Language Audit For Your Marketing Content

I love helping people fix their words, giving them the power to make their words stand out. I had the opportunity to do that last week for a woman who wanted guidance on how to improve the wording in her marketing emails. As I put together my recommendations for her, a lightbulb went on in my head – why not offer people a Language Audit.

This year I’ve been concentrating on my content training courses, but a course isn’t for everyone. Some people want to learn as they go, and my Language Audit service will give them the opportunity to do that. Basically, I’ll be their writer on top, who they can call on as they create their document for advice on how to add sparkle to the language in their documents.

How the Service Works

You can send me your documents as you create them, so you won’t lose momentum while you’re creating your marketing content. Or you can wait till you’re finished all your documents and send them in a batch before you release them to the world.

I will them draw up a few practical guidelines that you can act on straight away, to help you improve the wording of your documents. This isn’t an edit; it’s about helping you make changes yourself, so you can improve your writing skills and enhance the quality of all the content you create.

Ways to Improve your Language

The guidelines I give you take three forms. First, I’ll highlight ‘weed words’ for you to get rid of. These are words that are used so often that they’ve almost lost their meaning and they lessen the impact of your sentences. If you have too many adverbs or adverbs or too many crutch words like ‘actually,’ ‘obviously’ or ‘seems.’ I’ll flag that and you can weed them out, so your blooms will shine.

This is a pic of a purple weed, with thin leaves spreading outwards on a purple background.
Weeding Out Words: Watch out for words that weaken your language and pluck them out of your content.

I’ll then guide you on words that will strengthen your content, words that create vivid images and evoke colours, sounds and scents. I’ll also encourage you to use action words that convey a sense of purpose. For example, if you say ‘The photographs are taken by me,’ I’ll encourage you to change it to ‘I take the photographs.’ It immediately sounds more proactive.

Some people have problems cutting down the length of their content, because they’re so enthusiastic about what they want to say and they’re afraid their message won’t come across. I’ll highlight ways that they can be more concise. Often, it just means something simple, like cutting down the length of your sentences, or cutting out repeated words. You’d be amazed the difference these changes make.

Why Avail of a Language Audit

This is a great option for time poor people who’d rather learn on the go, and it’s also a budget-friendly way to avail of great content advice. The price of this language is €75 for 5,000 words You don’t have to worry how much content makes up 5,000 words. I’ll set up a tab for you and let me know when you’ve reached your limit. But you’ll usually be covered for all the marketing content you create.

I hope this Language Audit service will be of value to you – it’s an efficient and effective way of improving your writing skill. You can find out more about it by dropping me an email on derbhile@writewordseditorial.ie.

How My Content Creation Course Works

In all my blogs, I’ve been talking about how to use storytelling techniques to create brilliant content. But I thought I’d take a break from that this week and take stock of how my content creation course has evolved since the start of the year. I’ve been having a lovely time delivering my course, which is called Bestselling Content Creation, to committed, dynamic entrepreneurs, and I wanted to share that. But I also wanted to give you an idea of how the course works, so you can decide if it would be useful to you in the future.

Content Creation Modules

There are six modules available on the course: storytelling, web content, blog posts, social media posts, video scripts and traditional marketing content. All the participants have done the storytelling module because this is the foundation for all the modules on the course. After that, people pick the modules that are relevant to them.

Photo Description: The words ‘Bestselling Content Creation for Business – Storytelling’ are printed in blue capital letters on a white background, with a blue border.

Web content has been the most popular one, but there’s also been an interest in video scripts and press releases, which would come under traditional marketing content. Most people have chosen two modules, a couple have chosen three, and one person chose to combine two modules to make one. There’s a bundled rate available for taking all six modules, so I hope I’ll soon be able to rise to the challenge of delivering all six modules.

The people who’ve taken up the course are mostly solo entrepreneurs, though in one case I’ve delivered it to two people. So far, the course has been a bit more popular with people who offer services, possibly because service businesses don’t have the luxury of pictures to do some of their selling for them. But there has been interest from businesses selling consumer products as well.

Hands-On Approach to Content Writing

I take a hands-on approach to delivering the course because I believe people learn best by doing. Also, entrepreneurs are pretty time poor, so I help them make the most of their time by getting them to actually write their content. After a PowerPoint Presentation, the participants do writing activities. They then do more writing after the session finishes to put their business story together and I give them feedback to help them bring their story forward.

A lesson I quickly learned is that many people already have content written, so they’ve already begun writing their story. My job as a tutor/facilitator is to help them build on that story. By giving them a chance to work on the content they’ve already created in the session, they can see that the skills I’m showing them are relevant and can be directly applied to their business.

People will have time and space to work on their content in the session, which saves them having to find that space later. And they’ll come away having developed their content further, which is a good result.

People say they’re satisfied with the course modules they’ve done, which I’m pleased about. Long-term, I’m hoping people will find it a lot easier and less time consuming to produce content, and I’m hoping to see beautiful blog posts and snappy social media posts from my clients popping up on my feeds in the near future.

I hope I’ve made you curious about Bestselling Content for Business. If you are and you’d like to get in touch, you’ll find all my details on my nifty digital business card, email, phone, website etc. Click on the link to view my card.

Announcing the WriteWords Online Children’s Writing Course

Every summer, I run a creative writing course for children. And I don’t see why this summer should be any different. Last week, I told you about my online writing courses for adults. Now, I’m going to do an the same for children. I’m going to run an online children’s writing course for children aged between seven and ten.

Inspiration for Writing Course

It was actually two boys I know who inspired me to take my writing courses online. Their mother asked me to give them some writing classes over WhatsApp during the height of lockdown, and they went really well. At first, it was strange speaking into a screen, but the boys took it in their stride, and given that I wasn’t in the room with them, they concentrated really well.

I’m going to run five one-hour sessions. The first four sessions will each cover a different creative writing skill. The final day will be a feast for the senses, as we let ourselves be inspired by what we hear, what we see and what we taste. The sessions will be highly interactive, with lots of laughter and chat, and they will feel like real-world writing classes.

What Will Happen During the Camp

On the first day, we’ll concentrate on language. The children will make up their own words, play with the alphabet and write about summer without using the word summer. The second day will be all about creating characters, both real and imagined.

On the third day, the children will create worlds. This is always a popular session. They create their own countries, name them and draw a map of them. They’ll also travel back in time, to imagine what their house might have looked like in the 1920s. This class will teach them about the value of setting, the place and time in which a story takes place.

Photo illustrates that the online children’s writing course will be just as enriching as a real-world course

Children writing at a big table during one of my previous writing courses. The walls behind them are white and there are paintings on them.

The fourth day is all about what happens in stories: in other words, the plot. The children will devise their own newspaper, filled with exciting stories. On the final day, as the children explore their senses, they’ll create their own disgusting recipes and list and make their favourite sounds.

If I’ve managed to whet your appetite, my online children’s writing course will run from 13-17 July, from 10-11am each day. The price of the camp will be €40 per child, with concessions for two children or more.

If you’d like to book a place for your child, call me on 087 6959799 or email derbhile@writewordseditorial.ie.

What You’ll Learn in an Online Writing Course

I was delighted at the response I got when I announced to my social media networks that I was giving online writing courses. I had written a blog post telling people what sorts of online courses I was offering for adults and children, Now I’m writing another one to tell you exactly what you can expect when you sign up for these online courses.

A question will naturally come up in your mind. What will an online writing course be like?

Answer: the same as a real-world class. Or at least as close to a real-world class as I can get it. That’s why I’m delivering interactive classes via videoconferencing rather than posting a series of videos and notes. That’s the way courses are organised on an online educational portal such as Udemy or Coursera.

I want my online writing courses to feel like the real thing. You’ll do the activities in real time and I’ll give you feedback in real time.

I will write a separate blog post about what my children’s writing camp will be like, but for now, I’ll talk about my adult writing course. You’ll have six two-hour writing sessions and each one will focus on a different writing technique. Then I’ll ask you to write your own piece, based on what you’ve learned during the course.

Getting Started

I’ll ease you in gently with lots of icebreaking activities aimed at helping you break free of your inhibitions. You’ll learn that your writing is not as crap as you thought it was. You’ll also discover that when your mind is set free, it comes up with amazing ideas. We’ll also do language activities that aim to help you describe your world in fresh ways.

Three Pillars of Storytelling

The next three sessions will be devoted to each of the three pillars of storytelling: character, setting and plot. Character will come up first. You’ll learn how to create a character and make them come alive.

In the character class, you’ll create a profile for this crazy creature. Photo Description: He’s an old man with a long, pointy bears and a thin face.

Setting refers to the world where your story happens, in terms of both place and time. In the session about setting, you’ll learn how to create believable worlds for your characters. And the plot session will help you structure your story and decide what happens next.

Other Creative Writing Skills

After that, we’ll have a session that’s a feast for the senses – literally, as you’ll be learning how to weave all five of your senses into your writing. We’ll explore how our senses can evoke emotions and unlock memories, which will give you inspiration for your writing. Our final class will deal with point of view, as in the point of view we choose to tell our story from. The viewpoint we choose will shape how your reader experiences the story and what opinion they form of the characters.

The Final Bit

After the six sessions are over, I’ll ask you to create a piece of writing of your own. You may have been inspired by one of the activities on the course, or you may have a piece of writing you were already working on. You send it to me and I will give you feedback that will help you develop it further, if you wish.

If you’d like to chat to me directly about how these classes work, call me on 087 6959799 or email derbhile@writewordseditorial.ie.

Want To Try An Online Writing Course?

In the past, I’ve found myself in the disappointing position of having to tell people that I don’t have enough numbers for my creative writing courses. But now that disappointment is behind me, thanks to something I never would have considered before – an online creative writing course.

I thought organising an online writing course would be beyond a technophobe like me, that I would need fancy equipment and high-level editing skills. Then the pandemic came and I found myself giving creative writing classes to two boys via WhatsApp. And I realised I could offer online classes to others, using whatever medium they’re comfortable with.


Rows of square pictures of people taking part in a Zoom writing class. From Gotham Writers.

You would think that online creative writing courses would feel remote and stilted but they’re actually not. My own writers’ group has transferred well onto Zoom. And it didn’t knock a feather out of the boys. They’re so used to talking to people via a video screen already.

Of course there’s no substitute for the real thing, but the advantage of an online course is the level of attention I can give to the people who attend. That allows me to create a personal experience for them, even if they’re not in the room with me.

The online writing courses I’ll give will be in real time, so they’ll be interactive and you’ll feel as if you’re in the same room as the other participants.

So, here’s what I’m going to going to offer in terms of online creative writing courses.

I’ll have time to explore their writing challenges in depth and I can offer detailed feedback which will help them develop their stories. And because I have fewer overheads, I can run my writing courses at a more reasonable price.

Beginners’ Creative Writing for Adults

I’ll give six two-hour writing workshops via Zoom or whatever videoconferencing system you’re most comfortable using. Each class will cover a different creative writing technique, like language usage, character creation and managing points of view.

After the creative writing course is over, you’ll be asked to produce a piece of writing and you’ll receive individual feedback on it. The price of this course is €60 for six sessions, with a $5 discount if you pay for the classes in advance.

Children’s Writing Camps

Children are already used to learning online, as TV screens and computer screens have taken over from the classroom during the pandemic. I’ll do a five-day course for children aged 6-12, with a one-hour session each day.

These will be highly interactive sessions, and the children will travel through time, create their own worlds and bring objects to life. I’m widening the age range I work with two. The five sessions will cost €30, or €25 if you pay in advance.

One-To-One Coaching

This is ideal for people who have a specific idea for a writing project that they want to get off the ground. You’ll have your own exclusive mentoring session to help you develop your idea, whether it’s for a novel, a collection of short stories or a memoir.

I’ll give you tips for structuring your idea and you’ll also receive my tips in a report afterwards, so you won’t need to write like mad while you’re talking. You can also ask for advice if you’re in the middle of a project and you find yourself stuck. This service will cost €60, or €55 if you pay for it in advance.

You’ll find general information about my creative writing courses and my writing consultancy services on my website. If you’d like to chat to me directly about how these classes work, call me on 087 6959799 or email derbhile@writewordseditorial.ie.

Taking Memoir Writing to the Next Level

For some time now, I’ve been feeling that I’d love to give more in-depth writing workshops. I have given such writing workshops in the past, but I want to make it more of a feature of my work. I want to take a group of enthusiastic writers to the next level. Just over two weeks ago, with the help of just such a group of enthusiastic writers, I achieved that ambition. I gave a memoir-writing workshop which gave the writers the space to create a full-length story and get feedback on it within a few hours. The writers created their magic in this building.

 

Edmund Rice Heritage Centre
The Edmund Rice Heritage Centre, where these stories were created.

 

This story would explore the role of point of view in shaping stories. In other words, the point of view you choose to tell the story from shapes the atmosphere of the story, and changes your view of the characters in it. The writers would tell the story of a small but significant injustice that they experienced when they were young.

We all have them. The time we were promised sweets but never got them. Or we saved up to buy something, only to find that the shopkeeper had sold it on. As a twist, the writers would tell the story from the viewpoint of the character who committed this injustice.

Building the Story

The writers started by brainstorming the small injustices they’d experienced. They came up with a list of three, and then whittled that down to one. They then took the time to get to know the person who committed the injustice by doing a character sketch. This is a profile of a character, where you give details like their name, age, location, family, and secrets about them that no-one else knows, The writers would be aware of some of the details, but could use their imaginations to fill in the gaps.

Every story needs a structure. This story would follow that timeless template: the three-act structure, with a beginning, middle and end. I devised a set of questions based on the three-act structure. Answering these questions would help them gather the facts of the story and put them in order. Once they’d answered those questions, they could then flesh out the facts to make a full-length story.

The Finished Product

The writers ended up with remarkably accomplished first drafts, well structured, with rounded, sympathetic characters. Some of them had not actually written before, but rose to the challenge beautifully. They were also generous in giving feedback to each other. Most of all, they found that they gained a new perspective on events in their lives, and were able to empathise with their former adversaries.

Do you have a small but significant injustice from your childhood that you could mine for stories? Try writing about it from the viewpoint of the other person. You may be surprised at the results.

Journey Through the Senses Writing Workshop

Recently, I gave one of my favourite types of creative writing workshop, for one of my favourite organisations. The workshop was my Journey Through the Senses beginners’ workshop. And the organisation was Waterford Libraries. I gave the workshop in one of their busiest libraries, in Ardkeen.

Objects of Affection

This workshop uses the senses to trigger emotions and memories, which in turn can lead to ideas for stories. It’s a nice gentle introduction to writing for beginners. After some icebreakers, I distributed some quirky objects I’ve picked up along my travels: a ladybird whose wings open to reveal a watch, a jade stone, a wooden perfume bottle from Bulgaria.

The participants then wrote the life stories of these objects.  They used the feel and the look of the objects to help them imagine what those lives might have been, what adventures they had and how they came to be there. Some people didn’t like the objects they were given, but I told them that sensations you don’t like can provide just as much inspiration for writing as beautiful ones. The important thing is to evoke a strong reaction.

A Taste of Oranges

We then moved on to one of my favourite exercises, which I’ve written about on this blog before, A Taste of Oranges. Oranges challenge all five of the senses, and people have to let go of their inhibitions about eating such a messy fruit in front of other people. The participants had to describe the oranges using all five of their senses (this orange looks/this orange feels). Eating the orange was an optional extra.

Oranges
Oranges work all of a writer’s senses.

Once the senses are triggered, I like to expand the activity. After they’d worked their senses with the oranges, I asked the participants to write about a meal that was memorable for a particular reason, which triggered some hilarious and poignant tales.

Musical Moments

I decided to do this activity on a whim, as I don’t normally do it, even though music is integral to my own writing practise. When you do activities, you don’t know which ones will work out. The other activities had gone smoothly, but I was still waiting for that ‘foom’ moment when the group takes off. It came with this activity.

I played a piece of music (Apache by The Shadows), and the participants had to write the names of a person, a colour and a place that the music made them think of. They then wove those three words into a short story. The resulting stories took us on voyages to different parts of the world, and prompted lots of lively reminiscences.

How do you incorporate the senses in your writing? Are you drawn to beautiful sensations, or to more troubling ones? If you’re a workshop facilitator, do you do activities based on the senses?

How to Run a Great Children’s Writing Camp

For the first time in over two years, I ran a children’s creative writing camp. After such a long gap, the prospect of this camp was quite a challenge. Especially since I had changed the format of the camp. Previously, I had run the camp in five two-hour sessions. But this year, I decided to run a three-day camp, with each session lasting 3.5 hours. Feedback from parents told me that this would be much more convenient for working parents.

The thought of holding children’s attention for that long, and indeed keeping up my own energy levels, was quite daunting. What’s more, the children who enrolled were a mix of ages and abilities. Three of them were boys, and my experience with them was more limited, as it’s usually girls who show more interest in the writing camps I run.

Here are three things I did to help me overcome these challenges.

Prepared Well

I spent a lot of time thinking about ways to hold the children’s attention. As well as my usual writing activities, I thought of word games and picture based activities that would offer a bit of variety and hold their attention. I also had to think about what we would do during the break, rain or shine. In the end, I didn’t need the extra activities. Since the length of time for the camp was more or less the same as in my previous camps, I had enough material with my main writing activities to last for the entire camp. And the children’s concentration never flagged.

Asserted Authority

This is the most challenging aspect of running children’s camps for me. You’re not the children’s teacher or parent, so you can’t discipline them. But you’re also not their friend. Creating a warm, trusting relationship and giving clear instructions for activities wards off a lot of issues. But when issues did arise during this camp, I made it clear what I didn’t like and how I wanted the children to behave, I also took any actions which I felt would be in the best interests of the group. As a result, I felt more in control, and the children didn’t step outside the boundaries.

Set Concrete Tasks

This group of children responded better to activities that had a clear outcome at the end. The more whimsical activities went down less well because they couldn’t see the purpose of them. The boys in particular were more likely to switch on if there was a clear end in sight. As a result, when it came to writing a full-length story on the last day, they were very focused, and you could see their skills starting to come together, they began to see why we had been doing all these activities, and took pride in the end result.

Children's Summer Writing Camp 2017
Children at writing camp hard at work creating stories.

 

Outcome of Camp

Dare I say it, this was my most successful children’s creative writing camp. Much of the credit for this goes to the ten lovely children who came to the camp. They were open, creative, kind and respectful to each other. The children not only wrote their own original stories, but read them in front of an audience of their parents. They may have forgotten about it all by now, but I can only hope a little seed of creativity was planted, which will bear fruit in later life.

If you run a children’s activity, what do you do to make it fun and fulfilling for them? If you’re a parent, what benefits do you hope your children will gain from attending a camp?

My Big Fat Funding Application

Recently, I handed in a big brown envelope at an office in Dublin. It did not contain money, but it did contain something previous: my application for Irish Arts Council funding to develop a literature project. I applied to the Artist in the Community Scheme, which gives artists funding to develop projects with a community group of their choice.

Application Form
Applying for Arts Council Funding – taking workshops to the next level

In my case, the community group will comprise visually impaired people who are service users of the National Council for the Blind of Ireland (NCBI). I’ve been giving creative writing workshops there for some time, so I felt it was time to take the workshops to the next level. NCBI have given me great support in my ventures. We’ve decided that a radio broadcast would be the right fit for the group.

Research Into Application

My research for this application and in general over the last couple of years tells me that if you want to get funding for such a project to happen, you need to do it as a group project. Everyone involved contributes to the artwork, but the artist is the leader and kits together everyone’s contribution to create one original piece of art.

This involves a shift in thinking for me, from being a facilitator to being an artist who leads a group towards the creation of an artwork. To manage this shift in thinking and learn more about the process of creating a collaborative artwork, I applied for a mentor as part of the funding.

The mentor I chose is called Ciaran Taylor and he has worked with visually impaired people in a radio drama project called Sightless Cinema. So he understands the needs of my chosen group, and he has loads of experience in bringing together people’s ideas to make an artwork.  

Create, a community arts organisation which runs the Artist in the Community Scheme for the Irish Arts Council, run a very helpful advisory service. One of their coordinators spent ages with me, giving me advice. She really gave me food for thought, about how to turn myself from a facilitator into an artist, and the importance of not presuming to know what a group might want.

If I am successful, the biggest challenge I have will be in recruiting people for the project. Because I’ve been working at NCBI for the last couple of years, the participants have already done several workshops with me, so they may feel they’ve already done enough. So we’ll be widening the pool of participants, and we’ll also invite sighted people who have an association with NCBI to come along. This will make the project more mainstream and integrated.

Goal of Project

The aim of this phase of the project will be to figure out what type of project will best suit the group. Maybe it will be linked spoken word pieces, or maybe it will be a long, glorious stream of words. Or maybe it’s not a viable project at all, but that will be an outcome in itself. Either way, it will be up to me to make the project a success. That’s quite a daunting thought, but I’m ready for a new challenge.

Have you ever worked on a collaborative arts project? What did you do to provide leadership and inspiration to the group? What process did you use to achieve the final project?

The Challenges of Running Children’s Writing Camps

I’m giving a children’s writing camp this summer and I’m looking forward to it. It’s been about two years since I gave a writers’ camp to children, and in that time, I’ve gathered lots of ideas for working more effectively with children, and I’m dying to put these into practise. Working with children brings lots of challenges, and careful preparation will ensure I can rise to those challenges.

 

Here’s a flavour of the kinds of challenges I’ll be dealing with.

child writing
Writing with children: a joy and a challenge

Condensing five days into three days

I always gave five-day writing camps before, lasting two hours each. But on the suggestion of fellow writer and mother Orla Shanaghy, a great promotor of my camps, I’ve adjusted the format to a three-day camp with longer sessions. I’m hoping this will be more convenient for working mothers. But it does mean I’ll need to hold children’s attention for longer. Other writer-mothers on a Facebook group I run suggested things like adding drawing activities, word games and lots of breaks. I’m confident that if I act on their suggestions, the time will fly.

Dealing with personalities

From previous experience, I’ve found that there are two extremes of personality I need to deal with in children’s writing camps. One is the loud child who is brilliant at distracting everyone else with their lively wit and imagination. The other is the shy child who regards reading aloud as the equivalent of swallowing nails. For the loud child, boredom may be a factor, so I’ll keep the workshop moving and give them tasks to do. And for the quieter ones, I aim to make the atmosphere as warm as welcoming as possible, so they’ll realise that reading aloud isn’t so awful after all.

Managing volunteers

When you run a children’s writing camp, you must have other adults available for health and safety reasons. These people play a very valuable role, but they’re a responsibility too. My main responsibility to them is to make it clear what I’d like them to do, so they’re not just sitting there. They’ll have lots of practical things to do, like hand out writing materials and take children to the bathroom. But they play a creative role too, helping children who are quieter or work more slowly. Essentially, they’re a second pair of eyes and hands.

Have you ever run a children’s camp of any kind? What challenges have you come across and how have you dealt with them?