Another brilliant break-out session, this one by Amy Gahran who outlined the entire workshop on her blog, contentious.com, so we could go back to it later. She talked very quickly and packed a ton of great tips and tools into an hour and a half. Here are some I managed to write down:
Be willing to experiment ... you’ll never improve if you don’t try something new.
Don’t be boring – especially to yourself. The first person to engage is you.
We tend to write because we want something to happen... so it’s helpful to stop and ask what that is each time we sit down to write. Clarity about your intention makes the writing process much easier.
Know your audience. Who do you want to reach? As you write, picture them as living breathing individuals sitting in front of you.
Your writing is received as a one-to-one communication, so really take the time to get inside your audience's head – what do they know about your topic, what do they feel about it? Emotions are of major importance. The more you know about the mental, emotional and cultural context readers bring to reading your work, the more effective your writing will be.
How much time will a reader give you? You need to work within their time constraints. Research shows that people read 200-300 words a minute online, and they’ll give you 1-3 minutes, so that basically means to keep your blog posts to 600 - 900 words max.
To achieve your objectives:
- Engage your core community
- Be efficient; get right to the point
- Be readable; don’t make your writing a chore to read (i.e. vague word choices, poor conceptual structure)
Pay attention to your title - it should stand on its own and say clearly what your piece is about.
And lastly, my favorite - The conventionally held imperative to write a blog post every day is bull-pooh. Ok, so I paraphrased that last one, but you get the picture.