Browsing "Writing Tips"
I love my job and the diversity it offers me. On a daily basis I can write a website update on childhood obesity, a blog article on Australia’s new immigration laws and a Facebook post giving tips on First Aid practices. Whilst variety is the spice of life, it can also offer a challenge to copywriters who need to become instant ‘experts’ on topics that are very foreign to in their current knowledge base.
So how can you make unfamiliar content familiar? Here’s some tips:
- Accept the challenge: If a client needs someone who is familiar with laser skin-care treatments, accept it. You will be amazed at how quickly you can learn if you set your mind to it.
- Spend time with the client: There is nothing more important than face-to-face content and conversation with your client – even if it is via Skype. This is essential to not only accurately understand their needs for content, but how they actually speak. You’ll very quickly be able to determine if they’re style is casual or articulate and this will give you a clue on what style of writing they will appreciate and relate to.
- Read: See what your clients competition are doing right and what is working for their website and content. Follow social media pages to see what is engaging people in that industry and especially the terminology people use. Some industries feel like they’re speaking a different language, particularly if they’re very specialized in their field. Understand what is out there and how people who are affiliated with that service are talking.
- Research! There is no excuse for poor research. In 2016 we have an unprecedented amount of knowledge literally at our finger tips! The internet not only has an answer for everything but means in which you can contact people and ask for advice through forums and social media groups. You can even try the old fashioned way of actually going out into the industry you’re righting about and having a more hands on approach.
Above all, remember to enjoy and embrace the challenge. It’s a gift to be able to write for a living and knowledge, no matter shape or form is a reward in itself.
Make your words count. KM.
When you see the name Hugh Grant on a movie poster, what immediately comes to mind? I’m guessing probably a romantic comedy. How about downloading a Celine Dion album? Are you expecting R&B or more soulful music?
The same can be said for writing. Writers and authors need to create a certain style of writing so their readers and clients know what to expect. The style of your F. Scott Fitzgerald is a long way away from the style of Helen Fielding and their readers know that.
Focusing on not just your content but your style of writing is just as important as you are building your brand through your words. So how do you make your style of writing your brand?
Write how you talk: Your unique creative personality is the reason you are writing and not studying to be a mechanic (or maybe you’re doing both?!). Think of how you talk to your friends and how they would describe you. A thinker? Life of the party? Compassionate? An ideas person? These attributes are what you need to hone into because they are the real you and the reason people like you. Your personality is your POD – Point Of Difference.
Create a lingo or tagline: Rove McManus finished everyone one of his television shows signing off with “Say Hi to your Mum for me.” This is a fantastic way of creating a personality and creating a brand. Finish everyone of your articles, or even add it on to your email signature – with a sign off, quote, anything that sets you apart from the rest.
Observe: Take some time and check out other copywriters, content creaters, SEO experts etc and try and figure out what their Point Of Difference is and why people would chose them over you. Watch their online interaction and try to pinpoint what their brand is and who their clientele will be. You will learn a lot about your writing by observing others in the industry.
Create your online presence: If you speak with any marketing guru usually their first piece of advice with branding is to keep it consistent. As a writer, this means both visually and content wise, your style needs to be creating a known personality and a ‘brand’ that people want to be affiliated with. Ensure your website and your social media platforms are all delivering the same message and attracting the clients you want to work for. You need to keep your content on all of your online platforms updated and accurate so people can find you.
Write for yourself: As a copywriter your job is to create content for other people’s businesses which is an amazing opportunity to learn so much more about different industries you would otherwise never hear about. When you get busy, your own projects will always get thrown to one side and this is not good for your craft. Creativity thrives on creativity so ensure you are allowing yourself a bit of time each week to work on your own best-seller or blockbuster!
Make your words count. KM.
I read an interview many years ago with Sir Jeffrey Archer and there was one particular revelation that stuck with me. Despite the convenience offered through computers and technology in general, Sir Archer continues to write all of his novels by hand. This has become such an intrinsic part of his writing ritual that he uses a new black ink gel pen every single morning.
Although this process may seem tedious and un-necessary, 150 books later and sales of over 270 million publications world-wide goes to show that there is definitely proof in the pudding when it comes to putting pen to paper.
This proof is reaffirmed to me on a personal level whenever I receive a hand-written letter (yes they do still exist!). My letters are usually written between one of two authors; my darling Nanna who despite being over ninety and suffering from arthritis still manages to hand a birthday card for me every year as well as Christmas cards for the whole family; and my beautifully creative 6-year-old daughter.
My daughter has loved to write before she even knew how and regularly leaves little notes professing her love to me, her daddy, her brother or all three of us. Reading these meaningful words of emotion through her very carefully structured hand-writing on pieces of coloured paper, constantly tugs my heart strings.
So why is handwritten so much better than typed words when it comes to creating content?
It’s personal: The fact that there is such as a profession as a ‘Hand-writing expert’ reinforces that there is so much more to the written word that we see. The style of our writing in addition to the content, gives a personal insight to who we are, how we think and how we see the world.
It’s makes you accountable: Texting, typing – it’s all pretty in-personal but not only that, it’s so easy! Predictive texting, spell check all of these systems that are designed to help us are in fact hindering us and making us very VERY lazy. Grabbing a pen and putting it paper makes us 100% accountable for the content – no blaming technology for a miscommunication.
It’s deliberate: When you are writing as opposed to typing, you are giving your brain a chance to preempt your next thought in a timely fashion. Touch typing demands your brain to be fast-paced and hasty in it’s thought process. Taking the time to actually write will allow your ideas to come at a much more natural and organic pace. In this demanding age of technology and distractions, the best ideas will surface from those who take to the time to appreciate their formation.
Although hand-written communication is a dying art (Exhibit A: declining number of Christmas cards received each year), that little stomach jump I get when I find a hand-written letter on my bedside table or in my letterbox – as opposed to the windowed envelopes – will never fail to excite me. And I really hope that somehow, handwriting will make a comeback.
Make your words count. KM.
We’d have to all agree it’s been a pretty average start to 2016 with the loss of not one, not two but three iconic voices. On January 10th, two days after his 69th birthday, the shocking news of David Bowie’s death spread like wildfire.
Less than a week later – before any of us got to catch our breath and process the passing of such an amazing artist – another cultural masterpiece joined the ranks when the marvelous Alan Rickman left us for a higher place.
And then yesterday to seal the deal, Glenn Frey, the voice of the Eagles let his wings soar and left the entertainment world reeling about another massive hole left by the departure of yet another icon.
I had a soft spot for all three of these artists and reading through all of the news articles, memes, quotes and old interviews what really stuck out was the power of their own words. Not lyrics from one of their songs, or a quote from a character in one of their movies, but their own words.
Words which were spoken in the purest form, not from a script but from the heart. Words that were spoken to fans on stage, to a journalist asking about their life, words that were spoken from a place that was true and it is beautiful to think that this is a part of the legacy they have left us to compliment their huge catalog of talent.
Here are my favourite quotes from the divine David Bowie, alluring Alan Rickman and glorious Glenn Frey:
“I don’t know where I’m going from here, but I promise it wont be boring.” On stage at Madison Square Garden, 1997.
“I’m a star. Just add water and stir.”
“As you get older, the questions come down to about two or three. How long? And what do I do with the time I’ve got left?”
“There’s a voice inside you that you tells you what to do.”
“Talent is an accident of genes – and a responsibility.”
“It would be wonderful to think that the future is unknown and sort of surprising.”
“I’ve read somewhere that when you’re writing, you should stop while you’re doing well so you always want to go back to work.”
“My songs grow old on people – like warts.”
“Hey, I didn’t make a big deal out of Hotel California. The 18 million people that bought it did.”
Yes, the world will be a different place without their physical presence but these three brilliant chaps have all left a gift that will continue to keep on giving.
Through their music, their movies and their sheer existence, their words in whichever form they were spoken, have embedded themselves into our personal history and into our hearts reminding us that we can all in fact be heroes, even if for just one day.
Ten years ago, I spent New Years Eve with a small group of friends in the carport of our two-bedroom home. The table we were sitting around was actually a table tennis table and my fiance’ (now husband), came up with a great little game for us to play – over drinks of course. Keep in mind, this was before the age of us living on our mobile phones and updating our status every five minutes. The game was simple, everyone had to write down three New Years Resolutions and then place them in a glass bowl.
We would then take in turns of retrieving one of these pieces of paper, read out the content then try and guess who’s resolution it was. The idea behind it was not only how well we knew each other but also making us somewhat accountable to each other to fulfill these resolutions. In 2006, my resolution was to finish writing my novel.
Hmmmm. Weddings, funerals, travel, a new house, a new business, a new dog and two kids later my poor resolution is still patiently – if not sadly – sitting in the back row of my priorities, waiting. My New Years resolution of finishing a book that had been randomly attended to was starting to fade as was the urge to complete it. My inspiration was replaced by duties and ‘life’ and then it became completely lost. I couldn’t find it, even if I had wanted to.
It’s now 2016 and for whatever reason, my lost resolution started to give me clues on it’s whereabouts. I did a massive clean out of one of our cupboards last week and found a box of my writing. Ranging from primary school fiction to bits of torn out paper with ideas for movies scrawled across it in black biro. My resolution was back and I successfully dug it out from underneath the pile of distractions and excuses that started to become my normal way of thinking. I have committed to extending the same courtesy to my resolution as I have applied to many other things in my life and actually spend some time on it.
However, like myself, my resolution has slightly matured and somewhat changed shaped from its initial form way back in 2006. I am still committed to writing and completing my first book but it’s content and my reason for doing it, is completely different.
I am hoping 2016 will the year that I can start making a difference to many things in many ways. So please accept these words as my slip of paper retrieved from a glass bowl “This year I will finish writing my book.” And I am happy for you to make me accountable for these words and not let them lie dormant for another ten years.
Happy 2016 x
Falling in love with a movie is a pretty powerful thing. We will often hear the comment “I love that movie” and although we associate love with romance, this doesn’t have to be the genre of film we fall in love with. It’s interesting to take a close look at the movie’s we love and try to unlock the recipe for movie magic.
Here’s a few movies I ‘love’ for varying reasons:
- Jurassic Park
- Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo and Juliet
- Bridget Jones Diary
- Love Actually
- National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
- The Dish
- Muriel’s Wedding
- The Talented Mr Ripley
- Something about Mary
- My Best Friends Wedding
I love all of these movies for very different reasons. For example, I love how all the stories in Love Actually are beautifully entwined. I love My Best Friends Wedding because it reminds me of when my best friend and I watched the movie for the first time in America together. I love The Dish because of it’s fantastic Ozzie story telling. I love Jurassic Park for it’s originality and suspense.
Love comes in many forms and the same can be said for movies so it’s always interesting to take a look and think about why you actually ‘love’ a movie? There are many factors which need to combine and compliment each other to make a movie work:
The script: The script is the bones of the movie and needs to be strong and able to hold the movie up. The story is what is making this movie happen and when it’s a story that effects people, that’s when magic happens. It could be the a belly-shaking comedy or a horror flick that knocks your socks off. When there is a good story happening people will respond.
The director: This is the person responsible for making the words on paper translate and connect with an audience on the big screen. The vision the director carries for the script is ultimately how we as an audience ‘see’ the movie. If this vision doesn’t mesh with the story, it can cause some of the meaning of the script to be lost through confusion.
The actors: Just like when you read a novel and have a picture in you mind on how the characters look, the same goes for screenplays. The trick is not only finding an actor that compliments the character but there must, must, must, must, must!!!! be chemistry between the actors. Chemistry involves the audience.
The music: It can not be downplayed how important the music is in engaging the audience and setting the scene. The soundtrack to Love Actually is one of my favourites as it’s so obvious how much thought was put into the selection and placement of every song. I even used some of the original scores at my wedding I loved it that much! Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo and Juliet appeared in someways to be almost written and directed around the music with the soundtrack matching the movie in popularity and sales when it was released.
Despite all of these things, sometimes there is just something about a movie that you connect with and ‘love’ while the person sitting next to you loathes it. Even when all these elements combine, sometimes there is just that ‘something’ missing that you can’t put your finger on and does not allow you to connect to the story.
Movie magic happens for different people for different movies and perhaps it just all comes down to taste. Some of us like chocolate, some of us like vanilla and some of us, like Steven Spielberg, appreciate ALL of the flavours with his quote “Every time I go to a movie, it’s magic, no matter what the movie’s about.”
A lot of writers tend to be creatures of habit. We have our favourite spot to write, with our favourite cup holding our favourite flavoured tea in front of our favourite window at our favourite time of day. Having a routine is a good thing, especially with writing.
However, recently my husband and I ducked over to the USofA for a good friends wedding. It was a ten day visit where we crammed in a wedding in Wisconsin, a roadtrip to Chicago and topped it off with a whirlwind of sight-seeing excitement in Las Vegas.
We had my husband’s laptop with us to check emails for work and also to ultimately do some work while we were away. This is one of the bonus’s and perhaps curse of owning your business. You can never really y switch off but at the same time it allows the freedom to go on trips like this.
I found myself tapping away at the laptop keys in quaint country lodge in Rhinelander, an Air BnB room in Chicago and twenty stories above the Las Vegas strip. Even though my focus was on the computer screen in front of me, the surroundings were surprisingly influential in my motivation to write. My topics hadn’t changed as I wrote articles for different clients with varying content but I had found that my enthusiasm had. It was almost as if the mundane had become exciting again and it was all thanks to my surroundings.
I tried to think exactly why I was enjoying writing so much in a different environment and I realised that my ‘daily routine brain’ was taking a holiday also and allowing my ‘creativity brain’ to run the show. The lack of my usual day-to-day routine and responsibilities had given me the opportunity to have unrestricted access to that fun side of my brain – a side that gets to focus on exactly what is in front of it and not have a pile of washing glaring at it from the far corner!
So why couldn’t I continue this renewed relationship with the ‘fun side’ when I arrived back home and continue to enjoy an abundance of uninterrupted creativity? Well within two hours of walking through the front door after a very llloooonnnngggg flight I received a phone call from the school to pick up my daughter whom had broken out in a suspicious rash. Before I even had a chance to say Good-bye, my ‘creativity brain’ had slipped out the back door while I was negotiating unpacked suitcases and a sick six year old.
However, I have faith that I shall see my ‘creativity brain’ again and achieve that amazing life balance that I hear so much about. I have my eye on my grandparents old bureau writing desk as a possible venue for the reunion with my creativity brain and as I’m typing this, I can actually feel it slowly and cautiously floating into the room and peering over my shoulder. Just knowing that it is still there, was possibly the best souvenir I brought back with me from our trip OS.
Our room with a view in Las Vegas
Today J.K Rowling turns 50. So I thought I would pay tribute to this wonderful lady on her birthday because we all owe a lot to Joanne ‘Kathleen’ Rowling.
Happy Birthday JK Rowling from little kids and big kids who have fallen in love with books again.
This amazing woman single-handedly changed the world for the better. When I decided to write this article I visited Ms. Rowling’s website to get more of an idea of the mind behind the magic. As I tapped her name into the Google search bar the suggested searches that appeared in the drop down menu, confirmed the many channels of affection and fascination for this inspiring lady.
Joanne Rowling’s life reads like movie script with love, loss and self-discovery all contributing to the shaping of one of the world’s most famous authors. Raised in the English country-side with her sister Dianne, Rowling had a pretty standard upbringing . After attending the University of Exeter, her love for travel took her to Paris for a year of study before returning to London and working for Amnesty International. It was love which then swept Rowling off to Manchester to live with her boyfriend. This change in postcode is what the world needs to thank for the ‘birth’ of Harry Potter.
It was while J.K was stuck on a four-hour train commute to Manchester that she heard a mystical whisper of Platform 9 3/4. A boy with glasses. A boy who didn’t know he was a magician. These whispers of this lost boy gradually turned into a an exciting shout throughout the course of her train journey. She had no pen or paper and laptops weren’t openly accessible or affordable back then. Thus J.K got to spend an intimate and interrupted one-on-one time getting to know Mr Potter. From that day on, she would ‘write’ daily on an old fashioned type writer.
During this time, she suffered the loss of her beloved mother who passed away after a ten year battle of Multiple Sclerosis. Joanne had a difficult time dealing with her mothers passing especially since she had never formally ‘introduced’ her to Harry. The loss of her mother added another dimension to Harry with the loss of his parents.
After this personal tragedy, J.K was desperate for a change of scenery and travelled to Portgual to work as an English teacher. Here she met her first husband and later gave birth to a baby girl. 5 months later, Rowling and her little girl moved back to the United Kingdom to Edinburgh to be near her younger sister and leaving her husband behind. The first three chapters of Harry Potter were snuggled protectively into her suitcase with the little personal belongings she had.
The next few years were a struggle for Joanne as she found herself living off welfare. However, thankfully her connection to Harry Potter continued to grow. She would take her daughter to the warmth of local cafe’s and as her little girl slept contently in her pram, Rowling would write and write and write.
Her loyalty to Harry saw her manually type out dozens of chapter manuscripts and send them with hope to numerous literary agents. Finally after countless rejections, she received the letter she had been waiting for. Christopher Little Literary Agents agreed to represent J.K. in her quest to have her book published. The book was sent and rejected by all twelve publishing houses and then one year later, the wind changed and the bells of Hogwarts were one step closer to ringing. Bloomsbury committed to publishing 1,000 copies. Five months after the books hit the shelves, the flood gates opened and J.K. Rowling began not only winning awards but the book sales went through the roof. Gone were the days of living pay cheque to pay cheque, Joanne Rowling gave Harry his broomstick and finally, he was flying!
What I love the most about J.K is how through her storytelling of a boy named Harry, she made children – and adults – fall in love with reading. How refreshing it was to see images of little ones lining up outside a bookstore rather than a computer shop. Through her gift of enchanting her readers by leading them through a journey of wonder and wizardry she captured the imagination of generations. She gave us all a reminder on how ageless storytelling really is and how important it is to feed our imagination with words and not images on a computer screen.
She gave us a world away from the often dreary reality we live in. A world that was untouched by the brutality we see on the news every night. She gave us a way to escape. She gave us a reason to fall in love again with amazingly unique characters. She gave us a reason to pick up a book, to look at the cover and to feel a jolt of excitement as we turned to the first page.
On behalf of a book-lover, a story-teller and a mother who’s little boy loves wizards, I would like to thank J.K Rowling for allowing her imagination to flow in a direction that was not burdened by mundane reality and for listening to that little whisper on the train in Manchester.
In Sam Smith’s acceptance speech for winning his forth Grammy at the 2015 ceremony he notably mentioned “I want to thank the man who this record is about, who I fell in love with last year. Thank you so much for breaking my heart because you got me four Grammys!”
As part of our journey through life, we will all be confronted with what is affectionately known as ‘heartache.’ As much as we would love to think we can avoid this crushing emotion, it is what makes us who we are. Heartache’s themselves can be instigated by a number of personal events such as:
- Having your heart broken
- Your dreams crushed
No matter how the heartache is caused the physical and emotional reactions are very similar. The mind will initially go into shock as it attempts to process the information it has just been given. The brain is always in protective mode so when it receives information that is difficult for it to process, it will unleash a surge of adrenalin. This can take shape in several ways depending on the person. It could set off crying, trigger a panic attack or even cause us to throw up or faint. These are all the minds way of giving us a ‘survival’ mechanism to expel this nasty feeling out of our body.
So after this has settled down and a bit of time has passed. Then comes the next stage of heartache – ‘reflection’. As a writer, whether a song-writer, poet, script-writer or novelist, this is when the good stuff starts to happen – even when it’s still hard on us emotionally. Writing down thoughts and emotions is a productive way to address your experience and it also helps the healing process. As many writers have discovered, it is also a time when some of the best material comes to surface.
Writing down your thoughts when these emotions are still very raw and the incident is still very recent, makes the final piece all the more real so use it to your advantage. Who knows, it may even get you Pulitzer, Oscar or Grammy (or four!).
It’s an interesting exercise when you have to actually write about yourself! You should try it sometime. I always place this massive expectation on myself to deliver, well, me in this most amazing light which will dazzle people so much that they will flock to me like a moth to a flame (without the intense heat factor).
So when I started piecing together my website and had to jot down that much loved ‘About Me’ page it really got me thinking. Sure I will put down all of my experience and qualifications – that’s an easy given as it’s all facts. It was when I came to writing the spiel for the page which instigated that dreaded writers block causing me to stare blankly at the computer screen in a trance-like state. What angle am I going for here? I’m a mother, wife, friend, sister, daughter, traveller, business owner, writer and a whole bunch of other labels I could tack onto my name badge.
So I decided to start from the very beginning (as it’s a very good place to start). What am I interested in and what makes me . . . me? I thought of an idea to help me simplify the process. I would go through and list a few of my favourite things. The only restrictions I put on this assembly of ‘things’ was it had to be specific items. So please don’t read the list and think of me as a materialistic snob since I haven’t mentioned the obvious family, friends, health, etc.
So here it goes . . cue instrumental introduction:
1. Old books: I love, love, love old books. As soon as I pick one up for whatever reason I am instantly calm. It’s almost embracing the era they came from and feeling somewhat nostalgic (and jealous) about how simple life probably was back then. I have several old children’s books of mine that I read to my kids. It is here where they get to witness one of their many weird-Mummy-isms, I smell the pages. Yes, I know it sounds odd and I’m probably sniffing and inhaling 30-year-old dust, dirt and old glue but nevertheless, I love the smell of old books.
2. My Nanna & Pa’s writing desk: This is another throw-back to the past with a piece of furniture that used to sit pride of place in my grandparents lounge room in their Swan Hill home. Although it blends in nicely to our living area and rarely gets a second glance from friends and family who visit, I love it because of what it represents both in history of my family and it’s design purpose. With it’s glossy solid timber panels and flip down platform to write on, it’s the little alcoves that were initially designed to place all of your mail that gets me. This writing bureau was built and used when people loved to (and I guess HAD to) write. Invitations were delivered, photos were sent and love letters were received by good ol’ fashioned hand-written envelopes. There’s something about hand-written letters that is so much more personal than a printed one. And although in this day and age the ways in which we can communicate are so much more, it seems that our focus on keeping in touch with friends and family is more about quantity and not quality.
3. A picture my daughter drew for me when she was 3: Every parent thinks their child is an art prodigy and in all fairness, some of their work would actually put to shame some pieces of ‘art’ I have seen recently. I have a piece of A4 paper sticky-taped to my wall above my beside table. This piece of paper has a Biro drawing of a little girl with fairy wings fluttering next to a flower on a stretched stalk towering over a princess castle. As soon as my daughter could hold a pen she loved to express herself and I have a whole display folder filled with her scribblings, paintings and pictures giving us a glimpse of her perfect little imagination at work and how much her perception of life has changed over the years. I love having this little reminder stuck on my wall on how we all used to see the world when we were little. If only we could stay in that amazing world where our thoughts are clouded with images of fairy wings instead of our grown-up problems. Instead I shall relive this wonderful world through my two fabulously creative and inventive children and their masterpieces.
4. A card from my husband: Two years ago my husband forgot our wedding anniversary. Not too much of a big deal. We were both so busy with kids, life, our business and just general living, that it slipped his mind (we can’t all be perfect). He was mortified when he realized. The next day I woke up to a gift and a card on the pillow next to me. To be honest I can’t even remember what the gift was (doesn’t mean I don’t want another gift this year) but the card that he chose and the words that he wrote were just beautiful. He will probably kill me for saying this since he’s a big-tough-kite-surfing-tri-athlete but I really do love this card and it still sits propped up on top of our chest drawers with it’s photogenic cover and poignant message greeting me every time I walk into our bedroom. Whenever I get a bit grumpy with him, that card is up there to remind me of the bigger picture and perhaps I’m not always right – just most of the time.
5. Cadbury creme eggs: I’m sure these class as ‘objects’ albeit their lifespan is very short when they come into my possession. For whatever reason when I was living in London and would rather spend my money on good times rather than nutrition I would buy a Cadbury Creme Egg from the little corner store on Warwick Road every day on my way to work. Anyone who knows me, knows of my weakness for these gooey blobs of sugary syrup encased in a thick tomb of chocolate. Nutella comes a very close second.