Posts Tagged ‘Writing for Business’

Mind Mapping Goes Mobile

by Roger Parker on April 20, 2012

Good news for authors and marketers: Mindjet’s MindManager mind mapping software, the indispensable writing tool I frequently referred to in my ActiveGarage Author’s Journey series, is now available for iPhones, iPads, and Android mobile devices.

Mindjet’s MindManager app for the iPad has quickly become an important part of my workflow for all types of writing projects…saving me time and helping me get a head start on my projects before I begin to write, no matter where I am.

Mind mapping on an iPad is a liberating writing tool that far exceeded my expectations

Background

Perhaps like you, I was initially doubtful that mind mapping on an iPad. I was happy with the mind maps I created on my home and office computers, plus my laptop. I was comfortable carrying around yellow legal pads and felt tip markers which I’d use to plan my articles, blog posts, and client marketing materials.

I was used to the ritual of deciphering my handwritten notes and recreating my hand-drawn mind maps on my computers when it was time to get down to work. In addition, I couldn’t see how it would be possible to use the iPad’s virtual keyboard to type extended amounts of text.

I also couldn’t imagine how large maps would fit on the iPad’s relatively small screen.

Planning versus writing

What I was overlooking, of course, was the difference between planning and writing.

Although I recognized that the hard work in most writing projects is planning what you’re going to say, I was overlooking the fact that mind maps don’t have to be large and detailed to provide an efficient guide to writing an article, blog post, or book.

Edit Topic screens

Mindjet’s use of Edit Topic screens also played an important role in my transition from yellow legal pads to MindManager on an iPad for planning my writing projects.

The issue of type size and readability on the iPad (or iPhone) screen is not an issue. This is because, when you select a topic or subtopic by tapping it, MindManager opens a large Edit Topic screen that provides all the space you need to enter topic and subtopic text.

The Edit Screen not only is large enough to make it easy to add subtopic and topic information, you can also add Notes—as much text as you want, if sentences and paragraphs occur to you during the planning stage that you want to immediately jot down—as well as links to URLs.

Using MindManager’s Edit Topic screens also allow you to insert icons indicating category and priority, as well as photographs and graphic images. You can also format topics and subtopics to indicate category and importance.

Workflow

Without a doubt, mind mapping on the iPad is a here-and-now reality, one that has saved me well over 100 hours during the past 3 months—and, probably, a heck of a lot more. I now spend less time planning my articles, blog posts, and books, and, I know from my time logs, that I’m spending less time writing them.

There’s no duplication of effort, no wasted time trying to decipher my handwriting, and I can include as many links to blogs and web pages while planning. Using the Notes feature, I can copy and paste text from online resources into my maps, saving me time later on.

Mind mapping on an iPad has given me more freedom than I’ve previously had. I spend less time tethered to my computers than before. As a result, I’m fresher and more relaxed when I sit down at my computer for an extended writing session. I now spend more time planning time in a Barnes & Noble café, at my favorite window table at the Dover Public Library, or riding the Downeaster toBoston.

And, for better or for worse, more blog posts have been planned in bed or in front of a television than ever before.

Where this is all going

My experiences mind mapping on an iPad has not only energized me, but it’s helped me realize just how basically inefficient desktop and laptop computing can be.

I reluctantly came to iPad ownership, but was amazed at how quickly I’ve adapted to using my fingers to select, zoom, and move around a mind map. I loved the fact that I didn’t have to “read” any “documentation” to get things done.

Most of all, I quickly grew to love the freedom from having to worry to save files and go back and forth between programs to share files between computers and send them as email attachments to clients.

The future, of course, is in the cloud, and I’m quickly getting used to backing-up and files using MindJet Connect or Dropbox which eliminate the need to Zip-compress and e-mail mind map templates with clients and webinar attendees.

The future, of course, is “hands-free” syncing of mind maps between computers. Syncing is a fast-approaching reality. Already, I can end my day reading a book on my Amazon.com Kindle, then pick-up my iPad the next day…and it will open to the page I was reading on my Kindle!

Soon, I’ll be able to begin to plan an article on my iPad, edit it on my main computer, finish it on a client’s computer, and all copies will be seamlessly updated.

Getting started

Currently, Mindjet’s MindManager for the iPad is still available for free for Apple iPhones, iPads, and Android mobile devices. This offers a great opportunity for you to discover the power of mind mapping as a writing tool.

  • If you’re already using mind maps for writing, downloading one of Mindjet’s mobile apps for the iPhone, iPad, or Android device, will add capabilities and convenience and pave the way for enhanced file sharing and syncing.
  • If you’re not yet using mind mapping for writing, the free mobile apps provide an easy way to get started.

Either way, once you get started, I invite you to download my free (no registration) 3-Step Writing Jumpstart Map or 20 Questions to Ask Before You Write a Book mind map templates to explore mind mapping’s contribution to your writing success.

Thought Readership #5: Telling Tales

by Liz Alexander on April 16, 2012

If you’ve ever attended one of the Dale Carnegie introductory seminars you’ll be familiar with this “trick.”

A facilitator shows participants a list of 20 items – say, a pair of shoes, lampshade, ice cream etc. – and claims that in ten minutes or less they can teach anyone how to recite that list from memory, in the correct order.

And they do. When every participant is let in on the “secret” they discover that the way to instantly recall any number of otherwise disconnected items is to weave them into a story.

We’re all born with the ability to tell stories; it’s how we learn because the brain is an associative device. Storytelling is an essential skill for the novelist, but it’s also a powerful non-fiction tool.

Many writers of case studies could benefit from becoming more familiar with storytelling concepts; so could business book authors. There are three concepts in particular that are very useful in helping make your work more compelling.

ThirdRiver consultants, Ken Jennings and Heather Hyde, exemplify all of them in their business fable The Greater Goal: Connecting Purpose and Performance (Berrett-Koehler, 2012).

First, think of any classic “hero’s journey” movie. To capture the viewer’s attention, something happens fairly quickly that rocks the hero’s ordinary world and sets in motion the character transformation we see at the end. (That’s how you can identify the hero; it’s the person who changes the most.)

For example, in Gladiator, the catalytic event is the murder of Emperor Marcus Aurelius. In Star Wars, it’s finding Princess Leia’s message. In The Descendants, it’s the wife’s coma.

In The Greater Goal, the hero Alex Beckley is in a near-fatal car accident. This major, dramatic event helps to completely change Alex’s world, and it happens quickly – on page eight!

When we first meet Alex he’s a failing company president with a laundry list of personal and professional issues that he doesn’t know how to overcome. Cue essential storytelling concept #2.

In addition to moving the story along with a quick, dramatic wake-up call, every hero benefits from a mentor (think Harry Potter and Dumbledore). In Alex’s case, his mentor comes in the form of wise consultant Quinn McDougall.

Why does The Greater Goal work so well, not just as a business fable? Because it immediately gets right to the point. Alex faces a raft of challenges most of us can relate to: poor performance and low morale stemming from an obsession with results; job insecurity; no sense of work-life balance; the notion that what he’s always done isn’t working, but he doesn’t know how to change.

By page 13 Alex does what every hero must do before transformation can take place, he asks for help. Help in the form of mentor Quinn McDougall allows the authors to show the difference that comes from embracing five key practices for leading differently: Commit to the greater goal; Construct shared goals; Cascade greater goal coaching; Reinforce alignment; and Build on success.

Yes, there’s a happy ending (oops…should have said “spoiler alert” but you expected that didn’t you?), but what is handled especially skillfully in The Greater Goal is something often missing in business books and business writing generally – tension (storytelling concept #3). Like all good stories where you know the hero prevails, we don’t want that to be immediately apparent. Which is why it was wise for Jennings and Hyde to include naysayer Nate in their story.

Even if you’re not planning to write a business fable, any business book will benefit by:

  • Getting quickly to the challenge (i.e., don’t start out with a lot of “backstory”).
  • Ensuring there’s a build up of tension in the narrative.

The author taking the role of mentor (because if you’re playing the hero you’ve missed the point).

“Blogging isn’t writing, it’s graffiti with punctuation.” ~ Line from the movie Contagion.

You’ve seen them, haven’t you? Those pseudo-Successories posters that wags often buy to adorn their office walls?  One of my favorites depicts a capsized boat with the slogan: “It could be that the purpose of your life is to serve as a warning to others.” In the same spirit, we should be grateful to James Altucher for publishing I Was Blind But Now I See (CreateSpace, 2011).

His book plays an important role in warning aspiring authors of what can go wrong when you write a book in three days (one of the pieces of advice the author offers for improving your life!), upload it to CreateSpace, and think that there’s merit in sentences like:

“Over time these exercises compound and similar results as I describe will develop. What’s different below from my prior writing on this is the modifications.”

“Money is the most external manifestation of the spirituality that’s the 10th commandment above.”

Altucher’s book (which he calls “my best book ever”) is a bloody mess, if you’ll pardon my French. A hodgepodge that one Amazon reviewer succinctly sums up as having,  “no direction, no structure, is riddled with typos… The entire book is basically an angry rant.”

If only Mr. Altucher had been aware and taken note of freelance editor and literary agent Susan Rabiner’s sage advice from 2002 when she wrote, “A book that knows why it is being written, for whom, and most important what it wants to say is well on its way to successful publication.”

Of course, that was penned back in the days when “gatekeepers” largely determined what got to be published, successfully or otherwise. Now all we’re left with is our own judgment. Which is fine, but here’s a piece of advice:

Know what your book is about before you start writing.

One of the activities I commend to any author before they begin to write is to complete the following sentence: “The question I answer with this book is…” Then, as you gather your material, you can check to see what, if anything, that content contributes. No relevance? Then it’s extraneous to needs!

I have no idea the question that Mr. Altucher posed before cobbling together I Was Blind. He offers us The 10 Commandments of James-ism, essentially diatribes on religion, home ownership, a college education, the US Constitution, the FDA, and the Media, among others. There follows a string of reconstituted blog posts with titles like: Abolish The Presidency, It’s a Useless Job Anyway; 25 Dates Until I Met Claudia (his wife); and Why I Write Books.

I’m fond of that game where you take two or three disparate things and try to find a way to connect them. In the case of this book, I was stumped, although somewhere the author alludes to offering guidance on the meaning and pursuit of happiness.

I don’t think I’ve ever felt so low after reading (well, skim-reading largely) a book, and not because of the subject matter. When I see unsubstantiated claims like, “For every dollar you give to charity about 2 cents a year, give or take, goes to the actual charitable cause you wanted to support,” I suspect the author isn’t one for balanced, thoughtful debate.

My experience while reading I Was Blind was acute embarrassment for the author as much as anything. Mr. Altucher is perfectly at liberty to publish whatever he likes. And, yes, it’s unkind of me to think that the 20 people who’ve written him 5-star reviews on Amazon (many admire his “honesty”) need their heads examining. Some books are like a Rorschach test – one person’s meaning is another person’s ink splodge. But to spew out a stream of consciousness like this and proudly call it a book? I wouldn’t want to. Although take a look and then let me know — would you?

When it comes to the commonly espoused belief that a nonfiction book automatically confers credibility on an author, my feeling has always been maybe, maybe not. After all, surely it depends on whether the book is any good with respect to delivering on its commitment to the reader, and isn’t just a 250-page equivalent of what Steve Jobs called “fart apps.”

When aspiring authors ask for my opinion on what they can do to make their book more credible, my answer is always “research.” Because, as one Harvard Business Review blog post commenter (thanks, Mark Mccarthy, whoever you are!) creatively pointed out in response to an article by a couple of consultants, “…without the research data (this information) could be as useful as a chocolate fireguard.”

Before you go running for the hills at the sound of the “R” word, let me assure you it’s not necessary to go to the lengths of the three co-authors of The Customer Experience Edge: Technology and Techniques for Delivering An Enduring, Profitable, and Positive Experience to Your Customers (McGraw-Hill, 2012).

Having the resources of their employer SAP at their disposal in order to commission an independent study, Reza Soudagar, Vinay Iyer, and Dr. Volker G. Hildebrand might have been expected to come up with a credible book; but not necessarily so. It wasn’t just a question of doing research, but also the kind of deep analysis and organization of material that enables the average reader to immediately “get” the data’s applicability. If that doesn’t happen, all you end up with is another data-heavy, dry textbook yawn-fest.

Let me give you a brief backgrounder to how this book came about, before we look at how to scale-down their approach for the kind of credible book you might write.

The authors had taken notice of IBM’s Global CEO study, which found that getting closer to customers was the number one priority for the executives polled. So they commissioned Bloomberg BusinessWeek to research the topic by surveying their reader base and interviewing companies that had achieved significant transformations through a primary focus on customers. Deciding to weave those findings into a book didn’t strike them until the research was completed, 12 months’ later, co-author Vinay Iyer told me.

What the authors did was to break down that mass of information, extracting four essentials of customer experience: Reliability, Convenience, Responsiveness, and Relevance, which were validated by the real-world responses from 307 director-level and above executives at midsize and large companies. They then mapped these essentials onto three key technology-related areas (they work for SAP, remember) and used specific company examples to show how this framework results in the “customer experience edge.”

What can those of us do, who don’t have the resources to support this kind of large-scale research or want to wait 12 months before getting started on our book?

Why not personally interview a sample of industry or business experts to gather their perspectives about your topic, using that material as a key feature in your book? At the same time you’re gathering advocates to help market the book when it’s published.

Or you could develop a short Wufoo or SurveyMonkey questionnaire, promoting that through your social media channels, to gather relevant data.

Certainly there’s nothing wrong with writing a book based only on your opinion—although preferably if it’s been honed and refined over many years and tested against a wide range of situations. But without the added credibility of research, as the man said, your book could end up as useful to the rest of us as a chocolate fireguard.

Coming Next on Thought Readership: A Legend In Its Own Lunchtime: What A Developmental Editor Could Have Done For This Book!

Thought Readership #2: Er, Who Did You Say You Were?

by Liz Alexander on February 20, 2012

We all know the three pillars of marketing, right? Know, Like, and Trust. Then why do so many non-fiction authors, many of whom intend to use their books as marketing tools, ignore this when they write? They dive straight into their material as if that’s enough for us to trust what they have to say.

Sorry, but it isn’t.

Perhaps such authors think that back cover blurbs or page upon page of “praise” from third parties will do the trick. But that’s like asking me to do business with someone because they’ve come highly recommended, without being able to discover for myself whether we’re a good fit.

Superior nonfiction authors never segregate themselves from their topic.

Mike Figliuolo accomplishes this skillfully in One Piece of Paper: The Simple Approach To Powerful, Personal Leadership (Jossey-Bass, 2011). This book takes you through a series of provocative questions from which you can express your leadership philosophy – not in a document the size of War and Peace – but on a single sheet of 8.5- x 11-inch paper. And in a way that not only makes that philosophy unique and easy to remember but ensures it more effectively engages your audience.

The “leadership maxims method” that Figliuolo shares was something he says he “stumbled upon” after graduating from West Point and serving in the US Army as a combat arms officer.

To establish his leadership without resorting to meaningless jargon that inspires nothing in no-one, Figliuolo learned to communicate two clear expectations to his soldiers: work hard; be honest. He further developed his approach as a rookie consultant with McKinsey and Co., before launching his own professional services firm specializing in leadership.

It didn’t take me long (by page 10, actually), to get a clear sense of who this author is (know) and to admire his openness and honesty (like). Certainly, the clarity and confidence of his writing style helped engender a sense of trust, but also the way he shared his own development story.

The author could have limited referencing his military career to the dust jacket and simply focused on telling me about his extensive consulting experience. That wouldn’t have been anywhere near as interesting or engaging. To successfully differentiate yourself as an author these days, when so many coaches and consultants are publishing books, it helps to have something to share that goes beyond bog-standard professional knowledge.

For example, in Chapter 6 of One Piece of Paper, Figliuolo explains that one of his maxims (and to get a full appreciation of their power either read the book or someone’s review) is “What would Nana say?” (Nana was his grandmother). He relates the story of how, as a young platoon leader, he discovered his unit had “lost” a tank tool that would have cost $2,600 to replace. But this isn’t the usual whitewashed story; Figliuolo reveals that he didn’t follow Nana’s example of integrity but opted instead “to reinforce a culture in which barter and white-lie extortion were acceptable behaviors.”

It’s that kind of human frailty, and admissions of such, that endear us to others because we recognize the same tendencies in ourselves. That’s what makes the method Figliuolo shares so authentic and motivational.

Know. Like. Trust. That model works for marketing products so why not use it to better engage with your readers? After all, if I don’t know who you are, I can’t determine if I like you or not. When I do, I’m of a mind to forgive authors a heck of a lot more than if they never bothered to introduce themselves at all.

Coming Next on Thought Readership: What’s wrong with “chocolate fireguard” books — and what to do instead.

Stay tuned.

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

Flexible Focus #60: Writing Tips and Tools

by William Reed on July 7, 2011

Put Your Passion on a Platform

If we don’t stand for something, we shall fall for anything.”~Peter Marshall, Chaplain (1947)

Although we often associate the word platform with politics, in fact it has a far more profound relevance in how we live our lives and pursue our passions. As most of us are not running for election, we do not need to use our platform to debate an opponent or win over voters. A platform is a point of view, a perspective, a place to stand. Without a platform we simply drift.

One of the best ways to develop a platform is to write. Whether it is a diary meant for your eyes only, or a published platform for the world to see, the very act of putting your thoughts in writing gives your thoughts wings, and sets your mind in motion. Writing not only gives shape to your thoughts, but the process of writing makes you a proactive producer, rather than a passive consumer. Writing puts things in perspective by requiring you to take a point of view, while at the same time considering the points of view of your readers, an excellent recipe for flexible focus.

Although we all learn to write in school, few people continue to write, and many resist the process as a tiresome task. Even people who want to write often experience writer’s block, a state of mental congestion in which words jam and fail to communicate what is inside wanting to come out.

Oddly, chances are that you are never more fluent when it comes to talking about your passions. But when you try to write about them, you often find that your thoughts have clipped wings.

One of the reasons for this is the feeling cultivated in school that writing is something that you will be graded on. Poor spelling and awkward phrases may brand you as uneducated or incoherent. It may seem safer to stick to speech, rather than committing yourself in print.

And yet putting your thoughts on paper is one of the best ways to put your passion on a platform, because it is lasting, and reaches much further than your voice. Your writing can be the core element of your personal brand.

Facilitating the Process

The fastest way to fluency in writing is to form the habit of logging your thoughts in a notebook, capturing your ideas in key words, images, and visual metaphors. Your brain takes to a notebook like a duck to water. it is your space, your playground, your mental mirror. No need to worry about grades or grammar, just enjoy the power of the pen.

I have explored this process in depth in my Creative Career Path column in such articles as, Idea Marathon, Making Your Mark, and Doodle for Your Noodle. Without a vibrantly flowing river of thought running through your life, any efforts you make at formal writing will sound stilted and forced. Imagine if a company of actors put on a play without any rehearsals or practice. The results would not be pretty, and yet that is the approach that many people take when they sit down to write without the habit of daily practice.

Once you have become comfortable putting pen to paper and generating ideas, the next step is to engage in writing to an audience. Whether through a blog or an article, or more formally through a book, you are better served if you make use of writing tools which can enhance your ability to say what you mean in a memorable way.

Words gain more power when addressed with alliteration. Taking care to select the right words can help you craft your style in a way that is both conversational and concise. Because your passive vocabulary is much larger than your active vocabulary, it is important to reach into the full range of words which you already know, but may not be accustomed to using. The best way to do this is to make use of tools like Thesaurus.com. You will be surprised to see how many ways there are to say the same thing with a different nuance.

To enhance your writing experience, Scrivener is an excellent tool, available for Mac OSX, and with a beta version for Windows. Scrivener is a complete writing studio, with all you could possibly want to organize your research, format your documents, keep visual notes, manage text statistics, search your documents, or edit and add comments. It is a writer’s dream.

The Mandala Chart itself is an excellent way to organize ideas around a subject, or create an editorial calendar, allowing you to see the big picture, the fine detail, and the integration of your material with flexible focus. Another excellent tool for organizing your ideas is PersonalBrain. You can create your own 3D idea maps on your computer, or publish them in the form of a Webbrain, such as I have done for this column with the Flexible Focus Webrain.

If you want to write or present yourself professionally in print, then there is no better resource than Roger C. Parker’s PublishedandProfitable.com, a step by step resource guide to planning, writing, promoting, and profiting from a book or any other form of writing. Here you will find templates, white papers, expert interviews, articles, worksheets, and a wealth of resources for writers. Roger has also lent his wisdom on Writing for Business through his Author’s Journey series on Active Garage.

Published writing increases the size and quality of your interface with the world. It has never been easier to create and cultivate that interface through software tools and leverage your work through social media. Give wings to your thoughts, and see just how far it can take you personally and professionally.