After almost 50 years of writing for print, I began looking into the online scribbling racket about five years ago. I limbered up elsewhere and learned a few things that were not to my liking. What I discovered in other places was that most content farms published - erm - what’s the word I’m looking for? Ah yes, crap. The Internet was, and still is, awash in writing that is of questionable quality and value. I needed to find a place where standards were high and enforced.
One Hundred Articles
It seems to be a tradition that when you hit a century of Wizzley pages you reflect on your feat; I’m not one to break with tradition
Introduction to Wizzley
I started writing for Wizzley in March 2013
In common with some others here, I came to Wizzley from another place that went to rack and ruin because the chief honchos did not give a damn about quality. I was looking for another gig and Jo Harrington directed me here.
So, if you have issues with this, blame Jo.
The home that Chef Keem provides is very user friendly and that’s important for a technophobe such as me who understands pretty much nothing about the digital world.
I can load images with ease and YouTube clips present no obstacles, even to this Luddite.
But, the main attraction here is that our fearless leader keeps a close eye on what he publishes. He does not subscribe to Adlai Stevenson’s description of an editor as someone “who sorts the wheat from the chaff and then prints the chaff.”
How it was when I started
How to get Readers?
Three words – quality, quality, quality
If you want to attract readers and have them come back for more you must always reward them with interesting stories and good writing. There is no other way. Easily said, tough to do.
You can, I’m told, promote your work through social media. I have no clue how to do this. I am at that stage in life when the expression (rearrange this well-known phrase or saying) “dogs old new tricks teach can’t you” comes into play.
Technology changes so fast that I can’t keep up and I have stopped trying to catch up.
It’s the same with those bill-paying gizmos they hand you in restaurants. I master one machine and then they throw a completely new one at me with F1, F2, F3, functions. First you swipe your card down the side, then you stuff it in a slot, then you tap it somewhere.
What’s next? I’m going to have to chant incantations over the entrails of a dead rat to get approval?
But, I digress. One does at my age; it needs to be guarded against.
There’s lots of advice on social media promotion at Wizzley Tips and Community. I suppose I should read it, but there’s so much jargon that, as far as I’m concerned, it might as well be in Mandarin.
A guarantee to garner readership
I don’t know anything about the inner workings of the Editor’s Choice system.
If I was making the decisions they would be capricious and whimsical; I suspect this is the process that is in place.
What I do know is that if an article gets Chef Keem’s seal of approval it gets readers.
Of the pieces with Editor’s Choice awards that I’ve written all but one have hit a rank of 100%.
(Of course, I have no idea what “rank” means but I’m reasonably sure 100% is better than 10%).
What Kind of Articles Do Well?
Mystery surrounds how well an article will perform
If you are looking for advice on how to make money at Wizzley, you’ve come to the wrong place. My earnings are somewhere between zilch and nada. Don’t know why but it’s probably because I don’t self-promote.
I’ve tried fiddling with Tweetbook, Redblr, PintUpon, or whatever they’re called, but cannot master the dark arts needed to make them work. (See dogs and tricks above).
However, I’ve just received a message from the Wizzley elves that “Your share of ad impressions has been raised to 60%..” I wonder what that means. I’ll assume it’s good news.
That said, I don’t write because of the (non-existent) money. I write because that’s what I do. I love researching about things that interest me and I’m pretty sure that writing helps keep my mind from turning to mush. My children have been known to challenge that assumption.
My top five articles by rank are:
Bad Packaging Causes Wrap Rage
Bermuda Triangle is not a Mystery Anymore
Great British Eccentrics
In Praise of Brown Sauce
Pretentious Job Titles
If anybody can spot some common elements in this list I’d be delighted to hear about them, so I can focus my efforts where they will deliver the greatest dividends.
Somewhat bizarrely, my Wizzography has attracted a lot of readers, although no one has picked up on the intentional contradiction in the subtitle “An Unauthorized Autobiography.” I felt sure that some clever Johnny would say “Hey Buster, if you wrote it how can it be unauthorized?”
One thing I do know is that political and economic stories seem to die an unnatural and speedy death. I don’t know about “How to” or “Product” pieces because I never write them.
Something that does show up well, and it must give us pause about the ghoulish nature of many readers, is stories of a gruesome nature. Hmmm?
Describe a particularly grisly crime and the punters will rush to it. It reminds of the old newsroom adage about what to put on the front page, “If it bleeds it leads.”
Good writers, as with the highly skilled in other professions, make it look easy, but it isn’t
There are numerous versions of this quote and just as many attributions, but I like the one written by Walter Winchell in 1949: “Red Smith was asked if turning out a daily column wasn’t quite a chore. “Why, no,” dead-panned Red. “You simply sit down at the typewriter, open your veins, and bleed.”
However, there seems to be a popular perception that anybody can write. Not everybody can pull it off.
I’m reminded of the writer who met a brain surgeon at a cocktail party. “When I retire,” said the doctor, “I’m going to take up writing.” “That’s a coincidence,” said the writer. “When I retire I’m going to take up brain surgery.”
I’ve always been guided by George Orwell’s six rules for good writing:
Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech that you are used to seeing in print.
Never use a long word where a short one will do.
If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
Never use the passive where you can use the active.
Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
Break any of these rules sooner than say anything barbarous.
Orwell also said that scrupulous writers ask themselves four questions:
What am I trying to say?
What words will express it?
What image or idiom will make it clearer?
Is this image fresh enough to have an effect?
Of course, that sort of analysis is not front of mind with each sentence written, but it’s back there in wherever the brain works on such things.
And, I’m confident some smart aleck could go through this piece and see that I’ve broken every rule I have claimed to hold dear.