What Are YOU Writing?

picture of person writingWhat are you working on right now?

A novel? Your best article ever? A poem? A film script?

Maybe you’ve just finished something you’re really proud of? Or you just can’t tell whether it should get a Pulitzer or be thrown into the trash?

Here’s your chance to share and discuss with each other what you are writing about.

Whet our appetite with the opening paragraph of your future bestseller or give us a link to your best article. Tell us: what are you writing at the moment?

Who knows, your piece might even attract the notice of a major publishing house!

Here are some guidelines:

 

Writers:

 

State what aspect you’re working on. For example, you might want to say, “Here’s a link to my article “Whatever.” I’m currently working on eliminating superfluous words.”

 

Commenters:

 

* When commenting, first list everything you really like about a piece.
* Only then offer careful suggestions.
* Treat each other with respect, friendliness, caring, and honesty.
* Remember that we are all still learning.

 

Now it’s over to you. Take a deep breath. Then jump into the comment section and bring out your treasures!

 

About the author: 

Mary Jaksch is Editor-in-Chief at WritetoDone.com and Creator of A-List Blogging. After creating two super-successful blogs of her own, Mary has dedicated herself to teaching students to grow profitable blogs that attract attention. Take her fun quiz to see how much you know about what makes a blog successful.

Image: Writing courtesy of Bigstockphoto

 

The Secret of Crafting Engaging Messages: Words of Influence

Woman blowing magic starsWant to capture an audience’s attention?

It’s more a matter of what you don’t do than you think.

As children, when we learn to speak our language, we’re also learning to argue. Nearly everything our parents say to us is a correction, an explanation, or an argument for why we shouldn’t put that in our mouths, or why we should go to bed now and not in half an hour.

It’s no surprise that we begin practicing the fine art of objecting, contradicting and basically giving our well-intentioned parents a damned hard time. We’re no sooner given an argument than we begin picking it apart to hand back our own argument.

At first, kids aren’t so hot at this argument thing. But they watch and learn, and soon, they begin to get crafty. Savvy. Before you know it, they’re two steps ahead of you, winning more arguments than they lose, through some excellent manipulative tactics.

How can you win, as a parent? The same way you win over your audience.

To engage another person – from 3 to 102 in age – you have to stop arguing and start captivating. You have to stop battling to retain authority. You need to regain control of your audience’s attention. You need to weave enchantments in the air before their very eyes – enchantments so magnificent that they’d never look away.

And as with most magic, this is both simpler and more difficult than you might imagine.

 

Interrupt the Pattern

 

Magic is predicated on a simple idea: what you expect to happen doesn’t.

A bunch of flowers turns into a bird. A coin disappears into a handkerchief. A woman gets sawed in half to no ill effect. A dropped ball doesn’t fall, but hovers in midair.

Through life, we come to recognize patterns of behavior and expect them to occur. Objects don’t transform into other objects. Objects don’t disappear. People sawed in half tend to remain that way, and are fairly distressed about the process. And gravity is a law.

Now, a small child isn’t amazed by magic tricks. Young kids haven’t been in the world long enough to establish an expectation of what will happen based on the patterns they know about the way things are.

For all a child knows, gravity may not always work. Flowers just might become birds.

Grown-ups have been around long enough to recognize that flowers don’t become birds. That dropped objects fall. And when the opposite happens, they’re amazed.

They’re also captivated.

This is called pattern interrupt: you take a premise that your audience has always held to be true, and you disprove it. To use this technique in writing a sales page or a marketing piece, it would go something like this:

What if I told you that there really were twenty-six hours in the day – if you knew where to find them?

Everyone knows there are twenty-four hours in the day. Always have been, always will be. We frequently complain about the fact. And yet – what if this were true? What if you could get 26 hours from your day?

What if the pattern could be interrupted?

Incorporate that sense of possibility into your writing, and you have your audience’s attention.

 

Build Rapport – the Right Way

 

You’ve likely seen every good entertainer do this next trick, from singers to comedians to street performers.

“Anyone here from New York City?”

This question usually gets a round of applause, especially if you happen to be in New York City at the time. Any question that applies to a decent percentage of your audience will do – “Anyone out there have kids?”, “Anyone out there hate Mondays?”, “Anyone here wish they didn’t have to go to work tomorrow?”

The comedian then goes on to tell a little story about hating Mondays, or parenting kids, and whoever hates Mondays and has kids in the audience feels a bond. It’s instant, and it creates rapport in its simplest form.

When writing engaging sales and marketing, you need to get more sophisticated than this – but not much more.

You already know some things about your intended audience. You may know they’re largely middle-aged working women, for example, or stay-at-home parents, or entrepreneurs, or hairdressers.

Use that to build rapport. Tell them what you know about them. What they like, what they don’t like, what they wish they could do, what they wish they didn’t have to do, what they did today, what they’ll do tomorrow, how it feels when they run up against their biggest challenges.

Keep this information at least tangentially related to your service, product or offer, and something interesting starts to happen.

Your audience begins thinking of a question. And that question is: can you help me?

They’ll feel you know them. Understand them. Sympathize with their problems and know how hard it is to be them when it’s hard – and just how great it can be when it’s great.

And of course, since you clearly convey the sympathy and compassion, the question comes all on its own.

Yes, that’s what I’m going through. You understand… I feel it. Can you help me?

The answer is, of course, yes. You can.

Here’s the important part: you didn’t have to convince anyone. You didn’t have to ask, “How can I help you?” Readers did that work for you, simply because you created rapport with people who just want to be understood and sympathized with.

Show your audience that you understand where they’re coming from, and they’ll do half the work of sales for you.

 

And, Not But

 

One final trick from the magician’s dossier: never say ‘but’. Always say ‘and’.

Classically, this is an improvisational actor’s formula. It works equally well in pretty much all aspects of life, especially sales and marketing.

Our minds are hardwired for argument, and you don’t need to look farther than a 6-year-old to figure out which of the most argumentative words in the English language are top of the list:

But I don’t want to!”

“Can I have dessert if I eat five peas?”

Why do I have to brush my teeth?”

And, of course, the classic “no”.

Give any piece of your writing a good look. You might be surprised to see how often you use these argumentative words. You probably used them in what you consider a positive way – for example:

“I know you think you don’t have enough time for this, but let me tell you why you need to make time.”

You’ve likely seen that around the internet on all sorts of websites and blogs. And it sounds positive, right? Positive it may be, but it’s still an argument.

When you’re trying to engage a reader, you don’t want to argue. You don’t want to put them on the defensive. You don’t want to make them feel they’re wrong. You just want to draw them in.

And you can do that by switching out argumentative words for engaging ones.

 

Instead of “but”, use “and”.

The horse flew up into the sky.

If you think “But horses can’t fly!” you’ve created an argument. If you say “And it flew so high that the stars started to worry they would be bowled over,” you’ve created a story. Far more engaging, far less argumentative, and a far better reason for anyone to keep reading.

 

Instead of “if”, use “when”.

If we go out to eat tomorrow, we’ll go somewhere nice.

This sets up an argument right off the bat. Will we go out to eat? Maybe, maybe not. If we do, then we’ll do this. If not, then that. Two possibilities.

When we go out to eat tomorrow, we’ll go somewhere nice.

This creates a sense of anticipation – and story. Something is about to happen. Oooh, what will it be, I wonder?

 

Instead of “why”, ask “how”.

There are all sorts of variations of this question bandied around online:

Why wouldn’t you take this deal?

I can give you forty answers to this question, and none of them work out well for you. I’m also arguing with you again, and I don’t want to argue. I want to dream, and I want you dreaming with me.

How would your life be different if you took this deal?

I can give you forty answers to this question, too, and all of them begin with the premise that I’ve already decided to take the deal. All the stories I come up with are enjoyable fantasies, and it’s easy to feel good about them.

Which is the point – helping people feel good.

Use the ideas above, and your audience won’t even realize you’ve pulled off the most difficult feat in marketing: capturing their attention without ever activating their desire to argue with you.

Before they know it, they’ll be throwing money into your hat – and you’ll know you’ve performed your magic well.

How do you craft engaging messages to connect with your audience? Share in the comments!

 

About the author:

Learn how to improve your writing skills so you can build rapport with readers and fill your magical hat with money in the Damn Fine Words writing course for business owners. Opening to new students soon, you’ll learn content-creation tricks and techniques from copywriter and Top Ten leading blogger James Chartrand. It’s Write to Done approved!

Thanks to Bigstockphoto.com for image: Making magic.

Are You Making These Mistakes? 5 Guest Post Pitches to Avoid

woman made a mistakeDo you want to get world-wide attention?

Guest posting is one of the easiest ways to reach a large audience.

If readers like your post, they might subscribe to your blog, share your post so that it reaches an even wider audience, and even buy your product or service.

No matter how you look at it, it’s a win-win situation. At least, it should be.

 

Here are four steps to a successful guest post:

Step 1: Analyze the host blog to see what readers like and want.

Step 2: Come up with a guest post idea.

Step 3: Read the Guest Post Guidelines.

Step 4: Write a guest post pitch to the blogger you want to target.

Sounds easy, doesn’t it?

However, most potential guest posters don’t bother to read our guidelines.

Here are five types of guest post pitches we receive on Write to Done that are guaranteed to make us run for cover.

 

1.  Look At ME!

 

This type of guest blogger is very confident. They are delighted with themselves, and are sure others love them too. Here is a double dose sampler.

Hi Admin!

I really like your blog and its great content.

I represent Atlanta Dry Cleaning, the best company to get your dry cleaning done in Atlanta. Your readers will love to know about our great dry cleaning services, so I want to send you a guest post. Don’t worry, it will be original and fresh content.  

Atlanta Dry Cleaning

 

Hey there!

I’m from the London Real Estate Company, and want to tell your readers about the real estate they could buy in London. It will be useful and interesting information. The article will be exclusive to you, and you don’t even need to pay me for it!

All I need is that you give me a link to my website.

London Real Estate Company

 

Are they serious?!

We respond politely, explaining that ours is a website on writing, for writers, and their topic would not be a good fit.

We also refer to our Guest Post Guidelines.

But of course, if someone is over-confident, they think guidelines don’t apply to them.

 

2. The Ping-Pong Player

 

The ping-pong player writer has ideas at the same speed as the ping-pong ball hits the table during a game. Their speed and brilliance dazzle so much, I’m tempted to reach for my sunglasses.

Here’s how it goes:

PPP: Hello!

I write articles on writing, and here are a few links to articles I’ve written already.

I’d like to contribute a guest post on how to overcome writer’s block.

WTD (10am): This is a very common topic. Please send an outline of the post’s content. It needs to be fresh and engaging, if we are to publish it.

PPP (10.01am): Okay, how about an article on using good grammar?

WTD (10.02am): Please send me an outline.

PPP (10.03am): I’ll send you 500-700 words on where to find ideas for writing.

WTD (10.04am): Please visit our Guest Post Guidelines, and send me an outline of your proposed guest post.

PPP (10.05am): Okay. You tell me which topic you want.

I’m limp with exhaustion by now, and have decided to give up.

PPP (10.06am): You send me a topic and I’ll write an article your readers will really enjoy.

I don’t think so!

A meaningful post requires careful thought. It’s hard to take such an-idea-each-second guest post proposals seriously. They always peter out eventually.

 

3. The Generous Expert

 

The Generous Expert is usually an inexperienced writer who wants use guest blogging to create their platform.

Hi!

I’ve just joined a course on writing, and I would like to share my expert tips on your website for writers. Writing is very important, and people should do it every day so that they become good writers. It would be good for other writers to know this kind of expert information as it will help them to practice and become good writers. They need to learn and get some experience.

Since I am learning this, I have all the knowledge and I’m happy to share it with the readers of your website.

Generous Expert

 

Whatever happened to learning and knowing before you set out to teach?

Oops! Experts don’t need to learn …

I pass up their generous offer.

 

4. The Jumbled-up Writer

 

The jumbled-up writer can write. Quite well, at times. But -

Hello there!

I’ve decided to send you my awesome article on 10 ways to improve your writing. Here is an outline of the post:

It is really important to write well, and we all want to do so. Here are 10 simple ways you can improve your writing:

  1.      Write every day.
  2.      Read good books, whether they are on writing or not.
  3.      Think that you can improve your writing.
  4.      Count the number of words you write every day.
  5.      Pay attention to grammar.
  6.      Avoid cliches.
  7.      Use a fountain pen to write. Your handwriting will be clearer, and this is another way to improve your  writing.
  8.      Use language appropriate for your audience.
  9.      Edit everything you write.
  10.      Remove adjectives and adverbs.

Let me know what you think, and I’ll send you the entire article.

Jumbled-up Writer

 

WTD:  It’s difficult to understand how Points 3, 4 and 7 will help readers improve their writing. Points 5 and 10 can be omitted altogether, because while editing (Point 9), you will pay attention to grammar.

Also, it might be a good idea to organize the points in some order, rather than arrange them in random fashion.

JW: Actually, I thought 10 would be a nice round number for the title of the post and I couldn’t think of more than 7, so I added those 3.

WTD: Let’s just go with 6 Ways to …, unless you can come up with more ways.

 

Readers prefer reading useful stuff, no matter how many or few points it makes. Getting fixated on an idea is not the way to create good content. Let your content decide your title, rather than the other way around.

To create great content, order your ideas logically, so that when people read your guest post, they feel like they’re cruising smoothly, rather than jolting along on a rutted road.

 

5. The Do-it-Now! Writer

 

The do-it-now! writer is excited by what they have to say. They’ve thought about their topic, researched it, and written it. Time to send it out!

Hi!

Here’s my post on how to find the time to write.

Writing doesnt mean you must need have to write for hours at a time. It’s imptant to write – that’s all. Depending on what you’re writing, even a 15-minute time slot will allows you to write. So onabusy day, you may write only one time slot of 15 minutes, but      on anotherday you mite write four slots of 15 mintues!

Do-it-Now! Writer

 

Obviously, the do-it-now! writer can write, and has something to write about. But that’s no excuse for sending an unedited piece of writing. All writers need to edit their work, but guest post writers need to do so more diligently than others.

This is a tongue-in-cheek look at some of the guest post pitches we receive at Write to Done. Rather than reproducing the exact pitch, I chose the less offensive path of showcasing the spirit of each of these emails.

Guest posting is quite simple, really. It’s about focusing on the needs of the audience.

Once you focus on your readers, all you need is good writing and good editing. You’ll soon see your guest posts published and your readership growing.

Questions? Thoughts? Please share in the comments.

 

About the author:

Vinita Zutshi is a writer, editor, storyteller and parenting coach. She is also Guest Post Editor at Write to Done and Content Editor at A-List Blogging.

Thanks to Bigstockphoto.com for image: Oops!

How to Be a Writer: Do You Use these 3 Vital Keys to Success?

how to be a writer

Do you wonder how to be a writer?

To be a writer is more than learning how to string words together effectively.

It’s about using the three vital keys to success.

The good news is that these keys are free.

Actually, they are already within you – all you need to do is to activate them.

I’ll introduce you to the three keys of success in a moment, but first, let me ask you a question.

 

Are you a Giver or a Taker?

 

If you divide people into two camps, Givers and Takers, writers are part of the Givers [tweet this].

Don’t you agree?

But what about when you’re exhausted? What about when you come home from work with nothing left to give?

As writers, we need to receive in order to keep on giving.

Cultivating the following three vital keys will allow you to receive nourishment on your writer’s journey. These keys will revitalize your creative spirit, raise your confidence, boost your creativity, and lift your motivation.

 

1. CURIOSITY: Why asking questions develops writing skills.

 

Remember when you were a kid. You were curious about everything, right?

I’m sure you had lots of questions, maybe like these ones:

“Daddy, why don’t the stars fall out of the sky?”, “Mummy, where do babies come from?”

What about now – are you still as curious?

 

become a writer 1

 

As writers, we need to rekindle that childlike curiosity because the mindset of curiosity is crucial for success.

Here’s what Jo Marchant, the author of Decoding the Heavens said about writing:

It’s crucial to have the right attitude. You need a burning curiosity – about how the world works, what people are doing, why they are doing it and why it matters. Think hard about what people tell you and make sure you understand it on the deepest possible level. If you don’t, keep asking questions until you do.

Tip: Sit in a cafe or bar and observe people. Turn off your phone or other distractions. As you look at the faces around you, imagine what they might be feeling or thinking. What might their lives be like? What have they experienced in the past? Let your imagination run free.

 

2. OPENNESS: How to kickstart your creativity.

 

Ideas are good. Yet ideas, opinions, and concepts imprison our creative mind. When we know exactly what we’re going to write, we don’t leave room for the serendipity of creativity.

Openness means letting go of pre-formed ideas.

In particular, it’s important to let go of ideas and judgements we hold about ourselves and our capability.

If you listen to the internal chatter of your brain, you may notice a lot of thoughts with a negative slant – especially when you think about your talent as a writer.

Negative thoughts hold you back from achieving your potential and releasing the power of your creative mind.

 

how to be a writer -openness 2

 

Having an open mind means becoming aware of judgements and letting them go.

Tip: When you notice negative thoughts like ‘You’ll never be a real writer’, or ‘Nobody will want to read this’, and so on,  imagine a green gremlin sitting on your left shoulder, hissing the words into your ear.  Now gently flick off the gremlin, like  brushing off a piece of lint, and say to it firmly but kindly, “No!”

 

3. Courage: How to overcome write-or-flight syndrome.

 

We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master. 
—Ernest Hemingway

Have you ever experienced the write-or-flight syndrome?

It’s the moment of fear that sets in when you sit in front of a blank page. That fear can be so strong that you want to flee from your desk. In the grip of this syndrome, even cleaning the bathroom or answering emails seems a more pleasurable option than staring at that blank page!

The kind of doubts that tend to go through my mind when I’m facing an empty page are:

‘Do I have anything to say?’, ‘Is my writing good enough?’, ‘Can I do it?’.

Does this seem familiar?

We need courage to put words on an empty page. We need the courage to write badly, to fumble and stumble and grasp for words.

Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere. ~Anne Lamott

 

how to be a writer courage

 

We need courage to trust in the process of writing. To trust that something will emerge that is worth sharing with the world.

Tip: If fear keeps you stuck, imagine you’re talking to your best friend. Record a couple of paragraphs on your phone or laptop. Then transcribe what you’ve recorded – and write on.

 

Walking the writer’s path

 

 You fail only if you stop writing. ~ Ray Bradbury

Writing is a life-long journey. To keep going, we need to overcome obstacles, fight the dragons of doubt and fear, find nourishment along the way, and taste the joy of being creative.

Talent is not some finite gift we were given at birth; it develops through the act of writing.
[tweet this].

If you cultivate the three vital keys to success – curiosity,  openness, and courage – your talent will shine and grow.

What is your experience of walking the writer’s path? Please share in the comments.

 

About the author:

Mary Jaksch is Editor-in-Chief at WritetoDone.com and Creator of A-List Blogging. After creating two super-successful blogs of her own, Mary has dedicated herself to teaching students to grow profitable blogs that attract attention. Take her fun quiz to see how much you know about what makes a blog successful.

Thanks to Bigstockphoto.com for images: CuriosityOpenness,

Become a Successful Blogger – In Weeks!

picture of workbook to be a successful blogger

Would You Like to Be a Successful Blogger?

Starting a blog sucks.

At least, it did the way I went about it.

I had no idea what I was doing – none.  Zero.  Zilch. Nada.

So I ended up developing a website on a platform where I had to create everything. With my degree in the social sciences and non-existent technological skills, I was overwhelmed.

 

Going it alone

 

That first site was not very good, to put it mildly.

A few years later I had developed a very nice brand for my business, and had a designer build a proper website for me. Someone had recommended WordPress, so she used that as a platform.

Then I decided to subscribe to a company that helped small businesses improve their inbound marketing, so I moved my website to their platform. They strongly advised me to write a blog.

They had some good ideas so I began blogging on their platform through my website. But as I learned more about blogging, I began to feel constrained.

  1. I had no control over the design of my blog.
  2. I couldn’t use advertisements.
  3. I couldn’t decide what went into my sidebar.

I contacted my designer and asked her to move me back to WordPress again. By this time, three years had passed since I first attempted to establish some sort of online presence with my homemade website.

Essentially, I spent years spinning my wheels while I slowly learned what was necessary to create and maintain a viable blog.

 

What I needed then and you need now

 

If I’d had access to Mary Jaksch’s wonderful tool to create a blog, Kickstart Your Blog,  I would have learned in weeks what took me years to figure out on my own.

I know you’re reading Write to Done because you want to improve not only your writing but also your online presence, an essential component of success for any author today.

Kickstart Your Blog is the ultimate easy-to-use tool that will help you get that presence quickly, in a painless and enjoyable way, even if you have little or no experience in the world of blogging.

 

5 reasons you should try Kickstart Your Blog

 

When Mary first shared her idea of  creating a tool for beginner bloggers, I volunteered as a beta-tester for the product. So I’ve taken it for a test-drive, and despite having put in a few years blogging, I learned many tips and tricks to improve my blog – in terms of design, usability, and getting more subscribers!

Here are 5 reasons you should try Kickstart Your Blog:

 

1.     It’s designed for the absolute beginner, but adds value even for those who have been blogging for a while.

 

Mary has encapsulated her experience of being a newbie blogger in Kickstart Your Blog.

Think of it like going to school, where you begin by learning to recognize ABC, and are writing essays by the time you graduate high school. Except – Kickstart shortens this journey from years to weeks.

Starting a blog creates both excitement and anxiety; Kickstart makes it fun and easy.

 

 2.     No geek-speak!

 

I have nothing against geeks, but most of us aren’t one!

One of the very best things about Kickstart is the plain, simple-to-understand language that is used in both the written material and the 30+ videos of the program. Starting a blog is intimidating enough without being faced with a host of technical terms to figure out.

Kickstart uses everyday language to help you chart a clear path to blog success instead of getting bogged down with terminology. But it also offers you a guide to help you make sense of necessary technical jargon, so you can deal with it confidently when you encounter it.

 

 3.     Step-by-step-ness

 

Yes, I did just make up that phrase.

Because it’s an apt description of the Kickstart process. Each lesson in the 8 modules of Kickstart has written text accompanied by a video of Mary showing you how to accomplish the goal for that lesson.

For example, one of the lessons helps you set up a test blog where you can learn your way around a blog, and gain confidence before setting up your permanent blog. The lesson, called How to Create a Test Blog in Under 19 Minutes, features a video with Mary showing you in exact detail how to generate the test blog. All you have to do is follow along, pause the video when necessary to complete a task, then continue on to the next step.

 

 4.     Cool free stuff

 

Everyone loves free stuff. I know I do.

Kickstart comes with two handy freebies that are amazingly helpful in starting a blog.

One is the 25-page workbook, What to Blog About that is a step-by-step (yes, it’s all about hand-holding you through the beginning) approach to developing a viable niche for your blog. This is an area many new bloggers struggle with, and it sometimes causes them to give up. What to Blog About will help you identify the perfect topic(s) for your blog.

The second perk is a free WordPress.org setup! Mary has worked it out with the folks at The Free Blog Factory to provide all Kickstart participants with a free setup that is completed within 24 hours, and includes the comprehensive Canvas theme that will help new bloggers created a customized design for their blog. All this without using any software code at all!

It’s like customizing your email, only simpler.

 

5.     Personal support

 

When I first started blogging, I really wished I could ask someone with all the answers to help me, rather than just be directed to an FAQ page or have to submit a support ticket that might be answered – or not.

Kickstart provides personalized support. This means that if you get stuck, you can send an email and get a helpful response from a member of Mary’s team. Not an auto-response, but a message from a real, live person who wants to see you succeed.

 

Click here to check out Kickstart Your Blog.

 

When I tried out Kickstart, I was so excited, I offered to be part of Mary’s team. It hits the sweet spot for me – it helps hesitant beginners become confident bloggers and it is created by Mary Jaksch, one of the most genuine, authentic people in the blogosphere.

I know it will hit the sweet spot for you, too. Go ahead. Kickstart your blog! (And feel free to leave a comment or share your blogging experience below!)

 

About the author:

Bobbi Emel is a psychotherapist who helps people bounce back from life’s significant challenges. She writes about resiliency at her blog, Bounce. Download her free ebook, Bounce Back! 5 keys to survive and thrive through life’s ups and downs).