Monthly Archives: November 2014

How To Write a Great Longread and Attract New Readers

how to write a longread

You’ve got a few of them in your “Good Ideas” folder haven’t you?

And you can see they’re growing in popularity. They seem a natural fit for your business, but you’re just not quite clear on how to use them… The digital longread has entered the marketplace and it sure seems a great way to promote your book or novel or blog, but where to start?

To sort it all out, let’s have a look at some of the benefits of the longread, why and how to write a good one and how to use it in your marketing strategy.

Potential Benefits of the Longread

To start, let’s have a look at some of the advantages of this emerging digital genre to see what the potential upside will be.

1. Higher search engine results.

Well, we all want that, don’t we? In a post on Kissmetrics, Emma Siemasko, a content marketing specialist, cites a recent study by serpIQ that found “the top-rated posts usually were over 2,000 words.” (This info is based on the top 10 results of search queries.)

Professional tip – for a longread such as a guide or manual, make sure each page has unique value to take advantage of people’s searches.

2. Greater social media success.

In the same post Kevin Delaney, editor of Quartz, claims that longform, or longread, content (2,000+ words) performs better in social media than posts of 500-800 words.

And, of course, with longreads the opportunity for link building is greater due to the sheer volume of material available to link with, compared to a 400 word blog post.

3. Establish perceptual authority.

You can establish trust in your niche by providing helpful, informative or entertaining longform content to complement existing work, or as part of a promotional campaign in marketing a book publication.

4. Promotional strategies.

For branding purposes, a longread piece is ideal to create a marketing campaign around. Longreads of high caliber content are more compelling for advertising campaigns than shorter blog posts, and sponsored ads on Facebook and longreads.com will put your piece front and center for social media sharing.

Combine ads with newsletter/email series, free mini-courses, contest giveaways, or a book launch to maximize exposure.

Steps to Writing Successful Longread Content

Now that we’ve established some of the potential benefits of publishing longreads, here are the steps for writing a successful and engaging one:

  • Know your goal in creating a longread article. Promoting a new book? Or building an audience? Clarity on why and who you’re writing the piece for is necessary for a seamless connection to the outcome you desire.
  • Choose a topic. Obviously, a topic that will relate to your book, guide, website or other promotion and support your campaign. Give consideration to keywords, any existing analytical data, your niche and target audience as well as what the competitors are doing successfully.
  • Create an outline and draft first to ensure your idea is on-topic and relevant to your book promotion or other marketing goals. For book promotions, a working chapter makes for good, relevant long-read content.
  • Design for the digital reader. Ensure that your long-read is mobile friendly, use discerning anchored links to other relevant content, have easy to use email sign up boxes and social media share buttons.
  • Longread blog themes. WordPress and other blogging platforms now have themes of a minimalist nature that work well with the long-read format.
  • Think multimedia. To enrich your longread article, Paul Woods in his post on edenspiekermann.com recommends weaving “videos, images and information graphics…into the story back and forth… during the writing process.” Not added to the text later as an afterthought. They’re important components that should be given appropriate consideration for inclusion in your writing.
  • Keep it clean. Again, from the above post by Paul Woods, keep in mind how easily a reader is distracted online and maintain a clean and simple reading screen to hold their interest. To minimize distractions, all interactive agents need to disappear while reading the actual text so as not to interrupt the readers flow.
  • Gated vs. Ungated. Will your readers need to exchange something (an email address for example) in order to download your work? This is considered to be a “gated” offer, while a free download with no strings attached is referred to as “ungated”. Let your business model guide your decision here.

Digital Platforms for the Longread

Some platforms options for longreads are:

Longread content is ideal for iPads, Android and iPhones, and Kindle, Quick Reads and Nook Snaps as well as apps such as Instapaper, Read It Later and Flipboard.

Publishing platforms Atavist, Byliner and Narratively now curate and publish fiction and nonfiction material with new players entering the digital marketplace in ever increasing numbers. Some of these platforms charge for long-form content while others offer free content with premium membership fees – choose ones that work best for you.

Clearly, online readership is shifting. Readers are now looking for meatier content of greater substance that will hold their interest, entertain and inspire them. Good news for writers who have a breathtaking story to share!

Longread content is ideal for those times of the day when we’re waiting – waiting for the bus, on the train going home, in the doctors’ office etc., and we’re looking for something to engage with. Why not take advantage of longreads’ growing popularity to provide greater value for your reading audience and promote your new book as well?

5 Writing Habits To Avoid

writing habits to avoid

Writers never have an easy time of it. Often either unpaid or underpaid, they spend a lot of time toiling away in solitude just for the love of writing. Even when they’re successful, gaining publishing deals and fame, they’re not always all that happy.

Anne Lamott writes of her experience of writing success: “…I found myself stoned on all the attention, and then lost and derailed, needing a new fix every couple of days and otherwise going into withdrawal. My insides became completely uninhabitable, as if I’d wandered into a penny arcade with lots of bells ringing and lights flashing and lots of junk food, and I’d been there too long…”

And yet, writers continue to write. And everyone’s happy that they do. And because the world of writing is full of challenges both professional and emotional, sometimes they need support and advice about how to avoid some habits that are actually harmful for writers.

So, how not to become “derailed”, how to write better, how to be more productive and how to value your work and creativity as much as you should? Just keep away from these habits:

Rely on cliches or stereotypes

Writing, whether it’s a work of poetry, fiction, an essay or a blog post, is an art. The goal of art is to express something from a new perspective – yours. It’s difficult to avoid cliches because we’re exposed to them so often that they’re easy to pluck out of the subconscious and use instead of sweating it out to find a more original way to express something. George Orwell avoided even using the word cliché to tell writers to avoid cliches: “Never use a metaphor, simile or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.” Check out this list of 681 cliches.

The same goes for creating stereotypes. Art is supposed to inspire us to challenge our beliefs and our perceptions. Creating stereotypes not only fails to achieve that, but leaves you with flat characters and an uninspiring message.

Start writing when you land a writing job

This one mainly applies to freelancers. If you want a job as a writer, you must first write. Write for yourself. Write a blog, write stories or articles on an area of expertise or interest. This is how you build a portfolio to show to potential clients, so you can land a job that is perfect for your writing style and background. It’s also how you become a better writer. By committing yourself to writing, you’ll build the skills and the credentials you need to be a successful one.

Forcing yourself to write on topics that don’t inspire you because it’s your job is pretty much the worst introduction to writing life that I can think of. It may even put you off writing forever. Write for pleasure first and see what direction that takes you.

Allow interruptions

The writing bubble, that place your mind slips into when you’re in the flow, is a delicate environment that needs your protection. It’s constantly under attack from phone calls, children, spouses, family, friends and neighbours. But its most powerful enemies are Facebook, Twitter, email, scrolling and surfing.

These are the types of interruptions that are so insidious because they’re all integrated into your laptop where your sacred moments of writing are supposed to occur. Some writers have a whole other computer for writing that doesn’t even have the internet on it. You can also install an app that blocks the internet while you’re writing.

Underestimate the importance of a schedule

This is a big issue. Think about an athlete training for an event. They have a training schedule to adhere to. Otherwise, they’ll never get in shape. If you don’t set a schedule and only decide to write when you feel like it, you’re writing life will be pretty miserable. If you’re writing a book, you may never finish.

If you write articles, you’ll spend too many nights running on adrenaline, having wasted hours procrastinating and producing nothing. Ernest Hemingway woke up early every morning to write his daily 500 words. Joyce Carol Oates writes before breakfast, sometimes writing for hours if she’s inspired and only stopping for breakfast well into the afternoon.

Writers can have (semi) normal lives. They can have children. They can have relationships. They can have other jobs. They can go to the gym or to yoga classes or to Jui Jitsu classes. They can cook. They can have friends. But they can’t have any of these things AND write if they don’t make a schedule.

Say ‘Yes’ to every opportunity

Don’t say ‘Yes’ to projects that pay poorly or that suck your will to live. You’re probably writing because you like to write and you’re good at it. Maybe you’re even writing because it’s your dream. That’s great. But is your dream getting paid slave wages while writing on topics that don’t interest you? There are a lot of interesting writing jobs out there that will pay well for a good writer.

Taking jobs that exploit your time and your talent aren’t even good ways to build your portfolio. How can you hold your head up high and brag about how you wrote articles for $1 for some outsourcing company in the Philippines? Instead of wasting your time on such projects, invest your time in writing on topics that interest you and looking for companies that will pay you well. That’s a much smarter investment and one that’s worthy of your time and creativity.

21 Online Education Resources For Writers

online education for writers

Do you need to polish up your writing skills a bit? Maybe you feel a little shaky on punctuation or grammar? And how’s your confidence with verb conjugations?

If you feel your writing success is being held back because of a lack of skills, technical knowledge or expertise, we’ve got some good news for you. With so many outstanding resources available online, you can now easily get the support and information you need to develop your writing skills – without having to become a full-time student again.

With that in mind, we’ve curated this list of 21 free online education resources for writers. So, dig in and take advantage of the generosity of our fellow scribes.

Punctuation, Grammar and Spelling

WikiHow’s How to Use English Punctuation Properly covers the basics of using correct punctuation to create a more polished product.

Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips provides easy tips on grammar rules and word choices guidelines to improve your writing style. And some easy to remember exercises that will help to remember grammar rules.

From the University of Ottawa’s Writing Center, Hypergrammar is an electronic grammar course covering parts of speech, grammar, spelling, building sentences, using verbs etc.

The Capital Community College Foundation offers us the Guide to Writing and Grammar. This site is full of useful information on word choice and sentence structure, grammar, the writing process, and writing essays and research papers.

Paradigm Online Writing Assistant gives us access to articles on freewriting, basic punctuation, common problem areas, basic sentence concepts and choosing a subject. Well worth a visit.

From Rutgers University English Department, Professor Jack Lynch gives us his Guide to Grammar and Style. A miscellaneous collection of grammatical rules, tips on style, and suggestions on usage gathered from his classroom notes.

Writing Style and Skills

Scribe Consulting gives us a series of articles in Better Writing Skills that outlines proper use of ampersands, apostrophes, colons and semicolons as well as tips on using ‘which’ and ‘that’, ‘who’ and ‘whom’, and ‘you and I’ versus ‘you and me’.

The English Style Guide is based on the style book new journalists at The Economist are given. It’s full of helpful advice on journalism in general, and common mistakes and clichés plus guidance on consistency in punctuation, capitalization and abbreviations. It also houses a wealth of reference material.

Now freely available online, William Strunk’s The Elements of Style is a timeless classic on writing and one of the most commonly used reference manuals. Every writer should have a copy, and now you can too.

Roy Peter Clark at Poynter runs a blog for writers and journalists and gives us the Poynter Writing Tools, a series of articles in the ‘how to’ format for improving your writing skills.

Technical Writing comes to us from Dr. Ronald B. Standler. He compiled this guide to help his undergraduate students with the grammar and style requirements necessary to write effective technical compositions. It covers the use of numbers in sentences, equations in text, citations and bibliography usage as well as verb tense and voice.

At Purdue University’s Online Writing Lab, you can find hundreds of resources on writing, research, grammar, formatting and writing style guides, and professional writing tips.

Writer’s Digest is a site dedicated to providing information on improving your writing skills, and the publishing process. It also has a community forum, editors’ blogs, competition listings, events and a large library of educational resources for writers. This site should be in every writer’s listing of favorite websites for quick access to a wealth of information.

Steven Barnes, novelist and screenwriter, generously shares the material of his nine weeks Lifewriting Class that he instructs at UCLA. He offers material on how to write, as well as how to structure your life for success as a writer.

On Blogging and Copywriting

From one of the leading authorities on successful copywriting and blogging, Copywriting 101 comes to us as courtesy of Copyblogger. It’s an ebook with 10 lessons to get started on the basics of writing effective copy. You should also check out their vast library on SEO copywriting tactics, writing headlines and online marketing in general.

At Problogger, you can find tips and tutorials on crafting great content, writing headlines, how to start a blog, copywriting, and how to monetize your blog.

The blog at Men With Pens offers over 1,000 articles all geared to help you improve your content writing, blogging, freelancing, and entrepreneurial efforts.

Tools for Writers

Well, we did promise a site on verb conjugation, so here it is: the English Verb Conjugation tool from Verbix. Fill in the infinitive and you’ll get a list of English verbs in every imaginable conjugated tense, from nominal forms to indicative and conditional right through to the imperative. Easy to use and understand, this impressive tool should be in every writer’s kitbag.

Use Ornagoo’s Spell Check to check the text, grammar, and synonyms of your entire website.

Using English has an online Advanced Text Analyzer to dissect your word count, lexical density, word and phrase analysis, as well as readability of text. You’ll need to register first, but it is free.

Wordcounter will rank the frequency of words used in a given section of text. Use it to expose where you overuse words that result in repetition or redundancy.

Wow! There’s a lot of free educational information and resources available online. We writers are a lucky lot. With such an abundance of valuable information available to improve our skills, it’s really hard to justify not starting that new writing project. So check out some or all of the above tips to make your writing journey easier, and more enjoyable.

After all, you never know when some future blogger is going to be referencing your site or guide as one of the go-to resources for writing success.

How To Read Right For Better Writing

read right for better writing

You’ve heard it a hundred times, haven’t you? If you want to become a better writer, you need to read more.

And it’s not just good advice for professional writers either. Writing well helps anyone to communicate better, to express their thoughts and feelings with greater clarity. And a greater understanding of the written word helps us to develop a better comprehension of the world around us.

It’s clear that reading and writing go together. But to fully understand the benefits of reading and how it applies to better writing, let’s first look at some of the reasons why we should read. And then we’ll go into how to read more effectively.

Reading is Primary

Dan Kurland at criticalreading.com gets right to the point. “Reading is primary. One can only write as well as one can read.” You have to first understand how language works as a reader before you can communicate as a writer.

Improving your reading skills will help to understand “how thoughts are developed and how meaning is conveyed in a written discussion.” And Mr. Kurland further urges us to become “more aware in our reading” in order to extract meaning from the written word. “When we see how we draw meaning from others, we can see how to instill meaning in our own work.

Reading Gives You Language

The following snippet on language is from Joanna June:

“Reading exposes you to the words, vernacular, relate-able stories and information to describe something you know but didn’t have the language for previously.”

And a few more practical aspects of developing your reading skills are:

  • It will improve and reinforce your vocabulary development.
  • It exposes the reader to different writing styles and models.
  • Reading expands and deepens your approach to subject knowledge.
  • It gives you the opportunity to comprehend a topic at your own pace.

Jeff Goins emphasizes the point that to become better at their craft, “Writers need to read. A lot. They need to grasp the art of language, to appreciate the finer points of words.” And reading will help you do that.

Reading Expands Possibilities

Not only is reading instructive, it’s also inspirational to read the works of others as it keeps our flow of words fresh and in a state of evolution.

Also, through the practice of reading more, you avoid slipping into writer’s rut. That is, as you broaden your perspective and knowledge base through reading, your writing skills naturally expand and grow correspondingly.

Now let’s move on to some techniques to improve your reading effectiveness.

Step Out of Your Comfort Zone

While it’s fine and well to study the style and characteristics of your own genre and favorite authors, to really reap the benefits of reading you’ll have to “venture outside of your normal reading realm.” This is from Joel Goldman who believes that writers should read from a buffet of styles and topics.

This is a common theme in all of our research for this topic – read outside of your normal sphere of influence. Read romance, thrillers, non-fiction, biographies, magazines and manifestoes. Basically, anything you can get your hands on.

Mr. Goldman also presses the writer to “Read things that would normally turn you off.” This will broaden your perspective and gain a better understanding of the appeal of the subject matter, and its audience.

Develop the Reading Habit

We’ve established that to be a better writer, you’ll need to read more. And to benefit fully from reading, consider developing it into a habit.

  • Determine what your reading goal is and set up prompts to remind you. This is important in the beginning to stay on track – use post-its, journal about your goal, set reminders on your computer, etc.
  • Plan ahead to determine when you can read. If necessary, start small and grab 10 or 15 minutes when you can. At bedtime, coffee breaks, lunch, or waiting for appointments… by doing this four or five times a day, you can clock an hour’s worth of reading. And again, set up appropriate cues to trigger the new behavior you’re trying to develop.
  • Always have some reading material with you;:a book, magazine or a longread online. And keep a stash of books in the places you’re likely to read: your purse or messenger bag, by the bed or your favorite chair and in the car.
  • Take notes. In 52 Tips for Improving Your Skills, author Dan Coyle references some interesting research. People who read 10 pages then stop and take notes in summary form, retain 50% more information than those who read 10 pages four times in a row. Jotting down notes in bullet points is equally effective.

Study the Mechanics

With every book you read, try to establish a little distance from the plot and begin to notice how the author has put it all together. You’ll still be reading for pleasure, but a bit of emotional separation will help to develop your scrutinizing skills.

Some observational practices to employ are:

  • Study the authors’ style and voice, and the manner in which they’ve developed characters.
  • Analyze the plot and identify the main ideas.
  • Learn to skim as you read to glean the gist of the material.
  • Scan the text for pertinent information, and re-read what’s relevant.
  • Think about what the author is saying. And,
  • How they’re saying it. Try to identify the unique manner in which they group words together, or the patterns and rhythm they use to convey an idea.

Well, clearly there are plenty of good reasons why reading will help us to become better writers. Put into practice some or all of the above ideas to improve your reading abilities. And as you start reading more, you’ll experience a growth in your comprehension, communication, and knowledge base – which will naturally lead to greater writing success.

What You Need to Know About Writing: Tricks for Everyone

what to know about writing

Wow, there’s a lot of writing advice online. Seems like every blogger and writer has a tip or trick they swear by, some must-follow technique that unlocks the door of writing victory. But for every post about good advice, there’s another quoting someone famous who offers a counterpoint to debunk it.

So just what should everyone know about writing, and what tricks can be found to improve their craft, and chances of success?

We found this topical thread over on Quora asking “What should everyone know about writing?”. And like elsewhere online, there’s a lot of practical advice and tips on improving writing methods, but only a few actually answered the thread question. We decided to delve into it a bit further, and see what answers apply equally to all aspiring writers. Read on, and see what insights were found.

What You Need to Know About Writing

The noun writing has two applicable descriptions for our purposes, as found in the Miriam-Webster dictionary. They are:

The activity or work of writing books, poems, stories etc.”      

And,

“The way that you use written words to express your ideas or opinions.”

So, to break it down into the basic components, writing is work and a manner in which you arrange words to communicate ideas. Seems simple enough…

Writing is Work

Even if your writing is strictly hobbyist in nature, it still takes work to communicate your ideas clearly. It’s certainly one of the more common themes at the Quora thread. Here’s a sampling of quotes from contributors on the idea of writing as work:

  • “It’s a full time job. To be successful you must be disciplined.” Zachary Norman
  • “Good writing takes work, the desire to learn the craft, a thick skin, and practice.” Deanna Kizis
  • “Writing is work. Thinking about what we are writing is work.” T.L. Wagener

To successfully share your ideas and opinions, you have to put in the time and effort to develop the skill of writing. That’s what work is, you diligently apply yourself through repetition to learn the steps necessary to master a skill.

And how do you become proficient at any skill? With practice, of course. Chuck Wendig at terribleminds.com has this to say about learning the craft of writing: You can practice what you do. You practice it by writing, by reading, by living a life worth writing about. You must always be learning, gaining, improving.” Sound like work, right?

And Michael Nye, in a post at the missourireview.com echoes Mr. Wendig’s point with the following: “The writers achieving success are hard working. Being the most talented writer doesn’t necessarily translate into publishing success, which really comes from methodical and consistent work rather than raw talent.”

While talent is nice, you’ve either got it or you don’t. But a skill set is learnable, and writing is a learnable skill. And as with any new skill, the more time and attention you invest in its practice, the more proficient and, ironically, talented you’ll become.

And what should you practice? The basics. Start with the fundamentals of strong writing:

  • Spelling, grammar, and punctuation.
  • Build your vocabulary.
  • Learn how to compose a sentence, and to organize your thoughts into a paragraph.
  • Master the active voice and how to use action verbs.
  • Develop editing skills and how to eliminate unnecessary wordiness.

In a post for WriteToDone, Glen Long sums up the learning process in these three steps – study, practice and feedback. “This learning cycle is essential because it helps you to hone your writing instincts. It trains the internal critic that guides the hundreds of tiny decisions you make each time you sit down and write.”

The trick here isn’t very tricky, but one that’s apt to be bypassed in the rush to be published. It’s this – you have to know the rules before you can break them.  Writing is work. To become really good at your work, you must practice the necessary skills. And the necessary skills to practice are writing basics.

The Way You Use Words

The second description of writing relates to your voice. It’s the way you use written words to express your ideas or opinions. Your voice is the one truly original thing about your writing. While style, form and structure are all derivatives modeled from the work of others, your voice is your unique perspective. It’s one of a kind.

Why develop your voice? Jeff Goins gives a pretty clear explanation: “Finding your voice is the key to getting dedicated followers and fans and that’s the only sustainable way to write.”

And this comment from Cori Padgett in a post at Copyblogger.com gets straight to the point: “It seems that in my rather meandering journey to becoming a ghostwriter-cum-blogger, I unexpectedly stumbled upon what seems to be the Holy Grail for many aspiring writers. I’m talking about my voice.”

To share your ideas and your opinions, it must come from your voice – and your voice needs to be heard in a multitude of ways. From the above post, we have three great tricks to develop your voice:

  • Speak your readers’ language. Talk to them in everyday language they understand and can relate to.
  • Know why you’re writing. Without a purpose, writing can seem flat and lifeless. Infuse it with the passion that comes from knowing your purpose for writing.
  • Brand it. Stamp your work with your individuality, let your idiosyncrasies show in rhythm, word selection and tone. It’s the best way for your readers to get to know you.

In conclusion, perhaps the best tricks we can offer everyone to know about writing are simply to be yourself and to invest in your writing success by learning the basics. You need to pay your dues… so, get to work.