Alex’s Proven System for Writing Quality Content

I made the greatest discovery of my life in the middle of 2016. This discovery will propel me past the top 1% and into the top 0.1% — pushing my success into the stratosphere.

What did I find?

Systems.

“What’s a system?” you ask. Basically, it is a predetermined series of actions. These actions can occur automatically or manually.

For example, buying on Amazon.com triggers an automatic system. When you select the items you want and click on the purchase button, the company will charge your credit card. Then it will update the database on the back-end that your products must be shipped out to your address. Finally, you will get a confirmation of your order through e-mail.

Amazon accomplished all the steps without manual input, without people fiddling around behind the screens.

Systems don’t have to be so complex like Amazon’s. Most of my systems are manual. Each one is a predetermined series of action for me to take. And because I follow the same steps each time, the outcomes are pretty much the same.

With a good system, you will get a good result each time. The steps you take are proven to work. So instead of spending mental energy coming up with the next step, spend it on doing work that matters — like creating art the world has never seen.

You’ll see what I mean by the end of the article.

What Systems Have Done for Me Thus Far

Because of systems, I graduated medical school without failing a single exam. Not bad for a kid who never planned to be a doctor. (I stumbled across a study system without even knowing it at the time. Now that I am aware of systems, I can create one instead of blindly stumbling upon them.)

Because of systems, I am one of the top among my peers in my field — in terms of knowledge and productivity. My study system enabled me to learn & retain more. And I specifically created a system that allowed me to work twice as fast.

Because of systems, my writing skills leveled up tremendously. I started writing seriously in 2011 and improved in the first two year just by writing free flow — without a system. Newbie gains. Easy gains. Then I reached a plateau and took a break from writing. Recently, I jumped back into writing and implemented a writing system subconsciously and my art reached a new brilliance that was rarely evident previously.

I reflected back on my improvements and pinpointed my subconscious writing system as the cause. I sat down for an hour and brought the subconscious into the conscious and plastered it onto digital paper & ink.

Before I give you my system, I will give you a guarantee:

The more you run the system, the more art you create, the more success you will find. It’s only a matter of time.

Introducing … Alex’s Writing System

My system works. I used it for to write articles, short stories, and books. Whenever I need to put words onto a blank canvas, my system paves the way so my mind can focus on doing real, creative work.

My system comprises of 5 parts:

1. catching the idea
2. outlining
3. writing
4. editing
5. publishing

So far, no surprises. However, the details of each part make all the difference. Remember … good system, good work. Bad system, well, you can figure it out.

1. Catching the Idea

Ideas are like the modern women. They are flakey and unreliable. Sometimes, when you’re on top of the world, you’ll have more than you can handle. Then other times, when you’re down, none will show up.

Because ideas often show up without warning, always be ready to catch them before they flutter away. Use whatever’s convenient.

At first, I carried a notebook & pen whenever I went out and would jot down whatever came to mind. Now that I have a smart phone, I no longer need such crude tools. And if I’m at home, I fire up my computer and capture the idea and place it into my idea file.

After years of ideas, I have more than I could ever use. These days, I don’t just wait for ideas to show up. Sometimes, I drag them out of the ether. I think about a topic I want to know deeper about (such as my writing system) and then I get to work. I start with something formless and end up with something beautiful. I write mainly for myself — I teach myself while getting better at my craft. If other people get something out of it, good.

Frankly, ideas are the least important part of good writing. Catching ideas are easy. And easy things are rarely important. Once your skills matured to a certain level, you can turn anything into an engaging work of art.

How to get good at catching ideas?

Read much. Experience much. Live much. Enjoy life and the ideas will come to you. Just be ready for them.

2. Outlining

Now the real work begins. Personally, I consider outlining to be the second hardest part of my writing process because it demands the most creativity and a fair amount of concentration. You must connect dots which have never been connected before. You must flow from one point to the next like a gentle river on a butterfly-filled spring day. And if done well, your writing will read like a story — starts small and gets bigger and bigger until reaching a crescendo.

Planning is just as important as writing. Think about the last movie you enjoyed. Mine was Minions, so we’ll run with that.

When Universal Studios produced Minions, it did not create scenes blindly and hope for the best. Blind creation is inefficient. It takes up too much money, time, and effort.

Instead, Universal Studios planned out the scenes. And after they had a story that tugged at people’s hearts, then they spent the money, time, and effort to create the film loved by kids around the world.

In the same way, spend a bit more time to create an outline first before jumping in to write. If you write blindly, you may have to scrap the bulk of your work for the few usable words. What a taste of time and effort.

Words per hour is a meaningless measuring stick when most of the words are junk. Useable words per hour — now we’re talking.

How do you plan?

First, you must decide on the type of work. Do you want to write an informative article? Satire? Story? Poetry? Or something else?

Let’s make it easy and say you’ll write an informative article. You can’t go wrong when you teach your audience.

Second, you must outline. When you outline, you create the structure of your art. Think of it as building the skeleton — the underlying framework that will hold everything together.

I make my mistakes at this stage. I throw paint onto the canvas and see what sticks. I include ideas upon ideas onto the page and find out how they all fit together into one cohesive point. Whatever mistakes are easily fixed. Whatever additions are easily added. I did not commit anything to stone.
Yet, a completed outline gives me the foresight to see the end product with much clarity — much like how a mold made of max can accurately predict the outcome of the bronze masterpiece.

Instead of reinventing the wheel, take a structure that works and modify it for your purposes. The legendary copywriter, Gary Halbert, introduced the AIDA structure to the world:

A – attention. First, you capture the reader’s attention with a compelling headline.
I – interest. Then you keep the reader’s interest by focusing on a topic he is interest in (such as passive income) or by inflaming his curiosity.
D – desire. Next, you explain how the reader will benefit from what you have to offer. Let his imagination run wild. You also show that you can be trusted.
A – action. Finally, there must be a clear action for the reader to take at the end — usually by buying the product.

You see how it builds up and up until it reaches the climax and goes for the kill … sale, I mean.

The AIDA structure proved itself over and over by bringing in millions of dollars for Gary. It works well. And you can adapt it to your informative article. The following is a good outline for an informative article (with its corresponding part of the AIDA structure in parenthesis):

headline (attention)
hook (interest)
topic with your perspective (desire)
supporting idea #1 (desire)
supporting idea #2 (desire)
supporting idea #3 (desire)
conclusion / summary (desire)
call to action (action)

You start by capturing the reader’s attention with the headline. Make sure you craft a compelling headline because 80% of the readers will stop there. If you cannot compel them to move forward, they won’t.

Then you hook him in. Start with a sentence that stops him in his tracks. Maybe it even punches him in the gut. Expand upon it until you bring him to the topic and your perspective (i.e. why only fools go to college).

Add supporting arguments that strengthen your perspective. And everything should climax into your main point. If you’ve done it right, the reader will have no other choice but to agree. At the minimum, he will have something to ponder about.

After the climax, you should have an answer when  your visitor asks, “What’s next?” The call to action will guide him. Sometimes, you can compel the reader to purchase one of your products. Other times, you can entice him with another article within your site. Or better yet, get his e-mail address before he leaves.

A well-written article satisfies the reader. He leaves as a more informed man. He considers his time well-spent. He may even come back again.

Some writers may scoff at the idea of outlining and say, “It takes away the creativity. You’ll end up with a cookie-cutter article.”

I disagree.

Yes, you are confined to a structure. But within the confines, you are free to roam.

For example, each story has the same structure: beginning, middle, and end. But you can have an infinite amount of stories that fit within the structure. A “story” without a beginning, middle, or end is not satisfying. You can even argue that it isn’t a story.

The canvas and the paint restrict the painter. The instrument and the notes restrict the musician. And the paper and the structure restrict the writer.

Restrictions unleash your creativity to the fullest.

How to get good at outlining?

Read. Write. Read. Write. That’s it!

Read with intent. When you find an article that resonates with you, examine it in depth it to find out why. Maybe you read something and the topic itself captivated you and another world opens up. More often than not, you will find nothing new under the sun. Therefore, old information was presented in a new way. Deconstruct the article’s to expose its appeal. Map out the structure and incorporate it into your own work.

Do the work. Integrate what you’ve learned into your outlines.

3. Writing

If outlining is the second hardest part of the process, then writing is the hardest. It requires an inordinate amount of concentration and a fair amount of creativity as you make your mark on the world word by word.

Sounds simple. Just throw words together and you’ll soon have an article.

Ahhh … the bliss of newbie ignorance. As your writing improves, you will no longer throw random words together and call it a day. Instead, you will think of the best sentence to illustrate your message.

I struggle with the initial act of writing. I would rather do anything else — catching the idea, outlining, editing, and publishing. But without the writing, the other parts don’t matter. Even the author of Game of Thrones, George R. R. Martin, once said that he doesn’t enjoy writing, but enjoys having written.

Before doing the work, you could not imagine the internal war that rages within as I force myself in front of my laptop. Eventually, I beat my body and mind into submission and the words trickle through. And once I sit down and get into the flow, writing gets easier.

Many times, coming up with the right words is like pulling your own teeth. You’ll get better at it, but that doesn’t lessen the pain. At one point, I self-imposed the goal of 3,000 words a day. I kept it up for a month, finished my book, and then I stopped writing for a few months. I burned out.

Writing with focus and concentration taxes your mind. Writing well is deliberate practice. According to Ericsson, experts implement routines with the following restrictions:

  • engage in deliberate practice without rest for around an hour
  • practice deliberately in the morning with a fresh mind
  • practice deliberately for the same amount of time every day, including on weekends
  • practice deliberately for a total of four to five hours
  • rest enough to prevent injuries or burnout

I wrote 3,000 quality words a day. At 500 words an hour, that means 6 hours of mentally taxing work. No wonder I burned out.

These days, I set my goals by time, not by words per hour. One or two hours a day. Don’t burn out and you’ll have a higher chance of remaining consistent.

When you outline, you build the structure. When you write, you lay the bricks of your empire word by word. And your words will reveal the essence of your soul.

I covered the technical aspect of writing in a prior article, so I’m not going to repeat it. In essence, be clear and strip away all unnecessary words.

What are unnecessary words? There are too many to list, so you will find this very helpful.

As your lay you words, your creativity may flare and direct you away from your outline. That’s fine. The outline is just one way to reach your destination. You may find a better route later on. Take the better route. (I deviated many times when writing this article.)

When you get lost, you can always refer to the outline to find your way again.

How to get good at writing?

Again … Read. Write. Read. Write. That’s it!

Pay attention to the words around you. When a particular phrase, sentence, or paragraph tickles your mind, stop and ask yourself why. Maybe the author’s personality shone through his words. Or maybe the message flowed smoothly into your mind due to its crisp clarity. Or maybe the words embraced a lyrical aura.

Then do the work. Write often and incorporate what works into your own art

4. Editing

You made it over the hump and things roll downhill from here.

Outlining and writing use up a lot of your concentration, creativity, and energy. Take a break from what you’ve just made. Set your work aside for a while — maybe a day, a week, or a month. You need to detach your mind from what you just created.

After a while, come back to your creation. Read it again. Fix spelling mistakes and grammatical error. Italicize internal thoughts. Bold key phrases. Link to other articles.

As you fix the technical aspect of your work, pay attention to how it flows. Does the article convey the message with crystal clarity? Does it smoothly transition from one point to another? Does it captivate you from the start? Can the reader arrive at the same conclusion based on your key points?

Editing sounds like a lot of work, but it really isn’t (at least when compared to outlining and writing). If you read consistently, you already internalized the rules of writing. You know what sounds right. And if you use a decent word processor, you don’t even have to find the spelling mistakes and grammatical errors. The computer will find them for you. This is mostly passive work if you’ve done quality work during the outlining and writing stage.

When I outline, I turn on the creative side of the brain and dump ideas onto the canvas. Then I organize them and give structure to my work. When I write, I engage both creative and analytical sides to produce something artistic and technically crisp. When I edit, I turn on the analytical side to catch technical errors. I don’t have to worry about the structure or about trimming the fat. I may find creative problems here and there during the editing stage, but they encompass a small portion of the work and are easy to fix.

I edit an article once and a book twice. I can go over my work a third and a fourth time, but that’s a poor use of my time. The improvement I make will be too minuscule compared to the effort. Time is better spent on creating something new instead of revising something old.

How to get good at editing?

Read a lot to unconsciously absorb proper writing into your mind. Read whatever interests you. In due time, you can tell if something sounds right or not. Then go back to your work and make it sing.

Many writers rave about Strunk’s The Elements of Style. I never read it, but it doesn’t hurt to go through it if you want to brush up on the rules of writing.

5. Publishing

At this stage, you are 99% there. Click on the publish button. This is very important … once you start your work, you must finish it. That means you must publish your work. And after doing so, start the process all over again.

How to get good at publishing?

Easy! Get good at outlining, writing, and editing. Then click on the publish button.

Last Words

You have enough information from this post to jump-start your writing journey … if you choose to embark it.

I just gave you my writing system — the very same one I used to make money from my words. Free of charge.

With each revolution of the system, from catching the initial idea to publishing the finished work, you produce an additional quality work and reach one step closer to fame, money, wisdom, or whatever else you seek.

With each revolution of the system, you will create faster … until you reach a certain point. The speed comes from not wasting time doing useless, superfluous work. But you cannot hurry creativity. An idea turning into a final draft is like an egg becoming a chick — you will need to cultivate the right environment and allow enough time for it to hatch.

To get good at anything, including writing, you must put in the work. There are no shortcuts. But you will advance your skills more quickly by instilling the right habits from the beginning. This writing system gives you the right habits and if implemented, will save you from months or years of floundering around.

But I’ll be honest. Writing consistently and well takes a lot of effort. It is not about jamming on your keyboard and maximizing words per hour — a useless metric when focusing on quality. It is about putting in the time every day to produce your best — about consistency, focus, and improvement.

Even though the average person has all this information at your fingertips, if I had to bet, I’ll bet against him. My money says, “He will not succeed.”

Why? Not for a lack of resources. Not for a lack of information. Not for a lack of big dreams. But for a lack of tenacity. He can’t handle showing up every day and putting in the work. Most people can’t and that’s where they fail.

But that’s not you, right?

Join me in showing up every day and in doing the work every day. And one day, we’ll be king of our own empires.

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