NOTE: The following EPIC post comes from the book,”101 Writing Tips That Separate You From the Pack (Stand Out, Get Noticed).”
Enter your best email address in the box below, absorb the free content once a week, then take action on what you learn. You will be a more successful writer.
Whether you write page-turning fiction or prize-winning tutorials, are blogging, Tweeting, Plussing or FaceBooking as a digital writer, you MUST stand out. You must write for your readers. Make their hearts understand before their brains have a chance to tell them.
No matter what form of writing you pursue, tips and tricks are available to make your readers so engaged with your content that they’ll beg for more. Do this well, and do it consistently, and your readers will quickly become loyal fans hanging from your every word.
Although we segmented this post into specific writing genres, the principles are applicable to all. Remember, the more types of writing you do, the more confident you will become as a digital writer. Doing so will lead to greater influence over your readers.
Worksheets and exercises are at the end of the book this post is excerpted from to help you go deeper with your writing. They will ensure that writing outstanding content soon becomes second nature.
You HAVE the power to make the world sit up and take notice. But you must exercise.
Writing Fiction that Kills
1 – Designing Your Killer Plot
To create an outstanding story, you need a solid plan, and like all good plans, you must understand exactly where you’ll take your readers, and how every twist of their journey will lead them to that wondrous place where their hopes and dreams become reality.
2 – Creating Your Climax
Like all great life events, the buildup determines whether a climax sizzles or fizzles. As the author, you must build your readers’ anticipation of what is about to happen.
You must also make your events believable. If your readers are as engaged with your characters as they should be, they will be thinking of everything that could be done to avoid the unfolding events. You must erect barriers to prevent these options from being viable, leaving your climax as the only available path.
3 – The After Glow
You must make sure to cover your bases and tie all loose ends. Even if you are planning a sequel, make any leading events subtle enough so they don’t overthrow the original story.
4 – Creating Addictive Personalities
People love to love, and love to hate. Readers enjoy characters they want to hug, strangle, soothe or burn in effigy. But the key is never make your characters supermen or women; so out of reach that they lose the interest of your readers.
Make your characters normal, everyday people facing an extraordinary event.
5 – Setting the Scene
To set the scene effectively, you must make it a subtle part of the story. Allow your readers to see the scene from the character’s point of view, and make them notice and feel what your characters notice and feel.
6 – Going to War
The point of any story is conflict — the greater the conflict, the greater the story. People love to see others overcoming fear, love, odds, bad guy, good girl, parents, lovers, children, uncertainty, a bad deal, a disability, a trauma.
7 – Creating Peace
The purpose of conflict is to initiate change. Your main character won’t be the same person as they were when they started, so once conflict has been resolved and peace is restored, your readers will want to know what impact the story has had on the characters and the world they live in.
Writing fiction requires a shotgun approach; you write your story in a specific genre, then hope like hell fans will love it.
1 – Be Sensitive and Personal
You are writing to people who really care about your words. Somewhere, someone will be suffering from the affliction you are describing, or someone’s family member may have died in the battle you are depicting. You have the power to help these people in so many ways, so you must use that power wisely.
2 – Write to One Person
To give your readers the information they need, when they need it, you must choose your perfect reader and write as though speaking directly to him or her. To do this you must know their insecurities, doubts, fears and desires. You must know what they need even before they know it themselves.
3 – Be Responsible, Research.
Your readers have no choice but to trust the words you write, and some will take you literally, so an understanding of interpretation and intention is essential. Break the trust of your readers and you will never get it back.
4– Build Trust
When structuring your nonfiction, you must first establish trust with the readers, while letting them know that what you are about to tell them has merit. So your opening paragraph becomes the most important part of your entire article, post or book.
5– Your Opening Paragraph
Your opening paragraph will establish the tone for your relationship. Muck this up and your readers are far less likely to get to the meat of your copy.
6 – Ask Questions
Ask deeper questions of your readers than they ask of themselves, but also provide answers in a way that makes them feel as though they arrived at the logical conclusions themselves.
7 – Add Something New to Their Options
Your readers should leave your book feeling as if they have gained new insight into their old problem. You don’t want your writing to be a rehash of all the other information available to them for free.
8 – Break Down Barriers
Because most problems have more than one answer, your job is to provide as many solutions for as many types of problems as possible. By giving people examples of how your solutions fit their unique problem, you strip their tendency to go with the path of least resistance.
9 – Reassure
With your solutions delivered, the next step is to reassure your readers that they are on the right path, that it is okay to move forward with what you have already suggested. Giving examples of where your advice has worked before will validate it as a necessary step toward a total solution. Your readers will recognize that others have also been on the same journey and lived to tell the tale.
10 – Remind Them of Life As It Is
Remind your readers of where they are right now, and of the consequences of NOT doing anything — if the problem is bad now; how much worse will it be if they don’t do anything?
11 – Instill Self-Belief
Most of all, give your readers the self-belief they need to take those first few steps. Without this internal drive, they may lack the confidence to do anything more than read about what they should have done.
Attention Bloggers: Give your reader the self-belief needed for them to take those first few steps.
— Sean Platt (@SeanPlatt) June 24, 2012
12 – Treat Your Readers with Respect
Most people respond to teachers who respect their students, and know how to speak with them at their level. Don’t expect a 4th Grader to understand the musings of a 12th Grader, or a university graduate to be content reading material written for a middle school student. This is where your chosen writing voice must reflect the individuality of the group you’re addressing.
13 – Don’t Lecture, Guide.
You don’t want to sound like the cruddy old lecturer whose information was vital, but whose delivery was so dull you always had to struggle to keep your eyes open.
You also never want to be the self-indulgent airhead, too busy trying to be uber-cool to impart anything useful.
Query letters are a type of marketing that directly addresses the publishing company or magazine editor. Unless you get an agent to represent you, or want to self-publish, query letters are the only way you will gain access to publication through major channels.
1 – Make sure the company you are sending the query to deals with your genre of writing.
2 – Most magazines and publishing companies will have a list of requirements for query letters. Make sure you meet every condition.
3 – Proofread. Everything. You might think doing so is common sense, but this is one of those times when spelling and general grammar are paramount. A single mistake could literally cost you your dream. Proofread your query at least four times with a 48-hour break between proofs! You can’t correct mistakes if you’ve already sent the letter.
4 – No matter what sort of query you write, make sure you are up to date with the title, name and spelling of the person you are sending the query to. Nothing screams out-of-touch amateur more than addressing a letter to someone who left the company or magazine five years earlier, calling someone a Mr. when they are a Mrs., spelling their name incorrectly, or going with Dear Editor or even worse, To whom it may concern!
5 – Put Your Book in the Spotlight
The query letter you write for your book to the publishing company should introduce you and your novel. You will have one page to explain who you are, give a short synopsis of the story, and of course explain why it is the best darn thing since sliced bread for your intended market!
6 – Put Yourself in the Spotlight
When writing a query to a magazine, rejection of your idea is less important than the impact your writing style has had on the editor.
— Sean Platt (@SeanPlatt) June 25, 2012
7 – Don’t Take Rejection Personally
In many cases, magazine article ideas get rejected because they are repetitions of an idea already in the planning process. No matter the circumstance, learning this information before spending any time or energy writing articles that never had a shot at publication — no matter how great they were — is always the best path!
Whether using it as part of a query letter for publishers and editors, or as a cold call letter for prospective freelance writing work for businesses and individuals, your cover letter is the most important part of your query.
1 – Put Yourself in your Publisher’s Shoes
To make your book stand out from the crowd, imagine you are one of those judges on the reality TV shows we talked about earlier. They spend day after day opening email and seeing the same old thing.
2 – Get the Important Stuff Right
The publisher needs to look at your cover letter and get seven things immediately:
The title of the book
Whether it is finished
The book’s length
Who the key characters are
Your expertise in the subject, and previous writing experience,
How marketable it is (how much money they are likely to make from it)
Most importantly, your publisher needs to get as excited about the book as you are.
1 – Editors need to know you are a professional writer in your approach to doing business with them, and on their behalf.
2 – Editors need to know you understand basic spelling and grammar and can use each where appropriate.
3 – Editors want to know you have a familiarity with their magazine and an empathy with their readers.
4 – Your editor needs to know you have the proper credentials to write an article for the magazine. A writer who is against gun ownership would have a hard time trying to convince an editor they could write an article about the best rifle to shoot a ten-point buck.
5 – Even though your ideas may not be accepted, putting them forward lets the editor know you are a thinking writer in tune with their audience, and would make a proactive member of the team.
The third type of Cover Letter is the one you write to potential clients. Though competition for these jobs isn’t as fierce as for publishers and editors, reaching the mind and soul of the person looking to hire you is imperative.
1 – Know Your Contact
2 – Personality, personality, personality
3 – Make Your Slant Unique
4 – Show Off your Skills
5 – Don’t Pro Forma Your Letters
6 – Understand the Business Culture
No matter how great you are at getting down the thoughts in your head, at some point you’ll have to sell it verbally. Your elevator pitch is a two-sentence summary of your book. What follows demonstrates how a hypothetical elevator pitch works.
You have just written an amazing novel that neatly fits a hungry market, but you’re having a hard time getting it through the publisher’s bottom-level commercial potential filtering system.
1 – Understand the Heart of your Story
2 – Use it to Maintain Order
Your hook is the first couple of sentences after your heading, and is the most important part of your sales pitch.
1 – Understand Its Value
2 – Create a hook
To create a hook that instantly engages your readers and makes them want to read on, you could:
summarize their problem and your solution
tell a story
include action and intrigue
pose a dilemma
set a scene
ask a question
use quotes or well-known verse or lyrics
Creating a hook is easy, but it isn’t enough; you must also be able to word it in a way that grabs your reader by the eyeballs and doesn’t let them go until they’ve read the entire passage.
3 – Make Your Reader Care
Using your hook effectively will indulge your reader’s natural tendency to think, how does this affect me?
They will question themselves, have an A-ha moment, be posed with a challenge, or simply be made to smile. By doing this you have immediately established a rapport with them.
4 – Adjust your hook to fit your audience
Writing a fantastic hook, full of fiction, drama and suspense is pointless if your target audience likes to grow tomatoes but is having problems with tomato blight destroying their crops year after year. Yes, gardening is frustrating, and growing perfect tomatoes is rewarding, but is the process filled with earth-shattering suspense and drama? Probably not.
5 – Master the First Line
Just as your hook entices your readers to continue reading, your first line grabs them and gives them no option but to read the entire hook. Your first sentence should naturally flow to the second, which should guide your readers to the gourmet paragraph you’ve prepared.
6 – Avoid First Sentence Fails
Don’t pre-write your first line. Even if you’ve had a cool opening sentence in your brain for years, once it’s on paper in front of your first paragraph, it might not have nearly the impact you imagined.
Don’t over-promise and under-deliver — if your first line and hook say you will learn how to get disease-free, delicious homegrown tomatoes all year long, the rest of the book had better deliver on that promise.
1 – Interact
Having a Twitter, Facebook and Google+ account is no longer good enough; you must actively participate in them as well, at least if you expect to mine their full benefit. Doing so means actively commenting, liking, and plussing, not automating links to your affiliated sites.
2 – Network
Join relevant groups and interact with like-minded people —writers, editors, publicists and other budding writers. Not only will you build connections, you will be inspired to become more creative and connect with your audience on a deeper level.
3 – Add Value
In your social media exchanges, your primary aim should be adding value and adding to the discussion. This allows you to have conversations with people you wouldn’t normally have access to, while also giving you more confidence in your ability. This newfound confidence will surface in your writing.
4 – Do less
So many people jump on the bandwagon of every new toy or social meeting place, then find themselves completely overwhelmed and unable to keep up. Stick to three or four sites so you can participate in them in a way that’s meaningful to you, your readers, and ultimately, your writing career.
5 – Know when NOT to go social
Writing sales copy is the most straightforward way to make your writing stand out, whether it’s ad copy, a landing page for a product, or a sales letter.
Have a look at effective sales copy, both on and offline.
What makes it effective?
How does it make you feel?
Does it work for you, or turn you off?
No matter what type of writer you want to be, from best-selling fiction, to student-pleasing tutorials, learning the basics of sales copy will help you grow by leaps and bounds.
Creating sales copy that reads with clarity, and helps you stand out from the majority of writers, starts with grabbing the attention of the readers.
You can do this in many ways, no matter the niche or genre.
1 – Speak to Them Personally
2 – Make a Promise
3 – Make Your Reader Instantly Understand
4 – Agitate Your Readers for Their Own Good
Asking for the sale
5 – Over Deliver
6 – Make it Competitive
7 – Inject Scarcity
8 – Repeat it Often
Once you have a great headline and know how you will ask for the sale, it’s time to write your ad copy. While some ad copy is a bit of a letdown after a terrific headline, some of the copy leaves the reader confident that the product described is perfect for them. That’s what you must aim for with every page you write.
9 – Less is More
10 – Concentrate on Benefits
11 – Feel the Pain
12 – Focus on the Solution
Blogging can be one of the most rewarding, satisfying and lucrative means of earning a living, so long as you have content that is as creative as it is captivating.
According to Universal McCann research (via Technorati), in 2008 184 million blogs existed. That’s 184 Million competitors (and counting).
So how in the world do you stand out?
1 – Effectively Targeting Your Audience
2 – Build your Brand with Your Audience
3 – Create Remarkable Content Consistently
4 – Format for the Reader’s Benefit
5 – Make People Want to Share
6 – Don’t Have Multiple Personalities
7 – Takeaways
8 – Avoid Blogging Fails
Having a blog is a big responsibility and getting sidetracked is ridiculously easy to do. Abandoned Orphan blogs litter cyberspace.
What follows are some of the most common reasons blogs don’t last the distance:
Content is simply a rehash of old information
Content is mind-numbingly boring
Content does not engage or address the reader
Content isn’t updated regularly (or at all!)
Content is obviously spun and unreadable
Too many graphics, not enough content
Content is formatted as one long paragraph
Content is inconsistent in its theme
Not interacting with those who do comment on your blog — conversations are two sided and nobody likes to be left hanging. When you get a comment, reply and keep the conversation flowing.
Your first draft will not be good enough for your readers. If you think it is, you are probably not giving your readers the respect they deserve. Nobody gets it right the first time, and you must learn to edit effectively.
1 – Hire an editor
2 – See it in Print
3 – Read It in Reverse
4 – Take Time Out
5 – Peace and Quiet
6 – Read Aloud
7 – Learn How to Format for eReaders
The eReader is the future. Few people think about buying CD’s and no one thinks about buying cassette tapes anymore; they buy MP3 players and iPods.
Readers who prefer digital like their book to appear on their eReader, simple and uncluttered. Just as you would for any online format, make your paragraphs short, make your headings stand out, and include plenty of white space with bullet points where possible for nonfiction tutorials.
8 – Formatting for Manuscripts
The first impression you want to give your publisher when submitting a manuscript is that you are professional. Proper formatting goes a long way.
Although you can email your manuscript to publishers, sending it as an attachment rather than as a part of the email is best.
Make sure your formatted manuscript complies with the standard requirements, i.e., double-spaced, 1 inch margin, Ariel font, paragraphs indicated by an indent rather than a space, each chapter starting on a new page, and any other specific requirements that the publishing company may have.
Also include a formatted cover page including the title of your book, your name, contact details(if you have an agent then include their contact information too), and the total word count of your book.
9 – Using Images to Amplify Your Message
10 – Finding affordable (and legal) images
Some of the most difficult aspects of finding images are making sure they are relevant, making sure they engage your readers, and making sure you have the rights to use them.
This is one instance where you do NOT want to just copy and paste. Doing this could jeopardize your entire business, so even when you use images from Flickr, double check the usage rights.
In the past, you could expect to pay $10 to $200 for a small graphic for your blog. Now certain sites have images with a variety of rights attached for as little as $1 each. Although some sites require a monthly subscription, some sites allow you to make a one-time purchase.
You ARE Outstanding!
You are unique. You have different DNA than everyone else, individual feelings, and a precise perspective on life based on your own experience. This automatically makes your writing unique as well.
You have the ability and the knowledge; all you need is the confidence to apply it.
You can do this. Maybe in the past people told you your grammar sucks, your characters are boring, or you must stick to a set of rules when writing in each niche. But we’re in the 21st Century and all the old rules are long gone.
Of course, this EPIC Post would not have been possible without the awesome book, “101 Writing Tips That Separate You From the Pack (Stand Out, Get Noticed)“(FREE on Amazon from 7/10- 7/14).
Please share this post on Twitter, Facebook and any other social media outlets where your audience will benefit.Enter your best email address in the box below, absorb the free content once a week, then take action on what you learn. You will be a more successful writer.
I did it. So can you.
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