Like many writers, I have a hard time judging the quality of my writing.
When I’ve finished working on a piece and read through it for the first time, I’m often left with no idea whether it was any good. Even when I’m happy with my writing, I’m clueless about how readers will respond.
Fortunately, the internet provides a great solution to this problem. Although many writers bemoan the internet’s ease of publication, we should actually be celebrating it. Instead of just guessing what readers will like, we can use the internet’s easy publication tools to learn what our readers respond to.
The internet allows us to publish frequently and get constant feedback from our readers. With traditional publishing, it can take months to find out how many people actually read your work, and you may never learn what they actually thought of it. Online, we’re provided with instantaneous reader statistics.
In addition, the internet provides an easy way for readers to contact you immediately, which leads to much more written feedback than most traditionally published pieces receive.
By publishing frequently and analyzing how our articles and stories are received, we can learn which aspects of our writing are working, and which should be tweaked or dropped.
The internet is the largest writing workshop in human history. By treating it as our own personal laboratory, we can rapidly improve our writing. Below are a few ideas to get the most out of this process.
The key to treating the internet like a laboratory is to publish often so that we can experiment with a variety of different styles and techniques in a short period of time.
Every single time that we publish an article, we’re providing ourselves with another chance to gather data about how it’s received.
I love novels and long essays, but short pieces are best when it comes to getting quick feedback. The fast turnaround time of a short article or blog post allows us to rapidly test different writing techniques.
To me, there’s no worse feeling as a writer than to spend months working on a project, and then end up with barely any readers when it finally comes time to publish.
So should long writing be avoided entirely? Of course not. My solution is to work on long and short versions of an idea simultaneously.
As I continue to work on a long article or essay, I publish the shorter versions of the essay so that I can start gathering feedback. Based on that feedback, I know whether to adjust the style of the longer version or to keep it as is.
There’s no way to guarantee the success of any piece of writing, but experimenting with shorter articles is the best way to improve our chances.
Publish on Multiple Platforms
There are a lot of great publishing platforms online. Unfortunately, it’s easy to allow ourselves to find one that we like and forget about all the others.
Just as I experiment with how I write, I also make sure to experiment with how I publish.
If you only publish on a single website, it can be tough to tell why your writing gets the reaction it does. If you’re getting barely any readers, it might be because your writing needs improvement, but it’s just as likely that you simply haven’t found the right audience yet.
Finding the right audience is just as important as writing well. Even the best writing in the world won’t flourish if it’s being put in front of a group of people who just aren’t interested in the topic.
Learn From the Data
If you want to use the internet as a writing lab, the most important step is to actually read and learn from the data.
Checking to see how many readers each story got is not enough. The essential skill is learning to compare data between stories.
There are so many variables that can affect how a story is received, so we need to be systematic about comparing stories. What I like to do is separate my stories into different categories based on variables that I think might be affecting readership.
For example, how do my stories about one topic do when compared with stories of another? How do two stories about the same topic compare when published on different platforms?
Some of the other variables I think about are whether the story is personal or objective, the overall tone of the story, paragraph length, sentence length, and publication time.
Even after comparing stories, it isn’t always clear what exactly makes one story more successful than another.
When I’m not sure what has attributed to a story’s success, I know that I should experiment with similar stories in the future so that I can have more data to look at. By tweaking the style a little with each story, I can get closer to narrowing down what works and what doesn’t. Experimenting with our writing is a never-ending process, but if we do it correctly, we can get a little better with each article we write.