One of the things that I learned from writing for the Web is that you need someone to read your work and give you honest feedback.
You need someone to not only check for spelling and grammatical errors, but to be brutally honest with you. My girlfriend is my straight-shooting editor. And I welcome her candor with open arms.
She asks me the same questions: How does this piece of writing affect you? What does it mean for you?
I often hide my true feelings behind my words instead of putting myself in the story. It may feel safer, but it creates lackluster writing.
Good writing happens when you reveal yourself. When you share your personal experiences and insights. When you do this, the reader is more connected with your story.
Simply reporting on a topic won’t cut it on the Web. Readers want to hear about how you came upon the topic; how you were impacted and how you were changed by the story.
I’ve learned that what the Web wants is you; your own individual and unique voice. To express your voice you have to connect how you feel and what you think about what you are writing.
For example, I recently wrote a piece for Yahoo Voices about visiting Montecito, California. After reading it, my girlfriend told me that there was something missing.
“What’s missing,” she said, “is you. You are not in here. I like it when I can hear your voice and when you are apart of the story.”
I reread the piece and agreed. Even though the travel story was well written, I needed to put myself in it. I needed to answer the question: How did my visit to Montecito affect me?
It had to affect me in some way or I wouldn’t have written it.
After careful thought, I realized why I chose to write about Montecito. Montecito, a highly affluent town along the central coast of California, reminded me of when I was a young kid visiting my rich uncle in the Main Line, outside of Philadelphia. I always felt poor when I visited my uncle as well as awestruck. I was amazed at how much money he had and how lavish his house was. I put this in the piece and it was published.
So whenever you feel that something is missing from your writing, you are probably right. It most likely is you.