By: Marilyn L. Davis
“You can’t build a strong personal brand by just posting status updates… people need more than that, they need valuable content, beyond updates and tweets.” ― Bernard Kelvin Clive
Your Writing is Your Brand
Why do some writers get thousands of readers a day, subscribers to their blogs, and a following? It’s because those writers deliver on their promise in the titles and consistently create engaging, imaginative and informative blogs, articles and essays. So, are they all born talented and accomplished wordsmiths? Not all of them. But each successful blogger works hard at producing the kind of pieces that their readers want to read. I know, that’s all well and good for them, but what about you and me? Here are seven tips for making your brand stand out, attract readers and get you noticed.
1. Define Your Niche
“You have the ability to shine and make a mark in some field. Your job is to find your niche, excel and build a lasting legacy.”― Roopleen
Oh, sure, you knew about a niche. It’s that subject that you are the expert on when people want to know about a particular topic. And you do have knowledge and expertise.
So, how can you best convey that knowledge and prove to readers that you can inform, interest and educate them about your niche subjects? Make a list of all the topics you know about from jobs, school, hobbies, or personal research. Now, narrow that down to which ones stimulate and excite you the most. That’s a huge clue – it’s the passion as much as the performance that makes us an expert in our subjects.
Not only are we experts from an educational standpoint, but we can write about it in ways that attract readers, piece after piece.
2. Never Try To Be Someone Else
“Start telling the stories that only you can tell, because there will always be better writers than you, and there will always be smarter writers than you. There will always be people who are much better at doing this or doing that – but you are the only you. –Neil Gaiman
- If you’re not cool, don’t force it; trendy only works for the generation that espoused it.
- If you’re not glib, it’s better to stick to the facts and not try to be slick and smooth.
- If you’re not sophisticated, don’t use words that sound urbane if they are not a normal part of your speech.
- All of those wanna-be characteristics read false for a reader, and you’ll lose them.
If you’re like me and sound preachy, earnest, and pedantic, then write that way about the subject. At least it’s authentic. And use emotions in your writing, it will improve any style of writing. When you begin your writing, determine how you feel about the topic or subject and use words that reflect those emotions. For instance:
- Brooding about the topic? Then let the reader in on your thoughts and questions and your process for the conclusion.
- Curious about the topic? Write about your wonder in such a way that readers want to find the end of the rainbow with you.
- Sad about the topic? Make sure that readers understand in your choice of words that this is a grave subject matter or your frustration that others do not see the importance of the topic.
- Angry about the topic? Give readers that mental picture of you hunched over the keyboard with lowered brow, pinched lips, and flared nostrils.
Readers need to connect to the emotions of the words and subject. It’s your job as the writer to express your knowledge and that all-important emotional quality. With this combination, you engage your readers until the end.
3. Write Often And Learn To Write Better
“Let grammar, punctuation, and spelling into your life!Even the most energetic and wonderful mess has to be turned into sentences.”― Terry Pratchett
Create a writing routine. If writing is important, you will make the time and give your writing the attention it needs.
- Get up early
- Stay up late
- Allocate time to write
- Make writing a priority
I write four days a week for Two Drops of Ink and my addiction blog, FromAddict2Advocate. I’m not a full-time writer. I conduct recovery support groups, have a fairly active family life, enjoy the company of friends, run errands, clean, and cooks all of my meals – without a microwave. In other words, I’m like all those who do not make a living from my writing – I have jobs and a life.
But I still write four days a week.
And I read seven days a week. Two of those days are set aside for reading books on better writing, five of those days are for pleasure. But even those help me learn about syntax, dialog, sentence construction and expose me to good writing.
4. Create Files For Future Articles
“The true writer, the born writer, will scribble words on scraps of litter, the back of a bus ticket, on the wall of a cell. ― David Nicholls
Carry a notebook or device to record the random thoughts. Then create files for quotes that resonate, images that will enhance an article, and anything that will prompt or improve your articles. I’ve got files with quotes and images. Some files are just random sentences or a paragraph. Some were the darlings I culled from one article, but I know the paragraph has merit – I’ll use it somewhere.
Next time you start a piece, do a search for keywords on your computer. You might be pleasantly surprised that you have an opening paragraph already done from something you wrote six months ago.
5. Don’t Revise or Edit the Unfinished Piece
“I do the first draft as passionately and as quickly as I can. I believe a story is valid only when it’s immediate and passionate when it dances out of your subconscious. If you interfere in any way, you destroy it.” ― Ray Bradbury
First drafts are:
- First: original, earliest, and initial writing
- Drafts: outlines, sketches, rough copy
Therefore, a first draft is the initial rough copy. It’s all the thoughts, ideas and emotions about my topic. It’s all the words associated with that subject, and it may come in at 1800-2500 words before I take a break. As I’m writing, I put symbols next to certain words and passages to fix or highlight in my revision.
- Repetitive words (*)
- Links (_)
- Needs quote (“)
But I don’t stop the process of getting words on the screen until I’ve mentally exhausted the topic.
I also don’t edit as I go because I want to have a feel for the whole. It’s rather like the blind men describing the elephant if you’re editing each paragraph as you write. You’ve got all these interesting parts, but what do they make when combined?
Also, transitioning between paragraphs seems to flow better when I’m free writing, rather than editing and then creating a sentence that makes paragraph eight flow into paragraph nine.
6. Revising and Editing
“Merely because you have got something to say that may be of interest to others does not free you from making all due effort to express that something in the best possible medium and form.” [Letter to Max E. Feckler, Oct. 26, 1914]” ― Jack London
I save my first draft under its working title and walk away from the computer. I am not certain how it happens, but words rearrange themselves while I’m gone. When I review them the next day, those words make sense, or I question why I wrote something. Either way, I’m viewing my writing with fresh eyes and I’ve made headway towards having a solid article.
Now I just prune, polish, revise, and edit.
7. Sharing, Tweeting and Exposing Your Brand
“Now I felt exposed, on display like a puppy in a pet store window, strip steak in a butcher case; a burglar caught in a flashlight beam, in a word, naked. ― Dennis Vickers
There are millions of articles and blogs. Some good and some dreadful. But you won’t get a following for your writing if you don’t publish it. And that is part of the problem – exposing our writing to others.
We all have egos, and when we are writing from a perspective of experience or expertise, we can feel proud. However, if our writing skill is not commensurate with our knowledge, we can be embarrassed at how we present the knowledge. Find some trusted friends in the beginning. Ask them to critique the writing. Ask them to be honest. And then listen to their comments.
- If your writing isn’t clear and concise, change it.
- If your writing is too long-winded, pare it down.
- If your writing is full of typos and grammatical errors, learn to be careful.
If your writing gets positive responses, then risk writing for an online site to test the waters, start a blog about your chosen subject, or submit your writing to contests. All of these get the writing out there for public scrutiny.And then share your writing.
Try joining some Google Plus communities that focus on your topic. Read and share other writers, and comment. Writers love comments, even the ones that find fault, as it gives us a clear idea of how to improve. Learn to tweet, and remember that 140 characters are not a tome. Retweet others and increase your social capital.
Making a piece yours takes planning, effort and a commitment to making your writing the best it can be, but that’s the beauty of creating a valuable brand.