Book editing tips
Idioms are a colloquial way of phrasing something.
‘An idiom is a common word or phrase with a culturally understood meaning that differs from what its composite words' denotations would suggest.’
Here are some examples of idioms:
‘Sick as a dog’
‘Out of the blue’
‘Barking up the wrong tree’
When writing memoir, it’s wise to limit your use of idioms. Although this really does depend on your intended readership and what language they use.
Using a lot of idioms takes away from the specificity of your stories if overused. And one of the keys to really interesting writing (both fiction and non fiction) is specificity, especially when it comes to including the details.
It also limits your audience and may make it difficult for those who have English as an additional language and speaks purely to Australian readers if your idioms are Australian. This can exclude a lot of readers.
The expression ‘show, don’t tell’ would be useful to learn more about to help you write the specifics. You may have included a lot of great statements about what you think and feel in certain situations but without any real “showing” how you got there.
Here are some helpful articles on show, don’t tell:
Show don't tell
Show don't tell mantra
Write practice: show don't tell
This is quite a common writing mistake that I see when I am copyediting clients’ books.
Be extra careful of repetition – often, in sentences, you can be predisposed to saying the same thing but in slightly different wording. Or multiple sentences or paragraphs can have the same essence. Take care to eliminate any repetition in your writing and be cautious about using a sentence that can be reduced down to much fewer words.
Here are a few ways that you can reduce repetition:
Be sure to add credibility to your story. Just because it’s a personal recount of something that happened or an overview of your life, doesn’t mean that it has to be devoid of credibility and authority. Here’s how to write with authority.
Often contradiction can occur when writing memoir, which happens when you are writing everything through a very personal lens. The best way to avoid this is by sticking to the facts of what really happened and then adding the emotive aspects over the top. For example,
‘I was sitting in a taxi, wondering if I had overdressed for the evening, when I looked out the window and saw Mom rooting through a dumpster,’Jeanette Walls, The Glass Castle.
The facts are that she was sitting in a tax in the evening and saw her mum going through a dumpster. She didn’t say, ‘It was such a sad sight to see my mum being a homeless person and her life falling apart.’
You can also add credibility by using the term ‘I think.’ For example, ‘I think there were five people at my party,’ reads much better as ‘The five people at my party were…’
Removing those two small words adds more assurance to what you’re telling your readers and gives confidence that the memories you are providing are as reliable as they can be. No one wants to read a “wishy washy” recount of an occurrence.
Furthermore, be sure to back up any bold statements with statistics, resources or research especially if it’s medical or science based. For example, ‘Many people die from…’ is much more powerful when you write ‘According to Credible Journal, three people die each day from…’
If you want your memoir or autobiography to be publication ready, it's well worth investing the time in editing and then editing it again. In all seriousness, you should be considering editing your entire manuscript at least three to eight times!
Read to write your book? Book writing coaching services.
Marketing book for success
The Thirty Days to Conscious Success book is a workbook for those of you who are serious about success in your business.
It’s more than a book; it’s a thirty day program to eke out creative ideas and flood your marketing plan with easy to implement activities that will heighten the reach of your business or services.
Packed with useful marketing information and thought generating activities, this guide will take your promotional efforts from dull to dazzling in only a month. The mindful exercises and in depth exploration will also prove to be inspirational and transformational journey.
Each activity is cleverly crafted to connect you with your inner self as well as truly have an impact on your business.
Written with creative, complementary and wellness businesses and services in mind, you will use this book as a personal course to creating and implementing a marketing plan.
Best of all, it’s a lot of fun.
You’re just thirty days away from enormous success.
It’s really important to write with authority and establish credibility if you want to build an audience and/or following for your website or blog. It’s even more important if you want that audience to buy what you tell them to buy.
Writing with authority is about demonstrating your expertise and knowledge and defining where you sit in the market and in your industry. Are you renowned for selling multimillion dollar houses in the hills? Are you the most efficient bookkeeper that your clients have ever worked with? Do you have exceptional and up to date knowledge on what is happening with big data? By writing about your niche and using specific language choice, you can begin to assert your authority.
Below are five useful links to help you write with authority.
This post has many valuable key takeaways but one of my favourite is keeping your writing succinct. Including short words and short sentences.
Although it’s nearly three years old this post is from a really credible copywriting site and has very clear cut information on writing with credibility, with some snapshots from some of the most influential business leaders. One of the key takeaways is to just do the hard work.
Although this is written for fiction writing, it has a lot of valuable advice that can be applied to copywriting. My favourite advice of all time and I regularly employ it in my own copywriting is specificity. Honestly, I believe this is key to success in all types of writing.
This super simple post is ideal for the beginner. These six crystal clear tips will have you sharpen your copywriting in no time.
This content article is more indepth and has a lot more information and some super great bullet points to follow. A brilliant takeaway is ‘Put the important information at the beginning of the writing. Support the rest of your copy with the details.’
Writing structure: five terms you need to know
Copywriting is a tricky artform which can really power up your marketing assets. If you're new to copywriting or even creative writing, there are some fundamentals that you need to learn before you embark on your content writing journey. Here are five fundamental elements of writing structure that you need to learn.
Read more about excellent writing structure here.
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As a professional or amateur author, you have a website already live or are in the planning stages of creating one. Whether you’re one of Australia’s most popular authors or just starting to hone your craft, I cannot express enough how vital it is to have a website as an author and as a business. If you want to sell— books, yourself, products, whatever— then you need to have a website. Even if your debut novel isn’t coming out for another three years, it pays to set up your website now as longevity is something that contributes to positive SEO.
Make sure that your website looks great and keep the design simple so that it’s easy for people to navigate. If your website has fluorescent pink Times New Roman font on a black background, or if your website looks like any of these ugly sites, it’s time to invest in a web designer. 38% of consumers will stop engaging with content that is unattractive in imagery or layout.
Here are some easy to implement tips to ensure your site is a standout author channel and will help you sell books, get the interest of a publisher or literary agent and develop a fan base.
'What really knocks me out is a book that, when you're all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it. That doesn't happen much, though,’ J.D. Salinger.
Web pages to add
'Not all marketing people are writers, but all writers must learn to be marketers,' Joanne Kraft.
Other features to add to your author website
Examples of great author websites:
You might like to consider studying and reviewing these Australian authors' websites for inspiration and guidance. They all have great design and well written information about being an author and their books. If you’re finding it quite hard to write about yourself (even writers have that trouble), don’t hesitate to get in contact and I will help write your website.
Millennials: mystery or marvellous?
Despite what you may think, millennials are actually astute readers and information consumers. Studies show that millennials are more likely to read more books than people in their thirties and forties. Not to mention the amount of online reading they consume.
They have a hunger for authenticity and a knack for being able to determine what is horse poo and what is real and comes from the heart.
They are constantly overwhelmed with information, blasting at them from all directions so they need to be able to determine what is worthy of their time immediately. Essentially, you have a micro second to grab their attention and let them know what you need to because you may not be able to keep it. There are a lot of things competing for their previous time and attention.
Given this time limit, it’s important that website writing specifically for millennials is designed to be read within seconds (not minutes!) and is entertaining and has a strong storytelling component. The same techniques that you would apply to writing a webisode or sitcom would apply for millennial content.
And if your first sentence and headline aren’t pure, unadulterated magic you’ve already lost them.
It goes without saying they are super tech savvy and completely voracious and have a world of information within clicking distance, so they are not going to take something at face value just because you tell them to. They can do their own research and find out other points of view within mere minutes.
'If your first sentence and headline aren’t pure, unadulterated magic you’ve already lost them.'
Additionally, millennials are highly socially conscious beings so seek out and align themselves with content and companies that share these values and their cultural interests.
48 per cent of people interviewed for a US Millennial Supplemental Consumer Sentiment Survey (2013) reported this age group prefers to invest their time, money and attention in companies that demonstrate social responsibility and environmental sustainability.
The best way to communicate with a millennial is to:
Speaking of authenticity, in a 2014 survey of twelve global industries, it was shown that ‘…91 per cent of consumers value honesty about products and services above any other authentic characteristics.’
Additionally, using heavy action verbs will connect with them emotionally and encourage action. For example: seize, stopped dead, stumbled, fall apart, excel… and so forth.
Lastly, millennials are not a generation to be feared when communicating with. In fact, quite the opposite. They are the generation that will have the biggest influence on your digital marketing as they are active participants in sharing, commenting, interacting and helping to shape your content and communications. Start valuing the millennial!
Innovation: an overused and ignored word
As someone who writes a plethora of technology articles (I’m genuinely infatuated with big data, blockchain, artificial intelligence...) I stumble across the word innovation or innovative multiple times a day.
Innovation is a late Middle English word which stems from Latin. What’s fascinating is that the term innovator, used to be a complete insult and punishment often resulted in jail time and having their ears cut off. Ouch!
Innovation is about introducing something new (or change something into new). Used in its precise context, it works well. But how often to companies, products or services that are described in copy or when a keynote speaker is gracing the stage or sitting opposite Kochie on whatever morning program he is on and purport themselves to be innovative when what they are doing isn’t new at all?
I’ll admit, it’s a great word that captures a lot of what people are trying – or think – they do.
But it gets lost in the noise and becomes invisible because it’s categorically overused.
The more predictable the word, the more likely someone is going to skip it. ‘Readers possess semantic and syntactic information that enables them to form expectations about upcoming words in text (Goodman, 1970).'
And if someone is skipping your text, they aren’t going to totally absorb your message. And if you’re trying to stay front of mind in your potential customers and clients, you want them to remember your message!
‘…when word length is matched, words that are predictable from prior text are more likely to be skipped than unpredictable words…’
Instead of innovation, try these terms:
But it’s not enough just to use these words.
You must take it a step further and explain exactly why you/your product/your service are those things to connect with your audience and convince them that you are the one for them.
And truly, I’m not saying don’t use the word innovation, I’m saying become creative and specific when conveying your message. Put across different ways of saying what it is you actually do. Be accurate, why are you innovative? For example, list the technology you use or where you deviate from industry best practices that work. What are you doing differently from others in your field?
Is it time to refresh all your copywriting? Learn how to write great content here.
This post includes one affiliate partner link, which means if you sign up to their product, I'll get a modest kickback at no cost to you.
Do you know me in real life? Or have you thoroughly investigated my site? Then it’s guaranteed that you know that creative writing is my lifelong fixation.
The techniques that I have learnt from creative writing via studying and applying the art are, thankfully, transferrable to my copywriting and professional writing career, which is a boon, as creative writing feels as if it’s some kind of special magic that I am privy to.
Here are a number of practices that were developed from my creative writing that I now regularly apply to my client writing.
I have learnt a lot about the art of storytelling and how that can be applied to copywriting. Copy needs a beginning, middle and an end and it’s critical that when I put something out into the world, whether it be via this blog, one of my other sites, as part of social media marketing or for my clients (especially for my clients) that I hook the reader (that’s you) in from the absolute start. For an extra challenge, I have to keep them hooked in along the entire journey of the piece until the end. And then… the end isn’t even the end. From there the reader must take action.
Openings, first sentences, headings, first chapters… these are all make or break. I spend the most time on these important factors because without an intriguing hook or heading and emotional connection, you’ve already lost the audience before you’ve begun. And people always “buy” emotion.
Tip: if you’re about to write something, put down three headings: beginning, middle and end and then flesh out appropriately.
I am a walking thesaurus! I have learnt a lot of new words that are out of the ordinary vernacular and that adds flavour to writing. There is, however, a precarious balance between writing “too clever” (to the point of repulsion) and peppering interesting words into the mix.
The draft is just that! It’s a draft and it’s vital that I do not to get too hung up on the shape of that draft because the end result is often much different, smoother and has much more intention and clarity than the random jotting of notes that it begins its life as.
Writing inspiration can evolve from anywhere. Often inspiration comes from the smallest and seemingly tiniest thing such as a picture, a leaf I see outside my house or it could be erratic noise (I once wrote a short story inspired entirely from a constant beeping noise I heard from a neighbour). All it takes is one little spark and then an avalanche of ideas and inspiration come together. Mining inspiration is not the tricky part for me, it’s the refining of the ideas and sifting through the possibilities to choose the right one to pursue and develop.
I have learnt that the Pomodoro Technique is your absolute best friend when writing. If you can trick your mind that you are merely writing for half an hour to forty five minutes and that all you need to do is get words on the page then something miraculous happens and it starts to unleash a tiny bit of genius and immense productivity. If you tell yourself that you have to write a website or an ebook or other big projects then your mind freezes up with overwhelm. Give the Pomodoro Technique a go!
'... all you need to do is get words on the page then something miraculous happens and it starts to unleash a tiny bit of genius and immense productivity.'
I have learnt that just because I clearly understand and visualise imagery and concepts in my mind and there’s a wonderful imaginative world that exists in my head, certainly doesn’t mean that other people (or in fact, anyone) is on the same page. This means that I have to really choose the correct word every single time and pen (I mean… type) a description and vision as clearly as possible so that I can invite other people to get a glimpse of this incredible world within and conceive the scenario as I intend. I focus on the details and setting up the scene very determinedly so that the reader will automatically put themselves in the scenario without much effort and so they are willing to follow the journey.
Pointing out the extraordinary in the ordinary is a great way to do this.
Perfect the piece
One of the steps that can never be skipped, no matter how tempting is the final copy stage. I practice editing and proofreading over and over again until it drives me a bit batty. Each piece of writing is privy to at least three “read throughs” and edits. My final read through is read out aloud as this helps pick up inconsistencies that I may not have noticed on the screen. My neighbours must be curious why I’m always talking to myself!
To save time, I use Grammarly to help me identify any glaring errors in syntax, spelling and grammar. It’s worth upgrading to a premium account for advanced checking, suggestions and a plagiarism detector.
A lesson which has helped me become a better writer and, perhaps more importantly, a better business person is that the clients’ writing, product, service or company is not about me and what I want. It’s about a very specific demographic which the client has identified and researched and who I write specifically to, almost as if I they were in the room and I am talking directly to them.
The art of planning
Just like any wise person would do (not always me) planning is one of those time saving techniques over the long term is laying out a meticulous plan before commencing writing. This helps with productivity, despite the initial outlay of time. Devising a set of templates, even as basic headings, helps me know where I’m writing to and what gaps need filling.
Start broad and pare back
Let the imagination and writing flow stream wild and free and unfettered in the initial drafting or note taking process. Go as wide and bold as you possibly can, to the point where it feels uncomfortable and you blush as you commit it to paper, knowing that you’d be embarrassed if someone read it in its raw form. Only once you have dumped the grandest of concepts and meandering storylines can you taper it back and edit it to become cohesive, clear and share main palatable points that your reader will want to absorb. If you’re like me, you’ll find it much easier to “calm the farm” in your outrageous ideas than to stretch a watered down, half formed concept into something that is worth publishing.
Not everything has to be shared on the page at once. As you eek out your writing from one seed of an idea, you may discover many estuaries start to form. A novice writer will be desperate to get across every smart thought they have, which may confuse and addle your customer and your writing will lose its effectiveness. Pluck out your main ideas and stick to a consistent theme or niche (for example, I’ve focussed on copywriting, marketing, SEO etc) and keep a record or file of all your other ideas, knowing they will find their place in your writing, website, blog or work at some point in time and if they don’t… che sera!
And as with most things the more you do and the more you learn about it, the better it will improve.
'Not everything has to be shared on the page at once.'
All the copywriting assets explained.
What are content articles?
A content article is a well written editorial type article that generally sits between 700 and 1200 words and is often in written in the third person.
As it is often commissioned by a commercial client, it does inherently contain bias and is used as a soft sales tool but is written in a way that still retains credibility, resources and is often viewed by readers a piece of editorial.
There are two very important aims for content articles:
A good content article will contain quality pull quotes, statistics, links, sources and genuine information and is relevant and employees a number of best practice SEO techniques. It also uses impeccable grammar and spelling and follows an editorial style. I also take the liberty of highlighting a few HTML/formatting tags including headings, sub headings, pull quotes, call to actions and so forth.
Content articles will be written to a specific content plan/strategy that has been created by your marketing department/consultant that adheres to the customer buyer journey or your SEO research and keyword/search term list.
Content writers ‘...produce content to entice and engage visitors so they continue browsing the current website. The longer a visitor stays on a particular site, the greater the likelihood they will eventually become clients or customers,’ Wikipedia.
It’s unwise to engage a content writer that has no SEO training and doesn’t keep abreast of SEO updates and changes.
What is a media release?
A media release, also known as a press release, is a one to two page document that is written specifically for people who work in the media and is genuinely newsworthy. It incorporates a journalistic style and is often written by publicists or copywriters, with the aim of getting media coverage.
The idea behind a media release is to have it written as closely to the journalist’s or media personnel’s way of writing as possible. People who work in the media are always on a deadline and busier than you can imagine, so the easier you make their job, the more chance that you will be featured.
The ultimate media release is one that a very busy journalist can cut and paste.
Media releases are great for:
What is email marketing?
Email marketing campaign packages could include kickbacks, autoresponders, automated campaign emails and prompters.
Automated emails are set up via specialised platform (such as Mailchimp, Aweber, Campaign Monitor etc) that are sequential and have their own trigger.
Check out my email marketing campaign template here.
What are meta data descriptions
Meta data descriptions are the small amount of text and title that is placed at the backend of your website that is displayed in Google's search results. Getting the meta data description right, is vital for high performing SEO.
It is a unique blend of advertising and SEO and is one of the key factors in getting people to visit your site (your click through rate) and they need to be compelling and an accurate summary of the corresponding webpage.
In 2016, Google announced that the amout of text (approximately 300 characters, although it actually goes by pixel width) that they truncate has increased.
Here is SEO guru, Neil Patel, telling us why meta data description is so important.
Editorial or news article
An editorial or news piece is suitable for an online or print publication.
It involves less formatting than a content article and is written more like you would see in a newspaper or a magazine. For example, one heading and many storytelling paragraphs.
It contains unbiased and more dense content, is often written more formally and uses correct word choice, rather than being SEO and focussing on putting the designated keywords throughout the copy.
A sales letter is a more traditional form of direct mail communications that may be still used today. A sales letter is a one page, formal letter introducing a product or service to an existing database and is even still sent via post!
It has high selling power and is written specifically to persuade the receiver to purchase, so it is a really high value piece of comms and is still quite effective in creating return on investment.
High sales landing page or squeeze page
A high sales landing page is a standalone web page, most often seperate from your website and uses specific landing page software that help monitor and track your sales conversion funnel.
The purpose of this sales landing page is very focussed and specific on converting the reader to a sale or signup, right then and right there. It's very "salesy" and can be dramatic to get the most effective results. A lot of work and skill goes into crafting these pages, so your copywriting might charge a little extra, but they are of incredible value to you because they are a huge player when it comes to selling well and a lot.
Hiring a copywriter— what you need to know
There are many great reasons for hiring a specialist and outsourcing project work, particularly when it comes to copywriting. Here's the first few (stay tuned as they get updated):
1. It is a specialised skill
A copywriter is a specialist and copywriting isn’t journalism. It’s not an unbiased piece of content that provides you with direct news. It’s a marketing tool to help you widen your customers and sell the services and products that you bring to the world.
Sure, a lot of people may be able to write. They can even sound incredibly professional or quirky. But copywriting is a very specific skill in that it combines high level professional writing to speak directly to your target audience, for the medium intended.
Copywriting is a persuasive art, often disguised as being so subtle that readers don’t even know they are being sold to! This takes the mind of a magician.
Good copywriters know to how capture exactly what you want (or should be) saying and how to position your business almost instantly (well, okay… maybe after you have filled out the brief). This is one of their honed skills in their magic bag of tricks.
2. It saves you time
The time it takes for your staff members to write something, say a blog post or a media release or even to rewrite a whole new website, is time taken away from their core duties.
It can take around five hours to write one blog post, longer if your staff are not experienced. That’s essentially a day’s work on a blog post. Can any of your team afford to lose a day with their current work load?
Most people are already stretched thin in their job as it is, if you throw an extra task or project into the mix, something (either the employee’s wellbeing and/or other facets of their job responsibilities) will be negatively impacted.
Being overworked and over extended is an epidemic in this day and age. In fact, it can lead to costly mistakes at work and serious health issues. Nearly thirty per cent of workers feel that they are overworked.
‘Poor work–life outcomes are associated with poorer health, more use of prescription medications, more stress and more dissatisfaction with close personal relationships.’
You can start to alleviate some of this strain simply by outsourcing your copywriting and improving your bottom line. You may even find your employees’ performance improve.
‘In the 19th century, when organized [sic] labor first compelled factory owners to limit workdays to 10 (and then eight) hours, management was surprised to discover that output actually increased – and that expensive mistakes and accidents decreased.
3. It will be well written
Since '45% of marketers say blogging is the #1 most important piece of their content strategy,' (source) it's crucial that your blogging content well exceeds mediocre.
Not only will a professional copywriter make sure the copy is expertly written to sound intriguing enough to keep reading, whilst pushing a soft sell or direct sales techniques, but will incorporate fundamental writing practices.
‘A word after a word after a word is power,’ Margaret Atwood.
4. It will master your tone of voice
The art of copywriting comprises of absolutely “nailing” the voice of a company. Voice is a powerful way to give your brand a personality and once your brand is personalised, people will automatically and subconsciously connect to it. Words are often the first step or level of establishing a relationship with someone or something. And as your sales team will tell you, selling is all about relationships!
'47% of buyers viewed three to five pieces of content before engaging with a sales rep,' (Demand Gen Report, 2016).
5. It will improve your SEO
Sterling copywriting will ensure you are super discoverable online by enhancing your copy with SEO best practices. SEO specialist copywriters will conscientiously keep abreast of Google’s ever changing algorithms and know how to write well and optimise your content.
Good grammar, clear formatting and the way the writing is structured (as well as internal and external links) will all enhance your SEO.
6. It will help with your content strategy
You know that you should be blog posting regularly to improve your SEO but you have no idea what to write about and what would make great content that will increase your search results. A decent SEO copywriter will be able to guide you in your content plan by suggesting blog topics and content ideas in alignment with your keyword research and marketing plan. Some may even have the skills necessary to do the SEO research necessary.
'Websites with a blog have tend to have 434% more indexed pages,' (source).
They’ll also guide you in the right direction in terms of which assets work for which purpose. Not sure whether you need a flyer or some email marketing? A copywriter will help you determine which medium will suit your purpose and audience.
7. It will save you money
‘I have been working on this for weeks but I just can’t get it to sound right,’ is one of the most frequent comments I get when new clients hire me. And just like above where I have outlined how hiring a writer can save you copious amounts of time, saving time always equals saving money.
Having a copywriter on staff can be costly process, especially if you only need them for project work.
8. It will give you a whole lot more than you expect
This may not be the case with every copywriter but often they can have a generous skillset. For example, I have been a publicist, project coordinator and marketing manager so I can bring a lot more than “just” words to the table. I know how the media thinks and responds, so I can write really effective media releases and I have a deep understanding of concepts like sales funnel, lead gen and customer journey map, when clients throw those terms my way.
Additionally, I am a trained yoga teacher, have studied creative writing, psychology and philosophy at university and professional writing psychology at TAFE. Besides meaning that I’m an education junkie, this suggests that I am fascinated by the human mind and have a profound understanding of how people work, making it easier to communicate directly with them. I appreciate the personal and emotional facets of where people want their money to go, even at a corporate and government level.
I’ve also written a marketing book, a novel, a book of short stories and a book of poetry (and another two books on the way) and everything I learn in the process of writing those mammoth projects are brought into my client work.
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