Monday, January 28, 2013

Finding An Audience for Your Writing


When was the last time you paused from your writing and thought, “Who is my audience?” It seems like a simple question and one with an immediate answer. But when you really stop and think about it you may find the answer is more fuzzy than you thought.

Whether you’re writing blog posts, magazine articles, a book or website copy, you have to know the audience for your words. Answering that question will help you through the research, writing and editing phases of your work. 

For example, I’ve written a large number of articles for businesses magazines and newspapers. I know the audience is a business crowd – educated people with an understanding of phrases like “ROI” and “succession planning.” I don’t need to waste words explaining these concepts in great detail.

Who is your audience?

A blog post by literary agent Rachelle Gardner sums up this concept nicely: “Make your blog about your reader.”

Sounds like “writing concepts for dummies,” but we can get so caught up in our writing we tend to forget who we’re writing for and who’s reading our work. Gardner points to “engagement” as a critical component of your blog. That means getting people to not only read your blog once but come back time and again. The same could be said for books, articles and other forms of writing where were want to develop an audience – a group of people who truly want to read what we have to write.

If you’re struggling to determine your audience, take a look back over your work and see what generated the most response. This is easy to do on a blog where you can measure hits and comments and certainly if you’ve published a book you’ll know if people are buying and reading. What blog post, for example, had a lot of comments? Did something in that post resonate with your target audience?

Maybe you write simply as a hobby, a way to express yourself creatively. That’s OK if the audience is you. Most of us, though, want readers, people who will engage with us on this writing journey, but they can’t engage with you if you’re not writing for them.

Do you struggle with determining your audience? In what ways have you answered this question for yourself? 

Monday, January 21, 2013

Choosing Joy!

Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow ~ James 1:2-3 NLT

I don’t know about you, but when things aren't going my way I don’t consider it an opportunity for great joy.  In fact, I consider it quite the opposite.   

I've had a great deal of trouble in my life.  I grew up in a pretty tumultuous household.  My mother unknowingly married a man after my father that was sexually abusive.  My father spent the most impressionable years of my life in prison.  I made some pretty outrageous choices in my young adult life that lead to disastrous consequences for both me and my children.  I’ll spare the details.  That could turn into a whole book…

Ten years ago, I found myself crying out to God:  Why?  Why has my life been so awful?  Why can’t things seem to go right for me?  Why do I keep making the same stupid choices? God, I need your help!!   I quickly discovered  that He had been waiting for me all along. Waiting for me to turn to Him. Waiting for me to let Him take control. Once I did, He turned every test into a testimony, every mess into a message. Every ounce of trouble that has come my way, he has used to shape me into the woman I am today.  He is using my past to help others who are struggling with the same things. 

What about you?  Are you facing trials?  Are you in the middle of something you are certain you cannot endure? Would you consider making it an opportunity for great joy, trusting that God can use all of it for His glory and for your testimony?   Now, suffering with joy does not mean that you don’t feel pain; it simply means that you choose to trust him in spite of your pain.  You choose to proclaim your love for Him in spite of your circumstances.  His word says that He works ALL things out for good for those who love him!  Will you choose JOY today?

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 

Heavenly Father, thank you that you are with us when we face trials and trouble.  Give us the strength we need to choose JOY.  Allow our pain to be used for your glory and while we are in the midst of it, comfort us and bring us peace that passes all understanding.  In Jesus Name, Amen!  

By Allison Herrin, Founder and Executive Director of Maia, an organization dedicated to the advocacy of single moms and their children. Alison blogs at Follow her on twitter at @allisonherrin.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Creating an Online Portfolio

When I was applying for internships and my first newspaper job, I spent hours trying to get my published articles photocopied. It’s not easy to shrink a full-size newspaper down to a readable 8 x 11 sheet of paper. Then I made copies of my resume, created a customized cover letter and put together a packet of information to mail to prospective employers. It was time consuming – and expensive.

Fast forward, er, just a few years later and a majority of my clips are online. Now I have a website and online portfolio where I add links to my articles. If someone wants a sample of my work, I can simply forward a link to my website.

In fact, most editors don’t want that big envelope of newspaper and magazine clips. If you’ve even seen an editor’s desk you know she has more than enough stacks of paper. Today everyone wants to see your work online – it’s much easier.

That means it’s critical for writers to have an online presence. That could be a blog or a professional website where people can learn more about you and your work. Even a blog needs an “About” tab and another page to showcase work you might have had published elsewhere.

Keeping an updated LinkedIn profile is another good way to highlight your professional experience.
In a recent issue of Inc. magazine, I read about three products that allow you to quickly and cheaply create a personal webpage. These don’t give you a space for adding a portfolio, but it’s a good start if you don’t have an online presence and at least want a bio and photo on the Internet. 

Here are Inc.’s recommendations:
  • RebelMouse for a collage type site for your social media posts. Free for a basic account.
  • About.Me for a one-page site with your photo, bio and social media links. No place for creating a portfolio but a good start if you don’t have any online presence. Free.
  • Vizify for an aggregate of your social media accounts presented in infographic form. Free.

Now to go a step further and create a true online portfolio, check out:

  • Writer’s Residence for creating a space for your resume, published work and bio. $8.99/month.
  • Writerfolio for a nice clean web space. $4/month.
  • Contently for a professional portfolio and branding tools.  You can also join their Pro.Network to get work from publishers.
These are just a few of the many options out there. Let us know if you’ve tried a particular site you really love.