Thursday, February 13, 2014

Business Basics for Today’s Writer—Tips to Help You Stay on Track with an Article

by Edie Melson

I have the opportunity to meet with lots of new writers. I spend a lot of time teaching writers how to earn an income, especially with article writing. I enjoy critiquing their work and helping them get better. I especially love talking to those just starting out—they are so enthusiastic—so ready to change the world. Listening to them helps me stay fresh and motivated.

But with that enthusiasm often comes a lack of focus. This lack of focus is something I see over and over again. For some reason, newer writers tend to want to cover everything, in every piece they write. So today I’m going to give you some hints to help you stay on track with an article.

The ability to keep focused on your subject matter is vital in this day and time. Today’s readers have shorter attention spans than ever before and very few will tolerate rabbit trails to nowhere. It's critical to keep your reader engaged when you’re writing an article.

Tips to Keep Your Article on Track

  • Pinpoint Focus—make your subject matter as specific as possible. Don’t just write about babysitting, that’s way too broad a subject. Pick a slant, like babysitting certification for teenagers.
  • Theme Sentence—I always have a single sentence that sums up the point of my article. This isn’t necessarily something I include, word-for-word in my article. But I write that it on a sticky note and keep it visible while I do my research and write my article. It helps me cull out information I don’t need and keep me focused. I’ve learned that if I can’t sum it in one sentence, I know I haven't narrowed my topic sufficiently.
  • Self-editing—I always take time to go back though my article and check to see that every single sentence relates to my focus. It may be a beautifully crafted sentence, but if it doesn’t relate it’s useless to me, and especially to my reader.
  • Delete File—I hate to delete things I love, even when they may not be needed in an article. To get around that, I always open a delete file for every article. Instead of hitting the delete button, I cut the unneeded sections and paste them into the delete file. Doing this has helped me become more ruthless with my self-editing. But this file isn’t just to make me feel better. I use this file to write additional articles.

What tips do you have to stay on track with an article? Be sure to leave them in the comments section below.

Don’t forget to join the conversation!




  1. Thank you, Edie, for your faithfulness in posting. I have come to wake up in anticipation of your wonderful nuggets of information.

  2. Dittos to Patricia's comment. Thanks Edie!

    1. Patricia and Pam, thanks for the comments. I've been wondering if I'm posting too often, maybe overwhelming my audience. I appreciate you both (and everyone else) taking time to comment! Blessings, E

  3. Nice! With the looming empty nest, I may try my hand at article writing.

    1. Susan, writing articles is one of my favorite things. I think because it's smaller in scope and I can finish it and send it on its way in a timely fashion. It gives me a boost to know I finished something. LOL! Thanks so much for stopping by, Blessings, E

  4. Boy have I learned this one! Not so much in articles, but in teaching. The desire is to give them everything at once, but the message gets so watered down.

    1. Ane, that's a great application for these principles! Thanks so much for sharing - Blessings, E

  5. Thank you, Edie! This is wonderful! I especially love the part about the delete file. There is so much to learn in the writing business. Thank you for your faithfulness in sharing your knowledge and experience. God bless.

  6. Hi Edie! I remember someone telling me, "Never throw away anything you write. You might need it someday." So I also cut and past remnants of writing onto a separate page. Who knows, it might spur another idea.

    I am one of those new writers who is all over the place. I have three things I'm working on now that need the Writers ER badly! But its a process. I'll get better (I hope!) eventually.
    Good to see you!

  7. 1) Remember the age of the audience I'm writing for; 2) use strong verbs, and 3) try not to make everything sound educational. The teacher in me will not stay silent so I'm attempting some non-fiction this year. :)
    Thanks, for all the helpful tips, Edie! I love writing articles, too.