Another freelance blogging call says: you are required to produce at least two 2000+ words pieces a week. The longer the content, the better. Can we master this skill of producing articles of enormous length not many people intend reading from head to toe anyway?
When it comes to writing for web, blogging, content- or copywriting, either freelance or as a full-time job that pays your bills; after all the keywords and SEO and technical expertise; it seems that the number of words per piece plays the most significant role, pretty much a matter of life or death. But why is it so, does it even matter, and how could an individual catch and then keep pace within this writing race? After all, many researchers now claim that an average web user mostly likely just skims or scans your texts looking for information they need, and only 16% of total web users actually read articles in full.
So, if you are here to learn the tips and tricks on how to produce 3000+ words pieces in 3 hours and expect a miraculous recipe that will turn you into an eloquent author of the most invaluable, most shared, and most engaging posts, even though it’s always been a pain in the ass for you to write even a simple informative email in three paragraphs, leave this blog immediately. I cannot give you that. I do not have this cure, and you are most likely a lost case. I cannot fix you, nor do I want you. It is simply not going to happen. Forget it, and go do something useful for a change.
However, what I do intend sharing with you are my ways of producing personal yet insightful essays on whichever topic comes to my mind. If you scan just the titles of my previous posts on this blog, you can see they range from SEO, blogging, health and fitness, beauty, travelling, and even popular culture. I have about 10 more articles in stash, waiting to be written when I find the time for both writing and graphic design, on topics as various as what I have covered so far, further diversifying the scope of interests.
My personal writing struggles and achievements
I had never been the pupil who was able to produce an essay on a given topic in school the moment the teacher would ask us. Most likely, I would struggle hard, and then struggle more, and then some more, before finally producing a typical children’s mediocre essay in a rush to simply have it done. My creativity, so to say, was never my strength – at least when it came to school writing. I would always write what was expected, or even below the required minimum quality, and I never actually cared about it a lot since that sort of writing was never my cup of tea.
Later on, in high school, the situation was the same. When confronted with written assignments to be turned in for a mark after the class – we were usually allotted an hour and a half for such tasks, instead of the regular 45 minutes – I would spend the first half of the total time simply trying hard to even think of what to write about, and would always go for a free style topic rather than the literature-guided. I was never the brightest student, and my marks were usually around B or B+. Sometimes I would be disappointed, but in time I just stopped caring, as such writing tasks were, in the end, not what I was interested in writing in the long run.
Journaling was a whole different story
However, not many knew back then than I was a keen journal writer. I was able to produce pages of text, either the standard A4 or A5 format, in just one sitting, which was, and still is, an astonishing amount of text – given I was just writing about my dreams, my fancies, or my everyday life. Hence, I could write – when I was interested in it.
Later on, when I became a student, most of my literature exams consisted of writing essays on the novels we had read or poems we analysed in class. With some, such as Victorian literature, we were allotted an hour and a half to write two essays on the given topics, which at the time seemed like quite an achievement because you had to pay strict attention to what you were writing. In practice, it meant choosing the topics within the first 5 minutes, scribble down some notes for about 10-15 minutes per topic, organise them, and have about 30-35 minutes to write each piece. When you are in a rush, and have a lot to say, half an hour per piece means working under a lot of pressure, risking misspellings, lack of coherence or linking words, or even completely missing out points you would like to cover.
In another exam, British history and culture this time, if I am not mistaken, we were expected to write at least 4 A4 format pages on a given topic. With literature I found it easier – I like reading, hence wordiness, interpretation and linking the facts was relatively easy. With history, having to write that much text on a topic I not only do not care about but rather despise it, was a struggle I am just glad I am done with.
Writing in general
My closest friends from different towns always received lengthy emails from me – I never struggled with those, and was always able to devour novels of whichever length – my greatest achievement being a 400-pages novel read in just one sitting. That must have significantly influenced my writing.
To cut the long story short, I always excelled at free style topics, but school / university writing always posed a daunting task for me.
Blogging length requirements
I still regularly apply for freelance blogging arrangements online. I cringe a bit whenever I see a strict word-count rule in the tasks section. As if the writer of those ads is not a writer himself – any such person should at least be aware on the absurd of having to produce a piece of a strictly predetermined length. Most of these ads will ask you to write at least 1500-2000 words pieces once a week, but there was one ad that struck me for life – First Beat Media. The ad is now gone, but when I saw it, it asked for about 15000 words per day, or even more! There were about two 5000 words, then several those of 2000 words, and about ten 200 words pieces. I cannot think of a single person who would be able to keep such a busy writing schedule for more that several days, after what they would most likely simply fall into an exhaustion coma or go nuts! I wish I had a print screen of the ad I’m referring to.
Just for the sake of comparison, my master thesis had about 26000 words, and all that is written on 100 pages with double line spacing. I had 10 more pages, but my mentor decided it was better to remove them. I actively worked on that thesis for six months.
Hence, while it is a relatively ungrateful requiring people to regularly produce content of the same length and quality, especially when it comes to the marathon-length pieces, I do realise that most of my previous pieces are all over 3000+ words, one even 4700+. It made me wonder: how have I managed doing that and is it possible I truly have so much to say every single time?
One stat example from this blog
To make things even more interesting, I have so far written 1250+ words in this piece only, yet I have not even started with giving you my ideas on productivity, nor have I used any of the bullets I have in my notes as a skeleton of this article.
Tips and tricks: how to excel your writing skills
I hope that after this short tutorial my readers would be able to brush up on their writing skills.
Research well in advance
Although I had previously had some experience with ghost writing, when I started working in a web and graphic design firm last year, I had no idea what to do nor what could I expect. However, one of my first writing tasks was a pregnancy article for a renowned client from London. They had launched their blog several weeks before that, and had so far published just the Hello, world article. The articles were agreed upon prior to my arrival to the company, so I had no saying in what I would be writing.
Having in mind I am not particularly interested in pregnancy, especially not in the medical sense, I fully used the advantages of the world wide web and did my research fair and square. Not only did I spend two working days researching all possible stages of pregnancy, but I also made many notes – I somehow instinctively knew I would make use of them later on.
My final piece turned out to be a 1300+ words piece on a medical topic I had never ever written on, while some later pieces go up to 2000 words, although they tend to be shortened as not all the information in them make the cut of our client’s liking.
Hence, research is your best friend when it comes to writing. When you are familiar with the topic, not as much research is required – you will find it easy to improvise and modify. However, when you are new to the topic, informing yourself is the only – and the best – way to go.
Make a skeleton
After your research is done, a skeleton of your prospective article should come into being. In fact, if you make notes while researching, that may be even better, as these will the most important information you want to include in the article. Your notes help you organise your information, rearrange them, include them or leave them out of the final piece.
I also use my notebook to mark down the new terms and define the keywords, especially if I do not know them or if I want my readers to learn them. Although these do not have to make it to the final piece, they are there as your own reminder of what you should keep in mind, or for future reference.
It happened to me that I came across differing information on a single notion, so keeping notes can help you clarify them as well.
To go back to my pregnancy stages article for the client, I could not do without my notes. First of, the article was supposed to mention various ultrasound scans available during pregnancy, and to be a subtle advertisement for the owner of the clinic, i.e. the client. While I was researching, I discovered there are dozens of those scans, but neither of the 15-ish articles I read would list them out chronologically. Having your notes enables you to do exactly that: there are this many scans in the first trimester, this many in the second, and this many in the third. Of course, not all of them were available at the client’s clinic, so many of the scans were left of the final piece; but what matters more is that I now know that the client wants us to promote only their scans and their scans only – not even to mention there are others.
With me, inspiration is everything. If I am inspired, I could write an entire thesis on a completely nonsense topic and invest all my passion and skills into it. If not, there is no force in the earth to make me finish my writing task in time or with ease.
In real life, my inspiration comes down to whether I sleep enough or not. I need at least 8 hours or quality sleep, sometimes even more – if my schedule is not the same every day. However, if I go to bed and get at the same time every day for several weeks, my body would reduce this 9-hour sleeping need to the sound 8 hours.
There are also topics I am comfortable working with, while there are others that I believe I would never be able to produce anything solid, no matter how much I tried. Ghost writing was particularly interesting. My sister was also doing it for a while, and it is she who actually introduced me with such tasks – because she would simply take on too many tasks and would not be able to finish them all in time. She also hated writing girly stuff – how to find eternal love, how to organise the perfect children’s birthday party, how to find the best beach accessories, best summer makeup trends, etc. I was able to produce these in half an hour, no exaggeration. Reading Cosmopolitan for almost a decade must have had a finger in that… Even when she was away on holidays, she would not say it to the bosses, and I would be running her account and doing her tasks.
Lately, for this blog, I am used to writing on blogging, SEO, clients, and some more personal topics such as health, nutrition, etc.
Not to babble any more on the inspiration, what I want you to remember for this point is that inspiration is all – once you know what you want to say, the words will simply start pouring, and before you know it you will be producing entire books!
Subheadings / dividing chunks of text into subsections
When I discussed the ways to rank good on Google against all SEO odds, I mentioned using headings tags. While H1 is heading 1, H2 is actually a subheading and is a subordinate to H1. Same way, H3 is subordinate to H2, and so on.
But these subheadings I now refer to may, but do not have to, be the same ones I discussed in the previous SEO articles. In fact, what these subheadings now refer to is the division of large chunks of text into subsection. It goes without saying that long paragraphs are a big no-no when it comes to SEO writing, thus having subheadings even before you have your article is an excellent way to organise your ideas and thoughts into sub themes and to have a skeleton to guide you through the writing process.
To illustrate with the pregnancy stages article, my H1 was the title of the article, my H2s were the trimesters, and my H3s were the individual ultrasound scans available in each trimester. That way I forced myself into writing about single scans and not mixing information up, or going longer than necessary on each scan. It also gave me clear guidelines on what the article was about, so filling the rest of the article with text was now the easiest – and shortest – task, compared to all others prior to it.
Intro to each subsection
Several months ago, I started reading a blog written by a marketing expert. What I instantly noticed about her writing was that she had a short introduction into each subsection of her articles. Sometimes it would be a further elaboration of the title above it, or a personal story, or an anecdote, a saying, something was always there.
And, to be honest, I am glad I acquired it from her. It helped me become a more productive writer and it smoothened the cohesion of my pieces.
Of course, I still have to emphasize the importance of diving different pieces of information in an article into paragraphs. That way your readers get a glimpse into the sections by reading the first sentence of each paragraph only. Although I do not understand how can anyone read anything that way, because I cannot do it, such organisation is particularly useful to those who are unsure of whether to read your piece or not. Make it easier for your readers – they will be grateful for it!
If you are writing for a client, it is difficult having a perspective – after all, your personal beliefs may differ compared to what you are expected to write. Or, you may not even have a perspective and feel completely indifferent to what you are supposed to say.
In all these cases, the problem is evident – if you’ve got nothing to say, your audience will feel it. Passion peeks through your words, and even faking it by picking the right words, will only have temporary effect.
However, my general rule of thumb would be not to pretend you know something just for the sake of convincing your readers. It is even better personalising the piece, admitting you are not an expert on the topic and still keep your point of view. In fact, one company I wrote for required us to write from a personal perspective, as if explaining things to a friend, hence also avoiding superfluous wordiness and false bureaucratic style. A win-win situation for all!
Personal examples and illustrations
For now, my final piece of advice would be to illustrate whatever you write with your own examples and personal experience. After all, in this piece, I have so far reached a goal I thought to be impossible just an hour ago, by analysing one and the same article I wrote for a client, further illustrating everything with other personal information.
That is why I now have 2900+ piece, and I am quite sure I was not writing it for more than 2 hours. My notes for it included just seven bullets, which I transferred into sub titles, but I also added two pages of personal experience with writing during the last two decades.
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And here it is, my 3000 words piece on productivity, made of my notes of 52 words only, supported with everything I have written in it.
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It is not that difficult now, is it? How about you? Are you willing to try it yourself? Have you got any tips or tricks? I would be more than glad to read them in the comments section below, so feel free to share!