A 10-step Checklist for Creating Killer Content

This is one of a series of essays originally published in book form as The Content Marketing Hurricane. If you’re interested in a well-rounded content marketing strategy designed specifically for SMBs and solopreneurs, here’s a table of contents to the whole series.

THINK ABOUT YOUR AUDIENCE

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No matter how many pieces of content you’ve created, or how good you think you are at doing so, I would advise you to always take the time to think about your target audience before creating another piece.

You see, it’s very easy to slowly but surely stop talking to your audience and start talking to yourself. After all, you’re the person you know best, and therefore, you’re the easiest person to speak to.

And creating content for yourself is going to do about as much good as talking to yourself would.

In an effort to assist American small business owners to improve their communications, the National Criminal Justice Reference Department of the Federal Government put together a “Communications Toolkit” that listed “Know exactly who your audience is and look at everything from that group’s point of view” as Principle #1 in their list of social marketing principles.

There honestly aren’t many areas in which I can truthfully say I agree with the government, but this is one of them:

It is crucial that you understand who your target audience is and then look at the world from their point of view. You have to have an intimate understanding of the people you are trying to reach in order to motivate them to take action.

This just makes sense from a content marketing standpoint.

If you don’t have a solid picture in your mind of who your target audience is, you’re not likely to speak to them in any meaningful way as you create and distribute your content.

Don’t waste your time.

Instead, before you sit down to write or flip on the camera, ask yourself these questions:

What do they already know?

This question speaks to the knowledge level your target audience is already at when they begin to consume the content you’re creating.

It will help you determine how much background explanation may be necessary, how deep you can delve into the topic at hand, and what sort of terminology you can and can’t freely use.

It also helps you to get a feel for what they expect from your content.

With this information at your fingertips, you can begin to determine where the gaps are in your audience’s understanding, and fill those gaps with your content.

What do they care about?

There may be plenty that they don’t already know about the topic you want to discuss. But if they really don’t care to learn about it, you have two choices: you can either discuss some truly compelling reasons why they should care, or you can scrap the idea and choose something that your audience will actually want to consume.

Without taking this into consideration, you run the risk of alienating your audience, and eventually losing them completely.

In content marketing, hatred is not the opposite of love.

Boredom is.

What pain points do they suffer?

This is sales terminology, but it applies equally well to content marketing.

Generally, people are going to be interested in relieving their pain — whether physical or metaphorical. If you can determine what makes your audience angry, frustrated, scared, stressed out, miserable, exhausted, guilty, envious, insecure or confused, then you know what’s going to interest them.

The next logical step is to create content that will in some way relieve that pain, whether you’re offering a legitimate solution to a problem, a better understanding of the problem and how it affects them, or just a means of forgetting about it for a few minutes.

An important caveat, though: Don’t assume you know your audience’s pain. Do the research, ask the questions, learn from them. Few things will piss someone off quicker than being left behind while you jump to conclusions.

What questions do they have?

Directly related to the audience’s pain points is the list of questions they likely have about your product, service, or topic.

In many cases, these questions will seem elementary and silly to you, but that’s because you’re immersed in your topic day in and day out. To the casual reader, something that’s second nature to you could be a revelation.

If you have access to customer service representatives that work with your target audience, you have a prime source for content topics because they’re being asked questions all day every day.

But even if you’re on your own, just thinking logically about your topic from the viewpoint of someone with little or no knowledge should help you generate a long list of legitimate questions one or more members of your target audience likely has rolling around in their mind.

What do you want them to do when they’re done?

This helps you to consider where your content will reside along the conversion funnel you’ve set up as part of your overarching business strategy.

One of the dumbest and most costly mistakes content marketers make is to finish a fantastic piece of content and send it out into the world without including a clear call to action.

Believe me, no matter how beautifully written or produced, and no matter how clever or insightful your content is, if your audience doesn’t know what to do with it, they’ll do absolutely nothing.

Is the piece purely informational? Then perhaps the only goal is to interest them enough to click through to a different article or to learn more about you as a content provider.

Is this a lead generation piece? Then you’re going to need to include a call-to-action that will result in your obtaining their contact information.

Is this a sales letter? Then ultimately, a converted sale is the goal and your content needs to reflect that so the audience knows what you want them to do next.

Targeting 101

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The very best archer in the world is going to miss 100% of the time if he can’t see the target.

That seems embarrassingly simple, but it’s true.

If you’re going to “hit” your target audience, you have to see them very clearly so you can accurately line up your shot.

So, let’s discuss some details regarding identifying and targeting your audience:

Demographics

One way to target specific groups or individuals within those groups is by means of demographics.

Demographics refer to grouping people by age, sex, nationality, level of education, where they live, where they work, etc.

The use of demographic information to make general decisions about people might rub some the wrong way. It’s not politically correct.

But from a marketing standpoint, it’s just common sense.

Upper middle class white males aged 55–65 living in Florida are likely interested in different products and services than poor Asian females aged 12–15 living in Vietnam.

From a content marketing standpoint, the same potential differences apply to what information the target demographic(s) would be interested in consuming, how promotional messages should be approached, and how likely successful conversion is.

Of course, collecting demographic information is an inherently touchy situation.

You can always include basic demographic information as part of any sign-up form you include on your website. But, the more you ask for, the less people are going to fill out your form, so this could be self-defeatist.

Privacy laws and common decency prevent you from demanding demographic information from anyone, so marketers need to be creative in how they obtain the limited demographics at their disposal.

The most common and effective method involves offering free content in exchange for information, such as a white paper in exchange for contact information. Once you have an individual’s e-mail address, you can introduce additional non-prying surveys to the e-mail mix to gain further demographic details from your list.

Of course, this method requires that you make some educated guesses as to what initial content will appeal to your target audience in order to write that first white paper.

You may very well need to experiment with topics and offers until you find your target audience coming to you, then begin building your strategy more completely around them.

Psychographics

Now psychographics are a little tougher to pin down in concrete terms, but they’re ironically easier to learn from the way people interact with your content.

They’re not qualities you can see on the outside, or on a balance sheet. They have to do with how we think.

Personality, attitude, values, interests and lifestyle are all areas covered by psychographic segmentation, and they’re definitely a tricky thing to work with.

But, just as is the case with demographics, while individuals will fall outside the bell curve, psychographic generalizations can be incredibly accurate and valuable for the majority.

While a group’s psychographic profile may not preclude an entire product or service as cleanly as broader demographic data can, it will have an even greater impact on how you craft your messages, how you tell your story, and how slowly (or not so slowly) you introduce your offer.

The Adzerk blog offered a fantastic example that shows how demographics and psychographics differ from a marketing perspective and how psychographics can help focus your targeting efforts more effectively:

As an example, consider athletic shoes — from a demographic point of view, a broad range of people are in the market for the product, from young to old, both men and women, for all kinds of reasons. From a psychographic perspective though, some customers might care most about performance, while others concern themselves with the fashion appeal of the product, while still others just want a particular brand as a status symbol. For a shoe company to maximize sales, it needs to understand these trends to design the right products, and talk about them the right way.

You need only look at major shoe retailers to see the model in action — endorsements from celebrity athletes for the performance crowd, options to customize the colors and materials for the fashion crowd, and rare, limited editions for the status conscious crowd. From an advertising perspective, the brand talks to one crowd very different than another, so the ads on ESPN are very different than on SneakerNews.com. There’s no doubt that shoe companies fully understand the demographic qualities of each customer base, but in many ways, the psychographic elements are what really drive the products, positioning, and sales.

Interestingly, demographics and psychographics work exceptionally well together because people in the same age group and/or living in the same area tend to develop similar attitudes about certain subjects, have shared the same cultural milestones, and are likely to view your content through a similar lens.

Of course, the last thing you want to do is make any unfounded assumptions about your audience based on some convergence of demographic and psychographic data.

These days, technology has bridged gaps that used to gape wide open between generations, genders, social and economic groups.

Give your audience the benefit of the doubt and let them tell you if you’re wrong.

Customer Personas

Combining demographic and psychographic information allows you to create a living, breathing, 3D image of your target audience (metaphorically speaking, of course.)

In the marketing world, this is called a customer persona (or buyer persona), and a well-crafted example is the Holy Grail of marketing departments everywhere.

Tony Zambito, the marketer who originally coined the phrase “buyer personas” explained their importance to content marketing in a recent article on his blog:

Although the buyer persona story consists of a few sentences, it breaks down the complex to a level of meaningful simplicity, which can often be missing in content creation. And, this is what we want. To enable sharpened focus on what we need to understand about buyers at a particular stage. Buyer Persona Stories offers a powerful technique for teams to get on the same page about buyers.

By developing customer personas that match the major groups that make up your target audience, you can create your content with a personal, conversational voice that speaks directly to that one person’s heart.

Although you and I know you’ll be distributing this content to potentially thousands of people, each one that consumes that piece of content (and that falls into the persona you crafted it for) will feel like it was made just for them.

#2 — PLAN AHEAD

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I can almost hear you now: “Plan ahead? It seems like we’ve been planning ahead for over 130 pages already!”

And you’re right, we have. I’m glad you’re sensing that pattern at this point.

But there’s still a little more planning needed here.

Remember, at this point, we’re not planning your strategy, or any other macro element of what you’re trying to accomplish. This is part of the content creation process.

We’re planning ahead for the next content piece.

Before you start hammering out a headline and lead paragraph, before you start scripting that killer video intro, you need to take some time to plan it out.

Ask yourself these important questions:

What is the position in the buying cycle/sales funnel?

Never divorce your marketing messages from the sales or buying cycle you’re working with.

While many people have jumped on the content marketing bandwagon when it comes to lead generation — feeding leads into the top of the funnel through search optimized content — there are dozens of content marketing tactics that work exceptionally well for all other points in the funnel too.

In an excellent article created by LEBSEO Design, the correlation between content and the different stages of the buying cycle was explained this way:

  1. Interest/Awareness — At this stage of the cycle, you’re aiming to earn permission to pitch yourself later on. Content Format Ideas: Blog posts, memes, entertaining video, guides, whitepapers, podcasts.
  2. Consideration / Establishing Preference — In the consideration stage, customers have identified a need and are actively seeking out potential solutions. Content Format Ideas: Targeted landing pages (with competitor comparisons), spec sheets, demo videos, tutorials, case studies, “about us” page/brand stories, testimonials, reviews, whitepapers, eBooks, informational events.
  3. Purchase / Decision — Having evaluated their options, the lead is ready to make a purchase decision. Content Format Ideas: Spec sheets, competitor analysis, demonstrations and tutorials, ROI calculators, direct response e-mails and landing pages, pricing information, reviews & testimonials, coupons and special offers.
  4. Evaluation and Repurchase — Your audience began as strangers, but at this stage they’ve become paying customers. The goal from here is to turn those customers into loyal customers and advocates. Content Format Ideas: Feedback forms and surveys, special offers, promotional deals, newsletters, blog posts, members-only events.

By effectively mapping your next piece of content to the stage of the buying cycle you’re hoping to cover, you can make your content creation faster and easier by narrowing your choices, and you can be sure to approach the piece in the right way.

What information does the audience need to move forward?

See, you’re leading the audience somewhere. You need to be a good guide and feed them the information they need to get where you want them to go.

If that’s heading toward a sale, then there’s a lot of information they’re going to need. You’ll need to establish credibility, explain all the reasons why your product or service is the best, and why it’s worth the price you’re asking, then you’ll need to ask for the sale.

If the content you’re creating is just intended as a small step (for instance, an educational piece intended to establish credibility) then the information requirement isn’t as high.

Always include every bit of information your audience needs to accomplish your purpose, and not a word more.

Why should they care what you say?

As with all advertising or marketing messages, you absolutely must take a step back from your own zeal and look at what you’re creating from the customer’s perspective.

Generally speaking, the average audience member approaches every one of the thousands of messages that comes at them throughout every day with the same basic attitude: “so what?”

If you don’t have a really good, well thought out answer to that question that you can provide within the first 3–5 seconds they’re previewing your content, you’ve lost them.

Here’s how Alyson Cravens of eCoast Sales explains it:

What’s in it for me? The content you create will speak to your potential prospects by answering that single question. If your content is egocentric, few people will be interested in learning more about your services, your brand or anything you want to promote.

Losing an otherwise qualified prospect over something so fixable… that’s just wrong.

What is the logical next step?

As noted above, you’re leading your audience somewhere. So what is it you want them to do next?

This is where you develop your call to action. And how important is a call to action?

Pratik Kanada at The App Entrepreneur explained it this way:

Once on your page, and after reading through your content, visitors are looking for somewhere to go next. Many a times, the website visitors leave the site only because they do not know the next step; there is lack of a clear call to action. They may be looking for more information, or maybe to subscribe to your newsletter or maybe even make a purchase! There are a number of possibilities and call to action buttons give the users a direction in which to proceed, a variety of options that they can pick from.
If you don’t include a direct request for the audience to do something, they’re going to consume your content, then move right along to the next message zooming toward their eyeballs and you’ll be forgotten within seconds.

So while you have them, make sure you tell them what to do next.

#3 — GET EXCITED

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It may sound strange to list “get excited” as one of the steps to creating killer copy and building your Content Marketing Hurricane, but think about it:

You’ve read enough in your life to know the difference between lively and dead copy. When a writer’s not excited about what he’s going to write, it comes through crystal-clear in the words he manages to wring out of his bored mind.

They lie there on the paper, not moving, their life force gone.

And after a while, they really start to stink.

Remember, previously we discussed Your Passion as one of the important Disparate Forces that helps build your Content Marketing Hurricane. You’ve done exercises to help narrow down your subject matter to something you’re passionate enough about to maintain excitement over the long haul.

There’s an important reason for that.

Without being able to honestly get excited and interested each and every time you sit down to create a piece of content, your entire storm is going to lose momentum.

So get excited about what you’re about to create. Think about the positive effects of communicating this information effectively to your audience:

  • Are they going to gain benefits from consuming your content?
  • Will they become more knowledgeable?
  • Wealthier?
  • Healthier?
  • Happier?
  • Or, will you benefit from sending out a spectacular blog post or white paper?
  • What new prospects will you locate?
  • What new sales will you generate?

Then get excited!

This is exciting stuff!

Yes, seriously. If you’re not excited, how can you expect your audience to be? Liquor is optional.

#4 — WRITE LIKE YOU SPEAK

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Now it’s time to get into the actual nitty-gritty of creating great content.

I’m going to be developing this section as simply and straightforwardly as I can because, frankly, there’s way too much potential information for me to realistically stuff into this book.

To maintain continuity, I’ll be discussing content creation from the standpoint of writing something because, with very few exceptions, some sort of scripting or outline is necessary even for non-written content.

Understand, however, that the basic principles discussed in the next few chapters apply equally well to creating videos, audio recordings, podcasts, and (with minor variations) visual content as well.

The first thing to consider is the manner in which you write your content. Your tone, and your unique voice.

“Write like you speak” is an age-old mantra among direct mail copywriters, but it translates equally well into nearly every other form of writing outside of some fiction.

It seems like a really simple tip to put into practice, but it’s not always as easy as it seems.

Why do you do it?

From a very young age, we are taught that when we write words down, they have to be perfect. Every grammar rule must be perfectly measured, every T crossed and every I dotted. We scored extra points for longer words, and got to learn very quickly how to write fancy enough to impress our English teachers.

The problem is, with very few exceptions, our intended reader is not our English teacher!

So living, breathing copy that really reaches the heart of our audience is going to sound far more like an informal conversation than a textbook essay. Even if the purpose is strictly informational, and the subject is potentially dry, if we write it the way we would discuss it sitting on the couch in our friend’s living room, we’ll make the words come alive for our reader.

How do you do it?

The easiest way to accomplish this (at least until it becomes second nature) is to make some brief notes about the points you want to cover in your content piece, perhaps in an outline form, then move away from the paper or keyboard and just review the outline.

Imagine you’ve been asked to speak to a small group about this subject and these are your notes.

Or, if that intimidates you, imagine your best friend asked you a question and these are the points that are going to make up your reply.

Then, simply talk it out.

Once you’ve spent a few minutes forming your verbal argument, you’ll start to get a sense of the kinds of words and transitional phrases you’re naturally using to make the points understandable and to keep the “conversation” flowing.

If you can anticipate questions that your audience may naturally have as you speak, all the better: these give you an opportunity to add clarifying information without overwhelming the piece by trying to stuff too much into it.

And if some humor weaves its way into the content because that’s your natural personality, so much the better. Few things draw an audience to you like a natural, funny voice.

When you’ve contemplated your verbal version of the content for a few minutes, return to the keyboard or paper and try to duplicate, as best you can, the exact words and phrasing you were using when you spoke.

It will probably be a little rough around the edges when you first get it all down on paper, but the rough draft you have to work with at that point will be far closer to your ideal final draft than the 10th grade English essay you were going to write.

A caveat: Now, this tip does need to be taken with a grain of salt.

For instance, if you tend to have a foul mouth, or a racy sense of humor, you’ll need to rein them in for the sake of decency and professionalism.

If the subject matter you’re discussing is particularly charged, controversial, or in some other way requires a higher level of decorum than your normal speaking manner may convey, you’ll want to keep that in mind as you draft and complete your content piece. (Remember, it’s still the audience and the goal of the content that finally determines its format and tone, this is just a guideline.)

But, as you’ve probably noticed throughout this book, a liberal sprinkling of contractions (you’ve, we’ll, etc.) makes the text far easier to read because it sounds less formal.

You may have also noticed that the text isn’t dumbed down at all, but it is written simply, without all the 50-cent words I used to impress my English teacher all those years ago!

And the result, hopefully, is that the theory and practical suggestions found in the book sound accessible and understandable. (At least, that’s my goal.)

It may take some practice, but eventually, writing like you speak will become second nature.

#5 — LIMIT OR ELIMINATE JARGON

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The next important step as you’re writing this piece of content is to avoid a trap many professionals-turned-content marketers fall into.

Every company, industry and profession has its own virtual dictionary of terms outsiders have little or no use for. “Insiders,” though, use these terms regularly, even affectionately.

The more technical the subject of your project is, or the more your audience is limited to “insiders,” the greater the likelihood you’re going to fall into the use of jargon.

And, this is natural. Especially since the last chapter encouraged you to write like you speak, and if you’re neck-deep in your industry and you’re constantly surrounded by people who share your insider knowledge, than “like you speak” may include tons of industry jargon.

Why do you do it?

You’ll notice this step is not simply “Eliminate Jargon,” since this is not only impossible, but may even be detrimental to your content.

But, limiting the amount of jargon you infuse into your copy is very important, especially if your audience includes any who may not be familiar with the words you’re using.

Depending on the audience and the purpose of what you’re writing, you may decide that some use of jargon, perhaps even a lot of it, is justified. Maybe it even adds to the power of the message.

If so, go for it.

But, if you can’t completely justify a jargon-laden message, change it.

How do you do it?

Limiting or eliminating jargon has to start with identifying it.

The most effective way to do so is to run your initial draft past someone who is completely removed from your industry or profession and making note of every word or phrase that trips them up.

Of course, this may not always be practical.

At the very least, review your initial draft word by word and ask yourself, “if I wasn’t immersed in this subject every day, would I know what ____ meant?”

If there’s any doubt at all, think about how important that particular word or phrase really is to the power of the content, and either eliminate it or clarify it accordingly.

After you’ve been through this process several times, you’ll probably be able to limit or eliminate jargon without thinking too much about it. Just be careful not to slip back into old habits thoughtlessly, or to pick up unnecessary new jargon as it’s coined.

#6 — TRUST YOUR FIRST DRAFT

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If you’ve been keeping up with the most recent exercises, you should have a rough draft of a blog post or article close at hand that’s based on some fairly in-depth market research, audience identification, and pre-planning.

It’s written like you speak, and it’s free from any unnecessary jargon.

But, frankly, it may still suck.

Warning: Up to this point, you’ve put a lot of time and effort into preparing and writing this piece. Don’t immediately dismiss it as a “first draft” that needs to be crossed-out, crumpled and chucked.

Many people do just that when they finish their first draft. They look at it with a frown on their faces, notice some typos or a sentence they don’t like very much, and immediately lose hope in the quality of their work. They immediately decide it’s never going to be what they want it to be, so why bother?

Don’t let this be you.

Why do you do it?

Remember, in a previous section, you got excited about your topic and your audience. You really believed there were benefits to the reader, even to you if you wrote this piece well. Don’t let that disappear just because the first draft is less than perfect.

Instead, trust your first draft.

This is the result of your in-depth analysis of the purpose for you’re writing in the first place. It’s the method you chose to pass along the right information to your audience so they can take the action you wish them to take. It’s the result of a lot of effort, and chances are very high it’s really, really good.

Really.

You see, your first draft is absolutely saturated with your intuition and — if you wrote it like you speak — your personality. When you immediately rip it apart, those are the first things to go.

And when you’re creating content for marketing purposes, those are the very last things you want to remove.

So, does that mean your first draft is perfect? Of course not. Far from it. But perfection is out of reach. You should only be reaching for excellence, and it’s no doubt a lot closer to that level.

How do you do it?

This step’s simple.

Restrain yourself from crumpling up and throwing out your first draft.

Restrain yourself from pulling apart all your contractions because your internal editor tells you they’re “too casual”.

Restrain yourself from plugging jargon back in because you’re secretly afraid your colleagues will think you’re dumb.

Basically, do nothing.

Can you do that?

#7 — PROOFREAD

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This is where you’re going to go over your draft with a fine-toothed comb and make it even better than it already is.

Before you do, though, remember that just last chapter, I asked you to do nothing. That’s because your first draft is 80% right.

That’s going to be hard for you to accept when you look at it again because we’re all our worst critics. Your internal editor has been pointing out everything you’ve ever done wrong for your entire life, especially when it comes to creative pursuits.

But guess what?

Your internal editor was wrong about whether or not you could be an expert. Your internal editor was also wrong about whether or not that first piece of content you put out there would get any response. (It did, didn’t it? You’ve been monitoring it. Check out the results… Not so bad, right?)

So do me a favor and tell your internal editor to shut up.

Why do we do it?

Now that your internal editor has backed off for a few minutes, let’s keep it real: your first draft has errors.

You’re going to trust it to a large extent, but you still need to polish it up before it’s ready to do great work for you as a publishable piece of content.

How do we do it?

It’s probably not necessary to go back to English class again and relearn all the professional proofreader’s marks, or to stock up on red grease pencils.

But, if that makes you more comfortable, go for it.

The point of proofreading at this stage is to eliminate silly errors such as spelling or punctuation. Fix any glaring grammar errors that you didn’t purposely put into the piece.

Consider adjusting the formatting if it’s not pleasing to the eye, or if, after writing it all down, you decide your initial thoughts on format may have been off the mark.

Another vital step to the proofreading process, if you can manage it, is time.

If a piece is long enough, important enough, or if the audience is large and influential enough, a lot of time may be in order.

Sleep on it, if you can. Allow yourself a day or two before picking it back up again. Look at it with fresh eyes.

If this isn’t possible because you’re strapped for time, at least take a ten minute break to get up and take your eyes off the words you have worked so hard to produce.

By coming back to them after a break, no matter how long, you’re much more likely to notice areas for improvement that you were blind to before.

#8 — READ IT ALOUD

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Yes, you’ll feel funny doing this. People may look at you strangely; you may even become the topic of conversation at the water cooler. But, the power of this one proofreading skill cannot be understated.

Why do you do it?

The previous section stressed the importance of writing like you speak. How else can you confirm you’ve hit that all-important bulls-eye without reading the work aloud and feeling how easily it rolls off your tongue?

You can’t.

How do you do it?

Listen to the words as you read.

Listen objectively and you’ll no doubt pick up on the spots where a phrase trips you up. That’s a spot to mark and consider rewording. If it didn’t sound right to you — the person who wrote it and supposedly knew what you were trying to say — then it’s not going to sound right to a reader coming across it for the first time.

You’ll hear the momentary stutter as the brain stumbles over an unclear thought. Mark this on the draft as a place to consider adding clarification or explanation. Or, a spot where the logic of your argument could use some help.

You’ll notice the deep breath as the lungs recover from a run-on sentence. Guess what? You need to break that sentence up. Mark it down.

If you apply no other step in this section, making a habit of reading your work aloud will still work wonders with the quality of your content.

#9 — TRASH YOUR FIRST DRAFT

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I can hear you now.

“Wait a minute! Didn’t he say I’m supposed to trust my first draft? Isn’t it the result of all my hard work? What gives?”

The fact is, Chapters 26 and 29 work together perfectly. This is the yang to Chapter 26’s yin. The jelly to Chapter 26’s peanut butter…

You get the point.

Right after you finish your first draft, your internal editor would like nothing more than to have you rip it up and throw it out.

But it’s worth so much more than that.

So we’ve given it a fair shake. And we’ve given it adequate time.

Why do you do it?

When you finish your first draft, you are holding in your hands the written equivalent of a handful of pure coal.

You’ve recognized it’s value: it contains all the elements you need to reach your audience with the information they’re interested in, in the manner that works best to accomplish the purpose you have set out for it.

So now you start proofreading.

You put your words under pressure. You give it time. You cut it, you squeeze it some more, and you heat it up again.

Then, you read it aloud. More imperfections are becoming obvious, but you can see its inner beauty shining through.

So at this point, you’re ruthless. Merciless.

Now’s your chance to cut it close and polish it to a brilliant shine.

Now what do you have in your hands? Where you used to have that lump of coal, you now find a gorgeous diamond, ready for display.

The point is, don’t fall in love with the functional coal you started with. Sure, it’s got value. But when you look at it next to the diamond it can become, it’s initial value pales in comparison.

How do you do it?

Take full advantage of the proofreading methods described. Make the necessary changes and polish your words until they reach that level of excellence you’re shooting for.

Run through the writing-proofreading-reading aloud cycle as many times as necessary to eliminate every item that jumps out at you.

#10 — KNOW WHEN TO LET IT GO

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Yes, eventually your work will be as good as you can reasonably expect to make it.

Perfect? Of course not.

Excellent? Yes.

And when your work reaches that level, you’ll no doubt find the benefits outweigh the extra effort it took to get there.


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