I Wrote 100 Answers on Quora in Three Weeks — Here’s What I Learned About Writing Well

Celia Fidalgo, PhD
5 min readJan 6, 2023

I started answering questions on Quora on Sunday December 18, 2022.

At the suggestion of Nicolas Cole in The Art and Business of Online Writing, I’ve been writing between 3–5 answers everyday since. Now, three weeks later, I’ve hit 100 answers and 23,700 views.

My Quora profile

Examining which answers have done well and not well has been enormously eye opening.

Here’s what I’ve learned:

Only a few answers will be hits—use them to look for themes

Out of 100 answers, I have 5 with over 1000 views.

That’s only 5%!

My most viewed answer currently has 7.2k views. On the lower range there are 27 answers with under 30 views. That’s a huge skew — most answers don’t do well. And that’s okay.

Because I have enough data to see trends.

My highest viewed answers hit deep emotional pain points for the general public — how to deal with breakups, cheating, toxic relationships, and bad bosses. These are broadly appealing for all types of people. Sometimes I included a personal story, but not always.

Answers that seem to work have a mix of practical tips for dealing with these situations or uplifting advice.

The take away is to look for the key pain point you’re hitting with your top answers. If you like that topic, keep answering more like it to see what specific style of answer resonates. If you’re not enjoying it, move on and find one you do like, before you invest too much content in the wrong space.

Write lots of personal stories to learn about a) telling stories well and b) which stories people like

Not all personal stories are engaging.

I didn’t realize this at first. I thought “Who wouldn’t want to read all about the details of my juicy failures?”

With that in mind, I wrote a lengthy personal story about the mistakes I made when I first started running. “I spent a good 40 minutes on this,” I thought. “Its very personal and has a lot of insights. It has to do well!”

It didn’t. Only 32 views😓.

In retrospect, it was probably too long, didn’t get to the point, and wasn’t emotionally engaging.

But in contrast, most of my personal stories about heartbreak do better. Perhaps because they’re more relatable? Maybe they’re more emotionally engaging? This gives me ideas to try: I’m going make my non-heartbreak stories more emotionally engaging and see how they do.

I’d encourage you to try the same thing.

Try writing many different stories. Use versions of the same story across different genres to see how they do with different audiences. If they don’t do well, keep trying different stories, styles, sentence lengths (read about 1–3–1 and 1–5–1 structures), overall lengths, emotion words, until you hit on a combination that works.

Use Quora to learn what your interests are

The thing I love about Quora is that when I read the questions, eventually, one pops out that I can’t resist. I literally feel like this: 🤩.

An idea comes to mind and spending the 15–20 minutes articulating my thoughts feels fun and effortless.

By providing such a huge array of writing prompts, Quora has taught me:

  1. What I care most about
  2. What I have to say

This is the power of writing.

In your first few weeks on the platform, explore every interesting topic. Answer whatever pulls you, whatever feels fun and interesting. Especially if you think you bring a unique perspective. That’s what will keep you inspired to keep going.

Don’t worry about views (like I said up front — many answers are going to flop). The views will come later as you get more data and experience. For now, focus on finding your interests. Don’t limit yourself — use this time to get weird.

Quantity, quantity, quantity — publish as many answers as you can to get data

Photo by Carlos Muza on Unsplash

At this early stage, posting with speed is king. The reason I’m able to publish multiple answers a day with my full-time job is that I don’t spend my writing time researching new topics or ideas.

There are two ways I do this:

  1. Use reading time as research time. Whenever you’re reading for pleasure, take notes on a google doc or external system so you can use those ideas on Quora later.
  2. Write about personal experiences that don’t require research.

I’d highly recommend not wasting any writing time gathering research. Either pull from research you’ve already done, or, write a personal story. As soon as you’re switching tabs, reading notes, looking for articles, etc while you’re also trying to write, then you’re significantly slowing down your output.

If you must spend time on research (outside your writing time) make sure it’s helping you. Make sure your heavily researched responses do as well as the non-researched ones. For example, my post on Muhammad Ali and his decline at the end of his career took time to put together. Despite trying it in a few genres, it doesn’t do very well. Lesson learned!

Of course that could be for many reasons — I’m not saying researching posts is never worth while. Just that you’ll want to watch their performance.

Sometimes, my opinions are just wrong (or not helpful)

I believe the point of writing is to capture truths. Writers try to convey the world in words, as accurately as they can.

The great thing about Quora as a social platform is that people can respond to your answers, and you can see other people’s answers. So you can see if your opinions are, in fact, as accurate as they could be.

Maybe you missed something. Maybe you left out a major point.

I once answered someone’s question about how to handle stress by suggesting that it be viewed as a learning experience. Other answers gave practical tips, like getting more sleep, exercise, meditation, etc. I realized that even though I didn’t disagree with my answer, it didn’t accurately capture what this person was probably looking for. It didn’t actually help them handle stress.

Look for clues in other people’s answers. What other people do can inform your future answers. You can take pieces of what others do well and incorporate that into your own writing.

That’s all I’ve got!

I’ll post a similar update once I’ve gotten to 500 answers.

Happy writing folks!

--

--

Celia Fidalgo, PhD

Head of Product @ Cambridge Cognition, Behavioral Scientist @ Irrational Labs, PhD in psych, I help people apply the science of psychology to daily life.