One of the most rewarding feelings of writing for Tuts+ is the feeling of educating others. More specifically, it's the feeling of teaching others how to learn a new skill such that they can apply it in their current field of work or, in some cases, venture into a new career (perhaps one that they've always wanted).
But writing can be a challenge. Trying to determine what to write is one thing, but trying to figure out the best way to actually present that content is an entirely new challenge.
For the last few years, I've been writing for Tuts+, producing courses, and even editing articles. To that end, I thought it might be a good idea to share what I've found makes for compelling content as a Tuts+ instructor.
If you're someone who's been writing for a long time but seem to be suffering from writer's block, or if you're someone who's interested in writing for us but aren't sure where to start, then this article is geared specifically towards you.
By the end of this article, you should have some idea as to how you can move forward with new content, and perhaps even have a few different strategies for actually producing said content.
So with that said, let's take a look at some things that we can do in order to brainstorm ideas, frame the ideas, and then convert the ideas into useful articles.
As mentioned previously, coming up with topics about which to write can be a daunting task. If you've been writing for a while, you may end up suffering from a bout of writer's block; if you've never written any content, then determining whether or not your work is what you consider up to par can be a challenge.
The nice thing about writing educational content is that it can come in a variety of flavors. That is, we have a variety of topics about which we can write: business, web design, code, design & illustration, and more.
So if you're not sure what to write about, it always helps to narrow down the area of interest in which you'd like to write. If you've been writing in one area for some time but have skills in another area, then maybe that's the first step you should take in a new direction.
If, on the other hand, you're looking to begin writing new content, then why not pick an area that you know most about? In doing that, you'll be able to write comfortably about something that you know well.
Of course, this doesn't actually help with brainstorming articles. It simply provides a strategy for determining where to write your content. Once you've done that, though, there are a variety of ways that you can come up with ideas for content.
- Look at something that interests you, and then determine how it was achieved. Once you learn, use that as the foundation for a tutorial.
- Review a recent project that you've completed and write down notes about some of the challenges that you faced. Those challenges and their solutions always make great ideas for content.
- Go back through your inbox and look at questions that other people have asked you. The answers that you provided in your replies can also be further developed when writing an article.
- If you teach, assist a professor, or mentor someone else in a field, take a look at some of the things that you use to educate others and then use some of that content as fuel for inspiration when drafting an article.
These particular ideas are just some of what I've seen work during my time in producing and editing content for Tuts+. There are certainly other things that you can employ in order to brainstorm articles. If you have any additional suggestions, feel free to leave them in the comments.
We're on Different Levels
Tuts+ publishes a lot of content and sometimes it's easy to look at what other people are looking at and think that we don't have what it takes to contribute to the site. That couldn't be further from the truth.
Sure, people are all over the place with respect to their experience. That is, some people may be writing highly advanced articles, whereas others are writing tutorials geared towards beginners. Then again, there's content for everything in between.
And that's a really nice thing. We all fall somewhere on the spectrum of knowledge. There are those who know more than us, there are those who know less, and there are those who are more like peers in that they may be on the same level.
The nice thing about this is that we all have something to offer for someone else. Some of us may be able to provide really advanced tutorials to help bring the intermediately skilled audience up a level into the advanced field, and some of us may be better at teaching beginners on how to achieve a certain task.
So no matter where you fall, pick an area in which you're knowledgeable and feel comfortable teaching things to other people, stick with that, and use it to create content for the audience. I assure you that although your content may not be useful for everyone, it will be useful for many.
Practical Tips vs. Abstract Theory
Depending on the field in which you work, you're likely familiar with the idea of being taught theory, or why something is the way that it is (and how to prove it), and then practical application, or how to do something.
When it comes to teaching a skill to someone else, it's arguably best to focus on the practical application of the topic so that the reader walks away with a tangible result of reading the tutorial or the series of tutorials.
This doesn't mean you have to shy away from theory, though. Instead, I think a case can be made for why we should be teaching a combination of both. That is, although we want to be teaching skills to those who read the articles throughout our various properties, it's also valuable to explain why a given technique or strategy is useful given an alternative set of techniques or strategies.
Regardless of how you choose to produce your article, focus on the practical application of a skill rather than anything else. When it comes down to it, the most important thing that we can do is to teach other people how to do something useful so that they can take it back to their current jobs or so that they can use it to help jumpstart their move into a new industry.
Framing an Article for an Audience
Once you've come up with an idea, determined how you want to approach it, and have worked out a way to demonstrate a practical application of how to do something, you're then left with having to figure out how to present it to the audience.
When it comes to writing in an academic setting, there's usually a format for how to write an article, a type of language that we're expected to use, and a way to generally approach the content. Writing for Tuts+ is a little bit different.
Though it's important to have a format to your article, a natural flow from end to end, the language that we use should be considered "accessible". That is, we should write in a language that reads naturally, and it should exclude as much jargon as possible. Sure, there's still a format that comes with writing, but it's best if you can draft your content in such a way that it reads almost as if you're having a conversation with the person reading your work.
Reading dry, educational material doesn't always translate well when teaching others a new skill. After all, it can be intimidating, time-consuming, and tough to learn something new. It takes a high level of commitment. There's no reason we should serve as an obstacle if we can avoid it.
One of the most important things to remember is that we have a team of editors, a review process, and an editorial process that we follow in order to make sure the quality of the content is consistent across all of our sites.
This doesn't mean that said team will do the work for you, but it means that we'll make sure that any weak points are made stronger.
Writing high quality content for Tuts+ is just like the skills that we aim to teach: There are methods that can be employed to help come up with an idea, and then there's a practical approach that we should take when drafting our content for others to read.
Whether you're a veteran instructor or someone who's interested in writing for Tuts+, the aforementioned points should help you not only to come up with an idea, but also to develop a consistent writing style for creating your first or 30th tutorial.
As with anything, there's more to writing than just what's listed here, so feel free to leave your suggestions, comments, and even questions below. You can also find out more, or even go ahead and submit your ideas, through our Teach at Tuts+ page.
We'd love to hear from those of you who have been writing and who are interested in writing!