Thoughts About Writing Inspired by #FinCon12 (part 2)

So now that I’ve addressed the questions about voice, what about the general writing questions? Here’s the thing about writing- I can’t tell you how to do it. I can teach you about content, about story needs, character, etc. But I can’t tell you how to actually sit down and write.
I can tell you what works for me. I can tell you what works for my friends. I can give you ideas to try, but I can’t tell you what will work for you. Only you can figure that out.
As a procrastinator, I write best when I have deadlines, unless I am particularly inspired. But that’s why I do have a set blogging schedule (even though many experienced bloggers argue against that) because I need the power of a deadline, even if I’m the one who set it.
I also need dedicated writing time NOT at home. I have a very difficult time writing anything- blog posts or fiction -when I’m at home. The dogs want attention. My husband wants attention, or my bed and the tv look so relaxing. There are just too many distractions from what I want to write.
I actually do some good writing at work on slow days. I’m writing this while at FinCon. I work on my fiction for about an hour prior to every critique group meeting at a Starbucks.
For blog posts, I don’t have too many drafts. Generally, I write what I want to write, do a quick scan for typos and put it up. If, while I’m writing, I realize the post has jumped the shark, I delete the whole thing and start over. Sometimes that means I start a post 3 or 4 times, but for the most part, it’s a one and done.
For fiction, I write and share my first rough draft with my critique group. And then I put it away. I don’t look at it again until I’m done, unless something very strongly inspires me to change it. My fiction tends to have many drafts. Still, when I go to do my initial edits, I rewrite the whole scene. I don’t go into the text I have written and make edits. I start with a fresh piece of paper and do a wholesale rewrite. It’s only when I’m near a final draft that I simply edit the words on the page, instead of starting from scratch.

I have friends who only write at home; who only bring their 3rd or 4th draft to critique group, who go home and make their edits immediately. That is what works for them. Some set dedicated writing time every day, and they write during that time, no matter where they are (home, swim practice, etc). And that is what works for them. You have to find what works for you.

As for exercises, there are tons of them. Most of the ones I know are for fiction, but they can be adapted to blogging or non-fiction. Since most blogging is storytelling in some form or another, any exercise that helps you form stories can help.
For me, the “exercise” that works best for me is micro writing. Whether it’s my microblog- 100 Words On… where every post is exactly 100 words long, or if it’s micro or flash fiction. These exercises help me distill what I want to say to their essence. It prevents me from babbling or going off on tangents.
Even if I plan on putting the post up on one of my longer blog post sites, if I’m having a hard time focusing on the post, I do the 100 words exercise, and then I let myself expand from there.

The key to all writing- blogging or fiction -is to be yourself. Write like yourself. Write when it works for you. By putting yourself at the center of your writing (not exactly the content, but the actual act of writing) you will have consistent voice and get the writing that you need to get done done.

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Thoughts About Writing Inspired by #FinCon12 (part 1)

Writers are writers. It doesn’t matter whether they write fiction or non-fiction, books or blogs. Writers feel the need to write. And writers want to talk about writing.
I am at a conference for finance bloggers this weekend. Much of the content of the conference is about blog content, blog design, ways to grow the blog, etc. But there has been only one talk on the craft of writing. In this case, it was about the importance of voice in writing. It was a good talk, but what I found most interesting were the questions at the end. There were questions about voice- does “consistency” matter in voice, how do you find your “voice” when you’re writing informative articles, and what about voice when you manage a site with multiple authors.
Other questions were more about the basic craft- hints for writing, exercises to make yourself a better writer, etc.

While the speaker at the talk gave her answers, I felt like they were limited by her experience as a journalist and blogger. That may seem odd, but I think having the combination of fiction and non-fiction writing experience gives me a slightly broader view.

If you write as you, your voice will always be consistent. Your voice doesn’t stop being your voice when you write an emotional post. It may have more anger or joy or sadness than other posts, but the voice remains the same. You don’t stop being you, you don’t stop speaking with your voice when you’re emotional- there’s just an added element.

As for finding a voice when you’re writing informative articles, my first question is- are you writing for a text book? If you’re not writing a text book, you’ve got room for voice. Even financial writers for the Wall Street Journal and The Economist have their own unique voices. The next response is that you are a blogger. People don’t come to blogs to read what they would read in a text book. If that’s what they were looking for, they would be at the library. People read blogs, even personal finance blogs, because of the personal. They need the financial information, but they are looking for it in a personal format because that makes it easier to understand, easier to digest, and even easier to follow. You’re not a nameless “expert” writing about what they “should do”; you’re a real person who has been there done that. Your struggles help them feel not alone. Your successes help them feel like they can do it to. You always want you in your posts. And if you do that, they will have voice.

If you manage a multiple author blog (kind of like editing an anthology or newsletter), unless you are asking all of your authors to pretend to be the same person, you want them all to have their own unique voices. There’s no point in having multiple writers if you are not looking for multiple points of view and multiple voices.
That doesn’t mean you don’t want some consistency in the blog. But you don’t get that consistency by trying to control their voices. You create a style guide for the blog. You have guidelines for content, perhaps formatting requirements (or you format the posts yourself, instead of letting the authors format them). But consistency in your blog does not have to mean forcing your writers to have the same voice. In fact, trying to force that will probably lose you your writers.

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