Some days blog posts
are easy to write stream from my fingers like little rays of sunshine, other days I can’t string a sentence together organising words feels like herding a field of stubborn sheep. It is always good to have some tricks up your sleeve a list of cheats scribbled on a faded post it stuck to the wall above your desk.
I was asked to talk at Blog On about Writing Creative Copy. I will add to this on my return, but for now, here are some tips on getting creative with your writing, whether it is a blog post, a love letter or a novel.
When I find myself in a blog writing rut I like to go back to what I learnt on my Creative Writing Diploma. Sometimes all that’s needed to
finish spice up a post is a well-placed simile, or a shorter sentence to balance things out. Sometimes it’s some very ruthless redrafting, often I find I can lose the first two paragraphs of a draft, there’s a good reason for that as I will explain.
You don’t want to lose your blog voice, but sometimes
taking just one leaf from the ‘book’ of literary techniques can make a post sparkle doing what your English teacher taught you can resuscitate the most lifeless of posts.
1 One liner
It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.
Like the first line of a novel the first line of a blog post has to work hard. It’s going to show up in search snippets, facebook previews and be the hook to draw a reader in. Trying to start with the first line however, is the biggest creativity killer, the most important thing is to get the your ideas down, and then you can go back, tinker with them, learn what the post is really about and make that first line grab the reader’s attention.
Do you plan your posts before you write, or do you drive in the dark, letting the words just tumble out and editing later? Both can be equally fruitful ways of working. When I get stuck with one, I try the other.
2 Jump In
Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.
Gabriel García Márquez One hundred years of solitude
Start in the thick of it, literary types call it ‘In Media res’ which is Latin for ‘in the middle of affairs’. A paragraph of preamble is off-putting. Hook the reader in by starting in the midst of the action/event/story/train of thought.
3 Repeat yourself
Some of the best rhetoric in history uses repetition. A word, a phrase can be a great hook. Think Martin Luther King…
I have a dream today!
And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.
My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.
4 Make patterns
Vary the length of sentences. Short sentences give bursts of energy and refocus the reader. Long sentences create a steady energy, but very long ones can be too tough on web readers.
Ever get the feeling people are skim reading your posts?
Paragraphs in web writing need to be much shorter than offline texts, 2-4 lines of text is often enough. Keep to this and people will be less likely to skim read.
5 Paint pictures
“Her romantic mind was like the tiny boxes, one within the other, that come from the puzzling East . . .” — Peter Pan, by J. M. Barrie.
“. . . she tried to get rid of the kitten which had scrambled up her back and stuck like a burr just out of reach.” — Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott
An original simile or metaphor can make your writing really stand out, as long as they aren’t overused or clichéd. Let cliches go in the first draft, hard as nails, black as soot, stubborn as a mule (I have headstrong kids), they are great placemarkers, but seek them out when you edit and try inventing one of your own instead.
6. The finish line
He drew a deep breath. ‘Well, I’m back’ he said. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings
‘This is not an exit.’ Bret Easton Ellis’s American Psycho
So we beat on, boats against the current, drawn back ceaselessly into the past. F Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby
Whether it’s a call to action, a one liner, a question, a reflection or an explanation, blog readers need to finish feeling satisfied too.
Do you have any tips to add?
More tips on nurturing your creativity here.