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  1. #1
    SitePoint Evangelist old_expat's Avatar
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    Write What You Know

    Write What You Know

    Okay, I'm not after a writing gig .. unless J.K. Rowling might be looking for a co-author for her next series. But I have some ideas about writing for the web.

    In quite a few articles on writing, I've read that a good content writer can produce good articles on any non-technical subject. One problem with that concept is that very few subjects are completely non-technical.

    During my web surfing I see quite a lot of content that is obviously written from researching a subject rather than from long-term or expanded knowledge of a subject. To me, those pieces just don't sound very authoritative. And we all want authority sites don't we.

    So how does a good content writer find work?

    One way is to select an area or niche and become an expert. Okay, maybe not an expert, but gain a comfort level with the subject. Extensive reading of diverse sub-topics of a discipline helps. And if you pay attention, you can improve your grammar at the same time.

    If you already have an area of expertise, hone it and expand it. Look for closely related niches and add those you your portfolio.

    Pay attention to narrative voice and the writing style that fits the subject. Reinventing literary wheels can occasionally produce gems, but will more than likely produce groans. Learn the lingo. I don't mean just look up the words. Learn the nuances and subtle usages. It's actually embarrassing to read an article by an author who is trying to write beyond the comfort level of their vocabulary.

    A writer coming from the non-technical side of a subject, and has learned a subject well, has one distinct advantage. That advantage is in presenting the subject in a manner that is simple enough for laymen to understand.

    Once you have reached a comfort zone with a subject, market your abilities directly to sites in that sector. Why? Easier assignments, better productivity and more money.

    copyright claimed by author (don't steal my hard work)

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by old_expat View Post
    Pay attention to narrative voice and the writing style that fits the subject.
    It can be unintentionally funny when someone doesn't do this. Like writing in a chirpy, cheerful sort of way when giving advice on how to pick a coffin...

  3. #3
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    Lol, I think thats funny.

    Great points expat.

    One thing that I have found to work well is to interview those that are in the
    know on certian subjects.

    For example: I once interviewed a Weight Watchers dietician to get the
    content for a site I ran on weight watchers. After the site was done I asked
    her to review the site and make sure the information was good.

    After the site was right I sold it for a small profit.

    Aaron
    Get Unlimited Traffic To Your Content Site
    <<Content Revolution>>

  4. #4
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    Sometimes being new in a field can really help. When you know a lot about a field, it's hard to keep your own opinions out of your article. Years ago I was writing for Inside Kung Fu and I had no knowledge of martial arts. That meant I had to get in depth with the people I was interviewing and in turn I got some great quotes and opinions that I might has missed out on.

    Now the opposite of that is going in without doing your homework and that's never good. I can't tell you how many times I've stood next to another journalist who asks a busy actor, "so have you made any other movies?" Know enough so you don't embarrass yourself.

  5. #5
    SitePoint Evangelist old_expat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by aaronsnider View Post
    One thing that I have found to work well is to interview those that are in the
    know on certian subjects.

    For example: I once interviewed a Weight Watchers dietician to get the
    content for a site I ran on weight watchers. After the site was done I asked
    her to review the site and make sure the information was good.

    After the site was right I sold it for a small profit.

    Aaron
    I wish I knew more about interviewing, because I think interviews are a good way to get a tight focus on a subject. Also a way to get a POV that I may not even have been considering.

    In reality, one good interview might spawn several sub-topics and related topics.

    I guess that one key is in getting the person to trust you, and another would be in asking the right question .. and knowing what not to ask.

    I did one "sort of" interview that generated an article for my expat site. It turned out very well because the subject was very open. The process was a bit disjointed because it started out as a PM in a forum.

    Basically, everything happened in reverse. The background came last in the interview process. But stitching it back together in the right order was pretty simple.

    I wonder if there are any real interview experts here? If so, maybe they can start a thread on interviews as a means of generating content.

  6. #6
    Word Painter silver trophy Shyflower's Avatar
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    Interviewing is also a problem I have in writing good content. I'm never sure what to ask and more afraid that I'll forget to ask something extremely important. I guess that's where the "shy" part of shyflower comes in.

    On writing what you know—
    Professional writers can pick a niche, but more often we are called upon to write about a variety of topics, many of them out of our scope of interest. That doesn't mean they should refuse the work. A good writer can write about near anything if they are willing to spend the time learning, through research, what they need to know to write the article.

    Off Topic:

    Great thread old_expat!
    Linda Jenkinson
    "Say what you mean. Mean what you say. But don't say it mean." ~Unknown

  7. #7
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    If you want to do an effective interview, a good place to start is your normal
    keyword research. see what people are looking for on the net. Once you
    know what people want to know about a certian topic integrate those
    questions into your interview.

    Then when interviewing your subject ask them what questions they are often
    asked, this way you dig into what people that are actively involved in what
    your reporting on are needing to know after they are past the initial "I'm
    kinda interested" phase. the menu for your site could almost be a FAQ using
    the questions you researched and the questions your subject suggested.

    The most important thing when interviewing someone is to keep it fun. if the
    person your interviewing is having fun they will often volunteer information you
    or her may not have thought to ask or offer.

    Thats what I would do.
    Aaron
    Get Unlimited Traffic To Your Content Site
    <<Content Revolution>>

  8. #8
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    Great post, really informative. Thanks for sharing.


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