Monday, 25 June 2012

End of Writer's Little Book blog

This is sad for me. To announce the end for my blog.

Set up in such hope and anticipation, it was my first Blogger blog.

What was it for and why am I ending it?

When I self published The Writer's Little Book...with Big Ideas, I'd wanted to create a community of like minded people who wanted to write. I was happy to fling ideas about, to see how useful the information I offered would be in encouraging them.

Like a child with bigger eyes than stomach, I never managed to make it work in the way I hoped.

And in the interim my writing journey took me along other paths. Sometimes, well many times, I floundered in the dark, occasionally seeing flashes of light from side paths. I followed some which like the will in the wisp led to boggy marshes or brick walls.

At the beginning of the year I had a serious think about what I was doing, offered my dilemma up to the best part of me, the creative unconscious, and while waiting for some clue, thought I'd have some fun.

That's resulted in a new website, a series that gives me carte blanche to be nosy, (Conversations about Writing) and at long last the flashes of inspiration that have brought all the bits and pieces of the last few years together.

Hence the new website under my name and a new focus for my activities.

Helping writers who want to write non-fiction from a heart centred place.

Should have been obvious really to marry the two elements together, the writing and the holistic work I used to do.

But like the miner six inches away from the gold seam, till that last breakthrough, I was a blind as a mole, feeling my way along, knowing something was there but not what.

So from now on, my main blogging will be from my Eileen Parr blog, also Blogger.

I hope you'll follow me over there. The mix will be much as before, events, quotes, random thoughts and other miscellaneous oddments.

From there I'll tell you about two projects I'm planning. One a non-fiction book and the other a free teleseminar series in the autumn. I'm gathering speakers together, which is an interesting experience in itself.

It will be aimed at people interested in writing non-fiction and over 5 weeks look at the process of connecting with the truest part of yourself and writing from there.

Also because so many people are really bad at sharing what they know and can offer, it will look at some of the tools available and how to use them.

I'm looking forward to moving on, not away from what I've been doing but really focusing in on what's important to me.

Thanks for reading and see you over there.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Inspirational quote for writers

"Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do."
John Wooden (American basketball and coach)

For writers I'd say. 'Do not let thinking you cannot write a novel, let you stop writing a sentence.

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Inspirational quotes for writers

"I think that the practice of writing every day was what made me remember that writing doesn't have anything to do with publishing books. It can be totally separate and private -- a comforting thought. If you can make that distinction in your head, you can write just the way you always did, even after you start publishing books."

Nell Freudenberger author of The Dissident

Monday, 16 April 2012

How do you start to write?

For the last few weeks I've been planning some videos. Sounds as if I'm planning War and Peace or something!

That's not it. What I'm hoping to do is allow three people I know through my business or other writing activities talk about writing. Plus a couple of videos with me talking.

The important thing I want to get across is how possible it is for someone to do it. Someone who may be hesitating on the brink with an idea or even half an idea for a story, a business how to or a grand sweeping novel about of a family.

Why am I doing it when there is so much other stuff out there on writing? Why go to the bother of it?

Well it's not because I want to see myself on screen especially. And it's certainly not because I think I have the only way to to succeed in writing.

It's because... someone encouraged me. More than one person. Every day I found something to inspire me when I was thinking, 'can I do this?'

So I know that the influences come from many places and people. A quote here, a chapter of a book, or a video.

And what I know, having gone through it, is how fragile that first impulse can be without support. Like the tender shoots of spinach pushing through in my conservatory.

What we don't need at this point is someone to tell us how hard it is to get published, how difficult a writer's life can be, how many other people have done it all.

Heavens, don't we know that already? Isn't that what's stopped us doing it before? It took me till my forties to shrug off my English teacher's criticism that I wasn't good enough at English to take an A level.

So wet blankets are out. Soft warm fleeces are in.

It might be that somewhere out there, someone hears my contribution and it makes a difference to them. To the way they think about writing.

And most important - starts them writing. That's why I'm bothering.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

I'm in love...

It's Spring, the sap is rising and I'm in love. With...

... come on I can hear you say, with who(m). (sorry I am a writer).

Well it's like this.  An email arrived this morning warning me to be in to receive a delivery. Gave me a one hour window and the delivery man's name. So there I was ahead of the agreed time, pacing round the house, worrying I might miss the bell.

Didn't turn on the radio... in case it was too loud. Made sure I was downstairs so I wouldn't have to race to the door.

When the bell rang I was there in a flash. My specified man stood holding out my parcel, signing gubbins his other hand. Signed, thanked him then took the parcel to the kitchen and tore open the box.

There sat my proving baskets.  What you're asking? Yes my proving baskets.

Because I'm in love with making bread with sourdough.

I've made bread on and off, mostly off, for the past thirty years. Started with Delia, safe and reliable. Then I moved house, got out of the habit and didn't start again in earnest till last year.  For some months I turned out good wholesome loaves, accepted and enjoyed by family and friends.  But I had a secret.

Searching for different recipes I kept coming across the word, 'sourdough'. Every time I looked into it, I felt I was reading about an arcane art. Almost occult in the way people described it. I considered, havered till...

I fell. Into such a desire to have a go I launched myself at the recipes till I found one that wasn't ten pages long.

It took a week. Seven days of watching, feeding and monitoring the mix for bubbles, smell and fermentation. Then I was ready. Made the overnight mix and as soon as I got up the following morning, checked it out in the spare bedroom. 

Joy of joys. The sponge had risen. I raced through shower, breakfast and teeth cleaning till with everything in front of me on the unit I mixed the flour with the sponge. It took all morning to accomplish all the risings but the wait was worth it.

My first sourdough loaf achieved.

And now I understand the ecstacy of the Hairy Bikers on their Bakeation. The urgings of other breadmakers. Because there is something alchemical that happens with this sourdough. I'm getting to know mine. Only a few weeks old unlike some professional bakers whose starters go back years. It changes according to heat, feeding and loving. It survived me leaving it for a weekend away.

It's my new best friend. It's hard to describe the difference in working the mix when you use sourdough. but I feel it's alive and talking to me.

Since I started, I've made freeform loaves of all descriptions. A very successful Ciabatta last weekend, and Brioche so moreish I had to hide it away.

They call bread the staff of life. To me making bread is a way of showing my love for those closest to me.
But it's also a very selfish and wonderful pleasure.

Friday, 6 April 2012

Writing your book: Why do it?

All professions are overcrowded. If you meet five people at a networking event supplying the same service, the odds are they'll pretty much tell you the same things.

Ah but the fifth time when your heart is sinking to have to listen again, the person in front of you suddenly produces...


What do you think your reaction would be?

Dismiss them as only another supplier?  Or would something subtle start to happen inside your mind? 

Would the word 'EXPERT' start flashing up in neon?

Of course on a level playing field, each person has something to offer, and it may be that you prefer the personality of one of the others.  Mm yes but what about that book.

Especially if inside the book you read some reviews from organisations or individuals with status.  What then?

To widen the field, how about the 'experts' wheeled out in the media when soundbites are needed?  We're probably safe in betting many of them have written books.

Yes there are millions of books published.  Yes it takes effort on your part.  Having helped several people write books, it isn't done without some effort. 

But... if it leads to you becoming one of those experts, wouldn't it be worth it? 

Only you can decide.

This post is based on an extract from The Writer's Little Book... with Big Ideas.  for more information go to

Business Writing: how to write to communicate and connect

Writing is a fundamental skill in business that scares many people. They’re afraid of the blank page. They’re afraid of grammar and punctuation. They’re afraid of getting it ‘wrong’.

So why should we put ourselves through torture to write?  Simple... to talk to others.  By others in this case I mean the people who are interested in what you offer. And much as you might prefer it, you can't talk personally to everyone especially if your business is global.

But that's the thing, you can do.

What are we trying to achieve when we write?

Let’s look at what we’re trying to do when we write. Whether we write for our business or we’re a would be novelist, our aim is to make some connection with our reader that will persuade them to carry on reading. This is essential for both when you want to sell.

Why am I talking about novels when this article is about business writing?

If you've ever read any novel, how did it grip you?  Was it so involving you kept turning the page?
Or did it bore you and you shut the book in frustration.

The exact same thing happens on many business websites, and in many brochures.

Why are you in business ?

Because you have a passion for something. Though money is important, nobody goes into business because they simply want to make money. You want to help people achieve more feel better, solve problems and enjoy their lives.

And make some money.

Have you had the experience of buying something and all that happened was they sales person took your money.  No smile, no words, no connection.  A mechanical process.

If you’re in business the ongoing relationship is what counts. It takes 80% more effort to make the first sale than succeeding ones. If you build the relationship from the beginning with that connection.

So whether you do it online, in print or in person, that's essential.
Putting you and the reader into the story
There's a story behind every purchase, whether it's a birthday card, a swimming pool or insurance.  What's the story you're telling about what you sell?

And what's the story your reader is in the middle of when they think about their purchase and your product or service.

Could be a special party for a centarian, a facility for the grandchildren or taking care of the family.

Doesn't the writing have to be 'proper'?
Yes of course you want your writing to be grammatical but that’s a service that can be bought in. What can’t be bought in is the passion and drive you have to pass on your knowledge, expertise and problem solving problems.

And you can't buy in your interest in people's stories.

If you want to be an effective business writer, put your reader into the picture.  Concentrate on that first.

Then drill down to the tiniest details of your product and service that you’re proud of and want to share with others and think how they'll fit into the stories you meet.  From there you can build up your writing from those key essentials.

Never settle for boring writing. Breathe yourself and your passion into your writing and your writing will bring you the results you want.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Writing Your Book: 5 Ideas to start you off

If you see writing a book as a major task, then you’re not alone. 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 you can write it as you write things you're going to do anyway.

Transform it into a game.  Every time you write something, think about it as another five hundred or a thousand words towards the book.  A thousand words sound like a lot?  Breaks down to less than 4 sides of A4.
Here are 5 ideas on what you can use to build up your book... once you have an idea of what you want your book to cover.

How to write blog entries with a purpose
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 search engines love content. CONTENT IS KING.

Think about constructing your blogs around themes that would provide section or chapter headings for a book.

What's the point of Frequently Asked Questions?

Most websites have sections based around this theme. Sometimes they’re called other things but offer information that people search for on a regular basis. In your business you’ll have something that covers all the basic information. It’s the type of topic often covered in offline brochures.

Adapt the contents of your basic information into a short book. A book carries more weight with readers than does a brochure, no matter how substantial.

 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.

You may well find that there's enough information buried away in your FAQ answers to create a down to earth manual appealing to your product user who wants and easy to read but more in depth help guide than what's on the product.
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 20-25,000 words. More than enough for a 100 page small book especially when you add in a foreword, an introductory and closing chapter.

 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.

If you find writing a challenge, follow these two guiding principles:
The more you write the better you'll write
Get smarter about how many times you can use a piece of writing.

Any book can enhance your reputation as an expert, speaker, business consultant or whatever you want it to be. Focus on how it can fit into your marketing strategy. . . before you begin to write it. Check out what you've already written you can include.

Then create your unique take on the book.

Monday, 2 April 2012

Writing for your business; how to power your writing with bullets

Bullets are a major weapon in your writing armoury. Why?

Want to whiz your reader through your text?
Use bullets.

Want to make your points fast?
Bullets do that for you?

Want to catch those scanners and skimmers on your website?
Bullets are the things to grab their attention.

Writing bullets for effect is vital. Here’s how:

  • cover only one point at a time
  • pull out the juiciest information to highlight
  • promote a book by adding the page number to direct them to the information
  • answer questions they might want to ask
  • slip in teasers for in-depth information
  • make the language active and positive
How do you construct an effective bullet?

Take the piece of text and on index cards write down the most important facts, features of the product or service you’re promoting
For each fact and feature, create a benefit to the user
Look at each benefit in turn and describe it in not more than 10 words. You can use longer bullets, but limiting yourself to10 words focuses your attention on the essentials
It takes practice to become good at dashing off bullets. But once you’ve acquired the skill you’ll be amazed at how many ways you can use it.

More ways to use bullets.
  • create bullets for anything you write
  • write a 60 second introduction to your business from connected bullets
  • 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 a lively bullet from iinformation about your business, you shouldn’t be writing about it.

Friday, 30 March 2012

Business Writing Essentials: What Counts as Proof

Despite all the importance of social media now, we should remember that many types of businesses need substantial and ongoing proof of their effectiveness in the products or services they offer.  What counts as proof in writing about your business?

Proof is anything that helps your reader to accept what you say about your product or service. Anecdotal evidence is not sufficient in some areas and each business needs to look to the market it serves and assess the best type of proof it can build up. 

These are some of the types of proof to consider.


I’ve talked in detail about how to construck effective testimonials in business writing in another blog (INCLUDE LINK).  I won’t cover the same ground here except to say that like any other part of business writing you need to understand how to produce them and how to use them.


Articles are a way of underlining your expert status and now are a major part, especially online of proving expert status.  But offline publications should not be disregarded. . In exactly the same way as happens with such sites as EzineArticles, you can build up your reputation by creating a body of work which over time shows your knowledge and expertise.

Placing these articles should be part of your marketing strategy, online, via the article submission sites, your blog and online journals. Offline you can offer your articles to a range of publications. Think beyond your own narrow specialism and work out who could use your knowledge.

Approach specific professions where articles on your knowledge may be rare.

White Papers

White Papers are an accepted means of transferring knowledge in scientific and technical sectors. Keeping up with new developments in any sector is a challenge. Users of products or services welcome short, jargon free information to lighten their workload.

Case Studies

Case studies are extended testimonials. In a testimonial there isn’t time to go into too many details because they need to be read quickly.

Producing case studies about your most successful projects can build up your reputation. If you have a history of tackling challenges many companies in your sector find too difficult,  case studies on your successful work can offer persuasive evidence to prospective clients.

The way to look at any proof that you create whether articles, case studies or white papers is to imagine that they will provide the backbone of any proof that you need. And while you’re taking the time to do this, think about how else you can use what you create. Such as a book you might want to write. Many business people amass a large amount of writing without making full use of it.

Consultants in any sector produce articles, workshops and other written material without considering where else they might place it.. Even if you think a book is out of the question, place the material where you can direct your prospective clients towards it as proof of your expertise.

Monday, 26 March 2012

How to create a winning speech with a few golden rules

Speaking in public ranks as the number one fear for most people. But it doesn’t have to be like that if you’re prepared to put in some effort and follow some simple guidelines.  These are based on my experiences, good, bad and positively humiliating.

Accept you can’t wing it

No professional speaker would give any kind of speech without preparing it. And the ones that seem the most spontaneous are those the speaker has spent time, thought and energy on preparing. Think about comedians. Their routines are honed till they know in which places the audience will react well. The jokes that don’t receive any response are chopped out of the routine.

So you need time to prepare.  And the shorter your speech, the more time you'll need because you have to be focused on the essentials.

Create an outline

Giving a wedding speech? Then you know the elements people include; thanks, anecdote, graceful praise to the bride.

All effective and memorable speeches have a structure. Think of the occasion, think of your audience and work out what they need to hear. What will make them go away telling others you're a great speaker? 

Take the time you have for your speech and divide it into the elements you want to include. Allocate a time to each and then work out what you want to say in the time.

Be concise

Rambling is one of the worst nightmares for a speaker and the most boring for an audience. Trust me, I still have memories from a long time ago.  If they’re kind, they feel embarrassed for you. If they aren’t kind they’ll be hostile. Your outline helps to keep you on track.

When you’ve made your points at any stage of your speech, stop. Your audience won’t thank you for talking down to them.

Be careful using humour

Leave the jokes to the comedians. If you forget the punch line it’s embarrassing and unless you know your audience well you run the risk of offending someone. Comedians are paid to take that risk, you aren’t.
You can try funny, real stories, preferably about your own shortcomings or situations. But be sparing until you’re confident doing it.


This goes back to not winging it but you need to practise in a particular way.

Take your outline. Then take what you have written for each part. Now read it out loud at a normal speaking pace. Time each section. If you’re new to speaking it will surprise you how long it might take.

Record your practice if you can because it will help you work out where you need to include more or take out some of your speech.

Allow for your nerves in your timing. Nervous speakers often speed up until they are impossible to listen to. All speakers get nervous before speaking. The difference between professional and occasional speakers is that the professionals know how to use their nerves to power their speeches.

Avoid the number one mistake of reading your speech

This is on a level with reading the contents of a Powerpoint presentation.  Any outline or script you have should be there only to give you the skeleton of what you want to include.
There’s nothing more boring for an audience than a speaker who has their head down mumbling as they read their speech. Practising your speech will help you be familiar with it. Avoid learning it off by heart because unless you’re very good at that, it will come over as stilted.

Instead commit the main elements of your speech to memory so that if the worst happened and you lost your notes you could still make your essential points.

And finally:
Be genuine

If you're not, you will be found out. Audiences will forgive speakers many faults if they feel a connection. One of the best speeches I heard was from a business woman speaking about the struggles she had taking over a business. She was so passionate about what she did and the people she served that the energy in the room was tremendous. In my opinion she outperformed the professional coach who’d spoken before her.

What's important to an audience is that you care about what you're telling them.  That's what will make the all important connection between you.
And when you're connected to your audience, you'll feel it and it's one of the most wonderful feelings in the world.

Good luck.

Friday, 23 March 2012

Editing; its pitfalls and importance

As much as writing scares people with the blank page being a major obstacle, so editing terrifies them.
Thinking about editing seems to bring on different reactions:

1. Complete paralysis

I know many people who manage the writing phase fine. They pour out what they know, enjoy putting the words on the page then they’re stuck. They maybe look back at the text, but because they’ve poured out so many words, they don’t know how to re-work it and are afraid to start.

2. I’m a writer syndrome

This reaction is common among many creative writers but isn’t confined to them. They believe that because the words came from their unconscious mind, they must all have equal value and shouldn’t be touched. This results in 1000 page novels and woolly text on websites.

If you understand the writing stage as being simply that, the stage when you pour out what you think you want to say, then you understand that your work will need pruning. In this stage you’re going to be like a persuasive hairdresser who works on a head of hair to reveal the beauty of the person underneath the hair.

3. The grammar has to be right syndrome

Grammar is important. I spent many years in school learning it. And I’ve had to unlearn some of it to become a business writer. Why? Because the main point of writing, indeed probably the only real point is to make a connection. The connection between you the writer and your reader is sacred, is vital and without it you may as well not bother to write.

So how can I make it easier for you to edit your work? As always I break processes down into smaller stages. It makes it simpler to deal with and work through. I believe there are three stages in editing.

Major editing

Under this heading I include altering the layout of the piece you’re writing. Which if you’ve done your research and you’re clear about why you’re writing, should not be a problem for you.  If you still need a major rethink then one way I do it is to print off all the pages, lay them out on the table or floor and re-assess if each piece is in the best place. It’s odd but physically handling the writing brings new thoughts and connections.

 Minor editing.

Here we’re talking about taking the piece section by section and checking it for inconsistencies of headings, fonts and styles. If you’ve set up all your styles at the beginning you shouldn’t need this but it’s always best to check it out because we all slip up sometimes.

This is where you do your grammar, spelling and sense check. Just because your spellcheck says something is spelled right, doesn’t mean it’s the right word. Think of the differences between their, there and they’re. Spell check programmes show you multiple choices which don’t help you choose.

This is also the place to take out all the prhases you use too much. We all have them and yours will appear without you remembering you used them.

Use the readability stats that you find in tools in Word. After you’ve done the spell check these should come up automatically. They’ll show you whether you have too high a level of passive sentences. Active is better. The text is more alive and moves along faster.

Proof reading

Even when you’ve done major and minor edits you need to proof read. Or better you need to find someone else to do it for you. If you’ve written a major piece of work then this is vital. It will cost you because proof reading is not cheap. Or rather good proof reading isn’t. but it makes all the difference.

If you really don’t have a budget for proof reading then find someone who has the skill and offer barter. Cook them a meal, dig their garden or do whatever it takes.

But please don’t skimp on this stage.

Depending on the length of your piece then this stage can be done in an hour, a day or it could take several weeks. It’s important because clear editing can make the difference between an okay piece of text and a good one. Or the difference between a good piece and one that knocks your reader sideways with amazement.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Writing your book: how to name it

I attended some pretty brutal writing bootcamps in the US.  Their principle of writing for business was quite simple. 

Did it work or not?

Didn't matter how great your writing, how elegant, how correct.  As far as they were concerned it was useless if it didn't produce a response.

And that attitude underpinned what new products or services they introduced.  Was it needed or not?  They did the research first.  If it came back with a favourable response, they went ahead and invested their money.

If not, they moved on... fast.  While it may seem a harsh approach, it does save money. 

So if you're thinking of writing a book, ebook or traditional, I advise you invest some time to research titles.  Like it or not, they can play a pivotal role in how people view your book.  And as important, if a publisher might be interested.

All you have to do is think Chicken Soup for the Soul.  Hate them or love them, those books are a testament to a successful title.

Do the research.  Please.  You'll save yourself a lot of heartache in the long run.

This post is based on an extract from The Writer's Little Book... with Big Ideas.  For more information on the book see

Monday, 19 March 2012

Writing for your business: 5 ways to generate ideas

Look at your books
Choose 3 books. Write down wny you bought, borrowed or stole them from friends. Analyse why you like or dislike them. Check how easy or difficult they are to use. Can you write something on the same subject in a different way? Or can you write something in the same way on your own expertise?

 Listen to what your family, friends or work colleagues grouse and complain about
Does the same problem keep coming up? Maybe it’s a problem common to mums in your neighbourhood. Or a practical problem with equipment at work. Or some member of your family always struggles with technical whatsits that are easy peasy for you to sort

Start to ask around and find out if it’s the same more widely. What you hear will spark off some ideas.

Do some research
Write down 10 topics.  Needn't be anything to do with what you offer. Now dig for some research on the web, in your local bookstore or newsagent. Find out what is written about them. Out of your 10 words you might come up with a couple of suggestions to create articles, blog ideas or a book.

Make connections
Successful companies are not always those who only innovate. They’re also the ones who make the connections other people don’t consider. Allow your mind to range widely and think about connecting successful ideas, methods and systems from one sector and apply it to another one.

 Help yourself to generate more ideas
Creativity is not some talent only the few have access to. You can increase the flow of ideas in practical ways. Use an ideas capturing system. Can be as simple as a small jotter and pencil tucked in a pocket or bag. Or as complex as a recording system. Choose whatever works for you.

Then make sure you use it.

Just as your muscles react to regular exercise by being more efficient, so you creative juices flow in response to you paying attention.  Of course not every idea will be a winner.  But you know you may only need one to hit the jackpot.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Writing Stage 3: that all important pause

It might seem artificial to create a stage named pause. You could say that when you reach the end of writing you stop and then move on to looking back at your writing.

Based on my experience I’d like you to consider inserting this Pause stage into your writing process. I don’t know what you’re writing but if the piece is longer than a few pages you could be faced with revising or checking a complex layout, dense text and other people’s views.

At this point you need to put some distance between you and the words.  Here are some ways you can make the most of this stage.

Take the time out to do something unconnected with your writing
Mental exhaustion is a common result of intensive writing. You’re written out, wrung out maybe depending on what you’ve written about. Setting aside your work gives you the chance to revive. I know that when I’ve finished a long piece I can’t bear to look at it for a few days. I have no more ideas to add to it.

Check your physical state.
Have you ever finished a piece of writing, got up from the computer and almost stumbled. Although we know that it makes sense to time ourselves when working at a laptop or desk, it’s all too easy to become so involved that we forget to eat, take rest or any of the things that we need.

Now's the time to do whatever helps you restore your physical get up and go. Take a shower, hit the gym, go for a walk or run. All of those things will help to break down the stress chemicals that have built up in your body as you raced towards your deadlines.

Slumping in a chair at this point won’t be helpful. You’ll end up feeling more tired and drained. So get active in whatever way you enjoy.

Get creative
What activity so absorbs you that you forget time and place?  Apart from writing I mean.

Now’s the time to indulge yourself and listen to music, paint, garden or whatever activity you enjoy that isn’t related to work.

What’s the purpose of this?

It’s to start those ideas again brewing in your brain. Without you being aware of it you’ll kickstart your enthusiasm to look at the writing with fresh eyes... and ideas.

Trust your unconscious to help you out here. If you’ve been clear of your intentions for the writing, and you’ve allowed yourself free rein in the writing, then that’s fertile ground for your unconscious mind to start sorting. When you sit down to edit, all kinds of connections will come to you that you can add in to your piece and strengthen it.

And stop feeling guilty taking this time out. See it as a separate stage in your writing process and then you can justify it to anyone who thinks that you’re only taking time off.

This post is based on the section in The Writer's Little Book... with Big Ideas.  For more information about the book go to

Friday, 9 March 2012

Article Writing: are you a sprinter or a marathon runner?

I’m not a runner; in fact my PE teacher, and yes I know how old that makes me sound, told me I seemed allergic to exercise.  If I'd had more courage I'd have told her I was only allergic to the kind she promoted, like running on the spot.

But I do like watching athletics and guessing at the psychology that draws people to different events.  I particularly like long distance events because of the need for strategy and planning over a period.

In any kind of running, mental attitude is as important as physical ability.  Particularly in distance running like marathons. It’s you against the road.

You might ask what has that to do with writing?

I link it not only to the actual writing but the activity that drives the writing. Article writing is now one of the strategies that we have to use if we run any kind of business.

And just as in running when a marathon has to be divided into sections, so you’re not overwhelmed by the distance, so your writing has to be broken down into the things you have to write. Marathon runners often talk about ‘hitting the wall’ at a certain point of the race. That might be the equivalent of a lean spell with your writing when it seems like you have to force yourself to write anything.

All writers face dry spells; certainly I do and having recently gone through one maybe it will help if I offer you the solutions I found. To a large extent it’s back to the psychology of writing. If you’re running a marathon  there will be times another single step might seem impossible. But runners keep going because they’ve executed the routine of running a marathon so many times that stopping becomes unthinkable. In writing sometimes you feel ‘written out’ when it’s tiring to type and think of the words you need.

Just as there are strategies in running, so there are equivalents in your writing.

  • Take on plenty of fluid and energy drinks
Take this literally and make sure that it’s not your body’s tiredness that is causing your mind to refuse to work for you. Physical tiredness causes mental exhaustion so make sure you have a balance of activities and you’re not slumped over your computer for too long. Get up, stretch and go outside for fresh air or if that’s impossible open a window. Drink plenty of water. Mental and physical tiredness can also result from physical dehydration.

  • Limber up for your writing
Depending what you’re writing, you need to carry out research. Not doing this basic work before you      start writing means you’re not prepared. Running a marathon without regular and sustained training          sessions would be at the least foolhardy and at worst possibly fatal if you’re not fit.

Speed and fluency in writing comes from being in tune with your subject and knowing what you want to say. Research underpins your writing and gives you the confidence to allow the words to flow.

  • Avoid the boredom
Boredom kills creativity. Stone dead. If the passion has gone out of your thoughts about your business, product or service then you’ll find it difficult to write effectively.

Being in business is tough. We can admit it and know it’s certainly not all good. There are many down times too. Accepting this natural cycle means that you will be better prepared for them.

I came across a great strategy in the work of David Bach some years ago. If you really feel that you can’t achieve anything productive, then have a clear out or tidying session.  Creating space, even if it’s only on your desk, shifts the energy around you and allows a shift in your mental attitude. I don’t know why it works but it does. Maybe it’s because you see a clear desk and then you see your way clear to do something. However small, it’s a break out of that trough you’ve sunk in and then you’re away again.

Being passionate about what you do is the strongest strategy in writing. Keeping that energy level high is vital to keep your writing positive and optimistic.

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Being creative doesn't stop you being businesslike

Over the last twenty five years I've been associated with several small businesses, some of them my own.  I can confidently state that if there's a business mistake to make, I've probably made it.

That's why I know if you're a writer of any kind and intend to make money from your writing, you need to adopt some businesslike attitudes.  It might scare you, especially if you think of the tax implications but that's all the more reason to face up to certain facts about being in business.

  1. A little structure underpinning your business from Day 1, will save you headaches in the long term.
  2. Not all accountants are rogues and can also save you pain if you use them with care.
  3. Assuming you will attract clients and behaving as if you know what you are doing pays off.
This is particularly so with regard to terms and conditions of trading.  Doing work for clients is one thing.  Getting paid for it is another.

One of my jobs in a company that employed me was to chase up invoices for goods.  Getting paid was ten times worse if the paperwork wasn't in order.  It gave them the chance to nitpick.

If you're in the East Midlands there's an event that might help you start off on the right foot. The University of Nottingham's Ingenuity Programme holds Breakfast events on a variety of topics. The meeting on 12th March includes a talk by Margaret Burrell, and expert in Terms and Conditions.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Homestaging your book

Have you ever thought about how people will approach looking at your book?  Of course it would be great if they started at the front, read all the way through to the end and considered the whole thing totally wonderful.

From experience as a librarian,writer and observer of book buyers, that's not what happens.

I've seen the following happen:
  • start at the back and look at the comments
  • flick through to see how long the chapters are
  • go to the introduction to learn about the author
In short, every which way happens.  Which is why you need to consider this not only when writing the book but working out the layout.

I'd equate it to how people view houses for sale.  Some are thinking about the plumbing, some about the garden and still others wondering how they can fit in all their ornaments.

And you need to consider how your writing can appeal to all of them.

This is a short extract from The Writer's Little Book... with Big Ideas.  For more information on how to purchase this book please go to

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Writing East Midlands Flash Fiction Competition

Writing East Midlands has teamed up with Derby Telegraph and Waterstones Derby, to launch a Flash Fiction Competition for Derbyshire Writers.

Award-winning author Stephen Booth has agreed to judge the competition, with the shortlist and winning story being published in the Derby Telegraph.
For more information:

Monday, 5 March 2012

Writing for your business: How to move your readers from reading to clicking that button

What’s inertia?  My dictionary defines it as a tendency to do nothing. And a resistance to change

People often tell me I do a lot.  If so it's in direction opposition to the challenge I face every day. Especially in winter when I’d much prefer to hibernate. Curling up and ignoring the world on a day the wind howls outside and the showers catch out the unprepared.

As business people, a head under the blankets attitude isn’t an option at any time. And these days there are so many things we have to keep up with.  Facebook, Twitter, blogging and now Pinterest. Grr. Can you imagine me disappearing in the cloud of smoke of my tailspin.  Which too often ends up in me taking no action at all.

Do it tomorrow is what I think. Or nobody’s listening anyway.

Not true though often we don’t realise they are. Not everybody sticks their head above the parapet to comment or connect.

So I have to carry on as if they need me. Need the help I can offer. A friendly word that might just turn around a difficult day for them. Or a solution so easy for them to take up it’s a no brainer.

As writers we're no different from our readers. We’ve problems and need solutions. We've woken up with a great idea and want to make things happen. Some day. Some day we’ll lose weight, buy the training package or get immersed in social media.

What stops us from sorting out all our challenges? We find out about solutions, we like the sound of them, we tell people how great it will be. Then we stick.

As a reader of a clothes catalogue I tear through it ticking off the items I like. In short I could spend a lot of money… which I’m sure the company wants me to do. But I’ve put in a pre buying strategy that says wait. At least 24 hours and better 48.

And what happens then? 9 times out of 10 I don’t buy.

How to counter inertia in your readers

When I examine all the techniques a company employs to try to break down my inertia I’m doing it both as a buyer and as a professional writer. As a writer I can admire their time deadlines, their offers to pay delivery, their limited availability.

As a buyer I’m deeply cynical and know they’re trying to manipulate my buying process.

How can we make our buying offers so important our readers can’t ignore it?

Dig deep and understand our buyers.  After all, who are we? Can they trust us?

Understand how scared they are of changing. What if it doesn’t work out for them? What if their family, friends, colleagues make fun. We need to make their way to change an easy path.

The change they’re making might have been forced on them. At the back of their mind is always this nagging little voice – ‘but will it work?’  followed up by 'Can I get my money back?'

And the final piece of the jigsaw puzzle is accepting it may take several contacts with your buyer before anything happens.

My cat often makes several half hearted attempts to go out of the house in the morning before he gets all the way outside. He's sniffing the air, checking for intruders, thinking if he stays put we'll feed him again.  When and only when he's ticked off all his worries does he take the plunge.

 We as buyers aren’t much different from him.

Friday, 2 March 2012

Writing for your business: Clients or customers?

How do you describe the people who buy from you?

It’s not unusual to hear people say, ‘This job would be fine without the customers’. And since we’re all human it’s obvious that sometimes people coming to us for our products or services can drive us mad. I put my hand up and confess I've had clients who caused me irritation and impatience.

Some large companies get rid of 10% of their worst customers each year on the basis that they make no profit from them and yet that 10% are as demanding as the top 10% of their high buying customers.

When we write for our ideal reader, what view do we have of them?

If we understand marketing, then we know we have to create a picture of their way of living, find out as much as we can about their needs and pitch to that.

But are we investing in them as real human beings, similar to us? People we might meet at the school gate or in the supermarket queue. And are we offering them the respect that they deserve and treat them accordingly?

Recently I read something about treating people not how we would like to be treated but how they wish to be treated. It made me stop and think about my attitudes. Of course I want to be treated with respect, and as an individual, not lumped in with hundreds of thousands in my so-called social category. I don’t want to be pigeon holed because I live in a particular area or type of house. In short I don’t want to be seen as anything other than an individual who has conflicting thoughts about life and how to live it.

That’s how I've always tried to behave towards others  Do I now need to go an extra mile?

I believe that it is possible to run a business, treat those who come to me with respect and turn a profit. To do so may need a shift in thinking. It may require me to say goodbye to some clients who aren’t a good fit for me.

And I certainly it starts from how I think about them and write to them.

Despite the fact that traditionally only professionals such as accountants or lawyers used the word ‘client’ in describing people they deal with, does the word we choose have an effect on the way we behave?

How would you like to be described?  Are you a customer or a client?

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Writing for your business: how to create a winning testimonial

What is a testimonial?
A testimonial is a favourable assessment of your services or product by someone outside your company.  In short it's someone else singing your praises.

How do you create effective testimonials?
Online by encouraging feedback on your website, in your blog and product pages.
Offline by asking face-to-face clients for their feedback.

Isn’t this scary?  Yes it often feels so especially if you're new in business. Even if you're scared,  think of the advantages of clients telling others how you've motivated them, solved a problem or shown them a new way of doing something.

How do we ask for feedback that won’t turn into all criticism?
It’s tempting for us to think that we know what our buyers want, and what they like about our product or service. But we’re deluding ourselves if we think we have it right all the time. Less positive comments give us the chance to improve our performance.  And wouldn't you prefer they give us that chance?

Here are some easy steps to end up with winning testimonials
First: ask what they like about what you did for them.

Asking for the positive first allows the focus to be on what they like rather than giving them a blanket permission to destroy us.

Second: ask for a couple of ways to improve what you do
Doing this proves to them you value their opinion. Shows them you take their business seriously.

Third: construct a testimonial or review from what they’ve said
Clients will say they're satisfied with what they receive. But they often put off telling us . The problem about getting that positive feedback is many people are hesitant about writing it. That’s why it’s better if you guide them. Here’s a formula that avoids general feedback like ‘fabulous’ ‘or wonderful service’ which convinces nobody.

  1. Take the problem that you help them solve
    2.   Add on the way you helped

   3.   Plus the result

And you have a specific viable testimonial.

For example:

Before buying your product, I’d always struggled with my accounts. So I was hesitant to buy yet another program. But your helpful 30-day trial convinced me to try it. And I have to say the results were better than I hoped. Not only did I find it easy to use with clear instructions and help feature, but also it worked exactly as it said it would.  Now my accounts are up to date every month, taking me only a couple of hours to complete. Thank you for your product and service.

Anyone reading such a testimonial can find specifics to relate to and will be reassured.

Finally and most important.
When people offer you feedback, you need to have their permission to use their names and to edit if necessary their feedback. Not to change what they’ve said which will be illegal, but to shorten sections where needed.

Reliable feedback built up over years will produce results for you far beyond the effort you make to acquire it.

Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Blasting the blank page bogey out of your life

Sometimes we need to loosen up our writing by doing straightforward things. 

Complete the following sentence.  As I waited at the bus stop, standing next to me in the queue was...

Let your imagination go.  Or remember a time you stood in a bus queue. 

You don't have to show this to anybody  You can delete everything you write.  Or you can use the idea as a basis for a story.

This exercise is taken from my book The Writer's little book of Big Ideas.  To see more about the book go to the home page.

Inspiring quotes for writers

"Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be." Abraham Lincoln

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Happy birthday Michel de Montaigne

"Even on the most exalted throne in the world, we are only sitting on our own rear end."

I can't remember at this late stage what made me buy his Essays back in the 1960s but unlike other philosophers I bought then because I thought I should, his book still sits on my shelves.  Well thumbed. 

There have been several articles and this last few months even a radio play about him.  Maybe his time has come again.  All I know is that from the first he made me laugh and something in his down to earth words clicked with me.

Monday, 27 February 2012

Writing for your business; how to change your mindset about writing

Recently I was talking to a woman trying to set up a business from home. She was committed, passionate... overwhelmed.. Then she said, ‘And I’ve got to write for my website.’ I almost laughed because she sounded so tragic. But I didn’t because I knew for her it was a difficult task. So we sat down and I tried to find a way to help her write about something she loved doing.and wanted to share with others.

She mentioned three difficulties that were preventing her from writing.

1. I hated writing in school.

2. My mind goes a blank when I start to write.

3. Nobody will want to hear from me; what do I know?

Let's unpick what's happening with each of these mind blocks.

1. I hated writing in school.

Writing in school is specific to school work, passing exams and getting good grades.  Ticking the boxes often.  If you’re not naturally good at writing, it gets worse if you receive bad grades. Especially when teachers either don’t have the time or won’t show you an easier way to tackle the writing.

How do you blow this obstacle out of the water? By realising that you’re when you write about your business you're not writing an essay. That’s not what’s needed. You do have to follow some kind of order in your writing but that’s because you want people to understand you.

Think back to how you found out about what service or product you offer. What excited you about it? Was it because you had a problem and it provided the solution?

If so then write down what your problem was and how the product or service solved it. Create how you felt at the time with this problem and then how you felt when it was solved.  Use emotional words in your writing. That’s important because it’s the emotion around the problem and its solution that will create the connection with your reader..

2. My mind goes a blank when I start to write.

Accept that writing may not be your biggest talent at the moment. But you may be great at talking to people about your business. I’ve seen many women freeze when they start to write even though I know how responsive and articulate they are when speaking.

So make the most of the skill you have. Value it in a positive way and record what you want to say about your business. If you still feel self conscious about doing that, then ask a friend to interview you.

Choose some questions they can ask you and then record your conversation. In some ways this is better because they can prompt you as the conversation develops and remind you of things you may have overlooked.

Transcribe the conversation (TOP TIP for transcription – record in small sections.  You won’t have to go backwards and forwards on the tape then). What you’ll have in your transcription is a basic piece of writing about your business. Polish it over time but you’ll have done 80% of the work.

3. Nobody will want to hear from me – I’m not famous and I’m an every day kind of person.

Which would you prefer the gentle advice or the harsh?
Gentle is to say you have your own identity and unique take on what you’re doing.
Harsh is to say get over yourself.

Take your choice.

My Mum used to tell me off for being shy. She said it was selfish because I was making people work harder to get to know me. And I had a responsibility to make other people feel comfortable.

(Great technique for parties or networking by the way if you are shy; imagine you’re the hostess and it’s your job to make sure nobody feels lost or alone. It always gives me the courage to approach people on their own and start a conversation.)

If you’re running a business you’re doing it because you believe you can help other people. That means that you have a responsibility to share what you know. It’s not being selfish to want our point of view to be heard. I’ve been helping a coach writing a book with this same problem. Her version of this was, ‘there’s nothing left to say.’

So I asked her ‘has it been said from your point of view with your experience?’

And in terms of your customers, well they’re every day people like you with the same human problems and the same need for solutions. That’s your connection to them and you have no idea how much you can help them till you try.

Saturday, 25 February 2012

How to write for your business: making that real connection with your reader

I’ve talked in other articles about the passion that led you into your business and how you need to project that passion in your writing.

3 strategies to use to energise your writing:

1. Create a picture of your reader.

2. Hold in your mind what you can do for them.

3. Connect at a deep level with them.

It’s easy to lose sight of these elements when we’re in a hurry to write for our website, an article or brochure. Deadlines, deadlines, deadlines can cause us to skate over the surface of what we want to say.

Taking time to dig deeper can have positive results and unexpected benefits.

1. Create a picture of your reader

When I was learning to write for business I was taught to create a profile of my ideal reader for the product or service I was writing about. Everything down to what type of shoes they might wear and what they ate for breakfast. At the time it seemed overkill to me but try talking to your audience  individuals

After all, only one person at a time reads your words... even if someone is reading over a friend's shoulder, they're still reading in their own way at their own pace.  Each person interprets what they read based on their experience.  To prove that ask a few people you trust to read something of yours and watch as they each come up with a different reaction.

Listening to your customers, really listening, not merely trying to sell them, will lead to a deeper understanding of their needs. And that’s what we all want isn’t it? To be understood as individuals.

2. Hold in your mind what you can do for them

Whenever I write for a client, my focus is on what result they want.  Yes of course I want to write the best piece possible.  But it's not about my writing and how elegant or precise it might be.
I try to imagine the client they're aiming at.  What are their needs, their desires, their fears?

My goal is to help my client make the best connection possible with those individuals.  Holding that intention in your mind can cause you to write in a different way.

3. Connect at a deep level with them

What you write about your business has this possibility of changing someone’s life. In what I’ve helped clients to write I’ve seen the impact on individuals.

I’ve seen people who didn’t think they could write, create not only websites but books. I’ve seen people change their lives by means of coaching they’ve received from a generous spirit. And I’ve seen the business owner change as a result.

Let your writing express your emotions; create your individual position and trust that you’ll connect with those who need you.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Quotes for writers

"Substitute 'damn' every time you're inclined to write "very"; your editor will delete it and your writing will be just as it should be."  Mark Twain

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

How to write articles for your business: common elements in all your writing

If you’ve ever admired someone who writes fast and without mistakes but worry that you’ll never be so proficient, here are some of their secrets to speed up your progress.

All professional writers have a system and you can develop your own method when writing anything for your business.  Of course experienced writers can write faster than you, after all it’s their job. And it may take you some time to get into your groove. But being in charge of the writing for your company is the most valuable marketing tool you can develop. Believe me the practice will pay off.

All methods will depend on the same key points.  Keep these key points in mind every time you write and you'll shorten the time it takes you.

1. Cut out unnecessary fluff.

Many of the new entrepreneurs I work with confused themselves by writing too much. They were so afraid of missing out anything important that they included everything. Rather like my history essays back in school.
That’s inevitable in the beginning because you may not have worked out exactly what is important in marketing terms. It isn’t a bad stage to go through because it does make sure you don’t forget anything.

One way of sorting out what’s fluff and what isn’t is to have someone else look at your writing. If you can’t afford a professional writer to work with, then find a friend who knows something about the market you’re aiming at.

What you need is an objective assessment of your strengths and weaknesses in relation to the market. That’s what a professional would provide because they’re looking for the most powerful strengths in your history, your product and service they can find to put across to the reader.

2. Cover essential elements

Every piece you write will be slightly different depending on who it’s aimed at, where you’re placing it and what result you want from it.

You still need to build it around the same basic, sound, structure no matter its destination. This will be part of the method that will help you write fast, with a purpose and to create a result

Many business writers use open questions to help them construct a piece of text and I urge you to try it out if you haven’t used it before.

Who, What, Why, When, How.  I've heard them described as the writer's best friends.

To walk you through how it might work for your business I’ve chosen the example of a coach providing career change services from a home office.

What type of coaching do you offer?
Can I see you face to face or have consultations by telephone?
Why would I choose your service rather than another coach?
What results might I see and how long would it take to see those results?
How can I pay for your services?
When can I access your service?

These and many other questions will come up about any type of business.  Having the answers at the heart of what you write helps.  Which leads us to:
3. Make it easy for your reader.

I'm busy, I'm in a hurry and I want to know NOW, please.
The questions I’ve outlined above offer you a way in to cover the essential and often repeated requests for information.  Whatever our business, these days in a global market very few of us can claim a monopoly of service. That means we have to have something that draws people to us. More often than not, it proves to be us as business people. It’s the relationships we build that create the business.

That’s why creating easy to read text is vital in connecting with your reader. Develop your personal writing style centred and grounded in your passion for your business and belief that you can help people with your product or service.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

How to write for your business: becoming the expert

When you start in business for yourself you may not feel very confident about your skills at running a business. But what you’ll feel confident about is how well you know your area of expertise or products.

That's important because it  means you can create your expert status easily.

Here are some ideas on how to use your expert knowledge to promote your business.
1. Offer your knowledge whenever you network

If you attend many networking events you know that you’re likely to go home with a pocket full of business cards. (Tip for networking: Wear a jacket with two pockets. Keep your cards in one and use the other for the cards you receive.)

Which cards stick out in your mind?  The ones where you make a real connection, or the ones which are different?  How about choosing something that will be so different and useful to those who receive it that they’ll remember you?

Write a short article – under 250 words – with tips as an introduction to what you do. You have three choices then:

1. Take the articles ready photocopied and hand them out at the event.

2. Give out a card with a web page where they can download your article.

3. Offer to email them the article.

This strategy sends out 3 messaages. First that you’re comfortable writing. Second that you know what you’re talking about. Third that you’re generous with passing on information.

2. Make connections that will have people coming to you for information

Have some pieces written on different aspects of your business that you can offer to people in the media immediately. Perhaps to your local paper, trade journal or community news.

As soon as people in the media know you can write something interesting and can supply it at a moments notice, they’re more likely to use you.   Looking forward you can suggest a column of advice on your topic that will be of genuine interest to your readers.

3. Be prepared to be generous with what you know

It’s very tempting when you’re new in business to hold to your chest your particular skills – in case someone steals your ideas or products.  But offering something free before people ask for anything is a way to stimulate the practice of Reciprocity. (for a more in-depth look at Reciprocity I recommend Robert Cialdini’s book on Influence.).

You may think this is a risky strategy and of course you have to use some judgement about what you can share or not. But I’m a believer in sharing and I know from my own experience that you receive back more than you give out. It may not come back in the same way but come back it will.

Remember that many who might be able to benefit from your advice and knowledge may not be in the position to pay for high value items like consulting. Give them a way in to you that will build a long term relationship.  They could end up becoming a new, very profitable client when they grow their business.

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Happy National Libraries Day 2012

I went to my local library this morning to borrow a DVD and wish the staff a Happy National Libraries Day.  They were aiming across all the Derbyshire libraries to issue 10,000 books today so I added in my contribution to help.  Of course I was tempted to do so by the chance of winning some book tokens!

Walking back I began to think about the contribution libraries have made to my life and how much poorer I'd have been without them.  So this is my love letter to libraries today and all who work in them.

For a start I'd have missed out on twenty years of a fascinating career.  And that's my first confession.  It's thirty years since I stopped being a librarian but it's still in my blood.  That professional instinctive look round when I walk in any library.  How do they do things, what's on offer and what are the staff like?

It was Monica Edwards, librarian who tempted me into my career.  One of a series of career novels when I was growing up and haunting our local library, over the canal bridge and on the first floor of the local council offices.  Followed by Monica Edwards, mobile librarian; both of which I became.  A love born of three strands; the books, of course, the borrowers, and the organisation.  All those trays with readers tickets and book cards.  Bless the Brown issuing system.

When I joined Lancashire County Library straight from school I felt like I'd died and gone to heaven to be surrounded by thousands of books.  Despite spending much of a year in the subterraneun regions of the circulating department  our reach stretched over the whole county as we sorted, allocated and despatched books every week.  And I did get to see parts of the county on two mobile routes across some of the most beautiful hill country outside Preston.

Libraries now are so different from when I began.  Computers were starting to be used when I left my final posting in academic libraries and very few could have quite predicted then the technology now available in all libraries. 

It's my belief libraries will survive; despite our staid image, librarians have always been ready to meet changing conditions and times.  Surviving the current loss of funding will be challenging but I'm heartened by the commitment in Derbyshire to keep the service going. 

Very few people I guess look up as they walk in my local library and study the inscription about it being a Carnegie library.  A man with a vision to allow those less fortunate to have access to a place of learning and of safety.  A place where if you wanted you could meet like minded people. 

Even in these days of Google and Amazon, I pray that such places still will exist, where all are welcomed, their horizons extended and doors are opened.  It happened for me and changed my life.

Thursday, 2 February 2012

How to create a book - fast

Writing articles is a great way to offer short, targeted information to your readers.  Having exerted yourself to produce the article why not make more use of it?

Turn your articles into a book.

What me an author you cry?  Of course you an author.  And to your cry of why me, my answer is, Why Not?

Today’s internet technology with self publishing companies takes the hard work out of it.  No longer do you have to worry about the technical aspects of publishing.  They guide you every step of the way.

And what better calling card can you have than a book?  Proves you know what you're talking about.

Gone are the days when you're at the mercy of publishing houses.  One of my clients chose to self publish.  Why?  Because she then was in control of the time the book emerged and how it was marketed.

If you have any kind of social media presence, you can strengthen your position... ahead of time by dropping hints about what you're doing.
If you still need convincing, here are three reasons for writing to help you decide on the type of articles you can write that will form the core of the book.

Make sure your writing is market driven
Listen to the feedback you receive from your customers.

When you analyse your Google stats and customer testimonials they tell you what your customers and prospects are interested in.

Run an online survey.  Link it from a newsletter where you talk about a problem in your market.  Ask them what their priorities are.
When you collate this information, certain topics will rise to the surface every time. That's what you need to focus on..

Even if you only have 50 pages of information., it doesn't matter.  As long as that information is valuable to your reader, people will pay you for it.

Use all your offline networking skills

Talk to people.  Everywhere.  Depends of course what your products or services cover.  Go where your customers meet.  School gates, golf clubs, dancing studios.  Doesn't matter where as long as you can get some face to face feedback about what's needed.

Or how about taking someone out to lunch.  Listen, listen and listen some more.  If they have no objection, record it then transcribe the information. 
Even if you hate the thought of it, giving talks is a great way of connecting.  Go in with an open mind, and some specific information you know will be helpful.  It may take a few talks before you feel comfortable; it did for me.  But doing it offers you ideas and possibilities you might not see otherwise.

Be social media savvy
Haven’t time to spend on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter? Think of it as market research again rather than being a waste of time. One of my clients is using discussion forums to start conversations as a way of refining the topics she’s chosen for her book.

What’s surprised her, because she normally works in a local area is that the commenting is global.  It changed her perspective on her book from - oh little unknown me, to I have the chance to influence people globally.

It’s opened up her thinking about how to present the information and the topics to focus on. From being a rather reluctant writer, she’s become much more involved in the process of creating what people need.

I hope I've started you thinking about a book, even if it still scares you. Having done it, I can tell you it frightened me. But take it in easy stages and you can do.

Any book you write will find an audience, if you make sure that you’re addressing the problems that people suffer and need solving.


Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Writing for your business: building a firm foundation

When you decide to set up a business from home, you may not have much experience of writing for a business.  What I know from my experience and that of clients is that when you think about writing for your business, it helps to be clear about three things:

1. Your passion for your business

2. What you want to communicate to others about your business

3. The result you want from the communication

As with any aspect of a business, the more you can refine what you do into a system or method, the more efficient you’ll become. That means you’ll not only save time, you’ll be able to respond fast to opportunities to promote your business.  Let’s look at the three points.
  1. Your passion for your business
Very few people go into business solely to make money. Many home based businesses grow out of a hobby, a passion or a talent you have.  This is important because the passion keeps you going when other things fail. But it’s also a vital part in communicating what you have to sell.

How many times have you read brochures or websites and bailed out because the words didn’t involve you? Here’s where one of your major strengths lies.

You love what you do or you wouldn’t bother to do it.

So tell people. Use that passion in everything you write. Remember what fired you up enough to make you want to be part of it.

2.   What you want to communicate to others about your business?

Write down all the positive words you can about what you’re doing. Keep going till you’ve run out of space and breath.

Now go through all the words you’ve written and choose the 3 words that are most important to you.
These may be feelings you have about the way you carry out business; ethical, friendly or green. They may be about the results you can achieve for those who use your products or services.

What ever it is, focus on those. If those were the only three words you could write or speak about your business, would they tell people exactly what you want to say?  It may take you several attempts to come to a conclusion. Please make the effort because being clear about your core values, will pay off every time you write about your business.

3. The result you want from the communication

Make sure it’s clear what you want them to do as a result of reading your words. This might seem obvious; you want them to buy. But remember there may be important stages in between and they need to be spelled out to create the long term relationship you want.

Apply these simple tests to everything you write and you will become a more effective writer.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Writing for your business: How to avoid being stale in your writing.

Last year I had to make a trip to the Far East on family business. The trip was sudden and in some ways unwelcome. But like any experience rather than concentrate on the negative parts of the trip, I’ve found myself more and more thinking about the positives.

One of these was a change of perspective. Not only on a personal level because of the nature of the situation but also as a writer. When writing for your business it’s so easy to become jaded and think along the same lines all the time.

I don’t know if you’ve ever been down in the dumps about a business problem and had the chance to run it past someone else. Don’t you find that even if they know nothing about business, talking the problem through suddenly offers you a solution?

By extension being out of your normal setting can make that even more of a benefit. That distance from all the day to day stuff like the firefighting you have to do that leaves no time to consider the bigger picture.
Being out of my business for a week certainly had an effect on me and it led me to think about some pointers that maybe you can weave into your writing to give a fresh approach or feeling to what you do.

1. What does it look like from over there?

However much we try to put ourselves in our customer’s place it can be difficult. Needs time and sometimes energy.

One way of doing it is to physically move. You may have come across this technique in a therapy setting but it’s very useful in business too.

a) Place 3 chairs in a triangle shape facing each other.

b) First position is that of the service or product provider. From here outline what you have to offer.

c) Now move to the chair facing you (2nd position). Imagine that you’re a person who needs what is offered and make an instinctive response to the offer.

d) Now move to the chair in between (3rd position) and reflect on the two positions, the offer and the response.

It’s surprising what can come up in this exercise. If you feel embarrassed to do it, nobody else needs know about it. You can do it when your home is empty of everyone else. Be open to what might come up. If it’s an objection you haven’t previously thought about then you’re gaining valuable feedback to address in your writing.

2. What can you learn from another type of business?

We often look at our competitors to see how they are writing about the business we’re both in. It’s more fun and offers a different dimension if you look what other people do in another type of business.

You may remember about the delivery companies such as Fedex and UPS who moved to using hubs having seen the idea work to great effect in other businesses.

What businesses can you learn from in writing about your business?

3. Why do the same as everyone else?

The series Mad Men became a runaway success and has influenced so many areas of life such as clothes and decorations. We’re often fascinated by other periods of history.

Some of the most successful marketers of our time have produced great results by using what might be considered old fashioned ways of approaching customers.

If you check out the internet, you’ll find many websites devoted to older styles of advertising and marketing. Not that I’m not pretending that every approach will work in our time. But what you find is that the emphasis was on building relationships with prospective customers and talking to them in language they understood. No barriers of jargon or cleverness.

We know the old saying don’t we, ‘If we carry on doing what we’ve always done, we’ll carry on getting the same results.’  This applies as much to our writing as any other aspect of our lives so a change of perspective could be all you need to make a breakthrough.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Writing for your business: How do you start a conversation?

In a quiet moment last week, I was tidying up the files on my computer and came across something I’d downloaded a couple of years ago and put on the to read pile. Some headings caught my attention, one of which was about the nature of Web 2.0. Even if you aren’t comfortable with these computer terms you’ll probably know what they mean because of how you use the internet. They were talking about the differences in the way our lives are now bound up in using the internet compare say with even five years ago. This has huge impact on how you write for your business.

When I first started networking years ago, I didn’t feel too confident about walking into a room full of strangers and establishing myself as a credible business person. So I decided to ask for help from people I could see were comfortable doing it and then to take some training.

Like any other skill networking needs practice unless you’re one of those naturals. What I’ve also learned is that even the natural networkers work out what they do that gives them results and concentrate on the successful techniques they use.

You may be wondering what all this has to do with writing for your business but the truth is that you can transfer networking skills to your writing when you have decided who you want to approach.

These are the main tips I’ve been given about networking and all of them can be applied to writing.

1. Prepare before you write

At many networking courses, the speaker has reminded us that networking is just that. Working. Not socialising, enjoying the lunch, though of course that’s part of it, but working.

And I’ve talked in different articles about the need to do your research… before you start to write. The clearer you are about your reader, the more likely you are to make contact with them.  With networking, if you know a particular contact you’d like to make will be at the event you’re attending, it’s best to do some research about their company, their possible needs and how you could find a solution for them.

That’s also essential with your writing. You could meet two companies networking who might need your services, but not quite in the same way. So when you write you might talk with two people who have needs for the services or products you provide but would buy for different reasons.

You have to be able to include flexibility for people when you’re asking them to buy, particularly online. Payment plans if you’re offering a high end product or service. Ways to access your material if you’re offering information products. It will vary according to what you sell.

2. Make sure you’re not selling but building relationships

We’ve all met them at networking events haven’t we, those earnest people who are convinced that they and only they have the answer for you and can’t understand why you don’t sign up instantly.

Your conversation should be about the person you’re talking to. Not you. And even if they ask you about your company, you should tailor the information you give them to what queries they may have brought up. Not a blanket assertion that you’re the greatest.

If your focus is on them, then they’ll be interested.

3. Follow up on your contacts

That’s where often we fall down isn’t it after events? We arrive home with a pile of business cards, some notes and an honest intention to do the follow up tomorrow. Or at least within the week.

Then other things intervene. A problem with a supplier, a difficult customer or anything really. And it takes discipline to put those on one side and stop firefighting long enough to do the follow up.

But all the business gurus tell us that is where the business is won or lost. And it’s the same with your writing. Takes a lot of discipline to keep up with monthly updates, whether print or online. Takes a lot of positive thinking when you don’t receive any feedback, good or bad.

Many times I’ve thought of giving up on mine. I’m no different from you in that regard. Except that two or three times a year, that’s the way I acquire a new client. Because I’ve been talking not at them, but with them, sharing what I’ve been doing, my ideas and my tips.

We all like to see major progress in our business development such as the big contract that will keep us going for months. Often we overlook the smaller steps we can take that may not in the first instance pay off. Longer term though they can produce results in loyal clients and repeat business.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Writing for your business: going back to basics

Recently I carried out a website update for a client and I thought it might help to share with you how we went about it. This client has been in business some three years, not a very long period for a business but hers has changed in a number of ways since she started which meant looking afresh at the existing text. When.

To help you I’d like to flag up 3 areas for development we looked at which might apply to your business.

1. The purpose of the website.

When my client began her business, she was an already established illustrator as part of a team but it was the first time she had worked for herself. Proving her credentials as a single source creative was important even given her years of work. Over time her creative output has been proven with her own clients, gained from her previous reputation and now built on.

Because of that her attitude to her website has relaxed in terms of proof needed. Now she is ready and able to offer more services, that are additional proof of her growing personal reputation.

If you are a creative or a consultant coming out of a team, then your business might go through a similar process and at some point you need to check if the balance of proof is correct.

2. How to extend what you offer to visitors

When you start your business, there are 101 things you have to do. Your overall strategy will work best if you can divide it into time periods where you can add in extras. As far as your website is concerned that means ongoing editing but major revision will follow partly in response to your market’s possible needs but also according to your strategy.

For instance you may have decided that a blog is a good idea, but have neither time nor maybe writing experience to make the best of such a tool. Adding a blog at an appropriate point for you can be part of your strategy but it could also come as a response to requests from possible clients to know what else you are involved in.

3. How to strengthen what you can show about your achievements.

One of the areas I see new businesses mishandle in the information they offer prospective customers is not explaining clearly what they do. There is a tendency to assume that because we as the expert know what we do, other people can immediately grasp the same level of detail.

That’s not the case and it often takes many approaches to your market for them to be comfortable with what you offer. This is particularly the case if you have a new product or service.

Eugene Schwartz the great copywriter, divided markets up into different categories and concluded that the most difficult one to write for was the new product market. With every new product or service you’re moving people out of a comfort zone, always a tricky thing to achieve.

So you need to be aware of the maturity of the market for your product or service as part of your strategy of offering information on anything you’re adding on to your current range.  As your business grows, you will have different challenges to meet in all areas of your business; for example recruiting staff, financing your business and so on. It’s no different writing for your business but just as your passion for what you do helped you to gain customers who trust you, so your increased confidence will help you take your customers with you as your business grows.

Which Book

I was just renewing some books online at Derbyshire libraries site.  Instead of racing off the site like I normally do, I had a look around.  Looking for events.  What I found was something called Which Book that gave you suggestions under different categories.  I put some categories in and then let it search.  It was quite fun what it came up with.  One of the guest lists was a librarian from East Dumbartonshire, so it's obviously a country wide system.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Writing for your business: your New Year resolutions

1. Write little and often.

Writing a 300 word blog entry every day will make more impact on your search engine ratings than a 3000 word article every month. Search engines love content and consistency and whether you post it to a blog, your website or an article bank, over time this produces results for you.

2. Write to one person at a time.

Only one person reads your words at a time even if two people are reading together. Each interprets what you’ve written using mental filters, life experience and needs that are unique to them.

3. Create a story about your reader.

Make sure you know as much about your customers as possible. If you have several different categories of people buying your products then you need to create different stories for them. For example; a financial product for a retired couple and a young couple with a baby needs to achieve different results. Approaching them the same way will miss the target for both of them.

4. Listen to your customers.

It’s too easy to assume we know what our customers think. We need to think about our product or service from their viewpoint. Many businesses think they do that but then write about themselves not about their clients.

5. Break your message down into small chunks.

People need the full story but what they don’t need initially is an essay. However much content you need to include and for some products that’s a fair amount, make sure that they have the headlines of each topic to guide them then make each section clear and easy to understand. If you are hiding something in the text by using long words and difficult jargon, you will lose their interest and potentially their sale.

6. Use rhythm in your writing.

Good writing is like good conversation. It flows, is clear and keeps the interest. Short sentences should be mixed up with longer ones. Avoid including too many ideas in one sentence. And repeat ideas several times in different ways if necessary; that way you’ll underline the important points for them without insulting them.

7. Join the conversation in their head.

How busy are you? Mega busy probably, juggling responsibilities for home, children and work. And that’s before you start juggling the challenges in your business.

Your customers are no different and when they begin to think about buying your product or service, they are already talking to themselves about the pros and cons of finding the perfect solution to their problem. You need to join in that conversation by addressing all the likely issues they have. Avoiding them is not an option. They’ll think you’re fudging for a motive of your own. Be clear about the challenges and be clear about the solutions you can offer.

And prove it.

8. Be specific.

To follow up on number 7, when you prove your case be specific about it. If you have a 100% solution then of course say so. But understand that we’re all sceptics and we want to prove you wrong. Whatever sounds too good to be true usually is.

9. Decide what your message is before you start writing.

The worst thing you can do is sit down and write and then let it straight out to customers.

First; it won’t be the best you can do. I know no professional writers who will allow work to go to clients without checking it at least once.

Second; it won’t be clear enough. At least rough out your ideas in note form before you begin. And at have all your research to hand so you don’t have to keep looking things up as you write.

10. Enjoy your writing.

If you think that writing is like having teeth pulled then that’s how it will read. This is an article to encourage you to write for your business but if you are a beginner it may take you some time to become expert. In the meantime seek help at least with organising your writing if you need to. Pay an expert and pick their brains about how you can improve your writing fast.

Writing needs to crackle with energy and passion. The same energy and passion that you had to set up your business. Use the same approach and even if your writing may not be grammatically perfect, it will say what you want and will connect your enthusiasm for what you do.

And to finish, I wish you all the best for your business in 2012.