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These 5 Wiritng Skills Will Pay The Bills

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These 5 Writing Skills Will Pay Your Bills

This article has been curated for your enjoyment and to save time searching for quality information. It's one of the most profound, laid out articles I've ever read on how to produce and sell a book start to finish. It's a bit wordy but well worth the time invested. 5 Stars


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5 Writing Skills to Increase Your Income
by Tom Corson-Knowles

“No one is born a great writer. We all start at zero.”

Writing is my passion, along with reading, learning, and teaching.

When I was in business school at Indiana University, I realized that there are a lot of really boring and unethical ways to build a career and support a family. I wanted a way out of the path to becoming an investment banker on Wall Street, spending 100 hours a week on work that didn’t make a difference or help other people.

After reading several personal development books, I asked myself, “What if I could earn a full-time income doing what I love?”

Earning a full-time income as a writer? It sounded too good to be true!

5 Top Writing Skills image

But I was committed to following my dreams of becoming a full-time writer and author. I’d rather be a broke, starving writer doing work I love than be a wealthy investment banker and hate myself.

Even though I had no idea how to write a book, I sat down at the computer and started typing away. Word by word, sentence by sentence, I wrote my first book.

Six years after I wrote down my goal of becoming a full-time writer, I finally got my first book published.

A year later, I had my first $12,000+ month in royalties from Amazon Kindle alone. I was hooked!

Since then, I’ve written and published 27 books, started a publishing company and taught over 50,000 students through my online training courses on writing, publishing and marketing.

Along the way, I have found that there are five key writing skills that led to my success. Every time I see a client or student go from 0 to earning a full-time income as an author, these are the 5 writing strategies that made all the difference for them, too.

You don’t need to do a million things to become a successful author. Focus on these 5 fundamental skills as a writer and you will be way ahead of the curve.

1. WRITE TO MARKET

Writers who are financially successful write to market. In other words, they write in markets where there is significant demand for their work.

You need to understand your readers to serve them better.

Vincent Van Gogh, hailed as one of the greatest artists that ever existed, was a starving artist. He died broke. Why? Because he didn’t understand his market. It wasn’t until after he died that his work became famous.

I’m guessing you would like to see some success and acclaim for your work before you go. To do that, you have to do your market research. You must understand who your readers are and what they want, and you must deliver what they want. Some call this “writing to market.”

To me, it’s just common sense. If you want people to read what you write and follow your work, you have to write something people want to read—and that starts with understanding your market and your audience.

You want your readers to understand the value of your work, the beauty, and love that you put in it so that they’ll care about it, right?

But before you demand the attention and interest of your readers, you have to understand their needs and wants so you can supply them with a great book that they will enjoy.

To accomplish that, you need to research your market as thoroughly as you possibly can.

One of the biggest parts of marketing is packaging. Packaging is about creating a book cover, book title and creating a brand around your book that resonates with the audience.

I want to show you a quick tutorial of my writing research strategy. This is the exact process we use at TCK Publishing, and I recommend you follow these steps every time you plan to write a new book or series.

HOW TO RESEARCH WRITING A BOOK

Start by going to the Amazon Best Sellers list.

(For the sake of clarity, we’ll stick to researching eBooks because the sales numbers are different for print books and audiobooks.)

Let’s say you want to write a book about real estate investing. The first thing you want to do is to search for the most relevant category for your book.

Amazon Bestseller List Real Estate

Now that you found Real Estate in the category list, you’ll need to select your child category based on the specific topic of your book. So if it’s about selling a house, you would want to click on Buying & Selling Homes.

Income Producing Activities Amazon Bestseller Buying and Selling Homes

Once you find the page for the bestselling books in your market, you need to study it and understand why your potential readers like those books so much.

Take a look at the covers and determine what emotions they convey.

Create a list of the top book covers you like the most in your market with notes of the elements you admire in each of those covers (think about the fonts, imagery, colors, and emotions conveyed in the designs). Give that list to your book cover designer to help them create a unique cover branded for your specific readers and market.

STUDY OTHER AUTHORS AND WRITERS

Next, take a look at the listings for all the bestselling books in your market.

Jot down ideas about book titles, subtitles, and book descriptions. Look for specific words and phrases that stand out and captivate you. Consider the layout and formatting of their book descriptions. Is it pleasing to the eyes?

Click “Look Inside” to see inside the book, skip the blurbs, and read the first one to ten pages. Study how these authors are drawing in readers with their writing skills from the very first page. Model how they entice their readers.

You owe it to yourself and to your fans to study the writing strategies and techniques of the best writers in your market so you can improve your skills.

Amazon Bestseller Book Page - Book of Yes

The next thing you want to do is scroll down to the customer reviews section.

Start reading all the reviews on Amazon in your market. You can actually read exactly what your readers have written about the best books in your field, giving you crystal clear insight into who your readers are, what they want, and how you can set your writing apart from the competition.

Write down all the criticism and praise that you hear from your audience so you can model what works and avoid the common mistakes other writers have made before you.

Amazon Bestseller Customer Review

The wonderful thing about reading reviews is that you’ll discover needs of readers that are not being fulfilled by other authors in your market.

For instance, on the Amazon page for The Book of Yes, one of the reviewers said the book only provided generic replies to a list of situations. This reviewer is lamenting the lack of depth in the material. If you were writing in this market, you could make your book stand out by providing a more detailed understanding of the key concepts and ideas your readers need to know.

If you see several reviews mentioning the same mistakes or deficiencies in many of the books in your market, then you have likely discovered a significant need that is not being addressed by other writers.

Sample Customer Review for Book of Yes

Another take away from customer reviews are key phrases or keywords that people are using in their comments.

If you are looking to write weight loss books and decide to do market research, you might find customers repeating key phrases like “getting ripped,” “get shredded” or “fat melted off.” Because these words or phrases are the same words your customer is thinking about when describing their situation, then you know that by using these words in your title, subtitle or book description, you can immediately connect with your audience.

When you start including the key words and phrases your readers are thinking in their minds, you create an instant connection and rapport that makes them feel good and want to keep reading.

You can apply all these same writing strategies whether you write fiction or nonfiction.

If you want to learn more market research, watch the free training on How to Crack the Code to Becoming a #1 Bestselling Author on Amazon.

STUDY THE TOP BLOGGERS IN YOUR MARKET

Amazon isn’t the only place for you to do market research. You can also study the top blogs, forums, and online articles in your market to learn more about who your readers are and what they want.

Make sure you study the writing as well as comments from readers to get a better picture of what’s really going on in your market and what your readers are looking for.

EMAILS FROM READERS OR COMMENTS ON SOCIAL MEDIA

Once you start selling books and building your fan base, your readers will be your greatest source of feedback. Emails, reviews, comments, and social media posts from your readers are chock full of knowledge and insight into who your readers are and how you can better serve them.

Take note of what they are saying because this will give you ideas on what you should stop doing and what you should continue doing to better serve your readers in the future.

2. CREATIVE WRITING

The next writing skill you must improve to increase your income is to learn to be a more productive and efficient writer. Creative writing is a foundational skill that must be mastered, and most folks go about it all wrong.

There’s controversy in the writing blogosphere going on right now about being a pantser or a plotter. A pantser is someone who doesn’t plan ahead. They just sit down and start writing without a plan. Plotters are those who meticulously plan every scene and every chapter of their books ahead of time.

Are you a pantser or a plotter?

I think it’s most helpful to break down the writing process into two parts: creative writing and self-editing.

Creative writing requires the use of the right side of your brain, your creative brain, and editing requires you to use the analytical left side of your brain.

If you focus only on creative writing when you first start writing a book or blog post, it will allow you to let your creative juices flow more easily. You don’t have to stop in the middle of the sentence to fix small errors, insert hyperlinks, check facts, or do research. By not stopping to analyze your words or sentence construction, your train of thought can keep moving without stops. This allows you to gain momentum and write a lot more words in a lot less time.

YOUR GOAL AS A WRITER SHOULD BE TO MAXIMIZE YOUR OUTPUT. ONLY BY PRODUCING MORE WRITING WILL YOU ULTIMATELY PRODUCE BETTER WRITING.

If you really want to improve your writing skills, you must improve your productivity. A writer who writes 2,000 words each day will improve at least twice as much as a writer who writers 1,000 words each day, all else being equal.

Creative writing is just like brainstorming; you let the ideas come to you and write them all down without criticism. Only after you have written down all your ideas do you analyze your work to decide which ideas to keep and which ones to discard.

The problem with trying to write the first draft of your book while simultaneously editing your work is that you stop the flow of new ideas. It’s like having one foot on the brakes and one foot on the gas—you’re not going to get anywhere anytime soon.

OUTLINING AND PLOTTING

Outlining and plotting are skills. If you think you can be a wildly successful writer or author without working on these basic writing skills, you are sorely mistaken.

Can you imagine a basketball player intentionally not learning how to shoot free throws? No competitive athlete can afford to ignore such fundamental skills if they want to perform in a professional league. The same is true for writers.

Separating your creative writing sessions from self-editing does not mean you are a pantser. You must create a clear plan for your book before you write. By creating an outline for a nonfiction book or plotting your novel, you can gain a clear vision of the structure for every chapter and every scene in the book.

This structure is like the foundation of your story. You cannot build a mansion with a weak foundation. And that’s the biggest mistake writers make. They don’t create an outline and they quit in the middle of the book because all they see are road blocks and dead ends.

If you create an outline and you get writer’s block, you can easily go to your outline to figure out what happens next. If you have to stop in the middle of writing to create an outline so you can figure out what happens next, you’re wasting valuable writing time and creativity. This stop-and-go writing style is exhausting, and it’s why so many good writers give up before they ever finish their first draft.

Most first-time authors can plot or outline their book in an afternoon if you sit down with no distractions and set your mind to the task. For every hour you spend planning your book, you are going to save dozens, or even hundreds of hours, because you won’t have to waste time starting and stopping. You’ll also avoid the horror of having to cut out entire chapters and scenes that don’t fit the book, or even scrapping your entire manuscript and starting over from scratch.

NOT HAVING A PLAN FOR YOUR WRITING IS PLANNING TO FAIL.

The best book I’ve ever read on plotting and outlining is 2K to 10K by Rachel Aaron.

This book offers practical advice for anyone who longs to increase their daily writing output. It also contains information about writing efficiency, plotting, and planning that I have never seen explained so thoroughly and clearly before.

For 99 cents, it’s the best deal you’ll find to help you become a more efficient writer.

2k to 10K Book By Rachel Aaron

3. EDITING YOUR WRITING

Self-editing is an activity that you do before sending your manuscript to editors and beta readers. If you follow my creative writing process, get your outline done, and then simply focus on creative writing each day, you will find that you just turned your book idea into a first draft.

Congratulations!

Now it’s time to work on self-editing your first draft.

Because you did not stop to analyze or edit your work during the creative writing process, you’ll find that there are all kinds of mistakes in your first draft. You may feel like you’re a terrible writer and your book is mostly garbage. That’s normal and every experienced writer has been there and felt that before.

By going through the painstaking process of editing your own manuscript several times, you will make sure that you understand what’s actually going on in your book. If there’s a major problem with the structure or story arc, it’s better to figure it out yourself. If you send out a first draft manuscript to an editor, you might end up paying thousands of dollars just to learn that there’s a big hole in your book—which you would have learned yourself had you invested the time to self-edit first.

Self-editing saves you money. It makes you a better writer. It allows you to play with your creativity and mold your manuscript into a book that is unique to you.

Only once you have gone through the hard work of editing your own work should you bring on a professional editor to help take your book to the next level and prepare it for publishing.

I interviewed Steve Berry, one of the most successful authors in the world with more than 19 million books sold. He said he edits each new manuscript about 60-75 times before sending it to beta readers and editors. That level of commitment is what separates him from so many wannabe authors who aren’t willing to put in the effort to revise and improve their work.

Editing is a fundamental writing skill for success, and it’s a skill you must learn through practice.

If you’re not willing to edit your book at least five times, then you’re not seriously committed to your own success. Being committed is a trait, and I can’t teach you that.

What I can teach is an editing process that will help you be more efficient and effective. It’s up to you to find the inner drive to go through this editing process so you can write the best book you possibly can.

HOW TO EDIT YOUR FIRST DRAFT

BOOK LEVEL

What we want is to start by working on the big themes and issues of your manuscript. I call this starting at the book level. You want to do this first because you need to know if the book actually works or if it needs huge, sweeping changes before you hunt down every typo, grammatical error and usage error. You want to make sure you have a complete book with introduction, plot, conflict and resolution. You don’t want to be focusing on the details such as grammatical error and typos just to later on find out that you’ll need to remove half your book and rewrite the other half in order for it to make sense.That’s a waste of your time.

CHAPTER LEVEL

This is where you are going to go through each chapter to find out if the chapters are in order and relevant. For nonfiction, you want to ensure that your ideas are developed in a logical way that readers can easily follow. For fiction, you want each scene to be revealed at just the right time with great pacing.

PARAGRAPH LEVEL

Make sure that each chapter flows well and is easy to read.Make sure the paragraphs are organized properly, each one in their proper place and serving a purpose. You might want to move big chunks of words or paragraphs around so that everything hangs well together.

SENTENCE LEVEL

Make sure that there’s a good flow from sentence to sentence. Each sentence must communicate a clear idea. Spice things up by interlacing short, sweet sentences with longer ones. Don’t let the reader get bored with monotony.

WORD LEVEL

This is where you are going to fix all the grammatical error, typos and usage errors. On this level of editing, your job is to ensure that your thoughts and ideas are properly communicated with each and every word you use. You’ll want to make good use of a dictionary to look up any words you can’t define with 100% certainly. Use a thesaurus to find synonyms in order to find the clearest and simplest (and sometimes most entertaining) word for the job.

THE TRADITIONAL EDITING PROCESS

Below are the four steps to editing your book traditionally. As you will see, it has a very similar structure to the 5 steps of self-editing.

DEVELOPMENTAL EDITING

Developmental editing is where you take a rough story and turn it into a book. So if you have an idea and wrote a first draft of 70,000 words but the book needs a lot of work, you’ll likely want a developmental editor to cut out content that doesn’t fit,rewrite scenes or chapters, and clarify the overall structure of the book. This type of editing is similar to where you self-edit on a book level. When you hire a developmental editor, you’re basically hiring a ghostwriter, but instead of them writing the book from scratch, they’re going to use the foundation you have already created.

LINE EDITING

Line editing is making sure that the words, sentences and paragraphs clearly communicate the ideas you intend to communicate. Line editors may also help rewrite and revise sections of your manuscript, but if they have to rewrite whole chapters or restructure your book, they’re basically doing the job of developmental editing.

COPYEDITING

Copyediting is the most fundamental editing on the word and sentence level. This is where the editor focuses on spelling, grammar, punctuation, syntax, consistency, fonts, capitalization, fact checking and ambiguity.

PROOF READING

The final stage of editing is proof reading. It’s fixing all the tedious, minor errors in spelling, punctuation, spacing and layout just before a book is ready to go to print or be published.

TWO EDITING TIPS

EDIT BY HAND

Print out your manuscript and edit by hand at least twice. This activates a different part of the brain and you will have a different perspective. You will see all kinds of errors that you did not see while editing your work on the computer

EDIT OUT LOUD

Speak your manuscript out loud twice to make edits. This also activates a different part of your brain. You will find that when you speak your words, some of it just doesn’t sound right and you can start editing those awkward words and phrases.

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