Writing in Your Voice
We are going to continue with distinguishing yourself with style and voice. We talked a lot about style yesterday, and we are going to talk a lot more about voice today, because that is a big part of it. Even if you don't do a lot of writing on your blog, the stuff that you do write, like the headlines or the intro to a video, or the intro to a podcast, it needs to be in a very distinct voice, your own. So we're really gonna dive into that, and how to add lots of personality into your copy. Then we're gonna talk about copywriting 101 and beyond, so writing those really great headlines, writing an intro to a post that somebody will want to keep reading, making sure that you pay attention to all those details. We're also gonna talk a little bit about story in that segment. And then, we're gonna talk about visuals for your blog, so I wanna show you how to take the best photos that you possibly can for your blog, and I'm not a professional photographer, but I'm gonna share with you all of ...
my tips and tricks, the ones that I use on a regular basis. And then, we are gonna talk about something that most people get really excited about, and that's increasing their traffic, and promoting their blog, getting more readers. I'm gonna give you lots of tools to do just that. Let's dig into distinguishing yourself with voice, and I hope you guys are excited, because we've got a hot seat! Right in the beginning. Some of you talked about getting that outside perspective, and I wanna hear about that. I wanna hear about the feedback you got when you asked those questions about your strength, about the one story that people would tell, all of this is in your workbook, for those of you viewing who are wondering what I'm talking about, you'll find all of that in your workbook. So I would love for some of you to talk about your experience getting that feedback. So who wants to come up here and talk to me about that? Jane, you talked about that specifically, so why don't you come up here? (applause) Come on up, have a seat, get comfortable. Thank you. So tell me about some of the feedback that you got when you asked those questions. Well, it was good, because I could be objective about it. I just said there's no wrong answers, right answers or wrong answers. So I got, well, I asked my daughter, she knows me the best. I think it's important to ask people that you respect their opinion, and that you've known them for a long time, as you said. So the feedback that I got was, how did she put it, I've always got something new going on, and that I'm fluid, instead of saying I change my mind a lot, she said I'm fluid, and there's always something that's going on, that I've always been concerned, or not concerned, but I've always been, you know, very creative. Wacky but not tacky, she said that. I like that! And what else did she put politely? She was, I'm just kind of joking about that. You know, the other one that I got from a few people is that, I mean, I'm introverted, but when I meet people, that I really connect, and that they feel safe with me, and they share. Oh, that's a big one. Yeah. Yeah, especially for your blog, talking about that tough stuff, that people can feel like you're a friend, that they could share those experiences with you, that's gonna be a big one for your blog. Let's see what else. That's a good one to hear. Yeah. Well, unique, I go to my own, what's that, march to my own drummer. That I'm never afraid of trying new things. That, yeah, sense of humor, that came out through a few people. And that I persevere with ideas. Even though I change my mind, I take the idea til the end. Alright. So with any of that, that came up, was any of it surprising, and if so, how? I think what I see is gonna be valuable is the stories, so that, because I can't remember stories. So that's, one of the tips that you have in the book, write down the stories, so I think that's the surprising thing, that other people are the carriers of the stories. So I don't have to come up with them myself. Right. And then there's the great thing about the practice exercise too, was getting close to the people I'm asking. It's just valuable, I think, for no matter what you're doing. Yeah, absolutely. So with all of the feedback that you got, was there anything in particular that you thought, okay, this is something that I need to use within my blog? I think the uniqueness, and that I really go down the... That it's fine to keep going down that path of just being quirky and a misfit, because, you know, after all these years, I don't think that's gonna change. Right! So it's time to, like, you know, celebrate it a little bit more, and I don't think I'm alone in that. No, definitely not. Actually, that's exactly what I was gonna say, that there are lots of people out there that feel quirky and different, and want that place, that community, that they can feel a part of. Alright, so thank you so much for sharing that. Thank you. (applause) So does anybody else wanna come up and share what they got feedback on? Yes, come on, come on, Kimberly! Let's give her a round of applause! (applause) Hi. The hot seat can be a little nerve wracking and scary. So what I did is, I just called up people and I said, hey, can you help me out with some homework? Like, yeah, sure, okay, it's gonna take five minutes. And I was just like, what are my strengths? They're like, "Hold on a second," they weren't prepared for that. It took a little bit of time, but I kinda threw them off-guard. But what I found was a lot of people thought I was like a problem solver, and I took initiative, and I just kinda took care of things while listening to other people's problems. I took other people's problems into consideration, and figured out how to make it better. Which, I think, hearing that made me understand why I was so thrown off by seeing my site on the giant TV. I feel like it was me just saying, "Look at everything, this picture's super cute, "this family is awesome," and that's not what I wanna do. I wanna make people feel invited, feel welcome, not just like showing and shoving stuff in their face. So I think I finally understood why I don't like my website. Oh, that's big. Which is really big, yeah. That's big, when you can figure out also what changes you need to make, to make it something that you are excited about, because you want your website to be your online home, the place where you are so excited to tell people to go and find your work. Yeah, and I just thought that it was just so different from who I am as a person, interacting with other people, it just, it wasn't me, and I realized that from these interviews. I love that. It was great. Alright. What else did you get feedback on? Well, I realized that a lot of people's stories about me involve wigs. I like to wear wigs.
Really? Yeah, I have one in every color. And then probably the funniest was my sister's story, because I've known her all my life, and I went down to LA to visit her, and this is the story she told. All I had in my bag was a toothbrush, a t-shirt, a pair of jeans, five wigs, a gold jacket, matching pants, and just, she was like, "You just came down to have a good time, "and you didn't need anything else, you know? "You just wanted to wear this." It was for my birthday, so I just packed what I wanted. And she said that was great. That is fantastic, that shows so much about you and your personality. Yeah. Oh my goodness, I love it! And the wigs, I love that, too! What about having pictures on your About page, where you're in different wigs? Yeah, I was thinking about that, I thought that would be really cool. Which I had never thought of before, so I think, yeah. So that's something that kind of ran through. Yeah. With one of the stories. I said that the stories are often, you're kind of surprised by the stories that people would tell about you, the one thing that they would pick, and the themes that kind of run through those. Mm-hmm. Yeah. That's really awesome. And I'm really excited for you, that you figured out, these are the changes that I wanna make to my website, and these are the reasons why, and it makes sense for me, because of x, y, and z. Alright! That's awesome, thanks! (applause) Is there any theme, without coming up to the hot seat, is there any theme that you found out about yourself through asking these questions? Anything that you wanna share? Nobody that came up here? Yeah, I got a lot of being really considerate, really empathetic. Sometimes to the point where I end up getting hurt, because I'm putting myself out there so much. Okay, alright, so that's a theme that you found out about yourself. So how do you think you need to take that information and apply it to your blog? Hmm. Well, because I'm a life coach, or life editor, I want people to learn from me, too, rather than saying that I have it all together, so I can share stories about how maybe I did something one way, thinking I was doing the right thing, but it actually turned out bad for me, so that my clients and readers don't end up doing that themselves. Yeah, absolutely, and that seems to be a theme that's coming up over and over again, is seeing the messy parts, seeing the parts that don't go so well. That everybody likes that stuff, and that we tend to not share it, even though that's the stuff everybody wants to see. And I know those are some of my most popular posts, too, when I say, "This went really wrong, "this did not work for me," or "I had this horrible moment when this happened," and then I get so many emails from people saying, "I've had an experience like that," or "Oh my goodness, I know what that's like, "I am sending you lots of well-wishes "and encouragement, and things like that." We can actually share, we have a comment from Kris with a K, who says that you could do a vlog wearing a different wig every week, that's just an idea for you. Not Delilah says that they discovered, "People tell me I'm creative, unconventional, and silly." and if you didn't know that about yourself, what a cool observation. Yeah, it's helpful to know that, and then you can kinda shape your content to be true to who you are. Absolutely, and including that silliness, that piece, yeah. Alright, so we're gonna do a workbook activity, you'll find it on page 40, and this is when we need the blueberries, Keith. So what I'm gonna have you do is describe a blueberry in two or three sentences. So everybody here is going to get a blueberry, so that you can kind of feel it, feel the texture, you can bite down on it, see what it tastes like, and then write down just two or three sentences that describe it. And for anyone who's watching at home, I've got some pictures for you that you can look at. We've pretty much all eaten a blueberry, so just think about your experience if you don't have one. If you have one, you can run to the kitchen really quick, and grab it.
Go get the blueberries! [Female Moderator] Chris and I will be accepting all leftover blueberries. Yeah, we'll get on in on this, for sure! Thank you very much, we'll try not to make too much of a mess over here. Try to stay away from words that don't mean anything. That's the only rule for this. So don't use words like yummy, or tasty, or good. Because we don't really know what you mean by that. We want you to get specific, we want you to use details, or I want you to use details and get specific. And you wanna stay away from these words in your writing whenever you can anyway. When you can be more detailed, you wanna use those details, instead of saying yummy, tasty, good. I will share my description with you. "A plump navy bead with leathery skin "and a jelly-like middle. "The taut skin pops when I bite down, "revealing a tart yet candy-sweet middle. "In the summer, I'm a blueberry addict." That's how I would describe a blueberry if I had just a couple of minutes to write it down, a couple of sentences. I'm gonna have you guys share your descriptions, too. So use lots of descriptive language. And this does not need to be a masterpiece, you guys. This does not need to be something that you are like, "Yes, this is well-written, and I love it!" I just wanna hear what your words would be, for describing a blueberry. So do not feel in any way that this is something that you're like, alright, I would give myself an A plus at this. I just wanna hear your words. Alright, so who's done that can share? Are you done? I'm done. I'm always really concise, so mine is not as long as yours, but I have two different sentences. "Burst of flavor, bouncy flavor bite." I guess I was thinking more of titles, I wasn't realizing. No, but that's good, because you are really concise. That is your voice, okay? So that is a good thing. That's great. It's showing the difference between how I would write something and how you would write something. I wrote, "These berries were perfectly ripe, "sweet and refreshing. "I want to bake them into a pie." Ooh, I like that. Kimberly? So the first one, before I read your description, I said, "Blueberries are commonly found in yogurt parfaits." And then the second one, I tried to get a little bit more descriptive, and I said, "Blueberries are small enough "to pop several in your mouth "and enjoy the flavor all at once, "but I prefer to eat them one at a time." Alright. So that's also something about you. Yours, that you wanna bake in a pie, yours, that you like them one at a time. Okay, this will say something about me. Pressure, just like, oh my god, I can't write! (laughs) What's it gonna sound like, if I have to say what it is? So honestly, the blueberry, I thought, oh, it reminded me of what a blueberry could taste like, because the flavors are from blah to tart, and so I was like, the longing came up in me, of like, remember what a really great blueberry would taste like. Okay, okay. Jennifer? I wrote down, "A blueberry is a small and round "dark blue fruit, it is sweet and juicy on the inside, "and I love them in Greek yogurt." Alright, and Sage? "It's a dusty blue blob, like a marble "that's been sat on by a fairy and squished on one side." (laughter) Alright, so all of these sounded different. The purpose of this was just to show you that when we're writing about something as mundane as a blueberry, everybody is gonna sound different. You have your own voice already, it's right there in front of you, right? You wanna share some from... Yes, did you have a reflection? Yeah, I mean, we have a lot coming here in the chat rooms. Julia says, "Standing on the sandy dry hillside, "I picked up the tiny blue globe and popped it in my mouth. "How can such a divine flavor transport me back "to the sweet-scented childhood?" What a romantic blueberry story. These are so well done. Now, this one comes from Shroomy, and they say "Inky blue marble size," we heard marble before, so it's good to see some collaboration here. Like minds think... Think alike. (laughter)
Like minds do think alike! Like minds are always thinking about the same things, is the phrase, actually. But, so "The inky blue, marble sized berry "with a firm and juicy center, and a thin skin." now, she loves them with breakfast and yogurt, honey and walnuts, yum-o. So we were hearing yogurt, marbles, people are always having similarities. I wrote my own: The chill of this special blueberry has freshened my breath and mood. (laughter) A lot of people out there seem to be concerned about the stains, too. "Bite into a blueberry, all the dark juice comes out. "Watch out for the stains," comes from Kathy R. And then we also had, we had Kris with a K saying "A stain waiting to happen on my new white couch." So keep the blueberries away from the white couch. See, and even including "white couch" says something about you, about your style and what you have going on in your own home. So the way that you describe things, even things as mundane as a blueberry, is going to be different. Here's a tip: Increase their dopamine. "When dopamine is present during an event or experience, "we remember it; when it is absent, nothing seems to stick." This is a quote from Martha Burns. So you wanna increase your readers' dopamine by making your info new and exciting. You want it to be something that seems new and exciting, because when that happens, dopamine is present. I'll give you an example; I used to attend a conference, Marie Forleo's conference, "Rich, Happy and Hot Live". I used to go to it every year, she no longer has it. But when she did have it, I would go to it because it was amazing. Now, the speakers didn't always give me information that was something that I hadn't heard before, however, the way that they presented it was in a new and exciting way. I guarantee you that months from now, when you're thinking about being at this workshop, you're gonna remember the blueberry. And you're gonna remember about how you write differently already, that you already have that unique voice. And people have already said that to you, but I did it in a different way. So when you are thinking about how you can put together your content on your blog, think about how you can make it new and different for your readers. Even if you're saying something that's already been said, because, let's face it, it's already been said. Pretty much everything has already been said. So you can do a few things: You can combine two or three ideas together, like trying to pull a blueberry into making your voice unique and showing you how it sounds different, using your unique voice, and using your stories, because that's always gonna make the information new and different from somebody, because they don't have your stories. And if it's not a story that is personal to you, you can also share stories about other people that you know of, or other businesses and brands. I do that often in my own blog posts, that maybe I worked with a jewelry designer, and this is how it worked for her business in particular. I did that with a post that I wrote about pricing, and lots of business coaches have talked about pricing, and have written about this on their blogs. One of the things that I did to make it different was include a story about a jewelry designer that I worked with, who, she was busting her butt, but she was not making a profit. It was because her prices were way too low. And including that story, and how she shifted her prices, and the exact change that she made, and then the result that she got, that was something that I saw in the comments over and over again, was "This made it so clear to me, "why I need to raise my prices." "This made it so clear to me, why this needs to happen for my business." So think about different ways that you can say what you wanna say, but make it new for your readers, make it exciting for them. Make it something that they're going to remember. Another technique is picking apart your posts. So I do this on a regular basis. I write up my first draft, and then I'm going to take it apart, and to pieces. The first thing I do is read it out loud, and fix the "I'd never say this" parts, and usually, those are the parts you'll stumble over. The words won't come out of your mouth so easily, they'll get kind of crumbled up inside of your mouth, inside of your throat, and you stumble. Anytime that happens, you know you need to fix it, you need to rewrite it. Maybe it is the way that the words are, the order that they're written in, and you just need to switch that up, or maybe it's something that you would absolutely never say, and you need to switch it up. Include bits of story whenever possible. We've talked about this one, and we're gonna talk about it even more in the copywriting section. Read each sentence critically, and give it the friend test. Now, this is something that I love to do, is I think, would I actually say this to a friend? If not, I need to rewrite it. Would I say it like this to Mayi, somebody that you guys met yesterday? Would I say it like that to her? Or do I sound sales-y, like somebody at a used car salesman lot, trying to get you to buy a product? So that's a way that you can kind of figure out whether or not this sounds like something that's going to turn people off, or get people excited, is giving them that friend test. And get rid of cliches. So anytime you see a cliche, and they're almost in every single first draft that I write, I don't know about you guys, but almost every first draft that I have has cliches in it, because it's just easy, and I'm just writing as fast as I possibly can. But you wanna go through and get those out of there, and use examples and details that are more personable to you. And get detailed. So you wanna take the things that are vague, and make them much more descriptive, much more detailed, and I'll give you an example. Here is a vague sentence: I made a yummy pie for my grandma. She's coming to visit this weekend. So, there's nothing really wrong with that, but you can't picture it. You can't see it in your mind. If I make it more descriptive, I say I spent the afternoon baking a peach pie with a graham cracker crust for my grandma's visit this weekend. You can see that a little bit better. You can see the peach pie, you can see the graham cracker crust, but it can be even better. You can add even more voice into it. I'm still finding remnants of the buttery graham cracker crust I prepared earlier today under my nails. I baked my nana's favorite, peach pie, for her visit this weekend, but I might have to sneak a slice. The warm peaches, sugar and cinnamon filled every corner of the house, making my stomach rumble with greed. That you can picture. You see the crumbs still under my nails. I use the term nana, which makes it more personable, and you can kind of smell the warm peaches and the sugar and the cinnamon. Use bolding and italics to help your readers hear the authentic ring of your voice. So when they're reading something that you have posted on your blog, they don't always know what part you would emphasize, if you were speaking to us. So use italics and bolding to do that. Now, you wanna use this technique in special cases when you want to emphasize a word or a phrase. You don't wanna use it every sentence or every paragraph. Pick two or three places within your post. And this makes a big difference. When you try it out, and you see how it reads, it makes a big difference. Let's talk about adding some more personality. Using metaphors and similes is a great way to add personality to your posts. So an example, "My sister's face is an apple," or "My sister's face is shaped like an apple." The first one, metaphor, the second one, a simile, when you say something is like, that's a simile, whereas if you're saying something is something, that's like a metaphor. So practice a couple of these. Let's say, let's pick a sky. Write some sort of metaphor or simile using sky. You can write this down anywhere in your workbooks, anywhere where you have blank space. So I might say, "The sky is angry, "like my mom when she doesn't have her coffee." That adds personality, right? If I had that in my post, instead of just saying "The sky is gray," it's going to be much different. It's gonna read much different. It's gonna feel much different. If I have written on my blog, "My sister's face is an apple," that's probably gonna take you, and it's going to make that picture in your mind, too. But it's going to pop. It's going to make you feel like you're reading something that's a little bit different, a little more unique. So share with me any metaphors or similes that you wrote with the sky. The sky is a comforting blue quilt, speckled with white cloud pompoms. Ooh, I like that! I like the pompoms. Jane?
The sky is a volcano. The sky is a volcano! Anybody else? Jennifer, you wanna? I wrote, "The sky is like a big ball of cotton candy." Ooh, alright. So you see how this just adds a little bit more, a little bit more personality to your posts? It can make such a big difference. Another thing that you can do to add personality is to make it more dramatic. Add some drama. So turn the sentence "I hate writing" into "I despise writing so much "that I'd rather peel off my toenails and eat them "than spend an afternoon at my keyboard." That is very dramatic, right? But it gives you a little bit more insight. It makes it so much more unique than if you were to read on my blog, "I hate writing." So I want you guys to try to make something dramatic. It doesn't have to be writing. Pick "I hate" something, and make that more dramatic. Turn it into something with way more personality. Does anybody have any metaphors or similes that they wanna.. Yeah, we're working with the sky, so Consutalosa says, "A white sheet shrouded all of Portland this weekend." And Kris With A K says, "The sky tipped over and spilled all over the whole city." The Witticist says, "The sky scrapes the buildings." (laughs) These are great, and like some of these people here, Jezamon says, "The sky is ruminative and moody," kinda giving more feeling to the sky, beyond what it just looks like. Yeah, Amanda Sue says, "The cloud grumbled, "like a train in the distance. "The heavy gray clouds threatening to barrage us "with an ocean's worth of rain." That's dramatic.
Ooh, yeah, yeah! So what about you guys? How'd you make something more dramatic by saying "I hate" something, but turning it into something very dramatic? I said, I started with "I hate cleaning", and turned it into "Cleaning makes me feel "trapped with a never-ending deadline." Alright. Anybody else wanna share? Well, I put "Going on the hot seat "makes me feel like bursting into tears!" Oh, no! I don't like that one! (laughs) The other Christina actually says, "I despise going to work today. "I would rather watch this course." (laughs) Okay!
That's a good one, we like that answer! Call in sick! (laughs) Yeah, so this is just getting you thinking in ways to add more personality to your writing so that it's not just humdrum. Don't just stick with the first thing you write. That's often the mistake that a lot of people make, is they write their first draft, and they stick with that. Instead of going back and saying, how could I inject more of this into my writing? I've got some more examples. Using your five senses. So turning "The old bookstore felt like home" into "When I walked into the small, dusty bookstore, "the sweet scent of blueberry muffins "reminded me of my childhood home." So that helps you imagine it. When we're talking about details and including your senses and making things more dramatic, it's so that somebody can picture it. So if you read the sentence, and you don't think that somebody could picture it in their minds, add more to it, add more personality to it. Because if I say to you, "The old bookstore felt like home," you don't really picture that in your mind. But when I start using things like small and dusty, you can picture it a little bit more. You can smell the blueberry muffins a little bit more. Swapping the verb also can really help. So turn "I picked up the toy poodle" into "I hoisted the toy poodle into my arms." And these, when you're changing the verb, you want to use the most specific, the best verb for that sentence. So don't change it just to change it, if the verb that you have is the best one for what you've got. That's an important, you don't wanna always have everything being dramatic. You don't always wanna change the verb and look up something in the thesaurus, because then it's gonna read even worse than what it started out with in the beginning. Switch to active voice. "I was bitten by a snake", turn that into "A snake bit me." That's an easy one, so change it from passive voice to active voice. I wanted to share one little dramatic statement, too.
Yes, please! Is that cool? Jezamon says, "I hate perfecting French. "It's like a strict lady with a ruler "rapping her stick on my knuckles, "all with a perfect, pleasant yet menacing voice."
Ooh, I like that one! They're good at the drama part. Yes! I like that a lot! And when you add drama, it says something about you, because you're using something that you're picturing in your mind, that you've had an experience with. It's going to sound much different than if somebody else wrote it. Pay attention to every detail. Everything. I mean tweets, Facebook updates, the text in your sidebar, your thank you pages. They should all be branded and in your voice. And you want to create an experience for the people who are reading your blog, or who are purchasing one of your products. And you want that experience to be seamless. You want it to feel like everything is working in your brand, and sometimes, you'll get to a thank you page, and it'll be just the, whatever that copy had already been there, set up for that person, and it's not branded, and you can tell. Or sometimes, when you update social media, you're just doing it in a rush, and not paying attention to it very closely. But if you pay attention to every detail, everything that you're doing for your blog and for your business, and you put that time into it, and use your voice and make sure it's branded, it makes a big difference. You know when this happens for you, when you have an experience with one of those types of businesses. It makes a big difference. Ashley Ambirge, from The Middle Finger Project, every single thing you find on her site is very branded. If you buy from her, every piece of the process, it's in her voice. And it makes you wanna buy from her again and again and again.