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What are backlinks in SEO and how do I get them?

If you’re anything like me, you love to write, but perhaps the SEO side of things seem a bit more technical and mysterious. Marketer and SEO expert Nicki Sciberras shares some tips about getting more eyes on your website through using backlinks.

Nicki shared some great advice for getting started with SEO on the podcast back in Dec 2021, and I’m thrilled that she agreed to be my first guest poster on the blog!

Enjoy.

Guest post by SEO expert Nicki Sciberras

Scoring traffic to your website using SEO could be easier than you think; you just need to know the right steps to get there. I’m going to share with you one of the fastest ways to boost your rankings in search engines like Google, so you reach those top positions and grow your audience, sales and revenue in no time.

One of the best ways to boost your position in search engines is backlinking.

What are back links and how do I get them?
SEO expert Nicki Sciberras: ‘What are back links and how do I get them?’

Before I get into the nitty gritty let me give you a quick lesson on SEO in totality.

There are three pillars to master when it comes to implementing SEO and yes, one of those is backlinking.

Pillars of SEO

SEO is made up of three primary components. Each component must work together to optimise your ranking in search engines like Google.

Technical SEO

How your site is built and functions (crawlability, speed and responsiveness)

Content

The words, images, graphics, videos and content on your pages and posts and how they’re optimised

Backlinks from other sites to your website which increase your domain authority and help Google to boost your ranking.

seo checklist pdf
The Ultimate Beginners SEO Checklist for ranking in Google: PDF download

Today we will focus on building links. It’s a super simple way to signal to Google that you have a trustworthy authoritative site that they should rank higher in the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). If other reputable sites trust you, then search engines like Google do too. Let me explain.

Starting from the top, I am going to get you all over backlinks so you can start ranking for your chosen keywords.

What are backlinks in SEO you ask? A backlink is a link from another website to your website. It signals to Google that your trustworthy. These links along with the citations of your site help you increase your domain authority (and are the only way to grow it). Increasing your domain authority helps boost your page rank for your chosen keywords and the higher the authority of your website, the better chance you have of ranking above your competitors for the same keywords.

What is domain authority?

Domain Authority (also known as Page Rank) is a score between 1 and 100 and was developed by SEO extraordinaire MOZ. Your score is determined by the quality and number of links to your site. The more links pointing to your site, particularly of higher quality (from sites with a higher domain authority), the higher your domain authority.

A brand-new site would have a Domain Authority of 1 or 2 given it has little to no backlinks

Websites like Facebook where almost all websites link back to it, have a Domain Authority close to 100. Again, numerous companies link to Facebook because they trust them which proves to Google that Facebook themselves are trustworthy and should be ranked higher.

Keyword analysis and domain authority

When selecting keywords to target in your copy, your selections need to be considered together with analysing the domain authority of competitor sites that rank in the current top positions for those keywords. Why? Because if all things are equal, sites with a higher domain authority will generally rank higher than those with lower scores for the same keywords.

Not all sites have been optimised well for SEO which means there is potential for you to outrank a higher authority site. It is just a little harder and you’ll need to be more strategic about your approach. With good keyword research and implementation, and well written copy, you’ll give yourself a better chance.

Remember, the higher the authority of the site linking to your site, the more authority will pass to you. A link from a high authority site is worth more than hundreds of links from low authority sites. A great place to score a high-quality link from is a news or media site.

Trust signals

As demonstrated, your domain authority and page rank are two measures of how trustworthy your site is to Google and determinants of where you rank. The more links from higher authority sites linking to you, the more trustworthy Google deems you to be and the more highly ranked your site will be.

Backlinking is extremely important when it comes to ranking in search engines. There is no point doing keyword research and getting your website technically sound if you aren’t going to get backlinks.

  • Links within your own site are called internal links.
  • Links from your sites to other sites are called external links.

I can assume your next question may be, how do I get backlinks?

Well, I’ve got you covered there too.

Before I get into it, I just wanted to take a minute to stress that you should aim to build backlinks naturally otherwise you will get penalised by search engines like Google. Also, be sure to spread the link juice across your webpages, not just your homepage when asking people to link to your website.

There are numerous tactics for getting backlinks. Here are six free and simple strategies that you can implement today without any paid SEO tools whatsoever.

What are backlinks in SEO?
What are back links in SEO?

Family and Friends

  • Do you have family or friends with a website or blog? Ask them to link to your website via a supplier list or guest blog on your business.

Affiliated Businesses

  • Do you work with complementary businesses that would be open to linking to you? For example, if you’re a copywriter, you could ask an SEO expert, a photographer or graphic designer to link to you as a partner.

Supplier Linking

  • If you sell other people’s products or services, you could ask them to link to you as a reseller or stockist.

Directories

  • There are numerous industry related directories that are worth getting added to. Avoid free directories without a strong verification process.
  • Look for reputable, well known directories and review sites eg. TripAdvisor or Yelp.
  • To run a search, Google ‘your industry + directories’ or ‘SEO friendly directories for  _______ industry’.
  • One last thing: make sure your contact details including your Name, Address and Phone Number (NAP) are the same across all directories.

Testimonials

  • Writing testimonials for other brands, ask them to add it to their site and create a link to your site. This is really simple and super effective.

Guest Blogs

  • Write an article for another website in your industry or niche and ask them to publish it on their website and link back to your website. This is the exact tactic I am using right now.

Remember: it’s critical to implement a backlink strategy to ensure all the hard you put into creating a technical sound site, finding good keywords and writing good content doesn’t go to waste. Which backlink tactic will you be starting with?

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

Want to leverage SEO or Facebook Ads to generate low-cost leads and sales? Here are a few resources I put together to help you:

1. Download my Ultimate Beginners SEO Checklist                                                                   

 It’s a SEO checklist that will help you get ranking in the top positions of search engines like Google.

2. Download my 6 Must-Dos for Facebook Ads Success

It’s a practical workbook on the six actions you must take to achieve Facebook Ads success.

3. Have a question, shoot me a message

About the author

Nicki Sciberras worked in corporate advertising for 15 years, and now runs a full service marketing agency specialising in high converting tactics like SEO, Google and Facebook Ads.

Thanks so much Nicki for being my first guest poster! Such a useful post too. Do go and check out all the goodness on Nicki’s site and grab some of her free resources!

Featured

Writing online for a general audience without watering down your expertise – five tips you can use today.

If you’re anything like my client Julie, then you might find yourself asking this question:

‘I know a shedload about my topic, but my audience is starting from zero. I don’t want to water down my message. What do I do?’

Here are a few strategies that have helped me:

1) Include stories to exemplify concepts.

While I was living in Germany as a twenty-something student, I once asked for a helicopter in a DIY shop rather than for a screwdriver. The shopkeeper and another customer fell about laughing (as did I once I’d realised what was going on). I’ll never forget those two words (Hubschrauber and Schraubenzieher). This is a story I sometimes use to illustrate how making mistakes in language learning is a crucial part of the process.

A shop keeper in a German DIY shop after I asked him for a helicopter
Use stories to explain concepts

The stories you tell don’t always have to be pivotal moments in your life. They can also be short or humorous anecdotes about everyday experiences.

2) Start with ONE aspect of what you know.

In other words, don’t try to put 20 years of expertise into one blog post (I’ve seen it). Can you provide an introductory post and break down one idea into smaller parts and have a number of different posts?

Think about writing one post for beginners in your subject area, and perhaps another more advanced post.

For example, in this post, I’ve given an overview of writing for a general audience. I can then refer readers who want to know more about writing stories to another post on the topic of using a story framework based on casual conversation.

3) Use analogies to explain concepts, categories or arguments.

E.g. ‘You wouldn’t expect to run a marathon without ever doing any shorter runs, so why would you expect to write a perfect book straightaway? Use your blog, emails and articles as a safe training space for the big event.’

Marathon runners: Use your blog as a training ground for the marathon of book writing
Use your blog as a training ground for the marathon of book writing

4) Think about whether your reader wants, or needs to know the technical term. If yes, then explain it.

Remember—Google likes texts that are written for a reading age of 11-15.

So use short sentences and words where possible.

You’re not dumbing down—you’re meeting your reader where they are now and providing the scaffolding to get them where they need to be.

Provide the info on a need-to-know basis.

Above all, just take the pressure off and get writing!

And, if you have any unfortunate language learning stories, then comment below and let me know.

Let’s talk about pronouns (or should I use ‘I’, ‘we’ or ‘you’ in my writing?)

An acquaintance wrote an irate Facebook post recently, complaining about the ‘careless’ speech used by adults who ‘should know better’, citing words like nuffin for nothing or mumf for month.

I held back from pointing out the harm that can be done through judging accents or dialects, or from mentioning accommodation theory. Accommodation theory explains a tendency humans have to adjust their behaviour or language depending on the audience and is actually a pretty useful social skill.

Kids especially, can be very skilled at varying their language depending on context (as I realise whenever I fail to understand what my kids are talking about with their friends).

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

It’s also the reason I launch into a broad Pembrokeshire accent when I visit my home town.

Maybe you’ve experienced something similar.

Kids can be very skilled at adjusting their language to fit the situation

I’m a descriptivist linguist. That is, I look at what people say and write in context rather than what they ‘should’ say and write (for prescriptivists, think Henry Higgins or that grumpy grammarian who goes around with a red pen in hand, ready to pounce on rouge apostrophes).

Henry Higgins, fictional Professor of phonetics and Eliza Doolittle in the film My Fair Lady, adapted from George Bernard Shaw’s play Pygmalian .

I’m more interested in the effect that language has in the real world than on whether it’s ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. I like to know the ‘rules’ but I like to know when it’s good to break them too.

So how does all this help us with the question about which pronouns to choose when writing?

When I’m doing close text work with a client (as opposed to refining the content), we look at the effect that the writing, including the pronouns, has on the reader in context.

So as usual, there’s no right or wrong.

If it’s I, I, I, all the way through, will it be interesting for your reader?

It may well be—it’s dependent on the context. But often, if reflecting on an experience that has a teaching element, it might work to start with a personal story with I and then transition into they to talk about how how the issue has affected others or to talk about research on the topic (here’s the authority element) and then to we or you for the teaching focus.

The difference between we/ us and you

Sometimes too many yous can seem othering (look at me over here as the expert ready to teach you something).

Us and we on the other hand, can mean positioning yourself as a friend. I’m here, ready to come with you.

Let’s try that again.

Us and we on the other hand, can mean positioning ourselves as a friend. I’m here, ready to come with you.

See what I did there?

Sometimes, when we’re writing for a particular publication, we need to consider the house style.

Here’s what The Elephant Journal Style Guide has to say about this:

We try to refrain from publishing you-oriented articles in Elephant Journal …. This practice stems from the Buddhist principle of “experience it for yourself.”

https://www.elephantjournal.com/write/

The style guide then goes on to say how overusing ‘you’ can seem preachy or bossy.

Other publications may not mention pronoun use directly in their style guide, but it can be a useful exercise to check conventions.

So, as so often, it’s all in the context.

We need to think less about the right and wrong, and more about the effect that our writing will have on the reader.

If you’re not sure what effect your writing will have, try leaving it to ‘sit’ for 48 hours and then come back and read it aloud. Try noticing how you feel when you read others’ writing and pay attention to pronoun use.

But as ever, don’t overthink.

Above all, write, have fun writing and get your message out to the people who need to hear it!

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How to write stories your readers will love (based on real conversation).

 

Did I ever tell you about how I got kicked out the school choir?

I was the only one of my group of friends who wasn’t allowed to keep warm inside on Wednesday lunchtimes because I sounded more like Kermit the frog than Shirley Bassey. Growing up in Wales in the 80s and not being able to sing meant that I had plenty of free time on my hands.

Maybe all those wet and windy lunchtimes gave me my love of the great outdoors.

Girl in the rain

Why am I telling you this?

Have you ever heard the advice that you should write as if you were chatting to a friend over coffee? And if so, have you ever wondered why it’s so hard to do that?

Pull up a chair and listen because I have to tell you about this easy story framework that Australian linguists Suzanne Eggins and Diana Slade came up with (it’s an oldie but a goodie).

Use this framework and you’ll soon be telling stories as if you were on your best friend’s couch with a big mug of builder’s tea and a stack of Digestives.

If you want to skip straight to the action, scroll down to the framework and exercise at the bottom of the post — but if you want a bit of juicy background, then keep reading.

 The reasearchy bit

Looking at casual conversations in different contexts, Eggins and Slade realised there were patterns that kept coming up. Now, we all know that story patterns exist (think about the brothers Grimm, with once upon a time fairy tales, or the Disney films that we all know and love to hate after our kid demands to watch Frozen for the umpteenth time). 

What is different about the Eggins and Slade frameworks is that they are based on patterns in casual conversations rather than on folk tales. A modern day story collection of story frameworks if you will (and by the way, if you write fiction, these different story frameworks can help the ‘chat’ in your books sound more convincing).

It’s a collection of frameworks rather than just one, as Eggins and Slade noticed that there were different types of story depending on function and that these different kinds of stories (like a narrative or an anecdote) have a different structure.

One key feature of casual conversation is that its function is social — it focuses on building relationships and bonds. If we know that  business is about building our relationships, then why wouldn’t we want the stories we tell in our business to follow a conversational pattern?

A transformational narrative

One of the patterns Eggins and Slade identified, the narrative, follows a problem/ solution pattern. It’s perfect for when, as business owners, we are talking about our own transformations or the transformations of our clients.

The basic moves are:

Abstract (telling the listeners what the story will be about and why they should listen — e.g. becoming a great vocalist after being kicked out the school choir).

Orientation (who the story is about, where and when — e.g. me in a wet and windy Welsh town, my group of buddies,  and the bald choirmaster, Mr Morris).

Complication (‘a problem culminating in a crisis’, or in other words, the lightbulb moment — e.g. another lunchtime of being bullied by the mean kids in the yard made me realise I should probably learn to sing).

Resolution (closing the plot or how was the problem resolved? E.g. finding out that singing more loudly rather than more quietly actually helped me to hold a tune and finding a foolproof method for learning to sing).

Evaluation (What was the point of this story? What is different for you now? E.g. I now know that singing is not a natural ability, but a skill that can be learned).

Coda or Call to Action –how does this relate to your business and what steps can the reader take now to learn more/ work with you or get to know you better? E.g. if you’d like to learn my secret method that can teach you to sing like Taylor Swift then sign up for my course here**.

**DISCLAIMER **

Ok, well I’m not a singing teacher and the last two sections above are wishful thinking, but you get the picture… You could be writing about helping women to get fit in their 40’s (if that’s you then please let me know!), or you could be writing about how you overcame your public speaking fear. Any story where you want to talk about a transformation that you or a client have overcome is ideal.

Where can you tell these stories? It could be an email to your list, a blog post, or a story in your book. Each of these genres will have a slightly different style (that’s a tale for another day), but the pattern and the message will be the same. 

Your turn

If you’re game, I’ve got a quick writing exercise for you to try which shouldn’t take more than 20 minutes. 

Step one: Freewriting (10 minutes)

To have a go at writing your own story, think of a story you are telling about your business already, or one that you could tell. Either a story about yourself or one of your clients that shows the same kind of transformation that you deliver to your clients. Now just brain dump your story. Don’t worry about the structure or the style or using the framework just yet, just get the story down.

Step two. Story organisation (10 minutes)

Now have a go at organising your story under the headings.

Your story template

Abstract:

Why are you telling the story? How does it relate to the reader/ your ideal client avatar?

Orientation/ Setting the scene:

Who, what, when and where? What were the problems? What were you doing? What results were you getting?

Complication:

What happened to make you realise you needed to change? What was your lightbulb moment?

Resolution:

Closing the plot — what changed/ how did you change things? What new techniques did you learn?

Evaluation:

What was the point of this story? What is different for you now? What does your life look like now? How do you feel? What are you able to do with ease?

Closing/ CTA (okay, so in the original it was called a ‘coda’ but that’s a bit of a fancy pants linguist term and what we actually want is a call to action for our ideal client):

How does this relate to your business and what steps can the reader take now to learn more/ work with you/ get to know you better?

Now that we have the content of the story or the the ‘message’. The next thing would be to work on the style of the writing. That’s for another post.

Have a go at using the story framework and send me your story. I’d love to see!

Let’s get writing!

What I read so you don’t need to:

Eggins, S., & Slade, D. (1997). Analysing casual conversation. London: Cassell.

Useful books on telling your stories as a business owner:

Donald Miller, Building a StoryBrand: Clarify Your Message So Customers Will Listen

Jessica Zweig, Be: A No-Bullsh*t Guide to Increasing Your Self Worth and Net Worth by Simply Being Yourself

*If you decide to buy books from the links in this post, then I get a small percentage of the price. I only recommend books I love and that I think will help you :-). 

Want writing tips, tricks straight to your inbox and to be the first to know about my coaching offers and programmes? Just pop your deets below.

Why writing belongs on your calendar (and why waiting for inspiration to strike isn’t the best way to get your book written).

I used to sit and wait for inspiration to strike before I started writing.

I spent more time thinking about the fact that I wasn’t writing than actually writing.

 There was always something else that I should be doing—another email that needed replying to, another meeting I needed to attend or a cupboard I needed to clean. 

Now I know that writing belongs on the calendar. Here’s why.

Put writing in the calendar

You flex your writing muscle

Writing is a skill that can be learned like any other. The more you practice, the better you get. 

By having regular writing sessions on your calendar and sticking to them, you will start to flex your writing muscle and see your writing improve over time.

Writing is a skill that you can develop with practice
Flex your writing muscles

You create good habits

Once you realise that Wednesday and Friday mornings are your writing times or that every evening you write from 7-8 pm, writing at these times will become second nature.

Establishing good habits means that you cut out decision making and make it easier to do the ‘difficult’ tasks.

Humans are inherently lazy and that’s why established habits are easy to follow (just make sure the habits you establish are the good ones).

Ever heard of habit stacking? Habits work even better if you can combine them with something else. 

Maybe you decide your writing time is every Tuesday and Friday evening while you wait for your son to have his swimming lesson. That’s habit stacking.

Instead of automatically scrolling through your phone when you take your place at the poolside, you’ll get used to taking your laptop and writing 1000 words every week. In no time at all you’ll have written the first draft of your ebook.

You start to look forward to your writing sessions

Practice something regularly and you’ll see yourself making progress. It will start to become more enjoyable. 

If you’re like me, the longer I put off a writing task, the more onerous it becomes. 

When I was writing my doctoral thesis, I could see the entire thing looming ahead of me like a dark cloud. 

After I started to put writing in my calendar, I could see the word count ticking up and I started to enjoy working gradually through those chapters.

You set achievable deadlines

When you have writing on your calendar, it becomes easier to see how that project is going to get finished. 

You can predict how long it will take you to write certain sections of your book and will be able to meet your goals.

Setting achievable deadlines will bring you closer to your big goals

Other people will know that you are busy

This is a biggie for anyone with other people in their lives who tend to stop them writing— sometimes even unbeknownst to those people!

 Before I started to put writing on my calendar, my boss could look at my calendar and any  unblocked space could be seen as bookable time. It was the same if someone asked me to meet for a coffee or to run an errand for them. 

Now that I have writing on my calendar, I can say ‘I can’t sorry—I’m busy’, without feeling like I’m making a lame excuse. 

And this works even better when I have my writing group meeting or am meeting a writing accountability partner. Make your writing the ‘real’ commitment it deserves to be.

A writing group can help you to put writing on your calendar

So are you ready to put writing on your calendar?

If you are serious about your writing and want to finish a project, don’t just think that you’ll write someday when you have time or when you think of something to write. That day may never come. 

Have objectives for your writing and set deadlines.  Plan out your chapters for your book.  Meet with other people to write.

 Are you ready for the challenge? Take out your calendar now and work out when you can fit five 25 minute sessions into the next week. Think about your daily routines and about your own circadian rhythm. When do you find it easiest to get into your creative flow? 

Try writing at different times and see what works for you.

Maybe the evening isn’t just for vegging

 But don’t use your circadian rhythm as an excuse not to write just because you have things scheduled at your naturally most creative times.

 I always classed myself as a ‘morning’ writer. Then I joined a writing group that met in the evening. I was amazed at how much I got done in those sessions. I used to think my brain was no good for anything apart from vegging in front of Netflix or reading a book in the evening. But now I know I can write then too.

Love to hear more writing tips and tricks? Pop your email below and get new posts delivered straight to your inbox.

What I read:

Habit Stacking: 127 Small Changes to Improve Your Health, Wealth, and Happiness (Most are Five Minutes or Less), by S.J. Scott

Atomic Habits: The life-changing million copy bestseller, by James Clear

Please note, I will get a small percentage of the price at no extra cost to you if you decide to buy using the links above.

Successful writers know that grit is more important than talent

‘That’s it’, I told my husband. ‘I’m quitting’.

Sitting in the sunshine, sipping lattes and penning my thoughts. That’s what I’d thought it would be like to do a PhD.

Instead, here I was surrounded by discarded kids toys and a mountain of washing. I was ready to throw the whole damn 50,000 words out the window and my laptop with it. Just because I’d failed to save the last hour’s work and my husband (a computer programmer), hadn’t managed to make it magically reappear.

In fact, I lost count of the number of times I told my husband I was ready to quit in those dark days of writing up my PhD. Usually he’d just nod and wait for it to pass, but sometimes he’d rise to the bait.

‘You’ve spent four years doing this now, why are you going to throw it all away?’

For me, starting a new project is the easy part. I’m all fired up with ideas and raring to go.

But it’s getting up and starting everyday in the middle that’s like wading through mud.

There are two major differences between successful writers and those who just want to write.

The first is just getting started.

But the second is more important. And that’s getting started the next day. And the next day.

Not how ‘good’ a writer you are.

It’s grit.

Angela Duckworth talks about how the most successful people are not those with the greatest talent but the people who don’t give up.

Passion and perseverance for very long term goals. That means sticking with your goals for the long term. Not just for a day or a week but for months or years.

So it’s not just starting, but it’s getting up and starting everyday.

What can you start today that you’ll be able to follow through for the long term?

If the big project is too big, can you start with a smaller one? 📚

If you’re writing a book, can you agree to write for fifteen minutes a day?

And if you want to learn more about grit, watch this short TED talk by Angela Duckworth.

Grab my free guide to getting writing done

Why understanding genre is the best thing you can do to improve the writing for your coaching business.

If you don’t learn anything else about writing for your coaching business, then learn about genre.

You may have heard that you can produce a piece of long form content and then use it to recycle on all your media channels. This is absolutely true.

But without an understanding of genre, you might be left wondering why you don’t get engagement on your Instagram posts or why the emails you sent out about your blog don’t convert to reads.

Understanding genre — the foundation of all communication — will enable you to craft the right message for your audience in the places they are looking.

So what is genre?

You may have heard about genre in terms of literature or films.

 What type of films do you prefer? Be it romantic comedies or horror films, these are genres that we recognise through the story structure, the visuals, and the language used.

Genre helps us make sense of the world around us

Going back to the ancient Greeks and set out in Aristotle’s poetics, genre is a key way of helping us to make sense of the world around us. 

Humans categorise by nature and we understand best through patterns.

That’s why genre is important. If you’re someone who writes Instagram posts or text messages as if you’re writing a scientific journal article, then you haven’t nailed some of the crucial aspects of genre, and your message will likely fall flat with your audience.

Understand the three simple elements that make up genre and you’ll be able to recycle your content in a way that creates real impact.

If you’d like a bit of the geeky background, keep reading, but if you want to scroll down to the action at the bottom and you can  implement this in your writing today.

Genre in the real world (or why Applied Linguistics is awesome)

There are dozens of approaches to genre, but one I find makes real practical sense when working with writers is from the field of Applied Linguistics.

Australian linguist Michael Halliday describes genre as made up of the categories of field (your subject), tenor (your relationship with the audience),  and mode (the medium you’re using to convey the message — text message/ podcast/ book etc.).

These three factors combined will influence the structure of the communication and the language — specifically how the meaning is played out through text (in linguistics, text can mean spoken or written communication).  

Crucially, these patterns in text that we recognise as ‘a genre’ are created through recurring patterns of meaning.

Overlook any of the three elements of field, tenor or mode when crafting your message and it’s unlikely to resonate with anyone.

Questions you can ask yourself about your writing

What is the purpose of what you are writing?

Is the text to inform, to sell or to entertain? Or is it a combination of these?

Who is your text for and what’s your relationship with them?

Are you writing as a teacher, a friend or a guide, or will you have a different voice in different parts of your writing?

What is the mode and what are the characteristics of this mode? 

For example, if you’re writing a blog post, are you really using all the features of the web that you can (internal, external links, images), or are you simply using the web as a place to park your print article?

A blog post is not just an online print article

If you’re writing a self-published ebook from your blog posts, have you paid attention to signposting in the book between sections and chapters? Have you formatted your text as a book by using indented paragraphs rather than the white spaces you might have used online?

A few characteristics of different genres.

Characteristics and comparisons of different genres

The information above is a description of different genres of course — a description of what people tend to do. But genre patterns persist because people have found out that they work.

An understanding of genre does not mean learning a set of rules to be followed. Rather it involves being aware of your context and your reader and what works and why.

So be genre aware.

And once you are, then you can start to play with genre. And that’s a story for another day.

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How to develop a daily writing practice


If you write, you’re a writer.

Simple as.

If you’ve heard before that you should be writing daily, but still find it a struggle, I hear you. 

This isn’t one of those hero’s journey stories where I say I never used to be able to write daily and now I’ve been writing every day without fail for the past two years blah blah blah… because well, that just wouldn’t be true.

Yes, I used to binge write before a deadline.

Yes, I had the stress and anxiety to prove it.

Yes, I’ve found out that writing regularly is better for my stress levels, relationships and writing.

But the truth is, it can still be a struggle to show up to the page everyday.

I have times when I write daily and times when I don’t.

Times when I wake up raring to get my words down and times when I’d rather scroll on my phone, take a bubble bath or clean out the cupboard under the stairs.

I’m still working to find out what keeps me on a writing streak, but I know I’m a happier person when I’m there.

What helps me write daily:

Scheduling sessions

 I find Sunday evening is a good time to schedule my sessions for the week ahead. 

Here’s what mine looks like for this week (I didn’t have my diary to hand and didn’t want to go in the office so just scrawled it in a notebook–it doesn’t need to be complicated).

What you can do:

Take out your planner now and block out writing sessions for the next five days.

 500 words a day or 90 minutes is a good start. I like to schedule my writing to be the first thing I do (and luckily this fits into our current arrangement with my husband dropping off the kids at school and me picking them up). 

Work out what’s best for you — both in terms of your bodyclock and your other commitments.

Then stick to your sessions unless there’s a VERY good reason not to.

Obviously, life gets in the way sometimes but if you’ve scheduled five sessions for the week and only manage to make three because your meeting ran over on Tuesday and your daughter got sent home from nursery sick on Friday, that’s still three more sessions and a lot more words than you may have done otherwise. And in fact, if you have writing scheduled in your diary, there’s less chance that your meeting will run over, because, well you have another appointment to get to…

Being accountable

If you’ve been in one of my writing groups before, you’ll know that I need them as much as the participants.

If I’ve pledged to others that I’m going to turn up and write, then I’m much more likely to do it.

That’s not just the writing during the session, but the writing that comes in between it as well. 

When I signed up for my first marathon, I made sure that I signed up with a friend. I knew that even on the days we weren’t running together, Jody was training anyway and that would help me get my running shoes on and out the door on those snowy Viennese evenings.

Vienna in the snow

These days I’m looking for an accountability partner for the couch to 5k as I’m trying to do it on my own and it’s just not happening–but that’s another story.. .

Anyway, you get the point. Accountability is not just good for our goals, it’s also more fun. And the power of the writing group is not to be underestimated

What you can do:

Find yourself a writing accountability partner or a writing group (one that meets in real time, or a facebook group where you announce your goals in a post). Announce what your goals are and then stick to them. Report back!

Parking on a downhill

If I’m working on a longer piece of work that I won’t finish in one sitting, then I add to my ‘parking on a downhill’ Google doc.

This file tells me exactly where I finished the previous session, and what I’ll start writing the next day.

It saves me wasting hours reading through what I wrote the day before and tweaking words here and there.

It gives me that glorious feeling I have when I’ve put the coffee timer on the night before.

Don’t you love your yesterday self sometimes?

What you can do:

Start a ‘parking on a downhill’ doc. At the end of every session fill it out and use it at the beginning of every session to keep you on track and keep you writing rather than perfecting every sentence as you go along.

Kelly Notaras, in the The book you were born to write, recommends completing an entire first draft of a book before going back to edit. This is sage advice for all of us, no matter whether it’s a first draft of a book, a blog post, or a letter to our list.

Knowing it’s ok to not to be perfect

The best writers know that sh*tty first drafts are ok–thanks to Anne Lamott for reminding us!

If we can let go of thinking that everything we write has to be perfect, it becomes much easier to write in the first place. And the likelihood that we’ll produce something decent increase, well because we’re writing more.

What you can do:

Know that your writing doesn’t have to be perfect the first time. That you can go back and edit for content and style later. And realise that writing, editing and proofreading are three separate processes. 

Celebrating the small milestones

One of the reasons I love blogging is that it’s much easier to reach the small milestones. I can write and publish a blogpost in a morning and have a sense of accomplishment.

If I’m writing a much longer piece, then I still like to be able to celebrate the small milestones. So I’ll break down and make a google spreadsheet which tells me the word count for each chapter and each section. The spreadsheet kindly adds up the count for me as I write. How satisfying to be able to see that word count creep up day by day.

Celebrate the small wins. I change  the background colour for each section heading from red to orange and then to green when it’s ready to get out the door.

What you can do:

If you’re struggling to make progress on your book, because you’re looking at the big picture, are there smaller milestones you can celebrate? It may be that you try some shorter forms of writing (maybe an article or a blog post, to raise your author platform and get you into the writing habit). 

You might like to try using a spreadsheet to breakdown your outline into sections and word counts to make it more achievable.

 Whatever you do, set yourself targets that are doable and start by taking the next small step to move you forwards on your writing journey.

If you write, you’re a writer.

Simple as.

Blog posts

Emails

Letters

Your book

In your journal..

Don’t worry about what you’re writing, but if you’d like to write a book or start a blog ‘one day’, it’s never too early to get into the habit of writing.

If you’re ready to take the challenge of writing daily for the next 5 days, comment below or drop me an email and let me know. I read every message and I will check up on you!

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Focus on being productive rather than ‘busy’ using the Pomodoro® technique.

I’m writing this on a day when I spent two and a half hours on the phone on hold with HMRC (for my international friends, the HMRC is the UK tax office).

The worst bit—the automated voice that kept saying ‘please bear with me’.. ARGGHHH

Anyway, that stupidly long phone call brings me to the point of this post—to focus on being productive, not busy.

See, I only had few hours left to focus after I eventually get through… That’s ok though, because who can do real DEEP work for longer than that anyway?

Who didn’t dream of a four-hour work week after reading Tim Ferriss back in the day?

While Tim’s four-hour work week might be unattainable for most of us, for me, a block of four short working sessions of 25 minutes each, plus 5 minute breaks can be so much more productive than an entire day spent being ‘busy’.

This technique is something that I’ve used successfully in my writing groups and courses for years and I find it great for working on my own too.

It helps me focus on what really needs to get done and on getting the hard stuff done first.

Oh, and it means I have time for a short nap in the afternoon.

In fact, I am a firm believer that an 8-hour working day is unnecessary and that nobody should work for more than 4 hours.

You may have heard of Francesco Cirillo and his Pomodoro technique (so named after the tomato timer Cirillo uses). He recommends working for 15-minute bursts with 5 minutes in between and a longer break after every four sessions.

The short video below shows how you can use the system to time block your entire day.

Try it out!

To try this technique out with your writing, set your timer for 25 minutes and just write. Don’t do anything else in this time (no checking your messages, ‘researching’ online..)

After 5 minutes take a short break and have a stretch. Then dive right back in. After four short writing bursts, take a longer break. Comment below and let me know how you get on!

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Why starting a blog will save you time in your biz

I recently made a series of videos for social media.

If you know me, you’ll know this is a massive step for me and way out of my comfort zone.

This time last year, I’d have used any excuse not to appear on camera–haven’t washed my hair… urgently need to alphabetise my clothing or wash out the compost bin.

Cleaning out the compost bin is more fun than videos..

But you know what? The videos weren’t that difficult to make. And here’s the thing, I surprised myself by actually enjoying the process.

It’s because of this blog. Because I have spent the time building up a bank of meaty content (that’s that pinnacle stuff people talk about that has nothing to do with mountains). I am confident that this content is of real value to my audience.

So when I wanted to create my video series, I could just dip into the content I have already planned and written, pick a few topics and make them into videos. BOOM!

This is yet another proof to me that writing a blog actually saves me time in my business. I already knew that blogging gives me enough content for my emails, for my social media posts and for my workshops, and here’s yet another way to recycle that content.

If you’ve been thinking about blogging, do it! Your future self will thank you my friend.

Want to take a peek at my first video? Here it is! Watch out for some more videos in my easy peasy blogging series over the next few weeks by following me on Instagram @lizzytanguay.

If you’re ready to start your blog or get more eyeballs on more of your posts, grab my free guide to clickable post titles here.

Want writing tips, tricks straight to your inbox and to be the first to know about my coaching offers and programmes? Just pop your deets below.

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