Tips and Tricks for Increasing Your Success as a Writer
A few days ago, I saw a blog post in The SA Incubator (Scientific American Blog Network) that gave practical advice from a science writer, to science writers, on breaking into the field using your blog and social media.
I’ve found myself thinking a lot about this topic lately, especially since creating business cards and calling myself a freelance science writer, with few clips to justify my classification.
I saw this piece of advice from an experienced writer: “Just call yourself a writer, and start writing.”
That’s what I did.
Maybe that’s what you did, too.
If so, how do you use your blog and social media to break into the field of (science) writing? Here, I’ve pieced together some tips for writers, some of which are specifically geared towards science writers. I hope many of you will find this post valuable, regardless.
Some writers come up through journalism; major in journalism in college, secure several internships at newspapers or other outlets, and establish a portfolio long before it’s time to begin their career.
Others study the field they want to write about; science writers obtain advanced degrees in a scientific field, business writers major in business, etc. Within this group, there exists variation. Some know they want to write, others find that they aren’t enjoying their career choice, but love the subject matter.
Of course, there is a spectrum, and most writers fall somewhere in the middle.
In my opinion, more and more science writers are obtaining science degrees, and then beginning to write. For one thing, it offers an alternative career path to research.
For those that go this route, MIT, Boston College, and University of California, Santa Cruz offer a one-year masters degree in science writing. There are others out there, although these are perhaps the most well-known.
The Elusive Concept of “Success”
Once on one of the above trajectories, how does one find success? In some senses, it’s easier to write in our era. Enter, the Internet. For those of you who blog on HubPages, it’s as easy as clicking “Publish”.
But is this a measure of “success”? It depends on the purpose of your blog, if you blog. For many writers, success is measured by readership.
With a combination of luck and skill, your blog could become an empire…
Did you know that Huffington Post began as someone’s personal blog?
You can also join a group blog; those get lots of traffic. In addition to your own blog, look for opportunities to post as a guest on established blogs about your topic.
From Me to You
How do you increase your readership? Here are some tips:
- Write often. Some sources suggest everyday, but it’s up to you to get into a rhythm. If not everyday, decide to write twice a week, or set goals for yourself. Your posts don’t have to be long, just relevant to your readers. HubPages does a great job of recommending lengths, and setting goals for you while you're composing your post. Book reviews are relatively simple, and it saves you having to some up with the content for your piece. In fact, start with your favorite book, one you’ve already read twice.
- Watch your titles. When you do find good content, use Google AdWords to figure out what is being searched on the topic, and spin your story to include a title with some of those key words. For example, my post on blood a few days ago was titled “What are you donating when you donate blood?”, because the word “blood” is most often searched in the context of blood donations, according to Google AdWords. Although my post was mostly informative as to the content of blood, I spun it to include those keywords.
- Follow other bloggers, and comment on their blogs. This is my personal take; I try to make sure that I follow one person a day, and comment on three hubs. Other writers appreciate the comments and the followership, and will often return the favor.
- Promote, promote promote! This is where a working knowledge of social media really helps; I tweet my post, link it to Facebook with a hook in my status update, post it as my status on both LinkedIn and Google Plus, and start discussions in groups on LinkedIn (these are great for promoting your writing! I suggest joining a topical group, related to what you like to write about, or a blogging group.)
How else do I come up with content?
I’m still struggling with this myself, but if you’re writing elsewhere, your blog doesn’t need to have novel content, like a news source. In fact, set up a Google Alert with keywords relating to your writing interests; for example, I have a Google Alert set up to email me when a news source publishes anything related to infectious diseases.
One Last Piece of Advice
As you write, remember to dig into the meat of an issue, idea, or character, leaving no stone unturned, digesting it for the reader and returning to them only the most interesting, relevant, and/or privileged information that will fit within your word count.