Category Archives: Writing

The Process Of Writing Leadership Is/Isn’t Easy

Let’s get this out of the way first: I’ve just released my newest book on leadership, Leadership Is/Isn’t Easy, as part of a big package deal of goodies and such, and for the next two weeks that’s the only way it’s going to be sold. If you’re into leadership, or even if you’re only interested in marketing, go see the types of things I’m offering. This is one of the ways of internet marketers these days; instead of just selling one thing, package a bunch of things in there, set a big discount price off its value, and see where it goes. I just launched yesterday, so I have no news to share with you as far as sales and such. ๐Ÿ™‚

BookCover03

This is my second book on leadership. I finished writing my first one in 2002, Embrace The Lead, which is over there to the left, and in the first link I talked a little bit about the process of writing it. At this link I gave the outline points of the book (it’s on my business blog) in case you’re interested in seeing what it’s all about.

Back to this book. I first thought about putting it together in 2012, after I’d been sitting at home for a long time, making my living as a writer for hire and just feeling kind of bored. At that time I had two newsletters I was writing, one on leadership and one on health care. I gave up the health care newsletter around the time I started thinking about putting the leadership book together and hadn’t thought about giving up the leadership newsletter then, which I eventually did in 2013 before I started traveling again.

My idea… take some of my earliest newsletters and some of my earliest blog posts from my business blog, which celebrated its 10th anniversary this past December, and create a book out of them. I ran the idea by a few people they all liked it, and off I went.

I had a lot of articles to go through on both fronts. Luckily, not every newsletter was specifically on leadership, but I still had to look at all of them, and all of them were in HTML format so I had to keep pulling up files online instead of just keeping articles on my computer; I still haven’t learned that lesson with blog posts. At least the blog posts were fairly easy to go through.

I worked a list of 65 posts down to 31, based on the topics I wanted to show. At that point I actually thought I was 90% done; oh, I was so wrong!

What I discovered, at least on the newsletter, is that my writing style had drastically changed, luckily for the better. My early newsletters were all over the place. I found myself with a nice idea and then spent a lot of time trying to make it a long newsletter instead of getting to a point and then leaving it. These days I call it the “Mozart Principle”; write until you’ve said all you wanted to say.

Now I knew this was going to be a daunting project; or was it? I thought about putting it out the way it was, telling my hoped-for audience that I wanted them to see the progression of my writing from the early days until 2008, which is where I stopped; I figured 5 years worth of articles was enough. I shared it with my buddy Mitchell Allen and he told me what I’d already figured out: if I couldn’t stand to read them what made me think anyone else could stand reading them? Ugh!

Thus, I had plans to rewrite… and then I didn’t… and didn’t…

Blind Date/Just Friends with a Book
Pioneer Library System via Compfight

I just couldn’t get myself to start on it. This was around March 2013 and my mind wasn’t into it. However, it turns out I should have started when I had the chance.

Because in April of 2013 I started negotiating what eventually turned out to be a long term gig in Memphis, TN; 18 months in fact. Suddenly, flying back and forth from New York to Tennessee and then working as I was pushed almost all thoughts of the book into the background.

It sat in Dropbox for a year, then additional months. Every once in a while I’d open it up, change a few words, and close it back up. I was a mess! lol

Then I had an ending date for my gig and realized I had to get back to it. Thus, I finally opened it in early September while I was in Memphis and finally went to work. Man, those early posts were depressing, and I just wanted to write every person who’d ever subscribed to that newsletter and apologize for all those horridly written early newsletters.

In essence, it was like how some people take an article off the internet and rewrite it to make it seem like an original. I didn’t quite have to do that… but the new versions looked nothing like the originals. Heck, two of the articles were so unwieldy that I ended up turning them into two articles, and each one was over 1,000 words.

I finally finished the entire book last November, the first week I was home for good. Luckily, since my style had gotten better, the last 10 or 11 articles hardly needed any work at all; whew! Then it was time for the first edit, then the second edit… I’m not saying it’s perfect even now, but I tried.

When I had it set, then I sent out a request for readers. I had 7 people say they’d read it and let me know if they understood the concepts. This is something I’ve written in the past; if you ever ask people to review something you’ve written tell them what you want them to look at. I didn’t want people arguing with me on my concepts of leadership; I wanted to know if they understood the language I was using, if any sentences were confusing… grammar!

Then I waited… and waited… by New Years Day, all of them had said they would be done. Not one of them got back to me. I followed up with all of them via email; nope, nada zip. Sigh…

What to do? Nothing. I did nothing.

Once again, it was sitting on the computer as I worked on getting my next contract. I had lots of nibbles but wasn’t landing anything. It was another cold winter and I just rolled with it.

A few weeks ago I lost out on another contract that would have paid exquisitely; I was irked. And then I remembered I had the book sitting there in Word and decided it was time to put it out. One night, just before I fell asleep, I remembered an article I read back in 2002 by Paul Myers talking about “thud factor”, that being to pack a lot of related things into a package to show how much value was there, then market it at a price higher than the product would go as a standalone because of all the extra stuff, and at a later date you could offer the product on its own for the normal rate.

Thus, the book package idea was born. The steps…?

62:365 - Concentration
phil wood photo
via Compfight

First, I ended up having to reformat the book twice because there was some kind of error in the original file. When I tried a trick that normally works, copying the book into Notepad and then into a new Word document… it taunted me for my stupidity. What finally worked was copying each article individually into Notepad and then copying the entire thing into another Word document.

Then I had to reformat the entire thing, but I’d messed up and forgotten what I’d done the first time around. Suddenly, the book went from 157 pages down to 127 pages, and I couldn’t tell you how. Still, I printed a few pages to see what it looked like in print, because at some point I hope to have it in print also, and it looked… like a book. ๐Ÿ™‚

I don’t want to tell you everything that’s in the package because I want you to go check out the product page. However, I put all the files into one folder so I could compress them into a .zip file. That bad boy still came out to 442MB; ouch! But it’s the best I could do; value is big!

Next, I had to write the sales copy. I wrote 3 different versions of it, then ran it by my friend Kelvin because he had some knowledge of how to market via sales copy. He made a few suggestions, I implemented them, then created the sales page, coding the entire thing; yeah, some of us still write code.

Next, I tried to get it to fit under Google’s stupid mobile friendly rules… oy! I spent about 90 minutes on that, going back and forth with numbers. At one point it looked like it was pretty close to Google’s standard on mobile but it looked horrible on a browser. That wasn’t going to work for me so I decided to just format it so it looked good to me. I got that, and when I checked Google gave me 87 out of 100 for user experience and 97 out of 100 for speed; good enough for government work.

Once I set up Paypal, which also meant creating a “thank you” page with a link so people could download the file, I was set. All I had to do was wait until my business blog’s post went live Tuesday; whew!

I’ll save how I’ve worked on marketing it for the next post, which will probably be on Friday. Normally I only have two posts a week but since this is for a special event you’re getting three; how special you must feel! ๐Ÿ˜€ I hope you’ve stuck around to read this, and I hope you check out the product page. More on Friday!
 

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Do You Consider Yourself A Writer?

I come across many people who tell me they don’t know how to write. I point out to many of them that they got through school, some of them through college, and I know they had to do a lot of writing then because I had to do a lot of writing. Many people don’t see that as the same thing; oh really?

Writing
Pedro Ribeiro Simรตes
via Compfight

In school, you had to write to get grades good enough to pass. In business, you have to write well enough to try to get more customers. It may not be a blog post. It might be a short ad or a long ad. It might be a radio commercial. It might even be a flyer that you put on the wall of your own establishment. Everyone knows how to write something, and had to write something in the past; it’s inevitable.

What’s happened is that not everyone knows how to write well. Not as many people seem to pay attention to either spelling or grammar. I see errors of omission on a consistent basis and it’s shocking. If this was someone writing a letter to their friend, then there’s no problem. But is this the type of thing you want your customers to see? I think not.

There are basically two things that can be done to help correct writing issues. One is to hire someone else to do your writing for you. The other is to pay more attention to what’s being written.

For instance, with today’s computers and programs, almost everyone gets notified when a word has been misspelled by some kind of squiggly line. All one has to do is right-click on the word and see what choices are being given for correction.

When it comes to grammar, Microsoft Word has a couple of settings to help check for grammar, but the recommendations sometimes seem a bit stiff. Instead, what I find useful here and there is to read what I’ve written out loud; your ears will almost always hear something that doesn’t sound right.

I know I said 2 things but I’m going to add a third thing; giving more unexpected value! ๐Ÿ™‚

The third thing is knowing what you’re writing about. For instance, there are tons of “make money blogging” blogs online but few of them actually make much money. To me, those people have no idea what they’re talking about. If they only talked about what they’ve tried and what didn’t work, like I did when I did my 6-part series some years ago about all the affiliate programs I was on, I’d give them more credence.

If you know your topic and can write about it, then you’re probably going to be pretty good, grammar and spelling notwithstanding. If you know how to tell a story you’ll be fabulous.

Sometimes all it takes is a little bit of time to get things right. Everyone doesn’t have to write like a pro; all anyone really asks for is that you write to be understood. If you’re in business, you have to remember that your words represent your competence in someone else’s eyes. If not, then do your best and your readers will feel it.
 

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Writing Articles That Gain Attention On LinkedIn

Back in March I wrote about a personal social media study I did in trying to increase my overall influence online. I mentioned in that post that I’d started writing articles on LinkedIn, and how it had started bringing me some attention.

Ylva Johansson
Socialdemokraterna via Compfight

At this point I have 21 articles there and I’ve started to see a pattern. There are some things that seem to help determine how many eyes are going to see what you’ve written.

I can’t guarantee that every post you write, even if you follow these rules, is going to get seen by more than 1,000 people like this post on getting unstuck did but there seems to be some rules to follow if you want as many people to see your posts as possible.

First, unless you’re a known entity or someone that LinkedIn has determined is a major influencer across the board, list posts seem to get viewed the most. It’s probably for the same reason they work so well on blogs; people like seeing something that they expect is going to have specific points that maybe they can identify with.

Turns out it doesn’t matter if you use an actual number or write it out as a word, but lists work well. Also, it helps if you bold your numbers in the article, whether it’s the word or the actual number (like I’m doing for this post).

Second, although this goes against the grain of how some people think, longer articles seem to get more attention, even if they’re list posts. My longer articles, which also have been list posts, have more numbers than all my other posts, and if you know me you know that I’m not normally about really short posts to begin with. Substance seems to be a big winner, so if you’re writing a long post make sure you have something to say.

Third, short titles don’t work well either. I’ve never really paid much attention to titles on this blog for every post but I’ve noticed that on LinkedIn you’ll get more eyes if your title is long enough to tell people what you’re writing about.

LinkedIn smurfs
Mark Jen via Compfight

Fourth, write articles where you’re offering something to help others. My posts that have helped someone in some fashion have garnered the most attention. Even on a post like this, where I gave 7 ways to tell if you’re a bad leader, got 400 views because there was a perceived value. Actually, there was a major value in this post but if you’re a bad leader you might not have picked up on it. lol

Fifth, it’s smart to have some kind of picture to put at the top of your article. They give you the opportunity to put a picture with the pixel size of 698×400. Just like with blog posts, images seem to help rather than having a big gap without anything there.

I have tons of pictures so I go through them looking for something I think might fit. Since all my pictures are much larger than that I can crop when I need to before resizing.

Sixth, don’t forget to do the spacing like most of us remember to do when we write our blog posts. It helps with readability.

Seventh, when you’ve completed your post LinkedIn gives you the opportunity to add 3 categories to your articles. However, you have to use the categories they give you if you go that route; if it’s not there then you don’t get to do anything.

I’ve found that the articles I’ve written that get the most attention are those that I haven’t categorized. What happens is that if your article is seen by enough people, and that magic number is usually at least 100 people, it’ll decide where to put it so you don’t have to. Truthfully, that works better anyway, and it takes the pressure off you to have to do it.

That’s pretty good stuff to consider if you’re just starting out or have been thinking about doing it. If I get anything more out of it I’ll certainly write about it here.
 

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10 More Writing Tips, This Time In Three Minutes

Man, time moves fast. It was almost 2 years ago that I wrote my original post giving 10 Writing Tips In Two Minutes. Whereas I want to try to keep the other article in your mind, it also occurred to me that there are more tips that could help people that, though maybe not fitting within 2 minutes, will fit within 3 minutes. At least that’s all the time it would take me to read them. ๐Ÿ™‚

With that said let’s get going.

her hands
Vyacheslav Bondaruk via Compfight

1. Create an outline. Sounds like work but it can really help you keep your focus on whatever you want to write about.

2. If you see a squiggly line underneath certain words, it either means you spelled it wrong or your spell check doesn’t recognize the word. Don’t ignore it; fix it.

3. Always keep a piece of paper or something else you can record on with you so if you have an idea to write about you can note it & come back to it later on.

4. If you have a favorite word you know you always use, after you’ve finished writing go back to see if you’re written it too many times, and if so eliminate some of them.

5. If your writing feels too formal you probably didn’t use any, or many, contractions. Use them; they make you feel real to your audience.

6. If you use large words make sure you’re using them properly. Using them makes you look smart to people who won’t look them up in a dictionary, but if your using them correctly then dabbling in the art of sesquipedalian can be a bit of fun. ๐Ÿ™‚

7. Learn how to create paragraphs where the content is related so you’re not putting white space between sentences “just because”. People don’t want to read articles where every sentence is considered a paragraph any more than they want to read paragraphs that go on forever.

8. If you’re describing something, make sure you give enough without going too far. If you write “a guy with brown hair” that could be almost anyone. At the same time, Grisham once wrote 50 pages on how to build a car in the middle of a novel for a one line plot item two chapters later; way too much information.

9. Using things like smiley faces, lol, etc, help people know when you’re not being overly serious. It’s not always easy in short pieces like what shows up on blogs to convey your intent all the time.

10. When you’re done, if you’re not an experienced writer go back, read what you wrote, and verify that you got the proper point across. In an article I wrote for someone else once I wrote 3 words wrong and totally changed the meaning of the entire article. Trust me, it happens to all of us.

So, did it take you only 3 minutes? If it too longer no biggie as long as you got something out of it. Let me know if it helped, or if I need to explain anything further. Enjoy!
 

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Being A Colorful Blogger

Have you ever given thought about all the colors of your blog? You’ve probably given thought to the colors of your blog as you look at it but that’s not the only color on your blog.

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For instance, your font color is something to consider. Have you ever noticed that the font on this blog isn’t really black? It’s kind of a charcoal grey color; close but not quite black. The blog of one of my clients has gold print. There’s nothing wrong with changing certain things like that up as long as it’s still readable against its background.

What about language? Have you ever heard the name William F Buckley Jr? He was acknowledged as one of the smartest men ever, had a TV show that lasted 33 years, wrote a weekly newspaper column and multiple books. In one of them, which I can’t recall at the moment, on the same page he used the words proboscis, stentorian, and miasma of perfidy. There were words like that on every page as a matter of fact, and I only made it through 20 pages before I got tired of pulling out the dictionary so often. I have a pretty good vocabulary, but I try to temper myself, and instead look for synonyms that people know every once in awhile so I don’t sound the same over and over.

All of these things help to give your blog a fresh feel and helps to show what you’re made of. Sure, you want people to learn your style and get comfortable with it. But every once in awhile you need to be fresh, update things a bit, and try not to be so predictable.

In that vein we have the video below which talks about colors and blogging; yeah, I know, you’re not going to watch it, but I’m putting it out here anyway:
 


http://youtu.be/dr80OLxWQHg

 

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