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St. Augustine writing, revising, and re-writin...

Use photo captions to tell your entire story if you want to attract a male readership.

You can increase readership of your blog if you follow a few simple rules. These rules were created by people, like yourself, who wanted to increase readership of their writing. A blog is nothing more than an editorial.  It is your opinion about a topic.

We tend to think from the general to the specific. We might start with a question, build a supportive argument and then conclude with the answer.  Most readers won’t be willing to read your impressive arguments. They want to know what you are talking about quickly.

The first rule then is to reveal what your opinion is in the opening paragraph.  The first paragraph is the executive summary of the rest of your blog. This increases your readership because it communicates your idea quickly to those who prefer to scan rather than read. If the first paragraph expresses your opinion adequately, you might entice a few “scanners” to continue reading. If not, at least they received the main point of your writing: they know your opinion, and that is primarily what you wanted to accomplish.

The second rule is to create and follow an outline. The typical editorial outline follows:

  1. State your opinion in the opening paragraph.
  2. Provide support for your opinion. (3 arguments.)
  3. Anticipate and answer the probable rebuttal.
  4. Restate your opinion.
  5. Call for action.

Use the correct headline. The headline should be honest. It should relate to the topic of the writing. If your writing isn’t strong enough to hold a reader’s attention, a splendid, (but misleading), headline isn’t going to help you.

A picture says a thousand words, so add one or two to reinforce your message. If your blog editor permits, change the caption of the photo to reveal a major point conveyed in your writing. Men like to read captions.  Use photo captions to tell your entire story if you want to attract a male readership.

“Be brief, be bright, be done,” is a motto I used for many years in editorial writing. Your writing is competing with every other distraction that keep readers from giving you the attention you want.  Over the years I have broken that rule more than any other.

Use words people understand. Audiences vary. You can use technical jargon if your audience is familiar with that vocabulary.  Just remember to use language that your target audience uses. Also, try to use correct grammar.

Listen to your editor. Of course, you don’t have an editor so you have to listen to that other voice in your head that is telling you that your writing is too long, too disorganized, too wordy or incorrect. We all have that voice in our head. Learn to listen to the wisdom of your second voice.

Use Paragraphs and Sub-headlines

What reaction do you seek from the audience? Ask for that reaction. Why share your opinion if you do not want others to take an action? “Write your Congressman,” “sign our petition,” “meditate each morning.” Remember to ask people to do what you think they should be doing.

Review some of your older writing. Where in the writing does your main point appear? Is it buried in the body of the writing? Is it plainly stated in the first paragraph?

When you review your older writings, do you grimace at the quality of your work? Do you get the impression that your could have said as much using fewer words? Are you proud of your work? Good!

You can increase readership by following a few rules.  If you are new to writing, follow the advise of others until you gain some experience and confidence.  Seasoned writers will set their own rules, as they should, as their writing skill develops. In time you can become a better writer; even a famous writer, but all writers start as beginners. Learn the rules of good writing as you develop your skills.

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It has taken very little effort to learn how to not write fiction. In that sentence I am using the word not as a negation of the act of writing fiction, not as a word which connotes incorrect fiction writing. There are plenty of books available that seek to instruct a writer how to avoid the pitfalls of poor writing (i.e. how to not write fiction). I know of no book which explains how easy it is to not write fiction.  That is probably because to not write fiction you simply must not write.

That is what I learned last week when I started to write a piece of fiction. After writing a few pages, I decided that attempting to write fiction was a bad idea. I will revisit that idea many times, as I have done in the past, but I now recall how easy it is to decide not to write fiction. If it was easy to write fiction, more people would do it, I suppose.  It would then be no great feat and fewer people would decide not to do it. Things are as they should be.

Book Ideas

Among the many book ideas I have had, a couple rank higher than others.  Years ago I stumbled upon the idea of writing a cookbook for Freshmen students. Young men are most often ignorant about the basics of cooking, most probably because they do not understand how it fulfills the prime objective of attending college. If I shaped the title of the book accordingly, I think it might become popular. The title of the book was to be How Learning to Cook can Help You Get Laid. There might be a better way to say that. (That is what editors are for.) I think male freshmen are more likely to pick up a book by that title than Joy of Cooking.

Cover of "Joy of Cooking"

Cover of Joy of Cooking

Another book idea came to me in a dream. I dreamed the entire book. When I woke, the idea was so fresh upon my mind that I wrote the synopsis in one sitting. A rugged man living in the suburbs inherits an estate in the mountains of Colorado and decides to make a long desired transition in life, sells all he owns and moves to Colorado.  He arrives to find that he has inherited a wonderful home (I drew a picture of it) on a good parcel of land, bordered on the back side by a thin forest of trees nudged against a long cliff which has long been the home of bats that live in the cliff caves. The fissures are accessible, (after a perilous climb) through the portals of caves visible here and there.

On the higher elevation is a small college town. Access to the town is gained by use of a small valley trail which winds upwards from the inherited homestead. The rugged man, whom I named John, acquaints himself with his home, and after accidentally dislodging a fireside stone, finds a tiny wooden box hidden away by his grandfather. He opens the box and retrieves a small tear-drop shaped amulet  attached to a gold chain.  He slips the necklace around his neck and opens the crunchy folds of a letter that was tucked into the box along with the amulet.  He reads a set of cryptic directions on how to use the amulet in order to begin a mystical spiritual experience. There is no reference to what the experience entails. That piece of information will become known later, during a trek to explore the caves on the cliffs, and after he falls in love with a college professor he will soon meet. There was an antagonist too – a young man who secretly admired the very college professor that John would soon meet. A drama ensues and resolves as a prelude to the eventual discovery of certain secrets found in the caves, and John’s decision to act out the alleged mystical ritual.

The finding of clues in the cave are not what solely prompted his curiosity. It was instead the consistent appearance of bear tracks leading to the doorway under the house which went into the root cellar. While the door was locked, the tracks laid upon the ground in a fashion that indicated that a very large bear had walked right through the doorway and the thick wooden door which should have precluded that option. The idea of a bear that could walk through doors haunted him until he found the clues he sought on the walls of the caves he explored with his interested companion, the aforementioned and lovely college professor.

The ritual itself, initiated after dropping the amulet into a blazing campfire whereupon a cloud of red smoke engulfed John, causing him to succumb to an intoxicated trance, revealed the meaning of the four stages of manhood: birth, adolescence, maturity and old age. All of this was revealed to him by a spirit bear which served as his dream guide. He would follow the bear from the campfire near the house and walked directly toward the doorway under the house. Later when he awoke from his dream state, the only confirming evidence of his adventure, would be the tracks of the bear leading to the doorway, with the exception of the appearance of his own tracks stamped into the earth alongside those of the bear’s.

Several chapters of reconciling spiritual drivel and meaning follow until at last the story reveals that John marries the college professor. [Scene.] They stand together on the timbered front porch of the grandfather’s abode  ready to enter as husband and wife. One last embrace on the front porch is interrupted by the distant appearance of a female bear crossing the grassy pasture which sprawls for miles in front of the house, followed by two bear cubs. John’s bride submits a knowing grin and turns to walk into the house. John follows, but in reprise, turns one last time to gaze across the field when he spies a gigantic male bear raised on his haunches to his full height of almost twelve feet, and while looking directly at John, roars with all the territorial bravado one’s imagination can muster.

John roars back. The two are suspended in a stare until the mother bear sends a signal of impatience to the towering male, who quickly acquiesces as he resumes his sauntered step across the field.  John smiles while caught in the moment when a delicate hand reaches from within the cabin to grab him by the collar and not-too-gently pulls him into the house. The door shuts. [Pan out with aerial view to panoramic scene showing the house, land and the distant and continued trek by the family of bears.]


And then I awoke from my sleep and the full-colored dream ended.

It occurs to me now that not writing fiction is going to be more difficult that I originally thought. For the immediate future, as is probably just and wise, freshmen are on their own.

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The Veiled Insult

Ever wondered where the writing style that uses enumerated lists comes from? I might consider presenting my ideas in bullet form, because it is easier to read. I might use small words. I might order the information so that it can be reduced to seven major points. I might do this if my intended audience had no interest in reading anything with substance.  Maybe if the reader had only a basic vocabulary or a short attention span I would then attend to my considerations.  Maybe if I thought people were lazy and stupid …

Friedrich Nietzsche

Friedrich Nietzsche first considered becoming a Fuller Brush salesman before turning to philosophy as a career.

Anyone who has declared someone else to be an idiot, a bad apple, is annoyed when it turns out in the end that he isn’t. ~Friedrich Nietzsche

Upon receiving notification from the White House as to the seven things I need to know about the fiscal cliff, I thought I would write seven things about the letter which lists those seven things, obviously written by someone who has not read the Nietzsche quote above. Number one! When any government tells you “This is what you need to know”, it is time to start asking questions.

Telephone numbers are limited to seven digits because marketers determined that we weren’t smart enough to remember more digits than that. Ah ha! We proved them wrong. We can remember ten!

Number two! If you learn the seven things listed in the White House letter, you still wouldn’t know much about the ‘tax deal’. When are taxes ever a deal? Never!

Number three! The tax deal extends the Production Tax Credit and the Research and Experimentation Tax Credit.  I can hear your sigh of relief over that one! Notice that it is styled to use exactly seven words. You would forget it otherwise.  What is a ‘tax credit’ exactly? Ah! This is the beauty of government! It is a negated tax. A tax is charged, but it is rescinded through the use of a credit if you meet certain conditions.  Would it not make more sense just to have no tax at all, but you could apply for a credit if you met the conditions? Number four! Government rescinds taxes by creating an opportunity for a credit against the tax. If you get rid of the tax entirely, then the accountants won’t have much to do.

Number five! Government always waits until the very last minute to make a decision when they must make a decision by a specified deadline. For the past several months, Americans have been inundated with every gloom and doom scenario as a prelude to the ‘tax deal’.  We could have ignored all that malarkey and bravado.  It’s like watching the Pittsburgh Steelers: nothing happens until the fourth quarter.  Number six! The next time our government has to make a decision on deadline, just watch a football game instead of listening to all the ridiculous back-biting analysis. Alternatively, just watch the first three quarters of a Steelers game. Either way, nothing is going to happen.

Number seven! I have opted to eliminate number seven. I can sense your disappointment. Let me make something up real quick. Number seven! There is no such thing as a ‘tax deal’. We still have to pay taxes.

Tax Spiel about the Tax Deal.

Tax Spiel about the Tax Deal.


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Blues or Jazz: What’s the diff?.

Piano tuner

Image via Wikipedia

Piano tuners are interesting people. mechanically nerdy, but interesting. You should follow at least one piano tuner on your Twitter account.  Preferably it would be someone in your community.

The whole idea behind using social media is to broaden your exposure to diverse people.  SEO isn’t really doing that though is it? You get recommendations on who to follow, which webpages to visit,  which ads to click on, and all of this just narrows your exposure to diversity. If you stick to the recommendations, you aren’t following the world, you are just following people who are like you, or who like the things that you like.  That is BORING. You have to be pro-active to build diversity on your Twitter account, and in real life.

Piano tuners talk about harmonics, and wippens, and capstans and temperaments. We discuss the effects of inharmonicity and how to stretch a tuning. Google “Pitch raise” and see how many hits you get. It’s amazing, and you aren’t in the loop brother. You are missing out!

We also write about exotic instruments, harpsichords, clavinets, woodworking,  jigs and tools, and pretty much anything related to music. You may know a lot about music, but piano tuners know more people who know a lot about music. We visit musicians every day. We walk into concert halls of all sizes. We talk to conductors, directors, administrators, teachers, parents and children.  We live in a network of people who need things fixed.

Did you know there are 8,000 different brands of pianos being played in the U.S.  Oh yeah! Piano tuners repair those instruments. We tune and repair pianos made by Broadwood, Erard, Laffargue, Scheidmayer and Son, and thousands of others.

Ok, your turn.  Name five brands of pianos…..

1. Steinway….

Gooood. Four more to go…..

2. Yamaha

Ooooo. You are on a roll now….

3. ???

Maybe you can name five. Can you name ten?

You don’t have to know this stuff. You don’t have to know anything.  But Twitter gives you easy access to information that just might prove interesting or helpful at the right moment.

Ok, maybe not.

You won’t know for sure unless you try.

Give it a shot.

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