Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Writing the Winning Blog Post

When you write your blog posts, pay attention to your style as well as to the information you are conveying. You, of course, want your blog to be interesting, informative and entertaining to gain and keep the interest of your readers. In addition, it needs to be easy to read. Here are some of the parts and qualities of winning posts.

1. Keep it short. Magazine articles and newspaper articles are much shorter than they used to be. This generation of readers are into quick consumption of information. Therefore, keep the length of your blog post to approximately 400 words.

2. Be sure there is enough white space on the page to make your post look inviting to the reader. When writers are confronted with a solid page of words, they are apt to move on to a more inviting blog. Be sure to format your post in a number of paragraphs as well as including lists or bullets to make it easier to read.

3. Check for errors and then check again. It's important to make sure your post is free of errors, so your readers can move through it without having their attention sidetracked by a spelling or grammatical error.

4. Write in a friendly voice. You may have a wonderful vocabulary, but if you are trying to attract the masses, use the vocabulary of the masses.

5. Close with a summary of the intent of your post and invite your readers to comment.

Apply these methods and you'll be writing winning blog posts in no time. If you have suggestions to add, feel free to include them in the comments section.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Bringing characters to life

There are some characters who are particularly appealing from the first page or the first scene.

When the TV show The Mentalist started, I was immediately drawn to Jane, the protagonist. I didn't think much about it in terms of character development until last Friday night when White Collar premiered. It struck me as I watched the character Nick Caffrey that he appealed to me immediately also.

What was it about them? Both are con men of sorts with a serious side disguised by an overtly mischievous side. Those characteristics made them entertaining to watch.

As a writer, I naturally thought about the fact that the writers of those shows were largely responsible for those wonderful characters. After all, they wrote the snappy dialogue.

The progression of my thinking about all this led me to wonder how, if I wanted to write a scene of either of these shows, would I describe the twinkle in the eye or the slight nod of the head that made those snappy lines snap? How could I adequately translate to paper the wonders of their acting?

After wondering about that made my head hurt, I realized that solving this dilemma would make a good writing exercise.

So.... here you have it. Your assignment is to study one character on a favorite show. Take down a few minutes of dialogue. Then, write the same scene as if writing it for a novel. Your assignment is to meld into the dialogue the movements and mannerisms of each character to bring the dialogue to life.

Don't do this just once. Repeat until you get a feel for your character inside and out.

Variety: that's one key to an interesting blog

There are as many types of blog posts as there are bloggers. Every blog expresses a different slant on your topic. Your readers will lose interest pretty quick if you offer the same type of blog day after day. Diversify to keep their interest.

In addition to the usual straight forward blog post, here are some of the popular formats for blog posts:

book review
product review
humor
poll or survey
contest
philosophical
photos
guest authors
how-to post
tips
demo piece
mixed media (photos/videos, etc.)
Q and A


Add a variety of formats to your blog posts to keep your readers coming back.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Promote your writing through a website or blog or both

Writers need to put their writing before potential readers. Life for a writer is as simple as that. There are a variety of ways to do it. Today, we are going to talk about websites and blogs.

First of all, all writers should have a blog, and most writers need a blog and a website. The difference between a blog and a website is, for the most part, that a blog is dynamic and a website is static. A blog shows the reader what the writer has to offer in his/her own words. The website tells the rest: schedules, books, how to contact; where to purchase books; etc. The website takes care of business and the blog interacts with the reader and keeps the reader interested.

Make your blog interactive. Welcome comments and interaction with the readers. Write (talk) to the reader as if he/she were sitting in your office drinking coffee. As you chat with the reader, you give out bits of your life that they wouldn’t find in an announcement about your book. In other words, engage the reader. Readers may pick up your book for the first time due to the title, the topic, the genre, etc. The reader will pick up a second book due to your voice and what he/she has learned about you.

In many cases, the title of a first book is printed in a big font and the name of the author is printed in a small font. As the author grows in popularity, so does the font that is used for the author’s name. Why? Because readers are becoming fans of you as well as your writing. A blog moves this process forward. So, use the blog to engage with the reader by letting him/her get to know you. And, use your website to tell the reader about the business of your writing.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Getting started with your blog

Those of you who already have blogs won't need this one. For those who are thinking of setting up a blog but are afraid of it, take heart. A little bit of computer knowledge will take you a long way. If you are really a novice on the computer, grab a friend with a little bit of computer knowledge and together you'll manage just fine.

Now that you've chosen a name for your blog, it's time to get it up and going. I use blogger.com. I followed the directions to set it up and had no trouble at all. Use the name you chose for your blog when the sign-in process asks for your URL.

It would take me too long to explain each step of setting up a blog if I wrote it out here, and there's no need for me to do so. There are complete directions online. Merely put in a search for "how to put up a blog with blogger" or "how to put up a blog with wordpress" or whatever blog service you decide to use. The directions will guide you through the process. If they don't, open another browser and ask for more specific directions.

Once you have chosen a template for your blog, put up an introductory blog. It needn't be more than a couple of paragraphs about the main topic of your blog and why you chose it. Post it to your blog and you're off and running.

Give your blog topic some thought and make a list of subtopics you want to write about. Write a couple more short blog posts and put them up and we'll be ready for the next step.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Go overboard then bring your story to life with authentic emotion

Having trouble instilling emotion into your writing? Sometimes it's not enough to have a great idea for a story. Despite a well-organized outline and interesting plot and subplots, your story might not work if you don't bring it to life with authentic emotion.

If you tell your story from start to finish, you can expect that your reader will get the story. But will the reader feel the story, experience the story, love/hate the characters according to the story line... and live the story?

To instill life and authentic emotion into your story write a larger-than-life version of it. Show the action in exaggeration through the vision, hearing, smell, touch and taste of your characters. Put the reader in the middle of the action so they feel each punch as your hero is jumped from behind, so they smell the gagging scent of the rotting food in the filthy kitchen of your villain, so they hear the blood-curdling screams in the middle of the night.

Once you've written your "over-the-top" version, read it aloud several times--each time with a pen in hand. During each reading, use the pen like fine sand paper to slowly smooth the rough edges and to tone down the emotions of your story. Digest each sentence thoroughly, tweaking the images you are drawing with your words until emotions flow between well-balanced highs and lows in the vivid story that remains.