228: Validate Your Idea to Produce Your Best Project (Back to Basics)

Writing228: Validate Your Idea to Produce Your Best Project (Back to Basics)

228: Validate Your Idea to Produce Your Best Project (Back to Basics)

[Ep 228]

You have an idea for your next writing project.

That’s great!

Before you get too far—before you write too much—you need to be sure this idea is going to fly with your audience. You need to validate it so you move forward with a concept that, depending on your purpose, will truly resonate, connect, teach, persuade, inform, or entertain.

Let’s look at three ways to validate project ideas:

Validate “in house”: run it through personal filtersValidate through research: check what exists alreadyValidate through audience: ask, survey, and test the idea

Validate “In House”

The first method to validate is to run it through personal filters. Ask yourself if it fits with your brand, if it will serve your audience, and if it’s a fresh angle on your primary topics.

This may take only a minute or two, but sometimes we rush past it in our excitement over an idea that captivates us. If we skip this step, we may create content that draws an audience uninterested in anything else we write.

If I as a writing coach started producing content about style because I’m interested in a trend, I might click publish on an article about fall colors that draws a new audience of women who like to discuss shirts, skirts, and shoes.

But if I pause and validate “in house,” asking myself if this is a good fit for my primary purpose and audience, I’ll probably focus my energy elsewhere. After all, I’m creating a place online for men and women looking for support with their writing, so devoting a long post to discussing red pumps and French braids won’t reach or retain a wide range of writers.

But let’s say it passes this initial “in house” test. You believe your idea will serve your audience well and you haven’t explored this topic at length in the past.

The next step is to do some research—see what else is out there on this topic. 

Validate Through Research

The main way to research is, of course, to type keywords, key phrases, key ideas, and key concepts related to your project’s idea into a search engine and see what it pulls up.

I suggest you quickly jot down everything you know about this idea before the search. Then you can compare all the articles, videos, podcasts, and memes with your existing knowledge and slant.

Don’t be discouraged if you find a ton of material—don’t assume it’s all been said before. In fact, that’s a good sign that people are searching for this kind of content. You’ll see how to contribute to the greater conversation.

And that’s the key. As you explore what other authors, bloggers, and speakers in your niche have created, you realize how your project will be similar, but different, and broaden or deepen readers’ understanding.

If need be, return to 6 methods to right-size your next writing project to find a different slant. You can continue to work through those until you land on that distinct spin you can bring to this project.

Pro tip: As you’re cruising the internet and clicking through to interesting content, be sure to grab all citation information while you’re there. Because if you decide to quote an expert in the field or to include an excerpt from one of the articles, you want that citation information at your fingertips. Quoting people builds credibility—and so does proper citation.

We told our high school debaters it’s always good to bring an expert to the podium with you to raise your credibility. I think it’s the same with writers—when we cite other sources, we bring a level of integrity and credibility to our work.

Search engines give you a broad look at what’s existing on this topic, but you can conduct a more academic search, as well.

Libraries will give you access to journals and publications to find peer-reviewed studies. Also, you’ll be able to search countless newspapers and magazines. Just go online to your library’s portal and find out what’s available to you.

I’d like to highlight a few specific websites where you can focus…

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