How to Make Your Writing (a Little Bit) Better

The Director of Columbia University’s writing program and author of the new book To Show and to Tell: The Craft of Literary Nonfiction reveals a few ways to write a fresh and engaging story.

I came across this post on Oprah’s website and thought it was worth re-posting for my readers. There are some great tidbits, guidance and instructions for making your writing better. Now that online content is so huge, it’s always a good idea to tweak and work on your writing or hire a ghostwriter to assist you.

1) Be Bold (Even if You’re Not) Regardless of how timid you may feel inside, you need to project an assertive tone in your sentences, conveying that you have a right to speak and that know what you’re talking about. This may mean bluffing—both at the beginning and maybe throughout one’s writing life. One of the boldest openings is a confession of ignorance. You might tell people that you don’t know everything or that you’ve forgotten some of the story. Surprisingly, instead of alienating your readers, this tactic usually makes them believe you more, because it lets them know you’re a human being—imperfect, like all of us, but honest.

2) Make Yourself into a Real-Life Elizabeth Bennet Whatever you write, particularly if it’s an autobiography or any kind of nonfiction, you would do well to turn yourself into a character. The reader needs to sense very quickly the real individual behind the prose—in order to like or trust the narrator of the piece. To start, you may need to take inventory of yourself, so the reader will have some idea of who is talking. For instance, what are your geographical roots, family background, ethnicity, social class, religious training, sexual preferences, and political affiliations? Not that your entire identity can ever be explained by membership in this or that one category, but at least the sum of them helps define you—if nothing else, then in your opposition or refusal to identify with any of these assigned labels. What are your pet likes and dislikes? What are some of the crucial experiences in your life? Certainly, this is the heart of memoir or personal writing.

Now comes the “characterization” part of your character. You need to dramatize yourself. Paradoxically, this may mean putting on a mask, emphasizing just those aspects of your personality that throw you into sharper light, that make you seem a little more odd or idiosyncratic—in any case, not completely typical. The easiest way to do that is to single out those parts of your personality that are most vibrant, or even disparaging. Self-mockery is a perfect example. If you can laugh at yourself, you will find it easier to see yourself as a character.

3) Take the Contrarian Position It’s sometimes a good idea to go against the grain of accepted thought, simply because it takes the reader by surprise and engages him or her in a stimulating, feisty relationship. (It also helps to build the author quickly into a character—see number 2.) To advocate for Mom, apple pie, world peace or universal brotherhood can be pretty bland. Try airing a more antisocial or counterintuitive position, just for the fun of it. Some models to consult in this technique are Laura Kipnis’ “Against Love,” Witold Gombrowicz’s “Against Poetry,” Susan Sontag’s “Against Interpretation,” Joyce Carol Oates’ “Against Nature” or my own “Against Joie de Vivre.”

The other way to be contrarian is to praise something that usually inspires distaste. William Hazlitt’s “On the Pleasure of Hating” is one such topsy-turvy example. Think of something ostensibly negative—disappointment, envy, chagrin, obesity, air pollution—and make a case for it. Of course, this defense of the indefensible can be done ironically, as in Jonathan Swift’s classic “A Modest Proposal,” which purports to argue in favor of eating babies as a solution to overpopulation.

4) Don’t Forget Your Inner Adult When writing about your past, don’t be afraid to reflect on the way you were, from the standpoint of the way you are now. You don’t have to pretend that you’re still 9 years old or stay within the child mind: You can avail yourself of the perspective of acquired wisdom over the years and move back and forth in the narrative between the younger person you were and the older person you’ve become. This means you don’t have to tell every story entirely through scene and dialogue. You can forget about that “show, don’t tell” business. Do tell. But do it frankly, thoughtfully and, wherever possible without self-pity and with good-humored detachment.

5) Bring in the World Even if you are writing a memoir, and telling what you feel is just your own private story, there are ways of bringing greater relevance and resonance to the tale by hitching it to a broader perspective: historical, psychological, sociological, theological, whatever. You begin to see yourself as part of a larger pattern, and this will take you to the library, where you can gain new insights.

Research also helps to keep the material alive when you are starting to get sick of yourself and your story. If you start out knowing all the answers, your resulting writing will appear stale. But if you engage in an exploration, a need to get answers to questions that are still unresolved, there is a much greater chance that the writing will come alive. And research can certainly assist in any such exploration.

For more information on writing techniques, consult Phillip Lopate’s new book To Show and to Tell: The Craft of Literary Nonfiction.

Read more: http://www.oprah.com/spirit/Expert-Writing-Strategies-How-to-Write-Better#ixzz2LMYAJ4yF

7 Tips for Completing an Article in 20 Minutes

Whether you are a Ghostwriter or a business owner who writes for their own blog or website, writing can be very time-consuming. We would all like to find ways to trim back on the amount of time it takes us to write.

If you’re a writer for business, you probably would like to see ways to become more efficient. One way to do so is to learn a few techniques for getting an article completed within a short time frame. This article will guide you to get an article written and completed in 20 minutes.

Many ghostwriters or freelance writers juggle clients all day, day-in and day-out. So it’s not always the most economical job for one to have. However, if you can master these seven techniques, you’ll be able to get an article written in a jiffy and even be able to take on more clients to maximize your profits.

It’s important to remember that even though you may be writing quickly, you can’t compromise the quality.

1. Start an “idea” list:

Being a writer, sometimes your inspiration and motivation can easily be jeopardized, since you’re relying on it every single day. So, when you’re bountiful of ideas, write them down and keep a list. Many times, writers of all types, be it bloggers, article writers, ghostwriters, etc. the idea of what to write is what takes the most time. If you keep an idea list, you’ve already won half the battle.

2. Let your ideas simmer a bit:

It is typical that when you NEED something, it’s the most difficult to find whereas, when you don’t need it anymore, then it happens to just pop up. The same thing applies to writing and gaining ideas. The more force you put into it, the longer it will take. Thus, when you get a new topic, let it fester for a while before brainstorming. This way, a couple of days later, when it’s time to get started, you’ll already have a few things in mind that will work.

3. Be Selective

Now, you’ve formulated all these list ideas and brainstorming ideas for your articles, you’ve got so many ideas, what in the world are you going to do with them all?! Well, you’re going to have to be very hard on yourself and simply scratch through the majority of them on your list. Ask yourself, “does this idea really work?” or look at which ideas are the best and discard the rest. You can however, save the ideas for an article for later, but it’s important to remember we’re not writing an epic trilogy book now, just a simple article within a 20-minute time frame.

4. Be the Bullet Master:

Using bullet points or numbered entries is fantastic! Not only will it cut down the time spent on writing an article (since you don’t have to formulate a complete sentence or think about transitions from paragraph to paragraph) but it is also helps the reader to easily navigate the article and break up content.

5. Short and Sweet:

Articles that are 500 words are less are perfect for writing articles within the 20-minute time frame. What is most important here is to focus on the type of content. It needs to be content rich to make up for the shortness. Your article should be chalked full of valuable content.

6. Take a break:

More times than not, a nice break from work will benefit your motivation and inspiration. Writing can be a hard task some days, so it’s better not to force out words and rather, take a break, come back and let the words flow.

7. Use your good idea NOW:

It is very tempting to keep all your best ideas saved for using later, or for a “better” article. However, this is not the most productive or realistic. You need to save time now, not later on. Whatever is in front of you now, should be what you focus on to get it done quickly and to make the most of your time. So take the “good” ideas off the back-burner and use the immediately.

These seven steps will help you to create an article within a 20-minute time frame so that you have time to focus on more interesting things or maximize your article output. If you have ideas or know of ways to write articles more quickly, what are they? Please share!

The Ten Best Ways to Get More Traffic to Your Site

The number one goal of website owners is a heavy traffic flow. Trying to accomplish that on your own can be difficult. You can spend the majority of your time trying to optimize your site for search engines or spending hard-earned money on marketing techniques, like pay-per-click. Luckily, there are easier ways to attract more visitors to your website in less time, and for free!

Some of the best ways to generate a higher, steadier flow of traffic to your site are as simple as leveraging another website’s traffic and resources. Here are ten of the best ways you can get other people to direct traffic to your site.

Become a Guest Blogger

A lot of popular bloggers will solicit submissions from guest writers to post to their site. Even some bloggers who don’t advertise a desire to have a guest blogger on their site may be open to the idea of accepting guest posts, so long as you give them reasons for using your post.

For example, you can offer to:

Trade article space with the blogger, letting them post to your site as well

Include their affiliate links in your article so that they will still be able to make money when a reader buys their product

Give them some free advertising by writing a glowing review of them in your newsletter or on your site

Recruit People to Your Affiliate Program

One of the best ways to sell more products through other peoples’ traffic is by asking them to take part in your affiliate program.

For example, if you are selling digital products, offering a 50% commission to your affiliates could be very enticing. Offer a higher rate for those who send a lot of site traffic your way. Consider offering additional perks too, like bonuses or discounts to their customers.

An easy way to set up your own affiliate program for digital merchandise is through Clickbank.com. It also works as a payment processor.

Swap Blog Links

Blogrolling is a fantastic way to trade blog links with your fellow bloggers who focus on your niche. This has the long-term benefit of being listed permanently on the front page of another person’s blog. Also, if the blog has a high Google Page Rank, you’ll benefit from the search engine optimization that comes with trading blog links with that blogger. Include keywords in your anchor text for your link, too.

Swap Newsletter Articles

If the idea of trading content seems great, think about the possibility of trading newsletters with other people who focus on the same topics as you. When you’re visiting other blogs, find out if they post their newsletter issues to their blogs. Then you’ll also have the added benefit of a backlink and continuous traffic.

Team Up to Promote

If you offer a similar product or service offered by another marketer, consider swapping product links with them on your download or thank you pages. You could also see if the marketer would be interested in using their affiliate link to direct traffic to your product sales page.

This is a great way to draw responsive traffic. When people have already made a purchase of one product, they could still be in the mood to buy more.

Trade Links on Your Confirmation Pages

Subscription confirmation pages are another great place to trade links. You may also consider trading endorsements in the welcome emails you send to new subscribers.

Consider Joint Mailings

If you sell physical merchandise, look for other marketers who sell related physical goods as well. Request that they include a flyer advertising your products with any shipment they send out, and offer to do the same for them.

You can find marketers that sell large quantities of products similar or related to your own on sites like EBay.

Offer to Interview Marketers

Some of the larger marketers in your niche may not agree to some of the other suggestions we’ve gone over, especially if you are still an unknown in the blogosphere and have a small amount of traffic.

They may be open to the idea of being interviewed, though, maybe via teleseminar. If they’re keen on the idea, they may help with advertising your interview, which means more free traffic for you!

Don’t forget to mention your website during the interview, ensuring additional traffic long after the interview has been recorded.

Co-Author Articles

Another option to consider is writing an article with another marketer. You can write an article together about tips that focus on your niche. You’ll both benefit from the additional traffic when they post it to their blog and mention it to followers.

Make Rebrandable Reports

With tools like ViralPDF.com, you can get traffic sent to you when you create rebrandable reports. This means allowing others to change the affiliate links in a report you create. Then, anyone distributing that report will have the chance to make money on the backend.

By implementing some, or all, of these simple techniques, you’ll see a greater boost in your Internet traffic and in less time. This will save you plenty of time and money, just by using the traffic generated by another person’s website.

Mind Clearing Techniques That Improve Efficiency

Focus on Exactly What Needs Your Attention

 

Being overwhelmed and having a mental overload is plain crappy. This overload of thoughts produces symptoms that enable you to enjoy your work and sometimes, can even be a lack of motivation to get all the things you need done completed.

 

Learning how to clear your mind is a technique that will increase your focus on precisely what needs your attention at the moment, not only in your work, but also in your life. Simple questions like, “what do I need to get done today?” to the more broad question of  “what is my true calling?” can all be pondered on better when you have a clear mind.

 

It’s typical for people, on a daily basis, to have an endless to-do list, a lot of business on their plate and be left with the feeling of being overloaded.

 

How do you clear your mind so that your brain isn’t cluttered? Here are 5 steps to get you started on clearing your mind so you can focus on the things that need attention the most.

 

1. What do you want to accomplish?

The first step in completing any task or goal is to define exactly what it is you need to get out of it, whether it’s your freelance business, daily tasks, or a grocery store visit. You need to sit down and ask yourself “what do I need or want to accomplish?” and write the details down.

 

It doesn’t matter what the motivation behind it is, whether it’s to feel accomplished, earn money, or if it’s your life goal. Basically, you need to know why you’re doing what you’re doing to ever get to where you want to go. By explaining to yourself why or where you want to be, will give you the clarity you need to get there.

 

2. Make a list

The second step, after deciding what your goal is, is to write a list of ways to accomplish this goal. One helpful tip is to use the 80-20 Rule: You basically write down 20% of your tasks that will help you to achieve 80% of your goals. This method has been proven to be very effective.

 

Try and maintain this list to be as specific as you can possibly make it. The clearer you are, the more your mind will feel at ease. Overall, this is a way to get the thoughts out of your mind and onto paper, so your mind doesn’t have to keep wondering about it.

 

Here are a few brief examples:

 

  • Don’t: get more clients, make more income

 

Do: gain two new clients per month, increase my freelance income by $1,000

 

  • Don’t: get better at designing

 

Do: learn a specific design technique to better my designs

 

  • Don’t: increase my website’s traffic

 

Do: Perform tasks 1 and 2, every other day, every week for x amount of hours

 

3. Write down a list of things that you’ve been doing that are unnecessary

Step three can be daunting since most of us think that the things we do are all necessary. However, if you can sit down and really put some thought into your daily routine, and find areas that are necessary, it can help you tremendously. Tasks that can be labeled as unnecessary are those that seem to be important but actually hold little to no importance when trying to get the things done that you need to do.

 

It’s important, when developing this list, to be completely brutally honest with yourself. If you’re not honest, these simple things can hold you back greatly. A major aspect to clearing your mind is to be effective, not only productive. If you have trouble making this list, take the 80-20 Rule to help you, write down 80% of tasks that are not necessary and that only help with 20% of your desired accomplishments.

 

The main goal of this step is to see where you can give yourself more leeway to do other goal-oriented tasks all the while, clearing up more of your mind. Sometimes these tasks are quite small and go unnoticed until you write them down.

 

4. Perform the essentials

Now is the time to really put the 80-20 Rule into your plan. Taking your list from step 2, complete each of those tasks and stop! These are the tasks that will help you accomplish your clearly stated goal from step 1. This is also where you STOP doing the things you listed from Step 3.

 

It may be hard to completely quit the things you listed from step 3, but you have to try, and even if you stop doing one-to-two things at a time, it will help. Face it, we’re all human and life is a total learning experience. The best way to do anything, I have learned, is step-by-step. Start with the smaller things and work your way up, I know it will help you and it will give you encouragement to keep going.

 

5. Now your mind is clearer, better enjoy it!

If you’re using step 4 (which is implementing steps 1-3) you’re on your way to doing less in a day but seeing the same or more results, which therefore, will help you to clear your mind and be able to focus on the things that really need attention.

 

You are now being not only productive but effective.

 

Since you’ve made these lists, defined your goals and are doing away with the unnecessary, you’ll have more time to focus on what needs to be focused on and you’ll be able to enjoy it. When your mind is clear and you’re able to provide attention, other areas of interest will start to be important such as:

 

  • Finding ways to do more of the work you love
  • Improve and expand your business
  • More time for your ideas that have been put on the back burner
  • Learning how to live out the lifestyle you really want
  • And other things you feel are important

 

Clearing the Mind in 5 Steps

 

Much of this technique will be better maximized through trial and error. You must consistently stick with it. To wrap it up, here’s how to clear your mind:

 

1. Define precisely what you want to accomplish

2. Write down the tasks that will help you to succeed your goal

3. Write down everything you’re doing that is unnecessary

4. Begin by performing only the essentials

5. Enjoy a free and clear mind!

 

Have you ever been one to have trouble in clearing your own mind? Do you have any techniques, helpful tips or tools that help to do so? Please share!

Take This Lollipop- A Chilling Look at Cyber Stalking

We all know that it’s possible, but we just never believe that it will happen to us- cyber stalking. Thanks to the creators of the website Take This Lollipop, anyone can get a chilling glimpse into what it is like to be stalked through social media.

With your permission, the website will use your Facebook information (which the disclaimer states will NOT be saved or used for any other reason) to let you see yourself through the eyes of a crazed cyber stalker. The stalker is played-very convincingly- by an actor. The man looks like someone we would all avoid passing too close to on the street.

And he’s obsessed with you.

In the short film, you’ll see this man leering at your Facebook profile, scrolling through all of your photos, and reading your posts. This is a lot like a PSA, but leaves you with a very unsettling feeling. Parents, it just may be worth it to have your child watch this if they are using social media.

  • Tips on Protecting Yourself From Online Stalkers
  • Make your passwords more difficult to guess. If it’s a word in the dictionary, someone with the patience is going to figure it out. Avoid anything too obvious, like your birth date, mother’s maiden name, etc.
  • ŸAlways log out when you’re done on a social media site. Use different user names and passwords for each website that you log into.
  • Even if your laptop never leaves your home or office, act like it can be stolen at any time. Enable the password prompt to pop up as soon as you open it for the day and any time it goes to “sleep.” Make sure it is closed when you are done with it.
  • ŸIt may surprise you to know that someone can access your webcam without you knowing it! If you have a built-in webcam on your laptop, you can cover the lens with a small piece of tape. When you’re not using your stand-alone webcam, turn it so that it’s facing a wall. This will keep those prying eyes from seeing what’s going on inside your home.

Do you have any tips you’d like to add? Please share!

 

Is Article Marketing Right for Every Business?

Many businesses are starting to look into article marketing as a valuable tool. Every company, from home-based web designers to the international corporations, can benefit from a strategic article campaign. With written content, your business is getting the word out about the products or services you offer.

It’s understandable that many people are reluctant to embark on an article marketing campaign. For them, writing ranks high on their list of least desirable activities, right next to scrubbing the toilet. Even if you are among these people, there’s no reason to leave this powerful tool out of your marketing arsenal.

If you don’t have the time or inclination to write up valuable content every week, look into outsourcing your article writing. There are freelance writers and article marketing services who will write original content for you to submit to various article directories.

There are a plenty of freelance sites and forums where you can get in touch with writers as well as companies that specialize in writing content that focuses on your niche.Article marketing can help any type of business. For example, a beautician looking to bring in new business to her shop could start submitting articles on beauty tips or reviews for styling products and make-up. By showing readers that you are an expert in your field, you’ll be inspiring future customers to seek you out when they need your services.

Before you start churning out content for your article marketing campaign, you need to sit down and write up a list of the various article marketing sites you’d like to submit to. Look for the ones that have the highest page ranks. Next, come up with a list of at least five important facts about the products or services you provide. Under each of those key points, write a few sentences that help support them. Use these five points when writing your articles.

When you get ready to start your own article marketing strategy, always keep in mind that this is not an opportunity to weigh down your articles with affiliate links and cap it all off with stuffy author bio. Readers will know when they’re being fed a bunch of junk and many article directories will reject any articles that don’t fulfill the promise made in your title. Make sure your articles actually have something to say so that you will be seen as an authority on your chosen topic.

Has article marketing been working for your business? Don’t be shy. Show your expertise and leave us a comment. Thank you!

The Three Types of Domain Names Every Article Marketer Should Use

If you’re in the business of article marketing, it’s vital to have a website to help generate new business. For many of you, your domain name reads: www.MyName.com or www.MyCompanyName.com.

Having a website URL with either your name or your company’s name is a great idea, but you need to have more than one domain name for your business, and here’s why:

  1. If people don’t know you, they aren’t going to be searching for your name. This hurts the amount of organic traffic being driven to your site.
  2. Having a URL that only has your name or company name in it doesn’t give people any idea about what your site is for, what type of business you do.
  3. A URL that only has your name or company name doesn’t offer any psychological triggers that will induce someone to click on your site’s link.

With domain names for your business, it’s a good idea to buy several different names that will all link directly to your business page. Specifically, there are three different types of domain names that, as an article marketer, you should use to help drive more traffic to your website.

Keyword-Rich Domain Name

The main reasoning behind having a domain name that is rich with keywords is to improve your SEO with the more popular search engines, like Google. By having a domain name that includes keywords related to your business, you will earn higher rankings on search engines. If you are in a business that doesn’t have a lot of competition, having a keyword-rich domain name can be enough to place you higher up on search engine rankings.

Some examples of a keyword-rich domain name are:

www.articlemarketingexperts.com www.articlesubmissionpros.com

Call-to-Action Domain Name

A call-to-action will motivate readers to take action, to click on a link. You’ll not only be motivating readers, but you’ll be telling them exactly why they need to go to your website right now. They want to know what they’ll be getting or learning if they go to your site.

Some examples of call-to-action domain names are:

www.writewinningarticles.com www.getfreearticletemplates.com

Benefit Domain Name

With this type of domain name, you’re telling the reader exactly what they need and want. You’re providing a psychological trigger in your domain name that will encourage readers to click on your link. You will also be connecting your website with the desires, wants and needs of readers, improving the likelihood that they will click your link.

Some examples of benefit domain names are:

www.findmoreleads.com www.getmorecustomers.com

These are just a few helpful tips to follow when selecting domain names for your article marketing business. These tips will help increase your search engine rankings and reader click-through rates. This will lead to more website traffic for you, which means more potential clients finding exactly what they want on your website.

What sort of domain names do you use in your article marketing business or any business? You’ve got the floor. Please leave a comment and share your expertise.