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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…

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.

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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.

EXTRA CREDIT

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.

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  1. The title of this post instantly grabbed my attention, and I peered closer to be sure I was reading it correctly – Linda’s Cruising Yokknapatawpha linked to The Daily Post! You have showcased one of the most gifted writers I’ve known (via WordPrss, thank you much) in a very long time. Each post is a pure gift that reflects Linda’s intelligence, wit and writing ease. Thank you for spotlighting her post and sharing her writing style with the world!
    Z

  2. I loved your play by play breakdown of the post and the writing style. Not sure what I prefer, going to the link and reading the actual post or the “director’s comment” version.

    Finding a voice. So very important. I find when I try to force a beautiful and thoughtful and inspiring voice to my writing it just doesn’t work. You can’t force a voice that is not yours. My voice does not have Faulkner influences, it has tints of Bugs Bunny, and drops of Family Guy with absolute hints of the Flintstones. When I allow my cartoonish personality breathe in my writing is when I am most successful.

    Thanks for sharing your insights with us… now if only I could write my posts with a Sharpie all the time my voice would most likely most truest! ;)

    p.s. I want my MacBook to allow direct Sharpie transcribing right on the screen!

    1. Ha — better keep your Sharpie away from your MacBook! I enjoyed your thoughts on voice. All so true, and yours sounds fascinating! Thank you for the comment, and for reading!

  3. I always enjoy these posts about how to become freshly pressed, but I don’t understand how the posts are found. There are millions (or at least hundred thousands) of WordPress blogs out there so how do they even get read in order to be selected? This has always puzzled me.

    1. We find posts the same way all of you do — by scouring the Reader. We’re always looking for great content, in a wide variety of topics, to do our best to represent the diverse WordPress community. If you’d like to see what kind of things we’re looking for in a post, you can check here: http://en.support.wordpress.com/freshly-pressed/

      And if you come across posts you love and would like us to consider for Freshly Pressed, you can always tweet us @freshly_pressed.

      Thanks for your comment, and for being a part of our community!

  4. Wow!
    Linda seems exceptionally proficient with details and she sure has a unique writing voice.
    It’s good that we can see examples that can inspire us to, atleast, start from somewhere.
    Writing in the hands of someone this creative, feels like a painting with various unique strokes and shades of colours and outlines.
    It’s so beautiful reading the extracts from Linda’s post.
    Thanks for the tips.
    Welldone! :)

  5. You’ve highlighted a lovely piece of writing. Thank you. I agree with Lynn and Belinda, though, I still don’t really understand how these freshly pressed posts come to your attention. That said, you do have excellent taste and I look forward to following the Task at Hand.

    1. Thank you! We discover great content the same way you do, via the Reader, in a wide variety of topics. If you come across something you’d like us to consider for Freshly Pressed, please tweet us @freshly_pressed. If you’re curious as to the kinds of things we’re looking for in these posts, please check out this link: http://en.support.wordpress.com/freshly-pressed/

      Thanks for reading, and for being a member of the WordPress community!

  6. I’m thrilled, delighted and astonished to find one of my posts here. I’m also extraordinarily appreciative of LouAnn’s incisive and intelligent review.

    I came to WordPress five years ago, intent on using the platform as a place to learn to write. My hunch was that the best way to learn to write is to write, and so I did – one post per week. In the process, I’ve felt as though my “voice” was developing, and it pleases me immensely to see an affirmation of that here.

    One note to folks who wonder how posts come to the attention of WordPress – or readers, for that matter. Some of the “mechanics” really do matter – a good title, strong images, an uncluttered appearance and a strong opening paragraph are so important. Those are the things that get a reader to “bite”. Then, the content “sets the hook” and reels them in. Or so I like to think!

    Thanks to all for your kind words!

    1. I’m thrilled and delighted but not the least bit astonished. I’ve been afraid to mention this, but I always feel like I should be paying to read your blog, both for the content (such an interesting life) and the style (such a beautiful way of telling about it).

      So happy to see you and your writing in the spotlight!

      1. My goodness, look who’s here! Don’t worry, Hippie. If I ever get around to writing The Book (or a book, or a broadside, or a best-of) I might consider throwing it up on the 99 cent table. At the very least, I might be able to get a nice Pinot Gris out of it.

        Really – thanks for the comment. And btw, whatever you do, don’t miss John McPhee’s essay in the latest “New Yorker” titled “Draft No. 4″. Grammar geeks around the country are going to be yukking it up over that one!

    2. Linda, you’re welcome! I love your story of coming here five years ago and writing a post a week in order to develop your own voice and style. I’d say it’s worked! Thanks, again, for sharing your content here with the WordPress community.

  7. Thank you, LouAnn, for the insight on finding one’s writing “voice” and for sharing this great post. I am trying to unbury my inner Garrison Keillor, and find the Midwestern texture in my own writing. So far it’s just grating and obnoxious, but that’s what practice is for!

  8. Thanks for the insight and tips for bringing a reader alongside or along for the ride. It’s always exciting to see the freshly pressed posts and get ideas for writing topics, styles, etc. Linda’s post is beautifully written and well deserving of being freshly pressed!

  9. Thank you for taking the time to put this together. This information was very helpful and I will remember it as I continue to write. Thanks again!

  10. thank you for including so many links in this post. I like Linda’s piece, and the way she captures details as if by accident – there’s a real art to doing that without overloading the reader. Love that it’s an observation piece which has, in turn, come under observation!

    1. Ha, yes — good observation about the observation of the observation piece! (Wait, what?) Thanks for reading, and happy you enjoyed the post.

  11. No one can accurately predict the coming changes of Google updates, but we clearly understand the principle that it is the compelling content that attracts viral shares , natural links and engagement, so the main areas of focus are producing remarkable content and outreach strategies so that we can both diversify the traffic sources and ultimately get free massive traffic from Google in the long run.

  12. I’ve no idea how many posts are published each day, but given the number there must be a fair amount of randomness in the selection process. I find it hard enough to keep up with and evaluate the Blogs I follow, never mind every Blog there is on the platform

  13. In my opinion, it’s 100% subjective and based on the opinions of those at WP who are selecting the freshly pressed posts each day.

    I think I have some pretty cool photos on my blog…however, in the six months I’ve been blogging, I have not been selected yet. Maybe there are too many criteria and I don’t meet them…not really sure.

    Oh well.

  14. IDo the the WP editors look at the reader feed a different times in the 24 hour clock. If it is fairly tighly bunched then there may be a world of posts that never get a chance to be seen as they post in the wrong timezone.

    1. There are no certain tags — we’re always looking for great content, in a wide variety of topics and using lots of different tags. We do our best to find content that represents the diverse WordPress community. Thanks for being a part of it.

  15. when we are mindful and aware little things can delight us, such as the sun beaming directly over the chair I am reading in, I call it ‘the sweet spot’.

  16. Part of finding and landing a writing voice –with soul, is knowing yourself.

    It’s doubtful I would have a clear writing “voice” in my 20′s. I was still exploring parts of my core identity and articulating it to others face to face.

    The writing voice must grow naturally as the person continues life’s journey.

  17. mine never will be… my blog is about the life of my deafblind child and how we continue living… while it’s a way to simplify my life by blogging rather than emailing everyone daily… it also has picked up a new reader hear and there and helped educate them about DeafBlind people… I don’t write to be freshly pressed but to educate… but if it would help to get the word out? maybe a good thing to try… but then i lose myself and my integrity along the way…
    random thought pattern is a form of documentation that i use to get the needed info out there.
    we try to be funny along the way like we try to be in life.

  18. Hey, just a quick Q: Where did the page go to, where I could find several Freshly Pressed sites, nicely arranged in little squares? Im not able to find it anymore. I realy like that page.