Tuesday, September 14, 2010

How to Write How-to Articles (Part 1 of 5)

Why would you want to write a how-to article or book? The answer is that readers constantly seek for ways to enrich their lives and improve their skills. If you have expertise in any area, you pass it on to eager learners.

What many call self-help articles or books really fit into this category. You tell people how to do something. It may be how to lose weight, marry a millionaire, build a birdhouse, or read the Bible.

Here are suggestions on how to write how-to pieces.

1. Be sure you have the credentials. That doesn't always mean an earned doctoral degree or being CEO of a large corporation. Sometimes experience is the best credential. Years ago, I sold more than thirty articles on making marriage better. My credentials came from the experience of being happily married.

2. Consider these questions:
* What do I know that many others may not?
* What have I learned to do that I can pass on to help readers?
* What am I passionate enough about to make me yearn to tell others?
* Who am I to write on this topic?

That last question may cause you to pull back, but ponder it anyway. Today, publishers want credentials and you'll have to prove you are an expert if you want to write about "Dreams Inspired by God Today." But you might want to write, "Five New Approaches to Being a Better Parent." I once wrote an article on how to listen to sermons. I used simple suggestions and the article was republished 17 times.

You might be surprised how many things you know that others would love to learn. One man, a runner for more than thirty years, wrote a how-to book on what he knew—how to run and not be injured.

If you know how to do something well,
you can write how-to articles or books.


  1. Dear Cec,
    I love your blog! It is helping me. I know that you could write until Christ returns and never run out of things to say, so I am very humbly making a request. Sometime in the future, I would like to hear about the spiritual side of writing Christian material. How do you keep the secular motives for writing (i.e. the need and desire to publish and be heard; the temptation to study to have something to write) from the spiritual side of writing Christian material (keeping your heart motives pure; keeping yourself in the position of an ambassador for another greater than yourself and studying to know the Lord so that when He wants to use you to say something, you'll be able to do it effectively)? Sorry about the grammar and sentence construction. I need to work on that. These are things I have dealt with on a very small level, but something I think I need to settle in my heart before pursuing any kind of public writing platform. Also I would like any input you may have for writing evangelistic tracts. Hey, the answer to this question would make a good how-to article! LOL!

    Keep writing Cec! We are all reading!

  2. Interesting. Now...what do I come close to being an expert on?


  3. Cec, thank you once again for giving us straight forward instruction. You are a blessing.

    Cyndi (Anonymous listed above), I recommend you read "Write His Answer" by Marlene Bagnull. This book addresses the questions you are asking. It is a bible study for Christian writers that causes the writer to realize you are an instrument in God's hands for His glory. Marlene Bagnull teaches you to "listen for His answer" as you write. It is a great book! And I am sure Cec will offer you (and us) very timely and useful info, as well.

    Sweet blessings,

  4. Nan, thank you so much! I will get that book! I also need some suggestions concerning which grammar books to keep around. I haven't diagrammed a sentence since 1977, so my skills are very rusty. Cec has really been pointing that out in his blogs! I've been perusing Barnes and Noble several times a week and spending a fortune on their sugar cookies. I hope it's helping my writing too! :-) We will see if you truly can teach an old dog new tricks. I know, I know a cliche, but in this case, it fits!

    I post anonymously because my computer won't let me post with my Google ID for some reason.


  5. Cyndi wants to know about diagramming sentences. http://www.lifestreamcenter.net/DrB/Lessons/TS/diagram.htm. This is one website and there are several. Once you get the concept, it's actually simple.

    I'm not sure most people need to know how to diagram. I consider it helpful but not essential.

    The question of grammar books comes up regularly in personal emails. Almost any grammar book is fine. I recommend high school texts because they explain the rules well. No matter how often I read grammar books, I forget a few things and I have a few minor problems with restrictive clauses—but that's part of my ongoing attempt to become excellent at the language.

    I suggest doing a chapter a week out of a book. I often read a section at noon as a way to take my mind off my other writing.

  6. Thank you so much for posting this information! I've only been writing regularly for about a year now. I've gained a small following on my blog and I'm working very hard to try to keep my content relevant and interesting. Your instructional blogs are an answered prayer. Bless you!!!


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