1 LiveBloggin' the ICW: Get Rich as a Rock Star Sailing Writer...

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Get Rich as a Rock Star Sailing Writer...

Ok, just the title alone should tell you that this post is fictional! Writing about sailing is not the way to become rich and famous, I can assure you of that. But, writing about your passion can be very satisfying and, if you'd like some suggestions on how to go about writing a basic blog or magazine article, read on.
You just might find your métier in these words! And if not, it could help your blogging or other writing projects.
For those who might have a more serious interest in this topic, at the end of this blogpost I'm going to give you four potential projects that you can apply your skills to.
First of all - writing successfully is not as easy as you might think. Many people believe they are good writers and in my experience, a lot of them are fooling themselves. Just because your friends adore your blog doesn't make you a budding Lin Pardey, or Fatty Goodlander.
Friends are very tolerant and forgiving of errors in writing that editors - who pay for this stuff - simply won't live with. I can't tell you how many times as a publisher I received submissions that were just unreadable. This doesn't mean you can't become a good writer though, with some work.

To be blunt now - spelling DOES count. So does grammar, punctuation, syntax, the basic organization of your article and a few other things as well.
If you're sitting there wondering what I just said - writing may not be for you. On the other hand, I've met people who could dangle a participle with the best of them, but their writing was so dull it would make your eyes glaze over like a donut. (That, by the way, was a simile).
When I was publishing my newspapers, I'd often get requests from people who weren't sure how to go about writing an article. I had a simple method for them to follow that worked well. It can work for you too.
It's simply this - write your story as if you're 'telling' your story to a friend.
That's it. Write down your story as if you were telling it verbally. Don't worry about grammar, punctuation or any of the things I just told you about - for now, anyway. That all comes later. Simply tell your story, get it on paper - or your screen, but that really doesn't sound as traditional, does it? Anyhow, write it down and don't sweat the details at this point.
Now, put it away for a day or two. You need to come back to your work with a fresh mind, because you're about to become your own editor. Editing too soon means you won't see the mistakes you've made, because your mind is overfull with what you've just done and thought (wrongly) that you got correct.
When you return to your work, slowly re-read the story to be sure it's organized. Does it flow, does it make sense? Is the organization logical? A story that jumps all over the place is usually not a well written story. If it isn't well organized, deal with that first.
Take whole sentences and paragraphs and put them where they make more sense. Don't worry too much about individual words here - it's the overall flow and feel of the work you want to get right, not the details.
Once you've done this, correct basic grammar and spelling errors. Eliminate or replace words you've used too frequently.
Don't use a computer program to do any of this either. It's you who needs to know how to do these things, so that writing well and correctly becomes natural to you. Yes, it's work.
Now, have someone else read your story, preferably someone with good English skills, and when you do, park your ego!
People with weak egos who can't stand criticism of their writing will never become good writers. You want whoever reads your work to be honest with you and to point out the weaknesses and errors. You need to be strong now, face up to the criticisms. Trust me, there will be errors.
That's ok - errors can be corrected. Very, very little of what you read today hasn't been edited, often extensively. By the time you read this post, I'll have read it over a dozen times, and made over a hundred changes to it. And this is a blog post - you would be astonished at the work that goes into something I'm being paid for.
At this point, correct the mistakes your 'editor' has pointed out to you. You'll also at this point probably see better ways of organizing your work or making your point. Go ahead, make those changes. Writing is a craft, and changes are normal.
That's not to say that sometimes you don't get it right the first time, but that's actually very rare. Fun when it happens though. In my case, twice in nearly 30 years, so I know how Snoopy feels in the cartoon below.
Let's discuss some basic mistakes that everyone makes. Remember, there are times when you do break all the rules, but not - repeat not - when you're beginning.
One of the worst mistakes sailors make is to make their account sound like a logbook notation, thinking it's a sailorly way of writing. That's dull, dull and duller. I'd rather read an economics textbook. And, it's not the way you talk, is it? I sure hope not.
Another mistake is using, and overusing, clichés. For example, describing the logbook notation style as 'duller than ditchwater'. You want to avoid that sort of writing like - well, er, like the plague!
The next big mistake is trying to be too clever, or using a plethora of extraneous information and verbiage that serves to obfuscate your reader. Effective writing is communication and communication is only effective when it's understood.
As you can imagine, I have a fairly extensive vocabulary because of my work, but you will very rarely find me using words past the high school level of understanding. You know, like that phrase that jumped out at you above...."a plethora of extraneous information and verbiage that serves to obfuscate...".
Skip that kind of gobbledygook, it only serves to alienate your reader. If you wouldn't use a word in general conversation, then as a general rule, you probably shouldn't be using it in your writing either.
Don't pretend to know things you don't. In this world of Google and search engines, BS gets caught quickly. Look things up, provide proof when you have to. Remember that footnoting stuff your high school English teacher talked about? There's a place for that.
Remember the old rules, they have their place. Stick to what you know. Open with a great starting sentence, one that creates interest on the part of your readers, makes them eager to read on.
One of the most famous of all opening sentences is "It was a dark and stormy night..." You probably remember that from Peanuts as Snoopy's favourite phrase, but doesn't it make you want to read on and find out what happened on that "dark and stormy night"?
The phrase, by the way, was originally from Washington Irving's 1809 "A History of New York". It was made famous by Edward Bulwer-Lytton in the novel "Paul Clifford".
You could appropriate that phrase in a story about having friends over for sundowners on your boat - "It was going to be a 'dark and stormy' afternoon. Bob and Carol were bringing over Cuban rum and ginger beer to make the iconic sailors' drink..." Kind of makes you wonder where this story could go, doesn't it?
Flesh out your article with the details. Keep them interesting. Remember that short sentences usually read better and are easier for a new writer to wrestle into shape.
In this story about 'dark and stormy', you might just discuss the different types of rum and the islands you had to visit to get them. You might discuss the characters at the various distilleries you went to.
Finally, sum up your article and leave your readers feeling fulfilled: "As Bob and Carol clambered into their dinghy to return to their boat, all of us laughing uproariously, we realized how fortunate we are to enjoy this gypsy lifestyle, and to have such great friends to share it with". That's a bit trite, but you get the idea. Wrap it up, don't leave your reader hanging.
Now, the projects I promised to tell you about. The first two and the last are projects that were abandoned by their creators, but for which there is a significant need in the cruising community. The third one is something I haven't seen done yet but which I feel would have a good audience with boaters.
The first two are going to require a special kind of technical expertise and knowledge about navigation. The third and fourth might be accomplished by anyone with an interest in the topics who is willing to do the necessary research.
We need someone to replace the anchoring guidebooks "The Great Book of Anchorages" by Susan Landry and Chuck Baier, and the "On the Water Chartguides" by Mark and Diana Doyle.
While different in their approaches to the topic - anchoring on the East Coast Intracoastal Waterway - both books offered valuable information that simply was not available elsewhere. It would be great to see someone take these projects up and again provide this kind of information to cruisers.
The next writing project that I see a need for is one involving cruising pets, particularly cats and dogs on board. The perfect person for this project is actually a friend of mine who has a great deal of veterinary experience (hello Tara!), but a non-technical person who can research the topic could do very well with this.
And the last one....do you remember 'the Head Mistress'? She wrote about 'head' issues and was an expert on the various toilet technologies and associated problems to be found on boats. If I had a nickel for every post I've seen on Facebook about head problems on board, I'd have...well, I'd have a lot of nickels, wouldn't I?
So if you want to be a writing rock star in the sailing and cruising world, those are four potential projects that you could consider.

In other news, I've just today posted the Sail to the Sun ICW Rally itinerary, at the Sail to the Sun ICW Rally page. There are only a few spots left in this year's Sail to the Sun ICW Rally. If you've been thinking about joining us for this epic trip on the ICW, you need to sign up very soon. 
You can get a brochure by clicking through at the Sail to the Sun website, or by contacting me directly at ICW.Wally@gmail.com

Hope to see you this fall, as we Sail to the Sun. Maybe even discuss your new writing career...