So your boss walks in the door and tells you he needs an article in thirty minutes. And it has to be a killer article. Can you do it? Seems almost impossible, and it is. Impossible, that is, unless you’ve laid the groundwork in advance.
Before you start writing, remember what must be included.
What your article must have
If you want to write a killer article, it’s got to have a few essential parts. You probably know them, but let’s make sure we’re on the same page. Your article needs:
- An attention-grabbing, magnetic headline
- A set-the-hook lede
- Useful, interesting body copy
- An irresistible call-to-action
Easy as pie, right? Have you ever made a pie? In the words of former Beatle, Ringo Starr, “You know it don’t come easy!”.
But, before you can write any of those essential components, you’ve got one important choice to make. You need a topic that your readers want, need or demand.
So let’s take a peek at that groundwork I was talking about.
Have your groundwork in place
This is necessary for any article you write, timed or not. And it should be done before you need it, not at the “writing hour.”
There are exceptions; but if you always take more than one or two hours, you really need to speed up. This will help you. Here’s your writing foundation:
- Become a subject matter expert. Research your topic, product or service constantly. You should know it backward and forward, inside and out.
- Become an expert on your target audience. Know what they want or need. Know what questions they’re asking. Then you’ll know what topics you should write about.
- Keep swipe files of headlines, both those that you’ve written and those that have caught your eye. They come in handy all the time. A quotes file helps too.
- Know what action or actions you want your reader to take. Write them down.
- Find resources that you can draw on, both online and off, to bolster or back up your ideas. Write them down or keep them handy somehow.
Ready, set . . . write!
Scan all this information and decide on one, well-defined topic. Find the one that definitely interests your readers. Match up questions with answers and get ready to rock and roll. After you settled on a topic:
- Choose a good headline from your swipe file. Tweak it if necessary.
- Summarize your main idea or introduce your topic in the lede. Make it simple, yet compelling.
- Lay out your subheads next, using them as a roadmap for your article. That’s what your readers do when deciding whether to read the whole thing, you know.
- Once your subheads are written, start filling in the blanks. Each subhead topic is a single thought that should segue into the next idea.
- Use bullet points and numbered lists.
- If possible, don’t stop for edits. That’s the last thing you’ll do.
When you’re writing, keep it short and simple. Don’t go flowery on me. For instance, don’t write:
Dan is devoted father and husband who cherishes his family so much that he takes them on holiday whenever the time allows.
Dan adores his wife and kids, and vacations with them as much as possible.
Writing simply will also cut down on editing time. And remember, an epic article doesn’t have to be epically long. You just need to cover the one topic epically well.
It ain’t done 'til it’s finished
Once you’re done with the draft, edit it quickly but thoroughly. I convert my Word doc into a PDF. Reading the PDF, with its minimal distractions, allows me to spot errors faster. I make the changes in Word as I find them.
One final look to make sure that you’ve got everything you need and you’re done. When you hand it to the boss on time, you may just surprise him.
Think you can do it?
With some practice and good groundwork, you will speed up your work, even if you don’t need to hit the 30-minute mark. Your writing will be cleaner with less fluff.
Oh, in case you’re wondering – 29 minutes and 45 seconds. See, it CAN be done.