By: Marilyn L. Davis
Inspiration is Everywhere
I saw a bumper sticker today that just said, T.I.P.S.-no explanation, no amusing picture, no .com address, not even a plug for a restaurant, which made me think about writing tips.
Acronyms as Inspiration
But my brain functioned differently today. I worked in Washington, DC as a legislative aide for California wine growers – yes, I find the humor as a recovering alcoholic, as if Ernest and Julio needed my help, but I digress.
Washington is the town of acronyms. Unless there are specific letters used to denote an agency, I’m convinced that they don’t feel as important. I got my fill of the BATF while working for the growers. That’s the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms. Now, there’s a lethal combination.
We even reduce our presidents to POTUS, starting as a telegraph code in the late 1800’s. So, my orientation prompted me to think about TIPS from an altered perspective.
Almost by definition, writers are those who think. But what separates us from every other human on the planet who thinks? I believe that the fundamental difference is that writers but their thoughts on paper or the blog. Our ideas coalesce into a sentence, then a paragraph and some become a book.
It’s when we are mindful of the craft of writing that we produce words that make sense, at least to us, and if we’ve done an excellent job of writing a thought-provoking piece, our readers get something to think about in the post.
While it’s difficult to gauge what readers want, if you start getting comments, likes, and shares on your site, or social media, it’s a safe assumption that there are people who like what you write.
However, I think that readers want more than just clever ways to say the same thing. I think they sometimes want to be challenged in their thinking as well.
Ask What Your Readers Think
How can you do that with your topics? Ask questions of the readers. Two Drops of Ink is a literary blog, so I’ll focus on that as an example of gaining reader input.
- What books are you reading, and why?
- What are your top three tips for making your posts attractive?
- I’ve looked for and have found several grammar checkers. Which do you use?
Readers also like to know that we value their opinions. When you collaborate with your readers, you’ll be surprised at the input or feedback.
I’m always pleased when a reader adds another aspect to the topic, gives me another point of reference, or shares their perspective on the subject. So for Two Drops of Ink, I could tell the readers, we’re looking for our next challenge idea. What’s a challenge that you would participate in, and why?
Expand Your Questions
Broaden the scope of your questions. We know how expensive a consultant is, so who knows what you’ll get for free with this approach. Think about:
- Problems you’ve had on your site and ask for suggestions.
- Describe your dilemma to your readers and ask for their solutions.
- If you’re selling, ask your readers to tell you precisely why they bought from you.
If I’ve done a good job engaging my readers with questions, it’s because they are interested in what you’ve written.
Nothing interests people more than themselves – their needs and wants. We’re all rather self-centered when you think about it, so use that to your advantage. Readers like to know we consider them when we write.
And the easiest way to do that is to provide them with something they are not going to get on other blogs. Besides asking them questions, take their predictable reading habits in mind.
Bullets, captioned images, and white space take their reading norms into account. When you highlight a particular sentence, you give your readers valuable information quickly, and that keeps their interest. Who doesn’t like someone who can get to the point? To practice getting to the point, after you’ve written your post, answer the following questions as succinctly as you can.
- What is the gist of your post?
- Can you sum it up in 2 sentences or 45 words?
- How will you Tweet your post?
Refine your summary, take out all the unnecessary words, and you’re starting to master the “turn a scanner into a reader” approach to blogging. When you have an appealing summary and catchy tweet, people will come to read the rest.
One of the easiest ways to engage and retain readers, though, is to make sure that you’re thought-provoking and interesting, but I think that number three is the key.
Passionate writing isn’t just for steamy romances. What do you like to talk about? There’s a clue to your passions. And if it’s the topic you select for your blog, then half of your job is done for you. You’ve already thought about and probably discussed your topic with friends, family, or co-workers, now write it.
You might be genuinely surprised at how expert you sound in a post when you are passionate about the topic. When you make an effort to choose your words carefully, as you would in an oral presentation, your knowledge, expertise, and enthusiasm will come through.
And people like to share information that resonated with them or made their lives easier. They also get to look well-informed when they share a post that is relevant to their audiences, family, and friends.
So make sure your posts merit the share.
Tips come and go, and given Google’s changing algorithms, I can’t predict what SEO, strategies, or best practices you should use for your next blog post. That’s not within my area of expertise.
And to include you, because I know you have thoughts about this topic, tell me your definitions for T.I.P.S. as it relates to writing. Thanks.
Two Drops of Ink: The Literary Home for Collaborative Writing
When you’re ready to share your tips, consider a guest post.