Please grab a cup of tea or joe, pull up a chair, and stay awhile. You'll be glad you did!
Contrary to popular belief, Marcia Yudkin knows firsthand that you CAN become a successful freelance writer, copywriting coach, and marketing consultant without the use of a daily or weekly blog. She's been creating a living without one for over 30 years, and has been a successful freelancer since 1981 when her first article appeared in the New York Times.
I've been writing since the age of seven, when I read poems I had written on a local television station. I've been a published writer since the age of 28, when I quit college teaching and published my first freelance article in the New York Times. It was about how strange it was being a college professor when I had so much more in common with the students than with the faculty.
The New York Times sent over a freelance photographer, and I arranged to have five or six of my students there. The photo editor later called me and said they were all scratching their heads over the photo because no one could tell which one was the professor.
Since then, I have published 16 books, countless magazine articles, a number of short stories, five audio books and 19 e-books.
The worst writing advice I ever received was at a very prestigious writers conference, where I was asked to read aloud the first page and a half of my novel in progress in front of more than 100 people. When I had finished, the teacher of the workshop said that there was nothing interesting or valuable in it and that it illustrated why one should never write a novel in the first person.
This "take no prisoners" critique was both devastating because it held out no hope and useless because it offered no concrete suggestions for improvement. In retrospect, I believe the workshop leader was on a ego trip, aggrandizing himself at my expense, rather than being interested in helping attendees learn to write better.
The best writing advice I ever received was at a small, privately run writers workshop in Berkeley Hills, California, where the workshop leader handed me back a chapter of a novel full of red ink.
He said, "Don't be concerned about all the cross-outs. I haven't butchered your text. I've only shaved it. You'll see that it's much more effective without all the extra words."
He was right, and I've been fortunate over the years in meeting some editors and writing teachers who have offered extremely helpful and perceptive feedback or editing that strengthened my command of the English language.What are the best ways for beginning writers to improve their writing skills?
I have two suggestions, one involving a group and one involving solitary activity.
First, find a writing class or mutual-aid group of writers where participants are serious about helping one another become better writers.
You do not want a setting where everyone always gets praised or one where the feedback is delivered in a brutal way. Rather, you want people to tell you where your intention came across and where it did not, where the words were confusing and where your sentences or dialogue may have undercut the effect you were aiming at. Taking such feedback to heart helps you improve.
Second, get into the habit of reading as a writer rather than as a reader.
For example, I once caught myself having read an entire article in the Atlantic Monthly about concrete when I thought, "How in the world did that writer pull me in and keep my going on a subject that I would have said I had no interest in whatsoever?"
Then I reread the piece slowly, looking for what the writer had done to make a dull topic fascinating. Do that all the time, and you will know how to make your own writing compelling.
My most recent e-book is No-Hype Copywriting: The Keys to Lively, Appealing and Truthful Sales Writing
It helps authors, business owners, and marketers describe their offerings appealingly and without exaggeration, hot air or over-the-top bragging. It's especially suitable for introverts, socially conscious entrepreneurs, academics and others who find hype distasteful.
It's a distillation of lessons and perspectives I have taught both one-on-one in a mentoring program I used to have and to a class.
I wanted to give three or four examples of every technique I described, and for most of the points I had to come up with new examples. I didn't have examples, or enough examples, in my notes. This was challenging because I also wanted the examples to illustrate a wide range of subject matter.
To come up with the topics for the examples, I used two aids: first, a page from my local newspaper that listed a couple dozen personal issues that organizations in my community helped with, such as parenting, job search, overeating, etc., and second, the Yellow Pages, which I would open at random. Then to actually write the examples, I simply worked on a few every day until I was finished.
I would like to help people who think they hate marketing because they've been told to write overinflated headlines and to present themselves as someone they are not. This feels wrong to them, and they are right to recoil from that approach. My book shows a thoroughly honest and lively method of promoting oneself.
You can learn more about Marcia Yudkin at www.Yudkin.com