All posts by Mitch Mitchell

I'm an independent consultant in many fields, so I have a lot to share.

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.
 

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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Blogging Step Five: How Often To Post

It’s been almost 3 months since the last post of the blogging series, so, before I go further, let’s list the other four:

Step One: What To Write About

Step Two: Where To Create Your Blog

Step Three: How To Create Your Blog

Step Four: What And How To Write

So, if you want to start at the beginning, and if you want to think about it some more by reading this post, we’re ready to move onto the next part.

A question that’s often asked is how often someone should write. Kelly McCausey, substituting for Alice Seba as she has a baby, wrote on Alice’s blog that she recommends to her coaching clients that they write at least 2,000 words a week, and finds that clients seem to not only appreciate the advice, but end up writing more often.

I subscribe to a lot of blogs, and I find that there are some people who will post 3-7 times a day, some who try to write one post a day, and some who try to write 2-3 times a week. Occasionally there’s one who writes once a week, and if they write less than once every couple of weeks, unless they’re friends of mine, mine, I don’t stay subscribed for long. When I’m home, I write one post a day on this blog. Actually, let me clarify that; I make at least one post a day. Sometimes I’ll only post something, like a video of something that’s caught my fancy, even if it’s something old and odd:

Okay, I watched that when I was a kid; I admit it. 🙂 Anyway, you may not know this from reading this particular blog, but in my real life I’m an independent consultant, so there are times when I’m out of town a lot, like right now. I stay in hotels, and not all of them have the best internet service, so posting something daily becomes problematic. So, right now, I post more on the weekends, yet still try to get at least one post in during the week. If you’re hoping to attract visitors, and keep those visitors, then you need to post new content on some kind of regular basis to encourage people to keep coming back. If you write once a month, no one’s going to remember to come back, but if you write regularly, and you’re entertaining or informative, then people hopefully will come, and keep coming.

Then, if your purpose is to show you have some kind of knowledge that will help you get contracts or work later on, or your purpose is to make money with your blog, you’ll have better chances to do both. And, let’s face this fact; why have a blog in the first place if you’re not going to write anything to begin with?

Oh yeah, let me be clear about my terms. What’s in this particular post, for the most part, is writing; the video is just a red herring. Some people post only pictures; some videos, and some others post sound files. In a way it doesn’t matter as long as you’re consistent, but in another way it does matter. If you’re posting videos, one has to hope you also have something to say, and that every once in awhile it’s you in the videos saying something because you hate typing. Videos can be nice, but if that’s all you post, people won’t like it too much because watching videos takes time. The same can be said for audio; great stuff every once in awhile, but they take time to listen to. Posting pictures goes the other way; if that’s all you do, it gets boring after awhile because you’re not really giving something of yourself. So, there has to be a mix of media if you’re going to do it at all.

And there you go. I hope some of you have read the series and taken to blogging on your own. I’d love to know how it’s working out for you thus far. And I’d like to highlight someone else who writes a great blog on blogging ideas, and that would be Barbara Ling. She offers a lot of great stuff.

Happy blogging!

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Why Do You Write Your Blog?

Why do I write this blog, or any other blog? Why do you write a blog? What are you hoping to achieve? Are you trying to inform? Are you trying to make money? Do you have something you need to get off your chest?

fountain pen

Phil Hilfiker via Compfight

I ask this question after reading what can best be called a couple of rants by different guys. One guy, Merlin Mann, wrote a piece called Blog Pimping, and actually used a lot of the original rant, written by a guy named Jack Shedd, called Tacky. Both posts are pretty much against what they consider as the blatant marketing of blogs to make money by the professional bloggers, and what they perceive as what’s been created because of them, the professional commenters, whose only purpose is to try to hopefully drive traffic to their sites by commenting on these big time blogs.

Of course, one of these guys is marketing things in his own right off his blog, whereas the other guy, Jack, doesn’t seem to be marketing anything, so we can take each for what it’s worth. It still begs the question for most of us as to what our purposes are for writing our blogs, and whether we end up staying true to our souls more than our goals.

I don’t think I’ve hidden my goals for this blog; I want it to make money. So I write about topics that interest me, hoping they interest others enough to want to come back often to see what I might have to say. I like to think I’m not a one trick pony, though, as I slide from topic to topic and, occasionally, post something to entertain myself more than I’m probably entertaining someone else (remember the Yoda video?). This is a blog to make money, but it’s also a blog to have some fun with. I don’t see myself as one of those guys who’s ever going to make blogging a 24/7 job; could happen, but I doubt it. I have way too many interests for that sort of thing.

And of course there’s my other blog, the professional one, Mitch’s Blog, whose purpose isn’t necessarily to make money (though I do have Adsense on it; I’m not a fool after all), but to inform and show people that I have some competence with my main career as a consultant. Maybe indirectly it’ll convince someone to request my services, and I may make money that way, but it’s intention isn’t to do it straight out.

Still, a good question to ask is why it seems to matter so much to someone else why a person is writing whatever it is they feel like writing, and why it’s disturbing them so much. Truthfully, I read a lot of blogs, but there’s many more that I’ve taken a look at and decided I don’t want to read for one reason or another. It’s just like television; if you don’t like the program, turn the channel and watch something else. Not that I don’t find a blog post every once in awhile that gets on my nerve, but to rant against someone because they happen to be successful sounds like the people who gripe against musicians who allow their music to be used in commercials; life was never that pure to begin with, and it’s certainly not going to be that pure now.

For the moment, I have another career, so I’m sorry if I can’t put together 1,500 word tomes on my blog just to pad the stats. But I’m near 600 words; that has to count for something. And people, if you want to comment on my blog to try to drive traffic to yours,… by all means!
 

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Blogging Step Four; What And How To Write

This will be the final installment of the blogging series for now, and I hope it’s helped illuminate what blogging can be about. If you have questions or other topics you’d like me to address, leave me a comment and I’ll see what I can do. Here’s the links to parts two and three in this series:

Blogging Step Two; Where To Create Your Blog

Blogging Step Three; How To Create Your Blog

Donald Keene at home: Tokyo, 2002
Aurelio Asiain via Compfight

If you’ve read all the previous installments, then you remember that step one dealt with think about what you want to write about. Now we get a bit further into it. A recommendation I’ll make is, if you’re not sure how to get started on your topic, write down 10 things you believe you can write something on. If you can’t think of at least 10 topics from the beginning then you’re already in trouble, and you didn’t learn anything from step one.

This part should be fairly easy, though. For instance, let’s say your blog is going to be on show dogs. One would assume your first post is going to be about dog shows in general, just to get started. Then you could write about what judges look for in individual dogs, or you can pick specific dogs to talk about, which would be a bunch of topics. You could talk about the history of certain dog shows, or previous winners of the dog shows, both the dogs and the trainers. Heck, you could talk about trainers, and families of winners throughout history. For someone who may be thinking about this as a blog topic, I’ve just given you at least 100 posts.

The “how” is somewhat different. A question I’ve heard asked over and over is how long a blog post should be. The true answer is a blog post should be as long or as short as it needs to be. If you look at the last 10 posts on this blog, for instance, you’ll see that four were long, four were short, and two were somewhere in the middle. A blog post really can be one paragraph; probably shouldn’t be one line, unless you’re highlighting an image, movie, or sound file of some type. A blog post can be long, but just how long is long? If you’re writing a dissertation it’s too long; no one is going to stick around that long reading a blog post. It’s too much like work; blogs aren’t supposed to be that detailed.

That’s why I’ve broken this up into a series, instead of putting it all into one post. But another reason for doing it is that it’s given me four posts instead of just one, which obviously helps me build up my content, but it gives me more opportunities to advertise some stuff; yeah, it’s a little crass, but hey, a guy’s gotta try to make a buck, right? If you can break a very long post up, you still get to say everything you wanted to say, but spread out, you give people a reason to keep coming back for more.

And there you go; we’ve made it through a whole short series on blogging. Now I can chill and maybe post a video of something; yeah, we all need more videos. Enjoy the rest of your weekend.


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