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  1. Oct 2020
    1. Key learnings from this guideYour goal is not to foster the writing habit. Your goal is to fall so in love with ideas that you can’t not write about them. Find your objective and your motivation.Don't fully think through your ideas before writing. It's inefficient. The best way to think is by writing. It compels your brain to connect the dots.Avoid guessing what readers want. Instead, be a proxy: Selfishly entertain and surprise yourself, and you'll entertain and surprise many of them too.Your writing is clear once your thoughts are self-evident.Your writing is succinct once everything unimportant is removed.Your writing is intriguing once the average reader effortlessly makes it to the end. A hook, peak, and satisfying ending are your trifecta of intrigue.Treat feedback as a science. Measure your scores and iterate. Remember that the best feedback often comes from you with fresh eyes.Rewriting your thoughts to be clear, succinct, and intriguing is a lot of work. You won't love writing until you find a way to love rewriting. Make a game out of it.
    1. Step 1: Rewrite entire sectionsYou cut filler from your writing with a three-step process.For each section:Read all its paragraphs.Take an hour-long break.Rewrite the section from memory — focusing only on key points.
    2. While talking to children, you instinctively simplify:You use plain phrasing.You use fewer ideas per sentence.Use these techniques in your writing too.
    3. Clear writing starts with clear thinking:What am I really trying to say?What is the key point I need to make?How can I make that key point easy to understand?We'll explore two tools for increasing clarity: Simple sentencesExamples and counterexamples
    4. So they rewrite it in pursuit of four objectives:ClaritySuccinctnessIntrigueLogicThe enemy of those objectives is being precious about what you’ve said and how you've said it.
    1. Provide next stepsAsk yourself, What about the world can my readers better appreciate thanks to my article? Share where they go next to continue the journey they started with you. For a writing guide such as this, I might conclude by sharing the bloggers whose work I enjoy. Then I might urge you to reverse engineer their articles and study what makes them great.
    2. Writing an outroOutros are optional. If you include one, it should frame why your article was worth reading. There are two tricks for doing this.Share a poignant takeawayIdentify your article’s significance by re-reading it and asking, “What was this really about? What was I trying to say?” Distill the answer into a single, punchy sentence. Make readers think, “I should memorize this witty advice.” You can also include a relevant quote from someone your readers respect.
    3. The first draft processHere’s the process you'll explore:Choose an objective for your post.Write a messy braindump of your ideas.Transfer your best talking points to an outline.Write your first draft using that outline.
    4. Step 2 — Outline your talking pointsBy this point, you’ve generated intriguing talking points to support your argument and explore its significance. But your points are buried in a messy brainstorm.Now, extract the points that most intrigue you. Then, order them into a loose outline.
    5. Your voiceSomething wonderful happens when you focus on what interests and surprises you: your voice emerges. Readers begin to notice:What you care about.The perspectives you see the world through.Readers love this. It makes your writing feel personal.
    6. Generate surprising talking points using Paul Graham’s Method: First, learn all the basics on a topic. Then, if you can find new information that surprises even your knowledgeable self, it’ll surprise laypeople too. Again, you are your audience's proxy. There's no need to guess what will surprise them. Hunt for something that surprises you, and you'll surprises them too.
    7. Sustaining your momentumWhen ideas stop flowing, ask yourself:How can I make my point more convincing?What are the interesting implications of what I just said?Repeatedly ask these two questions and keep moving in whichever direction interests you most.
    8. The myth is it that expertise is what makes nonfiction writing great. Nope, it's curiosity. And, poetically, curiosity is the shortest path to career expertise.
    9. It’s normal if not many ideas come to mind immediately. You’ll discover that the majority of your ideas arrive while writing — not before. You write in order to think.You'll discover even more ideas by resting and reflecting on what you’ve written. The act of writing compels your brain to draw connections between ideas.
    10. Your ideas will come from a few places: Hooks — Answer the captivating questions raised in your intro.Experience — Reflect on observations and anecdotes.Research — Acquire knowledge.Experiments — Run tests.Brainstorming — Voice-record then transcribe your thoughts. Mental models — Think critically.
    11. Step 1 — Write down your initial thoughtsStart by writing down half-formed thoughts. Brainstorm without structure. Uncork your mind to see what floods out. Your only goal at this stage is to get something slightly interesting onto the page.
    12. An objective reveals what your article must accomplish to be successful. You can work backwards from it to identify your talking points. Every argument has two types of talking points:Supporting points — Which points are needed to make my argument? Resulting points — What are the implications of my argument being true?Writing your first draft is the art of generating these two talking points.
    13. Start with your objectiveBefore writing, choose an objective to focus your thinking.
    14. Our writing processThe goal of your first draft isn’t to say things well. Save that for rewriting.Your first draft is for generating ideas: Brainstorm talking points.Connect dots between those points to learn what you’re really trying to say.This works best when you’re exploring ideas that most interest you. The more self-indulgent you are, the better your article.
    1. Hooks save timeIt gets even better.When hooks are the first part of your article, you have a critical opportunity to ask others for feedback: “After reading my intro, do you want to keep reading?”If they say no, you saved yourself from writing an article no one cares about.If they say yes, you'll have confidence you've found an interesting perspective.
    2. Question examplesIf you’re writing about bodybuilding, interesting questions might include: Can you build a significant amount of muscle within three months? How do all the celebrities playing superheroes do it?Turn this into a hook → Yes, you can build a significant amount of muscle in three months. I’ll walk you through how celebrities do it.Is it possible to build all that muscle without going to the gym? Can you buy affordable home equipment instead?Turn this into a hook → You can build that muscle without going to the gym. There’s affordable home equipment that makes it possible.‍
    3. How to generate hooksYou create hooks by finding questions you want answers to:Ask yourself, “If someone else wrote my intro, what are the most captivating questions they could pose to make me excited to read this?”Write those questions down. Even if you lack the answers. Rank your questions by how much they interest you.The top questions become your hooks: Pose them in your intro and don't reveal their answers.You and your audience evolved the same storytelling machinery in your heads, so questions that hook you will hook most of them too. When generating hooks, you discover what both you and your audience genuinely care to learn about.
    4. What exactly is a hook?A hook is any half-told story:Questions — Pose an intriguing question, but don’t give the answer.Narratives — Share the beginning of a narrative, but withhold the conclusion.Discoveries — Highlight new findings, but only a portion.Arguments — Present your case, but not how you arrived at it.Hooks tease your best talking points. They urge readers to keep reading by triggering the storytelling machinery in their heads.
    5. Your real objective is to hook readers into reading more. It doesn’t matter how you hook them, so long as you later fulfill your hook. A hook is not a gimmick. It’s a fundamental psychological principle: A great intro — like an electrifying opening to a film — buys goodwill with your audience.
    6. First, choose your topicThe best topic to write about is the one you can’t not write about. It’s the idea bouncing around your head that urges you to get to the bottom of it.You can trigger this state of mind with a two-part trick. First, choose an objective for your article:Open people’s eyes by proving the status quo wrong.Articulate something everyone’s thinking about but no one is saying. Cut through the noise.Identify key trends on a topic. Use them to predict the future.Contribute original insights through research and experimentation.Distill an overwhelming topic into something approachable. (This guide.)Share a solution to a tough problem.Tell a suspenseful and emotional story that imparts a lesson.Now pair that objective with a motivation:Does writing this article get something off your chest?Does it help reason through a nagging, unsolved problem you have?Does it persuade others to do something you believe is important?Do you obsess over the topic and want others to geek out over it too?That’s all that's needed: Pair an objective with a motivation. Now you have something to talk about.