An editor asked me years ago how many newspapers I read every day. As a young journalist, I thought I barely had enough time to schedule and conduct interviews, not to mention writing articles and meeting the deadlines for them each day. I wondered who actually had time to read a newspaper. The editor then said something that caused me to freeze on the spot: “If you don’t read at least three newspapers every day, you will never be a good newspaper journalist. Read, read and read some more.”
He was right. Through the years, I learned that the more you read the better writer you become. However, some other key factors must come together to create an excellent writer. Whether you are writing for a newspaper, magazine or contracting content services; whether you are freelancing or completing your 100th novel, the more you read and learn how to research your topics, the better you will become at writing about them.
Set the bar higher, continually challenging yourself to harder, more complex work, but beware of accepting assignments on subjects of which you have no knowledge. Expecting top-notch ratings and no rewrite requests are just not realistic when you know nothing about your topic. I’m not preachin’, I’m just sayin’.
I made the mistake of grabbing an assignment that offered great pay, only to realize that I knew nothing about the subject once I got into it. I had to feel my way through terms in the research that read like a foreign language to me. When I completed the article, I was no more knowledgeable about the subject than when I began. A rewrite and rejection were on the way. It made me angry at first, but once I was honest with myself, I knew I had attempted something that was over my head.
Know your limits as a writer. If you are a Level 2 writer, be the best one out there and constantly challenge yourself to become a Level 3, 4 and 5. Learn the art of good research and references and read, read, and read some more. It gets a little harder with each level, but the basics are the same.
Set Goals for Your Writing Career
My level of knowledge in technology is almost zero. Since I realize that I am a fry short of a Happy Meal in the tech writing department, I shy away from accepting those types of articles. However, I continue to read technology publications to learn something new. Set goals for yourself in your weak areas, whether those weaknesses are in research, sentence structure or subject matter.
I will tackle and write a tech article before the end of this year, and I will make sure it is researched and written well enough for a high rating. That is my goal. Whether you are a Level 2 or a Level 5 writer, continually challenge yourself to learn something new every day about this passion that we all share called writing.
RHONDA D is a freelance writer available on WriterAccess, a marketplace where clients and expert writers connect for assignments.