AP Style Guide – My Newest Nemesis

I am getting my feet under me as far as writing goes. One of my latest challenges is figuring out the intricacies of the AP Style Guide. One of the websites where I write uses this as their guide for grammar, punctuation and related topics. I understand the basics, but I still trip up on the details. For example, I often abbreviate the United States as US. The AP Style Guide uses the form of U.S.

That is a simple example. There are more detailed examples that might be second nature to someone who has used it for a long time, but it is a challenge for those just getting under way.

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SEO Writing in a Nutshell

SEO writing is quite simple and quite complex at the same time. SEO, for those who don’t already know, stands for Search Engine Optimization. The idea is to write content for a webpage in such a way that the page will get in the top ranks of search engine results. There are several methods for getting this to happen. It gets more complex every year because search engines keep refining their algorithms so that what worked a year ago may not work today. Also, with more and more competition the search engine results are getting harder and harder to penetrate.

What drives search engines in the first place? If you have ever gone to Google, Yahoo, or Bing’s search engines, you typed in a word or phrase to try to find what you are looking for. Let’s say you want to find a website offering discount auto parts. You might type in “discount auto parts” or “cheap car parts.” Each of these phrases are known as keywords. Keywords drive what search engines bring up.

Just a few years ago, web pages with the most mentions of the keyword would rank very high in search engine results. This lead to websites having pages with hundreds of mentions of the same keyword all over the place. With this sort of keyword stuffing, search engines became more advanced. They began demanding more than the most keywords being on a page. Other content on the page helps as well. While those changes improved page quality at the top of the ranks, it did not solve the problem of keyword stuffing.

Recent changes in Google herald a new time for SEO writing. Two waves of changes implemented by Google were known as Panda and Penguin. With these changes, website owners need to post content that is relevant with no keyword stuffing. Mentioning the same keyword 10 times in a page will count against it. Natural content helps a great deal. Multiple variations of the keyword can make the page rank higher. Content that relates to the keyword is also important. When searching for “discount auto parts,” a page that mentions various car manufacturers will rank higher than one that does not.

Writing good content is only the first step towards gaining a high rank in search engine results. For Google or another search engine site to rank a page high, the entire website needs to have good content. A single page of content in the middle of a website full of dross will not bring good results. It is also important to offer linking to this web page. Linking it with other pages on the website is the start. Creating good back links on other sites is important. It helps raise the web page’s reputation as well as that of the website overall.

SEO writing requires knowledge and a bit of skill in finding the right keywords. Good content, written naturally, without keyword stuffing is the magic formula these days. However, every time Google, Bing, or Yahoo makes a change, SEO rules also change.

Subjects are Coming Easier

I am getting more and more ideas for my personal writing. I am letting things flow a bit more. This is a new phenomenon for me. But, a good one.

I want to write some fiction, but my non-fiction writing is drawing me as well. I think that is a good thing as it allows me to exercise my creative juices in both directions. I thought of other genres like poetry or plays, but they hold no appeal. Fiction writing is likely going to be sci-fi, done my way. At least to start with.

Non-fiction writing is starting with a portfolio for clients. Then going towards history, genealogy, and the paranormal, I think.

I will see how things are going.

So, I will add a new example of my writing to this website every other day and place a link in the blog.

Giving myself more opportunities to write

For the past three years, I have been writing for others. Today, I set aside a way to start writing for myself. I created an online journal that is completely private. It will be a place I can write anything I want and everything I want. It will also be a repository for my writing ideas and notes to flesh them out a bit.

My hope is that adding another writing opportunity to my daily routine focused solely on writing about a variety of topics, I will start to flesh out my style, add my emotions, and refine my craft.

Everything I have read about getting your writing better starts with practicing as often as possible. it means writing long items and short ones. It means expanding my grammar and spelling skills. Spelling is a challenge on some words, but overall I am not too bad. The bad part comes to grammar. I have found a few tools to help. I also need to plan in editing and proofreading in most cases.

I think I may start talking about various topics related to the AP Style of writing.

Removing barriers in my writing

One of my biggest obstacles is the fact that some times I filter my words too much and other times I do not filter them enough.

When I speak from the gut, I quite often say mean things. I say things that come from a deep well of hurt. I say things in anger.

When I filter though, I go to the opposite extreme. I cannot say mean things. I cannot stand up for myself. I cannot get past the restraints that helped me survive for so long.

What does that have to do with writing? Emotions are a big part of writing. I need to be able to open up the emotional well and let some of them out. Maybe getting angry is a good thing. I never want to offend people, but that just gives them permission to walk all over me.

So, emotional writing has to become my norm, not the exception.

What other barriers are in my writing? I limit my subjects due to my filtering. I do not want to offend, so I do not write about what is on my mind at the moment. I do not have to publish what is on my mind, but I do need to get it out. I think it will help me process things better.

Anyway, my adventure in writing continues as I find out what stands in my way.

Linking Emotions to my Writing

One thing I have found in writing is that I tend to dismiss my emotions when it comes to writing. That may seem like a contradiction when writing is something I do. Writing is supposed to be about passion. Yet, most of my writing has been done in the business and technical worlds. While that environment values an opinion, they do not value much more than moderate levels of emotion. Over the years, I learned to edit my work for any indications of strong emotion. One example is that I would change “I feel” to “I think” in my written communications.

When it comes to good writing however, emotion has to be part of the process, at least for me. If I do not feel passion or deep emotion to my subject, my writing becomes flat and technical. I can see the difference it makes.

I recently wrote an essay about a very personal time in my life and how it changed my perspective on the world. That piece of writing shows my emotion, my passion. When I do web site content for a customer, I do not have that emotional investment. The writing tends to be more rote and technical.

My challenge is to bring some of my passion to my other writing.

Creating My Writing Brand

As with any business, I am finding that I need to create my own brand when it comes to my writing. That means getting my name out to where people can find me and ask for my services. That will help me on bid sites and with getting my own writing customers.

What do I need to do? I need to create a portfolio of my own writing. It needs to show the depth and breadth of my work. I can add and subtract from it as I add more things. I will need to write in the technical and marketing areas for awhile so that needs to be where I concentrate first. However, eventually, I want to go towards history and family history writing. I will start working on that once I have a comprehensive start on the other.

With a portfolio, I need to create a resume of my skills and experience. That will give me something to show potential clients. I need to create my own branding. That means a website just for my writing, likely anadventureinwriting.com?

 

Struggling with Direction

Where do I take my writing? Right now writing helps pay the bills. But, this type of writing is having a negative impact on the way I write. I have to contort my writing to meet their expectation. I am not doing enough writing of my own to keep my voice free and limber.

I can read my writing and see stiffness and contortion in it. It’s like something is struggling to come out, but it’s not sure which way to go. My writing lacks direction.

Fiction or non-fiction? Technical writing or journalistic? For someone else or for myself? These are all things I want to answer.

Where is my voice?

Writers often talk about voice. It is the style that a writer uses consistently throughout their work. But, I wonder where my voice is.

One thing I know about it is that it can be a bit stiff at times. I have long written technical materials. Most of what I write now is factual material about different businesses. I think the stiffness has diminished over the past couple years, but it rears its head every so often.

I went searching for articles on the Internet about how to find your writer’s voice. I found a good one HERE.

So, I will be working on developing my voice more. Reading more is not a problem. I have not been reading much for the past few months due to some changes going on in my life. I will try to change that. Writing everything is something I can also work on. I am taking on more writing challenges from different sources to diversify my style. The others are all possible as well.

A long term project: Getting my thoughts together

One of the things I have wanted to do for a while is to write down my family history. I have been doing research for many years and have a great deal of information that I want to share. However, figuring out how to do this is the challenge, since there are a number of ways I can do it.

  1. I can do a single book with a section on each of my grandparents’ family lines. This would give me a single output for my research. The limitations are not being able to go into a single family in real depth.
  2. Do a book for each set of my grandparents. So, there would be one for my paternal grandparents and one for my maternal grandparents. This would allow me to go into a bit more depth. The problem with this is the imbalance of information I have on my grandparents. For example, I have a ton of information on my maternal grandmother’s family, but I have much less on my maternal grandfather. I have a similar situation on my paternal side. That will leave a book 3/4 about one line and 1/4 about the other.
  3. Do a single book for each grandparent. For two of my grandparents, this would be ideal since I have tons of information their families. For my other two grandparents, I can go back a couple of generations easily, but have hit brickwalls.
  4. Do a single ancestor book. This type of book focuses on a single ancestor and that ancestor’s descendants. I actually have a few that I can do this with.
  5. Do a combination of 3 and 4.

I think I can rule out 1 and 2 due to the limitations and problems noted. I think I can do a single book for two of my grandparents’ lines. I can do a few single ancestor publications as well. Throughout the bunch are some good items for articles as well.

So, which one to start with? I think I may end up with several projects going at once. Once I get an initial draft done, I may find I have to do research to fill in gaps of information. That will mean waiting for the information, rewriting the draft, and likely going through this process again. And it may happen multiple times on major projects.

I think having one long-term project going at one time is the sane way to do it. And then I can work on shorter term projects during down times.

Shake Your Family Tree

The Joys and Sorrows of Digging Up Your Ancestors

An Adventure in Writing

My Adventure into Professional Writing