Monday, February 08, 2010

8 Secrets to Extraordinary Writing

Extraordinary writing is one of the most important skills to acquire if you intend to make a career as a wordsmith. Having good writing skills is a must. There are no short cuts to excellent writing. Either you are a master craftsman or you are a humdrum hack at best. The choice is squarely yours.

Use the following secrets in your journey to writing attention grabbing articles.

  • Learn to write well. Give your craft excellent form by learning different writing techniques and styles. Writing for the web is quite different than writing for a magazine or newspaper. Create a diverse writing portfolio. This gives you the ability to write for different mediums, thus making you more marketable than your competition. Learn to write well, or not to write at all. - John Dryden, Essay on Satire

  • Practice, practice, practice! Set aside time to write daily. Write at least 1200 words a day even if you do not have anything specific to write. This helps to sharpen your skills and correct any errors you are making. Practice, practice, practice writing. Writing is a craft that requires both talent and acquired skills. You learn by doing, by making mistakes and then seeing where you went wrong. - Jeffrey A. Carver, American science fiction author.

  • Keep your eyes and ears open for inspiration. Your inspiration can originate from a conversation, a song, a line in a book, or even a Chinese take out menu. The discipline is to be aware of your surroundings at all times. As a writer practices awareness, the mind disciplines itself to the point where awareness becomes automatic. The artist is a receptacle for emotions that come from all over the place: from the sky, from the earth, from a scrap of paper, from a passing shape, from a spider's web. - Pablo Picasso, Spanish painter, sculptor and draughtsman.

  • Rewrite your article. Look for ways to strengthen a sentence, a thought or flow. Rearrange paragraphs if you must. Keep your sentences and paragraphs short.

  • Proofread. Maniacally check for syntax, grammar, punctuation and spelling errors. Your readers will not take you seriously if your articles, essays, or even e-mails are filled with errors. Avoid slang whenever possible, unless its use enhances the piece.

  • Create an interesting first paragraph. It is your article's hook. It is here that your readers will decide if they want to continue reading or move on to another piece. Write your first paragraph last. This gives you an opportunity to customize it to the bulk of your content.

  • Know your audience. Do not be afraid to ask for feedback. You need to know if your readers are excited or falling asleep half way through your article. In the 21st century market, people will not buy content. They will however, buy service. Allow your writing to become flexible and selfless. Writers who feed and entertain their audience will be successful. Your audience gives you everything you need. They tell you. There is no director who can direct you like an audience. - Fanny Brice, American actress, comedienne and singer.

  • Write a thought provoking ending. Your last paragraph should be more than a summary of your article. It should make your readers pause to think about what they just read. If necessary, include a call for action.

Although clever writing and communication takes patience, practice and time, it is without doubt worth the effort. This alone will set you head and shoulders above the mediocre and lukewarm.

Tick tick tick tock. The clock is running. Why are you still here?

Go write!

Friday, February 05, 2010

Six Steps to Writing Soul Stirring Articles

The most effective articles are ones that captivate the reader from the onset. These articles are thought out, each word written for maximum effect. The article that fails to engage the heart and mind of its intended audience will fall flat and will not entice the reader to respond to the author's call for action.
The question that begs to be answered is this: "how do I write a soul stirring article?" I am glad you asked. Here are six points to writing that electrifying piece.

  • Know your target audience. The relationship between writers and their audience is like very much like dating. The most effective relationship is the one of mutual giving and understanding. The best clothing is worn. The best foot is put forward in a shiny shoe. You are simply dressed to kill. This type of relationship building writing is much more effective than showing up at the cafĂ© in a raggedy outfit. It is of paramount importance that writers placate their audience's needs. As writers, we serve our readers' interests. Lose this focus and you will absolutely lose your audience.
  • Pick the topic carefully. Communication is the breath of life of any relationship. When I am dating someone, my main focus is to keep the relationship fresh, invigorating and exciting. As a writer, I pick topics that elevate the mood. No one likes a constant crab. You want to create an atmosphere where your audience feels right at home while reading your piece. Do this and they will come back for seconds and thirds.
  • The title must pique curiosity. I could have titled this article, "How to Write an Article". That title is not juicy. It is lifeless. It is blah, bland and vanilla. However, the title I chose will cause a reaction. Which writers does not want to stir the precious soul of their readers? We all do. Personally, I want to tease my readers with the title and leave them wanting more.
  • The first sentence is your "hook". The first line of any article should be like a passionate kiss. Some people just do not know how to kiss. Yet there is that one person whose kiss melts you just in the right places. Their kiss is so delicious that it creates a hunger for more - lots more.
  • Quality content. Your story must pluck the heart strings. It must gingerly and cunningly intoxicate. Over the top writing, done tastefully and in moderation, creates a stirring interest to continue reading through to the end. Keep million dollar words to a minimum. Some articles read like a dictionary. Dictionaries are not particularly exciting. Avoid using street vernacular. Wrap your ideas with subtle sophistication. NEVER use vulgarity. Create a flow from one sentence to the next. An article should always present your thoughts with melodic clarity. There is no mistaking what is on your mind.
  • Call for action. Once writers have created a pleasant atmosphere, they have given their readers a glimpse into the future. Your audience feels good about the time they have spent with you and they will want to visit with you again. Your presence in their lives will become important. They will want more of you and they will excitedly look forward to the next encounter.
Soul stirring poet, Maya Angelou wrote, I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.

I look forward to seeing you again, my beloved reader. Until we meet again.