But what do I write?
It is a common conundrum. In my last blog I spoke about how to get going and to get into the discipline of writing and that doing something (anything) every day is the cornerstone for building your writing muscle.
Having tackled ‘how’ the question which often comes wining my way is “What do I write about?”
To answer what? start with who?
All writing – be it fiction or non-fiction, long, short or tall – you always start in the same place.
In fact, when it comes to giving advice about writing it is the same first placethat I always begin.
Who is your audience?
Get to know them before you do anything else.
Ask yourself who you are writing for. Is it a customer? A friend? A colleague?
And then consider what they are going to be interested in. You see, it is a human instinct (going right back into primal times) for everyone to be looking for what is of benefit to them in any situation. And the written word is no different.
Why should I read this?
By understanding what is of most interest to them and leading with what is of most interest to them.
Fiction is a great case in point – the desire of every reader is ‘entertain me!’ They want to know quickly what the book is about and whther it is for them. Take this classic case in point:
“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”
No prizes for spotting the source – it is one of the best known openings in classical literature.
And, you know what? You are going to know within 10 seconds of opening Pride and Predjudice if it is for you. If you are looking for a bit of romance and some social comedy, there it all is in that very first line. Jane Austin knew her stuff (or maybe she read my blogs!!!).
The nature of the writing is immaterial
The same principle applies in every form of writing.
- Writing a business report? Start with your most compelling argument (Barbara Minto calls it the Governing thought)
- Giving a 60 second elevator pitch? Start with how you can help (not your name – no one will remember it unless they have a good reason to make a mental note)
- Working up your CV? Put relevant skills front and centre. HoIding them down on page 3 behind the address and ancient qualifications simply makes it hard for the poor screening team to work out why to call you for interview.
It is the golden rule of all writing. Know your audience and lead with something that is on their mind. Once you have their attention you can tell them anything else you want them to remember.
You mission, should you choose to accept it
For business people, writing for a website or blog, working out what is on the mind of the customer is the easiest task of them all. And that is your task for this week – with great thanks to Sarah Arrow for this genius idea:
Write down a list of the questions you are most frequently asked by prospects and customers.
If they ask the question it must be on their mind and that gives you all the clues you need to develop your golden content.