Today I am happy to have a good friend from Twitter as our Wednesday’s Woman. A very kind person, and a good writer, she’s the lady behind the Chore Wars post, and another post about cleaning that will be up tomorrow. Without wasting any time, here is Renee in her own words…
Life is a Journey
Sometimes, we pick our career. Sometimes, our career picks us. I’m sure most of you out there know what I’m talking about!
I’ve been a writer my whole life. By the time I was in third grade I had my own monthly periodical making the rounds of the house. Most of high school was a never-ending round of poetry and papers. Nothing grabs my attention like a good story. So it probably shouldn’t have surprised me when I stumbled into a career as a freelance writer.
It did anyway.
Five years after my trembling hands wrote and submitted my first piece of SEO driven content, I have the privilege to say I’ve done just about everything and thoroughly enjoyed it all. The best thing about being a freelance writer is being able to stretch your wings in any number of directions. My education is in marketing and public relations, and a lot of what I do involves copywriting for websites, blogs, press releases and print marketing pieces. I’ve also had the opportunity to participate as part of a team to create commercial scripts (it’s harder than it looks!) and to launch full-scale social media campaigns for some pretty major projects.
It’s been a blast!
Along with copywriting, I also act as a manuscript consultant and editor for young writers. During my early years as a freelance ghostwriter I developed five books, two biographies and over 50 e-books, both fiction and non-fiction, that went on to publication and/or widespread circulation, and co-authored an e-book on pregnancy and nutrition under my own author credit.
Now, I have the very great privilege of taking what I learned then and helping new authors shape their own manuscripts into something designed to appeal to both a publisher and the general audience. That includes (but is not by any means limited to!) acting as editor and as a sounding board for new ideas, as well as assisting in re-writing scenes, expanding character development and, in some cases, pointing out when a book needs to go in a different direction altogether.
To date, my authors have a 100% success rate in having their manuscripts accepted for publication, and I am incredibly proud to have had the opportunity to play even a small part along the way.
Most people are surprised to learn that the same skills that make a good copywriter come into play when you’re trying to put a full-length book together. If I had to share anything about my field, I’d say this: Good writing is good writing. There are different skills you need to develop, depending on which branch of writing you want to dip your toes into, but it’s all about saying the words your readers want to hear.
With that in mind, I put together a quick list of the top 10 suggestions I give my writers, and use myself when developing blogs and marketing materials, to share with all of you.
1) Your readers have a limited amount of patience. You have to grab their attention at the very beginning, and don’t let go until you’re done. Whether you’re telling a story, sharing information or selling a product, you have to remember that your readers’ time is precious. They’re choosing to give it to you. Don’t make them regret it.
2) Don’t make the mistake of assuming your readers are dumb. Everyone, whether you’re talking in terms of consumers or bookworms, comes to you with background knowledge that’s going to shape how they view your work. Don’t make the mistake of thinking you know more about a particular subject than they do, and can therefore afford to be sloppy, careless or vague with details. Someone out there knows more than you, and they’ll be happy to call you on it.
3) Say what you need to say and no more. Getting bogged down by details is a common mistake made by writers of all shapes and sizes. Unless you’re writing a book on flowers, don’t spend three pages waxing poetic about the shape of the petal and the curve of the stem. Make your point with just enough detail to create a picture in their mind’s eye, whether that be done in a thousand words or three, then move on.
4) Read. It’s easy to get wrapped up in writing projects and forget to take the time to read a book. Scan a print ad. Watch a commercial. Check out someone else’s blog. If you want to keep up in your field, you need to know what’s happening around you. (And sometimes, it just feels good to get out of your own head!)
5) Never, ever submit your first draft. That includes anything you write in the same first hour. Why? Because it’s basically brain vomit. It’s your mind spewing details on the page for you to sort out later. Write it down, then walk away. When you get back your eyes will be fresh, and you’ll be able to create something with a little more polish.
6) Stretch your wings. A young writer once told their mentor, “I can’t write that. That’s not my style.” Their mentor looked at them and said, without an ounce of either humor or derision, “You don’t have a style.” Put your pre-conceived notions away and write. If you allow yourself to be pinioned in a box, you’ll never know what you’re capable of.
7) Enjoy the journey. It’s easy to picture where you want to be, where you want your characters to go, what you want your customers to hear. Writing isn’t just about getting where you’re going, however. Take the time to relax and enjoy the journey so your readers can enjoy it too. Otherwise, you’re going to lose them long before you reach your final destination.
8) When you’re stuck, keep plowing ahead. If you’re going to be a writer, you have to accept that writer’s block is all in your head. On days you just don’t have the words to put on the page, write anyway. It’s okay if it’s terrible, as long as you write. It’s usually not as bad as you think, and it gives you a place to start when it’s time to bring in the clean-up crew.
9) Take the word “Because” out of your vocabulary. This is a strange one, but true. Using “because” in your writing lets you ramble. Pretend it doesn’t exist and find another way to say what you need to say. That will keep your writing sharp and your readers interested.
10) Take a class in editing. This is the part where I get to make a confession. I struggle with the rules of grammar. I always have. It’s taken class after class in editing and journalism for me to obtain the fairly firm grasp I have on it now, and I still break out the rule book before submitting a piece for publication. Writers make mistakes and commit grammatical gaffes all the time. Taking a class in grammar will minimize the mistakes you make and make for a cleaner, more polished product.
Writing is a very personal process, but unless you’re writing in your diary it’s something you do for other people too. Write something you would want to read, write it with your readers in mind, and write with an eye toward clearly saying the things you want to say. That’s the basic foundation of any well-written piece and the true secret to good writing.
OK, normally I would say “WOW” here, but in an effort to step out of my rut and write something different, I’ll say…Renee, thanks for your phenomenal list that gives us all LOTS to think about and work on! I feel like I just attended a writing workshop. Make sure you leave Renee some comment love! Then go visit her home on the web at http://www.clever-copywriting.com.