Writing and Rhetoric: How do I Write 1500 Words?

by Jul 21, 2020

Barbaric Hacks for Long-form Writing – Part 3

How to write long-form content

I’ve been writing a series on Barbarian Rhetoric on how to write long-form content. This is the Rhetoric part of Barbarian Rhetoric. If you missed them:

If writing 1500+ words is a walk in the park for you then please click away and get on with it. 

However, if you struggle to write and you wanna find out how to knock out a cool 1500 words or more per post or article, then you’re in the right place. You can learn how to write well. But first, let’s start with “Why?”.

Why should you write more?

My motivation for all of this is that I want to encourage you to write more and better. And I wanna sell you a copy of my eBook

But there are lots of reasons you should write more. For starters, improving your writing skills can be transformational on a personal level. That’s one reason to do it. You can also write to persuade or sell or build your brand. So, there are professional reasons too.

But to do any of these things you need people to be able to find your stuff. And if you want that to happen you need to write in a way that is optimised for search.

Google loves more words…!

Now, there are a lot of resources online that you can go find to learn more about search engine optimisation (SEO). And it may or may not be true that there’s a magic word-length to optimise for search. 

But one thing is clear, Google loves content-rich sites with more words. And people love long reads. Longer posts and articles:

  • Often dominate page one of search rankings on Google.
  • Get shared more on different social channels.
  • Are often more engaging provided you can keep yourself on track and provide real value.
  • Tend to acquire more backlinks because it tends to be more useful and comprehensive than shorter content. 
  • Show that you respect your audience by not assuming they have the attention span of goldfish.
  • Take longer to read which means people spend more time on your page which, in turn, tells Google that your stuff is worth spending time on. This is called “dwell time”.

How do I reduce the anxiety of writing long-form content?

Like I said earlier if you can easily sit down and knock out 1500 or 2000 or more words in a single sitting with no planning, no outline and no anxiety then you don’t need to read the rest.

However, if writing even 1500 words sounds like a lot then you’re in the right place. Read on, dear reader!

A lot of people freak out about word length if they haven’t done a lot of writing. There’s no shame in admitting that if that’s you. You’ve got to start somewhere. 

But writing blog posts and articles of more 1500+ words regularly is totally possible to do. If you read and take action you’ll improve your writing skills. 

Staying on track and being interesting is a difficult task, but let’s deal with how to reduce the anxiety and address with the word count first, and how to stay on track, second. 

Here we go.

1. Treat the word count like a budget

That means if your target is 1500 words for your post or article, then this – 1500 words – is how much you have to “spend”. In other words, the word count is your budget and you have to spend it. 

Then, do the following:

2. Budget sensibly using the Pareto principle

Divide up your budgeted word allocation according to two different ratios. The Pareto principle or 80/20 rule works quite well for this but your mileage may differ so feel free to vary it as you need to.

Here’s what I mean:

  • The first ratio or percentage – the 20% – gives you the word count for your introduction and conclusion.
  • The second ratio or percentage – the 80% – tells you how to deal with whatever is left over for the body of your post, article or essay.

Let’s not get too dogmatic though… Let’s agree that it’s actually a range and that you might need to vary the ratio. For example, 30% on the introduction and conclusion and 70% on the body would also work well for a longer piece of writing. 

3. Work out your word-count “spend” for both introduction and conclusion

Now, let’s just look at the introduction and conclusion more closely. According to what we just agreed above, you would have 300 to 450 words to *spend* for these two sections in total. 

But for the sake of the argument, let’s go with the least amount. That’s only 300 words, right? 

Now let’s say that we need to split that evenly between the two sections. That works out something like this:

  • Introduction: 150 words
  • Conclusion: 150 words

I think you can write 150 words… But don’t write your introduction yet. We’ll come back to that. 

Let’s check your balance. There should be 1200 words left in your budget.

4. Divide up the balance of your word count into a sensible number of sections

You could easily spend your remaining 1200 words as either of these:

  • 3 x 400-word sections; or
  • 4 x 300-word sections

Now, I don’t know about you, but writing 300 words for a short section on something you’re already interested in or committed to sounds a whole lot less intimidating than having to write 1500 words.

You could probably write 300 words in one sitting as long as you had time to think about if beforehand.

And you can do this any time you need to take the anxiety out of writing long-form content. Here’s another neat tip, though.

5. Write an outline with a word count for each section:

Here’s a dirty little secret: writing classes and books of advice on how to write always talk about the value of using outlines. However, if you talk to experienced writers they rarely use them.

So are all good writers hypocrites? Well, not exactly… there are some nuances you need to think about. 

If you’re a good writer – or to rephrase – when you become a really great writer, you won’t need to use outlines as much or even at all. 

However, if you’re just starting out writing long-form content or if you know that you struggle to stay on track when you write then you need to use an outline. 

Having an outline is like having a roadmap. Sure, you can go driving without one, but if you don’t know the roads then it certainly helps to have one. 

And the good news is that you can create your own and insert the word count at each stage so you know what you’re aiming for. 

Here’s a generic example with a word count for introduction, conclusion and four sections that add to 1500 words:

Intro – 150 words

Body – 1200 words total

  1. Topic – 300 words
    1. Support
    2. Examples
  2. Topic – 300 words
    1. Support
    2. Examples
  3. Topic – 300 words
    1. Support
    2. Examples
  4. Topic – 300 words
    1. Support
    2. Examples

Conclusion – 150 words

Here’s another example with three, slightly longer sections that also add to 1500 words:

Intro – 150 words

Body – 1200 words total

  1. Topic – 400 words
    1. Support
    2. Examples
  2. Topic – 400 words
    1. Support
    2. Examples
  3. Topic – 400 words
    1. Support
    2. Examples

Conclusion – 150 words

6. Draft a longer more complex outline for a longer more complex pieces of writing

The outlines above are for straightforward pieces of long-form content like an essay or article. 

If you’re interested in even longer content and different types of writing, such as writing a book or research essay you’re probably going to have to write a longer and more complex outline.

But if you’ve come this far, don’t shy away from some extra detail and complexity. Instead, harness that obsessive-compulsive disorder and start writing your first book today…! 

7. Create a coherent roadmap for your long-form content

If you’re serious about coherence and cohesion, especially for a serious piece of factual writing, you must be prepared to draft and redraft your out­line until it shows sufficient development under each topic and supporting points.

This last step in the planning process is when you need to finalise your outline and get ready to start using it as a roadmap to write your blog post or other long-form content. 

As a roadmap, it is important to remember that you need to refer to your outline often so you don’t lose your way.

And while we’re calling this the “final” version, you should keep seeing it as a work in progress and not something that is set in concrete.

Also, I’m not saying outlines are always necessary, but you should think of a writing an outline as a tool in your toolbox that you take out and use when then context requires it. 

8. Things to remember about your outline when you start writing

Keep the following in mind for once you think you’ve finalised your outline and you’re ready to start writing:

  • Some­times you will have too much information and may need to delete some. 
  • Alternatively, you might not have enough information and need to add some. 

On the one hand, you don’t want your outline to be so rigid that you cannot make any changes to it, but on the other, you also don’t want to be making so many changes to it that you never make any progress on your writing. 

Balance is the key. The main thing is to try and establish a good logical outline that presents the ideas effectively. 

Once your outline is more or less finalized you can move on to the writing, but before you do take some time to trouble-shoot your outline for logical flow and whether you have the right content in the right places.

9. Write the middle first

Now, once you’ve got all that sorted out you can get down to some writing. But here’s what I recommend. 

Unless you’re already an experienced writer, and perhaps, even if you are, do this one thing next:

  • Just focus on writing the sections in the middle first.

Just pick one of the body sections and deal with that. It doesn’t even matter which one. You don’t need to write them in order (of course, you can if you want).

But just do that first. Write 300 or 400 words and take a break. 

Then do it all again.

And again.

You get the idea. 

If you want more information on how to structure your paragraphs then have a look here in my other post or get my eBook.

Or just look a the diagram below:

writing

10. Write the beginning and end last

Once you’ve got the middle bits sorted out, come back and write the introduction and the conclusion (or summary) together at the end.

And by “together” I literally mean write them together. In a more formal piece of writing, one should mirror the other.

With something less formal, it doesn’t matter so much but your readers should still get a sense that they’ve come to the end of your writing. 

Again, if you want to know exactly how to structure a good clear introduction or conclusion then have a look here, get my ebook before the price doubles, or check out the tables below.

writing

Here’s what a more formal conclusion looks like in terms of structure. 

writing

Once you’ve done all of these things…VOILA…! That’s 1500 words of long-form content for your blog. Soon you’ll be writing the best long-form articles ever.

11. Learn how to become savagely creative in these 10 steps

Hopefully, I’ve encouraged you to get writing online. In lieu of a conclusion, I’ll just say this, if you managed to read all the way to the end of this post then that’s a pretty good indication that you found something useful here and should buy my eBook before I turn it into a course and the price goes up permanently:

It also means you might also like the piece I wrote on creativity which you can find here for free. Or feel free to reach out to me on Twitter – I’m @smith_graeme or you can check out some of my projects here.

0 Comments

%d bloggers like this: