I’ve now been working for the environmentalscience.org website about four years now. The site owner is a valued client (and hope continues to be so for many more years to come!) but the work in itself has as been as much of a challenge as a pleasure. I love writing about environmental science as it’s loosely related to my archaeology qualifications but also enjoy the challenge of working for this site that has been different from all my other clients.
The main challenge here, for me, is producing large articles. In the last couple of months, must of my writing for this site has been upwards of 5,000 words with some pushing 10,000. In fact, one of the first big articles I produced for this client was a 7,500 piece on renewable energy. I admit it was daunting to produce something this long and research heavy, even though I knew I was up to the task and the subject was well within my comfort zone. But the length… 7,500 words is like producing a dissertation every week but without the independent testing and data production and analysis. That has now been surpassed in length several times and writing long form is second nature. If you’ve been recently asked to produce a long piece, this is how you go about doing it.
Plan, Plan, Plan or Be Damned
First things first. Before you ever put fingers to digital ink, you need a plan. What subjects should it cover? The client may require specific areas – an introduction, a history of the subject, scenarios, advantages and disadvantages, technical details. Of course your plan is subject to change if you realise there is little to no information about a certain area, but if you go into a 7,000-10,000 word piece breaking it down into sections and knowing what you’re going to write about in each, it’s easier to write it. It will also seem all that bit less daunting too.
Write Little and Often
Shorter pieces of work may be completed in a matter of hours so it stands to reason you’ll want to get it done and sent to the client for feedback. But long form articles are different. They need deeper research, more involved writing, and different subareas to fill out the content. You will become bored with writing about the same thing, no matter how interesting you find the subject. Break up a long form article over the course of a week or a couple of weeks and do a little bit each day. If you incorporate time schedules into your plan from the last section, it will be much easier to manage.
Take Breaks to Avoid Burnout
By “breaks” I don’t mean making sure you stop for lunch or to get away from the screen (which you must do anyway). I mean give yourself days off from the long form content to work on something else. A change is as good as a rest, as they say, and you should work several days into your plan during which you don’t even touch the longer piece in order to reset your brain. Burnout is a real think for writers regardless of what you’re writing and you do not want to hit the wall when it comes to an important long form piece for a client. You don’t want to get to the stage where you dread even thinking about it.
Take Breaks from Writing to Edit
When you’ve finished writing the piece, you’re going to have to edit it. But editing and proofreading can be quite exhausting. I’ve found it easier and faster to take breaks from writing every so often to do some editing. For example, look at this recent piece on climatology. It’s broken down into a few sections: introduction, natural variables, history of climatology, subdisciplines of climatology, and future challenges. That is a fairly standard format for the long form content I produce for this client. Instead of writing it as a single piece and editing at the end, I wrote and edited it section by section. First I wrote the intro sections and the natural variables. The following day, I proofread this section and then moved onto the next and so on.
There are my top tips. If readers have any more, please feel free to suggest them in the comments below.