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!