Your Big Beautiful Book Plan

Today is Danielle LaPorte‘s birthday! Happy Birthday Danielle!

Danielle Jade

Danielle Jade (Photo credit: mlwhitt) IS THIS YOUR BOOK?

She’s throwing her own party, ’cause that’s just how she rolls. She’s a generous, knows-what-she-wants-and-how-to-get-it gal. And you can benefit.

She co-authored Your Big Beautiful Book Plan with Linda Siversten to give the benefit of their and others’ experience to you in getting your voice and bigness and gorgeousness out and into the world – where it can do some good.

And for her birthday, she’s holding a “Pay What You Can Day!” – TODAY ONLY (5.25.12, um, her birthday, if you hadn’t caught that already.) THROUGH SATURDAY 26 MAY, TIL THE STROKE OF MIDNIGHT!

So if you’re in the middle of a book, contemplating a book, at the end of a book, despairing over your book, overjoyed about your book – check it out. Be generous. To others and to yourself. And finish your book!

[Tell me what YOUR book is about in the comments here! We can write together :)]

Candles spell out the traditional English birt...

Candles spell out the traditional English birthday greeting (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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Self-publishing

Play the Right Thing

Play the Right Thing (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today is the last day of this year’s Nonfiction Writers Conference, and Mark Coker of Smashwords led the way with clarity and brilliance. When I’m not resuscitating other people’s blogs, I teach yoga and write about yoga and do yoga. I mention this because I have an Introduction to Yoga book that I’ve been wondering how to share with the world. I’ve been digging into options for about a year now, and had dismissed Smashwords early on. Boy, was I wrong!

Coker’s exposition and download of wisdom was so clear, generous and inclusive, I now understand the options, processes and best practices. I’m glad I didn’t just decide early and go with my first ideas, because I could’ve created all kinds of problems for myself. In the last hour, I’ve figured out which of my works I’ll offer free, which to charge for, how to offer and how much to charge! Again, the best seventy-five bucks I’ve spent on my business, probably ever, registering for #NFWC (I did register early).

Ok! Gotta run. Dvorah Lansky just started her talk on how to hold a virtual book tour!

Oh! One more thing: I’m tweeting the conference if you’re interested to check out the play by play. Being there is tops, of course, but if you’re seeing this after the fact or just want to check it, I guarantee you’ll find some nuggets of wisdom there. Not mine, just the mouth piece – lots of direct quotes and some awesome references. Let me know in the comments if you check it out!

Nonfiction Writers Conference #NFWC

Day two of the online Nonfiction Writers Conference is rapidly drawing to a close, and I’m absorbing a download from  blog guru and mentor, Bill Belew – The Traffic Professor and remembering sitting around that big table in Panera at Mathilda and El Camino in Sunnyvale, CA. He is representative of the authors and experts on this yearly teleconference in that he is beyond generous, crazy experienced, passionate and on fire to help other authors – who are willing to work.

Murphy Street, Sunnyvale, California. This str...

Murphy Street, Sunnyvale, California. This street in downtown Sunnyvale is the closest thing that the city has to a Main Street. Photographed by user Coolcaesar on August 24, 2005. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is hands down the best seventy-five bucks I’ve spent on education, connecting and social media ever. These are experts with integrity and depth, who are willing to answer questions offline and offer tremendous support. For the online writer, this conference is solid gold. The sunny gold of community, support and camaraderie. Check it out. There’s one more day right now, and talk of this becoming monthly, and if nothing else, keep an eye out for next year’s schedule.

The Pointless Story: Direct Your Tale

 

Standard left hand draft course

Image via Wikipedia

 

Is any story ever pointless? Yes, and no. Every story has at least one point, but too often we include stories in our writing that leave the reader wondering which point we were actually trying to make and if we couldn’t have just told them more simply.

You don’t want your reader wondering why you included  your story, or whether you were illustrating your motivation or your opponent’s misfortune. There are two basic ways to direct your tale: either tell your reader up front what you’re illustrating, or create a tale with a structure that directs your readers’ attention to the point you want them to find. Ideally, do both.

For most of us, we’re making a specific point, or maybe two, with a given story. Maybe the story is the entire piece, or perhaps the story is part of an essay, supporting one of the premises. Either way, which details remain and what order and language they wear is determined by the point the writer means to create.

In order to direct a seemingly meandering, rambling or otherwise point-seeking story, write it however it comes out at first. Often, the first telling is chronological. That’s fine, however it comes out. When you return a few days, or even hours, later, underline possible themes, important words, images and feelings. Then, practice pruning: delete anything not related to the major theme you picked. It’s okay if it becomes smaller and smaller, the material you’re editing out isn’t disappearing into some inescapable void. This part is just to find the center of your story, the fine nub you’ll then embellish with selected details.

The crux of this method is choice. The first draft allows you to get all the moving parts out onto the table. The next step is to put aside the gear that’s the exact perfect size to turn all the other cogs, and then add the cogs back in sparingly and artfully, in a way that illuminates the working of the tale.

Next time: Structure and Function – How to Create Maximum Impact with the Fewest Moving Parts

What I… What I really… What I really Mean!

Desire - 08Feb05, New Orleans, LA (USA)

Image by philippe leroyer via Flickr

Instead of focusing on your meaning – because that will arise organically when your structure supports your content – focus on what you really want. Desire drives intent drives meaning.

The magic of writing is that by doing it you find out more about yourself and your message as you actually do it. The paradox that seems to be created is this: If I sit down to write something in particular, I already have a point to make – a meaning – before I start. How, then, can the process reveal new things?

When you sit down, you have a desire: to communicate, to land a job, to reveal something, to land a place in a program, to reveal your heart, to remember something lovely or poignant – there are myriad underlying goals, but what they have in common is desire.

If you connect to what your deepest driving desire is, you won’t stop until you’ve explored it sufficiently for your task, and you won’t be deterred by playing small. Remember that until you get to a late editing stage, this is truly yours and will be best served by you getting it all out an onto paper.

Let the meaning reveal itself. You focus on revealing yours.

 

Squeeze out the last drop, throw most of it away & end up with more of what you really want

 

Freewriting. grapes, pen, notebook, progress....

Image by juliejordanscott via Flickr

 

[N+1] + [N-1] = >N
Only in a writing blog, right? Consider:

N+1 signifies  “pure optimism sprinkled with tenacity” manifest when we find that one last bit of strength after we think we’re completely washed up, according to Fred Wilson. Seth Godin’s N-1 suggests that among the weeds growing in our calendars, on our desks, agendas and even in our minds, we let a few die from inattention. Godin asks “What if you repeated N-1 thinking until you found a breakthrough?”

And I ask, What if you wrote and wrote and wrote until you thought there wasn’t any more to say, and then wrote that “one more” thing? And then, What if you dropped a word here, a paragraph there, a clause later on, “until you found a breakthrough?” What if your lead was in your fifth page, and your conclusion the first sentence you wrote? What if your seven pages made three powerful paragraphs after the application of [N-1]?

Then the process of [N+1] together with the process of [N-1] would produce something more than the original “N.” When people are unused to writing, and sometimes when we are over-used to it, we get attached to those pages and those words on the page because they refer to not only the experiences they describe, but the experience of remembering and processing those events. First of all, the important part is the processing, and that’s not in the words. Secondly, your reader doesn’t care unless it relates directly to your art.

[N+1] is your first draft, and you do it for yourself. [N-1] is one way of looking at the revision process, and you do it for your art and your reader.

Do you write like you speak?

 

New Orleans: Sign on tire shop on St. Claude A...

Image via Wikipedia

 

Unless you’re delivering prepared remarks, your spoken communication is best off the cuff and a little informal. The intimate quality created by your small pauses, changes in direction or slang can cement the relationship and deepen the communication.

Aside: unless you’re using slang words like “pimpin’,” “gansta,” and “beatch.” None of these are appropriate unless you’re very familiar, or actually are a pimp, gangter or looking for a beatch. I’m not judging, but this will limit your audience and appeal.

Do pay attention, though, because if you’re like 75% of the people’s whose written communication I read, you’ll write just like you talk. The most unfortunate part of this is that over and above the pauses, slang and mid-sentence revisions which add value to in person communication, conversational speech often rambles. And even pimps, gangsters and beatches know that rambling cuts down on business.

Rambling is a sign of either disrespect or lack of expertise. Either you’re taking a circuitous route because you haven’t thought  it through yet, or because you really don’t think your reader will notice and you’re stringing them along.

Rambling as a result of unpreparedness is easy to fix: it’s called a first draft. One reason you might want a Writing Coach is to have someone read your first draft and give you ideas on what you really meant. If you have infinite time at your disposal, you won’t need someone with professional experience at sighting and unearthing your point and the best way to show it off, because the draft and sit process will work in your favor. You’ll come back two weeks later with an epiphany, and give it another go.

However, if you’re like most people, you’re writing with a purpose and perhaps even a deadline. And even if it’s just for yourself, cutting through our own shenanigans can be challenging for the most self-aware.

Rambling as a result of disrespect is both more difficult to fix, and really just a complicated form of unpreparedness – which is why you should want to fix it. The reason it’s difficult to fix is the conviction that leading the reader on is an effective sales technique. The problem with this conviction is that by underestimating your reader, you’re short selling your self or your product. If you have something of value get to it without repeating scintillating phrases. Your reader will see the value with clearer eyes, more grateful for the straightforward delivery.

Rambling takes three forms: the pointless story, the repeated lead, and the disconnected dots. Stay tuned in next week’s blogs for specifics on how to take your writing to the next level, when one of these is your obstacle.

Re-vision

A worker mixing the pulp at the Florida Pulp a...

Image by State Library and Archives of Florida via Flickr

Write it down, get it out, get it all on paper. Cough, spew, gush. Cross out, ramble and blather.

First drafts are all about finding out what you really think and know, where you need to learn more, and what it all means. First drafts are nothing like blueprints. First drafts are the gathering of the available raw materials so you can consider what kind of a structure to build. Why plan for a log cabin in the desert? If you want a log cabin after gathering materials devoid of wood, you have two options: find new materials (research) or move locations (choose another project).

For instance, most people have to tell a story chronologically the first time. After that, you have the opportunity – though too few people take it – to make it about something other than  yourself. In most chronological tellings, the story is about the author. If your intent is to make a larger point or reveal something important about yourself, you must look at the chronological telling and find themes around which to organize your report. Then you have a story instead of a monologue.

One & the same set of facts can have myriad applications. Getting it all out on paper is your first step, and allows you to sort out the various moving parts so you can choose to relate them to a central point.When the bag of legos has been upended on the table, you can allow your vision to be emerge organically.

Hidden emotion may be underneath, or all over, your first telling. Emotion can begin as creepy undertone, but is really just one more moving part, one you may choose to highlight or remove in service of your theme. Being overt in your intent clarifies hidden emotion.

Whether you begin with a clear vision or a murky need, use your first draft to identify the moving parts. As the natural connections emerge, allow the structure to emerge organically. Your log cabin may end up an adobe with a courtyard – all the sturdier and easier to live in for the change.

Whoa, whoa, whoa Feelings…. Really: Whoa!

Can You Feel It

Image via Wikipedia

I feel that saying you feel that something is true is redundant.

More importantly, it covers something up. Why tell your reader you feel that the Party In Power is wrong? Why say you feel that the sky is blue? Or that you feel that people shouldn’t do such and such things?

Because we’ve learned that when you use the word “feel” what comes next is supposed to be unassailable. Guess what? It’s assailable… and you want it to be. What you offer is meaningless in the public commons, or most discourse, unless it’s possible that you’re wrong. It’s possible that you are wrong – nearly always, and every time you’re saying or doing anything interesting.

So provide your reader with clarity about what you mean, and give the reader some reasons to care, maybe to believe. Caring is more important, because then you’ve engaged and communicated.

When you look over something and see you’ve introduced a sentence by saying “I feel that…” first just drop those three words. Next look for the deeper truth you were covering up by using them. Then write that truth, and consider the relation between those two sentences. Now you have a structure.

That’s the way to revise your work. I don’t feel it’s true. It just is.

Show, Not Tell

 

Scrabble, Word Games

Image by libbydorazione via Flickr

 

Wasn’t the best part of show and tell always the “show” part?

Sure, it was fun to fath on a bit about the turtle or arrowhead you brought. But none of the fathing held a candle to the pure holding up of the thing.

Writing’s the same way. Don’t tell me what you want me to see or feel or think. All that shows me is what you want. Lead me. Take your reader by the hand – or heart, mind or eyes – and lead them down a path inexorably ending in your point. Create an argument for your point of view and then make it elegant, lovely and captivating.

Build word castles, sentence villages and paragraph woodlands. Grow gardens of images arranged into a bouquet of meaning so streamlined and well-put together that one flower leads to the next scent drawing the nose forward until confronted with the fragrance of truth: meaning.

All show, little tell.