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.