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Want to be a better podcaster? Something I’ve seen over and over again is that the best podcasters spend a lot of time writing.

Want to learn how to be a better writer? My guest this week – Glenn Leibowitz – wants to help you get there.

Glenn has been writing and editing for the past 17 years, mostly for his company, but two years ago he started his own blog and also started to blog weekly on LinkedIn. He writes about professional development, technology, social media, and writing.

In April 2015, he launched his weekly podcast – Write With Impact – where he interviews authors of nonfiction and fiction and tries to pick apart their secrets and have them share what they’ve learned over the years as writers.

In December 2015, LinkedIn named him one of 90 “top voices” on LinkedIn (out of the 1 million people who blog there). He ranked #2 in the marketing and social media category.

I asked Glenn to join me for a three-part podcast series to share what he’s learning about writing and growing an audience, the benefits of storytelling, how to turn a podcast interview into a story, how to get started with publishing on LinkedIn, and more.

In this episode, Glenn shares his top tips for becoming a better writer, we discuss why outlines are critical for success, why you should edit after you’re done writing, how to write great titles, and so much more.

Highlights, Takeaways & Quick Wins

  • Writing an outline is like creating a map for yourself. It will help you get to where you want to go.
  • Sharing a story brings the topic down to earth for your reader and allows them to relate to whatever you’re writing.
  • Don’t try to make all your writing perfect right away. Allow yourself to separate the writing process and the editing process.
  • If you’re not perfectly consistent with your output, that’s okay, just keep trying and never give up.
  • Publish something every single week, regardless of how you feel.
  • Your title needs to summarize your podcast or blog post well, and in a way that gets your audience’s attention.
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Show Notes

7:35 Glenn: There’s so much to learn when it comes to writing, but all the writers I’ve ever talked with gave this advice: if you want to get better, you just gotta write more. With that in mind, here are my top tips for becoming a better writer.

Tip #1. Write to an Audience of One

  • 8:06 Glenn: Know who you’re talking to. Visualize your reader if you can, and if you can’t, that’s fine, but try to write as if you’re writing to just one person. Pretend you’re writing an email to a friend or relative. That’s a good way to break through any inhibitions you might be feeling when you try to put words down on the page for the first time.
  • 9:17 Aaron: This is great advice for podcasters as well. When you’re podcasting, talk like you’re talking to a single person; this makes your listener feel a more personal connection with you.

Tip #2. Write Like You Talk

  • 9:36 Glenn: When writing, pretend like you’re talking. Treat your writing as a form of transcription of your thoughts and of that voice running through your head. Just write whatever comes to mind. I wrote a blog post on LinkedIn about this recently — How to Find Your Writing Voice: Listen to the Voice on the Page. That one resonated with a lot of people because they could relate to that. It’s how I write, and apparently it’s how a lot of people write. As one of my guests on my podcast said, “If you can speak, you can write.”
  • 10:37 Don’t get caught up with the style, the vocabulary; just focus on getting what’s on your mind down on the page.
  • 10:59 Aaron: I agree, but I have a question. Sometimes when I’m writing, I’ll think something funny and put it down, but then I look at it and wonder if other people will get it or think it’s funny. Do you ever struggle with that?
  • 11:15 Glenn: That happens to me all the time. I write a lot of stuff that never sees the light of day, but you should edit after you’ve finished writing. Don’t worry about editing while you write. I try not to delete anything during the initial writing; I like collecting words even if they don’t end up going in the final version that I publish.

Tip #3. Pick a Very Focused Topic

  • 14:45 Glenn: Whatever you’re writing – show notes for a podcast, a blog post, the chapter of your first ebook on Amazon – you need to have a focused topic. Your entire blog post should support or relate to that topic in some way. Think about the main point of your podcast or blog post, and let everything flow from there.

Tip #4. Jot Down a Quick Outline

  • 16:50 Glenn: Jot down a few sentences or a very skeletal outline of what you want to write about. Put the bones down on the page before you start adding the meat. The first sentence or two should be what the entire blog post or chapter is about. Then list out the 4, 5, or 8 supporting points before you start working on the individual paragraphs. These points will be the blueprint, the directions that will help you get to where you want to go.
  • 17:39 Aaron: I love using mind maps to write outlines. It’s been a game changer for me.

Writing an outline is like creating a map for yourself. It will help you get to where you want to go.

Tip #5. Tell a Story

  • 19:35 Glenn: Storytelling seems to be all the rage these days and for very good reason; we all love stories. So many of the writers I’ve spoken to on my podcast have told me how they believe story is wired into our DNA, and I think that’s true.
  • 20:09 We all want to see how a hero overcomes a tough challenge and what happens next, how they grow from that and learn from that. That all sounds like the elements of fiction, and that’s how novelists write. But I believe, and my podcast guests agree, that the same elements of storytelling apply to writing nonfiction like blog posts, nonfiction books, essays, and I would argue, even show notes for a podcast.
  • 20:49 I start most of my blog posts off with a personal story of when I was a kid or teen or twenty-something or even something that happened recently. I relate the topic to something that happened to me personally, a challenge I faced, and then I describe how I dealt with it, and what I learned.
  • 21:21 My latest post on LinkedIn was about self-driving cars, and I started that one off with a story of how my mom put my brother and me in a defensive driving course even before we could drive, just so she could scare the heck out of us and make us better drivers. I then followed that story up with the news of Google’s self-driving car, which got the green light from the National Transportation Safety Administration.

Sharing a story brings the topic down to earth for your reader and allows them to relate to whatever you’re writing.

  • 23:47 Aaron: I love hearing those personal stories. I find it hard to connect with people who don’t ever share any personal stories.

Tip #6. Edit, Edit, Edit

  • 27:34 Glenn: This is where your logical, analytical brain kicks in. You need to take a microscopic look at each sentence and word on the page, review your punctuation, and read through your writing over and over again in your mind (or out loud) to see if it all fits together logically. You want to make sure you are delivering your message clearly, which is critically important, and also that it’s grammatically correct.
  • 28:20 If you’re not good with grammar or punctuation or word usage, or if you’re not a native writer of English, then ask a friend or family member to take a look at it, or hire a freelance editor on one of those freelancing websites. But edit edit edit until it’s something you feel comfortable publishing (and ideally, something you feel proud of).
  • 29:58 Aaron: Something I’ve started doing lately is allowing myself to write a first draft without trying to make it perfect. I used to try to make everything perfect the first time, which really slowed me down. Now, I write an outline, then write a first draft as fast as I can, then go back to do the editing afterwards. I’m much happier now that I’ve stopped trying to edit while I write. I have to thank the guys who wrote Write. Publish. Repeat. for sharing that tip about writing your first draft as fast as you can.

Don’t try to make all your writing perfect right away. Allow yourself to separate the writing process and the editing process.

Tip #7. Be Consistent

  • 32:31 Glenn: One thing I see a lot of bloggers do is write a post here, write one there, maybe 5-10 posts, or maybe they go for 6-12 months and then give up.

If you’re not perfectly consistent with your output, that’s okay, just keep trying and never give up.

  • 33:02 Take Sean McCabe’s advice; you have to show up and create content every day for at least two years before you’ll see substantial results. If you do see results before that two year point, consider it a bonus. But you’ve got to look at writing as a long-term play, and not something you just do whenever you feel like it. Don’t quit just because you feel bored or if you aren’t seeing results yet.

Publish something every single week, regardless of how you feel.

  • 36:13 Aaron: “Show up every day” applies to podcasting too. I’ve seen amazing results in the past 10 months because I showed up every day and released an episode every week. I’ve become a better writer and a better podcaster, all because I keep trying. I keep showing up and I give it the best I can every single time, and I get a little better every week and my audience keeps growing.

Recap:

  • 40:18 Aaron: Those were some great tips, so I want to do a quick recap:
  1. Write to an audience of one
  2. Write like you talk
  3. Pick a focused topic
  4. Write outlines
  5. Tell a story
  6. Edit, edit, edit
  7. Be consistent

Connect with Glenn Leibowitz

  • 40:53 Aaron: Glenn, you’ll be back next week, but in the meantime, where can people go to find you online?
  • 41:04 Glenn: You can head over to WriteWithImpact.com and sign up for my weekly newsletter so you can get my latest podcast episodes and blog posts, as well as recommendations for books and resources for writers.
  • 41:27 I’m also on LinkedIn and encourage you to connect directly with me there. You can find me on Twitter at @glennleibowitz or @impactfulwriter.

Q&A

  • 44:11 Levi Allen asked: What are the top books/blogs you’d recommend for growing as a writer?
  • 44:23 Glenn: I have two books that I recommend to everyone; On Writing Well by William Zinsser, and On Writing by Stephen King. For websites/blogs, I’d recommend checking out Joanna Penn, Jeff Goins, Monica Leonelle, and Chris Fox. You can also check out my website and podcast to find even more great resources.
  • 47:12 Aaron: I’m currently reading a fantastic book called Write. Publish. Repeat. and I think anyone interested in writing should pick that up. I’m also a fan on both On Writing and On Writing Well, although I’m only about 60% of the way through On Writing Well.
  • 49:13 Scotty Russell asked: How do you balance injecting value and sharing your own life experiences? Making your audience the hero yet establishing credibility.
  • 49:37 Glenn: I keep that in mind every time I sit down to write a blog post. I don’t want to write what I call “navel-gazers”, that is, posts where I just talk about myself. I try to avoid that, but I do try to include myself or my experiences in the story if it’s relevant. I try to always orient the message of the post towards the reader. I’m always trying to think about what would be valuable for the reader.
  • 51:58 Aaron: Always start with wanting to give your audience something valuable. But I’m wondering; do you ever struggle with qualifying what you’re saying with, “This is just my experience, it might not work for you”? I find myself doing that a lot.
  • 52:49 Glenn: Yeah, of course. That’s something I struggle with all the time. It’s why I have so many unfinished blog posts in my drafts folder. But I try to push through and publish anyways. Even if the blog post doesn’t help everyone, as long as it helps a few people than I’m doing good work.
  • 54:34 Joseph asked: How do you come up with good titles without making them sounding like click-bait?
  • 54:45 Glenn: You definitely don’t want to use click-bait. Click-bait means that your title promises something that your article doesn’t deliver, and you never want to do that. Just be honest and clear with the headline. I often write out a list of possible headlines, and sometimes I’ll ask my kids which one they think is best. That usually works out well.

Your title needs to summarize your podcast or blog post well, and in a way that gets your audience’s attention.

  • 55:38 Aaron: I think a lot of people – especially if they’re new to publishing online – worry about writing titles that sound click-baity, or about doing list articles with titles like 7 Things Every Podcaster Should Know.
  • 56:03 Glenn: I can tell you this; the LinkedIn editors don’t like list articles anymore. List articles are fun, but they’re all over the place; too many people are doing them.
  • 57:18 What I say is it’s better to be clear than clever. Sometimes I try to write a clever headline, but before I hit publish I ask myself, “What am I trying to say with this post? Does my headline reflect that?” I try to be truthful and give my reader a clear idea of what they’re going to get. Don’t lie, don’t mislead or promise something you can’t deliver.