Usefulness is one major element the judges in our upcoming So You Think You Can Write Online contest will be looking for in contest entries. For this reason, we wanted to have some real experts from the realm of useful online writing, and so we turned to Brittany of Pretty Handy Girl – an expert on DIY articles.
To give you some insider tips on writing winning Hubs this April, we’ve done a short interview with Brittany to talk more about her work, her writing, and what she will be looking for in contest entries. Read carefully – her advice just might win you $50, $100, and even $250 in prizes!
HubPages: Thanks so much for being a part of the So You Think You Can Write Online contest! Could you tell us more about yourself?
Brittany: Well, my name is Brittany, but most of my readers know me as Pretty Handy Girl. I write a blog called Pretty Handy Girl. It is filled with tutorials for DIY projects, crafts, sewing, home improvement, home repairs and more. My goal is to empower my readers to take on their own DIY project.
I am one of three daughters, my father didn’t have any sons so he taught us how to use his power tools, change the oil on our cars and wire an outlet (among other things).
My childhood memories are of my Mom and Dad adding a second floor onto our house. They did most of the work themselves, so I grew up knowing that home improvement is something an average human being can take on. My mantra is that if someone can do it, then there is a 95% chance that I can do it too!
I have always enjoyed beautifying things, especially my home. My idea of a relaxing day is working in my garage (aka workshop) and building something. The smell of freshly cut wood tends to ease away the tension of the week. Also being able to have the gratification of completing something tangible really makes my day! (Maybe this is because it is so hard to complete a task when you have children un-doing your work behind you.)
The other days of my week are spent entertaining my two little charges (two little energizer boys); housekeeping; and trying to read all my favorite blogs (and there are a lot of them.)
When did you begin creating your own DIY projects?
My parents added on to our house when I was young. There were always scrap pieces of lumber lying around. I dreamed of building my own playhouse in the back yard with that wood. I used to paint and color on those scraps (and still have two of them today!)
When my husband and I moved to Philadephia, we bought some unfinished furniture from IKEA, I successfully stained them (although we kept smelling gas and finally ended up calling the gas company only to find out that using an oil based stain in an unventilated area is not a good idea! After that I recovered a hand-me-down couch by taking it apart and seeing how it was pieced together.
Did you have any formal training?
Definitely not, but I wish!
If no, how did you learn how to create your own projects?
My father had 3 daughters and no sons, so he taught us how to use his power tools, change the oil on our cars and wire an outlet (among other things.) My mom was always finding yard sale and curbside treasures. I remember her painting a bed, nightstand and dresser so they would coordinate for my bedroom. And she also re-upholstered a curbside chair for my college apartment. I always pay attention when someone is fixing, building or creating something.
What was the most elaborate or difficult DIY project you’ve ever taken on?
At this point the most elaborate project I have completed was laying antique heart pine flooring in our living room. We bought the wood off of Craigslist. It was salvaged from a 100 year old farmhouse in North Carolina and it looked pretty bad. We started the day after Christmas (emptied the room, including the Christmas tree) and completed the floor 10 days later. The resulting wood floor is stunning and my favorite room in the house. If you are interested you can read more about the project on my blog.
What inspired you to start a DIY blog?
I have several friends that wanted me to teach them how to use power tools, build things and basic home repairs. I toyed with the idea of holding classes in our garage until my husband suggested that I start a blog to reach more people. He was definitely the spark that started Pretty Handy Girl.
Do you ever turn to any other DIY people or bloggers for inspiration? Where does the Pretty Handy Girl go when she learns something new?
Definitely! I love Magazines, Flea Markets, Boutiques for inspirations. And definitely all the other wonderful blogs out there that share their ideas.
If I need to learn a new skill, I will either ask a professional or look up information online via Google or YouTube. I actually learned how to finish our wood floors myself by watching YouTube.
What, in your opinion, are the most important elements of a good DIY article- or any other super useful guide?
Honestly the best DIY articles (or useful guide) have good pictures. Photos that help the reader see each step that needs to be taken. Today’s tech-saavy audience has a short attention span and wants instant information. Twitter and texting have created readers that want the written word to be short and sweet. Sadly we are moving away from an audience that sits down to savor each word.
Do you have any tips for those planning to enter the So You Think You Can Write Online contest?
Hmmm, that is a good question. I think my biggest pet peeve is when I read a blog post that is filled with typos and grammatical errors. I guess I’m old fashioned in that respect. Seeing as the contest title is “So You Think You Can Write Online” I expect to read posts that are polished and clean. Other than that, I would say that hopefully the writing style is engaging and keeps me reading (Short attention span. I know). One final note, I am a graphic designer too, so I can’t help noticing if a post is hard to read because of the font color or background color.
Finally, have you any advice you have for new DIYers?
Look at how things are made. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. I find Lowe’s Home Improvement and Ace employees to be super helpful! The next time you have a handyman come fix something, watch how he or she fixes it and ask questions. Google how to instructions or videos. Most of all, just try it!
We hope this interview inspires you to write some super useful contest entries. Heck, writing some great DIY-style Hubs for this contest might even kick-start a fun home project you’ve been wanting to do!