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Helpful hints for writing articles

An interesting question was recently asked of me in one of the Marketing Challenge's Private Site discussion forums by Yasser Masood, the owner and webmaster of http://www.computerarticles.com/.

He asked, "I agree with the idea of submitting articles [in order to get] a lot of targeted visitors to a site, however, I was wondering, 'What keeps Michel Fortin writing?' I mean, Michel, what is your 3, 5 or 7 point formula to get an article on paper? What are [some of the specific] steps you follow?"

Here's my answer. I'm subscribed to a ton of ezines. A lot of them and their respective URLs were recently published in another article, "Sources and Resources" (see http://SuccessDoctor.com/articles/article66.htm).

As an "expert" (if I dare call myself that) in my field, I must keep abreast of my industry -- so should you. But the wonderful byproduct is that something I've read will stir a few ideas in my mind about something worth writing.

The gazillion of ezines to which I'm subscribed are filtered in my email reader into folders for later reading. What I do, however, is filter such articles for keywords that I decide, in advance, about which I feel there's a need to write.

Also, copies of all the issues I receive are filtered into a master folder (i.e., the filtered email is moved into its appropriate folder for later reading and a copy is also placed into this master folder, both simultaneously -- most email filters or rules do this ). In my master folder, I do a text-based search for certain keywords (e.g., topics, ideas, events, etc) about which I can write.

Then, I create an outline -- a skeleton article, if you will. To do this, I write down keywords or keyphrases, in point form, representing future paragraphs and the subjects I'd like to cover in those paragraphs. Then, I just write.

I temporarily put my "critical editor" hat aside and I just keep writing, non-stop. I don't even stop to read what I've written. I just write! Once done, I stop, read again and edit for style and grammar -- of course, with the kind help of my word processor's spellchecker. Sometimes I'll take whole sentences out and add new ones in. I'll rewrite passages I feel aren't clear. I'll cut and paste some paragraphs where I feel they belong best. And then bingo: The final product.

As for the frequency, I write all the time. What I often do is prepare skeleton articles in advance and save them for future use. (The neat thing is that I can create new "temporary" filters. Ezines are filtered into temporary folders in order to research more information on the topics I'd like to cover).

I use Microsoft's Outlook 2000 for my email. One of its neat features is that It has an internal notepad function with which I can jot down URLs and specific data pertaining to articles. If you don't use Outlook for your email, there are several freeware desktop note-making applications on the web, such as notes software from 3M (the makers of Post-It Notes) at http://www.post-it.com/.

I also have with me, most of the time, a small tape recorder or notepad (a cellular phone and Palm Pilot are also good for taking notes). I record some thoughts that pop into my head from time to time. I'll give you an example: I'm driving to a client. While in my car, I listen to the news. Then all of sudden, bang! An idea hits me. I'll record it immediately and use that as a basis for an article -- or for that week's Chronicles' editorial, for example.

In terms of proofreading, what I do, when I have a chance, is have my articles read by friends or associates. But the best method, I've found, is to read the article slowly, to myself, out loud ... Really! If I notice that my speech slurred or fumbled at some point in the article, or that a passage just didn't sound right, then I know that something was poorly written and I'll rewrite it for clarity.

I've used dictation software before but I don't use it normally. I'd like to do so, however. As a professional speaker, I talk a lot <grin>. And this would be perfect since I record much of my thoughts on my mini-tape recorder anyway.

But again, my commonest method is the use of skeleton articles -- in other words, writing keywords in point form and then expanding those keywords into full paragraphs. Since the keywords or keyphrases are based on specific topics, the flow seems natural and there is cohesiveness within the article.

What I do is follow the three major steps:

  1. Introduction
  2. Body (Content)
  3. Conclusion

Introduction: I'll start with something that announces the topic, prepares the reader and gently takes them into the body of the article -- something that "tickles" them in order to pull them into the article. (Creating headlines is last.)

Body (Content): Then I prepare the core components of the article (usually, it will be three main points, expanded -- I often use headings for these three core components). Often, I resort to the use of adverbs as bases for expanding on the topics -- my "five honest serving men," as Brian Tracy once said, "which are who, what, why, where and when."

Conclusion: It's a recap or summary of the article, with a final word -- like the "moral of a story" or a "bottom-line," offering an actionable step, a question upon which to ponder or a cliffhanger (maybe leading to another article).

In terms of software, I use a great yet plain text editor called "TextPad" (see http://www.textpad.com/). It's like Notepad but on steroids. It has a spellchecking feature with a lot of macros, file managing functions, integrated character maps, etc. It also has a hard-break feature so that I can split-wrap my articles at 65 characters -- which is the norm.

Finally, I regularly spend 18 to 20 hours a day on my computer and on the web ... Like I said, I write a lot. But I also read a lot -- I'm a virtual sponge. You know, some people call me "expert" or "guru." In reality, I feel that I'm only knowledgeable about my field. I read intensely and I scan a lot too. I usually receive about 2000 emails a day (I'm not kidding) -- and two-thirds of which are ezines in the area of sales, marketing, Internet marketing and ecommerce.

Also, creativity is known to be one of my biggest talents -- as a marketing consultant and being in the advertising industry, creativity is a must. But in terms of writing articles, it's as necessary as oxygen. I always like to write about either what hasn't been written or something that's been scarcely written. (You know as I do that the web is filled of recycled, rehashed content.)

About the author
Michel Fortin is a direct response copywriter and consultant dedicated to turning sales messages into powerful magnets. Get a free copy of his book, "The 10 Commandments of Power Positioning," when you subscribe to his free monthly ezine, "The Profit Pill." See http://SuccessDoctor.com/ now!

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