This year alone you (and indeed I) would probably be amazed at how many words I have been typed – be it for my role as content producer for Clear Voice, a writer for online magazine, Adore or in my day to day work as a publicist – it seems I am forever thinking up new and interesting ways of explaining and sharing information. There is never one day in which I have nothing to write – I have a never ending list it seems.
So, how do I start the ball rolling? Well first and foremost I am a list maker and in my everyday life, I aim to be productive. I have wondered just how our Ausmumpreneur community would get by without a To Do list? Then I tend to take that bull by its horns. I am not one to procrastinate and actually embrace a bit of a challenge. I always have this (unnatural) fear of work piling up insurmountably, missing deadlines and losing the respect of clients. I begin with making a plan and if required, start my research – I admit sourcing most of my information online and then marrying it with meeting notes and quotes from my day book. I go through heaps of these – a4 or a5 note books with ruled lines – another must. Finally, it is time to open a new word document and start typing. Try not to copy and paste previously written documents apart from formatting purposes. I find this counter productive.
When I begin (remember I am not writing fiction), I start by summing up the who, the when, the how and the why in the introductory paragraph. It doesn’t matter what style you are following, you always need to set a scene and capture the reader’s interest. This is when you are fulfilling your roles as a communicator. That sounds fairly easy, right? Well, not always – sometimes this process requires a little work and finesse but once you master the introduction you should find the rest of the document will flow. Think of the inverted pyramid. If you were to cut off your story after the first paragraph would it still make sense? If you are struggling, write a draft, take a quick break and so on and so forth. It is always easier second and third time around or when you revisit with fresh set of eyes after a good night of sleep. Don’t put pressure on yourself. You are not writing a novel for the Booker Prize – but simply trying to communicate a message effectively.
I am not sure about you but when I write, I am basically typing what is in my head as if I was actually speaking it. Don’t blather on. Try and rein in your writing to be cohesive. It is not the number of words you write but how you communicate. This is where your notes and plan of attack comes in handy – to keep you on track. Ironically, I don’t communicate as well verbally as I do on paper – I just don’t have the same flow. The importance of proof reading comes in here. Be sure to check your work.
An important note to remember when you are writing is who you are trying to engage with – that would be the reader. This will set the tone of your communication and ensure that what you write is appropriate . Ask yourself, am I writing for a journalist whose curiosity I want to pique, a passionate home owner who I want to inspire or a new parent needing to know the facts and stats about installing a car seat?
Is the way in which you communicate something that can be learned or is it an innate quality? Well, in my case it started back in the seventies when I was in primary school. I may have been eight but I was old enough to find joy in writing a story. My grade 4 teacher actually spotted a talent – she was obviously a big picture person herself and boldly forecast I would write a book one day. I haven’t fulfilled that dream but I sure enjoy reading others writings and often wonder if I actually possess the ability or imagination to create good fiction.
Saying all that, I don’t claim to have always found writing easy. Like anything you get better with practice, reading prolifically yourself and learning from others. Finally, after some 30 years or so, I have the confidence to back myself and know that what I have written is good enough to publish and sometimes it is even great.
It has been interesting, after all these years, to return to study (a Bachelor of Communication) and actually discover another, new way of writing – in an academic space. I worried a little that it may put up barriers and smother my creativity, but not so. In fact, I have been intrigued with this new style and am yet to conquer various elements – namely the sourcing and referencing of resource material. I put that shortfall down to never having enough time – but let’s face it, who among us all, ever has enough time? I think it is good for the heart, mind and soul to always be trying to improve what we know and how we do things.
The following are my favourite to help you become a better writer:
1. Read books – it is something we have all been told and it is true – the more you read the better writer you become. Make time before bed or in the early morning to read a few pages of your book. I love reading on my ipad – it has revolutionised my early morning and middle of the night insomnia.
2. Keep it short and snappy. If you are having problems with your flow or getting a point across, instead of labouring over the construction of one long sentence, deliver each point in a series of concise sentences. Don’t use flowery language unless you are a poet and big words unless you are fully conversant with their meaning.
3. Use your dictionary and thesaurus. Computers are wonderful resources to check for new and alternative words and spelling. Don’t hazard a guess.
4. Create a plan. If you don’t know where to start, jot down points and list them in order. Be sure to include the who, why, when, where and how in your introduction and sum up with a conclusion at the end.
5. Substantiate any claims. If you are including statistics etc in your writing, refer to a source at the end or cite as a quote.
6. Proof read and edit. Always.
About Pip Miller, Pip Miller PR
Pip Miller is a publicist, content producer and stylist in her home town of Cairns. She also happens to be a mum of five children ranging in age from six to 19. Her business, Pip Miller PR was established in 1994 and will celebrate its 21st anniversary in June. With experience comes understanding and Pip is adept in the art of bringing a story to life, along with the importance of good quality photographs and imagery.
This knowledge has also helped nurture a styling career that began almost 30 years ago when she cut her teeth in the world of media as a cadet journalist with Australian Consolidated Press.