Friday, 30 April 2010

Kazuo Ishiguro

I met up with a business colleague yesterday and one of the things we talked about was our reactions to reading the short stories by Ishiguro collected under the title of Nocturnes.

Since I'd only met her once previously I didn't know her tastes in reading but she'd posted on LinkedIn that she was reading Nocturnes.  I'd only just finished the book so it gave us a point of connection. 

What drew me to the book, apart from liking short stories, was that Ishiguro had written the lyrics for one of my favourite singers Stacey Kent., recorded on Breakfast on the Morning Tram, issued by Blue Note in 2007.

The stories in Nocturne explore themes of life, love and music.  Both my colleague and I were left wanting to more about the characters in the stories, some of whom appear more than once.

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Writing a business book: 10 essential rules

  1. Start your book:. I have no official statistics but my informal research tells me that the ratio of would be writers to actual starters is 10:1. 
  2. Write something every day.  Even if you only manage half a page in Word, that's better than going a week then exhausting yourself by writing 50 pages.  Writing is like other activites, the more often you do it the easier it gets.  Try for 15 minutes every day.
  3. Be disciplined. When you write make sure that's your time.  Ignore the phone, the email and everything else.  Even if you only allocate that 15 minutes, ring fence it.  Get up early.  Stay up late.  Do whatever it takes to create that space.
  4. Send your internal critic on holiday. One of the commonest problems for new writers is to review their work as they go along.  That's the worst thing to do because writing is a seaparate activity from editing.  Confusing the two will stop you putting anything down on paper.  When you write, only write.
  5. Find your best time to write. Morning or evening?   Short bursts or lengthy sessions?  When and how are you most efficient at anything?  Writing is no different in requiring your concentration and focus. 
  6. Do your research - before you write.  You may need to do a substantial amount of research for your writing.  If so then do it before you begin to write; give everything itime to settle in your brain beofre you start writing..  Like editing, research takes a different mindset and stopping in the middle of writing to check a fact will slow you down and break your train of thought.  If you need to check something then write that into the text in capitals soyou'll pick it up easily when you edit.
  7. Be approachable.  The whole point of writing is to communicate something to your reader and make a connection.  Remove as many obstacles as possible.
  8. Be flexible.  Changing the structure of what you write can help you communicate better.  Keeping to a rigid structure is wrong if it makes you less effective.  Your priority is not to produce the perfect structure but one that works for your reader.
  9. Be passionate.  Enjoy what you want to communicate.  Passion sells.
  10. Finish your book.  There are thousands of unfinished manuscripts hidden in desk drawers and computer discs.  Make sure yours sees the light of day.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Inspirational quotes for writers

‘Writing a book is an adventure. To begin with, it is a toy and an amusement. Then it becomes a mistress, then it becomes a master, then it becomes a tyrant. The last phase is that just as you are about to be reconciled to your servitude, you kill the monster, and fling him to the public.'  Winston Churchill

Monday, 26 April 2010

Writing Bullets: how to do it for maximum effect

Bullets are a major weapon in your writing armoury.

Want to whiz your reader through your text?
Want to make your points fast?
Want to catch those scanners and skimmers on your website?

Bullets are what you need.

Writing them for effect is vital.  Here's how:
  • cover only one point at a time
  • pull out the juiciest information to highlight
  • add the page number for a book where they can find more of the information
  • answer questions they might want to ask
  • slip in teasers for in-depth information
  • make them active and positive
How do you set about constructing bullets?

  1. Take the piece of tex you're writing and on index cards, write down the  most important facts, featrues of the product or service you're promoting.
  2. For each fact and feature, create a benefit for the user.
  3. Look at each benefit in turn and write it in not more than 10 words.  you can use longer bullets but limiting yourself to 10 words makes you focus on the essentials.
It takes practice at dashing off bullets but once you've acquired the skill you'll be amazed how many ways you can use that skill.

  1. Create bullets for anything you write - a great way to give you the skeleton of a piece.
  2. Write a 60 second introduction to your business using connected bullets.
  3. Talk or write about the essential benefits of your business - fast.
Bullets are the essential bones of your business writing.  If you can't make lively bullets from what you're writing, you sneed to change it.

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Writing science fiction?

The fourth Alt.Fiction is programmed to take place on 12th June 2010 in QUAD; Derby’s brand new state-of-the-art multi-media venue.

Alt.Fiction is made up of a number of different types of sessions, such as readings, workshops, discussion panels and Q&A sessions.This year BBC books – publishers of tie-in-novels from the ‘Doctor Who’, ‘Torchwood’ and ‘Being Human’ series – have confirmed their attendance

Friday, 23 April 2010

Business Writing essential: sub-headings

Sub-headings need to be seen as key parts of your text.

Sub-headings create focus

Sub-headings act as the landing lights for your reader coming in.  Without them, all the reader and the search engines might see is a mass of dark text with no guide as to what are the most important parts for them to read.

Sub-headings make it easy for your reader

What we have to do is ease our reader through the text in the way we want them to go.  Make them work hard and they're likely to bail out.

How do you produce effective sub-headings?

Sub-headings provide exactly the same service as do headlines.  They are simply further down the page.  Headlines are there to coax you to read the first line of the text.  Sub-headings are there to coax you to read the next section.

Think of the story you want them to read

Guiding them through the story via the sub-headings means that if they dip in half way down the piece, the sub-heading where they dip in should be as compelling a part of the story as is the headline.

Pull them into the conversation via the sub-headings

Using open questions in the sub-headings starts them thinking about the conversation that's happening in your piece.  Teasing them and intriguing them with interesting facts is another way of doing it.

You only have one chance to attract their interest.  Hiding the most important or fascinating facts deep in your text won't help you gain their interest.

Be bold, be up-front and be genuine with your sub-headings.  Construct them properly and they'll work hard for you.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Writing your book: 5 ideas to begin

If you see writing a book as a major task, then you're not alone.  Since few business people attempt it even when they think there are benefits to be gained, it's one of those tasks that will be done, "When I have time.".

What if instead of it being a major undertaking, it becomes only a progression of the writing you do anyway?  Thinking about it that way can transform it into an end in sight as you write daily.

Here are 5 ideas on what you can use:

1      Blog entries

You're already writing these on a regular basis aren't you?  If not then you should make it a priority because it works for you on two levels.  It provides interesting material to send to your contacts and just as important, search engines love content.  Think about constructing your blogs around thems that would provide section or chapter headings for your book.

2.     Frequently Asked Questions 

Most websites have sections based around this them.  Sometimes they're called other things, but offer information that is searched for on a regular basis.  In your busienss you'll have something that voers all the basic informaiton about what you do.  It's the type of topic often covered in offline brochures.  again you can adapt the contents of your basic informaiton into a short book.  This will carry more weight with readers than a brochure, no matter how substantial.

3      How to manuals

These can be an extension of or an alternative to the FAQ segment.  They need to be easy to read and understand for the reader.  Comprehensive but not intimidating.  All businesses contain large amounts of information that often goes to waste because it's in jargon form or seen as 'internal' documents.  Sharing how you produce your products or services can  make a connection with prospective clients or purchasers.

4      Journals 

Depending on the type of writing you do, or your prospective audience, journal entries you make anyway can form the foundation of a book.  Many books by journalists have started life as regular column entries which at a later date have been turned into books.  If you think that a column may be 250-500 words per entry, over the course of a year you may have written between 20-25000 words.  More than enough for a 100 page small book, especially when you add in a foreword, an introductory section and closing chapter.

5      Social media entries 

Already this has been done.  Maybe you think it's stupid but if you accept that a book can be any size you want it to be these days, and you can produce as few or as many copies as you want, then it becomes less stupid.

Any book can enhance your reputation as an expert, speaker, business consultant or what you want it to be.  Focus on how you can fit the book into your marketing strategy... before you begin to write it.  Check out what esists already then create your unique take on the subject.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Today's quote

“Self-awareness. . . is a neutral mode that maintains self-reflectiveness even in the midst of turbulent emotions.” Daniel Goleman

Monday, 12 April 2010

Libraries - long may they survive in whatever form

Jorge Luis Borges 'I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.'

As an ex librarian, I love this quote. From the age of 7 when they allowed us to join (barabaric to make us wait so long then) I've always adored going to libraries.

Even though libraries have changed almost out of recognition since that time, I still have a thrill every time I go.  What will I discover on this visit? 

The library I use in Long Eaton is one of the Carnegie libraries set up in 1906 which were responsible for the explosion of libraries in the UK courtesy of Andrew Carnegie.  Though his business methods might have been dubious, his resulting fortune had incalcuable benefits for many people.

Saturday, 10 April 2010

Inspirational Quotes for writers

'...the path to true learning begins nowhere else but in delight and the words on the signpost say: "Once upon a time..."'  Philip Pullman, Isis Speech, April 2003

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Happy Birthday Internet

According to Wikipedia, today in 1969 – The Internet's symbolic birth date: publication of RFC 1.  Though of course Tim Berners Lee is credited with the work creating in 1989 what we now understand as the Internet.

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Tim Kliphuis

Not directly concerned with writing, but all writers I've met are interested in music too.  If you've never come across this Dutch violinist then take a listen at the link below.  I saw him live in Newark a couple of years ago and it was such a joy to listen to him and the excellent trio with him.

He's released a new CD and you can sample it at

If you're feeling jaded after this winter, then Tim's music will raise your spirits.