(c)2009, 2014 by Donna Cunningham, MSW
I’m known as a “prolific” writer, and part of why my writing reaches people is that I work hard to make my work clear and accessible. Below, for those of you who yearn to share your own knowledge and experience, are some of the things I’ve learned during my long writing career. I hope you find them useful.
1) Many who yearn to write hesitate because they feel they have nothing original to say. They wonder, since there are so many authors who write about each subject, how could little old them have anything new to offer? What helps to get past the fear that you have nothing new to say is to identify your own personal slant on the topic.
In a few sentences, boil the piece down to the core. What’s the message you wish to convey to your readers? Why do you want to write about this subject? How do you propose to inform, uplift, or entertain your readers? What is your point of view about the topic? What’s different or new about what your piece than what others who’ve written about the subject had to say? Do you agree or disagree with them? If you’re a newcomer to the scene, what has intrigued or excited you about it? What has amused or exasperated you about human nature? What experience moved you?
2) When you write a short piece, never begin with the beginning. Too many astrological or metaphysical articles start with long, plodding introductions that put readers to sleep. The first couple of paragraphs you put down on paper are like warm-up exercises for a marathon. They get you going, but they’re not part of the race.
Write them, by all means, because they help you focus and sort out what you’re going to say, but don’t get attached to them. Somewhere in the body of the piece, maybe a few paragraphs down, you’re going to find a golden nugget, and that’s the hook to draw the reader’s eye. Bump it up to the top of the piece.
3) The same ideas and information could be used to create two different articles aimed at two different audiences. You’d write differently to the mother of a child with ADD than you would to teachers of children like these. For the teachers, you’d include medical/neurological details, state of the art treatments, and successful strategies for classroom management.
For the mothers, you’d include plenty of basic information and practical tips on management. Perhaps you’ve had a few of these mothers as clients or friends. Imagine that you’re writing directly to them, making sure you’re addressing their needs and real-life situations. Even better, once a draft is written, ask a couple of them to read it and give you feedback.
4)The revision process is arguably the most important phase in a creating a readable–and publishable–article or book. When you’ve “finished” a piece to the very end, then you’ve really only completed the first draft. The second draft is different, and not as much about struggling to get the ideas out on paper as about making sure that each part of the writing does the necessary work.
I revise every article or book chapter at least five times. I go through my pieces sentence by sentence, making sure each one is clear and sharp. I pretend I don’t know me and don’t know anything abut the topic. I ask myself, if I were a complete stranger, would I understand what this writer was trying to say?
Perfectionism can be a good quality for a writer. Perfectionism is another word for quality control. You have to be willing to revise, revise, revise until it’s so clean it squeaks. Not always now, but for the first 30 years I was writing, I revised every piece about six times.
The mark of a pro is the willingness to revise your own work and then, when working with a magazine or book editor, to take the editing process in good spirit. Embrace it with open arms and a thick hide. I consider the excellent editors I’ve worked with over the years as part of my writing curriculum. Lacking an editor, it helps to have a friend or colleague read what you’ve written and point out spots that lack clarity.
Readers: I hope these tips are helpful. In the comment section below, within reason, I’ll answer questions about writing, but won’t edit or read your manuscripts or find a publisher for you.
Book Excerpts: A free ebooklet with short pieces from all of Donna Cunningham’s books and ebooks currently available. It’s a new and much expanded version of one of her earlier free offerings, now at 35 pages. Download a copy here and pass it along to anyone you think might like a copy: Cunningham Book Sampler-2014 Edition . (See instructions on how to order Donna’s ebooks here: 1-How to Order Donna’s Books.)
More Posts about Writing and Blogging:
- Writing Tips–10 Dos and Don’ts for Astrology Blogs
- Tips for Bloggers 1—Retooling Astrology Posts to Keep them Fresh
- Tips for Bloggers 2—Backlinks and other Tactics
- The Best Marketing Tool for your Astrology Blog–An Effective “About Me” Page
- Internet Find of the Week–Compare Blog Tags and Website Keywords for Visitor Appeal
- Testimonials that Work: Promote Yourself with Integrity, Credibility—and Class!