Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category
When you’re launching your business, your website is a crucial element that you don’t want to neglect. This is how over 90% of clients will find you at first and you can bet most of them will make up their minds about the quality of your services within a few seconds of reaching your site.
These days, it’s standard for a business website to have a blog. A blog allows you to continue posting relevant content that is useful to clients, along with helping tremendously with your site’s search engine optimization (SEO).
Unfortunately, not many businesses use their blog correctly. Here’s a quick guide to get you started on the right track!
Write about relevant, useful topics
In order to keep readers on your site, they have to find information that is useful to them. “Useful” can have many meanings: the blog article can be funny, informative, passionate, etc. What it can’t be, is a shameless self-promotion of your business. You have a whole website that talks about your business. Don’t use your blog as more of the same!
Use your business blog to demonstrate your knowledge and to cement your position as an industry expert in your field. And mix it up. Providing a variety of content to your readers will allow them to see that your expertise is broadband. Use different “content categories” to keep your articles organized and help readers find their way around your blog.
If you find you’re running low on content ideas, scour the internet for inspiration. Obviously you don’t want to steal anyone’s work, but by reading different blogs out there it can help spark an idea for a future blog topic of yours.
Mix it up!
When you write a blog, it’s important to post different topics and different types of articles to your blog to keep things interesting for your readers. Try mixing some of these different styles of posts:
• “Top 5 / top 10” style lists
• Expert advice
• Client stories
• Product features
• “Top picks” relevant to your industry
• Video content
• And anything else you can think of!
Especially when your business is just getting off the ground, you should be posting to your blog at least once a week, and preferably more!
Posting frequently to your blog will accomplish two goals:
- The more often you post new content to your website, the more search engines will index your site, which will lead to higher listings on search engine result pages.
- A high frequency of posts will resonate with visitors to your blog. If you post sporadically or at a slow pace, readers won’t stick around.
A blog article that’s one long paragraph will not be read.
You’ll want to write your articles in an easy-to-read format. Use headers to separate key points, and try to write simple paragraphs. Bullet points can be your best friend as they allow you to convey a large amount of information while forcing you to be as concise as possible!
You’ll want to use images in all of your blog posts as well. Pictures, graphs, illustrations, etc. are a wonderful way of breaking up text and keeping your readers engaged.
Make sure you have proper permission for whatever image you post on your blog. If you’re using your own pictures, make sure you have a signed photo release from any person who appears in the photo. If using images from another source, obtain written permission from that source and credit their work accordingly.
This is where your market research will come in handy. Not only should you be writing about topics that appeal to your target clientele, but you’ll want to take it a step further and use the exact keywords they use online.
While it can be tough to compete for high traffic keywords, you can easily rank for some highly targeted, long-tail keywords. Example: say you’re writing an article about the top 5 floral arrangements for a spring wedding. Instead of targeting “spring wedding” or “floral arrangement”, try targeting the phrase “spring floral arrangement with daisies”. You’d be surprised how well this works.
A quick warning about keyword stuffing:
Be careful not to oversaturate your article with a bunch of keywords. This is often a rookie mistake that can actually result in your entire website being penalized by search engines. While you SHOULD edit any article to have a focus keyword or two, make sure the final article is concise and cohesive. If the article ends up reading unnaturally, you probably want to go in and remove a few keywords.
Be authentic: write it yourself!
A blog is a wonderful place to show a bit of color, attitude, and personality. While you should always be mindful to your brand values, you can afford to be a little more personal on your blog. Use a simple, conversational tone that resonates with your audience, and have some fun! Tell interesting stories, explain why a specific topic is important to you, share your likes and dislikes with your audience, etc.
Probably one of the worst mistakes you can make with your blog would be to outsource it to someone else. Hiring an agency or a copywriter to write your blog content will reduce your blog’s efficiency very quickly. While an agency might help with keyword focus and might help bring more visitors to your website, but 10:1 those visitors will be much less qualified for your website and likely will be turned off by the impersonal tone of your articles.
Once your business takes off and you start being a little too busy to write an article per week for your blog, then your blog has accomplished its mission! At this point, I’d opt for cutting back on the blogging schedule instead of handing off this task to someone else.
Describe multimedia content
Posting videos or infographics is a great way to offer different types of content to your audience. But search engines are not yet able to read the content that’s found on a video or image. So, you’ll want to make sure to write up a few (keyword rich!) paragraphs describing what’s found within the video or image.
Use a strong call to action!
Have you ever read a blog article, and without even realizing it you’ve ended up jumping from one article to the other on that website, eventually landing on a product page? That website is using amazing calls to action (CTAs)!
On the flip side, have you ever read a blog article where you get to the bottom of the page and think “Well, I’m done here.” and left? Odds are, that blog didn’t use any CTAs at all!
A call to action is asking the reader to do something while they’re on your blog. These can take many shapes: from links inside an article’s body to buttons to fancy images. Many think CTAs are reserved for very important actions: namely, purchasing your service. That’s very untrue. A CTA can ask the reader to perform any number of actions including:
• Reading another article on your blog
• Visiting a specific page on your site for more information
• Watching a video
• Commenting on your article*
• Contacting you
• Signing up for a newsletter list
• Visiting your social media accounts
*If the comment box is on the same page as your article (which it should be!) you might want to think about another CTA on top of that so the reader has somewhere else to go once the comment’s been posted!
Whatever call to action you use, make sure there is some logical reason why your reader would want to take that action. For example, a designer with an article about restoring antique furniture could easily have a CTA to read another article about purchasing antiques, but would want to avoid a CTA that links directly to his/her feng shui design services.
Let’s get to it!
If you already have a blog on your website, it’s time to look it over and see if there are any improvements to be made. If you’re just starting out, I’m sure you’ll have a great time writing your first few post.
Do you have any additional business blogging tips? Let us know in the comments!
Are you James Patterson? The world’s best selling author does not even have to write his own books, let alone proof read them. He just comes up with fabulous and compelling idea after fabulous and compelling idea, writes ‘em down in a careful and detailed synopsis and then passes that on to one of his many “co-authors” to, well, author.
Not James Patterson? OK, then how many bestsellers have you sold so far? If you have a good history of books that have sold well, chances are you will have an agent, a publisher, a copy editor and a whole litany of people ready and willing to check your manuscript for errors and to help you every step of your way.
If you haven’t already been substantially published, you are going to have to do the hard graft of checking, rechecking and proofreading yourself. Many beginning writers think that once they have completed the creative part of their work, they have completed their task. Unfortunately that’s not the case. There’s the little matter of attempting to sell your writing. Proofreading is essential if you want to sell your work.
Here’s the rub. Unless your work is completely error free, the chances of it even being read, however brilliant it is, are remote.
So, is proofreading a worthwhile use of your time and talent? You bet it is. How many editors have thrown their hands up in irritation and hit the delete button to be rid of a manuscript that may have had all kinds of excellent attributes going for it, but that was, “shot in the foot” by poor spelling, grammatical errors, or illogicalities in the story line? Many.
Your manuscript is not going to be one of those poor babies lying abandoned in the trash can of some nasty editor’s computer. Your work is going to be professional in every sense of the word. Original, creative and beautifully error free.
So, how do you proofread effectively?
First, allow yourself a little time to decompress after you have written. In the flush of writing, you fall in love with your work a little. You need to allow yourself time to get over that puppy love so that you can see the writing clearly for what it really is. Give yourself a few days to clear your head and then go back to read what you have written.
Allow the computer to do much of the work for you. Remember that spell check and grammar check are there and are helpful within reason. The computer software will pick up a lot errors but it won’t pick up all the errors. I received a manuscript recently. The story involved some hot and heavy sexual encounters in the course of which, the man “released his sea men.” That ruined the mood. The writer had worked so hard to create it, and I was left laughing helplessly. You never want a reader to laugh at your work unless you intend to be funny. You can be sure that the author meant to write, “semen,” instead wrote seamen and that the computer recognized that there is no such word and helpfully divided the word into two for him, with hilarious results. Know the limitations of your computer software. Use your computer software, but use your human eye and brain too. If the author had carefully read over his text, he would have caught the unfortunate mistake.
Don’t try to catch everything in one reading.
Read over one time to try to catch any spelling errors. Read another time on alert for grammatical mistakes. Read another time to be sure that you have not suddenly changed the name of one of your main characters. You’d be surprised how often that happens. Read again to ensure that the plot line makes logical sense. Remember that you may write chapters of a book several weeks apart. You need a careful read through once you have finished to link all the parts together in your own mind and to be sure that you have not introduced plot and character inconsistencies.
Now read looking specifically at sentence structure. Your sentences should read as beautifully as the ones David Adams Richards crafts. And crafts is the right word. Talking of which, read through again to be sure that you have carefully chosen only words that are precisely appropriate for the subtle meaning you want to invoke.
Ask a friend to read your text with a red pencil in hand. It’s much easier to catch errors on the printed page than on the screen, and a good friend will read carefully and slowly for you.
When you have checked for errors by category, have enlisted your friend’s help, have checked for inconsistencies and made sure that all your facts and figures are accurate, you should be fairly confident that you have an error free document. One last thing. Know yourself. Most people have a mistake or two or three that they know they commit fairly often. I generally type form instead of from. A common one is to write loose instead of lose. You know the mistakes you usually make. They are probably the same ones that were your bugbears in school. Make a list of them. Have a last careful read to ensure that they are not popping their ugly heads up in your manuscript!
This week we sat down with one of Winghill Writing School’s tutors, the amazing Joan Hall Hovey to talk her new book, what keeps her writing, and her advice and words of encouragement for those who want to become authors.
Your new book, The Deepest Dark is a true nail-biter. Can you summarize the plot in a few lines?
I’ll give you the blurb on the back of the book:
Following the deaths of her husband, Corey, and ten year old daughter Ellie in a traffic accident, author Abby Miller sinks ever deeper into depression. She contemplates suicide as a way to be with them, and to end her unrelenting pain.
In a last desperate effort to find peace, she drives to Loon Lake where they last vacationed together, wanting to believe they will be waiting for her there. At least in spirit. Barring that, the pills Doctor Gregory gave her to help her sleep, are in her purse.
The cabin at Loon Lake was her and Corey’s secret hideaway, and not even Abby’s sister, Karen, who she is close to, knows where it is.
But someone else does. Ken Roach is one of three men who have escaped from Pennington prison. He and his cohorts are dangerous predators who will stop at nothing to get what they want – and to keep from going back to prison. Having already committed atrocious crimes, they have nothing to lose.
Unknowingly, Abby is on a collision course with evil itself. And the decision of whether or live or die will soon be wrenched from her hands.
What do you love the most about this book?
I love my characters when they’ve told their stories well, whether they are of good hearts or dark hearts. And there are both in my books, which is necessary in any good novel, and especially the suspense novel. As the story reaches its ending a rightness of things should evolve. You can feel it when you’ve achieved that, and that’s always exciting. As it was with ‘The Deepest Dark’.
What were some of your greatest hurdles in developing this story?
I’m not aware of any hurdles in particular. But there are always difficulties in the process of writing a book; you can’t avoid it. You are, after all, creating something where nothing has been before. You are creating an entire world and the people in that world must be believable and their stories must keep the reader turning those pages, eager to know what happens next, and unwilling to put the book down until the story ends, and all the loose ends are tied up.
Why did you decide to become an author, and what keeps you coming back to the metaphorical typewriter?
I was first and foremost a voracious reader, as writers generally are. At some point came the compulsion to let my own voice rise from the page. I think writing became for me a way for a shy girl to get attention, and I had a knack for it. There is something about hushing a classroom of students while you read your story aloud, that is exhilarating. I learned I could keep my childhood friends riveted and begging for more, especially with a ripping good ghost story. There is power in that.
As a Winghill tutor, you’ve helped develop the writing skills of countless individuals. What do you think are the most common challenges these aspiring authors face on their road to success?
Believing in oneself. It takes courage to be a writer, never knowing if your work (you) will be praised or ridiculed. We must simply rise above the fear and do what we know how to do when all cylinders are firing. And do it again and again. There is no other way. The challenge is not to give up.
Do you have any words of advice or encouragement for anyone who would like to become an author like yourself?
Never let anyone tell you you shouldn’t pursue your dreams. If you have the drive and even a modest talent, you can do whatever you set out to do. But know it won’t be easy, as anything worthwhile never is. Stay with it. Practice. Write something every day. Read everything you can get your hands on about writing. Read widely and deeply, and most important, devour books written in the genre in which you want to write. Remember that even Shakespeare wasn’t above changing a line if it didn’t get a laugh where it was supposed to, or no one cried at the sad parts. Good writing is in large part rewriting, so expect to do plenty of it. We don’t always get it right first time around.
Lastly, I tell my students not to think too hard. Rather, IMAGINE. Let the story come to you.
Joan’s new book, The Deepest Dark is available now on Amazon. If you’d like to learn more about Joan, head over to her profile under TUTORS on the Winghill site.
Research = Good. Plagiarizing?? Not so much!
The risk of plagiarism is a deep, dark fear in many writers’ hearts. After all, in the creative writing world, all depends on your reputation and ability for original thought and imaginative, inventive, expression.
And you never want to lose your good reputation for, “…. good opinion, once lost, is lost forever” And yes … we did copy that from a book! After all, who could say it better than Jane? Did we plagiarize it? No, Sirree. We quoted a short excerpt, are attributing it to Jane Austen and including the fact that it comes from Pride and Prejudice, although you already knew that.
In a world where many have claimed with justification that there are really only seven main basic plots, it might seem inevitable that the same old thing, written in the same old way would just keep on re-appearing, one author plagiarizing from the last.
Yet it does not. Every year, countless books are written with fresh variations on these themes, variations that are original, compelling and narrate a story in a unique way. Here’s the thing. If the words come from your own head, even when based on research from previously printed facts or fiction, you can relax. They’ll be original and you will be safe from criticism.
You can liken it to the infinite variety of faces we raise to the sun. Basically, we all have pretty much the same main features. Two eyes, a nose, a mouth. Yet those few features are reproduced in many billions of different ways that result in instantly recognizable unique faces.
We humans are a complex, infinitely variable lot and our thoughts and experiences are just as infinite. So relax. If you are not copying, you won’t be plagiarizing.
It’s early morning, the beginning of the two hours uninterrupted writing time you had sworn to yourself to undertake. You are at your desk, eyes-wide, heart hammering, straight backed, a cup of tea in hand, a blank screen before you. You are going to start developing characters for a new story for a creative writing competition.
Step No. 1
Do NOT get up to: make the beds, make sure the plants have been watered, phone your mother/best friend, wash the floors, go shopping, clear out cupboards, wash the car, or do any of the multitude of excellent other tasks that suddenly issue their siren calls to you.
That is procrastination. That is not a good thing.
Back to writing, then. Sigh. Writing is such a huge job. Where do I start?
Let’s, “start at the very beginning, a very good place to start.”
Then let’s proceed from there, step by small step.
OK. Let’s think about options. What premise shall you choose? After all, you don’t have to pick something earth shattering. How about two women, strangers, sitting side-by-side in a train en route for New York? Hmm. Might be interesting if you can flesh them out and make them intriguing. You just checked the Washington DC- New York time schedules online. The trip is three hours so that journey would give them time to chat, reveal their problems and backgrounds and reflect on life together.
Who are they? Hmm. As the all-powerful creator here, you can opt to make these women whatever you choose. Let’s make it interesting. Let’s make one a glamorous and still beautiful 60 year old Muslim Iranian woman who came to the US from the Middle East many years ago. No headscarf, she is not a practicing Muslim although she still identifies. Let’s make her fellow passenger a Jewish woman, also clearly prosperous, not as beautiful, whose family came as immigrants from Russia a hundred years ago. They both cleave to their respective histories and ancestors.
Can they find middle ground? We-e-ll, they both live in Washington, that’s one thing. How about you make the Iranian a woman who married a non-religious Jewish husband? How about she has never really felt accepted by his family? That will introduce some tension! How about they are both going to New York to visit their respective sons? That will give you the chance to introduce the sons and make them part of the history if you want to.
Let’s make one son a conventional New York go-getter with a career in finance. Let’s make the other one a New World entrepreneur. How about you give him a site selling shoes online? (Seems crazy, but those sites do very well).
What? They both have new, serious girlfriends who the mothers are going to meet for the first time over dinner that night?
Well, well, well, that’s an alluring premise, they really do have things in common. Both are nervous as can be at the prospect of meeting these important new women in their sons’ lives. Lots of readers will empathize with that.
You are starting to get interested in this story. Coffee time yet? No thanks. You are too busy creating. You are working step-by-step and you are enjoying it!
Booklovers are facing some new facts of life.
It’s not breaking news, Virginia, but the printed book may well be on the way out, replaced by its oh so efficient e-book cousin.
How do you feel about this transition? Is it inevitable? People who love the feel, the heft and the artistry of the printed book mourn the process. E-book lovers on the other hand, talk disparagingly about, “dead tree books” and explain that all change is in the name of progress.
Will libraries of the future be completely digital? Well, probably yes. Even the most rare editions of antique books can even now be easily viewed free on Google Books.
Yet libraries remain deep in our consciousness as beautiful and satisfying places. Perhaps in the future we will think of them as cathedrals to be visited and enjoyed just like other ancient monuments.
Some of the most beautiful recent paper books are devoted to detailing the loveliest libraries in the world.
In their, “The Library: A World History” author James W P Campbell and architectural photographer Will Pryce spent three years together travelling the world and photographing these monuments to the written word. Their book is a sumptuous love letter to the library.
Jacques Bossier and photographer Guillaume de Laubier pulled no punches with their title. “The Most Beautiful Libraries in the World,” gives the reader magnificent photographs of what the authors consider are the 20 most beautiful libraries in the whole world.
Looking for inspiration when writing? Perhaps you will find it in some of the wonderful interiors shown in these books.
At the beginning of April we launched our very first book club! You voted, and the chosen read was The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh. We read it, we loved it. Now we’re excited to hear what you thought of the book!
For today’s discussion we’re using the following list of book club questions from Random House. These questions are simply meant to offer a bit of guidance and to get you thinking, so please don’t feel pressured to answer each and every one. Simply pick one or two that you feel strongly about and share your thoughts in the comments.
- What potential do Elizabeth, Renata, and Grant see in Victoria that she has difficulty seeing in herself?
- While Victoria has been hungry and malnourished throughout the majority of her life, food ends up meaning more than just nourishment to her. Why do you think that is?
- Victoria and Elizabeth both struggle with the idea of being part of a family. What does it mean to you to be part of a family? What defines family?
- Why do you think Elizabeth waits so long before trying to patch things up with her long-lost sister Catherine?
- The first week after her daughter’s birth goes surprisingly well for Victoria. Why does Victoria feel unable to care for her child after the week ends? What is it that allows her to rejoin her family?
- One of the major themes in The Language of Flowers is forgiveness and second chances – do you think Victoria deserves one after the things she did (both as a child and as an adult)? What about Catherine and Elizabeth?
- What did you think of the structure of the book – the alternating chapters of past and present? In what ways did the two storylines parallel each other, and how did they diverge?
- The novel touches on many different themes (love, family, forgiveness, second chances). Which do you think is the most important? And what did you think was ultimately the lesson?
- At the end of the novel, Victoria learns that moss grows without roots. What does this mean, and why is it such a revelation for her?
- Based on your reading of the novel, what are your impressions of the foster care system in America? What could be improved?
- Knowing what you now know about the language of the flowers, to whom would you send a bouquet and what would you want it to say?
We’ll be monitoring this page throughout the day, so please feel welcome to post whenever is convenient for you. Hopefully we’ll get a good discussion going!
“Writing is a lovely, creative, artistic endeavor. It can also be an absolute pain.”
Every writer has days when the words and ideas simply will not flow. Learn to value those days even if you do not enjoy them. Work through them. They are the best training ground for turning you into a real writer – a pro. Professionals write on good days and bad. They write when the ideas flow and when they do not. They write when the sentences seem effortlessly to form themselves. They write when words refuse to come. They keep on writing when they are suffering through days when their minds seem to be full of hot air.
On those bad days, turn to your own experiences and memories to get the wheels of your mind turning more freely. In other words, give your readers – quite literally – a piece of your mind. It’s quite a gift!
Read the short story here. It was written on a bad writing day when no ideas came easily. The writer called on real memories to turn a non productive day into a “good” one.
Christmas in October
A bathroom. A small, spare room of the early 1950s, far removed from the glamour of the voluptuous marble spas of today. Bath, sink, medicine chest, linoleum floor. A three-legged stool on which sat the small girl, earnestly watching her father.
A slow bead of condensate coursed its leisurely way down the heavily misted window. The pebbled glass, trembling in its blue metal frame, allowed a thin, grey light to soften the glare of the one fluorescent fixture.
So began a daily, valued ritual between father and daughter, a time of quiet before the panic of the family breakfast, and the rush to school and work. He stood at the sink, trousers slack around his waist, braces hanging in generous loops to his knees. His white cotton vest, woven in a lattice of diamond shapes, bright against the dark of his skin. She sat behind him on her stool, watching for his reflection in the cabinet mirror. He wiped the glass, the reflection of his face appeared, exchanged a smile with her, and then disassembled in the quickly clouding surface.
He smoothed the shaving cream from its tube into a small, stone bowl. He added a drop of water. He ran his thumb across the silver tipped bristles of the shaving brush and plunged the brush into the ointment of cream and water. As he beat the cream into foam, the delicious sound of the slurping of the foam against the bristles, and the muted knocking of the wooden brush handle against the stone sides of the bowl, combined into a heady music. In later years, she would only be able to recreate that sound by stirring thick chocolate milk in a china cup. That sound always returned her to the bathroom of her childhood, and its daily morning rite as the warm, moist air of the room became scented by the perfume of the shaving cream.
He opened the door of the medicine chest and from it took the plastic case, a jewel of a case, luminous, transparent, elegant. Its lid sprang open to reveal the shiny, silver razor, sitting proud on its clear foundation. She could fill that case with treasures if it were her’s. Marbles would glitter and gleam. The rusty aroma of acorn shells would complement the industrial tang of the plastic. Her collection of coloured wooden beads would glint in the reflection of light travelling through the clear, ice-like walls.
“I love that case, Dad,” she said, “I could keep so many important things in it. Could I have it when you’re finished with it?” She longed for that case as only a little girl with a highly colored imagination and an idea, set gem-like in her heart, could desire.
Her father turned to her, his dimples apparent in the unshaven bristles of his face. “You want this?” he asked in surprise. “Ooh, yes, please, Dad.” Gallantly the father bowed to his daughter, presented the box to her, and turned back to the sink. She caught his eye in the mirror, and he winked.
Her voice caught in her throat, “Oh dad,” she murmured, “Christmas in October.”
And it was.
Share your thoughts on the following in the comments:
1 Did you enjoy this story? Yes or No
2) Does it “ring true?” Yes or No
3) Do you think the story captured some of the deeper elements of the relationship between the father and daughter? If so, how would you describe their relationship?
Writing for newspapers, magazines and the Internet
Yes. You may be busy creating the greatest novel of the 21st Century. That’s great. However, you should consider the advantages of helping to pay your everyday bills with simple “filler” pieces for newspapers and magazines too. You just have to think ahead.
Newspapers, magazines and the whole world of electronic sites are hungry, available markets for writers. Remember, they need lots of “stuff” on a daily basis to fill their pages. And submissions do not all have to be high-powered articles that offer great political and philosophical insight. You just have to think ahead.
Remember. The bigger the publication, the longer the timeline.
Here we are in April 2014. Think like it’s April 2015, Baby! You should now be planning, writing and submitting your terrific piece on the history of April Fool’s Day for next year. Have you got your article on the extravagant Easter Bonnets of the 1920s ready for publication at Easter next year?
What about that story about the most extravagant Hallowe’en parties in your area? You’ve been meaning to write it for a long time. The event planners all have their photos from last year. They’d be delighted to share them with you for a piece about Hallowe’en this year. It’s never too early.
And finally, how about Christmas? You could be just in the nick of time for submission this year if you check in with the big industry buyers to see what the decorating trends for Christmas 2014 will be. After all, they made all their buying decisions more than a year ago!
Do you have any writing tips to add? Share them in the comments!