The 7 Most Common Mistakes of New Medium Writers
Some of the best-selling authors can barely write a blog post. Writing non-fiction books is a different job, totally estranged from the internet world. Books are longer projects with different climax points and different overall message. Internet content is often punchy, attention-grabbing, and offers express value.
Books are everything but punchy. Titles are sometimes so artistic that one word is more than enough for the whole story, and the delivery comes across 300 pages of words. Sure, you’re getting more knowledge from a good book, but you’re not reading books on the internet.
Tim Denning and James Altucher
Recently, Tim Denning offered to help James Altucher with his Medium posts. Tim is a top-notch blogger, and James is The Wall Street Journal’s best-seller with 18 book titles to his name. Medium is the crime scene where you can really showcase the difference between the two. Both Tim and James regularly post on Medium. While James Altucher has 3x Tim’s following, he probably has 50x fewer Medium readers than Tim.
James Altucher is busy running 30 companies on the side. However, he can barely collect a few hundred claps on his Medium stories. Altucher’s army of 160k followers doesn’t seem to help the cause. Readers are not getting excited over lazy headlines even if you are a business celebrity. On the flip side, Tim is one of the top Medium earners and best content writers.
Tim Denning is not the best-selling author (maybe not yet,) the same way James Altucher is not a good Medium blogger. You see, even if you’re already a pro somewhere else, you can bomb on Medium. I too made some mistakes early on, but then I learned to correct them.
Here are the seven most common mistakes new Medium writers make and how to fix them.
1. Lack of Research
Medium beginnings are confusing. New Medium writers come here with a few first-hand experience stories, and once that’s depleted they start making things up. I was no better at first. The only difference was that my second story landed in The Startup. The story was about Viagra’s business history and what we could learn from it.
The Viagra story had 300+ views on the first day, was published in the largest Medium publication and it was only the second story I ever wrote. Research made all the difference because the following stories flopped. I tried to write them solely out of my head.
2. Poor Choice of Headlines
I’ve talked about the difference between titles and headlines. Medium and the blogosphere are not suitable for book-stye titles. Writing a one-word headline like “Elements” for your Medium gardening story is not doing your reader any favors.
Book titles are a different story. But we’re focusing on blogs here. Good blog headlines effectively communicate the value of your story to the scrolling reader. One and two-word headlines can hardly communicate value to an internet reader. You can find gazillion headline formulas on Better Marketing, and any formula can help you create a better headline than a one-word title.
3. Lazy Adjustment to Web and Screen Reading
The screen technology has come a long way, but your eyes are still struggling with screen time. While on-screen, we are:
- Reading slower
- Comprehending less
- Harder to remember later on
- Investing more mental resources
While you can read full-page paragraphs without much hassle on paper, reading text blocks on a bright screen is probably hurting your brain. More and more readers are triggered by text-blocks, refusing to read the story if it’s not formatted well. You can adjust your story for the internet with bullet points, headings, and subheadings. Try to make your format feel dynamic, without overdoing it.
4. Zero Authority
I sounded like a “Mighty Seer of Neverland” too many times in my writing. I offered unfounded advice and life lessons that mostly sounded cool in my head. You know the “how to be successful” blueprint stories where success is the self-sufficient end goal? These success stories don’t get reads for a couple of good reasons.
- The author doesn’t know anything about success
- Success is the byproduct of doing something awesome for others
The first point is important for Medium. The author has no authority with the topic. People don’t listen to advice just because it’s advice. Why is someone reading Tim Denning’s stories on finance?
Tim’s finance stories are interesting because he comes from a background in banking and he has been investing in the stock market for decades. Why can I give you writing advice on Medium? Because I’ve written, edited, and published more than 600 articles this year. Medium thinks I’m a top writer in writing, so there is that too.
Your authority has to come from a tangible place. If you don’t have authority in the topic you’re writing about, then you can cite research to fill in the gaps.
5. Pushy Advice Without a Story
Sharing dry stories is not reserved only for new writers. I closed Medium too many times because I grew bored by the stale advice delivered without a story. You can offer the world-changing insights on how AI technology might hijack our brains in the near future, and find no readers. People might find it boring if you don’t offer examples, anecdotes, and historical events to support your argument.
Imagine if I told this story without Tim Denning and James Altucher. Horrible, right? Try to put your story within a bigger context, and connect the dots with real-life events and people.
6. Lack of Compassion and Empathy
Compassion and empathy are the best weapons in the writers' arsenal. You’re probably writing to help someone that you don’t even know. Medium is a place full of stories that aim to change the lives of people.
Compassion and empathy are often developed through months of reading, writing, and interacting with your tribe. Try to understand before you judge with your writing, and you might reach more people that are willing to listen.
7. Writing for the Writer
Readers are not here to clap for you. Your audience comes because your content makes them feel special.
“The reader doesn’t turn the page because of a hunger to applaud.” — Don Murray
When you have your reader in mind you’re not offering the best advice, you’re offering the actionable steps and easy to follow guides. You’re not using jargon and complex words that serve no purpose except to make the writer feels like he knows the dictionary by heart. Writing for the reader is about helping others with your ideas and work.
The blogosphere is an attention game. We’re all competing for readers’ attention. And the internet is overrun by content. You’re not having it easy.
I assumed I was a good writer before I even knew I could write. I can’t tell you why is that, and why people assume they know something they don’t, but I can tell you that since I started listening, learning, and constantly publishing content, my writing has improved, and so can yours.