The Magic of Writing

April 23, 2019

Beginning today, this blog has a new theme – all things writing. As I pursue a second career writing fiction, I’ll post about my writing journey, the craft of writing, lessons learned, mistakes made, and the people who are helping and encouraging me. I’ll also post about books and authors and publishing.

I started this blog to dole out advice about marketing and promotion, strategic planning, and nonprofits, and I still work as a consultant. Check my website – www.techsavvympa.com – for more information or look at my blog archives.

Here we go.

WRITE

 

Write. A magical word. It’s the ability to conjure scenes and stories from my imagination. I can create characters of any size, color, and personality. I can have people run races or play the piano or murder someone or solve a crime. They can live at the beach or in a city or on a different planet. There can be love interests, annoying neighbors, best friends. I can create a world with monsters or aliens. I can make up my own rules.

How cool is that? It’s the best.

When I say I’m writing, what I’m actually doing is conjuring, creating, imagining.

magic

Photo by Mervyn Chan on Unsplash

Writing and reading are like breathing and eating for me. I have to do all those things to survive and thrive. Although reading was my first love, once I learned to write, reading took second place.

I’ve heard some writers don’t like to sit down and write. Most days, I can’t wait to get to my writing desk. I go to sleep thinking about my characters and what they’ll experience in my next day’s writing.

Many times, my characters do things that surprise me. I’m the type of writer the industry calls a “pantser”, which basically means I don’t make an outline and I don’t know everything that will happen. I rough out my main characters and a main plotline, and go from there. Sometimes I know the ending; sometimes I don’t. (More on “pantsers” and “plotters” in another post.)

oxana-v-524244-unsplash (1)

Photo by oxana v on Unsplash

To me, that’s part of the beauty of it. The characters I create take over and go their own way. They come alive in my imagination, so much so, that I can picture the setting and the people, and their gestures and expressions.

I can see the waves crashing on the shoreline as the angry, young woman throws rocks into the water and clouds roll overhead. I can see the hiker with his walking stick in the woods, seeking a bird or butterfly that’s known to nest there. I can smell the detritus of a burned-out forest. I can touch the coat of the black lap cat who comes around frequently for some love from his elderly owner. I can hear them both purring.

And, yes, I can taste that pineapple upside down cake that the mom makes for each of her six children on their birthdays. Do you see her with flour smudges on her face as she puts the cake into the oven? Can you smell it baking, the aroma filling the kitchen? Her kids can. They all run into the kitchen, one after another. “Is it done yet?” Do you see the scoop of vanilla ice cream melting next to the slice of cake? I do, and I can’t wait to pick up my fork.

Mmmm. What could be better than this?

Time to conjure.

###

 

Advertisements

Keyword Proliferation – not just meta tags anymore

September 21, 2010

The notion of a “keyword” first came to my attention over a decade ago when I was building my first web site. Among the metatags, it was important to put keywords so search engines could/would index your site.

At that time, the sort of informal rule was to use less than 30 keywords (or maybe it was 50); if you used more than that, the search engines “would be suspicious” and you might not get the results you wanted. I put 28 keywords (or maybe it was 48) in the code of each page, not just the home page. Obviously, I was looking for as much exposure as possible. Some people laughed at me and thought I was overdoing it. To me, it was much better to have 28 keywords for indexing than just the 8 or 10 words the others had.

Fast forward to the year 2010, and it’s now necessary to put keywords in most everything.

Usually the top recommendation for optimizing your Linked In profile is the propitious use of keywords. The search function works by keyword, so you need to decide what keywords a potential employer may search for, and include those words in your title, status and profile.

Many employers now review resumes electronically, and if you don’t have specific keywords, a live person may never see your resume or cover letter. Again, you need to focus on what words hiring managers may use.

When I started my blog recently, I hunted around until I found the place to put keywords. In the case of my blog, my keywords are for people interested in the topic(s) about which I’m writing.

Press releases used to be just for the press. You sent your news directly to the reporter or producer or to the wire services. If you put your press release on your web site, it was more of a courtesy than a real marketing tool.

Now, releases can be and are often viewed by the public in addition to the press. As it becomes more and more common to turn to the internet first for information, you need to include keywords in your online communications, such as news releases. Think about what is of interest to your customers. What could they be looking for that you offer?

Twitter, I would suggest, is all about keywords, since you have a limited number of characters through which to broadcast your message.

The bottom line is if you’re interested in promoting your business, you need to think long and hard about the appropriate use of keywords. If you are well versed in the subject, you’ll unconsciously include appropriate keywords as you write. However, it’s important to look at the piece before you publish it and identify the keywords. When you do this, you can decide if all the necessary keywords are included or if you should add more. It’s much easier to write, and then go back and substitute a few words, than it is to try and write something with a whole list of words next to you to include. It’s too stifling that way.

So if you’re trying to catch the attention of a certain audience, as most of us are, you need to add another step to your writing process:

1) Write/edit/check sources

2) Add keywords

3) Proofread

4) Publish


Proofreading: Top Do & Top Don’t

September 13, 2010

You’ve spent days or weeks writing your very important document, and it’s now time to publish it. But first it needs to be proofread.

Since you’ve spent so many hours writing and re-writing your document, you’re not the best person to proofread it. When you read things over and over, you tend to almost memorize them, and you’re less likely to see mistakes. You know what it “should” say, so you can even fill in words in your head that aren’t actually on the paper. This is especially tough for speed-readers, who can’t slow down their reading enough to catch mistakes. Some speed-readers routinely skip the smaller words; other speed-readers skip many more words.

If you have time, set it aside for a day or two, then take a fresh look at it. Or if you’re lucky, you have a proofreader in-house. Most of us don’t.

My solution? Read it backwards – out loud. And spell the words.

For example, if the sentence is “The sky is blue.”, read as follows:  blue, b-l-u-e, is, i-s, sky, s-k-y, the, t-h-e.

Proofreading backwards is very time-consuming, but it will catch any spelling errors or typos. It will not catch grammatical errors. I first learned this proofreading technique when working on technical journals.

You can also have someone read the document to you  – either backwards or forwards. For example: The, capital t-h-e, sky, s-k-y, is, i-s, blue, b-l-u-e, period.

Obviously, if you’re reading forward, you are more likely to catch grammatical errors.

And don’t, don’t, don’t rely on your computer’s spell checker and grammar checker. Use it as one tool, but don’t use it as your only tool. A spell checker can’t tell you if the word should be “too” or “to”. It won’t tell you if the word is “there” or “their”. The grammar checker may catch some of these words, but it won’t catch them all.

You may also want to REMOVE some words from your spell checker. For example, if you use the word “gape” frequently but have mistakenly typed it as “gap”, remove “gap” from your spell checker.

I learned this lesson the hard way.  Hopefully, after reading this post, you won’t.


%d bloggers like this: