Freelance writers, here’s how to avoid fluff and filler in your work…

It’s a scenario that’s all too relatable: sitting in front of a laptop or PC screen, a writing project partially finished. Reaching the required word count seems too great a feat; only breadcrumbs are gleaned from research.

When, with a sigh (and perhaps an extraordinary amount of chocolate) you do finish said project, it might meet the required word count, but just barely, with some filler and fluff included. Your intentions were good, but since you’ve now resorted to uncontrollably sarcastic, exhausted cackles, it’s indeed time to rest. So long, subpar project!

Taking the “oh well, there’s always next time” approach on a regular basis (or any basis, really) is a no-no. It’ll eclipse all the good work you’ve done to the point where you might just find yourself with, you guessed it, a subpar portfolio of current work. If you find yourself facing the prospect of fluff and filler more than you would like in your freelance writing, there are some tactics to consider.

Write what you know (yes, really).

In a world fraught with troubled economies, it only makes sense that you’d want to secure as much freelance writing work as possible – especially if it’s your primary source of income. This, then, might mean that you take on project topics that you’re not necessarily familiar with. From a positive view, it’s a way for you to learn new things. After all, what’s a writing career without taking some adventurous challenges here and there?

However, a good rule to follow is to never take projects that you can’t reasonably complete with a high degree of “already-there” knowledge. For example, your primary niche is lifestyle articles, and you accept a project where you have to write automotive articles that are at least 500 words apiece. Chances are that fluff and filler are going to sneak their way in while you attempt to weave in whatever you’ve gleaned from your earnest research.

Before you write, create an outline.

Even if you’re only writing within whatever niche/s you specialize in, it can be all too easy to just jump in without a set plan in place. That can lead to a more conversational tone, which, just as in verbal conversations, inevitably leads to repetition and generalities. An outline will not only help you set your focus, point by point, it’ll help you line up an approach to any research you need to do, speaking of which…

Don’t overdo it.

Fluff and filler isn’t just straying into repetition – it can also mean adding so much content that the work becomes overly saturated, with readers finding it all so cumbersome that they lose interest in getting beyond the first couple of paragraphs. Avoid that disheartening prospect by striving to keep things in a “commuter zone” perspective. Assume your readership is commuting on public transit and only has just so much time to read/absorb your work.

Edit with confidence.

It’s when you think you’ve finished a freelance writing project that the fluff and filler elimination really begins. Sure, you’d like to just be done with the whole thing and submit it (after all, the spell checker and the plagiarism software says you’re good to go!) but that’s just not good practice.

Maybe you used a phrase pretty much the same way across several paragraphs. Or, you might notice that you’ve used to many instances of “however.” Windows users, save yourself some time by finding discrepancies via Ctrl F.

Go back once, twice, even three times, and comb through your work with an editor’s eagle-eyed approach. It takes discipline, but as you get used to that, and the art of writing succinctly, you can look forward to a fluff and filler-free future.

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  1. I suffer terribly from not meeting wordcounts rather than overshooting them. Am so envious of my ex-colleagues who always complained that they had so many words to cut. I had so many more to write!

    I enjoyed reading these tips. Thanks for sharing!

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