutes I write or create videos. I might pop in the last 10 minutes to network but from 1-40, or sometimes 50, all I do is create.

    Where your attention and energy goes, grows. Devote your attention to writing alone and you can become wildly prolific.

    Another note; decide to write every day of your life. If you write daily you can improve the quality of your content quickly.

    I like writing 2 to 5 articles every day, no days off. Since adopting this strategy I have landed multiple paid writing gigs….not a bad deal.

    Thanks!
    Ryan Biddulph recently posted..Make Money Blogging: 3 Things You Need to LearnMy Profile

    • Lewis LaLanne July 17, 2013, 2:24 pm

      Ryan,

      The Abyss has been a life saver for me and I started with the 50/10 – 50/30 routine I learned from Eben Pagan.

      To me, the Eugene Schwartz strategy of only doing 33:33 is to little time to get the ball rolling. 50 minutes lets me get a good rhythm and 90 minute intervals is probably about as far as I’d push it.

      What I love about the Abyss strategy is that it allows for guilt-free messing around. Messing around is going to be part of my day – over. period. done. So I can schedule “messing around time” or I can let this urge to play barge in all day and distract me from getting things done, which is what 95% or more of people do.

      I swear by this strategy of scheduling play time and working time and never letting them interfere with each other. It is the ONLY way that I’ve been able to write over 340 pieces for my site along with assembling all of our reports which the biggest is 297 pages, and all the ad copy I write for our reports. In my book, people are just planning to fail if they don’t plan these time blocks into their day.

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