Simple Ways to Elevate Your Writing Skills

Simple Ways to Elevate Your Writing Skills

You have it in you to be a great writer. You also have it in your to have elevated writing skills. 

 

Sometimes it isn’t easy to realize that, especially when you start doubting your skills.

 

No matter how long you’ve been writing, sometimes, Mrs. Doubt likes to kick in and bring your self-confidence down.

 

Soon you find yourself googling how to improve your writing skills.  Or perhaps you doubt yourself so much you start looking for different job opportunities.

 

As a full-time freelance writer, I’ve had to realize that sometimes you get complacent with your work. Or, since I’m a freelancer, no one is around to say, “Hey girl, you’re killing it!”

 

That leads me into my research journey of how I can help you and me elevate our writing skills.

 

Cause let’s face it, sometimes you need a little boost. Plus, it’s fun to be reminded that you’re doing things RIGHT!

 

Right?

Writing Skills

Remember high school when you were worried about using commas? Did you use enough, are they used correctly, etc.

 

Well, get ready to feel the comma pressure once more. Even though many people have no idea how to use a comma it is wise to have a good basic grasp of English Grammar.

 

Why?

 

Believe it or not, there are readers, writers, and general public folks who know exactly what good grammar looks like.

 

You can practice your skills by checking out a few Grammar books, that spell out the tricky rules for you.

 

I like to use Grammar books every now and again just to reaffirm that I am doing something to write.

 

Some that I suggest are:

 

While I know it may seem daunting to review Grammar lessons, trust me, it makes a world of difference when trying to elevate your writing style.

 

There is nothing wrong with learning new or relearning things. I think it is highly recommended.

 

Even though I thought of myself as a wordsmith, I noticed I needed some help with my wordiness.

 

This is ok when you are working on a work of fiction, but when it comes to “getting to the point,” for say, selling something, wordiness is not the way to go.

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How to Elevate Your Writing Style

1. Write every day

One of the easiest ways to keep creative juices flowing so “writing every day” doesn’t feel so much like a chore is to use writing prompts.

 

Luckily there are many websites and books available to help you with your goals.

 

Some of my favorite books are:

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2. Plan Your Writing

When it comes to putting your ideas down on paper it takes time and requires some kind of planning. Create an outline to help keep your thoughts and ideas organized.

 

For me an outline is daunting but it is also everything. I use my outline to help me make sure that my plot is hashed out and tight.

 

The outline is also useful to show any flaws that may appear in the climax, plot, and character development. (Yes, my planning is very deep).

 

A sample of my outline is as follows:

 

Character: Using a notebook, yes a notebook because hey it gets convoluted and confusing sometimes.

 

And if you have a lot of characters as you see in books such as “Harry Potter” and “Twilight”, having a reference to their backstories is incredibly useful.

 

Write out all the characters you feel should be included in this story, and write one-line descriptions of each character. Then choose the main character.

 

I like to give myself free rein on how I hash out the details. Keeping in mind the who, what, when, why, and how.

 

You could just go for it for hours like I do until I feel empty or you could set a 15-20 minute timer.

 

Of course, you can add any details you like regarding your character, it is after all your book!

 

Example: In my WWII novel my main character is Sophie.

  • Role in Story:
  • Goal:
  • Physical Description:
  • Occupation:
  • Habits/mannerisms
  • Background: (examples birth date, age, family history, and much more.
  • Internal/external conflicts

 

 

 

For the actual story outline I include the following:

 

Setting

Situation: This is the What and the why of your story.

Beginning-Using the main character because it shows immediately what the story is about, and shows the world of the main character.

Try to highlight how the character lives and their personality traits. What are the character’s dreams, and goals?

What inciting event will forever change the Main Character.

Middle-  Trap your main character into a situation outside of their control. Force the Main characters’ goals far out of their reach. Give them new goals, what struggles and complications are coming to them?

What causes the main character to take charge and rush towards their goal?

In my WIP my main character doesn’t want anything to do with the Nazis or the Resistance. She thinks she can stay neutral.

However, she soon finds herself in a situation where she has to choose, either be a sympathizer or join the Resistance. 

It is when she witnesses the treatment of abandoned children and starving men and women that she decides to work with the resistance until she can run away to her family estate where she can be out of the politics/drama of the occupation. 

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Ending- Allow the main character’s insight to understand themselves, particularly their flaws.

 

The main character needs to see how they can become better in order to defeat the antagonist.

 

The character must overcome their mental and internal struggles before they can find the strength to defeat outside forces.

 

The character is beaten down, almost losing until the last transformation, where the main character bounces back and becomes the hero.

 

Force them to respond in unique ways. Finally, allow the character to reach their goal.

 

Maybe that goal has changed, or perhaps it has just expanded.

 

Maybe the goal turned out to be better than they imagined, or worse if you’re clever.

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Words to help Elevate Your Writing

Reading is a great way to build your vocabulary and introduce you to new ways to use words.

 

When you’re not writing you should be reading!

I know, where can you find the time to do all of this!

I find keeping a schedule helps out.

 

I know that I work best in the morning, mainly because my husband and children are still asleep. So I try to do my most tedious work before they get up.

 

When it comes to reading material you could stick to reading books that you find interesting and want to write.

 

For me, at the moment, I am reading a lot of period drama books and history books.

 

Honestly, it doesn’t matter if you read fiction, non-fiction or whatever, just as long as you read.

 

I personally feel reading helps keep my ideas fresh at the same time keeps me motivated.

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Final Thoughts

When it comes to elevating your writing style or keeping it fresh, remember to do what works for you. 

 

Keeping my writing fresh begins with reminding myself why I fell in love with writing in the first place. 

 

I love reading, and so I use my love for reading to help elevate my writing style while exposing me to different writing styles. 

 

 

I love a good planning sheet; I keep my novel background/outlines/character sheets in a binder for quick reference because it helps keep me focused. 

 

 

Writing takes a lot of energy and time, but it also takes creativity, and while sometimes creativity can dull, your heart and love for the craft are not. 

Now get to writing! 

How to Create the Perfect Portfolio Without Experience

How to Create the Perfect Portfolio Without Experience

So you think you’re a writer do ya? 

Do you have samples? 

Can I look at them? 

As a  writer, you are super excited about beginning, and I’m not going to lie, starting is intense. Think of it as though you’re learning how to ride a bike without training wheels for the first time.

At least, that is how I felt.

But as you approach potential clients you realize you don’t have a portfolio to share and demonstrate your skills.

Wait!

Let me explain.

First of all, you need a portfolio that looks professional and demonstrates your skills, but more importantly demonstrates you know what you’re doing.

You can create a portfolio without experience, and it’s super easy.

As I began to create my first few pitches, I used blog posts from my former blog “Thoughts From a French Girl”, in addition to those I created posts on Medium.com as another platform to share.

I found this was enough to get me a few guest postings, and even a couple of paid projects.

But there was something else I discovered.

SEO Content

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Aside from creating content in the form of articles and blog posts you can create something called Spec Ads.

 

What are spec ads?

Spec ads are faux ads for you to use to demonstrate your skill. They are a cost-efficient, and simple solution to pad your portfolio and add more depth to your samples.

Research the internet for sample advertisements that you want to recreate.

Some examples include; emails, newsletters, banner ads, press releases, and much more. 

 

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As you create your spec ad, remember to treat the project as though it were a real paying project.

Depending on the type of project you want to work on, you may need to include a designer.

Why?

If you try to do the design yourself it could come out looking as though an amateur completed it, and you want to put your BEST work on your portfolio.

Plus this is a great time to get used to working with designers.

Draft a creative brief and use that brief to help guide your project for you and your designer. (should you use one).

Should you choose to use a designer for a specific project you can find a freelance designer on LinkedIn, Facebook, or Instagram. 

 

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Wait, what is a creative brief?

 

A creative brief is almost like an outline that helps you understand what the client needs help with and what is the focus of the project.

Using a Creative brief is important for any project because it helps to keep you aware of the problem you are trying to solve for the client.

Not sure about your writing? Feel as though you may need a boost? Be sure to read How to Elevate your writing before working on your next creative brief.

But more about that in a minute.

 

Regardless of the type of spec ad you decide to create for your portfolio, treat the project as a real project.

 

Begin your research with a real company.  Check out their website or magazine ads and make sure to examine their voice and copy style.

 

 

Get a feel for the brand.

 

 

Using your creative brief, I will provide you with a template below, answer the questions and get as much information as you can.

 

If this were a real client, you want to appear professional, so ask as much as you can about the company, so you don’t have to constantly ask for follow-ups.

 

 

The creative brief is your best friend.

 

 

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Some things to remember to include in your spec ad.

 

1. Treat the project as though it is real-do your research 

2. Set a deadline for when the project should be completed, keep track of your time that way you have a good sense of how long it takes to complete specific projects. 

3. What problem are you trying to solve for this brand with this ad or content? How have you solved it? Provided the reader with value? 

4. What words describe this brand’s voice? Can the same words be used to describe the voice in your writing? 

5. Who is the target audience? What is their need/challenge/pain? 

6. Have you clearly conveyed the benefit of the product/service to the target audience? 

7. Can you include more emotion in the content? Ad? 

 

8. Keep in mind that every project is solving a problem for the client. Did you help them with that? (example: get more followers, inform clients of sales, get more sign ups, etc)

9. The first part of your copy or content should be a description of the target audience’s needs. Provide a short recap of that problem

10. Present your solution immediately no hiding it.  The solution you provide should solve the challenge. 

 

Spec Ad Example-Email

Subject Line:    Here’s $40 on US

Snippet:
Tell us all about your favorite fragrance. Take our short survey and get a $40 credit.

Headline:
Get $40 to tell us about your favorite fragrance

Subhead
Welcome Back! We have two quick questions for you.

Body
Would you please fill out our petite short survey? It will only take two minutes of your time, bring you tons of good energy-oh, and a $40 credit towards your next purchase.

CTA
(take the Survey)

Creative Briefs

A creative brief is where you gather information about the company and what its focus is for the project.

With every project, it is a good idea to create a creative brief. Use the brief as your guide to keep focused,  understand deeper the voice and tone of the brand, and determine who the target audience is.

 

The way you complete the creative brief can be done either during a meeting or have the client begin the process prior to the meeting.

 

Below is a sample outline of a Creative Brief that you can use, should you like to purchase a customizable creative brief, get one in our Christina Q Resource Shop.

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Creative Brief Template

Below I’m including basic questions you should have in your creative brief, but don’t be afraid to add something else as you need.

 

 

               Project title                                  Creative Review date

Today’s date                                  Launch Date

 

Objectives:

Who are you communicating with? Is this the contact person? What is their contact information? What do you know about them?

 

What is the ONE main thing we want our audience to do?

 

What is the benefit for the audience if they do this? (What are they getting out of this?)

 

What other actions would you like the audience to take?

 

What are the business’s goals for this project? What are the measurements? Example: more views or get more sign ups

 

 

What is the tone of this project? (Circle the tone that applies)

Serious

Lighthearted

Fun

Practical

Serious

Friendly

 

Business-like

Excited

Promotional

Straightforward

Educational

Sincere

Other

 

 

What are the deliverables?

Email

Landing page

Site page

Confirmation page

Banner ad

Newsletter

Other :

 

 

(Optional) what size do you need?

 

Do you want to test versions? How many times would you like to test?

 

Are there any elements that are necessary, mandatory, or required?

 

Have you done anything similar before? What was the outcome? (If possible, include screenshots)

 

Who are your competitors?

 

Have they done anything similar? What was their results? (If possible include screenshots)

 

Anything else you feel needs to be included for this project?

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Content writing for your portfolio

Another way to add your portfolio is to provide content in different forms on many platforms.

 

I’m talking about social media, blog posts, etc. You could even write a script for a video or podcast.

 

Include something like this on your website portfolio (that is based on a subject close to your niche)

If you don’t have writing samples to show off, don’t fret. Read about creating writing samples from scratch to help you get started.

 

Difference between copy and content

Copy persuades an audience, but content provides entertainment via stories, information, guides, and inspiration.

The backbone essentially is to make a connection with the audience and get them to take action.

Content adds value to the company site and further benefits the consumer.

 

If the content on the business’s site is useful and enjoyable, the client will return, especially if they find it useful/helpful but also fun to read.

 

This, in turn, will convert the reader into a subscriber and follower, which will then allow the company to be “marketed” organically through its followers.

 

When you create your spec content, you want to make sure that, fake or not, you create meaningful information that improves the readers’ life, not the company.

 

Tip:

Use a test audience, discover their likes, needs and wants, challenges, and how you can help them.

 

Decide if the audience wants to be inspired? Educated? Entertained?

Final Thoughts

Whether you are just beginning your freelance writing career, or you’ve been doing it for a while now, a portfolio is how you get your foot in the door.

 

The portfolio is your resume!

 

Use the spec ads and spec content to create a professional-looking online portfolio that you can be proud of and also attract potential clients.

 

If you’re not sure if the content you created is up to snuff, ask for feedback from communities on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn in exchange for feedback.

 

So, don’t be afraid or think you have no samples to show off, because you do.

Now get to writing!

 

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