Allow me to introduce Faith, Hope and Clarity, three faithful friends who sit on my shoulder when I write online content
and nudge me when I stray into the land of writers’ piffle.
First comes Faith, that mustard-seed mover of mountains. Stories, articles, web pages, blogs… all benefit from a healthy dose of faith at the outset. Sitting down at a cold keyboard can be a daunting prospect and a flashing cursor against a blank screen will mock you into a sweat faster than a visit from Anne Robinson if you don’t take control. I just remember to breathe, say a little prayer to the angel of creativity and trust it’ll all work out OK.
Then I just write whatever comes to mind. If I’m really stuck, I’ll borrow a trick from my days at secretarial college when we first learned to type, repeating ‘Dad had a Jaffa salad, dad had a Jaffa salad, dad had a Jaffa salad’. Amazing how quickly your brain gets bored and wanders off to find more interesting things to think about. Some of my best lines have been dumped unceremoniously into the middle of a Jaffa salad.
Hope tends to make an entrance mid-morning. A few pages or a witty one-liner into the day and I allow myself to believe that maybe I can write. All those dads munching on oranges are cheering me on from the sidelines – I cannot fail!
Keeping Hope alive is, in my book, a writer’s frontline job. Nobody wants to read about hopelessness. Everyone’s looking for a solution, whether that’s a short story about love lost and found, a chocolate-only diet that sheds pounds while you sleep or a miraculous cure for cancer. Continuously put yourself in your readers’ shoes and ask if you’ve helped solve their problem.
And finally we meet friend number 3, although technically she should come first. In the online world, Clarity shoves the others ruthlessly out of the way. Speaking clearly in short, informative sentences punctuated with just the right ratio of keywords, she tells it like it is. You don’t mess with Clarity.
Here’s what works for me. Imagine you have to summarize the purpose of your story/article/blog post/email/web page into a Twitter post in no more than 140 characters and keep this statement in mind as you write. Starting with the end in mind keeps your writing on track and helps eliminate extraneous words… like eliminate and extraneous! Finally, when I’ve honed to the bone and placed the concluding full stop, I read my piece aloud. This approach gives me:-
a) the chance to weed out any piffle
b) an odd reputation with the neighbours and
c) writing that would make my mother proud
OK I’m off for a Jaffa salad. If you feel inclined I’d love to hear your writing tips.