What Makes a Post Freshly Press-able: Cruising Yoknapatawpha
Every day, a handful of WordPress.com bloggers are featured on Freshly Pressed. And every day, many more wonder, “What do I have to do to get Freshly Pressed?”
Here on The Daily Post, we take a close look at posts that have been Freshly Pressed and explore why they were Press-worthy. We hope this series provides insight into the process and offers tips and tools to make your blog the best it can be.
Good storytellers pull you alongside them on journeys into the past, the present, the unknown, and the imaginary. Linda, from The Task at Hand, did just this recently on her Freshly Pressed post “Cruising Yoknapatawpha.” Here are a few reasons we enjoyed her post so much:
HER VOICE IS DISTINCTIVE AND WELCOMING
Right away, we hear Linda’s distinct voice in this piece, with her opening sentence:
Step aboard a boat docked in any of the marinas clustered around Clear Lake, loose the lines, find the channel, and soon enough you’ll be edging into Galveston Bay.
Immediately, we’re right beside her, on the boat, helping (probably inexpertly) with those lines. Where to from here? As we keep reading, her writing and her voice guide us soothingly and calmly — not a ripple or wave to be found.
Whether the Bay’s your destination for a day sail or the first step on a longer journey — to Galveston itself, or to the open doorway of the Gulf of Mexico — you’ll have plenty of company.
Linda’s voice throughout her post is authentic, warm, and welcoming. You can absolutely hear her in her writing, as if you were sitting in a nearby rocking chair, visiting with her, and sharing a cold drink on a hot Texas day. Good writers eventually learn to recognize and hone their own voices. In blogging, and in all writing, having your own voice is vital. Be who you are. Write in your own way.
But what does “your own way” mean, exactly? It’s amorphous, to be sure. And here’s the hard truth: It takes time. And practice. Perhaps you’ve had the unsettling experience of reading back over something you wrote years ago, and thought, “Good grief, who wrote that?” If so, then congratulations — you’ve made progress in finding your voice. The differences in your writing from then to now represent that.
HER POST FLOWS NATURALLY
We begin with Linda at the marina among the boats near Galveston Bay. We end up with Linda musing about Faulkner and his two worlds — the imaginary Yoknapatawpha and the very real Oxford. The in-between gets us there naturally, with ease and with grace. How’d she do it?
Our first clue is here:
One day I noticed a large, handsome trawler with a hailing port of Oxford, Mississippi painted on its stern. Any city or town with a zip code can be used as a hailing port, but still – given what I knew of Oxford, it caught my attention.
From this point, we then transition into learning about the owner of this boat, and his fascination with Faulkner:
One day I happened to be working near the mystery boat when its owner came strolling down the dock. Deciding a little chat was in order, I walked over to visit. “Are you really from Oxford?” I asked. “Well, yes and no,” he said. “I live in New York, but I registered the boat in Oxford because I’m from Yoknapatawpha County.”
After I stopped laughing, I looked at him and said, “Faulkner fan, huh?” Indeed, he was. He’d been reading and studying William Faulkner, one of Oxford’s most famous residents, since his youth.
Then we naturally segue into Linda’s own love of Faulkner, and her journey years ago, to Oxford, Mississippi:
During my first year of college, my parents suggested I choose a summer vacation destination. Knowing it might be our last vacation together, they wanted it to be special. I’d begun reading Faulkner, and the decision required no special thought. Oxford, Mississippi was my choice. Bemused but willing, my folks agreed. … My parents may have been on vacation, but I was a pilgrim, bound for my personal holy land and filled with all the fervor that pilgrimage entails.
Linda’s ability to get us from one place to another, and from one time to another, seems effortless. In your own writing, think about how you organize your posts. Make sure your transitions are clean and your intent is clear.
Think about your readers: they’re along for the ride, wanting and waiting to know what happens next. Make it easy for ‘em. Guide them through your post. Consider using breaks between sections, as Linda did, as markers to indicate that what’s coming next is related to what just came, but is going in a slightly different direction.
HER USE OF DETAILS GIVES THE POST COLOR
Linda could have just written, “Oxford, Mississippi is land-locked, so I was intrigued to see a boat hailing from there.” But, as you can already guess, she didn’t. And thank goodness for that, because we get this paragraph instead:
Located in the red clay hills of northern Mississippi, Oxford’s tucked into the Holly Springs, Grenada, and Lisbon geological formations, a land characterized by high rolling hills, deep, densely wooded ravines and river bottoms. The hills mark the very edge of the Appalachian range as they rise up from plains to the south. With its own collection of hills, pines and red sandy-clay soil, Oxford seems the very definition of “inland”. Certainly, it’s better known for R.L. Burnside’s style of blues than for boating. There’s no ocean access for deep-draft sailboats, and even Sardis Lake is better suited for fishing boats than the near-yacht that proclaimed Oxford its home.
Her use of details throughout her post gives it life and draws us in. As you’re writing, think about specifics and details. Use your powers of observation to recreate scenes for your reader — fill in the blanks, color in the white spaces for them. Practicing this is fun and easy — pick something you’ve done recently: an outing to the park, a dinner out with friends, a drink at the bar, and then carefully, from the ground up, rebuild the scene.
Think like James Joyce did; he reportedly said that were Dublin to ever be destroyed in some catastrophe, his detailed depiction of it in Ulysses would provide a model for the city to be rebuilt, brick by brick. That’s how he approached his writing of it, that’s the level of detail he was going for.
Transport your readers. Show them what you’ve seen, what you’ve felt, what it was that moved you about it. Make an effort to move them, too. Make it real. Make it count.
Want more practice either adding details to your writing or finding your own voice? You’re in luck — there are specific exercises for both of these efforts.
Try these two great posts from The Daily Post about the importance of details in your writing:
Or, check out these helpful pieces about voice, the first from WordPresser Kristen Lamb, and the second from writer Jeff Goins:
Taking the time to find your own voice will prove to be worthwhile. Give your readers the real “you.” That’s why we’re all here, after all — to share our own stories and thoughts, to connect with each other, to learn, to grow. When you’re honest and giving of yourself, your readers will respond in kind.
Did you enjoy this Freshly Pressed post for different reasons? Let us know in the comments.