Monday, May 6, 2013

Seven things you can do TODAY to improve your writing

"For the life of me,
I can't remember the
seventh one either."
1. Strip down to your BVDs. To everybody but your mother, your organization is just another unknown guitar player on the Venice Beach boardwalk, a Robert John Burck if you will.

Who? Exactly.

Burck was a “piss-poor, no-good” guitar-playing model who couldn’t busk enough change on a good day to buy a venti Frappuccino–until he got naked. Now, Burck—aka The Naked Cowboy—is a fixture in Times Square who has made a fortune with his trademarked Naked Cowboy franchise. Lesson: Find that one feature that separates you from the pack, and ride it till you shred the tires.

2. Hunt down and kill clichés. The cliché is a cunning quarry. It blends in with your creative copy, waiting silently for your reader to stumble upon it and then BAM! It bores them to tears. So be …

Dear God! Nobody move. There’s a cliché right behind us. Don’t panic. Just reach deep into your brain and pull out some creativity. No, the right side, you fool! Dig deeper! I know it’s in there. Good. Now, let’s pray to God this works.

… for your reader to stumble upon it and then BAM! It leaps straight into her brain, devouring any interest she may have had in reading further. So be vigilant. The story you save may be your own.

3. Help people feel big numbers. Employing the “to-the-moon-and-back” gimmick to explain a big number is like using Ken and Barbie to demonstrate a passionate kiss. If you must drop a big number into your copy, drop it on the audience’s feet. Need to show them a trillion? Start with something they can grasp, like a second. If one million seconds equals 11-and-a-half days, how long is a billion seconds? 32 years. Which means a trillion seconds is 32,000 years. Brain cramp, right? That’s how you leave a mark with a number.

4. Sing your story. A well written story is a song. Whether it flows lyrically or marches forward with a staccato beat, a good story has a tempo that augments the message and enhances the reader’s experience. And it’s surprisingly easy to do. As you edit, read your copy out loud. If you don’t notice a natural cadence to the narration, try culling a few syllables—through word choice or word chopping—to make your copy more melodic.

5. Don’t forget to floss your copy. Even the best copy can get gummed up with jargon, acronyms, and legalese. To prevent unsightly copy-stain buildup, scour your copy vigorously. And be extra vigilant with the phrase “wide variety.” If you ever find it in your copy, hit “ctrl A” then “ctrl x.” That should clear up the problem right away.

6. Hit on one member of your audience. You wouldn’t try to hook up with every person at Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge, would you? Of course not. You want to focus all that charisma into a single charm-laser so you have a better chance of not going home alone. Same with writing. Envision who you are writing for—in detail—then hit that person with all the Cyrano you can muster.

7. Imagine that your new friend has to go to the bathroom. Really bad. Nobody ever complained about a speech being too short. The same goes for just about everything else you write. If you spend as much energy compressing your word count as you do finding fun phrases, you will have a more appreciative—and less squirmy—audience.