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BOOK Book summary: the art and business of online writing, by Nicolas Cole

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monfii

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I read "The art and business of online writing" by Nicolas Cole. I really enjoyed the book and learned a ton about writing, writing online, business, copywriting, mindset, etc. I would recommend it to anyone that struggles with communication, must write online for their business, or wonder why nobody reads them.

The book is applicable if you want to start a blog, write ads, get a Twitter account, or practice persuasion through writing.

Find below a summary.




What gets people to read online is stories. Whatever you are writing should always be valuable to the reader and wrapped up in a story.




Chapter 1: How to Start


Don't start a blog. A blog is about doing digital marketing, not writing.

Online writing is writing on a platform with an audience already built which is much better.



Chapter 2: How to Be a Writer in the Digital Age


You need data which gives you feedback so that you can improve your craft. The sooner you start writing online, the sooner you can get feedback and adjust.

This is the principle of doing whatever you do in public. Public gives you feedback. Taylor Swift, Ed Sheraan etc all played in public before being megastars.




Chapter 3: The 7 Levels of Success of Online Writing


Writing online is a competition. Writers compete for the attention of readers against everyone else (Youtube, Netflix...). The reason why most people fail as online writers is that their writing sucks.


Level 1: Conscious VS Unconscious
Being a successful writer is about fighting for attention. You need to be aware of that.

Level 2: Choose a category
You need to understand in which category you are playing (technology, business, psychology). Choose one and study it well so you can understand it.

Level 3: Define your style
Do you prefer entertaining, or educating readers? Choose.

Level 4: Optimize your writing style for speed
The internet does likes what goes fast. When the writing pace slows down, readers leave.

Level 5: Specificity is the secret
Being broad= being confusing. Confusing writing does not resonate with readers.
Being specific = being clear.

Don't worry if being specific sounds like putting yourself in a box. It is what you want.

Level 6: Engineering credibility
Three levels:
  1. Implied credibility: how much "better" or "worse" your content is than everyone else's in your chosen category. When the content is good, credibility is implied.
    Things that reinforce your credibility: profile pic, bio, images, videos, graphs, grammar, organization of thought, specificity.
  2. Perceived credibility: what other people have to say about your writing (being featured in Forbes); how many followers you have; selling high barrier to entry products (books, courses); badges and achievements; money you have made.
  3. Earned credibility: the most undervalued form of credibility: it's experience. Signals of earned credibility are: how long you have been making content; how often you create content; how much content you have created; how many people read your content; how well one of your pieces of content performed.
    You should display your signs of earned credibility.

Level 7: Create your Own Category
Competing in other people's category sucks. So, you should make your own.
Eg: Malcolm Gladwell was the first to create the pop-science category.

New categories are created at unlikely intersections between categories, spotted by writers with an intimate understanding of one or several categories. In the end, the category you create is your own way of seeing the world.



Chapter 4: Where You Should Be Writing Online, and Where You Should Not


Where you write today should not necessarily be where you write tomorrow. Platforms and publications rise, then die. Be looking for the rising platforms.

Writing for big publications does not bring in as many views as you can expect. Also, you can't just write what you want. This is why you should write on social platforms when you start.

The 5 Phases of Social platforms and why phase 3 is your window of opportunity.
  • Phase 1: the platform is invented.
  • Phase 2: the platform is getting traction.
  • Phase 3: The platform is well-established.
  • Phase 4: Advertising model is launched and user reach starts falling.
  • Phase 5: Business model is established, it's time to find a new platform.

The best platforms to write on:
- Quora
- Medium
- Linkedin
- Wattpad
- Twitter
- Amazon
- Substack



Chapter 5: How Writing on Social Platforms Work


It takes time to get noticed. You have to write regularly and go over the fact that people will likely tell you to go kill yourself in the comment in the beginning.

The purpose of social platforms is not to read, but to write. The number of hours you spend consuming should never equal or exceed the number of hours you spend creating on social platforms.

Here are the stages of growth you will go through:
  • Stage 1: just start writing
  • Stage 2: successful writers are the most consistent writers. Write consistently for six months and then make a decision about keeping it up or no. Over these 6 months, you have three goals: #1 see if you can be consistent; #2 start gathering data about the articles that perform best; #3 pay attention to the top writers of your category and measure yourself against their performances.
  • Stage 3: Go all-in once you have proven yourself you could be consistent.
If you fail to write consistently for 6 months, you are not a writer. Consistent output is the secret to growth on the internet.

Growth strategies:
  • Audience hacking: collaborate with a writer that has a similar audience
  • Trend jacking: when someone is making the headline, jump on their train and talk about them/the trend. Eg: when Keanu Reeves did this whole breathtaking thing for Cyberpunk, you could use that to write "Keanu Reeves is a marketing genius".
  • Engagement hacking: engage the audience of other writers in the comments
  • Hashtag Stacking: a "#" is just a folder. The biggest mistake people make is to treat them as words in a sentence. To get the right #, look at what # popular writers are using.
  • Publishing Hacking: #1 rewrite an article changing a couple of stuff and republish; #2 get your articles syndicated (post every article you write on every social platform you can)



Chapter 6: How to Write Something People Want to Read


There are five types of writing on the internet:
  • #1 actionable guide
  • #2 opinion: least likely to stand out since everyone has one. To write good opinion pieces, get fact-based data; get quotes; better insights; use stories to outline your lessons; be clear.
  • #3 curated list: need to be specific, and fast. To be better than others, you should: get unconventional examples (forget about Apple, Michael Jordan, and Elon Musk); better structure; better intro
  • #4 story: one of the most powerful ways to hook your reader in your writing. For this, you need: better openers (get to the point fast); better transition (get the eyes of the reader moving down the page fast); better characters (make them different than what everyone is using: create "unexpectation"), better dialogues; better category
  • #5 credibility: getting an opinion from someone credible about a subject that matters to you. Eg: "5 Books Warren Buffett Thinks you Should Read". You need: better association (speak about your experience with a credible person); better context; better arguments; better perception (look better).
The way to win the game is by creating the single best possible version of whatever form of writing in your chosen category, which requires research.

Length ≠ value. A valuable article
  • #1 does not confuse the reader,
  • #2 does not waste their time.
The first mistake many people make is that they try to fit in too many ideas in their article.



Chapter 7: How to Write Headlines People Can't Help but Read


A great headline gets people that read it to:
  1. understand what the article is about
  2. understand who the article is for
  3. understand what is the promise of the article
This is called the curiosity gap.

True creativity is the art of clarity.

You should write the headline before you write the article. Doing so, you should think about who it is that you are writing the article for. The subject is directly linked to the audience - treat them together.

The size of your audience = the size of the question you are answering.

Writing for the masses = solving a universal question.
Writing for a specific niche = solving a relevant question.

The best is to combine them both: use a niche to answer a universal question. Eg: "How to become a better writer to solve childhood traumas".

The first words of your headline are extremely important. A good headline should say/have:
- What the article is about
- A connector that connects the beginning to the end
- who this article is for
- the promise of the article

Magnets that make your headline work:
- Numbers
- Dollars signs
- Big names (Elon Musk, etc)
- Timelessness tags: "now", "today", "this just happened", etc
- A success story
- Things that shouldn't go together: "7 things that bill gates and your pet rabbit have in common".
- Call out your industry: "4 trends marketers must know about to survive in 2021"
- Question/answer: Procrastinate too much? These 7 Buddhist techniques will help you get things done fast.
- X numbers: This French chef reveals the 3 ways to bake the best chocolate cake ever.

You can also combine all of these techniques.

Headlines are important. At Buzzfeed, every writer must write 30 versions of a headline to find the best one.

Power words:
- Crucial
- Little-known
- Powerful
- Unforgettable
- Memorable
- Eye-opening
- Painful
- Emerging
- Destructive




Chapter 8: How to Structure the Perfect Post


1. Intro: answer these three questions:
  • What is the article about?
  • Who is the article for?
  • What are you promising them, and will you deliver?
The first sentence of your article should be clear, short, to the point.

2. Main points: the reason why readers are reading your stuff. Juice it up with knowledge that takes as least space as possible. Use subheads.

3. Conclusion: quite tricky, since the climax already happened. Once it happens the reader is done. The truth about conclusions is that online readers don't need them.

If you still want to write them though; here's what you can do:
- cliffhanger: finish with a cliffhanger that makes your reader want to read more of you.
- write the conclusion in a short paragraph at the end of your main point
- write a summary/recap
- strong opinion

Other writing tips:
- Write for the everyday person
- Write how you speak
- Avoid long sentences
- Alternate sentences length
- Write confidently and declaratively



Chapter 9: How to Talk About Yourself Without Making the Story All About You


The more you promote yourself, the fewer people listen and the other way around. People, especially consumers, only care about their own interests and desires. If you can speak directly to those interests and desires, then you can attract them as customers.

The reader should be the main character in your story.

Talking about yourself for the mere sake of it ≠ talking about yourself to give some context. This is key. As such, talking about yourself should only be done when it adds value to the text (eg: establishing credibility).

You need to use the golden intersection not to appear self-promotional.

The Golden Intersection of great writing = "Answering The Reader’s Question" x "Telling Them An Entertaining Story."

If you are writing about how to best ride a horse, you should tell a story about how you learned it yourself first to give context.

Always bring things back to the reader’s wants, needs, and desires.

Only mention information that is truly relevant to the topic at hand.

Make the thing you want to draw attention to part of a larger point. Self-promotion should never feel like self-promotion. it should feel like context.

Don't hard-sell readers. Make whatever you are selling accessible to them, and if they want it, they'll buy it.




Chapter 10 Your Content Roadmap: Constructing A “Sticky Web” For Your Writing


Volume is what separates good from great writers. The key isn't to write one good article - it is to write 1000.

Timely VS timeless content: timely content will get more attention at instant t, but timeless content will stand the test of time.

You should have three content buckets, three audiences you write for:
- General: life-lessons everyone can learn
- Niche: content people like you want to know
- Specific to industry: content people in your industry would like to know

Idea generator:
Step 1: What type of writing: Actionable guide; opinion; curated list; story; credibility.
Step 2: What idea: Explanations; habits; mistakes; lessons; tips; stories; timely events.
Step 3: Why me: I am an expert; I talked to the experts; I am just sharing my opinion.



Chapter 11: Turn Writing Into Valuable Assets

You can make money off writing when:
• You start to get people's email addresses
• Earn advertising revenue
• Earn from paid subscriptions
• Sell products or services
• Speak, coach, consult, advise

It's time to start your own website when:
1. You know what people want to read
2. Know how to resonate with your reader
3. Already have their attention elsewhere

The problem with having your own website is that you will have to work harder to keep your readers' attention.

The best way to do so is to take them from an article they like to an article they will bookmark forever.

Exceed readers' expectations. The first interaction they have on your website should be amazing!

Once you have an article that performs well, you should redirect readers towards that article.

Once you build a blog, that blog should be a web of information that traps your readers in never-ending loops.

Give away 99% of your best writing for free.

How to get email addresses:
- Create an email course and give it for free (or not)
- Curate a case study (the best investment book of all time) and give it for free
- Early/exclusive content
- Give templates/worksheet



Chapter 12: How to Make Money Online as a Writer

  • Have ads on your blog
  • Write behind a paywall (paid content must be even better than free content)
  • Sell a product or a service (a book, an online course, a paid newsletter.)



Conclusion


Becoming a professional writer today is in fact becoming an entrepreneur.

Chapter 13: The One Habit You Need to Master to Be Successful


It's taking action.


@Primeperiwinkle @MTF
 

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Raja

Bronze Contributor
FASTLANE INSIDER
Read Millionaire Fastlane
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I read "The art and business of online writing" by Nicolas Cole. I really enjoyed the book and learned a ton about writing, writing online, business, copywriting, mindset, etc. I would recommend it to anyone that struggles with communication, must write online for their business, or wonder why nobody reads them.

The book is applicable if you want to start a blog, write ads, get a Twitter account, or practice persuasion through writing.

Find below a summary.




What gets people to read online is stories. Whatever you are writing should always be valuable to the reader and wrapped up in a story.




Chapter 1: How to Start


Don't start a blog. A blog is about doing digital marketing, not writing.

Online writing is writing on a platform with an audience already built which is much better.



Chapter 2: How to Be a Writer in the Digital Age


You need data which gives you feedback so that you can improve your craft. The sooner you start writing online, the sooner you can get feedback and adjust.

This is the principle of doing whatever you do in public. Public gives you feedback. Taylor Swift, Ed Sheraan etc all played in public before being megastars.




Chapter 3: The 7 Levels of Success of Online Writing


Writing online is a competition. Writers compete for the attention of readers against everyone else (Youtube, Netflix...). The reason why most people fail as online writers is that their writing sucks.


Level 1: Conscious VS Unconscious
Being a successful writer is about fighting for attention. You need to be aware of that.

Level 2: Choose a category
You need to understand in which category you are playing (technology, business, psychology). Choose one and study it well so you can understand it.

Level 3: Define your style
Do you prefer entertaining, or educating readers? Choose.

Level 4: Optimize your writing style for speed
The internet does likes what goes fast. When the writing pace slows down, readers leave.

Level 5: Specificity is the secret
Being broad= being confusing. Confusing writing does not resonate with readers.
Being specific = being clear.

Don't worry if being specific sounds like putting yourself in a box. It is what you want.

Level 6: Engineering credibility
Three levels:
  1. Implied credibility: how much "better" or "worse" your content is than everyone else's in your chosen category. When the content is good, credibility is implied.
    Things that reinforce your credibility: profile pic, bio, images, videos, graphs, grammar, organization of thought, specificity.
  2. Perceived credibility: what other people have to say about your writing (being featured in Forbes); how many followers you have; selling high barrier to entry products (books, courses); badges and achievements; money you have made.
  3. Earned credibility: the most undervalued form of credibility: it's experience. Signals of earned credibility are: how long you have been making content; how often you create content; how much content you have created; how many people read your content; how well one of your pieces of content performed.
    You should display your signs of earned credibility.

Level 7: Create your Own Category
Competing in other people's category sucks. So, you should make your own.
Eg: Malcolm Gladwell was the first to create the pop-science category.

New categories are created at unlikely intersections between categories, spotted by writers with an intimate understanding of one or several categories. In the end, the category you create is your own way of seeing the world.



Chapter 4: Where You Should Be Writing Online, and Where You Should Not


Where you write today should not necessarily be where you write tomorrow. Platforms and publications rise, then die. Be looking for the rising platforms.

Writing for big publications does not bring in as many views as you can expect. Also, you can't just write what you want. This is why you should write on social platforms when you start.

The 5 Phases of Social platforms and why phase 3 is your window of opportunity.
  • Phase 1: the platform is invented.
  • Phase 2: the platform is getting traction.
  • Phase 3: The platform is well-established.
  • Phase 4: Advertising model is launched and user reach starts falling.
  • Phase 5: Business model is established, it's time to find a new platform.

The best platforms to write on:
- Quora
- Medium
- Linkedin
- Wattpad
- Twitter
- Amazon
- Substack



Chapter 5: How Writing on Social Platforms Work


It takes time to get noticed. You have to write regularly and go over the fact that people will likely tell you to go kill yourself in the comment in the beginning.

The purpose of social platforms is not to read, but to write. The number of hours you spend consuming should never equal or exceed the number of hours you spend creating on social platforms.

Here are the stages of growth you will go through:
  • Stage 1: just start writing
  • Stage 2: successful writers are the most consistent writers. Write consistently for six months and then make a decision about keeping it up or no. Over these 6 months, you have three goals: #1 see if you can be consistent; #2 start gathering data about the articles that perform best; #3 pay attention to the top writers of your category and measure yourself against their performances.
  • Stage 3: Go all-in once you have proven yourself you could be consistent.
If you fail to write consistently for 6 months, you are not a writer. Consistent output is the secret to growth on the internet.

Growth strategies:
  • Audience hacking: collaborate with a writer that has a similar audience
  • Trend jacking: when someone is making the headline, jump on their train and talk about them/the trend. Eg: when Keanu Reeves did this whole breathtaking thing for Cyberpunk, you could use that to write "Keanu Reeves is a marketing genius".
  • Engagement hacking: engage the audience of other writers in the comments
  • Hashtag Stacking: a "#" is just a folder. The biggest mistake people make is to treat them as words in a sentence. To get the right #, look at what # popular writers are using.
  • Publishing Hacking: #1 rewrite an article changing a couple of stuff and republish; #2 get your articles syndicated (post every article you write on every social platform you can)



Chapter 6: How to Write Something People Want to Read


There are five types of writing on the internet:
  • #1 actionable guide
  • #2 opinion: least likely to stand out since everyone has one. To write good opinion pieces, get fact-based data; get quotes; better insights; use stories to outline your lessons; be clear.
  • #3 curated list: need to be specific, and fast. To be better than others, you should: get unconventional examples (forget about Apple, Michael Jordan, and Elon Musk); better structure; better intro
  • #4 story: one of the most powerful ways to hook your reader in your writing. For this, you need: better openers (get to the point fast); better transition (get the eyes of the reader moving down the page fast); better characters (make them different than what everyone is using: create "unexpectation"), better dialogues; better category
  • #5 credibility: getting an opinion from someone credible about a subject that matters to you. Eg: "5 Books Warren Buffett Thinks you Should Read". You need: better association (speak about your experience with a credible person); better context; better arguments; better perception (look better).
The way to win the game is by creating the single best possible version of whatever form of writing in your chosen category, which requires research.

Length ≠ value. A valuable article
  • #1 does not confuse the reader,
  • #2 does not waste their time.
The first mistake many people make is that they try to fit in too many ideas in their article.



Chapter 7: How to Write Headlines People Can't Help but Read


A great headline gets people that read it to:
  1. understand what the article is about
  2. understand who the article is for
  3. understand what is the promise of the article
This is called the curiosity gap.

True creativity is the art of clarity.

You should write the headline before you write the article. Doing so, you should think about who it is that you are writing the article for. The subject is directly linked to the audience - treat them together.

The size of your audience = the size of the question you are answering.

Writing for the masses = solving a universal question.
Writing for a specific niche = solving a relevant question.

The best is to combine them both: use a niche to answer a universal question. Eg: "How to become a better writer to solve childhood traumas".

The first words of your headline are extremely important. A good headline should say/have:
- What the article is about
- A connector that connects the beginning to the end
- who this article is for
- the promise of the article

Magnets that make your headline work:
- Numbers
- Dollars signs
- Big names (Elon Musk, etc)
- Timelessness tags: "now", "today", "this just happened", etc
- A success story
- Things that shouldn't go together: "7 things that bill gates and your pet rabbit have in common".
- Call out your industry: "4 trends marketers must know about to survive in 2021"
- Question/answer: Procrastinate too much? These 7 Buddhist techniques will help you get things done fast.
- X numbers: This French chef reveals the 3 ways to bake the best chocolate cake ever.

You can also combine all of these techniques.

Headlines are important. At Buzzfeed, every writer must write 30 versions of a headline to find the best one.

Power words:
- Crucial
- Little-known
- Powerful
- Unforgettable
- Memorable
- Eye-opening
- Painful
- Emerging
- Destructive




Chapter 8: How to Structure the Perfect Post


1. Intro: answer these three questions:
  • What is the article about?
  • Who is the article for?
  • What are you promising them, and will you deliver?
The first sentence of your article should be clear, short, to the point.

2. Main points: the reason why readers are reading your stuff. Juice it up with knowledge that takes as least space as possible. Use subheads.

3. Conclusion: quite tricky, since the climax already happened. Once it happens the reader is done. The truth about conclusions is that online readers don't need them.

If you still want to write them though; here's what you can do:
- cliffhanger: finish with a cliffhanger that makes your reader want to read more of you.
- write the conclusion in a short paragraph at the end of your main point
- write a summary/recap
- strong opinion

Other writing tips:
- Write for the everyday person
- Write how you speak
- Avoid long sentences
- Alternate sentences length
- Write confidently and declaratively



Chapter 9: How to Talk About Yourself Without Making the Story All About You


The more you promote yourself, the fewer people listen and the other way around. People, especially consumers, only care about their own interests and desires. If you can speak directly to those interests and desires, then you can attract them as customers.

The reader should be the main character in your story.

Talking about yourself for the mere sake of it ≠ talking about yourself to give some context. This is key. As such, talking about yourself should only be done when it adds value to the text (eg: establishing credibility).

You need to use the golden intersection not to appear self-promotional.

The Golden Intersection of great writing = "Answering The Reader’s Question" x "Telling Them An Entertaining Story."

If you are writing about how to best ride a horse, you should tell a story about how you learned it yourself first to give context.

Always bring things back to the reader’s wants, needs, and desires.

Only mention information that is truly relevant to the topic at hand.

Make the thing you want to draw attention to part of a larger point. Self-promotion should never feel like self-promotion. it should feel like context.

Don't hard-sell readers. Make whatever you are selling accessible to them, and if they want it, they'll buy it.




Chapter 10 Your Content Roadmap: Constructing A “Sticky Web” For Your Writing


Volume is what separates good from great writers. The key isn't to write one good article - it is to write 1000.

Timely VS timeless content: timely content will get more attention at instant t, but timeless content will stand the test of time.

You should have three content buckets, three audiences you write for:
- General: life-lessons everyone can learn
- Niche: content people like you want to know
- Specific to industry: content people in your industry would like to know

Idea generator:
Step 1: What type of writing: Actionable guide; opinion; curated list; story; credibility.
Step 2: What idea: Explanations; habits; mistakes; lessons; tips; stories; timely events.
Step 3: Why me: I am an expert; I talked to the experts; I am just sharing my opinion.



Chapter 11: Turn Writing Into Valuable Assets

You can make money off writing when:
• You start to get people's email addresses
• Earn advertising revenue
• Earn from paid subscriptions
• Sell products or services
• Speak, coach, consult, advise

It's time to start your own website when:
1. You know what people want to read
2. Know how to resonate with your reader
3. Already have their attention elsewhere

The problem with having your own website is that you will have to work harder to keep your readers' attention.

The best way to do so is to take them from an article they like to an article they will bookmark forever.

Exceed readers' expectations. The first interaction they have on your website should be amazing!

Once you have an article that performs well, you should redirect readers towards that article.

Once you build a blog, that blog should be a web of information that traps your readers in never-ending loops.

Give away 99% of your best writing for free.

How to get email addresses:
- Create an email course and give it for free (or not)
- Curate a case study (the best investment book of all time) and give it for free
- Early/exclusive content
- Give templates/worksheet



Chapter 12: How to Make Money Online as a Writer

  • Have ads on your blog
  • Write behind a paywall (paid content must be even better than free content)
  • Sell a product or a service (a book, an online course, a paid newsletter.)



Conclusion


Becoming a professional writer today is in fact becoming an entrepreneur.

Chapter 13: The One Habit You Need to Master to Be Successful


It's taking action.


@Primeperiwinkle @MTF
Man, I am so thankful to you, whatever book I want to read you share the summary of that.
 

Primeperiwinkle

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Ok thanks man. Imma go ahead and bet you $1 that if you spent the next 5 months REwriting 100 famous short stories you’d enhance your writing more efficiently than attempting to do what’s in this book.

I dare anybody. Just rewrite one short story. Read it all the way through first. Then, in your own words without checking the story again, type the whole thing out. You’ll learn vocabulary, storytelling and perspective. Start with The Machine Stops by EM Forster.
 

monfii

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Ok thanks man. Imma go ahead and bet you $1 that if you spent the next 5 months REwriting 100 famous short stories you’d enhance your writing more efficiently than attempting to do what’s in this book.

I dare anybody. Just rewrite one short story. Read it all the way through first. Then, in your own words without checking the story again, type the whole thing out. You’ll learn vocabulary, storytelling and perspective. Start with The Machine Stops by EM Forster.
I think it depends on what you want out of your writing. Cole is showing one path to reach destination X, you are showing another to reach destination Y.
 

Primeperiwinkle

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I think it depends on what you want out of your writing. Cole is showing one path to reach destination X, you are showing another to reach destination Y.
I disagree. I think he’s using analysis to dissect the different parts of what he believes to be successful online writing.

Digging into a dead cat to figure out what it’s made of and where its parts connect is necessary, if you’re studying to be a veterinarian. But actually spending time with a pet cat that’s purring on your lap after having dismissed every other member of your family, feeding a cheetah in a nature preserve, or watching a lion hunt in the savannah are all much more powerful experiences because they teach you what a dead cat never could.

Actually attempting to rewrite a short story gives you a synthetic, heartfelt, deep understanding of your subject that no amount of dissection will ever accomplish.
 

monfii

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I disagree. I think he’s using analysis to dissect the different parts of what he believes to be successful online writing.

Digging into a dead cat to figure out what it’s made of and where its parts connect is necessary, if you’re studying to be a veterinarian. But actually spending time with a pet cat that’s purring on your lap after having dismissed every other member of your family, feeding a cheetah in a nature preserve, or watching a lion hunt in the savannah are all much more powerful experiences because they teach you what a dead cat never could.

Actually attempting to rewrite a short story gives you a synthetic, heartfelt, deep understanding of your subject that no amount of dissection will ever accomplish.

I hear you, but i disagree.

I don't think you can stimulate your creativity as much by rewriting than just writing.

Why writing your own story couldn't give you a deep heartfelt understanding of your subject?

I don't see the point of rewriting to be honest.

It would be like saying "copy the Mona Lisa but do it better so you can become a painter".

Meh.

Edit: the next book I will summarize will be the best business book of all time: Zero to One.
 
Last edited:

Aparna

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I read "The art and business of online writing" by Nicolas Cole. I really enjoyed the book and learned a ton about writing, writing online, business, copywriting, mindset, etc. I would recommend it to anyone that struggles with communication, must write online for their business, or wonder why nobody reads them.

The book is applicable if you want to start a blog, write ads, get a Twitter account, or practice persuasion through writing.

Find below a summary.




What gets people to read online is stories. Whatever you are writing should always be valuable to the reader and wrapped up in a story.




Chapter 1: How to Start


Don't start a blog. A blog is about doing digital marketing, not writing.

Online writing is writing on a platform with an audience already built which is much better.



Chapter 2: How to Be a Writer in the Digital Age


You need data which gives you feedback so that you can improve your craft. The sooner you start writing online, the sooner you can get feedback and adjust.

This is the principle of doing whatever you do in public. Public gives you feedback. Taylor Swift, Ed Sheraan etc all played in public before being megastars.




Chapter 3: The 7 Levels of Success of Online Writing


Writing online is a competition. Writers compete for the attention of readers against everyone else (Youtube, Netflix...). The reason why most people fail as online writers is that their writing sucks.


Level 1: Conscious VS Unconscious
Being a successful writer is about fighting for attention. You need to be aware of that.

Level 2: Choose a category
You need to understand in which category you are playing (technology, business, psychology). Choose one and study it well so you can understand it.

Level 3: Define your style
Do you prefer entertaining, or educating readers? Choose.

Level 4: Optimize your writing style for speed
The internet does likes what goes fast. When the writing pace slows down, readers leave.

Level 5: Specificity is the secret
Being broad= being confusing. Confusing writing does not resonate with readers.
Being specific = being clear.

Don't worry if being specific sounds like putting yourself in a box. It is what you want.

Level 6: Engineering credibility
Three levels:
  1. Implied credibility: how much "better" or "worse" your content is than everyone else's in your chosen category. When the content is good, credibility is implied.
    Things that reinforce your credibility: profile pic, bio, images, videos, graphs, grammar, organization of thought, specificity.
  2. Perceived credibility: what other people have to say about your writing (being featured in Forbes); how many followers you have; selling high barrier to entry products (books, courses); badges and achievements; money you have made.
  3. Earned credibility: the most undervalued form of credibility: it's experience. Signals of earned credibility are: how long you have been making content; how often you create content; how much content you have created; how many people read your content; how well one of your pieces of content performed.
    You should display your signs of earned credibility.

Level 7: Create your Own Category
Competing in other people's category sucks. So, you should make your own.
Eg: Malcolm Gladwell was the first to create the pop-science category.

New categories are created at unlikely intersections between categories, spotted by writers with an intimate understanding of one or several categories. In the end, the category you create is your own way of seeing the world.



Chapter 4: Where You Should Be Writing Online, and Where You Should Not


Where you write today should not necessarily be where you write tomorrow. Platforms and publications rise, then die. Be looking for the rising platforms.

Writing for big publications does not bring in as many views as you can expect. Also, you can't just write what you want. This is why you should write on social platforms when you start.

The 5 Phases of Social platforms and why phase 3 is your window of opportunity.
  • Phase 1: the platform is invented.
  • Phase 2: the platform is getting traction.
  • Phase 3: The platform is well-established.
  • Phase 4: Advertising model is launched and user reach starts falling.
  • Phase 5: Business model is established, it's time to find a new platform.

The best platforms to write on:
- Quora
- Medium
- Linkedin
- Wattpad
- Twitter
- Amazon
- Substack



Chapter 5: How Writing on Social Platforms Work


It takes time to get noticed. You have to write regularly and go over the fact that people will likely tell you to go kill yourself in the comment in the beginning.

The purpose of social platforms is not to read, but to write. The number of hours you spend consuming should never equal or exceed the number of hours you spend creating on social platforms.

Here are the stages of growth you will go through:
  • Stage 1: just start writing
  • Stage 2: successful writers are the most consistent writers. Write consistently for six months and then make a decision about keeping it up or no. Over these 6 months, you have three goals: #1 see if you can be consistent; #2 start gathering data about the articles that perform best; #3 pay attention to the top writers of your category and measure yourself against their performances.
  • Stage 3: Go all-in once you have proven yourself you could be consistent.
If you fail to write consistently for 6 months, you are not a writer. Consistent output is the secret to growth on the internet.

Growth strategies:
  • Audience hacking: collaborate with a writer that has a similar audience
  • Trend jacking: when someone is making the headline, jump on their train and talk about them/the trend. Eg: when Keanu Reeves did this whole breathtaking thing for Cyberpunk, you could use that to write "Keanu Reeves is a marketing genius".
  • Engagement hacking: engage the audience of other writers in the comments
  • Hashtag Stacking: a "#" is just a folder. The biggest mistake people make is to treat them as words in a sentence. To get the right #, look at what # popular writers are using.
  • Publishing Hacking: #1 rewrite an article changing a couple of stuff and republish; #2 get your articles syndicated (post every article you write on every social platform you can)



Chapter 6: How to Write Something People Want to Read


There are five types of writing on the internet:
  • #1 actionable guide
  • #2 opinion: least likely to stand out since everyone has one. To write good opinion pieces, get fact-based data; get quotes; better insights; use stories to outline your lessons; be clear.
  • #3 curated list: need to be specific, and fast. To be better than others, you should: get unconventional examples (forget about Apple, Michael Jordan, and Elon Musk); better structure; better intro
  • #4 story: one of the most powerful ways to hook your reader in your writing. For this, you need: better openers (get to the point fast); better transition (get the eyes of the reader moving down the page fast); better characters (make them different than what everyone is using: create "unexpectation"), better dialogues; better category
  • #5 credibility: getting an opinion from someone credible about a subject that matters to you. Eg: "5 Books Warren Buffett Thinks you Should Read". You need: better association (speak about your experience with a credible person); better context; better arguments; better perception (look better).
The way to win the game is by creating the single best possible version of whatever form of writing in your chosen category, which requires research.

Length ≠ value. A valuable article
  • #1 does not confuse the reader,
  • #2 does not waste their time.
The first mistake many people make is that they try to fit in too many ideas in their article.



Chapter 7: How to Write Headlines People Can't Help but Read


A great headline gets people that read it to:
  1. understand what the article is about
  2. understand who the article is for
  3. understand what is the promise of the article
This is called the curiosity gap.

True creativity is the art of clarity.

You should write the headline before you write the article. Doing so, you should think about who it is that you are writing the article for. The subject is directly linked to the audience - treat them together.

The size of your audience = the size of the question you are answering.

Writing for the masses = solving a universal question.
Writing for a specific niche = solving a relevant question.

The best is to combine them both: use a niche to answer a universal question. Eg: "How to become a better writer to solve childhood traumas".

The first words of your headline are extremely important. A good headline should say/have:
- What the article is about
- A connector that connects the beginning to the end
- who this article is for
- the promise of the article

Magnets that make your headline work:
- Numbers
- Dollars signs
- Big names (Elon Musk, etc)
- Timelessness tags: "now", "today", "this just happened", etc
- A success story
- Things that shouldn't go together: "7 things that bill gates and your pet rabbit have in common".
- Call out your industry: "4 trends marketers must know about to survive in 2021"
- Question/answer: Procrastinate too much? These 7 Buddhist techniques will help you get things done fast.
- X numbers: This French chef reveals the 3 ways to bake the best chocolate cake ever.

You can also combine all of these techniques.

Headlines are important. At Buzzfeed, every writer must write 30 versions of a headline to find the best one.

Power words:
- Crucial
- Little-known
- Powerful
- Unforgettable
- Memorable
- Eye-opening
- Painful
- Emerging
- Destructive




Chapter 8: How to Structure the Perfect Post


1. Intro: answer these three questions:
  • What is the article about?
  • Who is the article for?
  • What are you promising them, and will you deliver?
The first sentence of your article should be clear, short, to the point.

2. Main points: the reason why readers are reading your stuff. Juice it up with knowledge that takes as least space as possible. Use subheads.

3. Conclusion: quite tricky, since the climax already happened. Once it happens the reader is done. The truth about conclusions is that online readers don't need them.

If you still want to write them though; here's what you can do:
- cliffhanger: finish with a cliffhanger that makes your reader want to read more of you.
- write the conclusion in a short paragraph at the end of your main point
- write a summary/recap
- strong opinion

Other writing tips:
- Write for the everyday person
- Write how you speak
- Avoid long sentences
- Alternate sentences length
- Write confidently and declaratively



Chapter 9: How to Talk About Yourself Without Making the Story All About You


The more you promote yourself, the fewer people listen and the other way around. People, especially consumers, only care about their own interests and desires. If you can speak directly to those interests and desires, then you can attract them as customers.

The reader should be the main character in your story.

Talking about yourself for the mere sake of it ≠ talking about yourself to give some context. This is key. As such, talking about yourself should only be done when it adds value to the text (eg: establishing credibility).

You need to use the golden intersection not to appear self-promotional.

The Golden Intersection of great writing = "Answering The Reader’s Question" x "Telling Them An Entertaining Story."

If you are writing about how to best ride a horse, you should tell a story about how you learned it yourself first to give context.

Always bring things back to the reader’s wants, needs, and desires.

Only mention information that is truly relevant to the topic at hand.

Make the thing you want to draw attention to part of a larger point. Self-promotion should never feel like self-promotion. it should feel like context.

Don't hard-sell readers. Make whatever you are selling accessible to them, and if they want it, they'll buy it.




Chapter 10 Your Content Roadmap: Constructing A “Sticky Web” For Your Writing


Volume is what separates good from great writers. The key isn't to write one good article - it is to write 1000.

Timely VS timeless content: timely content will get more attention at instant t, but timeless content will stand the test of time.

You should have three content buckets, three audiences you write for:
- General: life-lessons everyone can learn
- Niche: content people like you want to know
- Specific to industry: content people in your industry would like to know

Idea generator:
Step 1: What type of writing: Actionable guide; opinion; curated list; story; credibility.
Step 2: What idea: Explanations; habits; mistakes; lessons; tips; stories; timely events.
Step 3: Why me: I am an expert; I talked to the experts; I am just sharing my opinion.



Chapter 11: Turn Writing Into Valuable Assets

You can make money off writing when:
• You start to get people's email addresses
• Earn advertising revenue
• Earn from paid subscriptions
• Sell products or services
• Speak, coach, consult, advise

It's time to start your own website when:
1. You know what people want to read
2. Know how to resonate with your reader
3. Already have their attention elsewhere

The problem with having your own website is that you will have to work harder to keep your readers' attention.

The best way to do so is to take them from an article they like to an article they will bookmark forever.

Exceed readers' expectations. The first interaction they have on your website should be amazing!

Once you have an article that performs well, you should redirect readers towards that article.

Once you build a blog, that blog should be a web of information that traps your readers in never-ending loops.

Give away 99% of your best writing for free.

How to get email addresses:
- Create an email course and give it for free (or not)
- Curate a case study (the best investment book of all time) and give it for free
- Early/exclusive content
- Give templates/worksheet



Chapter 12: How to Make Money Online as a Writer

  • Have ads on your blog
  • Write behind a paywall (paid content must be even better than free content)
  • Sell a product or a service (a book, an online course, a paid newsletter.)



Conclusion


Becoming a professional writer today is in fact becoming an entrepreneur.

Chapter 13: The One Habit You Need to Master to Be Successful


It's taking action.


@Primeperiwinkle @MTF
Thank you so much!! This is so helpful, cleared so many doubts I had
 

Primeperiwinkle

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I hear you, but i disagree.

I don't think you can stimulate your creativity as much by rewriting than just writing.

Why writing your own story couldn't give you a deep heartfelt understanding of your subject?

I don't see the point of rewriting to be honest.

It would be like saying "copy the Mona Lisa but do it better so you can become a painter".

Meh.

Edit: the next book I will summarize will be the best business book of all time: Zero to One.

Ok we’re cool. (For thousands of years the students of great artists practiced copying first then went on to make their own stuff.)
 

Black_Dragon43

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Ok thanks man. Imma go ahead and bet you $1 that if you spent the next 5 months REwriting 100 famous short stories you’d enhance your writing more efficiently than attempting to do what’s in this book.

I dare anybody. Just rewrite one short story. Read it all the way through first. Then, in your own words without checking the story again, type the whole thing out. You’ll learn vocabulary, storytelling and perspective. Start with The Machine Stops by EM Forster.
That's super interesting. Have you tried that? And are you a writer? I'd be curious what your experiences were, what your key takeaways from the exercise were and so on if you'd care to share!
 

Primeperiwinkle

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That's super interesting. Have you tried that? And are you a writer? I'd be curious what your experiences were, what your key takeaways from the exercise were and so on if you'd care to share!
I never graduated from high school. I got my GED then went to trade school for a year and then worked at a trade for the next ten years or so. I read a ton of books though because I love to read. When I say ton, I mean 3-5 books a week.

Then I found out that most of what I was reading was crap compared to books written more than a hundred years ago. For instance, I can read a 500pg modern novel in about 3hrs right? But try making sense of this from Plutarch’s Parallel Lives.


“Towards Pompey the Roman people must have had, from the very beginning, the feeling which the Prometheus of Aeschylus has towards Heracles, when, having been saved by him, he says:—

"I hate the sire, but dearly love this child of his."1
For never have the Romans manifested so strong and fierce a hatred towards a general as they did towards Strabo, the father of Pompey; while he lived, indeed, they feared his talent as a soldier, for he was a very warlike man, 2 but when he was killed by a thunderbolt,2 and his body was on its way to the funeral pyre, they dragged it from its bier and heaped insults upon it. On the other hand, no Roman ever enjoyed a heartier goodwill on the part of his countrymen, or one which began sooner, or reached a greater height in his prosperity, or remained more constant in his adversity, than Pompey did. 3 And whereas there was one sole reason for the hatred felt towards Strabo, namely, his insatiable desire for money, there were many reasons for the love bestowed on Pompey; his modest and temperate way of living, his training in the arts of war, his persuasive speech, his trustworthy character, and his tact in meeting people, so that no man asked a favour with less offence, or bestowed one with a better mien. For, in addition to his other graces, he had the art of giving without arrogance, and of receiving without loss of dignity.”

Since ppl on this forum are intelligent I’m certain they can grasp the meaning of the above BUT if you now try to just type out what you just read or even explain what it meant in your own words you’ll immediately realize that the task is difficult. Why?

Because modern education is deficient and stringing words together is a skill. So I started practicing this new idea called “narration”.

And it was difficult AF.

The more I tried the more I realized how weak my own powers of attention were, how inarticulate and stilting my sentences.

Then I started making connections to other crafts where the work of an apprentice is primarily, at first, in recreating (or attempting to copy) the work of the master craftsman, because if you can weld like the master or sew leather like the guy who’s been doing it for fifty years THATS when you know you’re good. What master chef got that way by throwing random ingredients into a bowl? That’s ridiculous. Everyone starts with the basics. We follow somebody else’s recipe and once we’ve got THAT down we start making our own version.

You asked if I’m a writer.. and I don’t think I am. I have no burning desire to share stories. I have no burning desire to see a character I created set free on the page. I DO have a great desire to help people though and since the OP wants to be a writer I thought I’d share this principle of rewriting, because I know it works. Every post I’ve made on this forum, any skill I have at replying is because of this one technique. So what does it look like? Here’s my first attempt at the above paragraph, after reading it once.

~Pompey, son of Strabo, was more beloved by the Roman people than his father was hated, which is saying something. Strabo was respected for his ferocity in war but despised because of his greed. At his funeral the people preferred to pull him from the pyre to burn him with insults before any real flames could have the privilege of reaching his body. The man was not a favorite. The difference between father and son could not be more stark.

As for Pompey, his beauty as a youth, kindness as a man, generosity in nature and diligence so impressed Rome that even during intense adversity he was still well-liked. Above all famous Roman leaders he stands alone in this, that he was loved as a child, as a young man, and as a general unto his death. His traits were numerous. He had persuasiveness of tongue, a temperate nature, generous in giving, integrity in character. ~

I’ve never actually tried rewriting 100 short stories but I have used that as a standard for when I decide to learn something and commit to doing it well... am I willing to try 100 times to create something that a master creates? Am I willing to paint a picture 100 times? Am I willing to try a chokehold 100 times? Am I willing to attempt making sushi 100 times?

I dunno if this helped, at all, but I hope it did.
 

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