Writing Lecture Review

Tips on Writing for Non-professional Writers

 

Udemy.com has a number of free online courses available. I recently completed Secret Sauce of Great Writing.  Out of the dozen or more online lectures I’ve taken in the last month, I wanted to review this one because I felt it was worthwhile.

The lecturer very clearly explained the basics of great writing; or as he called it several times, “slick writing”.  The three basic principles are simplicity, clarity, and elegance.

Keep It Simple

Simplicity is mostly about using short words as opposed to longer words.  Avoid jargon. Use fewer words.

Clear

The second tip for great or slick writing is clarity.  The first reason people are often unclear is laziness.  Go through as many drafts as necessary to make sure there is only one meaning per sentence.  If the meaning is unclear, or the reader has to think about it too long, then rewrite.  Ambiguity is not a writer’s friend.  Punctuation is that last part of clarity discussed.  A lot of native English speakers feel they’ve learned all they need to about punctuation in grammar school.  Indeed, we learned the basics. Sometimes we also forget.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Martin Luther King, Jr. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Elegant Writing

The last concept taught by this trained journalist is elegance.  I’m not sure I’ll do this subject justice, as it seemed a difficult concept.  He used examples of Martin Luther King and Barrack Obama to illustrate the idea of rhythm.  Another idea expressed by Shani Raja was structure.  As writers, we want a structure.  To me, that means an outline.  A writer who is scatter shot, may lose their reader before they get to the point of the article or story.

Overall, I got a lot from the lecture and recommend it.  There were a couple of distractions.  The lecturer tended to sway from side to side.  Movement while speaking in public is natural.  I use my hands to help “punctuate” a point I’m trying to make.  I think he might have been better off using a lectern.  The second minor annoyance was looking down at his notes quite a bit.  A lectern, or a video screen beside the camera with his notes would have helped him to look at the camera more.

 

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Paladin Cooks

 

Army Photography Contest - 2007 - FMWRC - Arts...

Army Photography Contest – 2007 – FMWRC – Arts and Crafts – Mountain Still (Photo credit: familymwr)

As part of my ongoing effort to reinvent myself, or at least the process of earning a living, I’ve started a new blog about cooking.  The first post is about pit barbecue or using smokers to produce restaurant quality barbecue.  Smoking meats is the first article.

 

There is a method to my madness; I need to build up a portfolio of cooking related articles and recipes.  The portfolio will help me to land some freelance gigs around cooking, like blogging, or cook books, or recipes.
Take a peek, and leave some feedback!

 

Savvy Saturday

oDesk

  • I created a profile here.  I did this as a result of a suggestion from a blog follower.  There are obviously other freelance job listing sites, that I may detail in another post.  For now though, I think two job list sites is enough to keep up with.
  • As in Elance, there are skill tests that should be taken to maximize the number of jobs you can apply for.  What’s a bit different is that a job listing can include requirements to have passed certain tests.  I passed the blogging test, but, need to take several more.  These take anywhere from 20 minutes to 40 minutes.  There may be longer ones, but, I haven’t run across them, yet.
  • I did apply for one writing job.  As mentioned above, it did ask for the application to have passed certain tests.  oDesk did not prevent me from applying.  But, the job lister will see that I don’t “qualify”.  I did offer to do one piece of writing for free.  Mostly to put a portfolio together.
Blog Machine

Blog Machine (Photo credit: digitalrob70)

Getting your Blog noticed

I admit to being an analytics junkie.  I’m sure there’s a twelve step program for that somewhere.  My theory is that if you can’t measure something, it’s hard to know what to change.  In my exploration of WordPress.com I’ve run across several suggestions, among them are:

  • Google webmaster tools: You will need a Google account, and to register your sites.  Beyond that, you need to include certain meta tags in your WordPress.com blog.  It’s in your WP dashboard under Tools>>Available Tools.  Search WP for more information on how to set this up.
  • Twitter: Same thing here.  You set up a meta tag as above.  You can then view the number of click-throughs to Twitter from your blog.  You will need a Twitter account first.
  • There are several other meta tags you can add, for Bing, among others.  I haven’t explored the possibilities of those yet.

oDesk versus Elance comparison

  • It was news to me when I started looking at oDesk about the planned merger between oDesk and Elance.  I’m wondering if I’ve wasted my time on oDesk.  I’m also wondering what things will look like after the merger.  Since I’m on both sites now, the changes will certainly be food for future blog posts.  They seem to be totally separate, at this time.
  • The testing is not a lot different, that I could tell in the few cases that I’ve experienced.  I’ll be taking more on both sites, until I see where the merger takes me.

p.s. alliteration…I’m going to try some alliteration in my blog post titles.  I think it adds a little personality and je ne sais quoi.

Sunday Morning Ramblings

English: French Press

English: French Press (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sitting here drinking a bit of coffee. I so enjoy coffee made by a french press.  Over the years, I’ve tried drip and the Kuerig pods.  They make acceptable coffee.  I’ve obviously had coffee in restaurants and coffee houses; where they mostly use a drip method.  I saw a very small french press for a really cheap price, and figured I wouldn’t be throwing away a lot of money if I didn’t like it.  It’s so good, I even made my wife a convert.

One thing to note, there is sediment in the bottom of your cup after drinking, unless you pour it through a filter first.  Personally, I don’t notice the very fine sediment while drinking the coffee.  The mouth feel isn’t that much different due to the fine particulates.  But, the taste is at least twice as good, assuming you start with ah good coffee.

I could go on for several more paragraphs about coffee, grinding beans, types and roasts of coffee, but, I’ll leave that for another post.  I’ve been cross posting between WordPress and Blogger.com, and I’m beginning to notice a trend, and I wanted to jot down a couple of the pros and cons from a newbie freelancer.

The free versions of WordPress & Blogger.com are what I’ve started with; I may go paid on one or the other, eventually.  I have no conclusions so far about which is better. Here’s what I’ve observed to date, just looking at the plain vanilla free versions:

  • First comment left on WordPress and first reblog too
  • Both sites seem easy to navigate and publish a blog
  • Blogger.com offers a lot of both Google tools & third-party addons
  • WordPress.com offers more in some areas without having to go the third-party route
  • Both sites won’t let you monetize your site, easily without having your own domain name at least
  • Integration with social sites like Facebook, Twitter, Tumbler, Google+ and more seems about the same, give or take a few social sites
  • Both offer apps for blogging via your phone or tablet.  I haven’t tried to blog, but, I have read blogs this way.

Now, on to to my other ramblings for this post, technical writing training.  I mentioned in a earlier post about iTunes U, and a training course.  There were about 10 or 12 lectures, but, all audio.  It seemed like a very nice university professor, and I’m sure it would have been better in person as opposed to just audio.  So, I went looking at YouTube.  Wow, what a wealth of videos on that one subject.  Of course, I’m having to weed out those that are just advertising their services.  Still, I did find one complete course, and I’ve watched the first three out of about 20.  If I like it, I’ll link it in a future post.

To those of you who actually read to the end, thanks.  I think you are very tough and determined people.  Happy Sunday!

My To Do List

I’m getting overwhelmed with the number of things I think I ought to learn about to become a freelancer.  There are so many applications to learn.  I’m already experimenting with Blogger.com & WordPress.  I still need to upgrade my skills with Excel, so that I can better market my skills in Elance.  But, I’m thinking also about doing technical writing.  So, I need to spend time on making sure I know the latest techniques for that line of work.

Here’s my list so far, of what I think will be worth my time:

  • iTunes Technical Writing course
  • Excel Pivot tables, just need to learn about changes in Excel 2013
  • Blogger.com — I have an Adsense account, but, will I do enough blogging and get enough readership to bother trying to monetize it.
  • WordPress — This seems to be the top-tier in blogging platforms, at least the free version seems that way, but, unless I buy a private domain, I can’t monetize it.
  • Elance — The free version of Elance only allows a person to bid jobs in one job category; I think I might like to try bidding in 2 or 3 categories.

The primary thing I struggle against is investing in myself, versus throwing money down the drain.  I can use various free sources to pick up skills, and market myself; it only costs time. If I invest money in training, Elance, WordPress, etc. will it be worthwhile?  I guess time will tell.  For now, I’ll stick with free.