This is a guest article by Indiana Lee. If you want to submit a guest article of your own, be sure to read the guest article guidelines.
The writer’s life has changed a lot over the last century. Hemingway used to get away with writing between 500 to 1000 words per day, while the contemporary novelist Stephen King commits himself to writing up to 6 pages or more. If you’re a full-time writer, you probably dream of the day when you can write 500 words in a day and call it good. But don’t feel too sorry for yourself. Hemingway may have worked to a self-paced writing schedule, but he didn’t have the opportunities that the web provides wordsmiths today.
The digital age provides you with more writing opportunities than ever before, as blogs, news outlets, literary magazines, and online journals are all looking for original content. You also have immediate access to every answer you’ve ever needed — imagine being a writer in the 1980s, writing without the ability to just Google a word that was at the tip of their tongue . . . it must have been agony!
But being a writer in the 2020s still takes discipline and a solid strategy. You can’t just wake up, type, and expect your work to appear all over the web. You have to get ahead of trends and learn the inner workings of SEO to survive in the deep waters of writing in the digital age.
Trends have always been important.
Now, you don’t have to revolutionize the literary landscape to make it as a writer in the digital age, but you should have a good idea of what’s occurring in the publishing industry to better your chances of finding a publisher.
The trends you should pay attention to largely depend on the context of your writing. If you are a fiction writer and want to write hardback literary novels, then you should probably follow in the footsteps of popular writers of the current era who have distinguished themselves. If you prefer to write creative nonfiction for a digital audience, then you may want to grab a subscription to the New Yorker or the Gettysburg Review as these are leading venues for true stories with a creative flair.
It’s also worth bearing in mind that some trends are worth missing. Plenty of commentators and writers believe that the digital age signals the death of print media. But, in reality, 90% of young people prefer print books, as the tactile experience is far more simple than reading with an e-reader. The popularity of physical books means that, if you have the patience and skill, you can still make it as a print writer in the digital age.
The web is a wonderful source of information and inspiration. With just a few clicks, you can watch an interview with Amitav Ghosh or read the complete works of Shakespeare. But, as you probably know, the web is far more tempting as a distraction from work than it is an aid to writing in the digital age.
Avoiding distractions as a contemporary writer is all about building habits that work for you. For example, if you are a creative writer, you might consider jotting down the heart of your story with pen and paper and using a word processor at a later stage to refine your vision. This cuts out the temptation to surf the web when your creative well runs dry and will keep your mind focused on the task at hand.
For most writers, working on a computer is non-negotiable. You simply must have access to accurate information if you are writing for a blog or journal, and you cannot submit an article that hasn’t been thoroughly reviewed with the help of spell-checkers and Grammarly.
If you write with a laptop, consider taking yourself somewhere that helps you focus. For example, you might visit a coffee shop when you want to work on your manuscript, or even a public park if being outside stimulates your creativity. If you do venture beyond the comfort of your home, consider using a VPN to stay safe when using public wifi and turn off file sharing so you don’t lose your work.
As a writer in the digital age, your wordsmithing skills are your greatest asset. You know how to weave a story and are adept at finding the right word for the right moment. But what do you know about search engine optimization (SEO)?
SEO may not have been important in the last creative non-fiction writing workshop you took, but it is important to the editors of the blog that you are submitting work to. SEO is a complicated beast, but you should have a basic understanding of concepts like keywords, meta-description tags, and the value of relevance and authority.
Fortunately, you can learn most of what you need to know through sites like HubSpot and SEMRush. Their guides are great for writers, marketers, and blog editors alike, so you’ll get a useful top-down appreciation of SEO by working through their free materials.
Surviving as a writer in the digital age isn’t as easy as you’d think. It takes a unique mixture of guts, technical knowledge, and vision to find an audience and write quality content that is appreciated by readers and marketers alike. If learning about data analytics and SEO isn’t for you, then you can still pursue a career in print media. You’ll just need a distraction-free setup to stay on track and find success.
About the author: Indiana Lee lives in the Northwest and has a passion for the environment and wellness. She draws her inspiration from nature and makes sure to explore the outdoors regularly with her two dogs. Indiana has experience in owning and operating her own business. Feel free to follow her on Twitter @indianalee3.