I can help. I’ve been called an intuitive writer. I have a good sense for what people want to to read and how they want it served. My years as a digital journalist and marketing copywriter only reinforced it. I know writing doesn’t come easy to everyone. That’s why I created a blogging bootcamp.
William Strunk and EB White wrote “The Elements of Style,” the bible on good writing. If you want to write and haven’t read it, I recommend remedying that. It’s a quick read, as your blog posts should be. I won’t try to recreate it, but I will offer my quick tips.
Rule No. 1: Write for your audience, not for yourself
I cannot stress enough that you are not writing for you. It’s for the reader. Make it about him or her from the beginning to the end.
The not-so-secret formula is to attract the reader’s attention in the headline and lead with an anecdote, something surprising or interesting, then in paragraph 2, tell us why you’re telling the story (in journalism terms, that’s known as the “nut ‘graf.”
Imagine if I told this story about wine tasting on Long Island like this:
At 9 a.m., my friends and I left Queens, NY for Long Island. We brought cookies and other snacks for the drive.
I wouldn’t blame you if you quit reading right there. That’s boring and bad. That might be how I write in my diary, but I know not even my mother would be interested in reading any further.
Rule No. 2: Start with a good headline
You know those compelling headlines you see on social media and can’t help but click on? Yeah, write one of those. I find for blog posts, it helps to have that clicky headline first, then write the post from there, but make sure you deliver what you promise or prepare for the wrath of angry readers!
Compare headlines for an article of mine. If I wrote it after the body copy, it would probably be, “What you can learn about being a good friend from professional therapists.” The headline I wrote first was “Why your friends make lousy therapists.”
Rule No. 3: Good writing is concise
A popular assignment in journalism school is to have students write an article. The next day, the professor hands it back and tells the writer to cut it in half. 90 percent of the time the shorter version is better.
I tell you this because many novice writers feel more is better. It’s not. There’s a quote I love that has been attributed to so many great writers, “Sorry this is so long. I didn’t have time to shorten it.”
Be like that guy. We like that guy.
Rule No. 4: Write until you’re done
Asked how long to leave muffins in the oven, a baking instructor said, “until they’re done.”
Same goes for writing. Write your blog post until it’s done. Don’t add extra words to meet a quota (like we all did in high school) or stop once you’ve hit an arbitrary word count. (But since I’m always asked, I’d say aim for 500-700 words.) Write until you’ve said what you need to say and made your point.
I’ve made my point.
Rule No. 5: Good writing is emotional
Whether your objective is to inform, entertain or sell, you have to hook your audience.
I’m not especially passionate about the lock in my gym bag, but I do care about what it protects. So when I was asked to write copy for MasterLock, I kept asking “why?” until I couldn’t ask “why?” anymore. That’s when I had my hook.
ex. You should buy a MasterLock.
To protect your stuff.
Because it would suck if you came back to find your keys missing.
How would you get home?
Now you’ve got me interested.
Rule No. 6: Just start writing
I know it’s the hardest part! Let’s say you’re writing a blog post about a city council meeting you attended. Pretend you’re telling your friend about the meeting. How do you start the story?
I would say something like, “the city council voted to close all the streets in the city!” or whatever the most interesting or surprising thing that happened was. Whatever the first words out of your mouth to your friend would be is probably how you should start your blog post.
Rule No. 7: Step away
If I’m struggling to write something, I go for a run or hit a yoga class. I have literally run from the shower post-workout to my desk to write down all the ideas popping into my head.
Still not feeling it? I can help with a personalized blogging bootcamp. I’ll look at what you have, suggest headlines, edit posts. I can even write the posts for you. Let’s talk! firstname.lastname@example.org | 360-535-4717