How to Become a Successful Columnist for elitefts

TAGS: editor, writer, Columnist, writing, Skip Hill

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I have written for elitefts for roughly seven years – six-and-a-half years longer than most of my critics thought I would. Prior to writing for elitefts, I wrote for three of the four largest muscle magazines, both in print and on their websites. I have been writing for approximately 18 years.

Most people write because they have a passion for it; I do it for the six-figure salary that elitefts pays me. If there were a Pulitzer for writing in this industry, I likely would have won it several times over. I firmly believe that there is good writing and then there is "next-level" writing, and as I attempt humility with this next statement, I can't help but admit that my writing is next level. If you don't believe me, just ask my mom.


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Though I have learned a lot over the years, I want to share five things I feel are important if you're going to be a successful writer (in no particular order):

1. Be Informative

Although I stated above that my list is in no particular order, I do believe that first and foremost, you have to provide something of value to the reader. Whether that is strictly information or your opinion, there must be value, or the reader will have no interest in what you have to say.

The information should be unique and advanced because in our current information age, there are a lot of people who put out information daily on the Internet. If the information you provide is rudimentary, you give the reader no reason to read what you have to say. Keep in mind that most people who have trained for more than two years already consider themselves to be knowledgeable, and too many consider themselves to be experts. To counter this, the information you provide needs to be more than what the average person already provides.

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2. Be Entertaining

You can provide excellent information, but if you are putting people to sleep, your information is useless. Most people would rank information as the number-one priority for good writing, but I consider good information to be just as important as keeping people engaged.

Allow your personality to shine through in your writing, and remember that humor goes a long way with readers. Please understand that humor means your readers think you’re funny, not just YOU thinking you’re funny.

3. Have Experience and Credentials

No one gives a shit what you say if they don't think you know what you're talking about. People typically only want advice or opinions from someone who has more knowledge and experience than they do. If I need financial advice at 50 years old and I make $200K a year, I am not going to care to hear advice from someone who makes $30K a year and is 22 years old. The same holds true for the vast majority of your readers.

4. Be Your Own Editor

Your skillset involving spelling, grammar, and punctuation should be pretty damn good. This one can set you apart from the rest because there are plenty of people who are experienced, are entertaining, and can provide top-notch information but simply cannot formulate three sentences in a row that don't need to be edited.

Anyone can write with periods and commas. “When in doubt, use a period." Yeah, and bore the shit out of your readers. Write with semi-colons; write with italics and bold fonts – em dashes as well; know how to use hyphens and ellipses....

I have used the same three-step process for a very long time, and when I have had to cram for a deadline and break this three-step process, my writing suffered.

Rough draft one day.

First proof the next day.

Last proof the following day.

Do not do the first and last proof on the same day. Why? You will tend to read what you WANT it to say and not what is actually being said.

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If you proof more than twice, you will find yourself constantly changing and editing things that are not necessary. Proof it twice and let it ride.

You don't want to be "that" writer who makes your editors roll their eyes as soon as they see you have submitted another article. Yes, the job of an editor is to edit. However, if you want to become a better writer, proof your submissions to the point where very little has to be edited. There is nothing I find more satisfying than to see one of my articles go live and not one thing has been changed or corrected from my submission. Understand, though, that my level of badassness (I'm a writer, so I can make up words) is uncommon. Still, you should shoot for this level no matter how unattainable it may seem to you.

5. Reach Troll Status

The pinnacle of any online writer's career, or when you know that you have finally arrived, is when you get trolled in the comment section that follows your articles. I have had many people message me and tell me not to take the negative comments from others personally. Um, are you kidding? I have written long enough to know that being trolled usually means that people are envious that I have a platform to give my opinions whereas they have only the comment section to give theirs. Of course, the joke is on the trolls if they ever figure out that it is the author of the article that decides whether a comment gets approved or deleted.

All kidding aside, I'm not a very good writer. I'm just a lot better than when I started. I didn't go to college for this, and I paid very little attention in English class. Had you told me I would end up writing to make a living as an adult, I would have called you a liar.

Good writers can just puke a story or article very quickly and just pound the keyboard until it’s done. My ADD won't allow me to write an article without having to pet the cat, check my phone, go to the bathroom, pet the cat again, look out the window because I thought I heard thunder, etc.

I am successful with my writing because I write in more of a conversational style; I am informal. Luckily for me, I have a personality rife with wit and humor, and it somehow manages to find its way into my writing.

If I can do this successfully, anyone can. Just Sayin’.

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