Writing Tips

I would advise anyone who aspires to a writing career that before developing his talent he would be wise to develop a thick hide. ~ Harper Lee

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Writing Needs Discipline

cj Sez:  I wish I could have begged, borrowed, or stolen some of Elmore Leonard’s discipline for writing. What started as necessity for him turned into habit when he became an established writer.

“To support his family, he worked as a copywriter at an ad agency, where he developed his aversion to adverbs, and also his knack for brief, punched-up prose. He began a habit of waking at five a.m. and immediately starting to write -- not even putting the water on for coffee until he had something down on paper -- then going to work at the office, first in advertising and later writing educational films for the Encyclopedia Britannica.”      (Source:  

It used to be that I worked better when I had a short-term deadline at work. Then I thought if I gave myself a deadline, I’d have the incentive to keep going. Found out that’s not true. I have managed to bury any deadline under weeks of procrastination that I called “research.” (Mr. Leonard paid others to do his research.) It seems the more I research, the less creativity I have. I’m getting bogged down in facts, and the story is suffering.

See how discipline can work? (Meme from my Facebook page)


I’m not giving up. Last night I made a note or two when I went to sleep . . . I get a lot of good ideas just before or just after I fall asleep so I keep a pad of paper and a pencil on the table next to the bed. Sundays are for family and etc., so I won’t be sitting in front of this computer for very long but tomorrow . . . that’s when I’ll start working hard. I promise. You. (If I promise myself, I will find some other chore to do.) I suppose some of you might call that procrastinating.

Nope, I’m calling it, delayed discipline.

That’s all for now, but how about you? When do you get your best ideas? How do you conquer the blank page in front of you?

You-all guys keep on keeping on, and I’ll try to do the same.

cj
cjpetterson@gmail.com

 Choosing Carter (Pub: Crimson Romance)
   http://amzn.to/1TlMC1T (Amazon)
   http://bit.ly/1PrBsZj  (B&N)
Deadly Star (Pub: Crimson Romance)  
Amazon Central Author Page:  http://amzn.to/1NIDKC0

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Blog Post vs Article



Two years ago, the expected norm for word length for a blog was 300 words. Supposedly, readers didn’t want to read more than that at one time. Two years prior to that, it had been 500 words. Once again, things have changed, and it seems with the lack of printed news, more people want to read more reliable content, so the number of words jumped to 1,000 per post. However, that changed the definition of a post, which is similar to the length of a memo in office speak.
 
Truth be told, it’s all about search engines, specifically Google. As I gathered articles to write this bloggish article, I found that to say what I wanted to say will probably take two posts on this blog unless I want to write a short book on the subject, which I don’t.

Part I:

It’s not all about length; however, length is the MVP when it comes to leading the team of words to success. There are a host of factors to consider as you look at your posting campaigns. Most people have over 5,000 words of general information on their websites, including About, Bios, Publications, Blog, etc. in addition to words that suggest the reader sign up for the blog, newsletter, products, etc. My list of factors to consider when writing includes:

Purpose: Here is where the first list of questions comes into play. Are we talking substance as in this is my purpose for writing this post, or are we talking marketing as in this is my purpose to write this post. For most posts by writers or anyone promoting a business, both should be the answer.

A. Why go to the trouble to write anything and waste your time and the time of potential readers and your followers if your piece has no substance? Like drafting a good book, you should always ask yourself three questions before starting to write, then ask the questions again when you are finished.

1. What do you want the reader to see?

2. What do you want the reader to know?

3. What do you want the reader to learn?

B. If you can say what you need to say in 150 words, do it. If you need more than 1,000 words, then do that. I tell my students if they regularly blog in short splurts and decide to write a lengthier piece, tell the readers up front: This post is different and this is why.

C. If you have Internet presence, there must be a reason you opted for it. Usually that reason is to spread brand awareness, educate, build a social engagement process (emails, newsletters, Facebook or Twitter followers, likes and retweets), and sell products - books, shirts, short stories, invitations, or services such as plumbing, personal training, editing, painting, workshops, etc.

Style: Think about the way you send a quick email to a co-worker - business tone, short, and to the point. But when you email your BFF, you tend to write in a conversational tone with emoticons and funny or sad stories - personal. Generally, I find writers and others in their school of thought such as agents, publishers, publicists are in two schools of style online, and their style definitely influences the length of their posts.

1. Polite but all business with a point to make about services, products, workshops, topics such as genres, finding an agent, new books, etc. Use links and clickthroughs often. More advertising. More sophisticated look to the site and the posts. http://www.foliolit.com/ is a good example.

2. Friendly with a personal tone and pictures of them and recent events. They make points about the same things as those in 1 above but more casually, more prone to strong language and opinions. They also use links often. They “atta girl” others in the field more often and refer to others in their field, frequently hosting another writer. Some are very sophisticated sites and some very laid back. A lot has to do with their success thus far and funding restraints or money to invest back into their business. http://fundsforwriters.com is a good example. She started small and her weekly newsletter exploded over time as she became a well-published author and a brand that is well known in writing circles.

Format:  I’m including one last comment about style here. If you use infographics, the number of words to introduce the post topic is usually short, under 100 words. There may also be similar verbiage with each of the infographics used. The same goes for videos.

Never underestimate the impact of formatting with online posts. Readers, by and large, are scanning your post, even if they are your regular follower. After all, we can’t say something every week that appeals to everyone, although that would be brilliant wouldn’t it? It is important to put a lot of thought into your heading. It will be the first and sometimes only thing that grabs the reader’s interest. Be honest but be VERY creative!

I teach my students to use subheadings liberally. Bold them. Underline them. Italicize them. Enlarge them. Use all CAPS and all lowercase. Change the font mid-article. Like the good fairy godmother, sprinkle images here and there. Use Color. Follow journalism rules for writing with short paragraphs and clear sentences.

Why do any of this? Because differences draw the eye to them; therefore, potential readers can scan your article to see what they need to know, what interests them, and if they want to recommend it to others - a nice bonus. Take readers on a journey with you. Don’t drag them along with posts that look and sound like everyone else. Dare to be BOLD.

Readers: Your targeted readers have a lot to do with your style. If you write to the sci-fi audience, you can have fun with different takes on language and colors. If you write to the gothic horror audience, a lot of red and black and ghoulish types of words will give your posts a twisted difference. If you write to the romance audience…I bet you can figure out that one all on your own.

Check out http://www.jungleredwriters.com/ one of my favorite sites. Their tagline “7 smart and sassy crime fiction writers dish on writing and life. It's The View. With bodies.” The colors and format of the various posts are each unique and spot on for their mystery followers. Look at our tagline for Lyrical Pens and you will learn about who we are.

Frequency: If you have spent the money and time to develop an online presence, use it to your advantage. Never post less than once a week and twice is better. Naturally if you post less frequently, you might want to add more information. But two shorter posts in a week will keep your products on their mind. There is a fine line between boring and blasting them. Tiptoe along it carefully.

IMPORTANT

Yes, it is important to get recognized by search engines and moved to the top of the heap on their lists, but the most important thing you can do for your reputation and to treat your readers with respect is to write quality material. I did not say perfect. I said quality.

Before posting, type your posts in Word or whatever software you use first. Correct typos, grammar, and spelling. You can write in fragments; grammar police won’t drag you “downtown.” But you must make an effort to be cogent in your thought process, have a plan and follow it.

If you are unsure how to start, copy and rewrite posts from sites you particularly like. It isn’t plagiarism, and it’s a smart way to develop craft fairly quickly. Study the formatting of the sites you like.
  • What caught your eye?
  • What made you stop and read?
  • Were there links?
  • What is the POV?
  • Is the style casual, terse, friendly, etc.? 
  • Can you tell their theme and did they deliver their message? I despise online come-on’s and when you get to the posts, it is bogus, never getting to the false heading they grabbed you with.
I enjoy hearing some of my favorite sites say occasionally, “I couldn’t think of anything to say this week, and then I did… or read… or saw… and I was back in the game.” It makes them quite real to me. And best of all, it puts my little gray cells in gear, and I suddenly have an idea to share with my readers.

What are your favorite sites and why?

Write Like You Mean It!
Mahala