Okay, maybe “unstuck” isn’t the correct word, but I’ll bet you know exactly how it feels to be “stuck” on a writing project. The right words won’t come, the article turns into a book (or vice versa), and your work is wiggling away from you like worms sneaking out of a Prince Albert can.
If I gave you five ideas here (and I’ve got’em in my pocket), you’d hit overload. So I’m not going to do that. Here’s ONE way a writer can get unstuck and get back on track. If you try it and you don’t like it … oh well. But if you try it and it doesn’t work (a virtually impossible feat), then I’ll gladly return every penny you paid me for this article.
Let’s get going …
Writer’s block? Try this and get unstuck fast
I’ve worked with a ton of writers over the years, trying to help them get paid and/or get paid MORE for their writing. I’ve worked with native English-speaking writers, Indian writers, African writers, Pakistani writers, Filipino writers … on and on … but you get the drift.
Here are three things just about ALL of them have in common:
- They want to spill the entire sack of beans and write a book instead of a novel (or the other way around)
- They either over-outline or don’t outline at all (either way, they invariably get off in the weeds and fail to stick to the point)
- They think they’re already excellent writers and should get paid (or get paid more) without having to alter their masterful work
Here’s a simple exercise that will help keep you (and me) from falling victim to either of those horrible afflictions:
Begin by composing a working headline (title) for your article or book.
Too simple, you say?
I’m not talking about just any headline — but a working headline (you can always change it before publication) that attracts your best prospects and sends the others off looking for cat pictures or starlet memes.
Let’s talk about how to perform that magic.
Done right, your headline (title) will make a promise to the reader — a promise that will make the right reader salivate. That’s because the promise is directed at helping solve a problem the reader currently faces.
What … you thought the reader is fascinated by you and your story? You think the reader is going to stop to read because YOU are the author? Let me try to break this to you gently: Unless the reader is your mother, she’s not going to give a hang about YOU or YOUR problems … she’s primarily concerned about hers, and she’ll read about yours only insofar as your story helps her with her own life.
I know. You’re different. Please refer back to #3 above.
Here’s how to write better headlines and titles than those you’re probably using now
First, what’s the difference between a headline and a title? Here’s the answer: You’ve got me. Throw that question in the ring along with one about the difference between goals and objectives …. and you’ll have the entire room of marketing geeks going wild, ready to strangle one another.
I tend to think of titles as applying to books and headlines applying to articles, but the bottom line is … who cares? I don’t. My approach is the same, either way — so I’ve wasted very few minutes of my one precious life worrying about semantics. I wish you would too 🙂
- Determine how your work will benefit the reader: Forget about yourself (as much as you can) for a few minutes. Focus on the readers you want to impact. What are their concerns and problems? How will your article or book help those people? What problem will it solve for them? Notice I said “problem,” not “problems.” Chase two rabbits and you end up with none. What will readers gain from your solution?
- Identify that problem clearly (ideally in 70 characters or less) and promise to solve it. Many writing pundits will advise you to make a bold and audacious promise. I advise my students to make a promise they can and WILL solve for the reader. Anybody can promise you a million dollars. Few can deliver it.
- Browse the headlines on several popular blogs in your niche and compare your headline to the ones you see there. Would your headline or title entice those readers to stop and read, or would it bore them spitless?
- Create your working headline, then go ahead and start writing. As you go, refer back to your headline often and ask yourself, “Is this sentence/paragraph helping me deliver on my promise?” If it isn’t, stop there. Hit the delete button, and drag yourself back on track.
- Fine-tune your headline after completing your draft. You want to make sure it is effective before the article is submitted or published. Chances are high you’ll see a way to tweak it a bit and make it even better. To get feedback, share your work in our (private) Facebook watering hole: The Deep Group.
Get Your Writing Unstuck the Quick Way
Remember: Your work is for THEM, not for YOU. Run a search on the article or book chapter you’ve written. Compare the number of times you’ve said “You” versus the number of times you’ve said “I.” Speak directly to your readers about something THEY care about and it’s likely they’ll want more. Speak to them about YOU, and it’s likely they won’t. And the publishers you want to pay for your work — they care most about the readers too.
Wake up! The time is shorter than you think. When you do your best to help others, you’ll not only earn more money, but you’ll feel better about yourself … and you won’t have to walk backwards when you go to pick up your paycheck. Don’t stop. Keep moving towards your dream.
By creating a working headline or title, then referring back to that headline while writing, you can easily and quickly stay on track. Writing is tough work. Don’t waste time. Get your writing unstuck the quick way by focusing on the problem you’re solving and the promise you’ve made to your reader.
Questions? Let me know.