At the Digital Parents Conference in March this year there were two different “break out” workshops that I could attend; “Blog Coaching Boost” or “Writing Workshop”. There was also the opportunity to attend two panels – “Working with Brands” and “Blog to Business”, which ran at the same time as the workshops.
I wanted to attend all of them but unfortunately Hogwarts hasn’t issued my time turner yet. However, I decided to attend the Writing Workshop as I felt it was the area in which I needed the most work. I used to be a pretty good writer in school – I won English competitions in primary school, was in the Advanced English classes during high school and actually did Extension English in Year 11 (why yes, I am a nerd). But I think I slacked off as I had a teacher for most of high school that always gave me good marks and I got complacent. Plus I haven’t really done any writing after school, except for 2 years in Hospitality College. I really needed a refresher; some tips on how to improve my writing and make it more engaging.
I’m really glad I made that decision! Not only did I get to sit next to Beth from BabyMac and Kim from allconsuming but I seriously think it was the most beneficial part of the conference, for me. I learnt a lot and I’ve decided to share some of it with you.
The one professional photo from the conference that you can clearly see me and it’s from this workshop! That’s me on the right with the long distance glasses on. Photo from The Mother Media’s Photostream. Copyright – Digital Parents Australia. Photography by Lumsdaine Photography.
Here are my notes from the workshop. It was run by the wonderful Valerie Khoo from the Sydney Writers’ Centre, an amazing and informative speaker.
“When you write well you can write about a blade of grass and still move people.”
We were asked to write a sentence about what we wished to achieve from this workshop. I wrote:
“After this session, I would like to reconnect with my ability to write, to make my blog more entertaining and to feel like I’m writing something worthwhile.”
KNOW YOUR READER
It is important to know who you are writing for. This way you can target your posts *directly* to your ideal reader. A good way to work out who your ideal reader is, is to base it on yourself!
♥ Education Level
♥ Understanding of your topic
♥ Income – Socio economic status (affects the level of product/ reviews you will write about – no use writing about Versace when your average reader can’t afford it!)
PLAN YOUR WRITING
♥ Structure your article before you start writing.
♥ Know what you want to write exactly before you start writing.
♥ Chronological is not always the way to go.
♥ Just because it happened, doesn’t mean you have to write about it. (I need to remember this one).
♥ Take the extra step and research the extra info that will give the reader more than they can research themselves.
ACTIVE VERSUS PASSIVE
♥ Write in an active voice – it will engage the reader.
I love you = active
You are loved by me = passive
♥ By writing with an active voice you are bring the whoever or whatever is doing the action up to the front.
♥ Try writing a post without the word ‘I’.
♥ Figure out what is your most used word and try to eliminate it.
SHOW DON’T TELL
♥ Be Descriptive.
♥ Adjectives are your friend.
♥ Share the stories behind your actions (behind my meal selections or cleaning tasks!).
♥ Entertain, not only inform.
SENTENCES TOO LONG
♥ Keep word limit to 15-20 words per sentence; 27 words maximum.
♥ 1 concept per sentence or paragraph depending on complexity of concept.
♥ Try using Subheadings to improve clarity.
KILLING YOUR DARLINGS
♥ Don’t include all your research info; only what’s relevant – It must add value.
♥ It’s what you leave out that will make your writing good.
REWRITING AND EDITING PROCESS
Proof read!! Read the post out loud, if it sounds wrong then edit. Especially read the ending out loud to ensure you are finishing effectively. Do all those words need to be there?
MOVING IN TO FREELANCING
♥ Ensure you have “freelancer” in your About Me Page.
♥ Highlight your best posts – ones that highlight your writing.
♥ Analysise the publications you want to work for;
♥ how often is it issued?
♥ distribution (national or regional)
♥ Contributors vs staff writes
♥ Target audience
♥ Topics and themes
♥ Average word count
♥ Tone and style
♥ Make sure you write for all of the above and target the correct publications for your writing.
♥ Never assume the editor will edit your word limit – check if they have a word limit or check the publication and determine their average word limit.
♥ Always pitch editors with well formed story ideas.
If you have a chance to hear Valerie Khoo speak I highly recommend you take it. I learnt so much from this 90mins.
Valerie Khoo is managing director of the Sydney Writers’ Centre. Since founding the centre in 2005, she has grown it from a one-person operation to a thriving centre featuring more than 30 of Australia’s top writing trainers/journalists/authors. The centre has helped thousands of students get published, score book deals, change careers and improve their job prospects. Valerie’s personal blog was named by Smart Company as one of the 25 Best Business Blogs in Australia 2011
I used a summary from Digital Parents Blog to form this post.