I met Wendy Tuohy through my job at Kidspot. She’s a ‘proper’ journalist who has adapted to the world of online writing with aplomb. Not only is she down-to-earth (you have to be to write for News Limited!), she’s whip-smart and incredibly community focused too. As you can tell, I’m a bit of a fan.
Wendy is today’s Ask A Grown Writer guest…
Hi Pip, here are my three top tips for writing on line:
Try not to write with self-doubt in the back of your mind, push it aside and summon up the real you, reflect your feelings/perceptions/ideas as they really are, don’t dilute them. Assume your readers are coming to you because they like you and are interested in what you have to say. Trust them to receive what you write in that spirit. Most often they will surprise you with their warmth, not their judgement. But they need to get to know *you*.
Statistics about how long people spend reading any given article can be quite discouraging, so counter people’s natural need for speed by getting to the reason you are writing this as quickly as you can (they need to know why they are reading what you’ve written by the 3rd paragraph I think). Even in a conversational-style piece or blog post you need to express your point in as short a form as is reasonably possible except when the story really needs more length to do it justice. Online is a very ‘quick’ medium, get it out there without taking the scenic route and never save your best material for the ending!
Be brutal with your own work
The good old ‘murdering your darlings’ adage about being ready to cut or throw out completely and start again rings true. For example, since we’re aiming online to try to emulate our conversational speaking voices as closely as we can (it’s less formal writing mostly than the highly-edited printed word) if you’re reading your work back and realise it’s sounding so much stiffer and less natural than you’d be over a coffee then have another go.
Generally if you’re really honest with yourself then you get a pretty good instinct about if something is really ‘working’ or not. My rule of thumb is if I am really struggling with something, even an idea that really appealed when I had it, but I’m really battling to get it on the page, then the reader will struggle too…so out she goes! It can be quite liberating!
I hope this is useful, I’m still learning but find keeping the above in mind does help me.