ASH AMBIRGE

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The All-New Rules for Writing Magnificent Shit on the Internet

In: Creative Writing for the Internet

  1. Trust your own voice.
  2. Trust your own voice.
  3. Trust your own voice.
  4. Trust your own voice.
  5. Trust your own voice.
  6. Trust your own voice.
  7. Trust your own voice.
  8. Trust your own voice.
  9. Trust your own voice.
  10. Trust your own voice.
  11. AND ALSO…
  12. Stop putting “I think” before your opinion. It weakens your impact and makes you sound like a wee little lass at the big kid’s table, hedging and softening. Ditto prefacing your thoughts with, “in my opinion.” We already know it’s your opinion; you’re the author. Have the courage to declare your truth.
  13. Have an opinion in the first place, girlfriend. The world does not need you to summarize everyone else’s ideas: it needs you to really think and reflect and then contribute your own. When we read something you’ve written, whether it’s a full-blown manifesto or an Instagram post, we want you to change our minds. We want you to alter our perspective; shift our reality a little, and then click it back into place. This is the reason we read: we want to be rebuilt.
  14. DO NOT TAKE THE SHORTCUT. It’s tempting to say the first thing that comes to mind in order to express an idea, but when you use tired language like, “do what you love” and “follow your passions,” your readers’ brains skip right over it and file it under, “YEAH, YEAH.” The brain is programmed to be as efficient as possible, so if it thinks it knows what you’re going to say, it doesn’t bother listening. And that’s a big problem when the entire point of creating content on the Internet is to win someone’s heartbeat.
  15. Following that line of thinking: violate your reader’s expectations. Use the wrong word on purpose—it wakes up the brain. Pickle around. Oh my vodka. The Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa WHAT THE HELL JUST HAPPENED? Go ahead: bait and switch away.
  16. Not sure what to write? Consider the problem you’re trying to solve. The best content marketing plan is simply a matter of figuring out how you’re going to chip away at a problem using a string of words instead of a sledgehammer.
  17. Zoom in. Real close. Instead of summarizing the big picture––“Has mummy ever been more entertaining than when she’s drunk?” drill down and get specific. “Has mummy ever been more entertaining than when she stood on the patio table, opening and closing the big parasol, and singing, ‘You Know I’m No Good’ by Amy Winehouse?” (Which is an actual quote from Caitlin Moran.) The moral: even though not everybody has had that exact experience, describing the experience is much more interesting and entertaining than using the summary word: drunk.
  18. Stop judging yourself. Have some fun with it, already! This is not a legal brief. You are not giving a speech at a funeral. And you aren’t presenting to a boardroom full of accountants, either. We’re real people, over here, and we’re interested in having a real conversation. Relax! Nix the stiff upper lip! No one is judging you; we’re trying to learn from your experience.
  19. Give the reader a nice, strong orgasm at the finish. Everyone worries about the beginning—and rightfully so—but then they let the end peter out (YASSS, QUEEN!). The end, though, is where the reader derives all their satisfaction. Nobody reads something to get to the middle: they read it to get a revelation. A payoff for investing their time. When you let the ending fall flat out of laziness or lack of effort, the entire piece does. Let’s be honest: if a movie has a shitty ending, the entire movie becomes shitty.
  20. And finally: make it mean something for US. Everybody’s got some horrific crap that happened to them. Everybody’s got a story that you’d never believe. But—haha—nobody cares. How eager are you to roll up in a bar and hear some stranger ramble on about his alcoholic parents who abandoned him at age two? You’re gonna run like hell—and the same thing applies to reading. Readers don’t care what happened to you: they care about what it means for them. Indeed, what does this mean for any of us? What universal truths can we take from this, and how can it help us live better lives? This is why we read. And, little secret? It's also why we write.
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