The blank page may be a terrifying thing for a writer to face. But for those of us who strive to create engaging and informative online content, writing articles that don’t garner any notice can be the epitome of failure. In a format where a single tap can let users flick your content off their screen as they turn to the next article, how can you catch a reader’s attention and write successful, meaningful content?
Maximize your opening
Some of the greatest works in literature open with memorable lines. Dickens speaks to all of us living through the best and worst of times; any family law attorney can attest to how unhappy families, as Tolstoy says, are unhappy in their own unique ways. Yet trying to imitate these classics with online writing reflects a lack of understanding of the medium itself. People read books at their leisure, for more mindful enjoyment; the expectation for online articles is of a few minutes’ consumption at most. Online users parse through multiple feeds with ease and dismiss most articles if the first two seconds don’t promise anything informative or entertaining. So, make the most of your opening because that’s the only part that a majority of your audience is likely to read. See to it that you’re getting the attention of your target audience and leading them to read the rest of the article.
Read and research
Many first-time writers think that creating meaningful content is an easy task. After all, the internet gives you access to the biggest library in existence; how hard can it be to fill out an article when a few clicks can pull up several pages’ worth of information? In practice, it’s not that simple. Setting aside the obvious risks of plagiarism, merely regurgitating content from elsewhere on the web gets boring quickly. Your readers might likely have already come across those sources you used, plus you risk losing the chance to develop your writing style and add real substance to your content. Accept that good writing takes hard work, even if it’s only for online articles. Learn the skill of doing extensive research and verifying reputable online sources so that your work can take a unique form and keep readers engaged.
Sharpen your editing skills
Too often, aspiring online writers approach their articles by focusing solely on content—they leave out the editing part. Unlike more established publication formats such as journals and newspapers where writers have traditionally worked with editors (and continue to do so), in the digital realm, such practices are far from universal. If you don’t have an editor, that simply means the responsibility of good editing falls upon your shoulders. This means taking a step back from what you’ve just written, proofreading for basic mistakes, paring it down for simplicity, and seeing if it all makes sense.
You’ll also want to optimize what you’ve written for your audience—was it really a good idea to include that personal detail? Does this article fit in cohesively with the rest of your content for this blog or website? Embrace the editing aspect of writing, and you’ll turn more successful pieces each time.
Good writing requires an array of other skills you can pick up in school, at workshops, or by imitating your favorite writers. But for the specific medium of online content, these practices will help you build a readership with high-quality articles.