Ready Set Go - The 30 Minute Article
You need an article for your newsletter, and you need it now. As a matter of fact, you can spare only forty minutes to get the article written, edited and slotted into place.
Breaking it down, that means you pretty much have to write the first draft in around 30 minutes. Not a lot of time - especially if you don't consider yourself to be much of a writer. The good news is that it can be done - and done well. Here's how to generate a 400-500-word article in a short time.
Give yourself 5-10 minutes for this part of the process. If you already have a topic in mind, you're in front. If not, you have exactly 90 seconds to decide. Presumably you understand where your readers are coming from (if not, you're in big trouble.) Use those 90 seconds to jot down words or phrases that summarize anything that is likely to be causing them a problem. Naturally this needs to be a problem that YOU can help solve in your article.
From this list, choose the topic that appeals to you most. Now - in three and a half minutes - it's time to outline the article. Use these headers to guide you:
a. State the problem - and promise a solution. (Just jot down quick notes at this stage.)
b. Outline the process for solving the problem. Divide this into 3-5 logical steps. Label each step (this will become a sub-heading in your article).
c. Jot down points you want to make in your conclusion. This can be advice on how to ensure that the problem doesn't recur, or offer links to resources that can help. End on a positive note that leaves the reader feeling glad that he read your advice.
2. Speed-Writing Your First Draft.
Allow 20-25 minutes to write the first draft. Spend an extra few minutes on the first paragraph. This is where your reader will decide whether or not to continue reading. Your job is to show that you understand exactly what the problem is and to sound confident that you can help them solve it. Don't use long-winded sentences or ramble on about how awful it is - just get to the point. By the end of the first half-dozen sentences, your reader needs to feel keen to read on and find out the solution.
Each of your 3-5 sub-headings should clearly indicate what the following paragraphs are about. Remember that many readers skim-read an article to see if it's worth reading. Look at the words you've chosen - can you rephrase these headings to make the whole process sound simpler or faster?
Under each sub-heading, write two or three paragraphs on the part of the problem-solving strategy you are outlining. Since you are writing this quickly, it is likely that you will automatically adopt a forthright, casual tone. If you find yourself writing in overly formal language, stop and reconsider. The best 'how to' articles use simple language and everyday terminology. Make it all as easy as possible for your reader to follow.
The ending is just as important as the opening paragraph. It's vital not to let the article fizzle out in a weak conclusion. You need to leave your reader feeling inspired, energized and confident that they can follow your advice and fix the problem. You can:
- tell them how much time/energy/money they will save by following your advice
- share a 'secret' of some kind that will help them move on to the next step (be more successful, save even more time, etc)
- point them at further help or resources. (These can be provided by you and your web site, or by others who have a level of expertise.)
3. Tweak and Polish.
After thirty minutes you should have an excellent basis for your article. If you can afford to take fifteen minutes out at this stage for a cup of coffee or a quick walk, do so. It's always better to take a break before editing your work. If not, just start reading it from the beginning. Check for these things:
a. Spelling and grammar. Your computer should do most of the work here, but a computer can miss typos or offer strange advice when it comes to grammar. You need to read it through yourself for flow and overall impact.
b. Wordy sentences or phrases. Weed them out!
c. Badly-phrased advice. If a sentence doesn't flow, write it again. Think of how you'd explain to someone else in a casual conversation. Does your writing reflect this?
d. Missing steps. When you're familiar with a process, or trouble-shooting, it's all too easy to leave out a step or a small but vital piece of information. Run over the whole process in your mind to make sure you haven't left anything out.
Now, you should have a finished article that will prove both interesting and helpful to many of your readers. At worst, it will be competent. At best, it will surprise you with what you can achieve in a short time!
About the Author: Kevin is the publisher and editor of besuccessfulnews.com, a site that provides information and articles on how to succeed in your own home or small business.