Adapt Your Voice to Expand Your Writing Opportunities

Adapt your Writer's VoiceMany beginning writers hear the term “voice,” as in, “finding your writer’s voice” but aren’t sure what it means. “Voice” is the words we choose, as well as our sentence structure, the cadence of how the words fit together.

When people speak, we may have an accent or speak in a particular dialect of our native language. We also have speech patterns, slang phrases we use, and favorite expressions. These are often influenced by the area we live, our age/generation, our socioeconomic status, and possibly even what we do for a living. (Language directly influenced by our industry is sometimes called “jargon.”)

In writing, all of these things together form a “writer’s voice.” Many of us write the way we talk. But some writers are adept at adopting different voices. If you can write in a variety of voices, you can expand your writing opportunities to include:

  • Writing in a variety of fields and industries
  • Writing for the web, print, television or radio
  • Ghostwriting
  • Making $1/word or more writing for glossy national publications or trade journal

How to Recognize Other Voices

The first step to learning how to write in different voices, is learning how to recognize different voices — and what creates them — when you read. For instance, corporate writing adopts a more formal style. Blogs can be casual, fun or newsy, depending on the audience. Sales and marketing copy has a conversational style designed to draw in — and convince — readers.

To begin to pick up the cadence of different writing voices, read widely. Read everything. (Where have you heard that writing advice before? Everywhere, I’m guessing!) After you read something in a unique, distinctive voice, sit down and write something using that voice.

“Finding Someone Else’s Voice”

Writing in a different voice often requires more extensive rewriting. The first words that come out of our minds and onto our computer screen are usually our “natural” writing voice. In many cases, this is also the way we speak. (If you ever hear me give a webinar, you’ll recognize that I write these blog posts in my “teaching voice,” and I speak pretty much the same way when I’m teaching someone about writing.)

To write in a different voice, consider all the different ways you can say the same thing. Use words not in your normal lexicon. Vary your techniques and your sentence structure.

If you are ghostwriting, the best thing to do is to read everything you can that person has written. The same goes for submitting queries or articles to major magazines. You want to make that “voice” part of your mind, so you can hear it in your own thought patterns. You should begin thinking like your client, or like the writers of the magazine you want to write for. When you start to think like your client or your magazine’s market, you’ll start to write in a way they can relate to, naturally.

Take the Writing Voice Challenge

Here’s an exercise for you. Take a recent article or blog post you have written and rewrite it:

  • In the voice of your favorite author
  • As sales copy
  • As a corporate communication
  • As an email to a friend

After you do this a few times, you’ll be close to an expert at adopting other voices, and then you don’t have to worry if you land an assignment that forces you to write in a voice different from your own writer’s voice. You can do it!

Feel free to share your examples below in the comments or tell us other ways you experiment with “voice” when you’re writing.

Does a Freelance Writer Need a Blog?

Does a Freelance Writer need a Blog?Blogging has come a long way since the days of angst-ridden teenagers sharing bad poetry on Live Journal. Many social media experts insist that every business needs a blog. If you’re a freelance writer, is this true? Do you need a blog? Maybe.

The Purpose of Business Blogging

Blogging keeps you connected to clients, potential clients and fellow writers in a way many other media cannot. A well-targeted blog (by that, I mean one that covers a specific topic relevant to your audience), permits you to:

  • Showcase your writing skills
  • Provide advice and information to fellow writers and clients
  • Share your accomplishments as a means of subtle self-promotion

Remember, though, if you want to see a return on your time investment, you’ll need to market your blog. You may be better off marketing your writing business in other ways that will lead directly to assignments.

Before you start a blog

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Who will be your readership?
  • Are you willing to make the commitment to blogging at least once or twice a week, promoting the blog, and staying connected with your readers by responding to comments?
  • Do you have something worthwhile to say that is different form the thousands of other writing blogs on the Internet?

I used to maintain my own blog, but in the face of paying writing assignments that showed an immediate ROI, I had a hard time staying committed to updating it and building a readership. Besides, the topic I blogged about (writing) served to attract other writers rather than potential clients, so it wasn’t an effective marketing vehicle for my freelance writing business. Now, as a writing coach, it makes more sense for me to blog about writing to draw clients to my website, but I don’t want to invest the time in building up a readership. That’s why the WRA writing community is perfect for me. The Freelance Writing Collaborative Blogging Project has a built-in readership who come here looking for people like me to share my knowledge. If one writer promoting a blog is good, a whole staff of writers promoting that blog is even better.
Click here if you’d like to write for WRA, too!

Niche Writing and Blogging

If you specialize in a particular topic — say, technology, pet care or paintball — a blog targeted at your niche market (not other writers) may help you attracts clients in the industry. You can build a name for yourself through the blog, building a platform for books, eBooks or information products you want to sell. If you’re a niche writer, a blog can be a very effective way to market yourself.

Websites and Writers

I want to emphasize: a blog and a website are not the same thing. I believe most writers need a website. This can be a place to post your biography, list contact information, and put links to writing clips. (Side note: Don’t ever send an editor to the main page of your website expecting him to find your clips; instead, select particular articles you want to highlight and send the direct links.) A website helps you establish yourself on the Internet as a legitimate writer. But does your website need a blog?

Not necessarily. What do you think?

Do you have a blog? Does it generate leads and assignments? If not, what can you do differently so that it does?

Photo Credit: 07-15-08 © Kronick

Have you considered collaborative blogging?

Put your hand up if you have a blog you rarely update? *raises hand* If you’re like me then guilt weighs heavily on your shoulders. You’ve got the ‘shoulds’. I SHOULD update more frequently, readers want to read, but we don’t.

I know I’m not the only one because I’m subscribed to a few blogs myself that are sporadically updated. Some of my favorite writers have fantastic blogs but, they’re busy writing the copy that pays. Time is not infinite and sometimes our personal projects get lost in the pipeline of priorities.

Have you got a blog like that? Why? Have you ever considered doing away with your blog and joining other writers in a collaborative blogging project?

Recently I started thinking about transforming Writer’s Round-About into just such a project. Fellow writer’s would be invited to post as it suits them. They would each have their own author page, a full bio, and sidebar blurb with photo and every time they post they get a link to their portfolio website. So they get the promotion of blogging without the pressure of having to update regularly.

Another advantage is the power to reach a larger audience. Writer’s Round-About already has a solid subscriber base and fairly significant traffic. In fact, the support of my existing readers is why I feel so guilty only updating once a week. What if we could bring readers new content more frequently? What if your content could reach an ever increasing readership?

What do you think? Would you be interested in a project like this? As a WRA reader would you like to see posts from a collection of talented freelance writers? As a writer would you like to put aside your solo blog, the guilt of not having a posting schedule, and the loneliness of blogging into emptiness?

EVENT: Zen Habits Master, Leo Babauta

Tomorrow, Leo Babauta, the brilliance behind Zen Habits and Write To Done is making himself available to answer reader questions. Have you got questions about blogging or writing? Well, you could ask me, but this is a fantastic opportunity to ask someone who really is in the trenches?

With over 75,000 subscribers to Zen Habits and over 5,000 subscribers to Write To Done, Leo knows how to pull readers and captivate his audience. He understands what makes a blog work and how to work a blog to it’s fullest potential.

Tune in Tomorrow: “Ask Leo” Your Blogging and Writing Questions – 5:00 p.m. Eastern time on Thursday (Nov. 20, 2008)

Click here to find out more.

Book Review: The Forward Book of Poetry

Title: The Forward Book of Poetry
Author: Various Artists
Publisher: Faber and Faber
ISBN 10: Various Editions

The Forward Book of Poetry” is one of the most impressive and remarkable poetry collections currently being published. Presenting poets who are both well known and new to the scene, the book is a shining example of all that is great about poetry in the UK at the moment.

Published annually the book is a collection of the short listed entries for the Forward Poetry Prizes. The Prizes were first established in 1991 with the goal of correcting the woeful lack of recognition and attention contemporary poetry receives and of extending its audience. The Forward Poetry Prizes themselves are currently the most financially rewarding poetry competition in the UK. Offering the competitive categories of Best Collection (10,000), Best First Collection (5000) and Best Single Poem (1000) the Prizes are regarded as hotly contested and only the very best poets shine through. The Prizes are only open to published poets and the poets cannot nominate themselves, their publishers must enter their collections and poems in their stead.

Poets and poems that do indeed manage to shine through above and beyond their competitors but perhaps do not manage to win are recognized by inclusion in “The Forward Book of Poetry“. Five highly respected literary judges debate long and hard to decide which poems should be included in the annual collection, so it is of little surprise that the poetry offered in the book is of an exceptional quality.

The poets featured in the book are a mixed bunch, sometimes well known names and ex-poet laureates that are recognizable to even those with little knowledge of poetry, and sometimes previously unknown poets making their public debut. The result is a refreshing mixture of poetry about a wide ranging but always griping variety of subjects. Each and every poem is an experience and delight in its own right and the collection as a whole can serve as a fantastic introduction to contemporary poetry for someone new to the genre, or as the treat in the form of the collation of the very best modern poetry for someone already familiar with contemporary British poetry.

I definitely recommend you get hold of a copy today, and see what you have been missing out on.

5/5 – Simply peerless.

Nicholas Cockayne is a 23-year-old UK based writer with a BA in English and a MA in Creative and Critical Writing. Nicholas is passionate about literature, writing, and publishing. He is currently trying to adjust to living in the countryside, finish several novels, and find time to read.

James Bond On Blogging: Tips Six Through Ten

What did you think of part one, The First Five James Bond Tips For Blogging? Ready to learn more about how a James Bond attitude can influence you as a blogger? Inspired by Ben Barden’s, “10 Ways Bloggers Are Like James Bond”, here is part two, James Bond On Blogging: Tips Six Through Ten.

6. Look Snazzy In A Dinner Jacket

Dress For Success: 007 says, 'I Belong Here'We might be hidden behind these computer monitors just as James was often hidden behind his deep cover missions but he always knew how to turn out for those social events that mattered. From the depth of Iraq he could brush the dust out of his dark hair, use a pen knife to shave his three-day stubble, and sequester the latest in Armani fashion. He would walk into a room and command attention because not only had he dressed the part but he had an air about him that shouted, “I belong here.”

We mightn’t have so many official get togethers, outings, or events but as bloggers it is still important to step away from the blogosphere and out into the public eye. There are many ways to do that locally and online. The important thing is to dress the part and wear the right persona. Even if initially you feel like a fraud you have to develop the mindset, declare to yourself, and everyone else, “I belong here.”

7. Know Who You Can Trust

Bond lived in a dangerous reality. He has lots of enemies and very few friends. Even the friends he had he couldn’t be sure he could trust. His agency even tried to kill and control him a time or two and he had to learn to be very aware of the nuances and hidden messages in every interaction. Body language and instinct played an important roll in keeping 007 alive and mastering the ability to read other people saved his life.

Bloggers are far more fortunate because our social sphere is friendlier and more generous in nature. For the most part, bloggers want to know bloggers, they like bloggers, and we can all work together harmoniously. However, the internet is rife with misinformation and unscrupulous behavior. It is vital that we learn to spot a fake, distinguish a lie, and avoid adding our own voice to shoddy products or people. Our lives might not depend upon learning to read others but our integrity does.

8. “Everything or Nothing”

007 plays an ‘all or nothing’ kind of game. It made an apt title for one of the 007 movies. For Bond, taking chances was a way of life. He would risk his life and the security of his nation to go after the small odds that would pay out the biggest returns.

When blogging we need to keep in mind that we live in an ‘everything or nothing’ world. We don’t need to put our lives on the line or invest the family fortune but we do have to play hard, take chances, and evaluate the pros and cons of every action we take. Being a risk-taker isn’t about leaping into every situation it’s about making preparations for the best outcome and then taking a chance based on fact and reason. Sometimes those chances won’t work the way we hoped but they will propel us into a new situation and new opportunities.

9. “Never Say Never Again”

How many times did Bond get the upper hand, only to be thrust back as his target made an unexpected move? How many times did one enemy, or James himself, fall only to rise again? When it comes to the game of spies you can never be sure that the game is over. You never say never, again, and again, and again.

As bloggers we make mistakes, fail to update, apologize profusely and what do we vow? “Never again”. Learn from the title of this 007 movie, never say never again. We are human (behind the back lights) and we make mistakes. While it would be nice to learn from mistakes and avoid repeating them you can, “Never Say Never Again”. Just as we might take an unexpected hiatus, the blogging world changes swiftly. When one blogger disappears from the scene it can be tempting to fill the void of his absence. Just because he fell silent does not, however, mean he won’t rise again so beware that you may have competition in that field again if you decide to make the shift.

10. “The World Is Not Enough”

Ultimately, the antagonists 007 faced in each adventure wanted more. They could not be satisfied with the reach of their influence or the limit of their wealth. The real world has an economic glass ceiling that enemy after enemy would attempt to breach. For these people, “The World Is Not Enough.”

How Much Blogger World Do You Want?Bloggers start with a fragment of cyberspace. A page, a handful of posts, a reader. Will what we have ever be enough? Thankfully, this online world expands exponentially in every moment. We add to content and increase storage space every second. Unlike the nemesis that plagues James Bond we are not limited by the extent of our reach and just like them the breadth of our command is in our control. There are no Bonds out there to stop us reaching our full potential. Don’t be afraid to grow as a blogger, continue to expand your reach, share your message, and develop your brand. Is your little corner of the blogging world enough for you?

Do you have tips of your own you’d like to share? Add yours to the comments or come up with your own James Bond Blogging Tips post!

The First Five James Bond Tips For Blogging

Ben Barden’s post “10 Ways Bloggers Are Like James Bond” got me wondering how we can learn from this remarkable character for our own blogging journey. What has James Bond taught you about blogging?

Part One: Tips 1 to 5

1. You’ve Got To Be Creative

No matter what kind of scrap 007 seems to have gotten himself into he always finds a creative solution. His sharp mind looks through various solutions. It turns on a pin head to come up with new ideas and evaluates the situation with razor-sharp instincts.

As a blogger you have got to be creative. Learn to follow your instincts and evaluate your ideas based on each situation. What works today mightn’t work tomorrow and sometimes you’ll have to pull yourself out of a tough blogging situation. Keep your wits about you and learn to adapt to every situation.

2. Use All The Latest Gadgets

From a sporty car to a classy watch! Use All The Latest Gadgets
He’s got an arsenal at his disposal, the latest gimmicks and gadgets at his fingertips and the best tech savvy that British Intelligence can prove. Money is no object (not like he’s footing the bill) so his car is tricked out with GPS, rocket launchers, and very cool aquatic enablers. His phone is the latest model with touch screen and Tetris. James even has a video phone in his house and a perimeter defense system.

If you want to get ahead in this technology dependent industry you have to got keep with the times. Learn about the latest gadgets and how they can increase your productivity, enhance your efficiency, and keep you in the eye of your competitors and your potential clients/employers. Don’t have RSS? Your blog is in trouble. Still using a six year old computer? I’m surprised you can even read this. You have GOT to stay up-to-date with the technology curve.

3. Always Get Your Man – Never Give Up

James Bond ALWAYS got his man. Despite the various boulders (and bombs) the bad guys tossed into his path, 007 found a way to deal with the situation. He kept after them, became an aggravation to them, dogged their steps and foiled their plans from every angle. Bond never gave up a target, he pushed through a bad day, and maintained determination.

As a blogger you need to be equally stubborn. Letting your blog flounder in the wake of an explosion such as the flu is tantamount to critical failure. You can’t let your blog be taken over by the bad guys of lethargy or silence. Like Bond, you have to keep at it, push past resistance, and always get your man. Update your blog regularly and plan ahead so that you’ll always be there when the bad guys next make a move.

4. Charisma And Charm Wins With The Ladies

Ok, so James might come across as the ultimate womanizer. He had a way with the ladies that often lead them between his sheets but his charisma and his charm teach us a valuable lesson. The women James associated with were smart, outgoing, and sure of their own minds. They were confident and knew exactly what it meant to be in the bed of Bond. His honesty, respect, and magnetism was a key to enthralling his audience.

Bloggers need to present a similar persona to enthrall our audiences. Fancy tricks and flashy gimmicks will not convert readers. By being honest, giving respect, and using the depth of integrity and you in your voice you’ll have readers willing to slip between your blogs sheets. Give them what they want when they get there and they’ll be loyal for life.

5. Do Whatever It Takes Even If It Breaks Rules

He might have had some pretty unorthodox means but James Bond was always the go to guy for the good guys. He played with a firm moral stance, knowing his limits and always making sure he was playing for the right team. When things looked askew he took chances, blew off the rules, and played the game his own way to ensure the results were worthy and admirable. When 007 got the job done he did it the best way possible, which wasn’t always the way others wanted him to do things.

Get In Touch With All The James Bond ClassicsAs bloggers we have to show the same fearless integrity. We each have our own beliefs and ideals. We know the battles we want to fight and the outcomes we want to achieve. To accomplish these results we have to have the courage to fight through the reeds that have grown in the path less traveled. Break rules and establish a new order. Innovation is vital and invention comes from doing what has never been done before or doing it differently, doing it better.

Stay tuned for part two, tips 6 to 10.