Archives for category: Writing Resources

This is the first in a series, “Don’t Do This” — posts aimed at helping you avoid bad writing habits, identify and steer clear of the pitfalls of poor writing, and become the writer-communicator that people want to follow.

It’s like a book online. Free. Bite sized, motivating, practical bits. I believe you’ll like it — because it’s all about what works, the how-to for an immediate increase in your writing effectiveness. 

This first post is an easy read, every bit worth its tad-bit-longer length. Subsequent series posts will be pointed, brief, direct — with a strong take-away to apply right then and there. So you become a sharper writer, right now.

Get every word in this first post, so that you’re in the know for what’s to come.
(It’s worth it.)

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When we hear the words, don’t do this, we sit up and listen — because we know that something important is coming: knowledge with the palpating power to save us from heartache and pain.

Entrepreneur. CEO. Leader. Forward thinker…
Creative. Writer. Artist. Musician. Passionate expresser of life…
Above-average thinker who cares…

Because you matter — your passion, your ideas — and because you want to make a difference…this is for you.

To communicate effectively with words, the how-to skill must be in place. For no matter how much heart or passion we feel and exude — get this — without the vital how-to help that your writing needs, the heart of your communication will collapse.

Seriously. Your ideas, passions, and hopes go into cardiac arrest and threaten to die.

But they don’t have to. When it comes to effectively getting your ideas to others, there are external defibrillators (AEDs) that can save you from some heartache and pain. AEDs analyze the heart’s electrical activity and give life-saving electric shocks to the chest of a person who has collapsed from cardiac arrest. Even if your writing is in cardiac arrest (if you know it…or can admit it…or are willing to do something with it because you get it), the info here gives the life-saving shocks needed, to breathe and fully live.

Because deep down, you know that your words matter,
and because you have a message that people need
and a skill to share…

Read on.
__________________________

Fact 1: Every word you write has a purpose. You know this.

Making a list, writing an article or post, writing a book — each has a reason for its existence.

You know the adage:
* Know the target, know the direction to shoot the arrow.
(It applies here.)
* Know the purpose of your writing, and you’ll understand what kinds of words, phrases, tone, style, length of sentence (and other tools) to use.

Because purpose directs and informs everything we write. Everything.
(Really.)

Here’s the super-simple action I want you to do…
(Trust me on this one.)

Ask the questions:
Who’s going to read this, and why?
What does he or she expect?

In the entire piece.
On this particular page.
In this paragraph.
In this sentence.

And, yes, keep asking yourself the questions — while you’re smack-dab in the center of your click-press-pop-clack fingers on the keys or press-flow-move pen on the page.

(Any and every time you write.)

These questions should be soaring, swooping, circling in your brain above the target, like a mighty falcon with gleaming-sun-feather brilliance. The questions are ever present — ever casting shadows on the red-and-white circled target of your writing.

We want powerful writing — zinging and smacking into the target. So we’d better understand our writing’s purpose.
_________________________

Fact 2: Your writing has a goal: to express, to inform, or to persuade. 

Expression is just for you and me so, hey, we can put anything we want on the page. But information and persuasion, ah, now we’re in different territory. Information and persuasion are for others.

So. We’re stuck.

Because when we write for others, we have to do it their way. We have to follow the guidelines that meet the reader’s needs. If we don’t, then we end up with no one reading what we wrote. Ugh.

Hm. In order to satisfy the reader, we’d better understand the goal of each little scrap that we write.

Ask the questions:
What benefit is my reader looking for?
What does he/she want to feel and experience?
What do they want to know, to walk away with?
Am I giving the reader exactly what’s wanted?

In the entire piece.
On this particular page.
In this paragraph.
In this sentence.

We want satisfied readers — full of good feelings toward what we wrote, full of good memories and understandings that bring them back for more. So we’d better understand the goal of each little bit that we write.
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Fact 3: Engagement rules. Gone are the days of readers hanging around to read writing that doesn’t engage.

Most of us cringe at the volume of words bombarding our inbox, crowding into our web searches, bumping across our Facebook pages, and even ambling across the bottom of our television programs with the ad for the next-up program.

We’re way beyond information overload. We’re in information repel mode.

Engagement is critical.

Failure to follow the rules of engagement makes readers push away in disappointment, apathy, or even upset mode. Disappointed, apathetic, upset readers leave, let alone even begin to engage (as in, let’s click away in three seconds flat).

That simply won’t do.

Ask the questions:
Where are the repetitive words to axe and toss down the hill?
How can I change up words, to make the writing concise, pointed, powerful?
What am I doing in my writing that repels the reader?

In the entire piece.
On this particular page.
In this paragraph.
In this sentence.

We want readers to stay. So we’d better understand the rules of engagement for writing. (This series is all about helping you identify exactly what you’re doing…so stay with me.)
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Fact 4: Rules of engagement are blood red critical. Writing lives or dies on the rules of engagement.

But we have a serious problem. We don’t know what we don’t know. (Ignorance is not bliss. It’s deadly.)

No lie: I believe that most bad writing is for lack of knowledge. Cluelessness. Not intentional, mind you — it’s simply the I-just-never-learned-this-stuff ignorance.

And without knowing it’s even happening, you’re sending the reader away apathetic or screaming.

Oy.

At the turn of the New Year, ask questions:
Am I keeping myself back by simply living in a closed-door mentality, a self-focus?
Am I willing to open myself up to learning?
Am I humble enough to listen?
Am I willing to be thirsty for understanding, so that I can move forward?

It’s time:
Get better at the craft of written communication.
Don’t mess up due to ignorance.

<<Make what you write matter.>>

Have nothing stand in the way of your clear, vibrating, resonating, connecting communication.

Be willing. Willing to cultivate an open, listening, seeking heart. Willing to listen. Willing to absorb.

Willing to work.

Next time, we’ll get practical. We’ll talk about how not to end your piece. (How to give your reader something to hold onto, a smooth stone in the hand — a promise. It’s good.)

See you then.
(I can’t wait.)

* Thup
coffeeDec26-14

Yes, I believe in success formulas.
They’re everywhere.
For just about everything.
(In work, life, and love.)

Okay. So if you want to be a successful writer (or creative artist),
read through to the end of this post.

Because writing has success formulas, too.
For instance…

* Look at Blake Snyder‘s Beat Sheet. Following Snyder’s formula, movies surge through the box office to pulse in our veins. We remember the movies: their meaning, their message, and how they made us feel.

* Look at Joseph Campbell’s monomyth and The Hero’s Journey. Following Campbell’s formulas, books surge through bestseller lists and into our cognitive and emotional pathways. We remember the journey, the challenges, and the characters like they’re our friends.

* And I believe that we’re hardwired for story –
hardwired to receive epiphanies, challenges, and emotional catharsis through story. Time after time, story captures and changes us.

You may not like formula, but it’s there.
And it works.

I sat in the movie theater two nights ago enveloped in The Edge of Tomorrowbreathing Blake Snyder’s beats, ticking them off one by one. And I loved it. The formula worked — the beats of story lined up perfectly. The opening image…the setup…the theme stated…the catalyst….right up to the mirrored closing shot. To me, the movie met all my expectations, and then some.

Expectations.
The operative word.
We go about life with expectations.
Some good, some bad.

Regardless, we like to have our expectations met.
The fulfillment of expectations brings certainty.

Tony Robbins names certainty (predictability) as one of our Six Human Needs. When we expect something, and it happens, we feel good.

As artists, we have to meet expectations…while also bringing freshness to the formula. We all know The Edge of Tomorrow is Groundhog Day with a twist. Yep. Same concept. Same premise. Same players. Different setting and scenarios. How did the writers get away with it? They made the twist twisty enough.

(By the way, Robbins also says that we need uncertainty. Hence the need for the twist.)

The Formula vs. The Twist
How much do we stick to the formula? How much do we deviate from the formula (how much of a twist is too much)? I believe balance is learned, then practiced — to learn the skills of the formula, and then to know how much to push the artistry into difference, beyond the receiver’s expectations. It’s something we have to try out.

So.
Learn the formulas. Use the formulas.
Then, yeah, just get creating and see where it goes.
(Writers, WRITE.)
Push the formula. Then push it a little more.

Oh. And here’s an Aside Life Application (of course)
(You know me — loving life application):

Life truths (formulas) make for our lifestory’s success.
(Covey’s Law of the Farm is a formula to pay attention to.)
(Maxwell has Seven Laws.)
(Blanchard says we need to get to higher levels of interaction.)
(Goldsmith says our formulas work to a point, but we need to be careful to not let our formulas be our downfall.)
(And on and on. There’s no shortage of life truths and formulas.)

Ignore the life formulas, and you get way off track. Yeah. Bad.
So. Really. Get to the good. Get going, get learning. There are a lot of formulas ready for us, waiting for us.
Let’s. Use. Them.

They will save you (and me) from a lot of wrong thinking, hurtful actions, and pain that could have been avoided.

And. As we write today
(or draw today)
(or paint today)
(or take that photograph today)
(or whatever-create today),
may we know the formulas and use them.
(May the formulas be with you.)

Balance between formula (certainty) and twist (uncertainty) creates the best result.

* Thup
coffee white

PS. Here’s a list of Leadership Gurus with a lot of great formulas.
PPS. Okay, let’s not forget Zig Ziglar. Read or listen to him, and you’ll find success formulas growing all over the place.
PPPS. And, oh yes, Nick Vujicic‘s life truths. POWERFUL. Watch this.

surfing the web
for ideas.

landing on pages
that I’d never land on.
(usually)

reading crazy articles
about crazy people
and
looking at crazy pictures
with crazy behavior.
(whoa. people really act insane sometimes, don’t they? sheesh.)

(And BoyOhBoy, do I have a lot of ideas to add to my story, now.)

The Internet.
(Good for ideas.)
Spin and shoot for anything, get something.

What a deal.

* Thup
coffee12-26-13

When teaching undergrad students
in a leadership and management class (years ago),
we discussed the Johari Window. 

(keep your eye on the ball, this is cool…
for life and for writing)

Ultimately,
the Johari Window is a
self-awareness tool.

Take a peek.

Image
(I know. It doesn’t make much sense right now.
It will. Keep reading.)

In the model,
there are four quadrants.
(pretty easy to see, aren’t they?)

The quadrants represent what is known and unknown,
to ourselves and others.

So.
(The big reveal’s coming.
Promise.)

Now look closer at this baby.
I mean,
read a little spittance below.
(new word…spit + pittance.
roll with me)

And after reading each spittance,
look at the corresponding
window pane.

(read the spittance,
then put your finger here.
peek at the window, super quick.
then come right back.)

(it pays off. really. do it.)

Open Quadrant.
The open area is
what we know about ourselves us.
AND
what others know about us.

(this is the “open book” part of us
that we all see and get)

Blind Quadrant.
The blind area is
what we don’t know about ourselves,
BUT
others know it about us.

(This is the dreaded Blindspot…
the part of our lives that
really hurts us sometimes.)

Hidden Quadrant.
The hidden area is
what we know about ourselves,
BUT
we don’t let others know about it.

(kept hidden. as in secret area.)

Unknown Quadrant.
The unknown area is
what we don’t know about ourselves
AND
no one else knows it either.

(the subconscious, unconscious, deep self)

I know.
This isn’t grad school.
Seriously. Trust me. It’s relevant.
(just one more second…)This Johari Window Thingamabob
is about
personal growth.(AHHhhhhhhhh)
personal growth.
(keywords)
Personal. Growth.

Writer.
Think Character Arc.
Character Arc = Personal Growth
GET THIS.
Johari Window = a tool for writing character
The Johari Window is amazingly excellent for developing character
because it’s so simple and easy to see.
“One of the greatest gifts
you could give yourself
is to seek, find, and apply
truth in your life.

This is the path to becoming
a healthy person.
Aligning yourself with the truth
permits a better person to
eventually emerge from within.”
(cool.)

For you.
For me.
For our characters.
Tools are cool.
Tools facilitate.
(Tools get you writing.)

Try looking through the Johari Window.

Especially that hidden part,
which can bring
super fabulous facets
to your characters’s lives and arcs and plot points.
(more on that tomorrow)

Off to writing.
(Time to step into that scene…)

* Thup
coffeeNov26-13

We all have our go-to sources:
Books, articles, and people
who delineate conventional wisdom
and open petals of beauty and truth
for our writing.

Vogler’s The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers
is a classic.
(one of the works I revisit often)

I’ve actually designed and teach
a course for teens around the book.
And every time I teach it,
the petals open bit more.

Important truth: Writers read.
And re-read.

It’s not a secret: masters of craft
(in any field)
read and re-read.

Letting it sink in.
Deeply.
So that the wisdom is a part of you
and your abilities.

* Thup

Image

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