Writing For The Internet

Writing is writing. What could be different about writing for the internet? True. You can use the same writing skills online as Mark Twain did on a typewriter – and Mark Twain would probably be one of the first writers to jump onto Twitter if he was alive today.

Writing for the internet starts with the same goals of most writers and authors: gain exposure, reach an audience and a community or a market, spread a message, and if the writer is lucky, maybe even make some money. That last one is tough, but that’s always been the case.

  • Style has changed. Adhering to various manuals of style isn’t as appreciated as producing something that can be searched, found, and shared.
  • Being concise is much more valuable thanks to shorter attention spans and the visual limitations of screen sizes. Book authors get to create tomes that are hundreds of thousands of pages long, but on the internet they can expect to find readers labeling the works as tl;dr (too long; didn’t read.) Get a slice of that message across in 2,000 words, or 500 words, or even 140 characters and more people will read it.
  • Give up on the idea of controlling formatting. Elegant fonts, page layouts, and professional headers and footers are lost on devices where the reader can grow, shrink, and change the color of the text. What are you reading this on: a monitor, a laptop, a tablet, or a smartphone? I don’t care because I don’t try to optimize for any platform because there are too many platforms and devices. Relax. Keep it simple.
  • The formats that matter are headlines, images, links, and hashtags; all things that lead to searching and sharing. Be too common, and the words get lost in the crowd. Be too uncommon, and never be found. Write about something others care about, make it easy to share, and reach farther than most authors did thirty years ago.
  • Then, after you’ve introduced the world to your words, pull up the analytics and truly learn what resonated with readers, and what was there mostly for self-satisfaction.

It’s possible to devote an entire weekend to getting past the fear of social media, practicing phrasing, choosing the right keywords, finding the right community, and learning how to efficiently write once in a way that can be shared often. For the portion of the afternoon devoted to writing for the internet we’ll review the techniques, the reasons behind them, and hopefully play with real examples that can be launched after you get home.

Want an example of what you can bring? Try writing something like this blog post (~400 to 600 words), and then think about key phrases to share, descriptive topics that aren’t too common or uncommon, and then how to edit it down to half that size, and down again, and eventually down to the 140 character limit of a tweet. Even if you don’t use social media much, your readers probably do.

After all of that, realize that writing for the internet is also a way to earn income as a writer. But, be ready to write for SEO (Search Engine Optimization), readability, and networking.

Writing may be thousands of years old, but it is also continually evolving. Scribes needed to know how write in clay. Now, we write in electrons. What’s next?

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EDITING: The Critical Stages of Honing Your Draft

In our earliest phases of writing, we are prone to think that “editing” is nothing more than proofreading our draft for correct spelling, good punctuation and usage, and completeness of thought or idea. In fact, this first cut at editing, which we are well qualified to do ourselves, is a quick intro to the editing processes that will govern our writing.

Before you share the draft with anyone else, you must edit it yourself. How much editing you do is based on how confident you are in your editing skills. The further away from that first draft that you move, the more errors will be introdu


ced into your final paper. To this end, professional editors offer their talents for a fee. Before you negotiate that fee you should understand the levels of editing that you are paying for.

Proofreading in its simplest form is checking for spelling errors, misapplication of punctuation marks, word usage and form issues (think verb tenses), and sentence construction. Paragraph construction is also at issue with proofreading, but this is the point that it intersects with copy editing.

Copy editing should be executed by you in your first draft, but it will also be done by the publisher of your work. Your review assures that your piece says what you want it to say in the most effective way. Your publisher assures that your piece fits into their marketing profile as far as content and reach. Copy editors may often resize your piece by omitting a few lines or sentences. Your main concern (and why you should always proofread your own work as well as the proof sheet from the publisher) will be to assure that those omissions do not affect your message to the reader. In a personal example, two sentences omitted from an article on data management resulted in the article reaching the opposite conclusion from what I was advising. Unfortunately, I had been “too busy” to read the proof from an editor I trusted.

Content editing is a strange animal for me. I was a content editor for years as a consulting editor for Data Resource Management (demise, early 90’s – pre digital publishing). My job was to critique articles submitted to the journal, validate topic as relating to our audience base, and assure that the arguments actually supported the thesis. This particular topic was a job for a subject expert,  but the overall task is comparable to how your high school teacher rated your compositions. [I also graded high school compositions].  I say it is strange for me, because recently when I submitted my novel to a publisher they claimed to do content editing, but what they really meant was what I call “fact checking.” So be sure you know what you are paying for.ogre


Fact checking is part of the copy editor’s job at the newspaper. They check the facts in your work to assure that trade names are not infringed upon, that you have not misrepresented any persons or companies, or slandered anyone with unfounded “facts.” It is in fact what is being done today to scrub our political conversation on a daily basis. There are writers who specialize in fact-checking for criminal and judicial novels rich in detail.

Developmental editing is a complicated subject to tackle with a summary description. It aims at the constructs of your draft, how the subject is framed and developed, and how it targets the audience. Whether you write fiction or nonfiction, essay or short stories your work must be presented in a manner that keeps the reader’s interest. I have made this subject a little easier to address by laying out the constructs of story and genre in three earlier blogs on the Madrona Workshop Troupe site.

10/13/17  Getting Things Done
10/16/17  Weaving A Story
10/20/17  Cloaking Story in Genre

More to say about Developmental Editing in the next blog.









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A Little Bit Of Help

Trimbathcreative's Blog (Tom Trimbath)

It only took me a couple of minutes.” It would’ve taken me about half a day. Dropping my bicycle off at Bayview Bicycles was an excellent example of the value of expertise. I rode across America, so some know me as a cyclist, but my bicycle would cringe. Just because I ride it doesn’t mean I know how to take care of it, at least not efficiently. I appreciated his work and his attitude so I did the modern thing and Liked his Facebook page, and posted a short testimonial on my Timeline. (I would’ve done the same on Twitter, but the business doesn’t have an account.) It was a small gesture, but hopefully helpful. Then I saw what someone posted about me. Wow.

It can take courage to ask for help. There’s a vulnerability and an admission of being human. Being human runs counter to some…

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A Day In The Writing Life – November 11 Workshop

“From Imagination to Publication,
Key steps in developing successful writing habits”

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Story Cloaked In Genre

In the beginning of your writing effort, you may be tempted to immediately wrap your work into a particular form, or genre. You’ve always wanted to write a novel, or a stage play or a long poem. However, your most successful start will be in just telling the story conjured up by your imagination, spilling it onto the page. Each type of genre demands a different set of rules and guidelines to package a story. Think of mom’s apple pie as an essay. How does that differ from recipe? What is the memoir part of that story? Can you fictionalize your collective threads? And so on.

Narrative alone has a set of rules that differ from dramatic writing, and both differ from poetic development. In the narrative space, an essay is not a short story or a novel or a blog, or newspaper copy. The different genres are differentiated by guidelines and rules that appear in literary usage manuals. In the beginning your brain to hand outpouring should not be concerned with the logical, analytical processes of obeying the rules. There may come a time when your imagination will shake it all up together. But first things first.

Story has a construct all its own and it is simple. Story is about one character: me, you, the dog, Aunt Carol, Lydia Bennett, or her worthier sister Lizzy. Story is about one humanized character (if you are prone to write about robots or alien beings) who wants something bad enough to work for it. That is the start of the story. A beginning of character + goal will get you a vignette, or a question to probe, or a sketch for a poem.

As such, the genre for this vignette should touch the audience in a calculated way. If you want to jog a reader’s memory in the grocery line, an essay on cat vittles will be much less effective than a catchy jingle, Izzy loves little liver yums. The jingle, however, does nothing to improve your cat’s weight problem.

A poem will work to evoke an intimate emotional response in the reader as Lydia longed for the ringlets of her once flaxen hair. The essay provides a narrative to identify a person and her condition, I wanted to buy her the wig, but I understood it would never replace her full body of chestnut hair. Of course, that narrative sentence could as easily appear in a fictional description or a memoir as well. As you imagine it, as it pours through your hand, you should never worry about the genre. It is simply another thread of story.

As the threads are collected, other threads appear. In the middle of your work, the earlier threads will expand, identifying another character or two. Tess finds peace in the convent with Anna, but Mother Superior breaks into their whispered chatter. The small action raises a big why? The story expands.

The structure and content of your middles will differ with genre. In nonfiction writing, the middles will expand from the key topic and argument of your work. An essay on a book review will focus on the published work, summarize the contents, and form a view as to its worthiness. An essay highlighting several works by the same author is a focus on the author instead of a book.

Creative nonfiction works like fiction, creating a story “plot,” meandering along the alleys and footpaths up the rocky slope of the high point where the broad view of the story is shown and tension is greatest.

Writing forms work to more completely reveal the story the writer wants to tell. Where nonfiction unfolds in facts and accurate experiences, fiction interweaves facts and imagination for entertainment and often levity. Yet, with all its creative beginnings, the fiction story also carries the power of a greater truth hidden in the story, something that narratives based on facts and provable occurrences simply cannot deliver: that WOW moment.


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Weaving A Story

Gathering all your threads of written pieces into one place gives you a collection of possibilities. In that pile of writings, a story lies dormant, in bits and pieces collected from the books, photos, clippings, journal entries and letters saved along the way.

Through continual interrogation of these sources, a story begins to unfold. Overwhelmed by too many possibilities going in too many directions, you may convince yourself that the task is impossible. It’s not. You simply need to have a vision, an intention, and an understanding of what kind of product you intend to create.

What you don’t want to do, at first, is to proclaim the kind of form your work will take. In school we were assigned an essay or term paper or short story to write. We were following our instructor’s intention, which was to teach us craft about something. The best essay you wrote on Hamlet will not result in the best written work about your mother’s apple pie.

The form you choose will determine how effectively your work impacts your audience. In writing form is referred to as genre. Instances of genre are essay, fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction, drama (stage), film, copy writing, advertising, and many more.

Today, every genre of writing relies on a foundation of good storytelling as a key foundation, from insurance ads on misguided moose to scientific articles on deadly mosquito viruses. And storytelling is not limited to any one genre. There are many elements that build skills for good writing. However, the success of your work may lie in your ability to construct the story.

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Getting Things Done…

When you first approach the task of writing down your mother’s recipe for apple pie, you write down the ingredients. Easy enough. But the ingredients don’t really tell the story of how her acclaimed dessert rose above its humble beginnings of flour, butter, and apple.

Each ingredient reminds you of something: the wrong kind of flour you brought home from the store; the time your sister used margarine in the dough instead of butter; or the apples that were suitable only for applesauce. Whether innovation or tragedy ensued, other events and stories unwind.

And in each episode, a character trait is revealed and often some small detail that gives you further understanding of your mother. Of your family. Of your own life back then.

Your life expands. Your writing expands. Your world expands past the past.

Each detail is a thread of memory of your mother and your relationship.

Threads of memory are captured one by one. That’s YOU getting things down. Then the threads are woven together to make that story of your mother’s celebrated apple pie.


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