Kill Your Darlings and Get a Dragon Lady (Part One)

Today’s blog is a brief break from finances in that I’m going to write about a skill everyone needs to possess to get ahead in this world: written communication. However, this blog is still indirectly related to finance because better writing skills mean you land better everything: jobs, training spots—even spouses (hey, someone has to write those love letters—though I guess it’s emails and text messages these days).

Anyone who writes anything—be it emails, personal statements, or CV’s—should read this so they can improve their writing.

Financial bloggers are changing people’s lives. One changed mine. More than one really. But a lot of these bloggers are losing their reader’s interest for a variety of reasons. These well-intentioned writers suffer from the same recurring problems:

1) Start with a WIIFM sentence. This is what I call a “what’s in it for me?” factor. It’s a lead sentence/first paragraph that should entice the reader to continue reading. Their reaction should be, “This applies to me, I want to learn more!”

2) Don’t bury your lead. The first sentences should not only have a WIIFM factor but also “pop” a little. Opening sentences are sometimes the only chance you have to capture a reader’s attention. When I attend writing workshops, I usually don’t find the best opening sentence until about page six in a fellow student’s manuscript.

If you don’t know what I mean, here’s the best example I can think of (but I can’t recall the name of the book). It was a memoir by a man and halfway through the book, he describes the aftermath of getting shot. He had a sentence about how every time his Momma slammed her foot in anger down on the kitchen floor, the bullet moved, and it felt like a hot poker jabbing his stomach. His editor made him move that sentence to the opening of the book, and it made all the difference in the world.

Bonus tip: If you want great examples of lead sentences, look at the “First sentence” section in Brewer’s Dictionary  (little known fact: J.K. Rowling used this book as a reference tool when writing Harry Potter. It’s a fascinating source that I try to read a few entries from daily.).

3) Don’t ramble on in the first few sentences. Look at the end of #2. That was a ramble on. 😉 If you do ramble on, then I think you don’t respect my time as a reader, so I start to skim.

4) Typos scream to the world “I’m not taking this seriously.” Look at the free version of Grammarly. I’ve opted for the paid version, and I also often run my manuscripts through My Word Count. I am considering AutoCrit for my Young Adult Fantasy novel.

5) Stop writing so danged long. Time is of the essence when someone is reading what you’ve written.

Bloggers, you’re wonderful people. You’re changing the world and social mores. But to have further reach, you need to keep your audience in mind when you write. They’re exhausted people with precious little free time (it’s why they’re investigating FIRE to begin with). This audience is skimming your blog while sitting on the toilet, while a four-year-old is trying to crawl under the door, screaming, “You’re taking so long! I need you!”

An abbreviated quote from a friend: “I like short, quick reads for blog posts—so many are too long. I’ve stopped reading a lot of blogs because of that. They have to write about something that really catches my interest for me to read a whole post.”

Action plan: Save writing epistles for your future book. Readers need concise, short blogs. Break that sucker up into a couple different blog posts if needed (like I’m about to do).

 

Next week I’ll be back with Part Two, in which I explain what killing your darlings and getting a Dragon Lady is all about—and how these can make you a better writer. Until then, take care!

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    4 Responses

    1. Dr. MB says:

      Hey BC,

      I keep reading about your Dragon Lady. I actually believe we as woman need more women on our side being kind. Too many feel that because we are tough professionals that we want it tough all round. I am the gentlest and kindest with my woman friends. It’s the men I gleefully give a pound down to!

      Anyhow I hope your Dragon Lady is as kind as she is a Dragon. Otherwise being a mean woman is simply pedestrian.

      Or else I inferred incorrectly and will stand corrected later. 😊

      • bckrygowski says:

        Dr. MB, it’s funny that you should say that because I was thinking that same thought the other night: women need to be kind to each other. I am probably not the only person who feels like this: I feel like the training to become a doctor changed me—hardened me. I don’t like that and wish the training was more genteel. I feel like it’s slowly becoming more tolerable, but still, what passes for “normal” in medical training is inhuman and out right illegal in other professions…Thanks for stopping by and we’ll just have to see next week, shall we? 😉

    2. xrayvsn says:

      I think writing styles in any medium should address these points for sure.

      I try to let my personality come out in my blog and hopefully it shows, engages the reader, and fosters an ongoing relationship.

      Especially in the finance fire blog world there really is not anything new or earth shattering to speak of. Most readers have heard the same advice over and over again. I think what retains a readership and builds an audience is to be personable and relatable.

      • bckrygowski says:

        Hi Xrayvsn, Thanks for stopping by. Yes, there isn’t a whole lot new under the sun. Story telling is fascinating in that if you look at the stories we tell, they are basically the same ten or so stories told across all civilizations since the dawn of time. Even the Cinderella story. The stories are just told in slightly different ways. It’s why story telling is so interesting.

        And I will totally touch on the “be personable and relatable” next week. Until then, take care!

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