Monday, March 1, 2021

Evergreen Writing

By Vie Herlocker

 

Evergreen: Relevant and Fresh

Bloggers and web content writers know that “writing evergreen” helps raise their search engine ratings and pull readers to their site. Like a cedar that stays fresh all year, evergreen writing feels like it was just written, even when it’s months or years old. Evergreen topics are always current as opposed to news articles that come and go. You’ve no doubt noticed the rack magazines at the grocery stores are nearly predictable with self-help and how-to stories. That’s evergreen.

Blogs and articles are considered evergreen when they:

  • are not tied to a particular time and
  • remain relevant to the reader over an extended period.

But what if you are writing a nonfiction book—or a memoir? By writing evergreen, you can keep your book relevant over time—and drive readers to purchase it long after it’s published. Years before the web became a platform for writers, one of my mentors, Cec Murphey, taught me a simple secret for making dated information evergreen: use description that will continue to be true, no matter when the text is read.

Let’s look at these three examples of dated text I found in books I’ve edited—and the simple fixes:

  • In a book about the Boy Scout Oath and Law, which released the year of BSA’s one-hundredth anniversary, the author made several references to one hundred years ago. But that reference would be outdated the second year the book was out. By simply changing those one-hundred-year references to the actual date, 1910, that Baden Powell started Boy Scouts in America, the content moved from dated to evergreen.

  • In a memoir, an author had this sentence on his back cover draft: “Twenty-five years ago, Chris Harvey paused from studying for final exams to talk to his college housemate. Gunshots interrupted their conversation…” Well, Chris is still selling his book as he speaks to groups about being shot in the head and instantly blinded for life. But the “twenty-five years ago” referred to 1980, not twenty-five years subtracted from the current year. By simply adding the year, “In 1980, Chris Harvey…” we move to evergreen.

  • In another manuscript, the author beautifully related a God-lesson from a nature walk. The draft referred to “when I took my walk yesterday.” While this was an accurate statement when she wrote it, by simply rewording, “One day as I walked,” the material moves to evergreen.

Are there ever situations appropriate to include a current time or age in a book? Possibly, but often you’ll see a qualifier, like “at the time I am writing this…” Instead, an evergreen writer might state “when Johnnie was six” rather than, “my six-year-old.”

What about fiction? I recently found an avoidable evergreen mistake of a different sort in a middle grade mystery. The book was a contemporary story for readers in third to fifth grades. But the self-publishing, first time author had the characters playing with toys that were popular when the author’s grown children were in elementary school. Unless you are writing a period story, stay away from fads—immediately, this mystery (which was well written) pulled me out of the story with a reference that the intended audience would not relate to. Even if this book had been published in the 1990s, by using generic toy references, that book would be as fresh today as ever.

Happy writing! Have you seen anything in books that dates them? I’d love to read your examples in the comments.


(Photos courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net, Stuart Miles, and nunawwoofy.)


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What is evergreen writing? Learn the basics from Vie Herlocker. (Click to tweet.)


 

Vie Herlocker is associate editor for Surry Living Magazine, Mt. Airy, NC. Her experience includes editing for a small, traditional Christian publisher and reviewing for Blue Ink Reviews. She is a member of Christian Editor Connection, Christian PEN, ACFW, ACW, and WordWeavers.

 

 

7 comments:

  1. Great information, Vie! Thank you for sharing.

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  2. Good things to think about! I would like to make sure my writing stays evergreen!

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    1. Hi, Lisa! So good to see you here. I love your poetry and artwork--and always find them relevant! Thank you for stopping by and commenting. Vie

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    2. Hi, Lisa! Thanks for reading the blog and for commenting. I love your poetry and accompanying artwork. I do believe your words will be relevant for years to come!

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  3. Great ideas Vie. I have been taking the AWAI courses for about a year now. I should have just hung out with you!!

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    1. Dear "Unknown,"

      Hurray for taking the AWAI courses! I believe that learning is a lifelong endeavor, and I take courses whenever I can. And my Amazon bill will attest to my love of learning more about writing and editing through all the books available. Even with all those other opportunities, I hope you'll still hang out with me and allow me to learn from you too!

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