Thursday, March 24, 2011

Developed Your Spin Yet?

Spin isn't a bad word. Putting spin on something is tweeking it to your taste, your view, your interpretation. Left wingers don't like right spin. Conservatives don't like liberal spin. Each accuses the other of being heavy-handed at the spin. Fact is, spin is spin and we all do it.

Spin, in my opinion, is how we put our flavor into anything. Some have a negative spin and others can be accused of being "pollyanna." Everyone claims to be a realist. But you need spin. To me, it's your brand.

Let's talk about spin and Twitter. It's hard to command a presence on Twitter. You have to be quite entertaining and/or informative. Most of the time you have to give people take-away-value: something worth repeating. In an attempt to build a following, people will retweet (RT) quotes, dynamic ideas, hilarity and breaking news to the world, hoping to capture people's interest. A friend of mine only retweets, and she has three times the followers that I do. She once asked me what was wrong with that. I asked her to imagine how many she'd have if she used original thought as well. Retweets are everyone else's ideas - nothing original. It's hard to envision what she stands for or what she's written because to think of her is to recall other people in her stead. She has no spin.

Spin is like voice. Voice might be a type of spin, frankly. It's your fingerprint, maybe even your DNA. It's how people recognize you. I'll bet you can name authors you'd recognize just reading the first chapters of their unnamed books. They spin their words into uniqueness that way.

When you sell yourself, your books, your style, you create a promotional voice. How do you speak to people? How do you design your website and blog? Are you funny or sarcastic in text, on Facebook or in your Tweets?

Men With Pens is a cool copywriting website, but much of their advice applies to all writing. In a July 9, 2010 post entitled "How to Find Your Writing Voice," by James Chartrand, he gives advice on how to find your voice.

1. List adjectives that describe your personality. Then write 350 words using them.
2. Define your writing in terms of a drink. I want to be a gin and tonic but I think I'm more of a  bourbon and coke. Don't want to be quite so transparent, but I definitely want a kick. But ultimately I'd love to be a white smooth.
3. Define yourself in terms of food. I like to think of myself as eggs. Egg omelets. Eggs and spinach (yum!). Fried eggs. They are a staple, but they can be jazzed up as much as necessary or be comfort food as well.
4. Paint yourself as someone totally different. I'm fairly conservative, but what if I became a rocker in a band! Or an astronaut. A salsa dancer! Ooh, a stripper. Write 200 words while in the role of each unique character - in first person. Then write 200 words as you.
5. Pretend you'll never see a loved one again and write them a letter full of your emotions.
6. Write a letter to yourself.

James gives you more examples, and each is good exercise to release that inner define the spin you want to put on your writing. I'd like to add one more. Have someone record you speaking normally. Then record yourself reading your stories. Are they similar or completely opposite?

I had the best compliment paid to me last week by a writer in one of my writers' groups. We read aloud up to ten double-spaced pages. Most of my chapters fall within that range. I read Chapter 22 of book three. In a subsequent email, this fellow writer said, "I have not heard your entire book, so don't hate me for saying the two times I've heard you read, I feel you have lived your character's life. Meaning, not knowing any differently, I'd say she was you. I hear it in your words that you totally relate to her; you are her. Or, you simply know your character SO WELL, it portrays that. I type this smiling- "

Chills ran over me. That's what I want! That's what you want. You want the reader to have an experience, not just listen or read a few words and close the book.

Spin is not cheating. Spin is infusing character and flavor into your writing, your promotion, your career. When people want to be you, or have some of whatever it is you've created, then you've succeeded.


The Poet said...

Hello Hope,
Thank you for sharing. The information you provide is very helpful and interesting.

Sioux Roslawski said...

Hope--"Voice" is such a nebulous thing. Writers either have it or they don't. It's not an easy thing to teach. It's easy to show--when a writer's voice sings out loudly and clearly--but to teach how to develop it...That's difficult!

Hope Clark said...

Disagree, Sioux. Voice can be developed over time. You can't, however, just decide that's your goal and work toward it. It's a matter of writing an incredulous amount of material, each time honing it until such time you realize that you have developed a style of your own. I think the art is how unique it is to the general population.

Unknown said...

Hi Hope.

I write mostly nonfiction, and spin is critical to making information reach out and touch the reader. Touch them in a way that makes them feel I'm writing for them, and I care about them. Otherwise, anything I say is just another piece of information for them to forget. Trust is the main characteristic I try to "spin" into my voice so that what I say is what I believe to be true for myself and for them. Thanks for your insights.