Live Blog: Tone Up Your Writing, From Pitch to Publish

The main objective of this session was to help bloggers better engage their readers with more vivid, organized writing. The session was intended to help bloggers who are aspiring magazine/web writers succeed with getting their articles published for pay.

After attending this session attendees should have walked away with knowing ways to amp up their writing, improve their writing and fight writer’s blocks.The session was broken down into three sections, one by each speaker, and had several group exercise portion to help attendees utilize the techniques they were discussing.

 

Section 1 – Presented by Amanda Vogel“Packaging Your Writing for Maximum Impact”

Packaging is how an article is presented and organized. Packaging can apply to a blog post, or a pitch for a magazine or website. It’s important to think about how something can be presented or organized differently because the same themes and topics pop up continuously.

In order to package an article or post Amanda walked the attendees through a series of steps that can be taken to better organize and present an article or topic. The steps and some examples are:

  1. Focus the post/article by going from a broad topic to a focused idea
    1. Example: Exercise motivation (broad topic) – How to motivate yourself in the morning (focused idea)
    2. Example: Healthy eating (broad topic) – Five Healthy Breakfasts to Start Your Week
    3. Flesh out the details by organizing and fine tuning
      1. Example: Amanda provided a chart that allowed attendees to easily identify fleshing out the details of the broad ideas

       

Your Big Idea! (broad topic) Lower Body Exercises
Focus Conditioning Legs for summer styles and sports
Hook – Why do we want to write this story now? Seasonal, new research
Details 9 exercises for legs/glutes
Packaging 3 Exercises for outdoors, 3 in the pool, 3 at the gym with sidebars for each location
Publish – What is in it for the reader? Strong toned looking legs

The information and chart above provided tips on how to package articles but can be used for blog posts as well. The difference with blogs is they come in bite size pieces and provide helpful information but do not share everything the writer knows or thinks.

Tips for ensuring posts are packaged include:

  • Stick to ONE main idea per post because it helps the writer avoid becoming overwhelmed, keeps the packaging to the point, has a greater impact for the reader, and helps the writer conserve posts to write later
    • Example:
      • Idea 1: If a writer wants to write about Triathlon Training it is a topic that could be broken down into many posts including; Weigh training, hydration methods for a triathlon, training with a partner, bike fitting and much more
      • Simple packaging is essential for easy reading online because many readers skim blog posts. Some ideas to make packaging simple include:
        • Lists
        • Tips
        • Bullet points
        • Subheads
        • Narrative with short paragraphs
        • Configuration that makes sense to the reader and author
          • Example of a way to configure review posts to ensure it is simple and all the information is still there
            • SUBHEAD: What is it?
            • SUBHEAD: What you might not know
            • SUBHEAD: Feeling the Love (what you loved about it)
            • SUBHEAD: If you could change one thing…

Amanda’s final words of advice for blog writers was to try to organize and recycle health/fitness writing with packaging, always analyze broad topics verses a more focused idea and package the writing for the medium (print vs. easy reading online).

Section 2- Presented by Gina Zammit“How to Write Like a Writer”

Gina focused her discussion on “How to Write Like a Write” on providing tips for bloggers on improving their overall writing skills, demonstrating how to incorporate sensory writing skills into their posts with more precise and vivid words, review the pros and cons of colloquial writing, and show how to avoid mistakes and enhance editing skills.

 

Sensory Writing

Sensory writing is the style that writers use to show in their writing rather than to simply tell. In order to have attendees to test their skills Gina had the attendees jump right into an interactive exercise.

Writing Exercise:

  • Where are you right now? Concentrate on you environment very carefully and answer the following questions while being as specific as possible:
    • What do you hear? What do you feel? What do you smell? What do you taste? What do you have contact with?

Academic vs. Colloquial

Another important point Gina tried to share is academic writing versus colloquial writing. Colloquial writing is using the ordinary or familiar speech in writing while academic writing would use more objective language and comment on specific aspects of things rather than insert any personal opinion.

Colloquial Example: “I didn’t like any of the characters in the movie, but I could relate to the situations they got themselves into.”

Sharing information in a straightforward and formal way is the standard for traditional media. Gina personally uses pronouns because her content is personal. No matter which type of writing that a writer uses it is an individual choice.

Staying Right as a Writer

When deciding on a type of writing a writer should know that casual writing could quickly turn in to a disaster if the writer doesn’t follow some rules. Writers should know the proper grammar rules before breaking them, avoid slang whenever possible (i.e. isn’t, double negatives, etc.), use proper punctuation and avoid clichés.

Another important aspect for writers to do is to identify the ideal audience for their writing. For example, slang may not appeal to older readers while formal writing may scare away a younger demographic who are less likely to form a personal connection. A personal connection with readers is very important for bloggers.

While writers should make decisions for their blogs based on audience and what works for that audience they should always feel free to bring their personality into their writing. If a writer runs into a situation where they find themselves writing words or phrases they have made up, that is perfectly fine. Writers have invented and created for a long time and have invented words. Examples of created words by writers include nerd, tween, bump and swag. There are several writers famous for doing this including Shakespeare, Lewis Carroll, Jane Austen and Beyonce Knowles.

Writing Exercises:

Weigh the pros and cons of using colloquial vs. formal writing for your blog and after doing so, write a paragraph in your desired style about a topic you like, and making sure to keep your audience in mind.

Section 3- Presented by Katie Oden“The Importance of Storytelling”

Katie Oden’s intentions with this presentation were to tell attendees why story telling was important, show the power of positive stories, and tell how to turn lists into memorable pieces of writing.

 

The Power of Stories

Stories are a power tool when writing. Stories stick with readers like glue and make information easier to remember since they activate the whole brain. Stories can help build identities and foster relationships with readers while allowing them to relate to the writer. While stories have a lot of power writers should remember to have a point when using stories to convey a value or vision.

Writing Exercise:

Share a story (with a partner) of one of the best things that has happened to you in the last three months.

While stories are a powerful tool for writing a writer must remember to:

  • Not be afraid to give a little context
  • Tell a story just to tell a story

When using stories to create memorable writing writers should:

  • Make yourself personable by employing your personal narrative
  • Don’t be afraid to add commentary because people want to know what you think
  • Don’t be afraid to omit if something isn’t interesting
  • Don’t be afraid to finish your thoughts

With 93% of communication being non-verbal with no tone or body language writers might be asking how they can convey the feelings of the story to their readers. Writers can use a number of rhetorical devices including:

  • Simile – Comparison using like or as
  • Metaphor – Implied comparison
  • Alliteration – Initial sounds of words are repeated
  • Triads - Ideas, adjectives, and points that are grouped in threes

Writing Exercise

Using the writing sample or story (from the first activity) incorporate each of the rhetorical devices; simile, metaphor, alliteration and triads.

In summary, Katie reminded attendees that they should:

  • Always wrap up a story for readers with the key takeaways
  • Make sure stories are relatable and stand out
  • Be thoughtful and not afraid to tell people what is going on your head
  • Try to use rhetorical devices.
  • Be a little more conscious in your writing

 

Attendee Questions:

Q: Can you blend colloquial and academic writing together in one post?

A: If it works for you, the writer, you can do whatever you want because it’s your blog.

Q: How do you ask for payment? What are the going rates?

A: The process (for a magazine article) is you pitch the idea, they accept it, and they assign it and will generally tell you how much they are willing to pay. There is a little room for negotiation in these cases but not much. Generally, the going rate is anywhere from $25 and up to several thousand dollars depending on the publication.

Q: On blog posts, my style tends to be more narrative, what are techniques I can use to break up the text to make it more scan able but still visually interesting?

A: Short paragraphs with 2-3 lines are great way to keep it short and readable, as well as ensuring you get put what you really want the readers to know in the first paragraph. Sometimes you can also use quotes and important information by highlight it using color, italicized, etc.

Q: Do you have any tips on how you organize a post?

A: There were several ideas how to organize tips including creating a journal with ideas whenever they come to you, do a brain a dump or writer with no rules to see what comes out, and break it up by stepping away. Editing is one of the most important aspects of writing so taking the time to break it up and walk away for a while before editing and structuring may be beneficial.

 

This session was live blogged by Jillian from Bites of Balance and @bitesofbalance

  • Amanda Vogel

    Thanks for the round-up of our session on writing!

  • Steve @ www.skyproreview.com

    Wow some really usefull stuff here. I only just started blogging fro myself at the ripe old age of 48, and theses tips are really useful. Thank You. Steve Snead

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