Category Archives: Writing

Book Writing Series Part Four – Telling A Story

Proving that I’m good at internal linking, let’s quickly mention the first three parts of this series again. Part one talked about coming up with the concept for whatever it is you want to write about. Part two discussed how to plan the steps you want to take before writing your book. Part three talked about determining when you wanted to write and what method you were going to take.

Emily Ackerman at Mortified
92YTribeca via Compfight

Those were the steps to take before actually putting a word down on paper. This next part actually talks about putting something down on paper, and it’s the only part that will cover that.

Every person has to write about whatever it is they want to write about. However, whether you’re writing fiction or nonfiction, the truth of the matter is that whatever you’re writing, you’re telling a story about something. If you’re writing a romance novel, you’re telling the story about love and intrigue and sex, and hopefully you’re telling your story in a flowing manner, something meant to draw the reader into the story. If you’re writing an article on how to make money online, you’re trying to tell the story about things you believe in, have tested or read about, and hoping to convey it to your reader in such a manner that it’s actually touching them and they’re understanding it, because we all know if people don’t understand us, they won’t come back.

Every person I’ve ever met knows how to tell a story. Even those people who say they have absolutely no idea how to tell a story can tell a good one if you ask them something about themselves and their lives. Storytelling is one of those things that’s come down through history, and even the quietest people have a story to tell, and when you give them a chance, they can usually tell good stories, whether you care about the subject matter or not.

Let’s think about it in a different way. I believe that you write for yourself. This means that the story you’re telling is initially for you, whether you’re going to share it or not.

If you’re going to tell yourself a story, how do you do it? If you’re imagining a story, how do you tell yourself what’s going on in your imagination? Do you see in your mind that you walked out of a door and got into a car? Or do you see yourself walking up to your front door, which is painted white and styled in a Victorian manner, turned the brass knob, stepped outside onto the porch of the front of the house, which faces a set of small ranch houses of differing colors, turned around to lock the door, then you proceeded to take a step down onto your sidewalk, which curved around on your lawn towards the driveway, where your red Mustang sits waiting for you to get in and drive to the store?

The second one may be a bit much, but it’s an indication that when one dreams and when one tells a story, there are elements in the telling of a story that helps to set the tone and the mood of the story being told. Yet, I’ve noticed that when many people start writing, they leave out things, and therefore may not quite capture their audience, even if the audience is themselves.

I used to write two business newsletters. Many times I tend to tell a story that helps me highlight the point I’m trying to make. I find it helps people relate to those articles and also helps them remember what I’m talking about at the time.

Obviously, the art of telling a story can be applied to more than just books, but when it comes to writing a book, even a serious one, it’s a very important step to think about. I mentioned detective stories in the first part of this series because I love those types of books. Some writers give you every single beat you’re expecting, every spoken nuance of each character, in vivid detail. Some writers will tell you more about what someone is thinking than what’s being said. Some writers will capture the surroundings in finite detail, hoping that you’ll be able to visualize the surroundings exactly as they have laid them out.

It doesn’t matter how detailed you want to get. Tom Clancy writes some very long, detailed books because he loves to establish every single detail of something, even if he’s only going to allude to it one more time, for only a couple of pages, later on in the book. Someone else, like Clive Cussler, likes to get right to the point, and doesn’t bother with too many extraneous points; action is his realm.

When you’re ready to write, and while you’re writing, think about the story you’re trying to tell. Think about entertaining yourself first, because if you can hold your own attention, you’ll be able to hold the attention of someone else. That’s all for this step; next time, your book is written. It’s time for editing.
 

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Book Writing Series Part Three – When And How To Write

As we move into stage three, I first want to look back at my post titled How Do You Write from a couple of weeks ago. First, at that time I was asking about how people wrote their blogs, as far as it pertained to speed, length of posts, and frequency. I wanted it to be clear that this particular step is going to talk about something quite different, but if you want to go back and read that post, I won’t be mad at you.

First, let’s look at when you’ll write. Pretty much, you can write whenever you feel like writing, obviously. When I first started writing my book, I decided that I was going to write from Friday through Sunday as much as possible, because I needed time during the week to work on marketing my business. Sometimes I wrote in the evenings when the mood hit me, but mainly I wrote on the weekends. I felt that if I was going to progress that I had to schedule myself the time to write.

For some people, they like scheduling their time to write. Big time novelists write in different ways themselves. Some treat it just like a job, spending 8 hours a day writing or researching to write their books. Some writers will decide to write only two hours a day. Some people like waking very early in the morning and putting their time in before going about their day; some people like to have their days to themselves, then work at night.

When you decide to write isn’t as important as having a schedule for when you hope to write. You don’t have to stick to the schedule, of course, but it works out much better if you can. However, always be prepared for life to get in the way of things.

As a for instance, I started my book in late July of 2001. I pretty much kept to my schedule, and things were coming along pretty well. Then, out of the blue, we all know what happened on September 11, 2001. Living in the state of New York, I felt the pain of the day pretty much like most New Yorkers did, being about 5 hours from the event. For three days I did nothing but watch TV until I was able to finally pull myself away from it all. However, it pretty much took me two months after that before I would even come close to consider getting back to the book. I just couldn’t concentrate on it at that point, or anything else, which wasn’t good, but we all deal with shock in our own way.

What brought me back to my senses was learning that my dad had cancer. Earlier in the year he had gone on dialysis, and I had started my own business, and after 9/11 now I’m learning that my dad had cancer. I knew for the first time just how sick my dad was, and I wasn’t sure how long he would be with us. I decided then and there that I was going to finish my book as quickly as I could so that I could tell Dad that I’d written it, and hopefully he’d have the opportunity to read it, if possible.

So I redoubled my efforts, but I found that I was having some difficulties. Here is where I’m going to move into part two of this lesson, that being the how one writes. I’m a typing guy; lucky for me, when I feel like it, I can type close to 100 words a minute. Some people love typing on the computer, which is me. Some people still use old time typewriters. Some folks like hand writing everything. All of these are good, but there’s something you could think of doing that might help you get over the hump.

I found myself starting to get into some kind of rut, and that was driving me nuts. What I decided to do was head to the computer store and buy some voice recognition software. At the time, I purchased IBM’s Via Voice recognition software, which worked pretty well, although now I use Nuance Dragon NaturallySpeaking software, which is much better. You go through a training process where you read scripted writings and the program learns your voice, and then you’re good to go. No software is perfect because none of us speaks perfectly, but it’s pretty good, and all it leaves for you to do is go back and do some serious editing. There will never be any spelling mistakes, but that could make editing slightly difficult.

However, this allowed me to really push the rest of my book through. It obviously works better with nonfiction than fiction because it will never spell weird names properly, although you can train it to recognize some names, but it makes things go really nicely, no matter how fast you can type, because you can just talk and talk and have all these words down in your word processing program, and since you’d have to edit your book anyway, it’s easier to go back and only have to remove and retype what you need to. Anyway, I had many points that I wanted to get to as it regarded my book, and I hadn’t written a single thing for any of them other than what was on my outline. So, what I did was go to each point, speak a few paragraphs, just to get something down, then later on while I was editing, if I wanted to add more then I did, and I always wanted to write more. The voice recognition program was just what I needed to push through.

Of course, the final thing about how you’ll write is what conditions you want to surround yourself with. When I was deep into my writing I needed some type of sound in the background, so I’d put on music. It didn’t matter what type of music it was, because I pretty much blanked it out while I was writing anyway. This is opposed to what I do when I’m working from home and writing articles; in that case, I usually have the television on, with the sound down, because it makes me feel as though I’m in an environment where there’s other people around, and sometimes I need that for my sanity. Having a laptop makes life pretty good because sometimes I grab it and go to the library, or to Barnes and Noble if I want a cookie; I love their cookies! I know some people need absolute quiet, and that’s okay also; whatever makes you comfortable, that’s where you want to be.

And that’s the end of step three. At this point, all the upfront preparation topics have been covered, and now it’s time for you to write, figuratively speaking. Next time I’m going to talk about the editing process for your book; come back for more.

Chicken Soup for the Soul of America

by Jack Canfield,
Mark Victor Hansen,
and Matthew E. Adams


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Book Writing Series Step Two – The Planning

In step one of this series, I talked about the concept and why it’s so important to do upfront thinking. Near the end, I mentioned having an outline or a journal or both. In this step, I’m going to talk about those two items just a little bit more.

writing a bestseller
Compfight

Whenever I’m going to give a presentation, I always start with an outline. I like to try to write down all the main topics first, then break them down into subcategories. This helps me focus on what I want to cover and need to cover, based on the time frame that’s been allotted me.

I do the same thing with everything I have to write, including this series. It helps me know where I want to take my content, and helps me make sure I’m not forgetting something. Having an outline doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll remember everything, but it’ll make it less likely that you’ll forget the most important things.

I have outlines for other things. Because I travel a lot, I have an outline, or list, of everything that I might take on a trip with me, whether it’s a road trip or a plane trip. As something new comes into the picture, I add it, and if something can be deleted, I take it off. I always create my outlines in Excel, because it’s so easy to modify at a moment’s notice.

At the present time I have four other books underway, believe it or not. I don’t know if I’ll finish any of them, although I expect that I will finish at least one of them since I’m halfway through. It’s a detective story, oddly enough, since I spent some time talking about that in the first part of the series.

Before I decided I wanted to write the story, I created an outline for it. I did this because in my past I’ve started countless numbers of books, and one of the things you learn pretty quickly when you write fiction is that it’s easy to go off point and start loading your story with things you just can’t remember, and you’re not sure where they came from.

Every fiction writer will say the same thing, whether they have an outline or not. J.K. Rowlings, for example, talked after the last book about the fact that she had actually planned on killing Arthur Weasley, Ron’s father, in the fourth book, but decided she just couldn’t do it, and that he would make the rest of the series go much better if he stuck around; it did! 🙂

I’ve got a nicely detailed outline for my detective story, and yet I’ve already gone off point a few times, adding things I never expected to add, because they seemed to fit at the time. It makes my outline even more important because I know where I want the story to come back to, and therefore I’ll figure out how to get back there. For someone like me who might need to leave at a moment’s notice, an outline helps me get back to where I was and allows me to continue on the path I’d already started.

For my first book, my outline was crucial because it helped me decide the different stages I wanted to take, as well as which stages needed fleshing out. For instance, in one part I decided to come up with different employee types and give a synopsis of each of those types. That wasn’t one of my original thoughts, but it came about while going through my outline the second time.

Writing
Jonathan Reyes
via Compfight

When you use an outline, it can be just be a sheet of ideas, not necessarily in any order. You’re going to go through it a few more times, and that’s when you’ll be able to establish the direction you want to go in.

Now we come back to the journal idea I’d talked about before. Journals don’t have to be overly detailed, but having one helps you keep all the players together in your mind.

In my detective story, I introduced a character whom I hadn’t had in my original outline, and decided this was someone who knew the main character when they were much younger. Suddenly I had someone in my story I didn’t know all that well, and I realized that if he was going to be in this story, I needed to know more about him.

I wrote a very short bio for him, just so I could not only remember who he was supposed to be, but to make sure I’d keep spelling his name properly throughout the rest of the story. Believe it or not, even small things like that happen from time to time to many writers, and often they’ll be missed by editors, who get so used to looking for grammatical errors and not necessarily misspelled names, especially if those names aren’t normal.

I don’t want to scare anyone by using the term “journal” because journals don’t have to be all that long. If you’re writing something up about a new character who might play a part of even minor significance, it could be as short as one or two lines.

The idea isn’t to totally detail every character who’s going to be in your story; after all, if you do that, it starts to restrict what it is you want to write about. At least that’s my theory; I do know writers who write full blown biographies of every person in their story, which once again includes Rowling. I think I’ll go with saying that if you need to know your characters better then knowing more about them in your mind will help you stay on point, but maybe minor characters can be skipped.

Writing is supposed to be about creativity, no matter what you’re writing. But journaling, along with having outlines, gives you the assistance needed to remember who your character is, what your point is, and after that, you can go wherever you want to go.

And that’s the end of step two. What will step three be? Stay tuned.
 

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Book Writing Series Step One – The Concept

This is the first part of my series on writing and publishing a book. I want to make a few things clear, if I may. One, not all of these concepts are specific to writing “print” books. Many of these concepts can be used in writing ebooks, magazine articles, short stories, or pretty much anything else one wishes to write. Two, all of these steps aren’t concrete; these are my opinions on the steps one should take, or things one should think about.

Writing
Pedro Ribeiro Simões
via Compfight

This may seem like the most basic step to most people, but it’s actually the one that keeps a lot of people from starting. Every person has to first decide what they want to write about, but it has to be more detailed than what they think.

For instance, you may say you want to write a detective story. Okay, what kind of detective story do you want to write? Do you want your main character to be a male or a female? Is it an agency or an individual? What kind of detective agency; serious crimes, following around people cheating on each other, finding lost children? Is there a particular area of the world your detectives are living in, and do you know enough about that area to write plausibly? What race is your main character; weight, height, background? Are they funny, serious, brooding, good looking, ugly, troubled, perfect, educated, rich, poor, sexual? Are they well known, well liked, well traveled, or are they the opposite? Are they more like James Bond or Easy Rollins or Kinsey Milhone? Or are they actually something else entirely, but end up doing detective like stuff, such as Dirk Pitt or Stone Barrington?

Or maybe you want to write a book about travel. Are you going to try to cover the entire world, or just a specific segment? Are you going to talk about places you’ve been, or places you’ve researched? Will there be images? Will there be history? Are you going to talk about the foods, the demographics, the politics?

Perspective is always key when you decide you want to write something. Almost no one gets away with writing about something they really don’t know anything about. Many years ago a friend and I decided to write a short story about a guy who ran a mining company on the planet Mercury, and how, on his return flight back to Earth, settings on his ship had been altered and, instead of flying back towards Earth, he was heading towards the sun, and had to try to figure out a way to get things changed before he was killed. Sounded like a plausible thing for us, as I wrote the storyline part and my friend dug into a little bit of the science. We submitted the story and got rejected soundly, saying our science wasn’t close to being legitimate enough to make the story plausible. Though the storyline was a pretty good one, we were way out of our realm in trying to write a science fiction story to pull it off.

I told you about my book, which I’m not going to mention here, but expect it in the next post; hey, I get to plug also, right? 🙂 Anyway, it’s a book on leadership and management. I had been thinking about writing that book for years before I started. I had always been the leader of my group as a kid, and when I got my first real job, I worked as a regular employee for 8 months before I was promoted to management, and I’d been in a leadership position ever since until I went into consulting, and even now, I always go into a consulting assignment in a leadership or independent role. While I was a director, twice the place I was working brought in survey companies to question the employees on management, and both times I came out as either the top ranked leader or tied for the top ranked leader. I always had other managers and directors and supervisors coming to me to ask how I would handle situations involving their employees. I felt that this was a subject that I was imminently qualified to write about. And even with that, I still did a little bit of research, because I wanted to have some statistics behind me while I was giving my tips.

Every book written doesn’t necessarily need to have research done, but if facts are put into a book they need to be somewhat accurate. For instance, if you mention the name of a song and the group that sang the song, it had better be correct, unless you’re writing an alternate universe story. If you’re a male and writing the story from a female perspective, you’d better be sure you’ve captured how women think and act correctly, and not just your impression of how women are.

Anyway, this all leads to what all the preparation and concept of what you’re going to write is all about. No one sits down one day and starts writing a book. Most probably, you’ve been thinking about something for a long time. Hopefully it’s become a passion for you, but it’s possible that you’re a hired gun; the process is the same.

What I recommend is to create an outline or a fact sheet, or both. An outline helps you determine in which order you want things to happen in your book. It also allows you to group common themes together if it’s a nonfiction book, or keep the flow of your book together if it’s fiction. A fact sheet allows you to put down facts that you garner from research, or write more detailed biographies of characters you introduce in your story. I know one guy who actually writes mini diaries of all the characters in his books, even if they only appear in one chapter, if he gives them a name. That way, he feels he has a better chance of capturing their personality properly as his story goes along, in case that character gets introduced again. But that’s for another time.

This gets us started on our series. I hope you’ve picked up at least one or two tips, if you needed them. Be looking out for part two of this series.
 

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New Series – Writing And Marketing A Book

In the last couple of weeks, I wrote two posts that got a whole lot of attention. The first one asked the question How Do You Write, and the second one was a tips post on How To Be A Prolific Writer. Then yesterday, I wrote a post highlighting my book Embrace The Lead. That one hasn’t received any comments yet, and it may not, and because it’s still the same day based on statistics (since I’m on the East Coast and the stats won’t be updated until midnight on the West Coast), I don’t even have any ideas how many people have even read that post, if anyone has.

No matter. My thinking, in looking back at the other two posts, is that it might help some people if I talked about the process of writing my first book, since studies have shown that more than 50% of people who have been asked the question as to whether they’ve tried writing a book answered in the affirmative, but when asked the percentage of those who’ve actually finished writing a book, that figure drops to less than 1%.

People have many different reasons for not finishing books. One reason is that they don’t have the time to consistently work on one. Another reason is that the project gets too daunting; no real direction once they’ve started. Another reason is that they start thinking about how others would view them, or if they’d like their book. Some believe that they don’t have what it takes to really write a book and just stop.

Well, I’d like to help out, if I can. So, I’m going to be writing a series of posts geared towards tips on writing a book. We’ll do things step by step, and I’ll mix in some tales of the process that I went through in first writing my book, then trying to market my book, and then finally publishing my book. This will be real world stuff; no lies, no quick money making, just the honest truth. But it’ll end up being a series, and when I’m done, I’ll be putting all the posts in one place at the top so that anyone who wishes to follow the series later on can do it, just like my series on blogging tips.

So I don’t overwhelm anybody, I’m going to restrict myself to one post a day on the subject, and then possibly one post on another subject on the same day. I don’t really know how long the series will be right now, but I’ll be numbering them as I go along, so everyone will know the order to read them in. I hope they’ll be as entertaining as they will attempt to be informative. And please, if there are any questions on each part, go ahead and ask, but don’t jump ahead; I’ll let you know if you’re jumping ahead at any point.

Stay tuned; there are other changes that will be coming to this blog, as I morph myself around just a little bit. Always in the process of change; better than stagnation at any level.


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