How An Editor Can Improve Your Writing

The other day I got a text from my friend Eric.

Eric: Do you want grammar notes on something you posted? You have a comma splice in that status about Prime Day. That comma should be a period.

He was referring to an email I had sent out that was also on Facebook and Twitter. The conversation continued, and apparently, I was feeling snarky that day:

Garrett: It’s a newsletter not a thesis paper

Eric: No offense, but the only reason I brought it up is because it’s a newsletter that you’re using to try and make money. Grammar is important for that. At least to me. It looks sloppy and that’s a false impression because you’re not sloppy with your work.

I had two email headlines being A/B tested:

  • What Amazon Prime Day means for writers and readers
  • It’s Amazon Prime Day, how can that benefit you as a writer and reader?

The second one, the one with the comma splice, had 36.4% open rate. The other one had a 9.1% open rate.

Of course, that could have nothing to do with the grammar. Despite the splice, it may just be a really well-written title.

Regardless, Eric is right. People who are looking for writers and editors may not know grammar well enough to catch that, but what if some do? What if I missed an opportunity to be hired by one of my favorite publishers or game studios because they saw that title and decided I wasn’t a good enough writer?

Everything we share should radiate professionalism.

I’ve got a few confessions to make:

  1. I’m pretty bad at comma splices, I do it all the time.
  2. I’m not 100% sure I know how to use a semi-colon.
  3. I’m generally not good at editing my own work (but great at editing others’).

If I want to edit something well, I need to write it ahead of time and come back to it much later. If I try to edit shortly after writing, I miss a lot of things. It’s because I’m too close to the work still. We’re in the honeymoon phase.

It might be the same for you.

That’s why I recommend doing two things:

  1. Self-edit your work a few days after writing.
  2. Get an editor to look at your work.

Hiring an editor can get expensive very quickly, especially if you’re creating content on a weekly basis. When you’re just starting out, it’s fine to self-edit your work. Just make sure you give yourself enough time to separate the emotion from the piece. Don’t edit when you’re still on the honeymoon with your art.

I also recommend this (mostly) free tool called Grammarly. It will point out a lot of things that need correcting. It’s more powerful than just a regular spell check. You can do a lot with the free version, but if you’re serious about your writing business, you’ll want to pick up the paid version.

Grammarly in action.

Click here to check out Grammarly for free.

If you’re just getting started building a business with writing, just use what free tools you have access to and self-edit. Once you start making money, it’s a good idea to invest back into yourself and upgrade Grammarly, as well as hire an editor when you reach that point.

Editors do more than just check Grammar. They’ll be able to tell you what flows and what doesn’t. They’ll be able to make suggestions on better ways to word what you’re saying. They’ll also be able to tell you where information is lacking, or maybe you’re giving too much information.

There are many benefits to hiring an editor, so when you can: it’s going to improve your career.

Quick Take-Aways:

  • Don’t self-edit to soon after writing.
  • Use Grammarly.
  • Hire an editor as soon as you can afford it.

The Complete Beginner’s Guide to Email Marketing for Writers

Note: This post contains affiliate links. If you choose to purchase the service through my link, I will receive a commission at no extra cost to you.

What is email marketing?

Email marketing is, in the most basic definition, using email to get people to purchase something from you. That could be hiring you as a writer, or an editor, or maybe purchasing one or more of your books.

Everyone complains that they get way too many emails every day, but email marketing is still the best way to reach your clients and fans.

If you’re selling writing services, you can use email marketing to build trust and authority while warming up new and potential clients to purchase your services.

If you just want to sell books, it’s a great way to get people interested in reading your work and purchasing from you.

The most important part of email marketing is that you’re already in their mailbox. That’s the proverbial “a foot in the door“. And unlike Facebook, Twitter, or other social media platforms, you don’t have to worry about that going away. Not that those networks are going anywhere soon, but…would you buy stock in MySpace right now? How about Friendster? Sometimes sites lose popularity or go out of business.

Your email list will never go out of business. Unless they unsubscribe or close their email account altogether, you will always have your foot in that door.

Why email marketing works for writers.

When someone visits your website, they’re not committing to anything. They’re just a passerby, seeing what there is to see. A tourist. They’re reading your content, and hopefully enjoying it, but they’re only a back button press away from never seeing your website ever again. That’s one decision, one click, less than one second that you could lose a potential fan.

This is something we want to avoid as much as possible. We want them to hire us or buy our books, and they won’t make a purchse until they trust us. They have to trust we will do a good job if they hire us. They have to trust that they will be entertained when they purchase our book. They won’t trust us until we’ve proven we know how to write well. For most people, that’s going to take more than just one visit to one page on your website. We want them coming back.

Email is the best way to get them to come back.

Once you’re in their inbox, there’s a lot of opportunities to get them to come back to your website and purchase your services or products.

If you’re looking to get clients to hire you, I recommend you provide content more on the educational side. This will build trust. I generally don’t recommend offering discounts, but if that’s something you want to do in your business, email is the way to get that information to repeat customers, or people who were just on the fence and want to give you a shot.

If you’re selling books, send them some free content. Teasers, short stories, or maybe some background info on the world or characters. You have an excellent opportunity here to provide content beyond the stories you’ve already created. Get your fans immersed in the worlds you have created.

Choosing an email newsletter provider.

There are a lot of different email marketing providers out there so it can be very intimidating to pick one when you first start taking a look at them all. This is particularly true when you don’t really know anything about email marketing.

You don’t want to just run with your regular email service, like gmail, and CC or BCC everyone. That’s going to cause a lot of headaches. Running a newsletter manually may also be not allowed by the email service provider. While we’re talking about it, it’s also a bad idea to use a gmail as a professional email. Get a website and get a firstname@yourwebsite.com email address.

My main piece of advice here is that you get what you pay for, most of the time.

For example, I used to use MailChimp. MailChimp is free, but I find it difficult to use and not user-friendly at all. For someone new to email marketing or digital marketing, you might find it even more difficult to figure out. I know this because it’s the first service I used.

Personally, I use and recommend ConvertKit. It’s not free, but it is an affordable investment if you take your writing business seriously.

ConvertKit is great because it’s super easy to use and has really great automation features. I’m a huge fan of automation becuase I don’t like to have to do things more than once. It’s also usefull for setting up automatic income.

Who doesn’t want to make money while they sleep? Smart email marketing with automation can get you there quicker than you may think.

One of my favorite features is Sequences, which I used to create a cool welcome email sequence that actually generates some revenue. With some tweaks, it’ll make even more revenue in the near future. You can check it out by signing up for my email list here:

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ConvertKit is my recommendation for any writer who takes their writing business seriously. Whether you’re looking to get hired to write, or you want to sell your books, this is the service I use and recommend.

I’ll even get you started by giving you the template I use for my initial welcome email.

Your welcome email.

The welcome email is the first email that someone receives after signing up. It’s extremely important because it’s where you get to make a good first-email-impression. Obviously, you’ve already made some sort of first-impression with the subscriber because they’ve already decided they trust you enough to give you their email address. Now, you need to make another first impression with your emails so that they don’t regret it and unsubscribe. Losing subscribers is no fun.

I’ve set up a template you can follow with explanations of each step:

  1. Start with welcoming them to the email list, and reminding them why they signed up. Sometimes people forget.
  2. If you offered some sort of bonus for signing up, like a free story, give them a link to download it.
  3. Tell them a little about yourself. Why you’re qualified to be sending them newsletters, who you’ve written for, and any features you’ve been in.
  4. What they can expect from future newsletters. Talk about what kind of content you send and how frequently (hint: you should be sending valuable content at least once a week).
  5. Tell them about other places they can follow you such as Facebook, Twitter, etc.
  6. Ask them a question. You’ll need to make sure whatever email service you’re using allows replies. If you’re teaching something through your blog and newsletter (which you should be), this is a good time to ask people what they’re struggling with so you can get ideas for new content to write (or, if it’s something you’ve already written, reply back to them with a link!).

Using that template will get you started with a good welcome email. You can always tweak it as time goes by.

Then, you need to set up your email service to send the welcome email automatically. I set my welcome email to come an hour after they sign up.

Setting up automations.

I have a firm belief that if you have to do something more than once, you should automate it. Luckily, your email newsletter service most likely offers some level of automation.

For example, ConvertKit has two different types of automation: the “Sequences” section and the “Automations” section.

I do find it a bit confusing that one is actually called “Automations” and the other is not, but both are forms of automation and you’ll see how in a minute.

Sequences are a series of emails that are automatically sent out at predetermined amounts of time. For example, my welcome sequence has multiple emails that are spread out with a few days in between them.

I’ve also used sequence to create free email courses. The first email goes out immediately after someone subscribes to receive the email course. After that, ConvertKit sends each lesson one day apart from the last email. In ConvertKit, email sequences can be set to be anywhere from hours, to days, to weeks apart. This is handy depending on what you need.

For one of my old email courses, one email asked a question where the user could select one of three options. If they didn’t select an option, they wouldn’t receive the next email. It was required to continue the course. I set up reminders at a week, a month, and six months if they didn’t click one of the options to continue the course.

The Automations section has a lot of features that I will someday write a whole blog post about itself. These features include tagging subscribers, integrating other platforms and services, and more. For the sake of this already pretty long post, I’m only going to discuss tagging subscribers because that’s something I have found great use for.

Tagging subscribers helps you identify which subscribers are interested in what aspects of your business and newsletter. For example, my website and newsletter generally cover two topics: building a writing business, and my personal cyberpunk writing. I also offer writing services, and in the future will offer ways to purchase my writing. In my welcome email, I ask the subscriber:

Do you want to receive news about:

  • Learning to build a writing business
  • My cyberpunk and other writing
  • Both!

And then I set a link on each one that takes them to a separate thank you page with more information about that subject. I use automation to tag which subscribers click on which.

When I’m sending out emails about building a writing business, I will segment those emails to only go to those who clicked on that option (“Both!” doesn’t get a link and is just the default; no need to tag those people). That way, subscribers aren’t getting emails that are irrelevant to their interests, and they’re less likely to unsubscribe in the future.

Getting people to sign up for your newsletter.

Here’s the hard part: getting people to sign up for your email list.

It’s a foot in the door of their private life. Email inboxes are sacred and aren’t just shared all willy-nilly by most people.

However, there are people out there with hundreds of thousands, even millions, of email subscribers. How do they get them? There’s a few techniques marketers use that are tried and true.

First: just ask.

It’s that simple. Open up your phone and flip through the contacts list. Anyone you know on there you think would be interested, ask them. Just shoot them a text that says something like:

“Hey, I’m starting a newsletter for my website where I share my fiction writing, and I thought you might be interested. Can I add you to the list?”

If they say no, thank them and don’t bug them about it. If they say yes, respond with something like:

“Awesome! Excited for you to see what I’ve been working on. What email is best for you?”

Repeat the process with Facebook friends, Twitter followers, and anywhere else you can think of. Anywhere that you have contacts who you think might be interested, just ask them. Don’t waste time on people you know wouldn’t be interested.

The next thing to do is to get all the people who are visiting your site to sign up.

Your email newsletter service should offer some easy copy and paste sign up forms that you can just drop into the code on your website. You’ve already seen an example of this with the ConvertKit one above. Lots of marketers recommend you have a signup in the side-bar (if you have one), one in the header (if you can do it without it obstructing the rest of your header), and one at the bottom of every blog post and page. I prefer to skip the header signup to keep everything a bit cleaner at the top. Instead, I’ll often put a signup higher up in the blog post, if it makes sense to (like in this post). I don’t try to cram one in somewhere that it doesn’t fit, either physically or contextually.

If you’re on WordPress and using ConvertKit, you can actually do this really easily with their WordPress plugin, which is exactly what I use.

You’ll need to go to WordPress and install and activate the ConvertKit plugin, then go to you ConvertKit account and get your API key and API Secret key.

Then, in WordPress under Settings, you’ll find the ConvertKit plugin. Go there and put in your two keys. Click “Save Changes” and it will refresh with a dropdown of your current forms. You can then select which one you want to be the default.

In WordPress, under Appearance, go to Widgets and you can drag and drop the ConvertKit widget into whatever sidebar you want it in.

To have it in the bottom of a post, you can select that option in each individual post, at the bottom of the page below the post text box. It will automatically have the form you set as default, but you can easily change it to another one, or none at all.

This also works with ConvertKit landing pages.

What to send in your brand new email newsletter.

You’ve followed all the instructions above. You signed up for ConvertKit. You set up a welcome email. You’ve even set up some tags to segment your list.

But what do you send?

Updates! Newsletters! Projects you’re working on!

Mostly, just things that are relevant to what you’re working on, that your subscribers would want to see. Keep in mind their preferred content you’ve tagged them to receive.

If you’re using your blog to teach people what you know, which you should be, then definitely send that information out in your emails as well.

One thing to make sure of is that you don’t constantly bombard your subscribers with advertisements of your writing services and/or books. That’s spam, and it’s bad.

Definitely do promote yourself, but don’t over-do it.

When to send out your newsletter.

You need to be sending out newsletters at least once a week. This keeps you on people’s minds and increases your chances of landing new sales.

Studies have shown that the more emails you send, the better your clickthrough rates. It’s important to make sure you don’t spam people, though. That’s a quick way to lose subscribers.

Marketers have been studying time of day and day of week to send out emails and it varies wildly.

CoSchedule compared 10 different studies and found that Tuesday is the best day to send email, and if you send two emails a week, Thursday is the best day for your second email. Wednesday was also a popular day.

As for time of day, they found that 10 A.M. and 11 A.M. are great, as well as anywhere between 8 P.M. and Midnight.

I usually send out my newsletter on Tuesdays, but the time is different each week.

Of course, this all depends on your audience. Your subscribers may operate at a different time. Being that your audience is mostly writers (if you’re teaching writing) and/or fans who read your writing, they could operate at non-normal business hours. But, another industry could have an audience who are mostly day-job people and thus open the most emails between the hours of 9 AM and 5 PM.

The best thing to do is to try different days and times to figure out what your audience prefers.

Legal Stuff.

In the USA, according to anti-spam laws called the CAN-SPAM Act, you have to have a valid physical mailing address in your email newsletters. This address doesn’t have to be your home or office. It can be a P.O. Box.

It does have to be an address attributed to you where you can be contacted. You can’t just pick a random gas station address of of Google Maps.

I recommend you don’t use your home address for safety reasons, unless you’ve already put your home address openly on the internet. Generally, that’s not a good idea at all, so if you can take that down and set up an office or P.O. Box, that’ll be a much safer way to do things.

But also, don’t use a fake address. One single email in violation of the CAN-SPAM Act can cost you as much as $16,000.

You also need to have an unsubscribe button in the email so that users can easily remove themselves from your list. There are lots of clever tricks some marketers use to confuse people who try to unsubscribe. The best policy is to make it easy. The people who want to unsubscribe aren’t your target audience, anyway, or else they wouldn’t want to unsubscribe.

You’re ready to get started!

That’s what you need to know to get started with email marketing your writing.

Get out there and start collecting newsletter subscribers!

Stop Telling New Game Designers (and Devs) to “Climb The Ladder”

Any social site where people talk about game design or game development will always have this one question frequently asked:

“I have a lot of ideas for games but I don’t know how to program and I’m not good at art. How do I get into game design? My favorite game designers are X, Y, and Z.”

And the answer to this question is, without fail, always:

“Learn to program or get good at art, start working for a company, work your way up. That’s how your favorite game designers did it.”

I absolutely can not stand this answer.

Here’s A Better Answer

There’s a pretty solid possibility that your favorite game designers did, in fact, do it that way. When the video games industry was just getting started, and growing to the mainstream level we see now, this was pretty much the way to do it, because the resources needed to make video games were held tightly by companies with with money.

If you didn’t have money, you either needed to go get some, or go work for a company until you were able to get the position you wanted.

We don’t have that problem anymore. Game design and development are able to be done in affordable ways. It’s often free, to a point. Unity doesn’t require you to pay until you’ve made $100,000 in a year on games. For 3D modeling and animation, Blender is completely free.

Start your Own Studio. Design Your Own Games.

  1. Learn what goes into designing video games
  2. Learn how to design great video games.
  3. Design great video games.
  4. Learn to code in pre-made engines like Unity (3D/2D) or GameMaker (2D). Alternatively, hire or partner with someone who does.
  5. Learn to do basic art required in free software like Blender (3D) or Inkscape (2D). Alternatively, hire or partner with someone who does.
  6. Be a game designer.

You Can Still Go The Triple A Route

You might be thinking, “What if they/I don’t want to be an indie developer? What if they/I want to work on AAA titles like Halo or World of Warcraft?”

No problem. I still don’t recommend working your way up from the bottom.

Design your own games. Ship them. Make a name for yourself. Get the job you want at whatever studio.

There are three ways to get to the top of the AAA gaming industry:

  1. Start from the bottom and work your way up the corporate ladder of a company that was never yours and most likely wouldn’t ever be yours. Even if you stuck with them for 50 years, they’re probably already owned by another company who most likely won’t give it up, ever.
  2. Start as independent, build up your own indie studio, then get a job as a game designer at a big AAA company.
  3. Start as independent, build up your own indie studio, become AAA yourself.

#3 is the option I prefer.

I’m Going To Help You Do This

I’m building out a site and collection of courses on how to

  • Design games well and
  • Start a game design business once they’ve got that down so they can go on to make games with their ideas

No one should have to spend 3 years “getting experience” as a QA tester and then spend 10 or more years slowly working their way up the corporate ladder.

Consistency is the most important part of your career.

People are going to forget about you. They’re going to forget about your games, your art, your programming, and you.

Pretty terrifying right? No one wants to hear that. Sorry for being so harsh, but you’re not doing anything to remind them who you are.

That’s why you need to be consistent. Consistency is the key to being successful in anything.

Let’s start at the top.

Note: there are a couple of affiliate links in this post. For more about that and how they work, check out the Resources page.

You need to be consistently making games.

My friend Sean McCabe says “show up every day.” Every day you should do at least one thing that works towards your game design and development.

That doesn’t mean you have to code every day, or draw every day.

Just one thing is all it takes. Show up every day and do at least one thing that’s going to get you closer to completion.

One thing every day that’s going to get you closer to your goals.

He says that doing this for two years will get you where you want to be. That’s such a short period of time if you really think about it.

Plus, you’ll be getting better at your game design and development each day as you work on it.

While you’re getting closer to completion, you’ll need to be working on marketing. Building your audience is what you should do, which is why the next three parts need to be consistent.

You need to be consistently showing your games.

Show people what you’re working on. Show your works in progress.

It doesn’t have to be anything crazy or intense. Maybe it’s a gif of an animation you made this week. Or you added in a cool game mechanic that you can show.

Heck, even just share a teaser of the story.

There’s so much in the process of gamedev that can be shared, and it drums up interest in your game.

Of course you can and should be sharing this stuff on your social media like Facebook, Twitter, etc, but you should also be sharing on your blog.

You need to be consistently posting on your blog.

If you don’t have a blog, make sure you’re signed up for the newsletter right now. Next week I’ll be posting a comprehensive guide (for free!) that will teach you step by step how to set up a blog for your gamedev.

Join the newsletter

Subscribe to learn about making money writing. You'll learn everything from how to write better, to the business and marketing of a writing business.

I won't send you spam. You can unsubscribe at any time. Powered by ConvertKit

You need to be posting to your blog because it’s the one platform you control.

Remember MySpace? Who uses that anymore?

Don’t think it’s impossible that Twitter or Facebook could be next. I don’t even know anyone who really uses Tumblr anymore (of course I still post there but that’s another story).

But your blog, your website, that is something you can control. It will exist as long as you want it to. I use A2 hosting and their quick and easy 1 click WordPress installer.

There’s also a simple little thing you can do to keep people coming back to your blog for more. Aside from posting consistently, you need to be collecting emails from your visitors, and sending them a newsletter.

You need to be consistently sending out email newsletters.

My biggest regret is not starting collecting emails sooner.

I would have made way more sales on my previous games by now had I started collecting emails from the very beginning.

It’s just the best marketing you can do on a video game. Tell people about it.

Like I mentioned above, controlling your own platform is important. If Twitter disappears it will be very difficult to retain that audience and move them to whatever new platform you’re on.

I use ConvertKit because it’s easy and they have great functions for automation.

If you have their email, you’ll be able to take them wherever you go very easily.

Plus, people will see you all the time. You’ll be in their thoughts because you regularly send them valuable and interesting content.

That way, when you launch a game, they won’t see it as spam.

You ever sign up for an email list and forget about it? Then weeks or months later you get an email that’s like “Hey I just released my new game!”

Of course I usually check it out but it’s just like “ugh who is this person and why are they trying to get money from me?”

You need to share at least once a week.

They won’t forget about you this way. We think in weekly cycles. That’s why most TV shows put out new episodes at least weekly (during their season).

Of course, you can share more than just once a week if you want, but don’t overwhelm yourself.

Trust me, people will start to notice.

I’ve been inconsistent in the past and people have commented on it. I was totally embarrassed.

Consistency is totally hard but there are lots of ways you can prepare, like setting up an editorial calendar or automating your social media posting with a tool like CoSchedule (that’s a referral link, btw. If you sign up, they cut me a discount on my subscription at no extra cost to you).

An example of what not to do:

This is tricky and I need to preface this by saying that I am not trying to call out this gamedev publicly or anything. He’s wildly successful and I am confident that he will continue to be successful for various reasons, despite the things he’s doing “wrong” that I’m about to show you.

I do believe he would make a lot more money if he were to put more into marketing in the ways that I have suggested here (and will more in the future), but I also don’t get the impression he’s too worried about that. Please know that while I am saying what he’s doing here is “wrong”, I highly admire him and he’s one of the reasons I got into game design and development in the first place. It’s only “wrong” from a marketing standpoint.

But, as no-name indie dev, you don’t want to repeat what he’s doing here, because you need all the help you can get.

That said…look at this tweet:

Take a second to think about what you just learned and see if you can figure out what’s right and what’s wrong here.

Okay now that you’ve thought about it, I’ll list out a few things that were done right:

  • Really well written posts.
  • Lots of images in the posts.
  • Definitely content that will build up hype.
  • Pinned tweet…I wouldn’t have seen this otherwise.

But here’s what’s done wrong:

  • Not hosted on its own platform.
  • Telling people to bookmark and come back on their own accord.
  • No email list?
  • Posts aren’t really consistently posted. Definitely not weekly.

Again, at this point in his career I’m sure he’ll be fine and continue to be successful, and he absolutely deserves it.

But for an indie dev who’s not at that point, you need all the help you can get. That’s what I’m here for!

Make sure you’re signed up for the email list so that you can continue to learn more about video game design, development, marketing, and business.

The one thing that will save your gamedev career from certain failure.

This is a long post, so here are some important sections you can skip to:

You gotta eat. You gotta have a roof over your head.

Here’s the thing: you need money.

We live in a post-scarcity world that thrives through a strange, impure, though somewhat functional version of capitalism. At least, those of us in “developed nations” as they

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Write About Things Even When People Won’t Shut Up About Them

this guy found a pikachu
this guy found a pikachu
This guy found a Pikachu.

Raise your left hand if you’re sick of hearing about Pokemon Go. Raise your right hand if you’re playing Pokemon Go. Clap your hands if you’re sick of hearing about Pokemon Go even though you’re playing it.

It seems like over half of the articles that have crossed my path this last week have been about Pokemon Go. That’s not including all the social media posts from my friends and family.

It’s really cool and really popular right now. It’s a game changer by being the first wildly successful augmented reality game. That said, we’re all sick of hearing about it.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t write about it, too.

If you have an idea, you should be writing about it. Even if you’re sick of hearing about it, get out there and write about it.

This doesn’t just apply to Pokemon Go, but anything that is being talked about. Don’t worry if other people are talking about something too much. If you’re afraid you’re covering something that’s already been covered, don’t be.

You are so unique.

Even though there are over nine thousand articles about Pokemon Go to come out in the last week, no one else has your perspective. No one else has gone through your exact same experiences in the exact same order.

You are unique, and you have a voice.

Your voice brings a new outlook on the subject.

Write what you know.

As I’ve said before: write what you know. If you know something about Pokemon Go, share it.

At the most, you’ll get some work, or maybe a check out of the content. At the least, it’s something to put in your portfolio.

You could also run a case study on newsjacking. Whether you’re successful or unsuccessful with it, write about it. Write about why it was or was not successful, and learn from that.

And if it is a failure, the transparency in your failure will speak volumes.

Newsjacking isn’t all bad.

Some content marketers shudder at the word “newsjacking”. It’s not all bad, but it can be.

The proper way to handle newsjacking is to take a news event and write about it from your perspective, or how it applies to you or your industry.

  • If you do marketing as a profession, you could discuss how Pokemon Go is increasing profits of local businesses.
  • If you’re a fitness instructor, you could talk about how Pokemon Go is great for exercise.
  • If you’re a writer, you could talk about how other writers shouldn’t be afraid of writing about something even though it’s being talked about by what seems like every other website on the internet right now.

The bottom line is this: don’t ever feel like you can’t write about something because it’s already been written about before. Just write it!

Word Count Doesn’t Matter Online

Word Count Doesn’t Matter Online

Word Count Doesn’t Matter Online

I’ve been getting a question frequently: how long should my blog posts be? Is there a minimum word amount for blog posts? Maximum?

No. There isn’t. People will tell you otherwise, but I’m telling you there isn’t.

Side note: this only counts when online. Magazines and other print media will require specific word counts because of space. I’m not saying that you should ignore those word counts. In fact, those word counts are extremely important. The only time word count really doesn’t matter is when online.

If you charge a flat rate per word, you should stop doing that right now. Charge per piece. Not per word. I’ll talk more about that in a future post.

Blog post word count doesn’t matter, even for SEO.

In SEO (Search Engine Optimization), the rule of thumb is frequently changing on blog post length. It was 300 words. Then bumped up to 500 words. Then bumped up to 1000 words. I don’t keep up with it anymore, so I don’t even know where it is now.

It doesn’t matter.

Google and the other search engines are going to find your content if your content is good. They’ll rank it well if your content is good. Focus on creating valuable content for readers, and you won’t need to worry about those stupid SEO rules.

The thing about those SEO rules is that they had to be enforced because SEO’s were all posting as much trash as possible. It was all about more pages and more keyword optimization and stuffing and all that. Of course, they’re trying to get hundreds, if not thousands, of pages out every month, which is expensive, so they shoot for lowest word count possible to get them all out. There can’t be duplicate content, either, so each page needs to be written individually.

The problem with SEO is that it has always encouraged sketchy practices, work-arounds, and generally just trashy work for the sake of getting more rankings. SEO’s would sell companies that more rankings are important.

What’s important is getting the right traffic, not as much traffic as possible, and then turning that traffic into leads/conversions. Of course, that has been done with SEO by many companies, but I have found that all companies do much better when they focus less on SEO and more on content marketing.

Of course, I still write with SEO in mind, but I’m focused more on providing value to readers and website visitors, which ultimately turns them into customers and clients.

Get the point across in as many words as you need.

Here’s the thing about writing content that provides value: the word count doesn’t matter as long as you get the point across.

You need to provide the value the user is looking for.

If they found you on Google, because you’re ranking well, they’re looking for an answer to their question. Answer it. Don’t fluff the content with a bunch of BS in the beginning or end to reach the wordcount that some SEO recommended to you for every page.

A lot of stuff, especially “how to” guides, will come under whatever word count is recommended. I bet you can find a ton of them ranking well in Google that are under 500, 300, even 100 words.

They’re ranking well because they have been seen to provide value to visitors to the site. The people who read the content share it because it answered their question and they want the rest of the world to know the answer to their problems, too. People are nice like that. Sometimes.

If clients want a specific word count, obviously do it.

Some clients aren’t going to know this. Or they’ve heard it and they don’t understand. It’s not your job to educate them. It’s not worth your time to educate them. Those clients are going to ask for specific maximum and minimum word counts.

Sean McCabe would say those aren’t the clients you want. And, he’s right. But until you’ve switched over to Value Based Pricing model he teaches, and ditch scarcity mindset, you’ll be taking clients on that want specific word counts. And that’s okay. Take them and do their word counts. Get your pay. Save up for Value Based Pricing and get out of scarcity mindset. Or, even better, go get a day job and then only take on good clients.

This was supposed to be a short article to prove a point, but it ended up being well over 1500 words because there was so much to say.

How To Conduct A Great Interview

how to conduct a great interview

how to conduct a great interview

Part of writing creative non-fiction is that sometimes you need to interview someone. You might just need a few quotes for a post, or you may need an expert to explain an entire concept to you. No matter what you need to use the interview for, you can make it easier on yourself and the interviewee by knowing how to conduct a good interview.

Do your research.

This is one of the most important things you can do to prepare for a great interview. You need to do your research.

Imagine you show up at an event and you don’t know anything about the person you’re interviewing. How are you supposed to ask them questions?

You can’t just prepare your questions in advance because an answer to one question may prompt you to think of another question, and that’s great. You want to know as much about the subject as possible, be it the person themselves or something else that you’re interviewing the person about.

Do research before you head in so you’re able to think of smart, interesting questions on the fly when something is said that calls for more elaboration.

A lot of times they’ll also bring up something you might not have thought of, or found in your research. Having the research and knowledge you already have will help out in those situations, too. You’ll be able to prompt them to elaborate properly on a subject they’ve mentioned when you know enough around it to ask the right questions.

While you’re researching, look for past interviews. Research as many past interviews with this person, or about this subject as possible. Some of them will have questions you’ll want to use, but it’ll also tell you what questions haven’t been asked before. Try to find questions that have never been asked. Interviewees who have been through tens or hundreds of interviews will always be thankful for new and interesting questions they haven’t been asked before.

Make sure the interviewee is comfortable.

You don’t want to have an uncomfortable interviewee because they’ll be trying to get out of the interview as quickly as possible. You’re not the paparazzi. You’re a creative non-fiction writer.

Don’t be pushy, and don’t ask anything too personal unless it has been specifically agreed upon by the interviewee themselves that the questions are okay. If you don’t know if a question is okay, be on the safe side and don’t ask. Or, save it until the end if you think it’s really necessary to the piece you’re writing.

You’ll want to make sure the surroundings are comfortable as well. If you caught them in public or somewhere such as after a concert, make sure they’re not being surrounded by fans or signing autographs or in a really loud area where you’re going to have to yell your questions and listen close for the answers.

Open up with a joke or two, even if it’s before the questions. If you’re a fan of them, let them know. Tell them what your favorite thing they did was. Then jump into the interview.

You could also open up with some easy questions that give the interviewee a chance to talk themselves up. I don’t mean self promotion questions, but stuff like “how did you feel when you were asked to play this festival?” You don’t necessarily have to use these warm up questions in the final piece; the point is just to get the interviewee comfortable and talking. People like to talk about themselves, especially their achievements, so try to start there.

You don’t want your interviewee to be uncomfortable at all or else they won’t open up.

Open with something they definitely know about.

Let’s say you’re writing a piece on a music festival. You’ll probably end up talking to a lot of other concert attendees, but what if you get a chance to talk to a band? Don’t lead off with something like “Have you been to our town before?”

You don’t want to ask yes or no questions, but we’ll get to that later.

An alternative would be, “what do you think of our town?” That’s actually also a poor example of what you should ask. Don’t ask about things they could possibly have an “I don’t know” answer to.

You want to start off with something they know for sure. Ask them what other shows they’ve played lately. What it was like starting a band in their town. How do they feel when they’re up on stage in front of a festival worth of people? Get them talking about things they know and enjoy and they’ll open up a lot quicker.

Never ask yes or no questions.

All questions you ask need to be open-ended. If you absolutely have to ask a yes or no question, then you need to have a follow up open-ended question to get your real quote.

If you ask people yes or no questions, they often answer in yes or no. They won’t talk and you won’t get any good quotes. It’ll be a terribly boring interview.

Instead of, “have you been to our town before,” ask, “what did you think of our town?”

Don’t stick strictly to your pre-selected questions.

As mentioned before, sometimes an interviewee will say something you didn’t think about or completely didn’t know about. Or, maybe they just say something that you realize will open up a new, better angle for your piece. At that point, don’t worry about sticking to your pre-selected questions. Ask them more about that thing.

Just because you planned doesn’t mean you have to stick to the plan.

Learn to be a little improvisational with your interviews in this way so that you’re able to get all the best information you can. Your pieces will be far more interesting and educational.

Give them time to answer.

Sometimes people pause to think. That’s okay, and in fact encouraged. What they say next might be exactly what you need.

Wait until you’re sure someone has finished answering their question before you move on to the next one. Moments of silence will be okay.

Ask “looking back” style questions.

Another common interview question is the “looking back…” question. These are questions that prompt the interviewee to, well, look back upon the event.

“Looking back, would you have done anything differently if you know what you know now,” is a pretty easy one.

Be creative and come up with some unique ones. You are a creative writer, after all!

In the future, we’ll talk about how to come up with good interview questions. If you have any questions about writing creative non-fiction, shoot me an email by filling out the contact form. I’d love to help you out with anything you don’t understand.

Write What You Know – The Best Writing Advice I Ever Received

Write what you know.

Write what you know.

I hated working retail. I was a customer service representative at TJ Maxx for a year. Before that, I was a regular cashier. After that, I worked the jewelry counter. Things were great when we had a dream team of managers and employees, but managers got moved to other stores and new, terrible managers were moved in. So, people started quitting and the dream team fell apart. After that, it was all downhill.

I’ve written quite a bit about my experiences at TJ Maxx because they helped shape who I am today. It’s what I know. One story I haven’t told, was when I got the best piece of advice I’ve ever received: “write what you know.”

I was working the jewelry counter when a kind older woman needed assistance and started asking me questions about what school I went to (Palm Beach State College, PBCC at the time), and what I was studying (writing). She told me her husband was a writer and that she’d send him over to talk to me later.

When he came by we discussed what I had written that had been well received by others, and then he imparted this advice upon me: write what you know. And, keep writing. Keep writing what you know.

Since then, I have stuck to it and that’s helped me quite a bit with my success.

Of course, that doesn’t mean you can’t go learn new things. In fact, learning new things means you will know more, which provides you with more to write about. There’s nothing wrong with doing research to make sure your writing is accurate. You shouldn’t only write what you know, but there are three situations where writing what you know will be particularly beneficial.

This particular article pertains to writing what you know in regards to creative non-fiction and journalism. The rules change when you’re writing fiction, and that will be discussed at another time in the future.

Write what you know when you’re first getting started.

When you first get started writing, you should write what you know. This doesn’t just mean when you start writing a piece, it means any time you start writing. Whether you’re starting a paper, a book, an article, or your entire career. Write what you know and get that part down.

If you’re just starting your career, you want to exhaust what you know so you can get to learning and writing about new things. It’s easy to get started writing when you’re writing about things you know about, and when you’ve written about every experience you’ve ever had, you’ll start looking for new things to write about.

That’s when things get good! You’ll practice writing on your experiences and improve your skills so that your newer, later on experiences can be better written.

Here’s the truth: a lot of things that have happened to you in your life might have impacted you a lot, but they don’t mean anything to others. You’ll learn which things to share what not to share through doing. It’s best to get this out in your early days because after that, when you’ve built up a following and need to continue to produce quality content, you’ll have already learned.

Of course, you don’t need to share every single experience you’ve ever had. Keep some stuff to yourself. Especially things you’re not comfortable sharing.

You don’t have to write about traumatic experiences and share them with the world. However, if you do, you may help some other people who are experiencing it. You may also help yourself by getting it out. Otherwise, it’s not necessary. If you need to keep something to yourself for your own mental health than that is what’s important.

It’s also good to get what you know out of the way when writing an individual piece. Get everything you know out first so that you can organize and figure out what’s missing. Then research and fill in the missing parts to fulfil the purpose of the piece.

This will help your productivity on writing immensely. You’ll get more out faster by getting everything you know out of your head before you sit down and start the arduous process of research.

Write what you know when you have “writer’s block.”

I don’t believe in writer’s block. I seriously don’t. I used to. I used to use it as an excuse to not write.

“I don’t have any inspiration right now.”

Or

“I don’t know what to write, so I just won’t. It’ll come to me later.”

Well, that’s bullshit. And you’re probably thinking “Garrett, you don’t know me. You don’t know how I work.”

Hey, if you’re making a living writing and enjoying every minute of it, but you sit around waiting for inspiration, awesome. If you’re not making a living from your writing yet, or stuck writing stuff you hate, but sit around waiting for inspiration, well I guess the results speak for themselves.

Dedicate time every day to write. I’ll actually post more about this later, but we’re going to briefly touch on it here so we can get back to the topic at hand.

Write every day, and when you sit down and think “I don’t know what to write about today”, write what you know.

If you want to take it a step further, plan out what you’re going to write the day before. Before you go to bed tonight, plan out an hour of writing tomorrow. Dedicate an hour of your day to writing. I prefer 0800-0900, right before I start my days work for clients. That way, when I’m done with client work for the day, I can either spend more time writing what I want, or relax a little, or do whatever I deem is important. My writing and my work have already been done.

Write what you know when you have writer’s block and you’ll never have writer’s block again.

Write what you know as teaching something.

Here’s the thing about teaching: you need to be teaching. You need to be teaching what you know. People on the internet are thirsty for knowledge. They’re thirsty for free knowledge, and they’re thirsty enough to pay for good knowledge, too.

You can make money writing about what you know.

Whatever it is you know, you need to sit down and write about it. If you know about flying kites, you need to write about flying kites. Write about kites in a weekly blog post. After a year, take those blog posts and reformat them into a book. Don’t just copy and paste each article into a chapter. You need to actually reformat them to make sense cohesively in book format.

That’s just one idea, you don’t have to do that, but it’s a way to build up a following, build up experience, and build up some cash. Who knows, you could end up getting client work or jobs from it.

A lot of my client work has come from me writing about things entirely unrelated to what the client work’s subject matter was. Sometimes people find your writing and just love it, so they hire you. Or they become a fan and continue reading your work for the rest of their lives.

What really attracts people is learning new things, so when you teach what you know, you’ll continue to learn about the subject as well as share that knowledge and grow a following.

Don’t always write what you know.

You shouldn’t write what you know if it’s boring. Let me rephrase that: you should still write it. You probably don’t want to post it anywhere or publish it if it’s boring.

So, here’s what you do: spice it up. It doesn’t have to be 100% fact (as long as you don’t present it as 100% fact). You should write what you know, but you don’t have to strictly write only what you know.

Write things you don’t know. Make stuff up to add interest.

For example, if you’re reminiscing on a certain situation but you don’t remember how the weather was that day, just make it up. It’s not imperative to the story. If it is, don’t make it up. You shouldn’t be making up things that are important part of the piece you’re working on.

But, if the weather isn’t necessary to tell the story, then “it was the hottest day of the year. A woman dropped a carton of eggs on the sidewalk and they were ready to eat before she bent over to pick them up,” will add detail and interest to the story.

Main Takeaways:

  • Write what you know when you’re first getting started on a piece or in your career.
  • Write what you know when you’re experiencing writers block or a lack of inspiration.
  • Write what you know when you’re teaching to gain a following.