Build a Successful Creative Blog

Lesson 12 of 26

Copywriting 101

 

Build a Successful Creative Blog

Lesson 12 of 26

Copywriting 101

 

Lesson Info

Copywriting 101

We're gonna dive in a little bit into Copywriting 101 and Beyond. "Fill your ears with the music of good sentences, and when you finally approach the page yourself, that music will carry you." This is from Still Writing by Dani Shapiro. So what does that mean? Read books. Study the sentences and the paragraphs. Study other bloggers. There's a worksheet in the "Done for You" Resource Pack that will help you really walk through the things that I do when I'm studying another blogger or I'm studying a book. And I can tell you that I do this on a regular basis. I usually start my mornings for about 20 or 30 minutes I will pull a couple of books off my shelves, I will write down the first paragraph, and then I will study that paragraph. What works so well. What do I like about it? What do I not like about it? What words stand out to me? Why did that person pick that first sentence? Why do I think it helps me move to the next sentence? How do they build anticipation? How do they build tension...

? And I also do this with my favorite bloggers. I will take a blog post, and I will write down exactly what that person has written first. And then I will take it apart and see why I think it works so well. And I do it with their most popular posts. And it helps me learn. This has probably improved my writing more than anything else I've done. Ever. Is studying other bloggers and really seeing what works and what doesn't work. So, in your workbook on page 42, there's an activity of making a list of your professors. So, whose writing do you wanna study? What books and blogs do you wanna learn from? What are your favorite blogs? What are your favorite books? Whose writing would you really love to take apart and say, "This works really well because of this." Or "I love how they started this blog post with this sentence or this question." Now, April, I'm curious when you're saying that you're taking a lot out of the books that you're reading. You personally, is there a specific method that you use? Say you see something in a book that you think may be good in a future blog post. Are you highlighting in books? Do you keep pretty structured notes as you're reading? Um, I don't. Well, I take notes as I'm reading. Yes, definitely. If I have things that pop up for me that I'm thinking, "Oh, this would be really good if I wrote this as a blog post on Blacksburg Belle. If I took this topic and kind of spun it this way." But I never take actual sentences or anything like that and then use that. I pull them apart to see why they work so well. So, I'll pull apart a blog post and see, okay, they started out with asking this type of question. And that makes me want to read the rest of the post because that question really intrigues me. It's really good. And then I will go onto the next sentence. And then I'll see how they chopped up the post. So, I'll see how much white space is there. How did they use headings? Did they use any bullet points? How did they end the post? What's the call-to-action? Again, there is a worksheet in the "Done for You" Resources Pack so that you can do this with your favorite bloggers and pull apart those posts. But it is something that has made my writing so much better, is just studying and really pulling apart every detail. I like to figure out why do I like this so much, so that I can then take it and use it for my own blog, my own writing. <v Woman #1>We'd love to hear from some of our front row what they're writing down. Absolutely, yeah. I wanna hear your favorite writers, who you wanna learn from. Yeah. Who wants to start? Sage? Oh, I love Gretchen Rubin from The Happiness Project. Yes. I love her writing. And I love how when I'm reading her work it feels like we're just sitting down and having coffee. She's so friendly. And she's someone I would want to hang out with in person. Yeah, yeah. So, that would help you, studying her writing, to make your writing even more conversational so that your readers would feel like they're sitting down and having a cup of coffee with you. Yeah, and it's easy for me to sound kind of stuffy when I'm talking about career aspirations and money and stuff. So, I definitely wanna sound friendlier and more approachable with my readers. Yeah, absolutely. What else? Who do you wanna learn from? This is bad cause I don't really read blogs I just look at the pictures (laughs) a lot of the times. I mean, there are some things, like I love reading Kendi Everyday. She's a style blogger, because she doesn't really doesn't write a lot. And so when she does write a lot, I tend to read it because she had something bigger to say. And then, I do read a lot of other things not blogs. So, I think that idea of breaking down things and seeing things. I read a lot of Wired too, like totally different stuff than what I do. Yes, absolutely. Absolutely. So, a lot of times when I'll do this, I will pick a book that's fiction. So, I will pull down a book that has nothing to do with business. When I'm doing bloggers, sometimes they are within my niche and sometimes they're not. Sometimes they're completely different. And I liked how you talked about Kendi Everyday, and how that kind of matches your style. So, you could learn from when she does have more to say, this is how she does it so well, and pull that into your writing because it mimics exactly the kind of style and blog that you're building. Yeah. <v Woman #1>We have some online contributions. Nela Dunato says, "I adore the ittybiz.com blog. It's about marketing but written in a really different way." Which goes back to your point, right? Sue says, "The Terrace Styles blog, I love her plain, direct, and humble way to connect with people." And Rena Edes says, "Anything by Liz Gilbert, Anthony Bourdain, Bill Buford, Lottie and Doof, and The Bloggess." I've never heard of these blogs. No, this is great. Thank you for sharing these resources. Yeah. I'm gonna be looking them up. Exactly. For sure. Yes? <v Woman #3>Oh, so bloggers, James Altucher. And then I put Ernest Hemingway, Virginia Wolfe. And then Gwen Bell, she's a blogger. Now, saying that, anytime I read a real book I feel so much better. But I've gotta spend more time doing it cause there's something about true literature that is incredible. Yes. So, what about ... Pick one of these people and tell me what you like so much about their writing. <v Woman #3>Okay, I'll pick Virginia Wolfe. Because there's a lot of space between the words, that it's minimal. But I know that takes so much time to get to that. Those perfect, descriptive words. Yes, yeah. And even when you study this just a little bit, even when you're doing this activity, not that you're going through an entire book by this person. But once you've gone through let's say five, 10 paragraphs this way, and you've done it for five or ten days, then you'll see that it affects your writing. So, this is something that kind of starts to work pretty much right away. It's one of those cheap tricks that starts to influence your writing in really amazing ways. So, it's not going to mean that you're gonna sound just like this person. But you'll start to see what I really love about this and then be able to pull that into your writing, even if it's just a little bit. Even if it's just a little bit. Yep. Who else? Who else do we wanna learn from? Well, I always read the The Crafty Chica's blog because she's super authentic and very inspirational. She writes in her true voice. And it shines through. So, do you think studying her writing and kind of picking it apart, that that would help influence your blog and your writing? <v Woman #4>I think that I pretty much write from my own voice anyway because I have a hard time not being my own personality. That's amazing! (laughter) Most people do not say that! Most people say, "I have a really hard time." Yeah, I can't fake it. I just am me. (laughs) Sounds so good! That's awesome. That's very, very good because most people say to me, "I have a really hard time. I write out my blog posts and then it doesn't seem anything like me. And I don't know why." Sometimes I'm worried that I'm maybe being a little bit too me. (laughs) I might need to pull back slightly. It's a good thing. That's definitely good. <v Woman #1>Well, if you have like Roseanne Barr made that work, right? Yeah. I mean, for a minute there I was like, "Whoa." (laughter) But you know, she definitely carved out a niche for herself. I'll give you one more blog. By the way, if you're in the chat room right now, you are getting a bunch of really cool blogs. I mean, it is like ... (explosive noise) Constant Comments says, "Jeff Rawks," which is R-a-w-k-s, he says, "Actually, that's how I found out about Creative Live." So, thank you, Jeff. (laughs) All right. There's a whole list of blogs here now. I mean, if you didn't know where to look, you've got a whole resource here with all of these. I wanna share one from You Are the Truth, who says, "My favorite and only blog that I read regularly is awesomelyluvvie.com. She's a comedy blogger who shares comedy, commentary, social commentary, and advocacy. So, that says a lot right there. Yeah. And it's those blogs that you have to read. Those are the ones you wanna study. If it's the only blog that you read on a regular basis, that's the one to pick apart. So, let's talk a little bit about first drafts. They're almost always bad. And they don't come out perfect even for professional writers. I'll hear from people, "This probably comes much easier to somebody who's a professional writer." Bt if you talk to people who are professional writers, they also don't usually love their first drafts. So, my advice is to be present in that moment, to write whatever's coming out, and to suspend judgment. Because often, that little, mean critic just starts to come in and say, "What you're writing, it stinks. This sentence stinks. This paragraph stinks. Nobody's gonna like this. Who are you to be writing about this?" And over and over again, right? So, suspending that judgment. And that's a habit that you have to create. We all have that, that comes up for us. Even when we're creating and making whatever it is that we make. So, if you're a jewelry artist, often you will find this happening when you're making pieces that this isn't good enough, right? Yeah, so in your writing this will happen. And you have to build up this habit of kind of creating this wall. And it might sound like I'm a little bit crazy but sometimes I will talk back to that little voice and be like, "Shut up. This is the first draft! Nobody's reading this. Shut up. Stop saying it's bad because I don't care what I have to say." So, creating that habit of just letting whatever comes out come out. And then going back and edit. Like Jennifer was talking about, it makes such a big difference. Those drafts, they don't come out perfect. And you don't wanna settle for your first draft. This is something that a lot of people will say to me. I will talk to creative entrepreneurs, and they'll say, (sighs) "My blog just isn't where I want it to be. It's just not doing what I want it to do for my business. I'm not getting comments. People aren't sharing my posts. What am I doing wrong?" And one of the questions I'll ask is, "Do you edit your posts after you write them?" And many times they will say, "No, I don't. I just put up whatever came out and slap it up there so that I can have a blog post published." Because we're busy people, right? We have businesses. Lots of times our blogs aren't our business, and we're gonna talk about that. And we're gonna talk about balancing, blogging, and life, and balancing, blogging, and business and how to figure all of that out so that you can carve out some time for it. But there is a very important step of editing your drafts. It will make a big difference. And doing all of the things that we talked about. So, adding personality into those drafts after you write them. Taking out those clichés. Making things a little bit more dramatic. Or making sure you picked the right verb for every sentence. Even if you go through and you pick the right verb for each sentence, that can make a huge difference. So, editing those drafts. Do you guys edit? I wanna hear. Honestly, the honest truth of whether you just slap something up or whether you spend some time on it. Tell me about it. Sage? Totally. I mean, I spent 10 years as a book editor. (laughter) I know the value of editing. All right, awesome. Great. And it makes a big difference, right? So, you start out with something, and then-- Oh, my rough drafts are terrible. So, what are some of the things that you do to edit them, to make them better? When you're in that editing mode. I always read them out loud. I mean, you can find so many mistakes by reading it out loud. And it helps you see like, "Who I really say this? Is this how I talk to a friend or not? Yeah, but that's something, I never, ever skip that step. So, you give it the friend test. Yeah. Oh, and also sometimes when I'm reading it out loud, I realize this would make a better video. Ooh. Sometimes I switch it up. That's a good point. I like that. All right. So, even though you're minimal I edit. And you don't do a ton, you edit. All right. <v Woman #2>I probably could be better. I want to get better about having more time in between the writing and the editing process. But yeah, I usually kind of just write it out and go back in and definitely ... And are there specific things that you do in the editing process? I usually go through and see ... I don't like to use the same word, like starting out two sentences with the same thing. (laughs) And I really try to, I'll try to take out the unnecessary words. Like, "Oh, I don't need to say 'and'. I have to put a period here and start a new sentence." I really try to take out a lot of little filler words that don't mean anything. Yes, yes! Thank you so much for bringing that up. Filler words. Get rid of them. That is one of the best editing tips. If it doesn't need to be said, if it you're saying the same thing over again, get rid of it, cut it. Yes, thank you so much for bringing that up. What about you, Jennifer? Do you edit? I do, and I found that what's really been helpful for me is printing them out. Because I have a hard time just reading on the screen. and reading to judge and edit my work. So, I print it out. And I usually do that to go through. When you can see the whole blog post in its entirety, it's really easy to take whole paragraphs and move them around to a different place. Or take out sentences that really just shouldn't be there, they add no value or anything to the actual post itself. So, I spend a lot of time doing that. And changing my words up. You know, adding those verbs taking ... I'm not at that descriptive part just yet but I need to start doing a lot more of being descriptive. So, really changing verbs, changing the feel and how I would say something with my posts. And I'm doing all of that with a pen on my paper. (laughs) And then I go to the computer to change that. And so, does that make a big difference for you, printing it out? Yes, and I'll do that back and forth. When I have time, I'll do that back and forth a couple times. So, I'll print it out, make the changes in pen, then go and transfer that to my blog post on the computer. I'll print it out a second time, and go back through it again as well. I mean, you could drive yourself crazy just doing that. Yeah, you can. (laughs) Like you said. Absolutely. You can get into that analytical part of your brain that's saying it's not good enough yet. So, at some point you have to put a stop to it. Exactly. (laughs) What's going on in the chatrooms? What are people saying? <v Woman #1>They're just loving it. They've shown up here because the editing issue is a problem. (laughs) So, the good news is actually that the coolness about actually participating in chat is that you kind of put your voice out there. And there's no perfection in the exchange either. Yes. Yeah. Absolutely. We had the mention of sometimes taking your blog post and turning them into videos. If you feel that they're better structured for that. So, this question came up from Nermal in the chatroom, and says, "The one thing holding me back is knowing that I'm not great at spelling, grammar, sentence structure. And sometimes I'm too aware of this personal flaw. Are there places to go online and get help with this editing? Or should I look to do videos if I feel more comfortable on camera rather than writing?" Ooh, that's a good question. So, you do wanna do your best to correct spelling and grammar as much as possible. That's something that you definitely want to go in and edit for and try. Online, there is ... Usually when I have a question on grammar, I will just Google it. And one of the sites that comes up for me, I believe it's called Grammar Girl. (murmurs of agreement) And she really does a great job of explaining things in a very clear way so that you get it, and you're able to use it and put it into your own writing. Do you guys have any resources other than Grammar Girl? That's my favorite. <v Woman #5>Yeah, I love her podcasts. Yeah, yeah. And there's an interesting perspective. People are sharing their writing process. Kathy R. says, "I write with a pen and paper first. I really love that process. I will type it later. But to start that way it feels too impersonal." And then we also have Nela Dunato who says, "I always write in silence without even having any music." So, what's your focus level? What's your distraction? What's your inspiration? I actually like music. If it's ambient and it's not wordy and taking me off in another tangent. I love classical music too. Yeah, music can definitely help. And we have some more people chiming in about their suggestions with spelling and grammar. Scott from Boston says that he writes in Word. He does the spelling and grammar check in Word, and then he cuts and pastes it into his blog. So, he has a better idea of how the grammar looks through Word. Yes, yeah. Absolutely. I do that too because I need that little bit of extra help. And especially with spelling and things like that, I like to rely on Word to tell me this isn't quite right. (laughter)

Class Description


There are over 200 million blogs on the Internet, so how do you cut through the noise and stand out in the crowd? A quality blog boasts great content, a powerful voice, and relevant, useful information. The problem is, putting all of those pieces together, understanding how to find the right audience, and marketing your blog is no easy juggling act.

Join the founder of Blacksburg Belle and author of Marketing for Creatives April Bowles-Olin for a comprehensive course dedicated to teaching you how to write, create, and market a successful blog. Drawing on the same methods she’s used to help successful entrepreneurs around the world grow their online presence, April will teach you how to find your own voice and get more comfortable writing like yourself. You’ll learn how to develop a strong editorial strategy, attract the right readers and write engaging headlines that will drive traffic to your site. April will also explore some of the key problems that hold bloggers back -- from writer’s block to boredom to insecurity about what you’re writing -- and explain how to overcome them. Best of all, April will teach you how to save time and have fun while contributing to the success of your blog.

After just three short days with April, you’ll possess the perfect foundation for better copywriting and creating a powerful, traffic generating blog.

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