Posts in ‘Writing for Business’

Thought Readership #1: An Introduction

by Liz Alexander on February 6, 2012

When copywriters are stymied on coming up with attention-grabbing headlines, compelling landing pages, or “killer” sales letters, they turn to their swipe files. Well, the smart ones do.

Rather than start from scratch, trying to figure out what works by trial and error, today’s savvy content creators and communicators look at what exemplars have done. Not to copy them, but to generate new ideas and learn some subtle tips and tricks.

Applying the concept of the swipe file to authorship inspired me to create this new series of articles we’re calling “Thought Readership.” It’s a hybrid concept: book reviews that illustrate how good manuscripts are created.

Instead of focusing only on what a selected book is about, I’ll be highlighting one or two approaches the author(s) used to produce a better-than-average business book. Think of it as a behind-the-scenes look at how books should be crafted, by folks who are not professional writers, but C-level executives, consultants, coaches, and other knowledge experts like yourself.

The advantages of regularly reading this series are two-fold:

  1. At some point you may wish to write a business book: to establish yourself as a thought leader in your field; to help promote your business or service; or to leave a legacy so that the knowledge and wisdom you’ve accrued over the years is passed on to others. This series will give you the inside scoop on what’s involved in conceiving, developing, and writing a book you can be proud of.
  2. As a reader of business books you’ll gain a new perspective that will hopefully enhance your reading experience. As Oliver Wendell Holmes pointed out, “The human mind once stretched by a new idea never goes back to its original dimensions.” You’ll find, as you’re made aware of the techniques exposed in this series, that your appreciation of books changes. The series title, Thought Readership describes the hope that you’ll not only quickly differentiate between skilled, thoughtful authors who offer you superior insights, and those who just “knock out” their manuscripts, you’ll also better understand how this difference was achieved.

For the past 25 years I’ve been a professional writer and the author of over a dozen traditionally published and self-published non-fiction books. I work with aspiring authors who are serious about putting their names on quality business books. My passion – and theirs – is to positively contribute to other people’s reading experience with material that is thoughtfully conceived, skillfully organized, and compellingly written.

Let’s consider this the beginning of a two-way conversation. As you read these Thought Readership posts, I’d like to hear from you about the business-focused books you’ve enjoyed and why. Give me the heads-up on books that couldn’t hold your attention beyond the first few pages and I’ll explore them to explain why. If you’re an author and open to a no-holds-barred assessment of your book–feel free to get in touch to send me a review copy.

You can contact me at info(at)drlizalexander(dot)com.

Together we’ll unpack what it is about some non-fiction books that grabs our attention, compels us to keep reading, and leaves us feeling satisfied that the effort was worth it.

The first review will show up in two weeks and continue bi-monthly until you let me know that you’d like them weekly. Don’t be a stranger in the meantime. Just remember that it’s how that author(s) wrote their book, not what they wrote about that’s our focus. This isn’t another book review page…it’s a “swipe file” for people who want to learn how better books are built.

12 Ideas and Tips for Finishing Your Book on Time!

by Roger Parker on December 12, 2011

Here’s a list of proven daily writing ideas, habits, and tips for finishing your book on time & with minimum fuss.

Writing a book doesn’t have to take over your life! Your book doesn’t have to prevent you from participating in the activities that are important to you. Nor, do you have to suffer the stress, embarrassment, and costs of missed deadlines.

The following ideas & tips based on my experiences, the experiences of my clients, and the experiences of the 500+ successfully published authors I’ve interviewed during the past 10 years.

1.    Visualize your success

Remind yourself why you’re writing a book. Visualize yourself signing books at your local Barnes & Noble. Think how pleased you’ll be speaking at your local Chamber of Commerce, watching your friends—and your competitors–taking notes. View your growing online presence and the growth of your e-mail mailing list.

The more you visualize your success, the easier it will be to keep yourself motivated.

2.    Avoid “binge writing”

Commit to consistent progress based on short, frequent, writing sessions. Avoid the temptation for heroic gestures, like staying up all night or sacrificing weekend or vacation time with your family.

You’ll get more done in 30-45 minutes each weekday day than you would by sacrificing your Saturdays or Sundays.

3.    Make “appointments” to write

Schedule your daily writing sessions in advance. Don’t expect to write your book in the time “left over” from your daily tasks and family obligations. Identify your most productive times of the day. Commit specific starting and stopping times for your daily writing sessions. Develop your own writing habits and rituals.

4.    Prepare to write before you start

Review your writing goals as early in the day as possible. Before you leave home, or as soon after arriving at your office as possible, look over what you wrote the previous day, and review the next topics you want to address. Looking back and looking forward engages your mind, so your brain will be processing ideas while you’re driving or performing routine tasks.

5.    Isolate yourself from interruption

Engage the support of your co-workers and family. Share your writing goals and progress with the people around you. Let them know how important your daily writing goals are, and the benefits that all will share.

Close the door to your office and use your telephone answering machine to shield you from all but the most important interruptions. Avoid incoming emails until after your writing session.

6.    Focus on quality, not quantity

Express your ideas as clearly and concisely as possible. Two pages of unique content are better than ten pages that restate the obvious. Prospective book buyers will be more impressed by the relevance and helpfulness of your ideas than the weight of your book.

7.    Realistic expectations

Avoid unrealistic comparisons with published authors. Don’t compare your first drafts with a published book. You’re not in competition with them. In addition, it’s very easy to forget that published books have usually been extensively edited and rewritten. Plus, you don’t know how long they took to write their “classics.”

8.    Set a time limit for each writing session

Avoid burnout. After 45 minutes to an hour, most authors find their productivity tapers off. Leave something for you to write tomorrow!

In addition, use a timer to alert you when the end of your session is approaching. This saves time to tie up loose ends before returning to your other tasks and concerns.

9.    Avoid premature editing

Resist the temptation to self-edit yourself during your writing sessions. Your goal is to get the first draft written as efficiently as possible. There will be time, later, to review your work from a fresh perspective, making any necessary changes. Often, authors unconsciously use perfectionism as a delaying tactic to avoid

10. Avoid unnecessary risks

Always make a back-up copy of your work at the end of each writing session. In addition to backing-up your working file, print-out your latest work on 3-hole paper and add it to the 3-ring binder where you’re storing your manuscript.

11. Share your ideas with your followers

Immediately explore ways to convert latest into marketing opportunities. After backing-up your work, make a list of topics for articles, blog posts, speeches, or tip sheets based on what you’ve just written. Take action by adding these ideas to your marketing editorial calendar creating drafts of future blog posts.

12. Review your progress at the end of each day

Review what you’ve just written and your writing goals for the next day before you go to sleep. Reviewing what you’ve written will reinforce a feeling of progress. More important, reviewing your next day’s writing goals will re-engage your mind. While you’re sleeping, your brain will be searching for connections and organizing ideas. When you start to work, your brain will be primed for action.

Bonus. Don’t be a loaner

Remain open to new ideas and resources. Get help when you need it. Olympic athletes and Fortune 500 CEO’s regularly employ coaches to help them improve their focus and performance. Why should authors be any different?

What are your writing habits?

How do you keep on schedule, so you can finish writing your book on time? If I’ve overlooked an idea or tip that’s an important part of your favorite daily writing habit or ritual, please share it, below, as a comment. And, let me know how these ideas and tips work for you. We can all learn from each other’s experiences.

Self-Published Authors Need Developmental Editing, Too!

by Roger Parker on October 31, 2011

Self-published authors need developmental editing as much as authors working with trade publishers. No one is immune to the need for a fresh perspective and reality check by an experienced editor.

Unfortunately, many self-published authors don’t get the developmental editing help they need…and their book deserves. There are several reasons for this:

  • Don’t consider it important. Sometimes, self-published authors, especially subject area experts, may feel their experience working in their field eliminates the need for developmental editing. Often, this belief is coupled with offers from family members and friends to “proof” their book for free. A willingness to accept professional input is often based on a misunderstanding of what developmental editing is all about.
  • Don’t know where to get it. Many first-time authors don’t know where to locate developmental editors or how to find a local editor. Even if they search on Google and explore some of the websites that appear, they don’t know what to expect, what to ask, or how to evaluate candidates.
  • Can’t afford it. Finally, many developmental editors simply can’t afford an experienced editor, and avoid the whole issue—rather than exploring what they can do on their own.

What is developmental editing?

Let’s start by analyzing what developmental editing isn’t, and, from there, explore what it is.

Developmental editing is not:

  • Prooreading. Developmental editing isn’t searching for spelling errors, incomplete sentences, misused words, or misspelled words.
  • Checking for grammatical errors. Developmental editing also isn’t grammar checking, i.e., checking for agreement between subjects and verbs, run-on sentences, passive verbs, or overuse of exclamation points! g)
  • Fact checking. Developmental editing also doesn’t get involved with verifying details, ideas, or suggestions.

So, what is developmental editing?

I view developmental editing as pre-publication, multi-step search for coherence, or alignment, between:

  • Books & author goals. Nonfiction, brand-building books aren’t written for creative expression. They’re written to establish the author’s credibility and contribute to future profits. Developmental editing can provide a reality check increasing the likelihood that the author’s writing and publishing goals will be achieved.
  • Books & reader needs. Readers don’t buy business and personal-growth related nonfiction for entertainment or writing style. Books are purchased to solve problems and achieve goals. Developmental editing provides another reality check that tests the ability of the book to help its intended market.
  • Books & their competition. Developmental editing provides an independent perspective on the other books competing for reader attention. The goal is to identify the “missing book,” or the book that’s wanted, but hasn’t been written yet.
  • Coherence within the book. Finally, development editing provides an fresh perspective on how the contents of the book, and its various parts, work together serving the author and reader’s needs.

Basically, pre-publication developmental editing provides a “big picture view” to replace the myopia that authors face writing about topics they know and love.

Developmental editing provides focus and saves time and energy because avoiding mistakes is a lot more efficient than fixing them after they show up.

Developmental editing process

The goal of developmental editing is to save you time, reduce stress and sell more books by working as efficiently as possible. It involves making the right decisions as you plan and write your book.

The best developmental editing approach involves asking, and answering, the questions associated with the 7 key areas involved in writing, marketing, and self-publishing books:

  • Goals. What are your writing and self-publishing goals? How are you going to profit from your book?
  • Readers. Who are your ideal readers, firms and individuals you want to build lasting relationships with?
  • Competition. What are the leading books that your book will be competing with?
  • Position. How can you make your book distinctively different from existing books on your topic?
  • Efficiency. What’s the easiest and fastest way you can get your book into your reader’s hands?
  • Demand. How can you build demand for your book…while you’re writing it?
  • Profit. What are some of the ways you can leverage your book into new opportunities and profits after it’s published?

The power of questions. Questions are powerful developmental editing tools because each time you answer a question, it’s likely to lead to additional questions… This forces you to question your assumptions and explore new options and alternatives.

Do-it-yourself developmental editing resources

Here are some of the ways you can enjoy the benefits developmental editing if you’re not ready to work on a 1-to-1 basis with a developmental editor, or take advantage of the benefits of group coaching.

  • Free do-it-yourself resources. Many developmental editors offer free checklists, podcasts, worksheets and white papers containing valuable ideas. While its still available as a proof, you can also download a copy of my 99 Questions to Ask Before You Write and Self-publish a Brand-building Book. This hands-on PDF workbook provides a step-by-step framework to answering the questions that must be addressed before you start planning and writing your book, guiding you as you create a content plan and business plan for your book.
  • Premium developmental editing resources. There are numerous free online resources that you can search for using terms like “book coach,” “developmental editing,” or “help writing a book and getting published.” You’ll probably find that the problem isn’t locating resources, but keeping track of them, and implementing the ideas you encounter. There are also low-cost, paid online resources that provide a “guided tour” approach to the tasks involved in planning, writing, promoting, and profiting from a book. Often, these resources include online group coaching for subscribing members. 500 pages of articles, checklists, author interviews, and worksheets.

All books require developmental editing

Self-published books need developmental editing as much as books written for large trade publishers. Whether you do the work yourself, or engage a professional developmental editor, you’ll find that developmental editing before and during writing will save you time, reduce stress, and increase the likelihood of your book’s success. What have been your experiences reading self-published books by others or self-publishing your own books? Share your experiences and questions below, as comments.

Note by Will Reed

A few weeks ago, Roger sent me an email telling me he was adapting my One-Year Planning MandalaChart, described in Flexible Focus #64: The One-Year Plan, into a writing and marketing tool for authors. I immediately asked Roger to share his ideas as an ActiveGarage guest post, and he agreed. His post appears below. I think you’ll agree it’s a great example of “tinkering” with an idea and putting it to work in new ways.

Why author’s need an Author MandalaChart


I’ve been following, and learning from, William Reed for most of the last decade. I tend to listen when he speaks. He’s introduced me to numerous creativity ideas and resources, including mind mapping.

I’ve been reading, and saving, his Flexible Focus series since it began. But, I knew that Will had really outdone himself when I saw his One-Year Plan MandalaChart.

The One-Year Plan MandalaChart resonated with me because it addressed several of the most important challenges authors face when planning, writing, promoting, and profiting from a brand-building book: book, including:

  • There’s more to book publishing success than simply “writing.” It’s not enough to provide a clearly and concisely written advice; the advice has to be relevant, and the book has to be visible to its intended readers.
  • Publishing success involves simultaneously addressing multiple tasks. Publishing is not a linear process. Success requires addressing multiple issues at the same time. For example, how authors intend to profit from their book should influence their choice of publishing options.
  • Success requires goals, priorities, and deadlines. In a time-strapped world, it’s more important than ever that goals and tasks be accompanied with deadlines. Without deadlines, days, weeks, months, and years can go by without progress, resulting in a terrible waste of opportunities..

Modeled on, and inspired by, Will’s One-Year Plan MandalaChart, my Author’s MandalaChart provides a visual way to create goals, prioritize tasks, and measure your progress as you move forward.

Author’s MandalaChart matrix

The starting point was to adapt the 8 topics Will addressed in his original One-Year Plan MandalaChart to the specific needs of authors.

Will’s original matrix was addressed the following spheres, or activities, of an individual’s life:

  1. Personal
  2. Financial
  3. Study
  4. Business
  5. Home
  6. Society
  7. Health
  8. Leisure

When adapting the One-Year Plan to my Author’s MandalaChart, I included the following activity areas that authors must address:


  1. Goals. Goals involves answering questions like, Why are you writing a book? and How do you intend to profit from your book? As publishing has changed during the past few years, it’s become more and more important for authors to view their books as new business ventures. Books have to generate income beyond that which comes from book sales. 
  2. Readers. Reader topics include answering questions like Who are your ideal readers?, Why should they read your book?, What do they need to know?, and How will they benefit from your book? Nonfiction publishing success isn’t about how much you know; success is determined by offering the information that your ideal readers need to know.
  3. Competition. Books are not self-contained islands; new books must offer something better than what’s already available. Success requires identifying existing books and analyzing their pros and cons, so you can answer the question, What’s the “missing book” my ideal readers are waiting for?
  4. Message. From analyzing your goals, readers, and competition, you should be able to position your book and organize your ideas into chapters and subtopics within chapters. Your book proposal and press releases must be able to quickly answer questions like, What’s your book’s big idea? and What will readers take away from your book?  
  5. Format. Information can be communicated in lots of different ways, for example, step-by-step procedurals, case studies, personal experiences, question and answer, etc. You can also publish a big book or a small book. Format questions include, How much of a book do you need to write? and How can you simplify your book so you can get it into your reader’s hands as soon as possible?
  6. Awareness. Books are not magnetic, they don’t attract readers like a magnet attracts steel filings. You have to help your reader find you, answering questions like, How can I get my book reviewed? and How can I share my ideas while writing my book?
  7. Demand. Awareness has to be converted into demand, demand must stimulate purchases. Questions to address include, How can I stimulate pre-orders for my book? How can I sell as many books as possible when it’s available? and Where can I sell my book outside ofnormal bookstore channels?
  8. Profit. Finally, authors must leverage books into back-end information products or coaching, consulting, or paid speaking and presenting events. Questions include, How can I help readers implement my ideas? and What kind of marketing materials are speaker bureaus and event planners looking for?

Setting and attracting goals

The most important part of Will’s original One-Year Plan MandalaChart was the way it encouraged users to address each topic in matrix from four perspectives:

  • Current status. Where are we now? What are the strengths and weaknesses of our current position? What are the forces we have to deal with?
  • By December. What are our goals for the remainder of the calendar year? What do we want to accomplish by the end of the year?
  • Image for the end of a year. How can we visually communicate our accomplishments after 12 months?
  • Steps to reach this. What do we have to do to achieve our December and our One-Year goals?

In my version, I made a few simple changes, as follows:

  • Situation. (the same)
  • 90-days. This addresses the fact that “By December” implied an August starting date.
  • 1-year. Rather than a visual image, I felt a description of accomplishments during the past 12 months would be most helpful.
  • Steps to success. (Simple wording change.)

Author’s MandalaChart benefits

Writing and self-publishing involve a curious blend of creativity and self-discipline. Success requires a flexible perspective that combines long-term vision and consistent action in 8 different activity areas.

Although all projects are a work in progress, I feel the Author’s MandalaChart achieves its primary goal of helping authors avoid the common myopia of focusing entirely on writing and makes it easy to maintain a “big picture” view that encourages action in all 8 areas. The Author’s MandalaChart makes it easy to describe short term and long-goals in each area.

In addition, it creates an engaging visual to display on your wall as well as share with co-authors, agents, editors, and—when appropriate—your blog and social market community.

Conclusion

In addition to building on Will Reed’s already strong framework and adapting it for a specific vertical market, the Author’s MandalaChart shows the importance of constantly being on the lookout for ideas and tools that you can put to use in new ways.

The power of idea-sharing venues like the ActiveGarage is that it creates a community of achievers, constantly looking for ways to do a better job to address the challenges we all face, including the need to get more done in less time.

Editor’s NoteRoger C. Parker 37-part ActiveGarage Author’s Journey series offers practical advice for writing a book. He invites you to visit Published & Profitable and download a free proof of his do-it-yourself guide to developmental editing, 99 Questions to Ask Before You Write or Self-Publlish a Brand-building Book

Resist the temptation to start your Author’s Journey to a brand-building book by immediately starting to write. The Author’s Journey refers to my series of 34 ActiveGarage posts describing the steps involved in writing a nonfiction book to build a personal brand.

Instead of immediately starting to write, take the time to ask the right questions. It’s important for you to get your bearings by developing a “big picture” view of your writing project.

An important part of the “big picture” is focusing on the desired end result. By identifying the goals of your journey, you’ll be better able to make the right decisions at every stage, so you can write and market toward them as efficiently as possible, helping you focus your writing and avoid digressions, false starts, and wasted time.

There’s magic in asking questions

Perhaps Brian Tracy, said it best in his international bestselling book, Change Your Thinking, Change Your Life: How to Unlock Your Full Potential for Success and Achievement:

The very act of questioning opens your mind and expands your options. It increases your creativity and stimulates your imagination. Questioning enables you to think more effectively and reach better decisions.

Brian Tracy re-emphasized the importance of authors asking questions before writing during a recent Published & Profitable interview, (Number 100 in my recent series). He discussed how asking questions helps authors focus on their readers, their needs, and their hot buttons while sharing the process he has used to write 50 books that have been translated and are sold in over 37 countries.

Alexander Ward, American author and pastor, stated it differently:

Before you speak, listen.

Before you write, think.

What kinds of questions & answers?

There are 4 categories of questions you should ask before starting to write your brand-building book. These correlate to Published & Profitable’s 4 steps to Writing Success: Plan, Write, Promote, and Profit.

Your answers to these questions don’t have to be elaborate or formal. You don’t even have to work on your computer; it’s entirely to jot down your answers by hand.

The ideas behind your answers are what matters! So just quickly write down words, ideas, and phrases that you can go back later and expand. There’s no need to write in full sentences, and you don’t have to be concerned with grammar. The answers are for your eyes only- – it’s OK to change your mind when you go back later and review your answers.

Planning questions

There are three types of planning questions:

  • Your goals and objectives. Start by identifying your long-term goals and objectives beyond the rewards of selling your book. Concentrate on how you are going to leverage your book into lasting and profitable relationships with your readers. Avoid writing and publishing decisions that might limit your ability to achieve your goals.
  • Reader goals. Who are your intended readers, and what do they hope to gain from reading your book? The more you know, the easier it will be to target the right readers, choose the right title, and provide the right right content.
  • Competing books. Finally, you have to analyze competing books, so you can position your book as a better alternative to anything that’s currently available.

Just as you wouldn’t start a business without a business plan, you shouldn’t start to write a brand-building book without knowing your goals, your market, and your competition.

Writing questions

Next, you have to answer a series of questions about your ability to write as consistently and efficiently as possible, so your book is completed on time. This involves answering questions like:

When you’ve answered these questions, you’re ready to start writing!

Promoting questions

Books- -even the most helpful and best-written books- -don’t sell themselves. Authors have to begin promoting the book while writing the book.

Ideally, book promotion never really ends, because your book’s brand becomes your brand!

Creating a book promotion plan involves evaluating current online visibility (or author platform), looking at ways to build your expert network, exploring free promotional tools, and creating an integrated book marketing plan.

Profit questions

Leveraging your book to meaningful and lasting profits involves answering questions about looking at how other authors profit from their books, evaluating ways to create and manage information products, and looking at ways to attract lucrative speaking opportunities.

Questions, answers, and action

The above are just some of the ways that questions lead to answers, and answers lead to informed action. Take the time to ask- -and answer- – the right questions and save time writing the book your market is waiting to read!

If you’d like to get on the inside track to learning more about asking the right questions before writing a book to build your brand, drop me an e-mail or sign-up to receive my weekday blog posts in your in-box.

Week in Review: May 02 – May 06, 2011

by admin on May 8, 2011

Use a Manifesto to build your brand, grow your list & sell more books

by Roger Parker on May 2, 2011

If you’re a business owner or an author using a sample chapter of your book, a report, or a tip sheet as a list-building incentive, consider replacing it with a manifesto. A well-written manifesto can do a better job of helping you build your brand and grow your list, paving the way for you to sell more books.

Manifestos are better list builders because they take a stand. Because manifestos strongly advocate a position, and are usually passionately written, they operate on an emotional level, tapping into the power of commitment. Read more…

Project Reality Check #20: Beware of Addiction to Agile

by Gary Monti on May 3, 2011

Can Agile cause damage?

Yes.

Is Agile a good method?

Yes.

How can both statements be true?

Let’s look.

First, let me say I have a great respect for RAD, Extreme Programming, Agile, etc., because the methods reflect acceptance of and dealing with a common reality. Read more…

As the Paradigm Shifts #D: Dignity, Denial and Detachment

by Rosie Kuhn on May 4, 2011

Whether self-employed, employed by organizations, whether retired or unemployed, we all engage with companies and organizations that support us or we support them. In our interactions with these organizations, what we are wanting is to experience qualities of dignity, first and foremost. This means being treated as a sovereign individual of value, worthy of respect. I want people to communicate authentically, with curiosity and interest. Read more…

Flexible Focus #52: A sense of Significance

by William Reed on May 5, 2011

Stephen Covey provided the world with a significant dimension of perspective when he proposed the Time Management Grid in his book First Things First (1994), using a 2×2 Matrix juxtaposing Urgency vs Importance. Though it has now become common parlance, it was revolutionary at the time when Covey made this distinction, and plotted it in four Quadrants. Read more…

Leader Driven Harmony #23: Five Stressful Behaviors and How to STOP them – Part 3

by Mack McKinney on May 6, 2011

In our last post we looked at two scenarios where, even though other people were causing us stress, we did not ask them to stop because we could not do so safely.  Here is the last scenario before we move on to subject of “is it worth your time to intervene”?  What would you do here? Read more…

If you’re a business owner or an author using a sample chapter of your book, a report, or a tip sheet as a list-building incentive, consider replacing it with a manifesto. A well-written manifesto can do a better job of helping you build your brand and grow your list, paving the way for you to sell more books.

Manifestos are better list builders because they take a stand. Because manifestos strongly advocate a position, and are usually passionately written, they operate on an emotional level, tapping into the power of commitment.

Cialdini and Commitment

Robert Cialdini, the best-selling author of Influence: The Power of Persuasion, has spent his entire career researching the science of influence, earning an international reputation as an expert in the fields of persuasion, compliance, and negotiation.

Influence: The Power of Persuasion has become one of the most frequently quoted psychology books among marketing professionals. In it, Cialdini describes 6 weapons of influence. The longest chapter is devoted to commitment. The main idea is simple: once individuals commit to an idea or a course of action, they tend to remain committed.

The power of commitment is rooted in an individual’s self-image and a desire to avoid appearing wrong to others; the more public the commitment, the stronger the commitment.

Commitment, social media, and list quality

I was reminded about the power of commitment when I ran across Sunni Brown’s Doodle Revolution Manifesto, one of the strongest community-building list-builders I’ve seen in a long-long time.

Sunni Brown is co-author, with Dave Gray and John Macanufo, of Gamestorming: A Playbook for Innovators, Rulebreakers, and Changemakers. Gamestorming is currently one of Amazon.com’s top 1,500 bestsellers overall, as well as a leading book in several business categories.

My route to signing Sunni Brown’s Doodle Revolution Manifesto illustrates the importance of quality online content, backed up with the power of social media.

My journey to the Doodle Revolutionary’s Manifesto

Here’s the social media and quality content route I traveled that led me to Sunni’s manifesto (and this post):.

  • Friday afternoon. My journey began when I discovered Gamestorming at the local Barnes & Noble.
  • Early Friday evening. My exploration continued when I got home, searched online, and visited the Gamestorming site and blog. Later, I Googled each of the authors. My search lead me to a Tweet by @bangalaurent, Laurent Sarrazin. The post described Sunni’s free, i.e., no registration, Revolutionary’s Booklist. I was intrigued, checked it out, and downloaded it.
  • Late Friday evening. Later, after downloading the Revolutionary’s Booklist, I spent a couple of pleasurable hours with it, discovering interesting titles and exploring their authors online.
  • Saturday morning. I was so impressed with the list that I shared it with a dozen clients and friends, both local and around the world. Later in the afternoon, I received e-mails from several recipients, thanking me for sending them the list.
  • Sunday night. Pleased with my experience so far, I returned to Sunni’s site, reread the Doodle Revolutionary’s Manifesto, reviewed the names of the individuals who had already signed it, then signed it myself. I also added my name to her e-mail newsletter list (which was not required to sign the Manifesto).

Lessons from my Doodler’s Revolution journey

Here are a few of my big takeaways from my odyssey:

  1. Size of following does not equal influence. The Twitter post that began the journey was by someone who had less than 30 followers! But, Google didn’t care when they displayed their Tweet, and I didn’t care when I followed it to Sunni’s list.
  2. Content quality is more important than quantity. If I hadn’t been impressed by the Revolutionary’s Booklist, my journey would have ended. But, because the content was relevant, useful, and concise, I felt compelled to share it. Moreover, the Doodle Revolutionary’s Manifesto is just 2 pages long—it’s the Gettysburg Address of list-building incentives. I might not have read a 12-page report or an 8-page manifesto, but I had no trouble reading a well-written 2-page manifesto.
  3. Quality outsells “selling.” The Revolutionary’s Books PDF is free from selling; there’s only quality content and a clean layout, plus a tongue-in-cheek footer, “With love from www.doodlerevolution.com and www.sunnibrown.com.” A nice, light-hearted touch.
  4. Story and emotion win. The Doodle Revolutionary’s Manifesto wasn’t written by a committee and for a committee. It was written by a passionate believer speaking directly to other passionate believers. It succeeds because it’s engaging and provides a chance for believers to confirm their beliefs. In fact, the writing style is entertaining because it goes slightly overboard. But, overboard is sometimes OK! As opera proves, there’s a time and a place for colorful and passionate writing.

Takeaways and opinions

What are your takeaways from my journey from anonymous prospective reader and website visitors to a person who has publicly committed to a cause? Would a similar manifesto and online approach help you build your brand, grow your list, & sell more books? What would your manifesto be about? How could you get your prospects to commit to it? Share your impressions and questions as comments, below.

Week In Review: Feb 20 – Feb 26, 2011

by Magesh Tarala on February 27, 2011

Author’s Journey Update: Easy ways to organize blog posts, books and ebooks

by Roger Parker, Feb 21, 2011

You need organize what you are going to write before you start writing. It helps you provide structure, sequence and relevance for your ideas. Roger provides 10 options you could use to get organized. Make it a habit to use them and it will help you keep up your writing commitments. more…

Project Reality Check #10: Personal Resilience

by Gary Monti, Feb 22, 2011

Being centered though all situations and avoiding distractions is key for a project manager’s success. You can achieve this by being resilient. Resilience is the ability to continue functioning while adapting to a changing situation. In this article Gary lists the questions that you can ask yourself and take appropriate action. Sometimes you get the elevator, other times you get the shaft. The idea is to build resilience, think, and keep moving to get more of the former and less of the latter. more…

Social Media and Tribes #30: Virtual Valentine

by Deepika Bajaj, Feb 23, 2011

Thanks to Social Media, there’ve been very interesting shifts in Velentine’s day behaviors. This year people not only sent personal messages but wished their friends, shared their gifts, surprises, roses and even their  dinners on FB. People are broadcasting their love for friends and special ones. Moreover, there are Valentine Apps on the iPhone store, Groupon Deals, Valentine Events marketed on FB. Better watch out Hallmark! more…

Flexible Focus #42: Time Lapse as a Mandala Movie

by William Reed, Feb 24, 2011

Manda Charts show relationship between the frames in a 3D perspective. What about the 4th dimension, time? This is not so difficult to imagine if you look at the effect you get in time-lapse photography. So as you create and use Mandala Charts, try to see them from the perspective of the 4th dimension, time and transformation. It will add a new dimension to your enjoyment of flexible focus. more…

Leader driven Harmony #13: 4 P’s to get your !deas MOVING – Part II

by Mack McKinney, Feb 25, 2011

Last week Mack showed you how to be a pro and likeable when pushing for change and I showed you key actions that would get you taken seriously. In addition to that, you need to be somewhat patient and promote your !deas. When you promote your ideas to others, let them become their ideas, because people will advocate their “own” ideas more passionately than other’s ideas. more…

You’re reading this post a week later than I originally tended. I couldn’t complete the first draft of this blog post for a very simple reason, I hadn’t organized what I wanted to say before I started writing!

As a result, last Sunday, I wasted a couple of valuable hours, missed an important deadline, and did a pretty good job of getting stressed out.

Don’t let this happen to you! Let me share some of the easy ways you can organize your ideas for articles, blog posts, books, and ebooks before you begin writing! Choose one of the options below, and make it a daily habit.

Taking the time to organize your ideas before you begin writing can spell the difference between writing a brand-building book or never getting published!

Organization and writing

Organization must precede writing. Organization provides a structure for your writing. Organization helps you “test drive” the sequence and relevance of your ideas.

Most important, organization eliminates uncertainty and promotes strong, concise writing that supports the message you want to share. Organization also helps keep you enthusiastic and motivated by making it easy for you to track your progress as you write.

Options for organizing your ideas

In a previous Author’s Journey blog post, How to Create a Content Plan for Your Book, I showed how I used mind mapping software to develop my latest book, #Book Title Tweet: 140 Bite-Sized Ideas for Compelling Article, Book, and Event Titles.

The mind map, above, represents the difference between last Sunday’s “f and f,” i.e., failed and frustrating, writing experience and today’s smooth and enjoyable writing experience.

Although I’ve written a lot about using mind mapping as a writing tool, including a 5-part blog series about creating a writing dashboard, you don’t have to use a mind mapping software program to organize your ideas before you begin to write.

Another advantage of mindmapping software is the ability to export your mind maps to your word processing program, which eliminates unnecessary typing.

10 other ways you can organize your ideas

In addition to mindmapping software, you can also organize your ideas using a variety of low-tech and software tools, including:

  1. Index cards. One of the classic “hands on” organizing techniques that authors have used for decades is to write important ideas and details by hand on index cards. The index cards are then displayed on the walls of your office, where you can easily add and delete cards and rearrange their order.
  2. Sticky notes. Another popular solution includes sticky notes, such as ©3M Post-it® notes, small squares of paper with an adhesive strip on the back that can be applied to walls or other surfaces. Advantages of this approach is that the small size of the notes encourages brevity, and different colored notes can be used to visually code the ideas.
  3. Folders. Yesterday, when I interviewed Joe Vitale, Published & Profitable’s latest author interview, Joe  described how he begins to organize new books by creating folders for each chapter, and placing print-outs or clippings in the right folders.
  4. MS Word lists. One of the easiest idea organizing techniques is to use Microsoft Word’s bulleted and numbered lists feature to flesh-out the contents of each chapter. Using lists, you can quickly drag and drop ideas into the right order and sequence. I’ve used lists to organize ideas since the earliest word processing software.
  5. MS Word tables. Microsoft Word’s table feature offers an even better, multi-column, tool for organizing book ideas into chapters and sections. You can add as much information and as many points to each topic as the tables will expand as you add content. After you’ve finished entering ideas, you can easily sort them. Worksheets created in Word can later be copied and pasted into the manuscript files for each chapter of your book.
  6. Worksheets. Before I enter text into Word tables, I often print out blank copies of the worksheets I’ve prepared for my book coaching clients, and fill them out by hand—often while watching television or while my wife is driving. In a computer age, there’s something really exciting about writing by hand. The next day, of course, I copy my handwritten ideas into Word worksheets, of course. Typing my handwritten notes the next day improves what I’ve written by giving me an opportunity for a quick edit.
  7. Spreadsheets. Many of my coaching clients who come from a corporate background use spreadsheet software, like Microsoft Excel, to organize their ideas. After many years of working with Excel, they’re so familiar with its capabilities that using it is second nature to them.
  8. PowerPoint. Another existing tool you can put to work as an organizing tool is PowerPoint. Instead of writing ideas on index cards or sticky notes, simply place each idea on separate slides. When you’re through, go to PowerPoint’s Slide Sorter view where you can drag and drop each slides into the proper location. Later, you might even print-out your presentation and use the slides to jot down additional ideas.
  9. Flip-charts/paper. If you’re working with a co-author, or a group of contributors located in the same room, consider brainstorming ideas and placing them on flip-charts or large sheets of paper. A recently published book, Business Model Generation: A Handbook for Visionaries, Game Changers, and Challengers, describes how to use flip-charts and sticky notes—together–to organize complex projects.
  10. White boards. White boards are yet another highly visual tool you can use to organize your ideas as you create a content plan for your book. Erasable white boards, hung on walls or placed on stands, make it easy to display the big ideas associated with your book, as you add supporting ideas. To learn more, I recommend David Sibbet’s Visual Meetings: How Graphics, Sticky Notes and Idea Mapping Can Transform Group Productivity.

Habit is more important than selection

Your choice of book organizing tool or technique is not as important as the consistency with which you use the tool. As you prepare the various writing projects you work on during the week, which probably includes articles, blog posts, proposals, and white papers, try out different tools.

When you find one that works, make it a habit! Commit to using it every day as part of your routine.

Remember the words of Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, and Les Hewitt in The Power of Focus, “Your daily habits determine your success!”

Other tips include saving your work when you’ve finished. You may be able to reuse some of the ideas that you considered including in your book, but decided not to include. In addition, try to use your organizing tool as a way of displaying progress on your project. For example, each time you finish writing about a topic, remove the index card from the wall or change the background color or text color.

Why should you read this post?  Because this little crash course in effective writing is the collective intelligence of thousands of people just like you.  It is a living document and benefits from ongoing improvements suggested by our students.  Their suggestions and observations, especially in the final section, make us all much better writers.

In this series we have discussed Purpose, Audience, Content and Style and how each works with the others to determine the utility and readability of any document you write.  We will close this series with a discussion of writing “Mechanics” in the form of a simple list of annoyances readers complain about most often.  If you want to make sure you never experience these annoyances again, we humbly suggest you Tweet the link to this document to your family, friends and everyone you work with.  Once they see what they are doing wrong, their writing will improve and your stress level will drop!

Mechanics

Here is a partial list of our students’ and our pet peeves, assembled through the years. 100-101 dumps As a reader, if you find that a major aggravation is not listed here, email me at Mack@SolidThinking.org and we will consider including it in the next update.

This is a collection of the most common mistakes we have observed (and periodically been guilty of) in writing and assembling technical reports, CONOPS, proposals and other documents:

  1. Spell-Check. Failure to spell-check the final version, just before the final printing. Simple typos will lead some readers to conclude you are lazy, careless, stupid or all three.
  2. Total reliance upon a spell/grammar-check program, which will not necessarily catch improper word usage, for example the accidental use of “form” instead of “from”.  Read the document   s-l-o-w-l-y   and be certain every sentence makes sense.  And get others to read it. IIA-CIA-PART1 dumps Microsoft’s automated “help” features often are not of much help, especially with punctuation choices and grammar decisions.  Do not trust Bill Gates to protect your reputation.
  3. Failure to include a list of acronyms or failure to define every acronym the first time it is used.  Assume nothing about what your audience knows.  DOD (Department of Defense – – – see, we follow our own rules) workers, government and contractor, are especially guilty of this.  An example is “CONOPS” which, depending upon the agency, can mean Concept of Operations, Contingency Operations, Continuity of Operations, CONUS Operations (an acronym and an abbreviation within an acronym – “Continental United States Operations”), Continuous Operations and others.  Define it or don’t use it.
  4. Failure to define complex technical terms.  Don’t assume all readers are PhDs.
  5. Incorrect graphic/figure/table numbers. When these are manually input and another graphic/figure/table is added later, there is the ripple effect whereby every subsequent graphic, etc. must get a new number.  Instead, let the application (MS Word, Word Perfect, etc.) assign the numbers.  It precludes the ripple effect and automatically lets you later assemble a Table of Contents, List of Figures and List of Tables.
  6. Incorrect page number references in the text, making it difficult or impossible to find referenced sections.  This is usually caused when text or graphics are added somewhere in front of the page being referenced, causing the referenced section to slide onto the next page.  If sections are numbered as they should be and section sizes are less than a half-page in length, reference the section by name and number.  But if sections are large and referencing them would require the reader to search through several pages to dig out a referenced passage, cite the actual page number but double check all such citations for correctness just before publishing.  And be aware that a web-based document, especially an Adobe pdf document, may have page numbers that do not correspond to the hardcopy.
  7. Changing text color in the main body of the document.  Keep it black.
  8. Failing to italicize non-English terms (fait accompli, ad hoc, coup de grace, blitzkrieg, etc.) so people can mentally pause to remember what the term means or using the terms improperly (and we are not talking here about commonly used terms such as “via” or “vice versa”).  If you cannot pronounce a foreign term properly, or don’t know exactly what it means in the native language and how it are used in the native culture, it is probably not commonly used here in the US.  So don’t use it.  And a special caution to Francophiles (lovers of all things French):  We have found that ad nauseum – – –  Latin for “excessive to the point of causing vomiting” – – –  use of French phrases is often the hallmark of a person flaunting a writing education they never received, insinuating an intelligence they don’t actually possess or adopting a French perspective which, by itself, may upset some Americans.  Politics and cultures aside, English is a fine technical language with plenty of precise, descriptive terms.  Use them.
  9. Beginning sentences with “but” or “and”.  This is common use now.  Increasingly, people write like they speak.  It isn’t the death of English as we know it.  Get over it.
  10. Assuming that the reader can mentally keep track of where all the pieces of a CONOPS reside.  In the case of a CONOPS or proposal that has components classified at various security levels, this assumption is folly.  Give the reader a roadmap showing where all the components are, their classifications, etc.
  11. A document manager’s failure to provide a style guide and then complaining about all the work he/she must do to pull the final document together.
  12. Failure to provide references in support of key claims, instead hoping the reader just accepts the claim.  As in medicine and science, the bigger the claim, the more solid the proof needed to substantiate it.  And be certain the trip is worth it for the reader: make certain the proof you cite is directly related to the claim, not a peripheral issue!  Remember that technical professionals do not spin findings or conclusions.
  13. Failure to cross-check every text reference to a table or figure to ensure
    • The reference is correct, i.e. such a table/figure a) actually exists and b) adequately discusses the subject indicated in the text
    • The table or figure follows the reference
    • The references in the text are sequenced properly (for example Table 3-2 should be discussed in the text before Table 3-3 is discussed)
    • Any referenced document is the most current version available.  And be sure to cite the revision number and date or just use dates as revisions (rev 15 Feb 09).
  14. Reliance upon complex graphics to make a key point instead of to support a point.  Excessive use of graphics throughout the document/section is often an indication of a poor/rushed author or an unskilled writer attempting to use graphics in place of text.
  15. Misuse of the forward slash (/).  The commonly accepted meaning is “and-or”.  If you cannot substitute “and-or” then the slash is inappropriate.
  16. Beginning to write the report without an outline and letting it meander. This is often evident to even a casual reader of the resulting document.
  17. Misuse/absence of embedded links in a document.  In our web-based world, most documents are reviewed in softcopy.  So use hyperlinks to take readers to key sections and appendices. But be sure that each linked page has a “return to previous page” link so the reader can quickly return to the previous page being read.
  18. Starting the report too late and then rushing to finish. The resulting report almost always suffers with sections obviously written by different authors, key conclusions glossed-over, graphics overused and unaccompanied by explanations, typos, etc.  The typical excuse that managers hear most often is “I was too busy DOING the work and did not have time to REPORT on the work!”  My advice is not to use this excuse.  It marks you as a rookie who cannot plan his time properly.
  19. Use of vague terms like “recently”, “some” and “few”.  Quantify!  Use numbers wherever possible.  Imprecision invites varying interpretations.
  20. Use of hidden assumptions.  I’ve heard writers say things like “Everyone knows that quartz is preferable to glass in this infrared application” or “Well, the sponsor obviously knows why we are changing our technical approach because he directed the change.  So we don’t need to say that in the report.” Wrong!  Assume nothing! In the latter example, the sponsor is only one of potentially several dozen (or hundred) eventual readers of a report, most of whom will never know why your firm abandoned a perfectly reasonable technical approach in favor of a very risky one, unless you tell them!  Omit that single detail and you are likely to be labeled foolish in later meetings where neither you nor your sponsor is present to explain your actions.
  21. Excessive use of the passive voice which makes for difficult reading and complicates a document.  Here are a few common examples:
    • “The system will be capable of  . . .”  or “the system will have the ability to . . .”  (just say “the system will…”)
    • “. . . consider implementation of . . .”  (say “implement”)
    • “It was decided that . . .”  (say, instead, “Our team decided . . .”)
    • Other examples to be avoided include “…is favored by . . .” and “it was concluded that . . .”
  22. Use of “shall” in place of “will”.  You aren’t writing a specification so don’t use “shall” which is typically a legal term in business agreements and has a “binding” connotation. Write like you speak.  Use action verbs and an active, future tense.
  23. Lawyer-talk:  Don’t try to use lofty words when a common one will do, for example obtain (use get), accede (use agree), aforementioned (use already discussed), subsequent (use later), cognizant of (use know).
  24. Run-on sentences. A sentence should have a single, main point, not several.  Take a meat cleaver to long sentences.
  25. Lengthy paragraphs.  Most technical writers use fewer than ten lines per paragraph.  Robert Gunning even has a “Fog Index©” that quantifies how easy a document is to read, based on length of words, sentences and paragraphs (see reading list item #3).  Even when you have no page-count restriction, strive for conciseness.  While perhaps not as crisp and unambiguous as German, English is still a wonderful technical language when used concisely.  (This one sentence, written in formal Arabic, could require 3-4 lines of text!)
  26. Excessive use of “which” when “that” would be clearer.
  27. Use of expletives leading to wordy sentences
    • There are, is, were, was, will be . . . .
    • It is, can, was . . .
  28. Awkward page breaks.  Hold thoughts together in the text, forcing a page break to occur where it makes the most sense to the reader.  The worst infraction here is to allow a table/figure caption to become separated from the table or figure. Almost as bad is allowing the first sentence of a section to begin at the bottom of a page: push it to the next page to be with its friends!
  29. Commas inserted where they aren’t needed at all and absent where they are needed.  If you would not actually pause there when reading the text aloud, then you should think twice before putting a comma there.   If in doubt, leave it out.
  30. Lack of proofreading by anyone other than the writer.  Silly mistakes are not caught.
  31. Lack of white space: paragraphs crammed tightly against paragraphs/graphics, with very few blank lines.  Even page-constrained documents need some white space to improve readability!  The human mind appreciates occasional white breaks in the monotony of black text – – – it seems to provide time for ideas to sink in before new ideas show up in the text.
  32. Use of 10-point type size, to cram text into a page-count-constrained document.  Use 12-point or larger and cut the amount of text to make things fit.  Many senior people cannot comfortably read 10-point type and may get annoyed if you force them to use their bifocals.  And an annoyed reader may not even know why he dislikes your report (and hence, your firm), just that he does.
  33. Inconsistent use of abbreviations, terms, capitalization, etc. within the same document.
  34. Overuse of underlines versus italics.  Don’t be boring.  Mix it up but be consistent within sentences.
  35. Failure to add page numbers.
  36. Failure to insert a blank line between paragraphs.
  37. Inconsistent use of indentures.
  38. In a CONOPS, failure to number the sections, making for difficult discussions about paragraphs/sections of interest.
  39. Inconsistent depth in the outline, with some sections a shallow 2-alpha and others at an almost microscopic 5-alpha.  The temptation is to include lots of data for areas where you have it, leaving other areas barren.  Don’t do it. Balance the outline and the body of the document, putting details in an appendix.
  40. Use of “e.g.” (for example) or “i.e.” (in other words).  Since many readers don’t know these definitions, and high schools don’t seem to be teaching much Latin these days, let’s stop using these terms.
  41. Pairing people with “that” or pairing objects with “who”.  Do not write about anyone “that” did something or said something.  Use “who” when referring to people.  Use “that” when referring to anything else (objects, organizations, etc.)
  42. Use of “reiterate” when “repeat’ would do fine.
  43. Excessive use of questions as the opening sentence in a paragraph.  Occasional use of this technique is fine but be aware that it forces the reader to move out of the passive-reception mental mode and actually think, which annoys some people.
  44. Excessive employment of “utilize” when “use” would work fine.
  45. Don’t use “in order to” when “to” works just fine. For example, instead of: “In order to complete the signal processing chain the filter must be tuned to…” use this more succinct and directed version: “To complete the signal processing chain the filter must be tuned to…”
  46. Lifting Power Point ™ graphics and plopping them into Word ™ documents without regard to complexity, applicability or suitability.  In these hurried times this is common but still criminal.  Build graphics from scratch with a pencil and paper, outlining them first to answer the two questions “what do I want this graphic to accomplish” (inform, persuade, explain, motivate, etc.) and “what would be the most effective, efficient possible graphic for that purpose?”.  Then search existing graphics for candidates and give STRONG consideration to using pieces of them to custom craft a crisp hybrid.
  47. Confusion of compose and comprise.  Roget’s Thesaurus© even has this wrong.  Compose is a verb in the music business and in specialized writing such as poetry.  Elsewhere the phrase “composed of” describes a single thing and is often used in place of “made up of”.  A single, complex thing can be composed of many smaller things. But Comprise describes an assembly of multiple things and means “make up” or “add up to”: multiple things can comprise a larger thing.  But published definitions for these two terms overlap so we suggest only infrequent and careful use of them, especially of comprise, to avoid confusion.  Instead of saying “The items inside this bag comprise all my personal effects” (which is correct usage) instead just say “This bag contains all my personal effects” and hand it to the jailer.  He probably won’t believe you and you’ll be strip-searched anyway.

Crisp, clear technical writing is a learned skill and increasingly in demand.  Crafting a crisp, well-worded section in a blog post, book, proposal or report is very satisfying.  And like any other difficult-to-master skill, becoming a good writer takes practice and effort.

Lastly, remember to submit your writings early to peers and others for review because none of us is as smart as all of us.

Suggested Reading List:

  1. The Elements of Style by Strunk and White, 4th Edition (a classic reference book, over 10 million copies sold, available at any major book store)
  2. Systems Engineering Handbook, International Conference on Systems Engineering (INCOSE), California, 2006
  3. Technical Writing, Process and Product by Steven and Sharon Gerson (Prentice Hall, 1992)

Copyright: Solid Thinking Corporation