writing

Read Your Own Writing

Image Courtesy nme.com

Visionary Writing Techniques #004

by John Onorato

As you all know, I’m a professional writer.  World-class, even!  

Today I’m going to let you in on another little secret that improved my writing from the first time I used it.  

I’m completely serious.  There’s no hyperbole in there at all.  We’ll get into hyperbole later, but for now, just know that hyperbole is the greatest and most amazing invention since sliced bananas.  

(and that’s what hyperbole is:  Massive exaggerations that aren’t meant to be taken literally.)

So here’s that little trade secret.  Yeah, most pro writers know about it, and most amateurs don’t.

That secret is this:
Once you’ve gotten to a place where you think “I’m done, now I can drop this in the Visionary group and get back to my regularly-scheduled life,” go back over your work.  

Re-read your work.  
And not only that, but read it aloud.  

That’s right. Speak it. Give life to your words, through your voice!

Reading your work aloud is the best way I have discovered to find out how my writing really sounds.  Which is another way of saying “How good my writing is.”

There are lots of benefits to be had by reading your work out loud.

First off, reading aloud is a great proofreading technique.  It helps you catch errors in spelling and punctuation; it also helps you choose different (and hopefully better) words than what you used in your first draft.  It also makes certain things painfully obvious, like missing punctuation and awkward word placement.  It  also becomes obvious when you’ve repeated words a few too many times.  

Reading aloud helps with grammar.  When someone reads aloud, you pause where you would naturally.  And when you pause, you need punctuation — usually a comma or period.  You might also notice when you haven’t taken a breath in a while.  This is frequently indicative of a run-on sentence that needs to be broken up.

Reading your work out loud reveals holes in your thought process.  It shows us places we haven’t been clear enough, and helps us remember information we might have left out.  It shows us where we might have missed some important points.  When reading aloud, it’s much easier to detect flaws in your logic.  You will quickly know when you need to tidy up your argument, or where you need to research more, or when you might need to not mention a point you can’t really support.

Reading out loud enables us to make better word choices.  Words convey meaning, and we have lots of words with similar meanings because words also convey nuance.  This is that distinction of connotation/denotation I was talking about earlier.  Hearing your words out loud helps convey nuance in a way seeing it on a screen might not.

Finally, reading aloud reveals peculiar rhythm and pacing.  In a symphony orchestra, musicians work together to create something greater than any of them could do alone.  When you’re writing a story or article, words work together in the same fashion.  Each of them has its own small task, and when taken together they form a cohesive unit that is larger than the sum of its parts.  

Want to hear how well your orchestra is performing?  Read it out loud.  One short, choppy sentence, or several in a row, serves well when you want to underline an important point.  But use too many of these in a row, and you’ll sound robotic.  Conversely, long, complex sentences are sometimes required — yet they are also best used sparingly, like exclamation points or F-bombs.

You’ll never know unless you re-read your work.  You won’t be aware of these things if you don’t read your words out loud.

Ever played with a tape recorder?  Then you know your recorded voice will sound different to your ears.  It’s not the same voice you hear in your head, through your bones.  In a similar fashion, your words will sound different when you read them.  Words sound differently to our ears than they do in our minds, when we read them on the page.

Sure, your writing might be great already, all by itself.  Just as your “real” voice is the voice others hear, though, your writing is only as good as others think it is.

Posted by John Onorato in Visionary, 2 comments

Alliteration and Assonance

Image Courtesy Writing Forward

Visionary Writing Techniques #003 

by John Onorato


Want to write words which are memorable?

Then alliteration and assonance are your friends.  

I’m sure you want examples.  Those first two sentences represent alliteration.  The word refers to the repetition of the first consonants in nearby words.

An aside from the Department of Just-In-Case:  We all remember what vowels are:  A, E, I, O, U, and sometimes Y.  Consonants are every other letter in the alphabet:  B, C, D, F, G, and so on.

Tongue twisters also show us alliteration:  “Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.  A peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked.”

If you can say that ten times fast, you’ll be a master of alliteration!  And you’ll be way further along than I:  That was even hard for me to type in one go.

Assonance is a similar and related concept.  It refers to the repetition of vowel sounds in nearby words.  

Dr Seuss was a master of assonance:    

“Today you are you    
and that is truer than true.    
There is no one alive    
who is youer than you.”

Alliteration and assonance can lend a lyrical, sing-song quality to your writing.  When used consciously, they can set or change the mood in a written piece.  

They also allow the writer to highlight particular connotations of words.  

Well, that’s great!  But what are connotations?  The second edition of the 20-volume Oxford English Dictionary contains over 171,000 unique words.  Each of these words has a denotation — the literal, or primary meaning.  Also known as the dictionary definition.  

Many words in the English language have connotations as well.  The word “connotation” refers to the feelings and ideas that word suggests.

For instance, take the word DISCIPLINE.  Per Google, its second definition is “a branch of knowledge, typically one studied in higher education.”  Yet in certain circles, many of them quite common, the word “discipline” carries with it the ideas of repression and punishment.

The takeaway here, therefore, is to be careful when and where you use certain words.  A long time ago, in a high school essay, I used the word “ilk” to describe a group of people.  My English teacher called me out, saying the word carried with it connotations of a dismissive or disparaging manner.  Given the the essay as a whole, where I was speaking favorably about these people, “ilk” wasn’t a great fit.

According to its dictionary definition, I could have used “crony” just as well.  Once again, though, this word has certain negative connotations.  Taken literally, a “crony” is simply a sidekick or pal.  But the connotations of the word suggest you and your pal are up to no good together.  It also suggests “cronyism,” or the practice of unfairly giving friends promotions they’re not qualified for.

So that’s a lot right there.  We started by talking about the sounds of words, and ended up with the meanings of those words.  Given how many words there are in English, there are literally quadrillions of combinations those words can be in.  Thus it’s crucial to understand how these words work together so you can use them to their maximum benefit.

Posted by John Onorato in Visionary, 0 comments

How to Reach More Readers

Image Courtesy Fine Art America

Visionary Writing Techniques #002

by John Onorato

Out on the Net today, there are a lot of words.

Sadly, many of these words are inaccessible to readers.

Why is that?

Much of the wisdom offered on the Internet is completely out-of-reach because it’s buried under a wall of text.

I don’t know about you, but I find big blocks of words difficult to get through.

Sure, you can read the first few lines just fine.  But then you might sneeze!  Someone might interrupt you!  The laundry might finish before you’re done reading!  When that happens, odds are you’ll lose your place.  Just because you blinked your eyes.  

If I lose my place while reading, and I can’t easily get back to where I was — it’s Pretty Damn Likely I’ll give up on that piece.

There’s a solution, though, and it’s super easy.  

Paragraphs!  Paragraphs make anything better.  Well, nearly anything.

So what’s a paragraph?  

A paragraph is a unit of writing.  We start with words, and we make sentences out of them.  Then we make paragraphs out of sentences.  And we make stories out of a collection of paragraphs:  Stories, articles, essays, press releases, novels, whatever … they’re all made up of paragraphs.

Paragraphs provide structure.  A little bit of structure enables your reader to identify and follow your thoughts as they develop.  

Each of your paragraphs should address one idea.  This main idea for the paragraph is expressed in the “topic sentence,” and is usually (but not always) the first sentence of the paragraph.  You know you’re using paragraphs effectively when you can get a basic overview of your material by reading each of your first sentences.

It’s important to be clear on what the main idea for each paragraph is.  Then deal with that idea as much as you need to suit your purpose.  At the same time, be alert to irrelevancies and digression.

There’s one basic rule to using paragraphs:  Limit each one to a single idea.  Include that idea in your topic sentence, and provide bits of evidence to support that topic sentence.  

Can you have several ideas in one paragraph?  Sure you can.  Just be sure they each relate to the topic sentence.  When you transition to a different idea, that’s a good sign to start a new section.  

Sometimes you’ll have an idea that’s too big for one paragraph.  Simply use a new paragraph for each sub-point within that larger idea.

You can also use paragraphs to give your readers a small pause.  As discussed above, paragraphs make your writing more readable.  And more readable means more accessible to a larger audience.  

Paragraphs can also be used to provide emphasis.  This is a good technique to use when you want certain words to have special impact.  Professional copywriters are well aware of this, and tend to overuse the single-sentence section

All.
The.
Time.

Finally, use a separate segment for your introduction and your conclusion.  Of course, depending on the length of your material, these sections may well contain several of their own paragraphs.

And if all else fails, just use line breaks.  Just hit <ENTER> every so often (or <CTRL> + <ENTER> if you’re composing in a Facebook text entry box), and it’s all good.

Posted by John Onorato in Visionary, 0 comments

Start By Shattering the Earth

Image Courtesy Printwand

Visionary Writing Techniques #001

by John Onorato

I’m going to start by sharing a tidbit about writing that positively rocked my world.  I learned this at the beginning of my freelance writing career, in 2013.
  
I’d been writing for years before that, but my words weren’t that effective.  Sure, I had a certain facility, but wasn’t everyone taught how to write in school?  Was I really that different than everyone else?

Turns out, I was.  

It would be fairly accurate to say that “Writing is my life.”  And if you were to say that to my face, I’d follow it up with “And my life is writing.”  

But when I learned this one thing, my writing changed forever.  It became immeasurably better.

What is that wisdom, you ask?

It’s super simple.

KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE.  

That’s it.  Just know your audience.

Are you writing for yourself?  Great!  Let it all hang out.  Do what you’re gonna do and don’t think too much about it.  You can always re-read your work later and pull it into a piece meant for public consumption.

Are you writing for clients?  Then use their language.  Use the same words you hear them using.  So doing gets you inside their heads.

Are you writing to share knowledge or wisdom?  Then make your best guess as to what language will be most effective.  Use words and phrases that will be accessible to the largest segment of your intended audience.  

Avoid using “jargon,” or language that’s used by smaller segments of the population.  If you feel that’s the best way of getting your message across, then explain your use of the terms.

Here’s another tip, closely related to that one:  Know your subject matter (as much as you can, anyway).  Do your research.  

Writing about anything positions you as an “expert” on that thing.  But you don’t have to actually possess expertise in that subject — you have to know just a little more than your audience.

In other words, don’t “wing it.”  If you do that, your reader will figure it out.  It might be super subtle, but it’s easily seen by a person who knows about the subject.  

It’s the same as when my daughter was 14, and I tried to “be cool.”  I would use terms I didn’t fully know the meaning of, and I looked a fool to her friends.  

So that’s about it for today.  Just to let you know, I’m planning on releasing these short pieces about writing periodically.  I’m envisioning 2-3 times a week.  I’ll keep the pieces short, for easy digestion.  

But I want to front-load this process with the tip that moved the needle the most for me.

Know your audience.

That’s all.  Just know your audience.

As you write here, in the Visionary Group, your audience is a lot like you.  But when you start messaging for clients, when you start writing for others with the intent to be read … that’s when you really have to know your audience.

Stay tuned to this bat-channel for more tips and tricks!

Posted by John Onorato in Visionary, 0 comments

Freelance Writer for Hire


Let’s have a conversation!

Schedule with button in the bottom right


closeup of typewriter with text "the right to write"
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Do you struggle with creating superior content for your business?

Are you too busy changing the world, and don’t have time to write?

Does your current copy not convert well enough?

I’m your writer. I can help.


I am also willing to create content on a per-word or per-hour basis. This information is found after the packages 👇🏼


Bite-Sized Offer

One (1) blog post, essay or article,
750-1300 words
$149

If you’d like to see what I can do without making too much of a commitment, this is the package for you. I’ll write a blog post for you, an article or an essay, nearly anything your heart might desire.

All you have to do is contact me, and we’ll get the ball rolling.


Premium Package

12,000 words of content, delivered any way you choose$2,450

Don’t know what kind of content you need? I’ve got you covered.

12,000 words is forty pages. That’s a lot of content for a great price!

I’ll write press releases, blog posts, biographies, technical articles, Frequently Asked Questions, listicles, comparisons, anything you might need.

Let’s get started! All you have to do is contact me.


Blogger’s Delight

Ten 1000-word blog posts$1,950

My blog posts are guaranteed to boost your standing in Google search results.

I love writing about conscious business practices and technical subjects. I want to improve your business by writing about what you need!

Getting started is dead simple. You only have to contact me!


On-Call or Retainer Services

2000 – 6000 words of content, delivered monthly$variable

Need content, but don’t know how much? I got your back.

For a monthly retainer fee, I am at your beck and call.

We will first have a conversation about what you need, then we’ll see how I can serve that need.

Let’s talk! Just contact me to get started.


Per-Word and Per-Hour

Don’t want to engage with the packages above?

No problem!

Per Word$0.15 / word
Per Hour$60 / hour

Editing

The only thing I love doing more than writing is editing.

Seriously.

I love making other people look great in writing. I love polishing and honing words until they shine so bright, they might pierce the sun.

My rates for editing are as follows:

Basic Copyediting$40 / hour5-10 pages / hour
Heavy Copyediting$50 / hour2-5 pages / hour

Please note: “Heavy” copyediting is more involved and detailed than “Basic” copyediting.


Nota Bene (note well)

  1. In order for me to start a project, I ask that my clients put 50% of our total agreed-upon price down. The rest will be due on completion.
  2. I invoice through Wave, which enables you to make payments with credit card or bank transfer. I’m also happy to accept PayPal.
  3. It is customary for projects under $500 to be paid upfront.
  4. I want you to be happy with the work I perform for you. If you are not, please let me know and I will revise the work to your specifications.
  5. Revisions should not include new instructions.

Other Stuff

Don’t see a package that strikes your fancy?

Let’s have a conversation about how I can help your business!

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The Magic of Ghostwriting

The Magic of Ghostwriting

Part 1, By John Onorato

Do you need content created for your website?  ✅

Do you yearn to be an author?

Do you seek to make your content relatable and understandable? 😍

We can all write, sure.  It doesn’t take any special training to help others understand our thoughts and feelings.  Words are available to everyone!

We can all create a “first draft” of material we want to communicate.  Some of us can do that faster than the next person.  

Here’s the thing, though.  If a person doesn’t have a real affinity for writing, if they don’t really enjoy it, then they’ll rush their work.  They won’t take their time with it.  They won’t read it out loud just to see how it sounds, and how it comes across.  

And in circumstances like these, quality suffers.  

When writing quality suffers, your message suffers as well.  

Let that sink in.  In fact, let me say it again:  When writing quality is poor, your message suffers.

Tell me, what is the point of having content on your site, with your name on it, that people can’t understand?  Or even relate to?

Perhaps more meaningfully, what does poor writing like that say about a company?  What does that say about a leader’s thought process?

Clearly, it’s best to leave writing — especially mission-critical writing — to the professionals.  👍

Ghostwriters to the Rescue!

If you want to write a book, but don’t have the time …

If you want content on your website, but only have a few ideas …

If you want to improve the way you or your company is perceived …

If you want quality communications coming from your office …

Then you are not alone!  More and more business owners, entrepreneurs, and industry professionals want to write books and put quality content on their websites, just like you do.

Ghostwriter logo designed by calicoowl

This is where the ghostwriter comes in.

But what is a ghostwriter, anyway?

A “byline” is the attribution given to a written work.  Typically, it names the author of the book, article, or other piece of writing.  This article was written by me, so I put my byline under the title.  

A ghostwriter is simply someone that writes under someone else’s byline.  

That is, the ghostwriter creates the piece, and someone else gets credit for it. 

Many famous books have been written by ghostwriters.  To name a few:

  • Many of the popular Goosebumps books (by R.L. Stine) were ghostwritten after the series got too popular to keep up with demand
  • The Jason Bourne series, started by Robert Ludlum, was continued by Eric von Lustbader after Ludlum’s death in 2001 
  • Ian Fleming started the series, yet many of the James Bond books were ghostwritten

Politicians also use ghostwriters.  Hillary Clinton, Ronald Reagan, Sarah Palin and Donald Trump’s books were created this way.

And industry leaders use ghostwriters.  Billionaire Richard Branson wrote a book this way, as did Chrysler CEO Lee Iacocca, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, and Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton.

In fact, many of the books I read and treasured as a child, I am only now discovering were ghostwritten!

Photograph by Hugh Kretchmer
  • My father read me the Hardy Boys detective series, by Franklin W. Dixon.  Ghostwritten!
  • The Nancy Drew series was written by Carolyn Keene, yet that name is a nom de plume (pen name) for a larger collective of writers
  • Even Victor Appleton didn’t write all the “Tom Swift, Boy Inventor” books that I loved so much!

If so many famous people benefitted from employing a ghostwriter … shouldn’t you do that as well?

Yes, But Why Would You Do This?

Sure, ghostwriters create famous books.  They also write blog entries, white papers, social media posts, magazine advertorials, and even newspaper articles.

Ghostwriters are often part of a corporate team.  They create lots of content using the byline of an executive, or maybe under no name at all.  Alternatively, a ghostwriter may work freelance, working on only one or two projects at a time.

Many people want the acclaim and accolades that come with being a published author.  Having a book or two under your belt makes you seem credible, trustworthy and reliable.

It’s also worth mentioning that books and blog posts can grow your business.  Especially if you’ve got a personal brand, a well-written book attributed to you is worth a lot of street cred.  

And a freelance ghostwriter like myself can create content for your small business, helping you get more customers and driving more traffic to your website.  Or even to your fancy new brick-and-mortar store!  (Or your old store. We don’t discriminate 😁 ) 

Isn’t it better to focus on growing your business?  

Isn’t it better to concentrate on what you already know, rather than trying to master yet another new skill?

People who are busy changing the world don’t have time to write.  People who don’t have the skill or the time to write quality content have an alternative:  They hire ghostwriters.

Conclusion

Ghostwriters are an incredible resource to tap into.  They can position you and your business well — creating content, managing blogs, and generally making it seem like you are superhuman.  

I can see your readers now:  “They’re changing the world and they have time to write this fabulous content?  Wow! I wanna know more!”

In my next post, I’ll talk about how to hire a ghostwriter.  (Hint: it’s as easy as clicking the Contact link above!  😁 ❤ 🙏 ) And we’ll talk about some things to consider when hiring a ghostwriter, as well as how to prepare for hiring one.

Hiring a ghostwriter might not be the first thing you think of.  But when you do, the results can be downright mystical.  

Mystical, get it?  Because ghosts. 👻 (Did I mention I’m a father?  I sure do love me some dad jokes.)

Posted by John Onorato in Blog, Portfolio, 0 comments
You Need to Identify Those Pain Points!

You Need to Identify Those Pain Points!

I’d like to talk about pain points again today.

Now that we know what a pain point is, how do we identify those points?

So I’m walking around in my house as I’m talking to you. And – OUCH! I step on a Lego brick that my hypothetical 6-year old son Kieran left on the floor.

Say hello, Kieran! 😍

Well, he can’t, because he’s hypothetical. But will you look at that? My foot is bleeding.

What’s my pain point here?

Is it that I don’t have a bandage that will staunch this blood?

Nope! That’s a solution, not a problem.

Is it that I stepped on a Lego? Well, partially. (Thanks, Kieran!)

Is it that I have a Lego-induced wound in my foot? Getting closer.

Is it that I’m losing blood and OMG I’mgoingtobleedoutandDIE?

Yep, that’s it!


Problems and Solutions

So my “pain point” is that I’m losing blood, and the bandage is the solution, or one way of addressing that problem.

Now let’s say I’m a bandage manufacturer. Or at least I’m writing for the marketing department of one.

A traditional marketer will try and sell bandages. They’ll be wonderful bandages! They’ll stay on great, and won’t hurt when removed. They’ll keep your body’s natural healing power in, and keep out the ravages of infection. And this Care Bear bandage will swaddle your ouchie in a nice warm hug!

Oh, and it’s 100% waterproof, too! 😁

Yet our traditional marketer (let’s call him Joe) is addressing only the solution, not my actual pain point.

My pain point is that I want to stop my foot from bleeding, right? So I don’t die.

When that’s understood, Joe will address his marketing very differently.

Won’t you, Joe? ❤

Sure, since I work for a bandage manufacturer, the solution will still be a bandage. In this case, at least. But it will be a bandage that clamps one side of the wound tightly to the other, for minimum scarring. It will be a bandage that prevents bleeding even when the skin is sweat-slick. It will be a bandage that acts as a second skin, to keep on healing and keep out germs.

And the solution might not even be a bandage. It could be a butterfly closure or a glue or even some kind of medical tape that stops bleeding right away.

The important thing is your solution needs to directly address the pain points of your customers. Any marketing you do needs to speak to those pain points, and how to fix them. Your marketing is actually not about the product or service itself.


Solutions Provided in Terms of Horsepower

There’s a quotation often attributed to Henry Ford. “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said ‘faster horses.’ ”

Whether he actually said that or not is irrelevant (aside: he didn’t). But if you realize that Ford helped usher in the Industrial Revolution by creating cars made for personal use, it makes sense.

See, this quotation isn’t about turning a blind eye to customer feedback. It’s not about horses, and it’s also not about cars.

It’s about identifying the underlying pain point that his customers had, which was “How do we get from Point A to Point B quickly and efficiently?”

Horses were the fastest and best land transportation at the time, so naturally people thought in terms of horses. (Well, yeah, trains, but did you ever take a train to get a gallon of milk at the corner store?)

Ford didn’t. Ford thought in terms of fixing the problem, not in terms of improving upon already existing solutions.


ThreeOwl Media Helps With Your Problems

It’s important to zero in on the root pain points your customers have. When you do this, your approach changes dramatically. The way you speak to your listeners changes. You don’t promote one solution. Instead, you shine a light on how your solution addresses a specific pain point.

In other words, you connect with your audience.

You build trust with your audience.

Because you understand your audience.

And here’s where I come in. Because I’ve made it my job to understand my audience.

It is my job to understand your audience!

I love people. I love talking to them, I love finding out about them, I love connecting with them, and I love understanding them.

When I was younger, I was never good at this. But I got better — way better — and now I love finding out what makes people tick.

To say that people are my passion is to understate it completely.

Yes, people are my passion. But they’re also my life. We’re all so interconnected, and yet so diverse! We all depend on one another, yet we are capable of so much on our own. Yes, as a child I was never good at social situations. But as an adult, I am fulfilled by them.

Let me help you!

With your marketing efforts, with your manuals and documentation, with your correspondence, with your video scripts … whatever! Any thing you need written, I am happy to write it for you.

And if you already have written material, I guarantee I can improve it.

Simply contact me to arrange a call or meeting! Use the Contact Me link, found under About Me.

I look forward to helping you with your writing projects!

Posted by John Onorato in Blog, 0 comments

How I Can Help with Your Pain Points

What are your pain points?

A writer must know the pain points of his audience beforehand, in order to create quality copy for that audience.

A pain point is a problem that your customers are having. It might be an actual problem, or it can be simply perceived.

Entrepreneurs often create opportunities for themselves by naming pain points, then creating solutions for those points.

I am a freelance writer. I do it full-time. For my primary market — my niche — I have chosen to serve conscious business leaders and coaches who are so busy changing the world, they don’t have time to write.

So when putting my work out there, I have to identify their pain points around writing. I talk about one of those in my mission statement, found in the above paragraph.

Maybe they don’t have time to write.

Maybe it’s not convenient for them to write.

Maybe they have more of a visual brain, and not so much a word brain.

Maybe they already write, but they feel like they’re not good at it.

And that’s where I come in!

I love the act of coming up with words, then stringing them into sentences and paragraphs. I’ve been doing this ever since I was old enough to push crayons around a piece of paper. My father told me I was good at it — he’s a college professor with several books under his belt, so it’s not just something nice he said about his kid. I’ve had teachers tell me. Bosses. Friends. I even had one friend steal my journal, just to read my poetry.

To say that writing is my passion is to understate it completely.

Yes, writing is my passion. But it’s also my life. That’s how my brain works. That’s how I process feelings. That’s how I express myself. That’s how I relate to the world.

So let me help you!

With your marketing efforts, with your manuals and documentation, with your correspondence, with your video scripts … whatever! Any thing you need written, I am happy to write it for you.

And if you already have written material, I guarantee I can improve it.

Why don’t you contact me to arrange a call or meeting? Use the Contact Me link, found under About Me.

I look forward to helping you with your writing projects!

Posted by John Onorato in Blog, 0 comments