Sunday, 31 January 2010

Finding your writing voice

Today would have been my mother's 99th birthday.

For the last 3 years I've been older than age at death. There were times after her death when I felt guilt (for not helping enought), relief, (that her suffering was at an end) and blankness because her loss seemed to make no difference to my life.

It took me a long time to celebrate her life, her qualities and her effect on me. For many years I fought against being like her but came to appreciate the honesty and integrity that she bequeathed me.

One thing that was important and I pass on to you because I know it had an effect on me, was her lack of voice in our family.

This is a writing blog and I've written before about finding your own voice as a writer. Then I meant that each of us needs to be true to our own heart in the way we write. We need to write from the core of who we are whether writing for business or not.

Today I think about the physical significance of that. Not being able to speak out and be heard can have severe consequences on the body. It did for my mother.

Today I can, hand on heart, honour my mother for the qualities she passed on to me.

Today I salute her.

Inspirational Quotes for Writers

'We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.'
Aristotle

Saturday, 30 January 2010

Voltaire Almighty

At last I've finished my Christmas reading project. It's taken me about a month at a couple of chapters a day but it was worth the effort.

Voltaire is one of those names bandied about as being important in the Enlightenment sense. But till now I couldn't put my hand on my heart and say I really knew about him.

Rash, loving legal battles, poor digestion, both spendthrift and thrifty with money, he affected people wherever he went across Europe. Friend, and foe of kings and emperors he drove his publishers mad.

I'm glad I took the trouble to persist with the book and when in future people talk about Voltaire, my picture of him will be much clearer.

Thanks to Roger Pearson's excellent book,Voltaire Almighty(Bloomsbury 2005) this much quoted figure is now a real human to me.

Friday, 29 January 2010

Anton Chekhov

Big celebrations this week for the anniversary of Anton Chekhov's birth.

I've loved his stories since I was in my twenties. Seeing a play at Nottingham Playhouse which was a dramatisation of some of the stories, started me off reading them. The play starred John Neville and I think Ann Bell.

I find the plays a bit tedious but love the stories for their wit and humanity.

Michel de Montaigne

'When I am attacked by gloomy thoughts, nothing helps me so much as running to my books. They quickly absorb me and banish the clouds from my mind.'

There's a new biography about Montaigne out. He's credited with being the father of the essay. I came across him many years ago and my Penguin edition is well thumbed.

What has appealed to me over the years about him?
  1. Commonsense.
  2. Humanity
  3. Humour

If you've never tried him, there are biographies of him online including Wikipedia that will give you a flavour of the man. Hope you too can enjoy his writing.

Let me know what you think.

Thursday, 28 January 2010

My Writing Anniversary

It's a year ago today since my first book The Writer's Little Book. . . With Big Ideas was launched.

I called it a little book because we designed it to fit in a pocket or normal sized handbag. Something you could dip into at odd moments. On a train, a quick coffee break, or that chapter before you drop off to sleep.

Although it is a small book, I intended it to have a big reach which is why I added, With Big Ideas. I wanted as I now want all my books to inspire you as a writer.

It was written, as all my books are written from a practical standpoint. We need help as writers, all of us. We need advice, encouragement and support.

That's why I created the Writers Little Book Club to help provide that support. In the last year I've tried to include things I thought would help. Ideas and support that I would have liked.

This year I want more ideas from you as to what you will find helpful.

In 12 months I've created 3 books and there's another one on the way. What I've realised is that writing likes speed. Since I write primarily for a business audience, responding to people's needs is important and producing small books fast is a great solution.

Maybe you want to write that bestseller and if so that's okay. But that may take more time and while you're doing that, what else can you do to help support your writing career.

I believe that it's a great time to be a writer. There's support, ideas and ways of publishing that didn't exist 10 years ago.

Whatever you want to achieve with your writing in the next 12 months, I wish you all the best ideas, plots and supports.

If I can help you in any way, then please let me know.

In the meantime you can find details of all my current books at www.writerslittlebook.co.uk

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Opportunities for your writing today

'The opportunity is there, it's whether or not you choose to see it and go after it. The cat doesn't wake up in the morning with an empty belly HOPING a mouse comes along to catch; he wakes up in the morning and sets out TO catch the mouse because he knows the mouse is there.'

Great quote from Doppelit.

Monday, 25 January 2010

Saturday, 23 January 2010

Business Writing: what readers add in

He stood there as if glued to the carpet, faced us all down and said,'There's one lesson and one only you need to master.'

All his students waited for the answer to the writing universe's question.

'Get out of your ego.'

Simple. And it is when you dig into what he meant. I came across this quote by a different writer later and it slammed the eqo quote back into my head.

'Writing gives you the illusion of control, and then you realize it's just an illusion, that people are going to bring their own stuff into it.' David Sedaris

Because in business writing we tend to think that we know best. We know our product, our service back to front and inside out. Which means that we know what our readers, clients, customers need to hear.

Naturally. Of course. We're right.

Not.

How many things do you have to accomplish in a day, an hour or even ten minutes?

I've already run out of fingers. Which means that even if people want to read what you've written, even if it's at the top of their to-do list screaming for attention, their mind is already stuffed.

So they're bringing to your writing, all the conflicting concerns they have. Which means what?

Unless you get to the point that's in their head you've already lost the battle for their attention.

What do you need to do then?

  1. Behave as if you are your own customer and know nothing.
  2. Come up with no more than 3 reasons for them to buy from you.
  3. Make it easy for them to do business with you.

All simple stuff. Which we forget too often.

Friday, 22 January 2010

Writing exercises

What happened today that you can write about?

Think nothing did? Go back over your day in your mind.

If you’re writing fiction then what incidents happened that you could use as the basis for a story?
Did someone use a phrase that intrigued you or that you hadn’t come across before?
What about an incident that had you splitting your sides laughing?
Or two circumstances coming together that were odd or funny or tragic.

And if you write for business what happened with your clients?
Did someone ask you for something that you haven’t done before? Hope you said you could then worked out how to do it.

Or was there a problem with a service that you had to fix?

Or even better a rewarding piece of feedback from someone.

Any or all of these can be the springing off point for your imagination to create a story, a piece of text for a website/blog or inspiration about a new product or service you can introduce.

Even the most routine ordinary days can produce extraordinary happenings – if you’re tuned into looking for them.

Incidentally if you go over your day backwards it helps your mind process the events of your day and cuts down the work it has to do while you sleep.

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Business writing: what should you be reading

If you're a writer, of any kind, you should be reading. It doesn't clog up your mind it inspires you and improves your own writing.

For business writers, your 3 points of focus should be:
  1. Connection
  2. Clarity
  3. Consequences

I've got a stack of books surrounding me. Some I refer to constantly, some I re-read at pivotal stages as my writing matures. The link below takes you to a list compiled by a very practical and non hypey marketer.

If you're serious about writing for your business then you should own several of these.


http://kenmccarthy.com/blog/2009/12/29/ten-classic-direct-marketing-books/

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

George Eliot

“It’s never too late to be who you might have been.”

Alison Norrington - digital author

Heard a far reaching and inspirational talk this morning.

Alison Norrington,chick lit author of Sophie Staying Single outlined her trials, successes and errors of using social media in promoting her books.

Since I've thought for some time that all we authors need to stop bemoaning lack of publishers, and investigate what's possible in the world of digital, her words came as encouragement for me.

For more information check out her blogs www.storycentral.wordpress.com and www.sophie-stayingsingle.blogspot.com

Alison talked about some fascinating developments in the world of books and possible media partners.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

WIC 2010 Loughborough 6 March 2010

Stephen Booth is the keynote speaker; you can apply for meetings with agents. For more information see:

http://writingindustries.com

Writers inspirational quotes

'If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.'
Henry David Thoreau

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Generosity.

'Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.'
Buddha

Saturday, 16 January 2010

Business books: write or construct

‘If you can gain one idea or insight from a book then it’s worth reading.’

This was the statement of a multi-millionaire, writer with serial business start-ups under his belt and more fingers in more pies than most of us could imagine.

His method of speed reading was very specific and targeted on gaining the maximum benefit from his reading for the least investment of time.

Which might come as a blow to the many authors who sweated at their laptops or notebooks long hours to produce their work.

But and it’s an important but… it’s a great lesson in how to think about writing a business book.

How many business books have you read and really benefited from?

Probably not as many as you might first think. That is if you assume you have to read the whole thing cover to cover in depth. But if you have a strategy to extract the nutrition of the bone marrow from the book like a juicer, then you can turn this strategy on its head to give you the perfect guide to constructing a book.

Since I published my first book last January, gosh was it only last January, I’ve shared many conversations with fellow business people who really, really, really want to write books. But worry about starting, about keeping going and about finishing.

And what they worry about most is the writing.

So then I say, think about constructing your book.

It’s very odd the expression that unfolds across their face at that point. As if I’ve suggested they steal a toy from a child or drown a puppy.

Write a book versus construct.one

They can’t be one and the same thing can they? Writing is a venerable art practised over centuries by the most intelligent, the most academic, the most artistic of the population.

Construct on the other hand refers to, building, manufacturing and industry.

And they definitely want to be WRITERS.

Except they aren’t because they can’t get started, or… you know the rest.

The bottom line for me is this. Whatever business you run there is a book there waiting to emerge. A book that will proclaim your expert status to the world, enhance your reputation… and lead to profitable business for you.

And for me if you are in business that means you can construct a book.

Constructing a book takes away all the fear of writing because you are working from the known and understood instead of leaping off a cliff without a safety net.

Or remember Indiana Jones leaping off his cliffs – well he had stepping stones waiting for him and so will you on your leap to become a writer/constructor.

More on this in a few days.

Friday, 15 January 2010

Editing tip

What phrase or word, do you over use?
Think of 5 other phrases that would mean the same thing to you.

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Is mellifluous the most beautiful word in the English language?

What do you think is the most beautiful word in the English language?

Year ago one of the Sunday newspaper ran a competion to find the m ost popular beautiful word. In the top ten was one of my favourites ‘mellifluous’.

What would your word be - comment below.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

How many red shirts can you spot today

Opportunites leak out of every building crevice and from every person but most of the time we aren’t attuned to look for them.

If I asked you to look for red shirts for the next hour whether on TV or outside, then you’d find them in abundance.

So tuning yourself to spot those red shirts that are important for your writing is a major part of providing the topics you can write about.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Writing: how to get unstuck

Are you stuck with with your writing?

Why might that be? Well if if helps you, then when I’m stuck often it’s because I’m trying to make it more complicated than it needs to be.

Prune it down, make it simpler so a child can understand it. Writing is after all about communicating and connecting.

And if you have any good ways of avoiding being stuck then I'm happy to pass them on and credit you.

Share them here.

Monday, 11 January 2010

Writing;the planning stage

What’s the next thing you’re planning to write?

This question came from my niece who is not a writer by profession but writes articles and plays in whatever minutes she can squeeze out of her life as working mum.

Have you ever felt that tug in your gut when someone asked you the question?

Ridiculous but I didn’t want to tell her so compromised with, ‘It’s only in the planning stage, not the writing stage at the moment’.

Which is true but an incomplete answer.

I referred in a previous blog to Neil Gaiman’s Fragile Things and I think it’s such a good phrase to apply to our writing when we’re uncertain about it.

I’ve written in the past about finding support for your state of being a writer, and I’m sure I’ll return to it again because it’s such an important topic but from what I’ve read it’s something that strikes at the root of all writers’ confidence.

It doesn’t matter if it’s fiction or factual material; there is still this sharp intake of breath that we feel. This instinct of ‘what if I tell someone what I’m doing, they’ll think it’s boring, useless, unpublishable (insert your own favourite put down here).

That’s why I think the planning stage is vital and it underpins everything I try to pass on to you for your writing career. Whatever else you do don’t just launch into writing a book. Yes the onrush of creativity is wonderful and you need that to get started. But what you don’t want is a very quick follow up of an equivalent downer because you suddenly don’t know what to do next.

So what am I planning for 2010? Ah that would be telling because I have a couple of grand designs in the pipeline. But I’ll let you into a small secret. There will be a new ‘How to plan your writing’ guide for the spring to add to the growing stable I have.

Check out what’s currently available here www.writerslittlebook.co.uk/newbooks.html

All my books are realistic because that’s what I am, easy to digest because we’re all busy people and practical because you need things you can apply with ease to your own writing.

If you’re currently looking to write, are not sure where to begin then email me at Eileen@writerslittlebook.co.uk with your top 3 questions. You have the chance to have your question answered in depth in the book.

Writer's birthday today

'Stephen E Ambrose, writer of Band of Brothers, was a longtime professor, and many of the stories he wrote in his popular history books were ones he'd told over and over to his college students, trying hard to entertain them.

He said, 'There is nothing like standing before 50 students at 8:00 a.m. to start talking about an event that occurred 100 years ago, because the look on their faces is a challenge -- 'Let's see you keep me awake.' You learn what works and what doesn’t in a hurry.'

Thanks to the Writer's Almanac for the information

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Imagination

'Imagination is more important than knowledge. For while knowledge defines all we currently know and understand, imagination points to all we might yet discover and create.'
Albert Einstein

Saturday, 9 January 2010

Being audacious in your writing today

'Every great advance in science has issued from a new audacity of the imagination. '
John Dewey

Your imagination is free. Being bold in your imagination is free. If you're going to dare to imagine a new venture then why not let it be bold, audacious and enormous. Putting it down in writing turns it from something in the ether to something that now is real to you.

Friday, 8 January 2010

What results do you want your business writing to have

Note down 3 results you want then think about how you can write to have that result.

Writing for fun is exactly that. Fun. But why can't writing for your business be just as much fun?

After all your business is your passion so you can be inventive, creative and passionate about it when you write.

Knowing what result you want from your business writing sharpens your approach giving you clarity and focus.

What I appreciate today

Travel conditions are so bad for many people at the moment local to me that I was appreciative this morning that my car started without problems, the roads nearby were clear and that there was sufficient food in the supermarket for us to do our weekly shop.

Nothing to do with writing except that the efforts of many people are making my life easier right now and allowing me to stay home and write.

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Writing exercises

Set a timer for 15 minutes and write about yesterday. You can be factual, weave a story about an incident or write as a text message or letter to a friend.

When the timer buzzes, stop even if it is mid sentence.

Count how many words you’ve written, multiply by 4 and you have a measure of your writing speed. That gives you a means of thinking how long it might take you to write a blog entry, an article or even a book.

Writing links

I've quoted this site before but since then they've added in more things including a Facebook page.

www.writing.com

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

UK publishers pulp 77 million books in 2009

Saw this statistic when I was catching up with the weekend newspapers. Not sure why this happens in an age of digital printing when surely publishers have more control over their printing runs.

Cleverer people than me will figure out the future of publishing but surely it does give hope to smaller publishers with the modern technology of promotion and publishing at their disposal now.

Writing: excuses for not writing

I started this morning feeling tired and not ready to write. It's snowing and I had a chiropractic treatment yesterday which always makes me feel offside for a day as my body adjusts, and I just plain couldn't be bothered.

So I decided to clear my email as something to get me going and found this great piece from John Forde's Copywriters Roundtable e-letter. I've promoted this before and I will do again because whatever type of writing you do, there's food for thought in each of his updates. Today's was on the theme of obstacles stopping you succeeding in 2010. And given my post 60 age, I loved this list. Thanks to John for inspiration - check out his website at www.copywritersroundtable.com

"EXCUSE BUSTERS: THINK YOU CAN'T DO IT? TRY AGAIN...
Think you're just too darn old to start over? Here's a sample of something from Early to Rise that might help you change your mind...
* Verdi composed his Ave Maria at age 85.
* Harlan Sanders started Kentucky Fried Chicken at 65.
* Ronald Reagan didn't get into politics until he was 55.
* Laura Ingalls Wilder published her first book in her 60s.
* Rodney Dangerfield didn't START in comedy until he was 45.
* Cezanne's most prized paintings were done in his 60s.
* Alfred Hitchcock made his best films after age 50.

How about success for the emotionally drained and depressed? Yep, it's possible. Just ask Academy-Award winning actress Halle Berry, diver Greg Louganis, comedian Drew Carey, actress Drew Barrymore, baseball star Ken Griffey Jr., musician Billy Joel and a host of others, including the late Johnny Cash, journalist Mike Wallace, and Walt Disney.

All were so depressed they attempted suicide... then went on to survive and thrive in their respective careers.

And then you've got Pablo Picasso, Tom Cruise, billionaire Richard Branson, artist and inventor Leonardo Da Vinci, and Jay Leno -- all "victims" of the reading disorder, dyslexia.

Winston Churchill, great speechmaker and leader, battled a stuttering problem and did terribly in school.
General George Patton was such a slow reader, he had to memorize all his speeches before delivering them to troops.
Thomas Edison had so much trouble speaking and with words (he was also a dyslexic) his teachers called him too dumb to be in school.
Seal, the English singer, grew up in foster homes and lived on the streets of London. In his 20s, a skin disease scarred his face. Today he's a stylish mega-success... and married to supermodel Heidi Klum.
Basketball star Allen Iverson grew up in a house so poor, sewage seeped through the floorboards. And his neighborhood so tough, eight of his friends were murdered while he grew up. To boot, he's only six feet tall -- big elsewhere but tiny by NBA standards -- but he made it anyway."

Thanks for that John - here's my pennyworth.

Whatever your excuse or mine, someone somewhere has overcome the same challenge. Let's just get on with it.

And if you want to inspire others with how you overcame your writing challenges then share them with us here.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Writing for business; how to stop it boring your readers

How many exercise DVDs do you have sitting on your shelf unused?

1, 2, 20? My favourites are a yoga and a pilates exercise plans. And yes before you ask me I do use them. Some of the time. In our house we have an expression, ‘Eileen’s Darceying’ because I use a plan fronted by the wonderful ballet dancer Darcey Bussell.

I have this dream that one day I will get my leg as high as she can but it is a dream. And I use this and other dvds only a part of the time. My sticking time seems to be 3 months. Then after that the appeal wears off and I have to try something else.

Maybe you’re more disciplined than I am and if so I applaud you. But if not then I invite you to join the ‘I want to but club’

Why don’t we use them? Especially when we can see the results because I can and I’m sure so can you. But let’s be honest, we all get stuck into ruts in what we do whether it’s exercise, writing or any other activity.

That’s why it’s good to have a mixed programme. Like me with my exercises. I’ve worked out that if I use the Darcey programme 1 week in 3 and the yoga and another pilates programme the same ratio, it has 3 effects:
It stops the boredom.
It offers me different lengths of exercise period.
It exercises different muscles and parts of my body.

What might happen if we were to transfer this system to writing? If we write always from the same point of view won't we always come out with the same style of writing?

This holiday I’ve read short stories by Neil Gaiman called Fragile Things. In the introduction to the collection he explains how the stories started with all the different reasons and influences. His stories could be described as strange but what if you took the chains off your writing like he does?

It probably sounds daft but something as simple as changing your writing position can shift your perspective. What about that street scene that you couldn’t see before? Where are the people going and what is in their mind as they do it? Murder, love or resentment?

Immediately you might have the beginnings of 3 different stories and endings.

Or if you’re writing from a business viewpoint, imagine what needs those people have and if you were sitting next to them, how the conversation might go.

What qualities would creep… or explode into your writing that don’t now figure? How would that advance your writing and change your whole writing experience?

Feel free to comment on what you’d like to include this year but are uncertain about.

Monday, 4 January 2010

Writing goals

Back blogging after a few days rest. Reflection comes naturally at the end of a year but as a summer baby I hate setting goals when it's dark and cold.

I prefer to set mine in the summer when my energy is at its highest. And there's less chance of me backsliding.

This year's goals are progressive too. I read somewhere (Ken McCarthy the internet marketer I think), that the road is always under construction and I agree. The goal in itself is fine, but the question then is, what next.

My biggest goal for the year, in all areas not only writing, is to be myself. Certainly in writing, if you try to be someone else then it doesn't work. We all have to find our voice. That internal something that makes us unique.

What could we be if we didn't have to worry about what our families or friends thought. If we didn't need the money. If we didn't fear loss.

What can you be if all things are equal? You can just think about it and do nothing, you can write it to me at eileen@writerslittlebook.co.uk or you can write it on a piece of paper and carry it around to encourage yourself this year.

Whatever you do I encourage you to be honest with yourself, because only then can your writing be honest for others.