More and more often, I write the story an article revolves around first and then plug in the relevant niche info.
For example, for my auto site, I started one article about how my previous car died on me in the middle of an intersection during rush hour. It was either fix it or get something new. I opted for new.
At that point, I launched into whatever that particular auto article was about.
Another example, which I do frequently, is regale readers about some recent trip and then apply that to the niche.
Trips, hotel and experiences can often apply to many niches.
I do my best to weave the story into the informational content.
And yet another example are these Fat Stacks newsletters. Often I start with some experience or article I read and then craft the message after the fact.
Why is this a good approach?
This works because when you apply your life to your content it’s so darn easy to come up with great article topics. It’s fun to write. It’s more interesting for readers.
I’ve shared with you about my days waiting tables, myriads of website mistakes and failures, glimpses into my practicing law days, etc. All these emails/blog posts started from the story instead of the point I get to.
This is one reason I can write so much.
My life (and yours) is a never-ending well of stories.
With a little effort, you can turn a boring story into something interesting.
Back in college we were required to take one creative writing course.
I didn’t mind. I thought I was a good writer and that this would be an easy good grade.
We were given our first writing assignment. I cranked it out. I was more than pleased.
When it was returned with a grade a week later, I was appalled.
My prof. gave me a C+.
I expected nothing less than an A-.
The entire thing was marked up in red. It looked like meatball surgery.
Fortunately, I wasn’t the type of student who flew off the handle.
But I did go up to her and politely asked if I could set an appointment to discuss the writing assignment. She was more than happy to.
When the appointment time arrived, I was there.
I politely asked where I went wrong.
Yikes, an open-ended question to a prof who cares.
For 20 minutes she stepped me through all the problems. It was a bloodbath.
I was humbled.
Here main message throughout was “show, don’t tell.”
I had to admit she was right.
Instead of capitulating in that course and settling for a C+, I was bound and determined to do well. I would learn to write creatively.
My prof suggested I take my future draft work to the college writing center. It was a free service where English majors would help with writing assignments.
I spent a lot of time there. Over the weeks, my writing improved.
Looking back, I think I worked harder in that class than any other.
My prof noticed.
When the smoke cleared, I received an A- for the class.
I was delighted, but I worked hard for that sucker.
And yet, after all that effort I was still not a good writer.
I was decent at legal writing after law school because it’s a type of writing that suits me.
I was terrible at creative writing. I say that because I’ve written a ton for various websites over the years.
I’ve largely been boring boring boring.
I forgot about the “show, don’t tell” rule I learned during my first year in college.
I’ve been working on that.
Which is why starting with story can be so powerful in writing articles on… anything.
If you nail the story, the message works as long as there’s some connection.
And it’s not hard to connect a message to a story.
I easily connected my car dying in an intersection with some write up about my new car’s capability.
I’ve launched into product reviews with story.
Let’s step through an example.
Suppose you want to write about basketball sneakers. Specifically, “why do basketball players wear high tops?”
You could regale readers about your basketball days in high school. I only played in grades 7 and 8, but I have stories. Let me tell you one. The following is what I would use for the article.
Amazingly, I made the grade 8 basketball team. I wasn’t good, but I liked the game.
This was in 1988 just as basketball shoes were becoming a big deal.
I wasn’t great and never would be but at the time I thought if I had really good b-ball shoes, I’d be better.
My parents took me shopping for basketball shoes.
I couldn’t tell a good shoe from a bad one other than price and brand. I knew I wanted high tops. Again, I didn’t know why but that’s what everyone wore on the court.
I found a pair. They cost $109. This is in 1988. In today’s dollars, that’s about $220. That’s a lot of money for a grade 8 kid to ride the bench.
My parents didn’t want to spend that.
I got angry.
It was a battle.
My parents relented and bought me the shoes.
I played maybe 1 hour of game-time that season.
I didn’t bother playing in grade 9.
That was the end of my basketball career.
I don’t think I ever put those shoes on again.
My parents were cool; they never brought it up.
From there, if this were an article about the history of high tops and basketball, I could launch into the information.
My high tops experience could be referenced in joking ways throughout just to keep it interesting.
I started with story.
It turned into something informational.
Not only is it good for readers, but it’s fun to write. While I got to live my painful basketball past, it was fun nonetheless. I can laugh at being a benchwarmer now.
If you have writer’s block.
Come up with something in your life.
Write it out.
Connect it to whatever point or message you can.
Wasn’t that fun?
Jon runs the place around here. He pontificates about launching and growing online publishing businesses, aka blogs that make a few bucks. His pride and joy is the email newsletter he publishes.
In all seriousness, Jon is the founder and owner of a digital media company that publishes a variety of web properties visited and beloved by millions of readers monthly. Fatstacks is where he shares a glimpse into his digital publishing business.