Essays > Skill Development — 25 November 2012

This is the final part of Kaiyum’s article on writing…

Part 1: Just Write It
Part 2: Keep on Writing…

 

Quotations

These are excellent ways of enlivening the reader’s interest, particularly when supported by typography or layout. Let’s try one here:

As Robert A. Moran says,

Titles of exciting books are an important source of inspiration for the titles of enterprise projects and speeches.”

Maybe you‘ve noticed how expressions like ‘The eagle has landed’ and ‘Catch 22’ – each book and film titles – have entered common language.

One of the best ways to pep up the attractiveness of your text is with anecdotes. Your readers will easily identify with well-chosen examples which illustrate your point in a practical way. Some points you need to know about anecdotes:

  • it’s permissible to be flexible with the truth
  • keep them as contemporary as possible and, except at the beginning, tell them in the present tense
  • supply (fictitious) names for people and companies
  • name locations
  • provide sufficient couleur locale before you get to the key words of the story.

Example: it may have happened to your brother Jack several years ago, but you say, “Last week I was visiting Dublin. I walk into my hotel and the lovely redhead receptionist asks me …”

A final suggestion is to produce a synopsis that is suitable for marketing purposes, even if only for the book cover. You know the book better than the publisher and even if the marketing department polishes it up, at least you’ve provided a basic text.

How much time do you need?

Experience tells me I need between 30 minutes and 2 hours to write an article, depending on the required length and for which magazine. I need approximately 1½ days to write a 1 hour CD script and 7 days (away from e-mail!) for a book. The subjects are dear to me and the words flow from my heart.

You will discover for yourself, as part of your creative process, how much time is needed for your project. Yet set yourself a goal, such as knowing your book or article will be ready by a certain date. Then be consistent in following through, being true to yourself, your conscience and to those who are anticipating the fruits of your labours. And if you’d like to learn more about setting goals there are many books on personal effectiveness and achieving success.

changes

The finish!

When you complete the first version – celebrate! Yes, it’s important to reward yourself for your achievement. Put the work aside for a while.

If the text flows nicely and says what you want to say, leave it alone. When you first go through it, check for all possible spelling mistakes. Remember, a computer checker won’t fully correct all your grammatical errors nor pick up spelling mistakes when the misspelled word is also a correct word in its own right. (For example, my Word checker accepts ‘vey’ when I actually meant ‘very’ and can’t know I meant ‘lamp’ when I wrote ‘lamb’.)

Ensure correct spacing around punctuation.

Find friends or contacts whose opinion you value and ask them to read your work and comment. It may hurt, but stay open to their suggestions because your ultimate goal is a sellable text. (‘Sellable’ here means that an editor will publish your article; whether you get paid money for it these days is another matter.) Watch out that you resist defending your ‘text baby’, as very often it’s your favourite passages which need to be edited!

Delivery

These days editors of magazines and professional journals and publishers ask for the text as a digital file. Some request a Word document, others have different requirements.

Cooperate with the editor wherever possible; together you are making a product to satisfy a client – the reader, the market. Accept any suggested changes unless they negatively affect the essence of your story.

With any luck you’ll get a chance to see proofs. You may wait weeks for them, yet you can be certain that you’ll get them at the last moment and have very little time to go through them! Be thorough in checking and resist changing anything except misspelled words, unless of course you notice something more serious like missing paragraphs.

Dare to ask to see the corrected proofs. I suggest this from personal experience …

Check where notes, illustrations and quotations are placed. They may have got moved around and no longer appear on the relevant page. Check page numbering, correct sequence of chapters and running titles in the table of contents, check the sequence of foreword, index, illustration numbering and relevant caption or legend. Check, check and double check!

The sale

This subject alone could fill many books. And has! But I’ll keep it brief here. It’s safe to assume that professional magazines are interested in topical, interesting and relevant copy. After all, they want to fill the pages of their magazine and see it sold! It is often a question of finding the right magazine. In a sense, this is a task that’s becoming increasingly easy because of the large number of titles that cover specific niche markets. On the other hand, growth of the internet has caused significant changes in the world of publishing.

You know your professional area, so it should be relatively easy to find which magazines or journals might be interested in your article. Where possible make contact by phone. These days, the chances are small that you’ll get any response to an unsolicited e-mail or letter. Ask about the interest in your particular subject and provide a clear, brief and intriguing summary of your message. Make sure you give it a twist to indicate that you are sure the editor’s readers will be delighted to read your article.

If it happens to be a professional article that you have written on company time, it’s a good idea to discuss the result with your PR department, the head of Marketing or whatever is relevant to your organisation.

A book: choosing the right subject, making it attractive in every way, finding a suitable publisher … it’s all part of a fascinating game. Luckily, although it’s become harder in the world of book publishing, there’s still a healthy interest and demand for paper publications.

Finally…

Whether or not your book or article ultimately gets published is unimportant at this moment, because the first step is to start writing!

My advice, having published close to 20 books and hundreds of articles in several languages, is: Go ahead and get it written!

Enjoy the process, enjoy what you discover … and along the journey each next step will present itself.

 

Illustration from the cover of the children’s book What Do Authors Do? by Eileen Christelow

 

Kaiyum took sannyas at the Osho Academy in Sedona in 1998 and nowadays lives in Eefde, The Netherlands. His current work is based on three primary activities, connected by the common theme of doing things differently. He coaches and trains the art of presentation. He works as a therapist in complementary healing, where he emphasizes restoring the biochemical balance to support self-generation of the physical body. Most recently, together with his beloved Indra, he created ‘De Doorbraak’ (The Breakthrough), a heart-based approach to communication for children of all ages to help them change how they experience their world, putting an end to bullying at school. And then the man also cooks … perfectpresentation.nl – davidbloch.com

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