How to…write like an expert on almost anything

by Guest Contributor

18 August, 2017

by Julia Burns, founder of LightningBug

I write on everything from augmented reality to zombies. Life jackets? Laws? Lobworms? Love? All in a week’s work. How can I possibly be so knowledgeable on such varied and often complex topics? It’s simple really: I’m not. But I can fake it pretty well with six tricks. So how can you too become an overnight expert in pretty much anything?

Find out everything you can  

Don’t write a jot until you have read as much about the topic as you can possibly find. Spend hours on it. You’ll want to get started straight away but there’s no point. You’ll just be staring at a blank screen.

Start specific. Make sure you understand the definitions of all the keywords associated with the topic.

Then go much much wider. Google it again and again. Read blogs, reports, infographics. Use tools like Feedly to see what’s been said recently in the news. Watch films and documentaries that are in any way related.

All this will help you understand how people talk about the topic and give you more creative ammunition.

Talk to the experts  

If you can pick the brains of actual authorities, you can find out so much more than from reading anything online.

Find out who to talk to by researching who speaks on these topics online and at events. Contact them through companies, through LinkedIn, guess their email addresses. Think “what would Lois Lane do?”. Interview two or three experts over the phone or email them a set of questions if they’d find that easier.

It will take time but it will be worth it. You’ll understand the topic beyond anything you could have hoped. Oh, and you can use quotes from the interviews in your article making you sound informed and networked. Interviews = amazing.

Make it small  

It is easier and often more effective to write on a narrow area within a topic. Try to cover too much and you’ll get lost.

Rather than writing on the poems of Emily Dickinson, write on the bees in three of her poems. Rather than writing on why to code, write on the top reasons people think they are too old code.

Hit on something interesting to you

Now you’ve got all that in the bag, identify a nugget you find really interesting. What would you enjoy writing on most? This will ensure you can add personality, which is how you really show you know your stuff.

Structure it

You might be the best creative writer since Mark Twain. But I’m not. So before I start an article, a review, a white paper or whatever I’m writing, I make sure I know the argument that will run through it. I set it up clearly in the opening and I know exactly what I’m going to cover in each paragraph to get to the final point.

There are different layouts you can use which make this faster and simpler. Q&As, short blogs, myth-busting, likening to superheroes/filmstars and so on. Decide what would work best for your piece based on all your decisions to date. Oh, and don’t use lists. That’s just lazy.

Sleep on it

By now, you can actually write it! So go on, get on with it. But remember, what you write today will look awful when you read it back. And then you’ll keep reading it back and editing it, blind to what works and what still needs work.

Come back to it fresh and you’ll be able to see more clearly if you’ve written a well-structured piece of writing that makes a succinct point.

So I guess it’s time for me to take a nap.