How do you write what sells? If you write for money, you need to know that your material is commercial, so let’s look at some writing tips which will help.
If you’re writing fiction, genre tells you what sells. Write what’s selling now. Romance fiction has sold for centuries. It will continue to sell as long as humans exist. In everything you write, you need to give people what they want. However, that’s only half the story.
Questions like “how do I know it will sell” reveal a subtext of uncertainty brought on by too much misguided thinking. As commercial writers, we need to learn how to compartmentalize, and just get it done.
So, on with our tips…
1. Give Them What They Want.
In our article on copywriting skills, we talked about WIIFM (What’s In It For Me). In commercial writing, that’s always your primary concern: giving people what they want.
If you don’t have complete control – as you do when you’re blogging on your own blog – that can be a real challenge.
Consider that when you’re freelancing, you have two audiences you need to keep happy: firstly, your client, and secondly, his audience. If you’re writing a book for a publisher, you’ve got to give your editor what she wants, as well as your readers.
Keeping everyone happy can drive you demented. That’s the primary reason I LOVE self-publishing: fewer people to drive you crazy. 🙂 Consider that when you’re contracted by a publisher, the number of people you need to please goes up: you’ve got your agent, your editor, the publisher’s sales department… and finally, heaven help you, your readers.
Ideally, you’ll focus on your readers, or customers, or end-users, depending on whatever you’re writing. Decide that whatever happens, you’re on the side of the people who count most. Very occasionally, you’ll run into a client who doesn’t understand his own audience. Then you’ve got a choice. You can keep the client happy and write junk, or you can reason with the client and write for the real audience.
In summary: when you’re writing to sell, you start with WIIFM.
Action Tip: Look at Your Current Project. Describe Your Audience.
I’ve been a copywriter for so many years that I automatically consider the audience in everything I write. However, I still write a summary of the audience when I start a project. It’s all to easy for your writing to wander off on tangents. Write a description of the audience for your current project in 50 words.
2. Compartmentalize: Manage Your Brain.
Write what you’re writing when you’re writing it. Your subconscious mind will keep “working” on your current projects when you’re working your day job, or are picking the kids up from school. It’s impossible to write commercially until you learn to compartmentalize. Over time, this becomes natural. You think about a client project, or your series of short stories when it’s time to write; you forget about them, at least consciously, the rest of the time.
We’ve discussed strategies like free writing and getting a timer before. They help you to compartmentalize.
Action Tip: Schedule All Your Writing.
Apps like Todoist and Evernote help me to manage my writing. If something is on my schedule, it gets done. Schedule everything, and when it’s time to write, write.
3. Finish! Perfection Is a Myth. Get It Done.
You can’t sell something until you’ve completed it. So, get into the habit of completing everything you write. In every project, you’ll go through a period of hating it. You think that your writing is absolute crap. Believe it or not, that’s normal. Writers are horrible judges of their own writing, and if you’re not writing crap in your first draft, you’re doing it wrong.
Action Tip: Compartmentalize, and the Infection of Perfectionism Will Fade Away.
Write. Forget judgments. Write crap, and then fix it. Then call it done. Perfectionism is a mix of fear and ego. Follow your schedule, and finish your writing tasks – finishing what you start is a habit, more than anything else. It’s an essential habit for creating salable stuff.
So, there you have it: three writing tips for creating salable stuff. Start creating. 🙂
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Updated: November 29, 2016