Sunday, April 1, 2012

Writing tighter: Notes from #DPCON12

Watch for a personal wrap-up from me in the coming days, but for now my weary limbs and grey matter can only manage to string together some notes from a memorable break-out session I attended during the Digital Parents Conference that was held on 30th March in Melbourne. I hope they are of good use to you, dear reader.

There is much I want to say about DPCon12. Alas, I am on schedule to clean up the house in time for the LGBB's friend who is coming for a sleep-over soon. I have also been commissioned to make them some kiddy-version fortune tellers like those we discovered inside our Hallmark packs (how cool is that little purple box? Thank you, Hallmark, you hit the mark in our house!).

I had the pleasure and good fortune of sitting in on the writing workshop run by Sydney Writer's Centre founder, Valerie Khoo. And boy, was it good. Ninety minutes flashed past feeling like we had been there for barely half an hour, such was the engaging content. Thank God for the iPad because the excellent tips and points to note were coming fast.

Here is a little grab-bag of a few writing tips I was particularly taken by:

Know your reader
See them, get a clear picture of who is reading. Then, the way you structure your writing and the topics you choose will more naturally occur.

Create a reader profile.
If your reader 'picture' is not clear, then build your ideal person.
Demographics (narrow down to a niche age group, gender, life stage):
Where do they live?
Income level?
Education level?
How extensive is the readers' understanding of your topic?

Remember to write"to" someone. 
This way, your writing will be so much tighter.

Plan sometimes. 
Structure your writing before you even begin. Observe the difference it makes to your writing.
- Challenge yourself by doing this occasionally instead of writing and then editing.

Just because it happened doesn't mean it has to be written.
Particularly pertinent to chronological writing.

Identify your most used word.
Be aware of it, remove it.
- Try writing posts without using "I" at all sometimes.

Read your work out loud.
If it sounds funny or ends flat, rewrite/edit.

Show, don't tell!
You don't have to leave your punch line until last.
- A solid ending can circle back to the starting punch.

Can you make it tighter?
What can you cut?

Your blog is like your business card.
If you want to get paid to write, does your blog make it clear that you're a freelance writer? Identify yourself clearly.

If you want to get paid to write, write in the voice of the publication.
Analyse your target publication:
- How often does it come out? (writing a seasonal story, for eg., may have to be submitted 3-4 months out).
- Look at distribution area.
- Contributors vs staff writers? Are the majority of contributors staff writers? (If they are, there's less likelihood they use pieces submitted by freelance writers) If the names on the Contents page are different to those on the articles, there is a better chance your work will be considered.
- Target audience (demographics).
- Topics and themes.
- Length (word count), tone and style of articles.

Pitch a clear story idea
- Include name of relevant editor, call yourself a freelance writer, tell them what the story idea is about and what the article will include.

End strong! 
Make them read to the end every time.

There was more. So much more! But these were my stand-outs. Did you go to this session? Do you have any more to add?

And on that note, I have some books to read with my Lolly Gobble Bliss Bomb. She's been waiting for me to come back. Time to go be a Mumma for the rest of the afternoon.

You can connect with Valerie on Twitter - @ValerieKhoo - or visit her website.
Also visit Sydney Writer's Centre on Facebook, and Twitter: @SydneyWriters.

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