Monthly Archives: October 2014

17 Blogs Writers Should Follow

blogs writer should follow

You can see it in your mind’s eye, can’t you? Your name boldly embossed on the jacket of your first novel. Or your sparkling blog posts, with first page rankings on Google, over and over again.

Well, if you yearn to become a better writer, we’ve pulled together this list of 17 blogs you should follow. We’ve located the top blogs to find the best on-topic, contemporary advice to hone your writing chops, find inspiration, market your wares and publish your work.

Freelance Writing

1. About Freelance Writing

With several decades of experience as a freelancer and ghostwriter, Anne Wayman answers questions on freelancing and provides tips and resources for finding paying gigs, increasing your rates and all things freelance. Learn her secrets to mastering how to write, rewrite, market and run your writing business.

2. Make Living Writing

Carol Tice’s success as a freelance writer makes her one of the premier freelancers online today. Drink deeply of Carol’s knowledge as she guides the new writer to the well of freelance success and prosperity – it’s her obsession to help new writers make money.

3. The Renegade Writer

Following on the success of her book The Renegade Writer with Diana Burrell, this blog by Linda Formichelli is an extension of the concept that freelance writing should be tailored to suit the writer, not vice versa. Plenty of solid tips on developing your style, overcoming fear, staying motivated and making money as a freelancer – and all designed to boost your career.

Blogging

4. Boost Blog Traffic

From the brilliant mind of Jon Morrow, expert advice on how to build a noteworthy blog is based on solid writing and marketing techniques, outstanding value and building relationships with the influencers in your niche.

5. Problogger

Darren Rowse started Problogger to record his efforts to monetize his blog, and to hook up with a community of like-minded bloggers. Learn best blogging practices and online writing methods as well as how to add income to your blog from one of the best. Check out Problogger’s job board for writers as well.

Writing Advice

6. Advice to Writers

This blog’s content is compiled by successful author Jon Winokur. His “writerly wisdom of the ages” comes to us via insightful and exclusive interviews with authors, an outstanding resource section, numerous articles and essays together with an inspirational quote of the day. Advice to Writers is a treasure trove for all aspiring writers and well worth following.

7. Writer Unboxed

Writer Unboxed comes to us from novelists Therese Walsh and Kathleen Bolton, who share the latest tips and techniques for successful writing career. With contributions from industry experts and bestselling authors, there’s a wealth of information and insights “about the craft and business of fiction.”

8. Dani Shapiro

Author of several novels and best selling memoirs, Dani Shapiro shares her insightful and poignant acumen on writing and life. This is an excellent site for artistic inspiration when you’re feeling shaky about writing. Or life.

9. Writers In The Storm

A collaborative effort from founding writers Laura Drake, Jenny Hansen, Orly Konig Lopez and Fae Rowan, Writers in The Storm focuses on the craft of writing and providing ongoing inspiration for all writers who must “weather the storm within”.

Copywriting

10. The CopyBot

Chief copywriter at Copyblogger Media, Demian Farnworth is on a mission to “write clear, concise and compelling copy” that’s pleasing to the search engine gods and that readers find captivating. The CopyBot gives us practical and insightful advice on how to create outstanding headlines, high-quality content and effective CTA’s.

Writers Communities

11. Writers-Network

Writers-Network is a free creative writing community where you can share your writing, get unlimited constructive feedback and connect with others. You can also organize your writing, create a portfolio and post unlimited stories and poems. A great site for support and a safe environment for building the thick skin needed to persevere through the hard times.

Dealing with Rejection

12. Literary Rejections on Display

The place to go to share your rejection misery, LROD is entertaining and light-hearted. A good place to visit whilst on the pity-pot, you can commiserate with all the other writers who’ve been through the pain of rejection.

Marketing and Promotion

13. Amp & Pivot

Founder Jules Taggart has started the BLAH Revolution. Her blog focuses on creating compelling copy to create an emotional connection with your reader or customer. Part copywriting and part inspiration with a good dose of marketing, Amp&pivot is a high-octane site for learning how to get noticed in the noisy world of online writing.

14. Writing Happiness

A website devoted to developing your online presence – Marya Jan dishes on how to optimize your website, overhaul content and build an email list to help reach your goals.

15. Seth’s Blog

Learn to master the art of self-promotion and marketing with the over 2,500 achieved posts packed with insight and humor from best-selling author and entrepreneur Seth Godin.

Publishing

16. Goins, Writer

Jeff Goins writes about both writing and getting published as he tracks down the answers to how writers make a living, what it really takes to get published and how to pursue passion. True to his belief that “generosity wins”, Jeff liberally shares his experience, knowledge and creativity with all who visit.

17. J.A. Konrath Blogspot

Mystery and thriller author J.A. Konrath’s no holds barred opinions and experiences in publishing, both traditional and self-publishing. With plenty of information about the resources and services he uses for self-publishing plus extensive material for mastering your genre.

And there you have 17 blogs writers should follow to answer just about every question you might have about how to be a successful writer. Enjoy!

Want To Become a Better Writer? Check How Others Do It

become a better writer

Looking to become a better writer and not too sure where to start? Well, we’ve gleaned the advice of some successful authors and emerging writers to see what they offer for developing successful habits and routines.

So, let’s get right to their inspirational words of wisdom.

Turn off the TV and read as much as possible

From ultra successful author Stephen King, this is his No. 1 tip. Describing TV as “poisonous to creativity”, Mr. King urges new writers to look within themselves to find their creative muse. And in order to be a writer “you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.”

So, turn of the TV (and the online shows) and let your imagination run free.

Be willing to write really badly

Writer Jennifer Egan suggests allowing yourself to purge all the “bad writing” inside as a preventative measure for writer’s block. She makes the key point that a writer will need to “give yourself permission to do that because you can’t expect to write regularly and always write well.”

Acknowledging that you have some “bad stuff” inside doesn’t make you a bad writer. And permitting the bad writing to surface clears space for the good writing to emerge. Don’t make the mistake of trying to hide or stuff the badness, because it will emerge in other ways. Just allow it to come forth, then let it go and move on to your natural brilliance.

Use short words, short sentences, and short paragraphs

This is advertising giant David Ogilvy’s recipe for simplicity. To cut through the white noise clamoring for your readers’ attention, be concise, to the point, and clear in your writing – in as few words as possible.

Chunk down your writing project into manageable bits

In Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott instructs the aspiring writer in the practice of chunking. This is the process of breaking down large projects or goals into their main components, and those components into smaller individual tasks.

By whittling down the project down to bite sized bits, you’ll arrive at the starting point. And then it’s simply a matter of methodically tackling each task individually, then moving on to the next. In this manner, you always know the next step to take which is key in busting overwhelm.

Be honest

We found this thread over at Quora.com on how to become a better writer. Blogger and author James Altucher gives us this gem on being honest in our writing: “Tell people the stuff they all think but nobody ever says.”

Giving voice to those inner thoughts can be controversial for sure, but writing isn’t for the squeamish. If you can’t be honest, you’re not delivering value, and without value your readers will flee.

Use definitive deadlines

In the same thread, bestseller Ben Mezrich uses the practice of personal deadlines to “stay out of trouble and avoid procrastination”. Another sound practice to avoid the daze of overwhelm with all its delay tactics, excuses and unfinished pieces. Determine a page or word count in advance and finish writing when you’ve reached it.

It’s like having a mental countdown clock; as you reach each interim milestone you know progress is being made. This is particularly effective when used with the chunking practice in point #4.

Read everything you write aloud

Another answer on the Quora thread, this time from Ethan Anderson. “Why? Because punctuation is for breaths, and paragraphs are for discrete units.”

Reading aloud is a very effective method to recognize when you’re getting too wordy. If you find your mind getting to the point before your eyes do, it’s time for some discerning editing. It’s also a great way to improve the rhythm and pace of your writing.

Drop the “thought” verbs

Again from Quora, this time from Gurshabad Grover who shared this tip from writer Chuck Palahniuk. “From this point forward — at least for the next half year — you may not use “thought” verbs. These include: ‘thinks’, ‘knows’, ‘understands’, ‘realizes’, ‘believes’, ‘wants’, ‘remembers’, ‘imagines’, ‘desires’, and a hundred others you love to use.”

Seems harsh, doesn’t it? But, Mr. Palahniuk asserts that by using “specific sensory detail”, actions and sensory details, your writing will become stronger. This is the basis of “show, don’t tell” concept for writing – let your characters physical actions and words show what they’re thinking.

Brush up your observation skills

A solid majority of the writers we’ve researched for this piece have a variation of this one, but Margaret Davidson sums it up nicely in A Guide for Newspaper Stringers: “A good writer is a good observer — of people, surroundings, ideas and trends, and the general flotsam and jetsam of the world around.”

Without keen observation, you can’t capture the excitement and interest of life. Use it to broaden the emotional nuances of your words and convey depth and understanding to your characters’ actions.

Don’t take anyone’s writing advice too seriously

And finally to wrap up the post, the above tip from author Lev Grossman seemed appropriate. Take what works for you and throw away the rest – with perseverance, you’ll find your own voice and develop routines that work for you. And you never know, maybe someday a blogger will be quoting your tips for becoming a better writer.

Don’t Spoil Your Headline: 10 Mistakes Writers Make

headline mistakes writers make

Are headlines really that important for a successful online presence? Well, according to the opinions of the experts, a well written headline is absolutely mandatory for engaging your audience. They are your one and only chance of making a good first impression, one that will induce your readers to continue, sentence by sentence, right through to your call to action.

Online readers are a savvy bunch, with amazing abilities to filter any material irrelevant to their quest. If your headlines don’t immediately convey the benefits of reading your post, they’ll quickly move on to content that holds the promise of greater value. And with no readers, you can’t share your ideas, no matter how great they may be.

Effective headlines are based on market formulas that have been tested by industry giants over the years. So, to become proficient it’s a simple matter of study and then adapting an outline to your specifics. Sounds easy, right?

Test your headlines knowledge by seeing if you’re making any of the following 10 common mistakes. If you are, the solution already exists, so please, read on…

1. Treating your headline as an afterthought.

A great headline takes time, attention and focus. It needs to convey an idea, emotions, conflict and resolution. An outstanding headline is bloggers’ poetry, concise and evocative, whetting the appetite for more with promises of satisfaction.

To give the headline is proper due consideration, Brian Clark of Copyblogger recommends writing the headlines first, with this explanation: “Why? Your headline is a promise to readers. Its job is to clearly communicate the benefit you’ll deliver to the reader in exchange for their valuable time.”

By tailoring your content to fit the promise in your headline, you have the benefit of writing content specifically for keeping that promise, making the content focused, on topic and compelling.

2. Are you trying to be completely unique and original with every headline?

If so, please stop. This is an exercise that would stretch even the most creative of writers, and there’s simply no need. Headlines that work are based on tried and true methods that have been tested over and over, and continue to get great results regardless of the medium used.

Make your own compilation of swipe files for ready reference, and learn what makes an effective headline effective. Here are a couple of very helpful reference guides available for free download: Brian Clark’s Magnetic Headlines from copyblogger.com and Jon Morrow’s Headline Hacks report from boostblogtraffic.com.

3. Headlines without keywords.

Keywords are important. And keyword research is like a crystal ball, giving you the ability to see what your target audience is looking for. It also endows the ability of talking their language. “Keywords matter, because when you speak the language of the audience, you attract more readers, more links, more retweets, more social bookmarks, and yes… more relevant search traffic.”

4. Are your headlines too passive?

If they are, then buff up for greater impact with an “active voice and strong present-tense verbs.” Neil Patel’s infographic on Hubspot gives a formula for creating effective headlines that demonstrates this principle very well.

5. Headlines without authority.

To establish the perceptual position as an authority in your niche, learn to master the ‘list’ and ‘how to’ headlines.

How do these types of posts bestow authority? List and how to posts are formatted to educate or entertain in a quick and easy manner, so if your content matches the headline’s promise you can quickly establish expert status. Plus, as Chris Lake at eConsultancy points out, if these posts are of value they can become “opinion magnets” and “share worthy”; a superb way to be seen as an authority.

6. Headlines that stretch credibility.

Overexposure to the fantastical, adjective driven headline has caused a certain amount of reader scepticism.
Ideally, the claims in your headline should be exciting, but believable. Provide useful content relevant to your readers’ needs and wants. If you’ve promised excitement, don’t let them down with empty content.

7. Headlines of vague benefit.

This is the flip side of the above point, to make that WOW impression on your readers: “Overpromise and overdeliver.” This advice is from Upworthy co-founder Peter Koechley, where they “use breathless headlines to set the bar for content high. “

8. Drone headlines.

If headlines are too familiar, carbon copies of others in your niche, your readers programmed reading habits will simply filter them out. Your headline should have a unique twist reflecting your personality or angle to set it apart from everyone else’s.

Neil Patel and Joseph Putnam of Quicsprout offer a good explanation on how to make your headlines more distinctive in their Definitive Guide to Copywriting.

9. Non-targeted headlines.

To be compelling, headlines must be specific. Let your readers know that your headline’s offer is what they’re interested in. If content is king, specificity is queen – they go together hand in glove.

10. Headlines with no sense of urgency.

If you can create a sense of urgency in your headlines, you may be able to convince your audience to continue reading so they don’t miss out on what you promise. However, use this tactic with some discernment. Not all headlines need urgency to work well, and for those that do, discretion is advisable to maintain credibility. A headline that urges action unnecessarily can be seen as empty hype, making it less likely to be successful.

The goal of all headlines is to draw the reader into your post and engage them all the way to the conclusion. And when you can do that on a consistent basis, you’ve mastered the art of the compelling headline.

8 Techniques To Structure Your Writing Ideas

creativity warning for freelance writers

Whether you’re writing a novel, a textbook or a short article for your blog, proper structuring your ideas can certainly make your work go more smoothly. Different techniques will work best for different people, so why not try a few and see what is best for you? Perhaps the combination of the approaches mentioned below will help.

Brainstorming

If your mind is full of ideas, you need to get them down fast, so you don’t forget anything interesting! Get a large piece of paper and write down everything that comes to mind with regards to your writing project. Don’t worry about details or even about spelling. This is all about ideas. A single word or short phrase will do. Space the ideas out on your paper so you can add to them. This is a very useful tool if you’re working on a project with others as you can jot down your thoughts and ideas as you talk through the work.

Brainstorm bubbles

A brainstorm bubble diagram can be created during a brainstorming session or you can create one afterwards using the notes you gathered during brainstorming. When you have the concepts you want to write about, write down each idea and draw a bubble around it. This keeps each concept separate and it allows you to create the links between them. Draw lines between related concepts and you’ll find an order for creating your final piece of work. This really helps to create a flow for your work when you understand the relationship between the concepts you wish to discuss.

Bullet Points

When you’ve got a piece of paper full of ideas from a brainstorming session, or if you’ve got a pocket full of scraps of notes, get them all together and summarize them all into a list of bullet points. Seeing your ideas condensed like this can really help you to get organized. You can then rearrange your bullet points into the best order and have a great guideline for writing your article.

Flowcharts

Flowcharts are very useful for bringing your concepts together. Learning about the intricacies of flowcharts is time well invested. All written work has a flow and an order, and it can be very useful to create a chart to organize the flow of your document and will help you in the writing process. You’ll find plenty of guides to creating flow charts online and many books have been written on the subject too.

Intro, Body and Conclusion

You are probably familiar with this approach from writing school essays, but don’t dismiss it. It’s not just formal writing that can benefit from being divided up into these three segments. Think about which of your ideas fit best within each area and make a note of them. This process is a good natural progression from a bullet point list.

Word Web

Word webs are similar to brainstorm bubbles and are a popular method of gathering all your information in one place, so you can see the outline of your work at a glance. Write the concept name or main theme in the centre of a piece of paper. Your ideas and relevant points can then be written around the centre. It’s a good idea to write the most important points closer to the centre, this can give you a guideline later as to how much time to spend writing about each point.

Mind Maps

Mind maps are similar to word webs, but with more focus on visuals. Again, the main concept features in the centre of the map, with linked ideas radiating from the central point, attached the centre by a line. The use of colour, drawings and diagrams is common with mind maps, over time you’ll devise your own style of mind mapping. Search online for examples and you’ll find plenty of examples to inspire you.

Mass Collating

If you’re writing an article with information taken from many sources, it can be overwhelming. It’s easy to forget a point you’ve read if you’re looking at a lot of information. A good way to get organized is to take a piece of paper (or open a separate digital document) for each area of your article. As you read through your source materials, add notes to each page. This is in easy way to compartmentalize all your data. When it comes to writing your document, everything is in order for you.

Whichever techniques you use, structuring the ideas is always the key to a good piece of written work. It should make the whole process easier and help prevent the dreaded writer’s block!