Seasonal Articles and Posts: Ideas for Content

Seasonal Articles and Posts: Ideas for Content

Seasonal articles are, in some areas of the web, regarded as a joke. Fine. All I can tell you is that mine have been successful, so my advice is this. Let the others go evergreen.

. So, what sort of seasonal article could you write in the later part of this year? Here are some suggestions.

Top Five Predictions for 2017

Predictions articles are remarkably easy to write. You look to see what people predicted for the current year – what came true? Next year will be more of the same. Come up with four predictions on that basis, and add one of your own, specific to your own industry. Predictions don’t have to say the world will end (we have enough of those in 2012) you can simply say ‘the market for XYX will continue to grow’  If you can’t think of a lot to say about the predictions, just write more of them.

Predictions articles look forward; it’s usually easier to write the articles that look back. You’ll need to write ‘2016, the year in review‘ which is kind of boring, but one article or post which might prove useful is a Thanksgiving article, write about 5, 7 or 10 ‘Things to Give Thanks for in 2016‘. With the current state of the economy, if you have work, income and a roof over your head, you have lots to be thankful for. You can develop a Thanksgiving article for publication in November and then extend/rewrite it for the end of the year, as ‘Favorite things about 2016’.

This is also a great time for cooks – recipes and hints and tips for easy entertaining will be in demand, as will ideas for decorations.  As always, address your article to the readers pain, most want to save money, effort or time, and quite often all three.  The first paragraph of the article should spell out what the readers is going to learn from reading your article, an why it will be useful. Be clear about who the article is for, and why, for example,

‘Your first Thanksgiving as a Mom can be difficult. Either you have to travel with your new baby, or you have to look after the baby while organizing a family celebration. If the first seems difficult, the second choice can be frightening. Fortunately long distance travel with a baby can be trouble free, as long as you are properly prepared.

Ideas for Thanksgiving and Christmas (Holiday) centrepieces also make great posts for this time of year along with ideas for celebration tablescapes of all kinds. Articles on fall and winter seasonal decorating will be of general interest, but why not target those who are selling their homes? Tasteful seasonal decorations can go a long way towards making a home seem appealing and now could be the perfect time to use the spur of  NANOWRIMO to create your own compelling content.

Why should I buy from you and not someone else? The answer should be because what I get from you is better, you go further, your provide more. Bonus content could be the perfect thing to tip the scales in your favor. Create something seasonal and add it as a free gift to your customers for Thanksgiving, or Christmas, or just because of reasons! You’ll find it gives a great boost to your sales. Repeat the process for Spring and for Summer and you may find you have something substantial enough to sell.

Why bother? Because of what I call the author effect.

I worked for years as an IT consultant, but when I published my first book,  things changed. The interview process was entirely different, people came to me, not the other way around, and yes, the fees I could charge increased. Don’t underestimate the power of the author effect, it makes a difference.

So, what are you writing for this time of year?

Writing Seasonal Content

Writing Seasonal Content

Christmas gifts - seasonal content

Christmas gifts (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So you want to promote a web store or authority blog. You write, and then you write some more, but should you write evergreen articles as most guru’s suggest, or should you write seasonal content?

There are lots of problems to oversome and one of the biggest is finding stuff to write about so that your content is always  unique and interesting.  There are many experts telling you what to write, and their advice is usually to stick to ‘evergreen’ posts and articles, but is that the best content strategy? A couple of years ago I went on a course run by an internet marketer who made more money in a month than most people I knew did in a year. His secret was seasonal content. With everyone trying to be evergreen, there was a lot less competition. So he cleaned up when it came to Halloween.

Articles and blog posts are like a portfolio of investments. You don’t want to have all your eggs in one basket, so when the experts tell you you should write evergreen articles, things of interest at all times of year, I think that’s equivalent to putting all your investment in a single company. You need to balance your ‘portfolio’ of links, you also need to balance your portfolio of content and learn to write content appropriate to the time of year.

Yes, you need evergreen articles, and blog posts which are useful and interesting at all times. But you need seasonal stuff too, because people are seasonal. Remember the most basic blogging advice. Find out what people want to know. Tell them.

At Christmas, people want to know what to get their friends and relatives for Christmas gifts. Is that useful to a store owner, blogger or affiliate marketer? Of course it is. That’s the main buying season for most products.

People also want information on cooking, entertaining, and decorating their homes. It is well worth spending time and energy on writing articles with the ‘gift’ theme, and make them as specific as possible. Publishers love them around the holiday season, so if you submit these articles to directories, they are very likely to be picked up on blogs across the web. What’s more, they are likely to result in sales.

What do I mean by ‘be specific?

If you own a store, think of all the different types of people who would be delighted to receive one of your products as a gift.  If you sell nightgowns for example, think about all the people who would like to get one, you can write ‘Top Ten Gifts for Moms’, ‘Top Ten Gifts for New Brides’ and mention lots of items, of which your product is only one, or you can be even more specific with an article like ‘Buying Nightwear for Christmas: What Teenagers Really Want’ and discuss the different styles of nightwear (romantic, practical, brief etc.) and how you would choose for the teens, or the Moms, or the newly weds, or the kids, or even the pets in your family.

If your product is something like scrapbook supplies you can write ‘Top Ten Gifts for Scrapbookers’ but could you be more specific? How about ‘Top Scrapbooking Gifts for New Moms?’, or ‘Top Scrapbooking Tools for Grandmas’. Is this cheating? Absolutely not. We all have special requirements. By giving consideration to different types of customers you increase the value of the information you provide. This is not a sales tactic, it’s just common sense. If you want people to buy, they have to understand what’s in it for them.

Take the example above. Scrapbooking gifts for new moms could include every possible way to keep equipment tidy and away from tiny hands and mouths, in fact, I’d go so far as to recommend digital scrapbooking, it’s much easier to tidy away and new moms need every spare second. When it comes to grandmas, tools with a comfortable grip and containers that are easy to open can make a big  difference.

If you’re more into affiliate marketing, then  a ‘gift’ article is ideal, no matter what your area of expertise.  If your blog is about cake decorating – you can build great content around ‘The Best Gifts for Newbie Cake Makers’, ‘The Best Gifts for Expert Cakemakers’ , ‘The Best Cake Making Gifts for Moms’, ‘The Best Cake Making Gifts for Newly-weds’,’ The Best Cake Making Gifts for Dads’ (yes, some Dad’s make cakes, don’t be sexist) and of course ‘The Best Cake Making Gifts for Kids or Teens’.

If your authority or niche site isn’t immediately related to a product, this can be an opportunity to create one to sell or give away in exchange for an email address.   Most families find big holidays a strain, and in the UK January is boom time for divorce lawyers, so anyone in the relationship field will find the season ideal for articles about ‘How to Survive Thanksgiving with the Family’ and ‘Your Guide to Stress Free Holidays’, but why stop at posts or articles? Write an ebook or a series of tutorials in video and email form. Create a checklist designed to help people have a stress free holiday.

Weight Loss sites can add articles about wise choices to help prevent the pounds piling up, and even advise on good gifts to give serial dieters.

While it might seem a bleak time for gardeners, they have a whole new year to prepare for.  If your site is about gardening you can write articles about how to prepare for the new growing season, write about the new plants available for the coming year  and you can write about great gifts for gardeners.

In short, there’s a LOT  of potential for content in this seasonal stuff.

OK, you’ve made it so far, but admit it, you think I’m a bit mad. It’s nowhere near Christmas, and you think I’m just a bit too early with this stuff.

Well, yes.

And no.

While Christmas is the major holiday in the UK and  Europe, in the United States there is a tradition of decorating the home in the Autumn; October means Halloween and November means Thanksgiving. Seasonal content applies at any time of year, and yes, of course, it can be reused. Perhaps not word for word, but you can regard it as a head start. Write an article about planting bulbs in the spring and next year you can update it with new information, but you won’t have to start again, from scratch. I’m writing this at the end of July, in a couple of days it will be August, and we received our first catalogue featuring artificial Christmas Trees two weeks ago. It may seem early to be prepared, but there’s nothing wrong with being ahead of the game.

The thing is, don’t you ever get bored, or just run out of steam with your normal round of posting, commenting and linking?

I know I do. It’s one the reasons I started writing my novel Knightsbane.

And one thing I do to ‘break the cycle’ so to speak, is write something completely different. I was completely fed up yesterday, lots to do, it’s just that I didn’t want to do any of it. So I wrote something different, I wrote an article about the things I’d like most for Christmas, and since, as many of your know, I am something of a fool for flowers, I found myself writing about the best gifts you can give someone who loves flowers, and that made be realize I had done this before. When writing blog posts etc for clients, I often stockpile.

The great thing about writing is that you can build ‘stock’.  I create ‘collections’ in Google Docs and just add to them. If they are posts, I add them to WordPress and schedule them for the future. If they are articles, I keep them ready to submit until the month before I want them to have maximum effect.

So, apart from articles and posts about ideal gifts, what sort of seasonal article will you write? Add ideas as comments please!

 

The Proof Readers Poem

I don’t usually ‘do’ poetry. It’s not really my thing, however a friend posted a poem on my facebook page and I remembered that back in the distant past (2012 I think) I wrote this tongue in cheek set of guidelines for proof readers.

With apologies to serious poets everywhere, I present,

The Proofreader’s Poem 

If you’re the kind whose writing flows

from word to word in perfect prose

don’t think there’s nothing left to do

once words are found and phrases too.

There’s one thing left; you have to check

the grammar, don’t let spelling wreck

your careful words, your charming phrase

don’t leave your reader in a daze.

Move to the end, work in reverse

or read aloud, be bold! Rehearse!

Correct it all before you send

so publication can’t offend.

Check out your use of their and there

apostrophes and all, beware!

Be accurate with homonyms

and passive voice – a writers sin.

Check its and it’s, they’re often wrong;

its name is something which belongs

to it, and every single day

its name is spelled the self same way.

So, when you write, please write with flair

but let your watchword be take care

check before the publication

grammar, spelling, punctuation.

Remember, if you get them right

your business interests will take flight,

the millions that you surely crave

will flood right in, so please be brave.

Be ruthless when you proof read prose;

build links so your web business grows.

For anyone interested, parts of this were inspired by an old public safety announcement which I think appeared on the BBC, all about the need to wear a hard hat on a building site. 

How to Write With a Co-Author

How to Write With a Co-Author

Authors Michael Sears and Stanley Trollip, wri...

Authors Michael Sears and Stanley Trollip, writing as Michael Stanley (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m guessing that quite a lot of those books you see on Amazon –  you know the ones, Dinglesplotchit, by Famous J Author and Unknown Newbie, rely on Famous J Author’s name and Unknown Newbie’s effort. They appear to be co-authored, but are they really? Do they really sit down and thrash out each page together, or does Famous J Author just agree to lend his name to the project as long as it’s not total garbage?

I doubt that I’ll ever know.

What I do know is that 

I’ve spent the last year working on a writing project – a book and a number of short stories, with my son. It wasn’t easy.   There were times when tempers were fraught. But we got through it, and overall I’d say  I look forward to doing it again.

So, if you find yourself having one of those conversations – ‘great idea – why don’t we work on it together’ here are seven things you need to do to make the project a success and make sure you’re still on speaking terms at the end of it.

  1. Only co-author with someone whose opinion you value.  Many writers are control freaks when it comes to their work, and while most books are collaborative projects, with input from family, friends and sometimes a host of technical advisers, the author always has the right to say ‘no.’ If you’re always going to do it your way, you don’t need a co-author, you need a friend. If you believe that your co-author might even do a better job than you, then your project has a chance of success.    In our case I have the advantage of age and writing experience, but my son is closer to the age of the target demographic, closer to the age of the protagonist and has formal training.  His writing is often better than mine. I could ignore what he says, but I’d be an idiot.
  2. Find a way to divide the work. Our book, “Waterborne” is written from multiple points of view.  We divided the characters between us and the result was that the characters have genuinely different ‘voices’. You both need to write. If you end up with situation where on person writes and the other comments, you’ve a recipe for disaster. It might work for scientific papers, but not for novels.
  3. Try to make your criticisms constructive.  It’s not rocket science. If you want to work with someone, don’t offend them.
  4. Develop a veto policy right at the start.  We agreed that we both had to be happy with the what was written, but you could take things in another direction and allow one writer to take control of a scene or a chapter. Do what works for you, but agree it up front and stick to it.
  5. Work out a detailed outline before you start writing, and then stick to it.  We worked out a rough outline and started there. IT didn’t work. Too many things changed and the whole process took far too long. For our next project we’ve decided to work out a much more detailed outline and make sure it works before we divide up the work and start writing.
  6. Make sure you’re both writing the same book. If you’re writing a piece of young adult fiction, make sure your co-author’s  not working on a literary novel for the over fifties.
  7. When you make decisions, write them up. No – you don’t need to take minutes of your meetings, but do record the decisions.  There will be days when neither of you remember, or you both remember different things.

Have you ever written something with someone else? How did it work out? Would you do it again?

I’d love to learn more from your comments.

 

 

 

The One Thing You Must Do to Make Your Characters Believable

The One Thing You Must Do to Make Your Characters Believable

English: A man trying to reach for a scratch a...

English: A man trying to reach for a scratch at itch sensation on his upper back. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Has this ever happened to you?

You pick up a book. You’ve read the blurb, it sounds good, so you curl up and start reading. To begin with, everything’s fine, but then it starts, like an itch, somewhere deep under your skin, or a sound that you can’t quite hear. There’s something about the book, something that isn’t quite right. You can’t put your finger on it, but you know it’s there.

Sometimes you feel it as you read, sometimes it’s only when the book is done, but sometimes, half way through, you can’t take the itch any more, and you put the book down.

No matter when it hits you, the result is the same. You feel disappointed, betrayed even.  The book has stolen something from you that can never be returned. Time, unlike money, can’t be repaid, so when a book doesn’t live up to its promise, we don’t just feel grumpy, we also feel cheated.

There’s an unspoken contract between author and reader that has nothing to do with money. You give me your imagination, I give you my time.  Three dollars for an ebook? That’s nothing. But an evening of my time? That’s priceless.

What Causes the Itch?

An itch is quite different from a sudden pain, so the itch isn’t caused by gaping flaws in the plot. The itch comes from something far more insidious; your reader loses faith. He or she no longer believes.

Writers spin fantasy.  Readers know that and opt into it when they start reading, but if you insult your reader, make it difficult to keep on believing, then they get the  itch.  You could be cynical. The reader already bought your book, so, does it really matter if they feel cheated? Of course it does. Writers want to be read, and they want their readers to rave, it’s a need all writers have.  Even at the most basic level, readers matter because they post reviews. Loads of cheated readers won’t boost your sales figures. All you need to do is make characters believable

But I’m Writing Fantasy

It doesn’t matter what you’re writing. We’re all writing fantasy, even non-fiction writers choose how to present their material, what to put in, what to leave out and the same thing applies; if it’s not believable, the itch will start, and your readers will feel cheated.  It’s not the enchanted forest that’s the problem. It’s the people who live in it.

The best way to prevent the itch is to make your characters seem real.

There are many ways to develop a character. There are articles on making them likable, giving them depth, adding realism by adding flaws.  Some people like to use characters sheets, to work out details of appearance and background, and they have a lot of fun with the invention. There’s nothing wrong with that, but is it the most efficient approach?

They say that to write well you have to read, so most writers I know read a lot, but they read good books. Sometimes you can learn more from the bad ones. What’s

 It may not strike you at first, that’s why I call it the ‘itch’, but it gets you in the end. The character may be detailed, but if he or she isn’t consistent, even though you may not realize it at the time, you begin to lose faith.

Someone said (I wish I knew who) that in real life, things happen one after the other, but in fiction, things happen because of one another.

 and see how many other small facts fall into place from that one.  You’ll create a consistent character and you’ll find some useful plot points to use later on. If your character really is breaking the mold there should be a reason for that behavior. That reason may give you a whole section of your story.

For example – a friend asked me to review a short story she’d written about a character who’d spent her life in foster homes after her mother’s death. The character’s father was a millionaire.  There’s a story right there. Why would a millionaire allow his daughter to be taken into care? Did he know she existed? Was he tricked into it? Was the child taken from him for some reason? Sadly, that wasn’t the story my friend had written. Her character needed money later in her story, so she invented the millionaire father.

After looking at the plot, my friend chose to keep the millionaire father and substitute boarding schools for foster homes. This then gave the character a background which seemed more believable for her profession (running an art gallery) and added a touch of glamour.  From those facts all sorts of other followed, we knew where she would shop, what sort of clothes she would wear, what sort of men she’ date.  And the itch was gone.

So, How Do You Make Characters Believable?

Creating a character isn’t easy, but it is fun. Why not have a go, starting from one simple fact from the list below, and see how far you can get without having to invent anything else.

Invent a character

  • who was born at sea
  • who hates enclosed spaces
  • who hates fish
  • who has a thousand pairs of shoes
  • who has a collection of molds and fungus
  • who has a bet zambopf
  • who has a private jet
  • who lives in a cabin in the North of Scotland
  • who is about to set out on an expedition to the Antarctic
  • who is afraid of flying
  • who wants to be a zombie

Here’s an example:

Born at sea – mother must have been on a ship – possibly – born on a cruise ship – parents wealthier than average, baby premature (since mother would not have been allowed to sail otherwise) Baby may have unusual nationality. Baby has privileged background – maybe named after the ship, private school, good clothes, college degree. Maybe the story takes place on an eighteenth birthday when the protagonist is once again on the ship where they were born.

OR

Born at sea – The baby’s mother and father had chartered a yacht for a short vacation before the baby was born but the baby is premature and the mother dies before the father can  get back to shore. The father and baby are estranged, the baby reminds father of the death of his wife and he blames himself for it.  The baby brought up by grandparents.  As a young adult/adult the baby hates the sea. We know the family can afford a yacht, so they could be quite well off to extremely rich. Perhaps the story involves the protagonist having to over come a fear/hatred of the sea in order to save someone else they care about from a storm, or from drowning.

OR

Born at sea. A couple on holiday are on a ferry between two islands when something causes the ferry to capsize, it could be an earthquake and tidal wave, a hurricane, or a just a sudden bad storm. The weather is bad, the woman is pregnant. In the lifeboat, her waters break and she goes into labor. The rest of the story concerns the efforts of the rest of the occupants of the lifeboat to get her to land or deliver her baby safely.

Either version is valid and consistent, and by growing the character from the one fact, the story has almost written itself.

There’s a lot more you can do.  A character’s voice and actions are important in making them believable, and if you’re a fabulous writer, you can ignore all the rules, and the characters will still come to life as you type, but let’s face it, how many of us are that good?

Make your characters consistent to prevent the ‘itch’ and make sure your readers don’t feel betrayed. You might even find it makes writing easier.

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