'Writing For The Web' at Cheltenham Literature Festival

Last Saturday found me at Cheltenham Literature Festival for the afternoon. The town was abuzz and I walked past several familiar faces who were lost in the crowds before I could remember who they were. I'm sure they were some of the famous authors due to talk that day.

The last time I attended the festival was when Anna Pavord talked about her book Bulb at The Everyman Theatre a couple of years ago. And very good it was too. This time I decided to sample something from the workshop programme and Writing for the Web tutored by the RSC's digital producer, Suzanne Worthington caught my eye.

My experience of writing courses is slight* and I don't quite know what I'd been expecting, but a workbook to go through was quite a surprise. However, it turned out to be just what was needed to structure the afternoon well. Suzanne took us through a number of short exercises designed to make us think a lot and to sharpen up our prose ready for publication on the web.

You can see if I succeeded because I was invited to guest post about Writing Great Web Content on the We Love Books Website. I've tried to encapsulate my key learning points from the course in 300 words. I found it quite a challenge, but an enjoyable one.

Lucy remarked via Twitter a couple of days ago she thought the piece could have been written by anyone and wasn't the 'me' she's used to on my blog. She's right, but I believe what's good for a website isn't necessarily the way we'd write for our blogs anyway. The needs of the publication we're writing for and its audience are just as important as using our natural style or 'voice'.

The workshop made me realise just how wordy I've become lately on Veg Plotting, so I welcome the opportunity to learn from the workshop and sharpen things up a little on here. Though let me know straight away if you think I'm not being me won't you?

BTW the references to being tipsy in the guest post are from the key learning point I said I was going to take home with me at the end of this enjoyable course. Write drunk, edit sober. It's a quote by Ernest Hemingway apparently. It means write like you're blurting things out to someone so your words are to the point. Then you come back and edit them later when your mind's clear and you can be objective about what you've written.

NB The picture is of Imperial Gardens, one of the main 'hubs' of the festival. As you can see, I couldn't resist taking a picture of the public planting as I sped past on my way to class. Looks like I'm still me after all ;)

* = the only other writing course I've attended was pretty awful, though it did make me decide via my Undecided post I'd like to be a writer. Progress has been slow so far...


  1. I went to the festival for the first time on Tuesday. I saw Mark Kermode (brilliantly interesting), Ken Dodd (with tickling sticks and lots of jokes) and Colin Dexter (very sweet old fellow - made Ken Dodd seem young). I will definitely be looking to see what's on offer next year.

  2. that should have said Lu!

  3. Lu - there's so much choice isn't there? Tis fab. We saw Ken Dodd a couple of years ago at Salisbury. He started at 7.30pm and we left at 1am!

    Let's see if there's anything we like the look of next year :)

  4. Lovely post VP -your voice shone through! I'm going to enjoy zipping over to your links and thanks for sharing your top tips from the writing course, a course which would be good for me as I tend to be overlong in writing! (As in life, also on the web!)

  5. Thanks Caro :)

    I've got lots more planned to tell you about from this and BlogCamp.

  6. NB There's a difference between 'it could have been written by anyone' and 'anyone could have written it'.

    I might not have had the pleasure of recognising your voice while reading that article - but it's crisp, clear and memorable. Success!

  7. Hi Lucy - thanks for clearing up my misquote - I'll correct it when I get back from Wales. I'm replying to you in haste!

    And thanks for the comment about the article itself :)

  8. Hi VP. I wasn't meaning there's a misquote - just meaning that to create a neutral voice is as much a skill as speaking in one with character.

    And I didn't want you (or anyone else!) to think I was meaning 'any ole person could've written that!' They couldn't!

  9. I like this post better than the article :) Am I not supposed to say that?
    I think it's a Course I'd like to do...

  10. Excellent advice from Hemingway who had the advantage of not being able to mistakenly press the publish button in between writing and editing :) Will have a look at your links over the weekend.

  11. That quote is a neat formula to describe how I blog - drunk I keyboard/scrawl the post as it falls out. The next day, sober, I edit.

    I enjoy and appreciate these posts - you have a gracious gift for teaching.

  12. Having fiddled around for a while trying to find the right place to put the alt. text in the html, I find it has changed since the new Blogger dashboard came in. I've found out how to do it in the new way but have decided not to. Blogger has been complained to that the new html has made things more complicated rather than easier. I'm worried that if I do it in the new way and Blogger changes it that my pictures will be mucked up / vanish . . . So I'm waiting a little longer before doing anything.

  13. Lucy - thanks for coming back and clearing that up. I was reading things too quickly on Friday before setting off for Wales, so any misinterpretation of what you said is down to me

    Mo and Steve - of course you can say what you think and thank you :) It was a very good course and reasonably priced too

    Anna - oh how I know that feeling! Managed to accidentally press publish in the middle of writing out the title last week!

    EE - you're most kind :D

    Esther - oh dear. Not quite sure I understand what the problem is with the new HTML (I didn't know there was a new one). I've yet to move onto the new Blogger dashboard. I see we'll all be forced over to it in the next couple of weeks, so I'll wait to post in more detail about the alt attribute until after then. Can you give me an idea of how you think attaching some text to your images might muck them up? Or what your worries are? That way I can see if I can answer your questions when I do further research/ have a go myself.

  14. Well you held my attention. I think writing concisely is particularly importnat on the web - and using white space too; shortish paragraphs, thinking about line breaks.

    But I'm going on


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