By Barbara McNichol
Imagine that moment when you finally hold your book in your hands. And how good it will feel to hear from all those readers who’ve been inspired, even transformed, by your story, insights, and ideas.
But dreaming about it and doing it are two different things, right?
I’m excited to tell you about an upcoming free webinar with Lisa Tener and Samantha Bennett, Bring Your Book to Life® in 2018 on Wednesday, January 17 at 8:30 pm ET, 5:30 pm PT.
On this free call, Lisa and Sam will demystify the process of becoming a published author and help you:
- Discover how to make your book a “Must Read” for your tribe.
- Break through any self-doubt that’s been getting in the way.
- Unlock your unique voice as a writer.
- Learn our best techniques and tips for staying the course and completing your book, so nothing gets in the way of becoming a published author.
- Learn 3 tips to write a high quality, fresh and transformative book quickly.
- Bring Your Book to Life® in 2018!
Lisa is an award-winning book writing and publishing coach who has helped hundreds of first-time authors write, publish and leverage their books into a multitude of profitable, life-changing opportunities. Many of her clients have landed 5-to 6-figure publishing deals and appeared on Oprah, Today, CBS Early Show and other syndicated shows.
Sam Bennett is a creativity specialist and bestselling author of multiple books, including Get It Done, which Seth Godin called ‘an instant classic’.
Plus…Lisa will share secrets that get her private clients 5- and 6-figure book deals with top publishers.
If you feel you have a message to share or a story to tell, one with the power to help, encourage, and inspire other people, reserve your seat now for Bring Your Book to Life® in 2018 on January 17.
Reserve your seat today. And I’ll meet you there!
by Barbara McNichol
What can editors tell writers and authors about improving their writing? Consider these five common writing mistakes even conscientious writers make:
Mistake #1: Being self-absorbed as a writer. With too much talk about the author’s experience of writing, you risk overlooking the reader’s experience. The fix? Use “you” more than “I” in your sentences and stay close to your core message.
Mistake #2: Addressing readers in plural rather than as a single person whose interest you want to capture. Remember, reading is a solitary pastime. The fix? Keep one person in your target audience in your mind’s eye as you write.
Mistake #3: Using a long noun phrase when an active verb will do. The fix? Whenever possible, get an active verb to do the “work” of the sentence. Instead of “the examination of the report was done by the director,” change the noun phrase to a verb and rewrite the sentence: “The director examined the report.” In this way, passive construction becomes active, reduces the word count, and delivers a more direct message.
Mistake #4: Having no clear order to the paragraphs. The fix? Once you’ve crafted a solid, compelling opening, think through how the organization and flow of your main points will best guide your reader logically to your desired conclusion. If possible, test the result with colleagues or actual readers who will give you honest feedback.
Mistake #5: Writing sentences that ramble (on and on and on and on). The fix? Limit your sentences to 15-21 words maximum. Be sure to vary sentence length to create interest.
Bonus mistake: Flat-out choosing the wrong word. Yes, in English, it’s easy to confuse common words such as “advice” instead of “advise” (among hundreds more). The fix? Use a comprehensive resource such as Word Trippers (print or ebook) to help you select the perfect word when it really matters. Want a free mini-version of Word Trippers (the ebook)? Go to http://www.WordTrippers.com
What common writing mistakes would you add to this list?
Editor’s Note: You’ll benefit greatly from this program if you’re dealing with inertia on making your book-writing dreams come true. Gail Woodard is a consummate pro who has taught me a lot about the publishing process. The best part? You don’t have to go it alone!
Consider this program to kick off your new year with forward momentum!
Do you have a book in you that wants to come out?
Do you worry that your book isn’t good enough?
Are you unsure what to do next to advance your project?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, expert help is on the way!
Move Me Forward is a live, six-session online video program for people who need support and guidance as they work on their books.
Hosted by Gail Woodard, CEO and publisher at Dudley Court Press, Move Me Forward helps any writer at any stage of any writing project. During every session, you’ll have the opportunity to:
- Feel inspired and supported as you get unstuck.
- See how other authors have dealt with challenges like yours.
- Get tools and answers to advance your writing project.
- Be accountable to make solid progress between meetings.
Move Me Forward Schedule
Intro session is on December 7, 2017, then every three weeks, on Thursdays, January 4 through March 29, 2018. All sessions at 7:30 pm EST. $225 for full program. No payment due until after first session. Register here.
Is this Program Suitable for a Beginning Writer?
Gail’s response: it depends.
If you are at a point where you know you need help with the craft of writing itself – with issues like how to creat vibrant dialogue or ways to organize for best plot development, this is not likely the first course I would recommend. However, if you are tackling questions of strategy around your writing business, wondering how to think about marketing or even goal-setting, or you are overwhelmed by what you think you should do next, then this program could be very helpful.
We’ll be covering the 7 steps you need to follow to be a successful author. There will be ample time for Q&A – on any aspect of “authordom.” And I think you’ll find camaraderie and accountability – both to serve you as you move forward with your writing project.
Come to the first session and try it out for free. If it feel like a great match for you, great. You’ll be moving forward before the year is out.
by Kathleen Watson
When I had boarded and settled in for a recent flight, I reached for the airline magazine in the back-of-the-seat pouch in front of me.
True to form for this ruthless editor, I selected articles for not only enjoyment but also for illumination, keeping my grammar radar on high alert. How do other writers use words and punctuation?
Two articles — one about Pioneertown, a two-hour drive east of Los Angeles, and one about Fishtown, a residential area not far from Philadelphia’s historic district — were packed with examples of well-crafted, rich descriptions of American burgs and the colorful locals who inhabit them.
Narrowing my focus, I became acutely aware of the number of compound modifiers used throughout. Because examples instruct so well, I’m listing several here.
Imagine these modifiers without the hyphen. Can you see how hyphens add clarity?
- a two-hour drive east of Los Angeles
- a cup of high-octane coffee
- a well-worn Formica counter
- a pair of steel-toed boots
- his working-class roots
- the top-floor music venue
- a whole-animal butchery
- the ever-present sound of the overhead train
- a tight-knit community
- a cash-only shot-and-beer joint
- a high-end Italian restaurant
- role-playing games
- long-term residents
- a down-to-earth approach
- largely blue-collar residential neighborhoods
- a settlement of fully functional Western-style buildings
Note in the last two examples that modifiers ending in ly don’t require a hyphen: largely blue-collar residents, fully functional buildings.
Whether you write fiction or nonfiction or for business or pleasure, reading well-written pieces by others can inspire and instruct. How often do you approach reading through that lens?
Kathy Watson has a love/hate relationship with grammar; she loves words and the punctuation that helps them make sense, yet she hates those pesky rules. A self-proclaimed ruthless editor, she prefers standard usage guidelines of The Associated Press Stylebook. Her easy-to-use Grammar for People Who Hate Rules helps people write and speak with authority and confidence.
Compound modifiers streamline the writing and reading experience. Share your own examples here. Request a one-word-or-two reference sheet by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Editor’s Note: This post is an excerpt from a new book published by Gail Woodard and Dudley Court Press. Titled Write the Book You’re Meant to Write: A Guide for First-Time Authors, it gets to the heart of the issues first-time authors face. I was honored to have been interviewed for this book as well as edit it.
by Gail Woodard
I asked my good friend and editor Barbara McNichol what advice she would give to a first-time author about the process of working with an editor. Here’s some of our exchange:
How can an editor help an author? Smart authors know the value of a good editor to improve the clarity of their ideas and conciseness of the words they use. A good editor makes the author’s prose more readable while preserving the person’s intended voice.
Can you advise authors on how to streamline their writing so the editing process goes more smoothly and costs less money? Sure. Adopting these seven practices will make a huge difference in any manuscript:
- Get rid of extraneous phrases (e.g., the fact of the matter is, there is and there are, is going to, is starting to, is designed to, etc.)
- Find alternatives for wobbly words—vague words that don’t add meaning (e.g., really, much, very, some, that).
- Change long noun phrases into short verbs whenever feasible (e.g., “the examination of” becomes “examine”; “the judgment of” becomes “judge”).
- Limit the length of your sentences to 21 words so readers won’t get bogged down and lose your intended train of thought. (Oh, my. This sentence exceeds 21 words by 2!)
- Pay attention to noun/verb agreements and pronouns, too. You hear people say “me and Michael went to lunch” but “me” is the wrong pronoun in this case. Know what’s right. Apply the right grammar rules; it’s important to your credibility!
- Construct your sentences using active verbs, not passive (e.g., “The stranger created a scene” is active; “A scene was created by a stranger” is passive.) Why is this important? The action you want to convey moves forward more directly when you write in active construction. Look for the word “by,” which clues you in to when passive construction is used.
- For accuracy, know which word to use when. Pay special attention to confusing ones such as “complementary” versus “complimentary.” Hint: the word “gift” and “complimentary” both have an “i” so when you’re being complimentary, think of giving away a gift. I call these “Word Trippers” and offer a word choice guide and subscription program to make it easy to learn the difference. (See www.wordtrippers.com)
Why should someone invest in hiring a professional editor? Editors are trained to be patient and thorough. They go through an author’s manuscript with a fine-toothed comb. That’s rarely the kind of diligence provided by friends or even critique-group members.
In addition to keeping the author’s voice, what else is a primary goal in the editing process? For nonfiction books especially, authors write them to support their business objectives. Their book forms the cornerstone of their company’s message and direction. Keeping that objective in sight during the editing process guides the editor throughout the multiple reviews. Does the book accomplish what it sets out to do for the benefit of the readership and the author, too?
What book editing questions do you have?
- Order Write the Book You’re Meant to Write on Amazon
- Seek advice on writing/publishing your book at www.DudleyCourtPress.com
- Contact Barbara McNichol for your editing needs.
By Cathy Fyock
Why is it so hard to start a big project? Maybe it’s because it is so big that it seems daunting, or that it’s difficult to identify the best first step.
Starting your book can offer the same challenges: how do you get started in a productive and confident manner?
Here are six ideas about what NOT to do when tackling that first draft.
- Read every other book on the topic before you start. While it is important to know your topic and have solid research behind you, and it’s important to complete an analysis on other books on your subject, it may be counterproductive to peruse all the competitive literature on your topic. Assuming you know your topic, what your book should offer is a fresh approach, a new perspective, and a novel take on the subject matter. If you spend too much time in analyzing what others have said, you may be less likely to boldly state your unique stance. Do your homework, but don’t be so compulsive about research that you fail to begin or lose your fresh perspective.
- Just start writing. Writing without a road map is as productive as starting out on a vacation without any decision about where you’re going or what you want to accomplish. Every book project should begin with a thorough understanding of the purpose for your book as well as a clearly defined thesis statement. If you haven’t decided how you will use your book (as a calling card, as your curriculum for workshops, as a leave-behind after presentations to help with the call to action), you may write the wrong book. And, without a thesis statement, you’re writing about a topic, not focusing in on a perspective that is valued by your reader.
- Start with a blank page. Blank pages are hard. Most every author will agree. So don’t start there. Begin with your content outline, and begin fleshing it out. Then start jotting down content that you want to include: quotes, data, stories, examples, cases. Then go through and make notes of other writing you will repurpose for this book. Now, begin to write! See how much easier it is.
- Start with chapter one. Chapter one is usually the hardest chapter to write, since it introduce the reader to everything you’ll be saying in the book. Write the easiest chapter first, then the next easiest, then the next. Write the first and last chapters after all the other chapters are written, setting the stage and summarizing the action.
- Clean your office. Rearrange your desk. Find the perfect notebook. Rearrange your sock drawer. Productive procrastination is a tough habit to break, since you are so darned productive while you’re doing it. The only problem is that it is getting in the way of you accomplishing what is most important—your work on this project. So let the office get a little dusty, and let the paper stacks grow in piles around your desk. It’s time to focus on the one thing you want most to accomplish—the writing of your book!
- Edit as you go. Make everything perfect and keep going back to clean it up before getting it all sketched out. If you want to get this book written, stop editing and just write. Stopping to edit every few pages is akin to starting off on a trip wanting to keep the fuel tank on F. You will certainly have a full gas tank, but it’s going to take you a long time to reach your destination. And in addition, brain science tells us that writing and editing are two distinct brain functions, and editing while writing is multi-tasking—a feat which is daunting at best. Just focus on writing, and once you’ve got the bones in place, then begin to edit and tweak.
Starting a book or blog can be a huge task but can be made much easier when you avoid these major pitfalls!
Cathy Fyock, The Business Book Strategist, works with professionals and thought leaders who want to write their book as a business development strategy. She can be reached at email@example.com.
Perhaps you see your own actions in this six points. What would you suggest NOT doing based on your experience? Humor appreciated!
by Barbara McNichol
Ever wonder how to make your sentences less verbose and more direct?
Here’s a trick that works like magic: Change long nouns to short verbs.
Consider the differences in these three examples from a nonfiction manuscript I edited:
- “They remain in contradiction with themselves” vs. “They contradict themselves.”
- “He made an acknowledgment of her success” vs. “He acknowledged her success.”
- “We get closer to the implementation of leadership practices” vs. “We get closer to implementing leadership practices.”
Study these examples. They show how you can increase readability by turning a long-winded “heavy” phrase into an active “lively” verb. What clues do you look for? Nouns ending in “ion” and “ment.”
Whatever I’m editing, I’m using this “magic” trick dozens of times a day. What a difference this one technique can make! Try it for yourself.
Action: Identify “ion” and “ment” words in your writing, then rewrite them using a lively verb.
What techniques do you use to whack wordiness? Share them here.
by Barbara McNichol
Teaching a fitness class week after week could get repetitious. A good instructor motivates action while guiding people in their exercises. My instructor likes to interject colorful similes to keep us going. And I suspect it’s also her way of staying sharp and engaged, too.
In a recent class, while describing what not to do while on all fours, the instructor said, “Think of an overburdened mule in a spaghetti Western movie and don’t slump your back like that.” Later, while on our tummies, she told us to lift our arms “like you’re jumping out of an airplane.” Great visual!
Her imagery boosts our enjoyment and helps make the point of the exercise stick. And what’s good for fitness is also good for your writing. Sprinkle similes and other figures of speech into your prose so readers can visualize your point more easily.
Examples from a fitness class:
“Drop your head to your shoulder like it’s a 10-pound bowling ball.”
“Flatten your back like you could put a tray of food on it.”
For over 50s who remember typewriters: “Shift your ribs to the side like the carriage on a typewriter.”
Example from a book:
This excerpt is from Martha Beck’s Finding Your Own North Star. I recommend Martha’s books for the sheer delight of seeing how she applies similes, metaphors, and other figures of speech to her points and stories.
If you’re planning to wait for them [your family] to locate your true path, draw you a careful map, pack you a lunch, and drive you to your North Star, you might want to take up needlework. I hear it passes the time.
Similes lead to smiles. Please share examples of similes that captured your imagination below.