There are only three things you need to know to write long-form content

Recently, I said that you need to treat long-from writing as a craft and apprentice yourself to the process.

Today, I want to explore that process some more.

There are only three things that you need to know to write long-form content. 

And this is true for writing online or in an academic context. 

Now, it’s easy to think that there are more than these three things if you’ve done some google searching or had a look through some of the books available on how to write.

But in terms of the basics for writing long-form content, there really are 

only 

three 

things. 

You need to:

  1. Understand what to write. 
  2. Plan what you’re going to write. 
  3. Write what you have to write.

These are the three stages in the writing process. 

It really is as simple as that. 

The thing that makes all the difference is that people who don’t have a good system usually try to start at the third stage. 

Unless you’re already a genius writer (or taking large amounts of psychedelics), this is the last stage in the process.

Alternatively, if you’re writing fiction or simply want a stream-consciousness approach then, sure, just start writing.

But then you should probably get some different advice.

However, if you’re starting out on this apprenticeship in longer-form writing I don’t advise skipping the first two stages.

I can’t stress this strongly enough:

  • You need to understand what you’re writing and spend significant time in the planning stages if you want the actual writing to flow well.

And yes, people can tell.

They might not be able to articulate it, but they can tell.

What I’m going to do shortly is break down these all three stages into a series of finite and very concrete steps that you can easily follow.

And these steps will provide you with the scaffolding that you need along the way. 

Now… I know I said that there were only three things you needed to know. 

But really there are four.

This last thing relates to a kind of golden rule or guiding principle for long-form-writing pragmatism. 

It is as follows:

  • Always give a monkey a banana

What this means is that your reader, your audience, the person you are writing to is a monkey.

Heck, it might be a whole crowd of monkeys.

And it’s the same if you’re writing in an academic context, like for college or university.

Your tutor, teacher, lecturer – whoever set the writing assignment – is the monkey. 

An academic is just a monkey with a mostly-useless advanced degree whose job, more often than not, is to make difficult and often irrelevant things more complicated. 

What you have to do though is give them a banana (That’s your essay). 

But what’s most important though is that you give them the right kind of ba­nana, as well. 

Let’s unpack because there’s a problem: 

  • The monkeys won’t usually just won’t come out and tell you what kind of banana they want. 

In some cases, they may actually try and confuse you by saying that they want an apple or something else instead.

Academics are the worst at this. 

However, as you work through a system for writing you can increase your chances of dishing out exactly the right kind of banana.

That’s all for now.

You can find me online by searching THISISGRAEME or click here for all the links

Nga mihi nui.

Graeme in Aotearoa NZ

Author: Graeme Smith

Education, technology, design. Also making cool stuff...

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