How to find your authentic writing voice

You’ve read it a thousand times: “write with your own authentic voice”.  According to some it is the key to engaging readers and creating books that sell.  But what exactly is “Your authentic voice”?  It’s a tricky one to pin down as a writer.  We begin to second guess every sentence, question every choice of word, analyse every exclamation mark!  The trouble is that telling yourself to write authentically can sometimes have the very real effect of creating the exact opposite.

You know the drill.  You sit down to write.  The words are flying down onto the keyboard.  You are on a roll, baby!  You have banged out two thousand words and your Writer’s high is … euphoric.  But then you read back through what you have written.  This time however you read back with your reader’s hat on, or even worse, your editing hat on…  The questions are racing through your mind.  Have I expressed that idea correctly?  Is my grammar correct?  And then, the killer question:  am I writing in my authentic voice?  Ouch.  She’s a chilly comedown, that one.

Sometimes, second guessing yourself can be a good thing.  It is important to check that your writing communicates your idea properly.  Checking spelling and grammar are what a professional writer does.  But how do you test for an authentic voice in your writing?  Tricky one this.  One thing I have noticed is that when I write as myself, from my heart and imagine myself speaking the words that I have written, then I have written authentically.  When I go into academic, dictionary gobbling, essay writing mode, my authentic voice is way off in the distance, dancing with the fairies and poking her tongue out at me!  You know when your tone is authentic because it resonates with your heart.  Reading it through, just feels right.  Sorry to be flighty and woo-woo.  Sorry to be so unscientific about the whole thing.  But authenticity is unscientific.  It comes from the heart.  It is allowing your voice to find itself through your writing.  Get out of your own way for a minute.  Stop second guessing yourself.  Write as if you were communicating with your very best friend.

my ideal reader

Another free printable to get to the heart of your reader and help you develop your authentic voice

A great way to do this is to be a little business like in your approach to your writing project.  Create an Ideal Reader Avatar.  Give them a name, a full identity – spend as much time getting to know your ideal reader as you would getting to know your main character.  Know where they hang out online, what they read, what they love, what they fear.  Drill down into their emotional truth and hold that knowledge in your heart.

When you know your reader so well, communicating them is like speaking to a friend.  You know the details that they are looking for, you read the book through their eyes, you answer the questions that they are asking for themselves.  Knowing your ideal reader and communicating with them through your writing is the key to authenticity.  It is how you write from your heart using the language and images that your reader wants to read.

I created yet another printable to help me with this (I know, I know – I am printable obsessed!) so here you go – another gift! Just clicky HERE to get the pdf.

And yes, it is unscientific.  It is esoteric.  But so is the creative act of writing.  And remember, science is just another story that we tell ourselves.  Consider my words to be just another theory of Authenticity. That’s all…

So how do you get to understand your ideal reader?  Do you have another way of finding your authentic voice?  Let’s share our ideas because, y’know, it’s nice to share!  Leave a comment – I am learning so much from you guys!

And have yourself an authentically beautiful, and productive, day.

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Branding Your Author Platform

I know, I know – I have talked a lot about my website and branding and all that blablabla.  But yesterday I got all hot and techy on it and sat myself down to some serious website stuffage.  I glued myself to my chair, got into the Geek Zone and went for it. 9 YES NINE new pages later, I emerged, itchy eyed but feeling rather darned pleased with what I had created.

It’s not that the copy is odiously long or clever.  It’s not even the fact that I have created “Parent Pages” with “drop down menus” (oooh get me!).  What I really love about my new look site is that I have gone all out for consistent branding.  And by that I mean it’s all beautifully colour coordinated.  Yep my new look site is positively awash with gold and blue and green with some dashes of fiery orange for good measure.

And no, these colours were not randomly plucked from createyourpalette.com  (that’s a madey uppy website… or is it?).  No no, I got all intentional and, dare I say, symbolic in my choices of colours.  I went all chakra on myself.  Green to represent healing, gold to represent courage and blue to represent communication with a splash of creative orange.  Well namaste to me and all that.  Of course the blue goes with the dress I am wearing in my header photo and the other colours coordinate beautifully with the cover of my free opt in and the book that I am working on at the moment.  Result?  Consistent branding that I can use across my different author platforms. yee har…

I am not saying that you need to be coordinated.  I am not even saying that you need a ‘colour palette’ (gorgeous word – let’s say it again – palette).  However as a non recovering stationery addict and someone who has a linen cupboard with labelled shelves, I do recognise that colour coordination appeals to the OCD in me.  What I will say that is that if you want to Go Pro (and let’s face it who doesn’t?) then it’s probably a good idea to learn from the Branding Gurus who all say that consistency is important.  (I am not sure if they should really be referred to as gurus by the way – I am not sure that a real Guru writes books about Branding on his way back from the Ashram).  Here’s what else I know – creating a brand is kind of fun.

Picking colours for your website is about getting to grips with who your ideal reader is and what they would like to see.  Sure, I am a pink kind of girl with an inordinate soft spot for mint green in private but there is not even a whiff of that on the site because this is my professional site and coordination is Queen here. The tone of my book is upbeat and zesty so the colours reflect that.  And describing my site as “zesty” also gives me a great deal of pleasure.  How many times to do you really get to say “Check out my site – it’s zesty”.  Well, if you are me – all the time now! Yay!

Actionable step today.  Look at your author branding.  Is it consistent?  Is it coordinated?  Does it reflect the style of your writing?  Will it connect with your reader?  Go onto other sites and find examples of branding that you love love love.  How can you bring a slice of that onto your own site?

Tomorrow I am going to talk about how I created my header.  I promise you that it is a perfect way to lose an hour or two!

Okay off to lavish some love on my zesty website. 

Toodle-oo

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How to combat writer isolation

I am declaring today to be National Worging Day in my household. For those of you who are not me, a worge is a word merge or a fusion word. Quite simply, you take two words and merge them into one, or worge them. Simple really: word merge become worge, brad and angelina becomes brangelina, writer and isolation becomes wrisolation. You get the idea!

How did I come up with such a genius idea? Another day of writing and grappling with “simple” internet things has sent me off the deep end. Not helped by the fact that I may well be suffering from the accursed S.I.D aka Statistically Induced Depression. Yep that accursed Stats button on my WP dashboard has led me to keep flicking into my Stats far too often, and emerging bruised and tearful as I realise what a pitifully poor reach my little ramblings are having. Forget the “Post a blog and then just watch the stats pile up” brigade. I have found that my Stats are numbingly disappointing and that, my friend, is depressing. That small act, repeated often enough, leads to the Black Dog of SID.

So to cheer myself up I have decided to have some fun with my language and worge my way through the day. After a breakfast of coffuesli and a quick gmeck, I decided that today I would set up a professional email for my website. Apparently using a @gmail.com address for my website reeks of small fry so I grabbed the bull by the horns and decided to set myself up with the more “Professional” address of juliette@juliettenolan.com.

Oh Juliette, why didn’t you heed the warning signs? It said in the book that it would take 15 minutes. Well you will know by now that any 15 minute task that is IT related and attempted by Yours Truly will evolve/mutate into a 3 hour beast. This proved no exception.

I followed the beautiful instructions from Catherine Ryan Howard’s marvellous book called Self Printed: The Sane Person’s Guide to Self Publishing(second edition). Let me tell you that Catherine is a gem. I love her utterly and her book has become insomnia-inducing reading. She makes it all sound so utterly achievable. And she is right. It is doable. Just not quickly and not without some tearing of hair ( thairing) on the way. However I am pleased to report that I now have a professional email address and I still have 5 minutes before my clothes turn into rags and the coach turns into a pumpkin.

However my wrisolation is looming large. Writing is such a solitary activity. Writing for self publishing is an Act of Faith without doubt. No publisher to build in accountability. No happy Advance to smooth the wheels and feed the cat. Just me, my laptop and a bit of chutzpah. Sometimes the act of writing can feel like a trip to the land of self indulgence, can’t it? You know that you have a message that you want to share. The ideas are haunting you with their pleas of “Write me….Write me”. You have read the books that tell you that all you have to do is write a niche book, stick it out there and book yourself into the Hilton with room service on dial as the millions flock to you eager for your every missive.

If only it were that simple. Instead I hap (happily tap) away for hours with some self belief and a good supply of biscuits and pray to the God of Amazon that this all comes to something.

So here are 5 things I am doing to combat Wrisolation:

  • Writing a blog about wrisolation
  • Bombarding my friends with invites for coffee
  • Shopping for stationery
  • Spending too long on Facebook and Pinterest (worrying about my stats…)
  • Worging like a maman (mad woman)

How do you combat wrisolation?  Nudge nudge this is a call to action.  Post a comment, even if it is your own idea for a worge…  Prease….

 

Book me a trip to the Funny Farm. I’m coming home, folks!

My pumpkin awaits….

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What Should my OptIn gift be?

In this blog, I am going to get down to the nitty gritty of creating an optin gift which I will generously give away on my website in exchange only for an email address. OPTIN WHAT? I have to admit that when I first starting trying to get my head round this whole online  I didn’t know my optin from my Mailchimp, or my AWS from my elbow. An optin offering is something for free. They “optin” to hearing more scintillating stuff about you and your product and you give them a gift.

By God, I hear you cry… why would you commit such death by generosity? Shouldn’t you make the suckers pay for something before you start giving away the farm? Well first of all, dear reader – yes you with the dollar sign in your eyes… that’s right… you! Shame on you. Remember that we love our blog readers. They are the people that we want to befriend and form a connection with. And because we like them and we appreciate that they wouldn’t just dole out their email address to any Tom, Dick or Harry that asked, we are more than happy to give them a little something in return. Because it is all about give and give. They give us their email and then we give them a gift to say ‘Thank you. You’re super swell. Have this as a symbol of my appreciation” Simple as that.

So, what can I give away for free and how does it tie into marketing my book?

Well my book is about self-hypnosis and is in the form of a 28 day programme for inner change. I have created a workbook which goes with the programme but this has run into 30 pages and I am beginning to think of this as the book’s little sister who might be able to find a little market for herself also. Because the book is about self-hypnosis, I want to give away something related and relevant which will be of value. What I don’t want to do is to churn out some pdf written in a font so large that it is the optin equivalent of childish bubble writing and of about the same quality. What I don’t want is to give people a file so large that they won’t read it and it will still be lurking away in their downloads folder in the year 2020.

So here’s what I do want:

  • An optin that provides value to my readers and helps them to get to know me a little better.
  • An optin that is not going to take longer than 3 hours to create.
  • An optin that I can send from Mailchimp and that doesn’t require any extra bells and whistles.
  • An optin that my reader can use/ read in about 20-30 minutes.

Some ideas for optins are:

An mp3

An inspirational poster or manifesto

A book/ pdf on a specific topic

A series of videos

A chance to enter into a draw to win a copy of the book.

All sound good so I should filter these options through my Achieveability Filter (aka the Goggles of Realism) which leads me to…..

Basically, I have what I see as two options:

I can create a 20 minute hypnosis recording

Or: I can give the reader a some of the worksheets from the workbook….

ORRRR: Both.

And this is my genius idea, peeps. I will create an optin box for the site tomorrow which has a 10 minute Release Your Fears mp3. But I will also create a free resources page on which I will invite the reader to download worksheets in exchange for an email address. I presume that I can send them to a link on my Mailchimp account via the main body of the text…. Further investigation required on this.

Ok so “actionable step” time:

  1. Create a 10 minute Release Your Fears MP3
  2. Create an optin box for the website and put it in the side bar
  3. Create a separate pdf for each worksheet that I am giving away and create links to the sign up form from my freebies page.
  4. Oh so I guess create a freebies page too.
  5. Write about what a fun time I had doing all this tomorrow….

Lots to do. I am out of here! Any other ideas for optins or tips etc, please reply below. All ideas gratefully received…

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Can I really create a blog in 20 minutes?

So when you are creating your author blog, how long is it going to take?  You are a busy creative,I know, I know, and time is money and all that!  It’s tempting to fall for those blog posts and email newsletters which promise you that you can really create a blog in 20 minutes and then just sit back and watch your stats pile up.

I believed them too.  Until I created a blog that is.  When I did that I realised that the reality is that registering for a blog takes 20 minutes but to actually create a blog with something for people to read is actually a much longer process.   Take this blog for instance…

Yesterday I sat down thinking that – yes, 20 minutes and I am up and running.  I logged onto my WordPress dashboard that I use for my other site and hit the button that said “create new blog” and the party began.  And what a party it was?  Not one of those sedate dinner party gatherings that ends at a reasonable time – oh no!  This turned into a downright “gathering” to which the Frustration police were called in the early hours of the morning… nuf said!

Still the blog was created – check!  Then I had to whip out the credit card to pay for a dot com domain so that visitors to the site would see a .com address rather than wordpress.com address which comes for free.  I know that this is a good idea – it oozes professionalism and professionalism is important to me.  But having made that decision, I then had to waste a half hour deciding on what I wanted that domain to be.  I have read enough books about making money online to know that your web address should be eminently searchable.  You are supposed to go through all sorts of rigmarole around search words and SEO ( note to self: what the heck is SEO?) but I was in a hurry as per normal so I just went ahead and hazarded a guess thinking that it should be related to what the blog was all about.  The temptation was to get all clever and literary and come up with a sparklingly witty blog name, but, you know, I was tired etc…  Ok decision made, domain available, credit card used.. Next step-

Then you have to go through it all again by coming up with a title for your blog.  Do you choose a name that you already have ie your own name?  Yes if you are wanting to build up a brand and you have the dream of creating lots of books.  This is the goal for my other site, so there I chose my name for the domain address and put the title of the book as the name of the blog – “Change Your Life From the Inside Out’.  I was invited to shell out a vast amount for their professional package and as a newbie I did pay the $99 fee because I thought I might need those extras.  In fact I have used them to alter fonts and colours and create some general niceness.  For this site, I didn’t do that, opting instead for just the domain name.

Then you need to choose your theme.  Oh the joy!  This is like real estate shopping except all the free ones are in your price range and so many look good.  Say goodbye to another half hour of previewing contenders until you eventually come back to the original choice.  I chose blissful blog because well … I liked the name, ok.  Plus it’s cute and a little bit (a lotta bit) feminine which is v. me!  A word about themes – steer clear of anything that looks too dark or space agey (unless you are dark and space agey in which case knock yourself out, buddy!)  For me, professional is about light and bright.  Not too many squiggles.  Think clean and elegant!

Ok so now we are onto headers.  Easier this time.  Flipped over to another window and searched images for ‘lady writing’.  Picked a pretty one, cropped it and pressed the button.  Yep all good and only 2 hours behind schedule!  Now onto the pages.  Keep it simple here.  At the moment on my site I do not have my book ready to sell but I do provide face to face coaching and hypnotherapy so I created a page for products and prices.  Then fill it up with some copy.  30 minutes – check!  An About Me page – do I go narcissistic or humble??  Instead I chose on the other site to speak about my service and say what I can offer to my clients and what my professional experience is.  On this site, I tended towards the mememe approach… As an author wanting to sell products, I may create another page on that website and call it “Books”.  Never let it be said that I am not an original thinker…

Next I needed a landing page, which is basically where people land on your site if they search for you direct.  This is the page which offers an insight into your service/offering and sets the tone for the site.  On my professional page, it is like this but for this site I wanted to focus on the challenge that I have set myself so it is slightly different in tone.  Make your Welcome Page nice and colourful and I would suggest that a picture is good.  I have even embedded a Youtube video on my welcome page (wow – such a whiz) which I had to teach myself how to do.  But by now you can imagine – my caffeine levels are running dangerously loowwww and I am in danger of a mercy run to the biscuit tin.  It’s already lunchtime and I still haven’t actually written a blog post. Grrrrr…

One caffeine stop later ad I am finally onto the blog bit because this is where I am going to be reaching out from and was (can you remember still) the point of starting this whole circus in the first place.  Make your first blog about the first question that you would ask if you had found your site.  Write as yourself not as some corporate robot who is just churning out generic copy.  If I wanted generic, I would go the the library, or read ‘The Secret” or something.  Be you – the writer – someone who is human and genuine and nice and dazzlingly witty (my head is swelling…)  Oh and one thing that I have learned is to put on an actionable step at the end of the post.  Not actionable as in ‘buy my book – it’s awesome’ or ‘pick up the phone and call me now.”  An actionable step is something that your reader can do or think about after they have got to the end of the post.

Then create some tabs and categories on the sidebar. I am still getting my head around tags so I will keep you posted on that.. Stick in some links by using the link icon at the top of the page and press publish.  I will talk about widgets later this week as I am currently navigating this learning process myself and even heard a whisper that widgets were easy to create yourself – What???  Do I sense another 3 hour “20 minute ” session a-brewing….  That’s enough.  I’m off for another cuppa – biscuit tin, watch out – I am heading your way!

Your actionable step today is to set a three hour window aside for the creation of your WordPress blog.  Be prepared for frustration and keep calm and carry on.  Oh and you could leave a comment below if you have some insights or questions – I’d love to hear your thoughts…

Over and out.  Gotta dash

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Do I need a blog?

Ok, so the irony is not lost on me that I am blogging about blogging.  Thing is someone out there is currently blogging about blogging about blogging.  Crazy times, my friend…

As part of the self publishing journey, I am given to understand that me as a writer needs a blog.  Or is it that my product needs a blog?  What exactly is the value of a blog if you just want to get the word about your book out there?

I have been reading blogs for years and love them.  Why?  Because they give me a chance to get to know the person behind the product and the hype.  They give a personal insight into who has created the product and what their goal is.  It helps me to connect with where they are at as a writer and a human being.  If I like the person, then I might take the next step of visiting their Facebook page or signing up for email updates.  I am tentatively creating a relationship, saying ‘hey that’s cool, let’s keep in touch” albeit at an anonymous distance.

I created a blog to go with my professional website as a way of getting content out to potential clients.  Now I am not sure how to use that blog to convert clients to buyers or friends into customers….  I have had to think about how to use my blog in such a way that it doesn’t feel like I am giving the hard sell every other sentence.   Fine line stuff…

So how does creating a blog help to market a book?  Well first of all don’t make your blog all about your book.  Give your reader a chance to get to know you and what you are about.  Share your dazzling insights and give them tips that they can use today.  Remember that a blog is about building a relationship and letting your potential reader know that there are people out there who are creating products and general niceness for people like them to enjoy.  Write a blog not to sell but to enrich and connect.  Not every reader will come back or sign up.  Not every reader will buy your book.  And that is ok.  The important thing is to keep connecting and putting your energy out into the webosphere.

Yes and that is all lovely and esoteric and good etc.  But what about the nitty gritties of creating a blog.  Here are the questions I found myself asking:

  1. Do I need to self host? And what does that mean anyway?
  2. Can I really create a blog in 20 minutes?
  3. How can I make my blog appear on Google?
  4. What if nobody reads my blog?
  5. Can I sell my product through my blog?

Righty ho.  We have our list of learning objectives for the first part of this challenge.  I will post about these things in my experience over the next few days.

One thing I have learned is that I should give my reader an actionable step to complete on reading this blog.  So your actionable step is to comment below if you have a question about blogging that you would like me to investigate. And also to find five blogs that you like in your chosen field – what do you like about them?  Is it the tone?  The looks?  The content?  How could you learn from these bloggers in your own blogging?

Gosh have a great day.  Got to dash xxx