Tag Archives: Ali Luke

Why Blog Posts Aren’t Like Magazine Articles – and How Your Writing Needs to Change

A guest post by Ali Luke .

If you’re used to writing for print media – like magazines or local newspapers – then you might think you’ve already got plenty of tricks up your sleeve when it comes to creating great blog posts or web copy.

But although the fundamentals of good writing will never change, it’s important to consider the context in which your online words are being read. Your readers aren’t sitting down with a mug of coffee and a magazine – they’re glancing at your blog post while waiting for a file to download, chatting on Twitter, and checking emails.

Even if a reader does give your post their full attention, the physical act of reading is harder on a screen than on the printed page. (This is why e-reader devices, designed for books, have special screens that are intended to mimic the sense of reading ink on paper.)

None of the tips that I’m about to share with you are new. Back in 1997, Jacob Nielson wrote the now-seminal How Users Read on the Web, and the advice he gives is still highly relevant. But – judging from some of the sites and blogs that I see – a lot of great writers still don’t know how to make sure their words are being read online.

Here are three very simple things you can do:

Write Clear Titles, Not Clever Ones

In a magazine or book, you might be able to get away with a clever or cutesy title that intrigues the reader, even if it doesn’t give much idea of the contents of the piece.

Online, it’s crucial that you put relevant words in your title – not just to help catch the attention of busy readers, but also so search engines can understand what your page or post is about.

That doesn’t mean your titles need to be boring. You can:

  • Include adjectives (easy, straight-forward, fun, clever, secret…)
  • Include numbers (“5 Easy Ways To…”)
  • Include the word “Why” and/or “How”

If you’re ever stuck for a title, head over to Copyblogger and look at their most popular posts, in the sidebar on the right. See whether one of their title structures sparks an idea.

Use Links, Rather than Quotes, to Support Your Material

In magazine and newspaper articles, you’ll see lots of quotes from experts incorporated into the text. This helps to lend credibility; the reader can see that the piece has been well-researched and that, often, different or opposing views have been included.

Online, you have an invaluable tool for giving readers more information or for backing up your claims: the hyperlink. Instead of quoting a long paragraph, you can simply link to the whole article that you’re referencing.

When you do use quotes, offset them from your main text using the <blockquote> command in HTML (or the equivalent button in your WYSIWYG editor).

Of course, sometimes, plenty of quotes are a good thing. They work very well on sales pages, where you’ll want to show that customers have used and enjoyed your product/service, and where you don’t want to direct potential new customers away from your site.

Include More Text Formatting

Long blocks of text aren’t easy or inviting to read. One of the best ways to make a page or post more attractive is to include visual elements that help readers to stay focused and (if they want to scan) help them pick out key points.

Online, it’s easy to include:

  • Short paragraphs with a blank line between each
  • Subheadings to sign-post the way through your piece
  • Bullet-points to help readers take information in easily
  • Bold text to draw attention to key points
  • Images to draw the eye (especially at the start of a post)

Of course, you can go too far with formatting. If every other paragraph becomes a list of bullet-points, or every other sentence is in bold type, your post will be choppy and hard to read.

Aim for a good balance – and if you’re not sure how best to do that, take a careful look at posts and web pages that easily grab your own attention. See what they’re doing, and how you might apply it to your own writing.

If you’re getting into online writing, pop a comment below and let us know what reader-friendly techniques you’ve been trying out – or what you’re planning on doing in the future.

Bio: Ali Luke is a writer and writing coach. You can download her free ebooks and goodies for writers/bloggers at www.aliventures.com/newsletter, including “How to Find Time for Your Writing” and “Ten Powerful Ways to Make Your Blog Posts Stronger” … plus much more.

An Interview with Ali Luke, Part Two

In Part 2 of the interview with Ali Luke the topics include her writing community “The Writers’ Huddle,” improving your writing, and her novel Lycopolis

The Writers’ Huddle

Recently you created “The Writers’ Huddle” online community.  And as you know, I  myself am an active member of that community. I’ve found it to be a warm and courteous group of writers, who are not afraid to give their honest opinions and are also generous in sharing what they know.  Almost immediately, I was able to get some insightful critiques of my writings-in-progress.

You started with about 100 members, but you also very recently opened it up to new subscribers.

  • Please describe its features and tell us how it’s going?

Writers’ Huddle is a community and teaching site, so as well as the forums for members to interact, there’s lots of content to help writers out. That includes:

–        Mini-courses aimed at beginners, or people who want a refresher, in particular areas (MS Word, blogs, fiction)

–        Monthly seminars, either with me or with guest speakers

–        Monthly Q&A sessions to answer members’ questions

–        The full On Track ecourse, which I’ve added to the package this time round

It’s going very well, I think! It’s been great to see members interacting in the forums, although I know that there are quite a lot of members who never use the forums and who are just there for the teaching content.

  • What is some of the positive feedback you’ve received?

I had lots of lovely comments when I ran a survey of the original members. The webinar with Seth Leonard got lots of great feedback (sadly, I can’t really take much credit for that..!) and many people have said how much they’re enjoying the Huddle community.

  • Have you yourself, personally, found it a rewarding experience.

Definitely. There’s something special about leading a community like this; I feel that I’ve been able to bring together something really worthwhile. Writers’ Huddle is the sort of site that I wish I’d belonged to when I started out!

And on a more mercenary note … having regular membership payments makes it easier for me to plan things financially, and it also means I can concentrate on producing content for the Huddle rather than thinking about how to sell it in the form of ebooks or individual courses.

  • I know you have been adding fresh material constantly (you must spend your weekends brainstorming!), so where do you see the community going in the near future?

I’m really excited about On Track, because I’d love to see members making some great process on bigger projects – I know some already are, but I’ve heard from quite a few others who are struggling a bit. I’d also like to create and publish an anthology of members’ work, probably this summer, as that’s something that most survey respondents were interested in.

 

Writing improvement

  • How about building your content to help your readers learn to write better?

I try to give specific examples wherever I can; I think this makes it much easier for people to “get” what I’m explaining. I also try to split posts up for easy reading, using subheadings, bold text, and so on, and I’ll often give clear action steps. Most of my readers are already pretty good writers, but I want to help them take things even further.

  •  If someone were to ask you, How can I become a better writer?— what would you advise them to do? What specific activities do you think could accelerate learning most?

Read a lot, and read widely. I think every writer will tell you that! And write, too; not necessarily every day, but on a regular basis. You can’t become a better writer without regular practice. Write for a clear purpose (e.g. aim to get a letter published in a magazine, or a guest post onto a big blog) – there’s nothing wrong with doing morning pages or journal writing, but you also need to be thinking about getting your work to a publishable standard.

Edit after you write. That means two things: don’t edit while you’re trying to get the first draft down, and don’t neglect editing altogether. No-one writes a perfect first draft – half the work of writing is in the editing.

  •  Some writers who have written on writing in books and on blogs, have advised readers to–for learning purposes—to  mimic or imitate the style of writers they admire. Do you agree with that advice?  If yes or no, why?

I think it can be a fun exercise, and if you’re guest posting, it’s useful to shift your style to suit the blog you’re writing on. (For instance, Copyblogger tends to use punchy, chatty language and short sentences and paragraphs; I try to do the same when I’m writing for them.)

There’s a bit of a danger, though, of ending up unintentionally mimicking other writers when you’re trying to compose your own material. So if you are going to do this exercise, I’d suggest trying out a wide range of styles, not just imitating one particular writer.

Lycopolis

  • It seems such a short while ago that you published your novel Lycopolis. How is it doing?

I brought out the ebook version in November 2011, and the paperback in April 2012. Sales have been slower than I’d hoped – it’s a lot harder to market fiction than non-fiction – but the reviews and other feedback have been fantastic. So I’m hoping that, with more work from me on the marketing, the sales will start to pick up.

  • How is your book tour going?

It’s been a bit more work than I’d expected! As well as writing the posts themselves (which is great fun), there’s also the organizing side of things, and replying to comments. These elements are fun too, but they’ve been taking up a fair bit of mental energy.

In terms of results … probably too early to say. I’ve definitely seen an increase in sales, just not such a dramatic one as I might have liked!

  • I know you have a sequel in the works. Care to share any hints about the story?

I do, and I’ve got around 55,000 words of very scrappy first draft on the sequel. I can’t tell you much without spoilers, but I can tell you that this time, the story involves a pleasure demon rather than one of nightmares…

Thanks so much, Ali, for your time and for sharing some fascinating details.

It’s been a pleasure, Bill! Thanks for lots of thought-provoking questions. 🙂

_____________________

You can find Ali’s work here:

http://www.aliventures.com/

http://thewritershuddle.com[AL1]

http://www.lycopolis.co.uk/blog/

Recent Guest Posts:

http://menwithpens.ca/how-to-write-an-book-in-7-days/

http://writetodone.com/2012/03/24/how-much-should-you-write-every-day/

http://www.oxondigital.co.uk/two-great-reasons-to-write-an-ebook-and-three-crucial-tips-for-getting-it-done/

Recent Book Tour Stops:

http://www.thecreativepenn.com/2012/04/24/write-your-novel/

http://blog.bookbaby.com/2012/04/how-to-plan-your-book-and-set-yourself-up-for-success/

 

 

 

 


 

Coming Tomorrow: Part One of an Interview with Ali Luke

Read Part One tomorrow of an enlightening interview with successful blogger, writing coach and novelist Ali Luke, author of Aliventures.com and creator of “The Writers’ Huddle” community for writers.

You may have noticed one of her several guest posts on the Write to Done and Men with Pens blogs, and others.  She is currently on a virtual tour, promoting her supernatural thriller Lycopolis.

Join us for some intriguing insights on blogging and her writing life.