Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Write Tight (Part 4 of 7)

Weeding the garden. That's how I think of editing my prose—pulling up anything that hinders a beautiful array of flowers. In writing, those weeds choke or slow down the reading process.

Here are a few phrases that make me want to grab scissors and snip the words from a magazine or a book:

* Needless to say . . . Then why say or write it?

* There is no doubt that . . . If that's true, just write the statement. (Did you notice I used just? Here is a place where the word holds meaning. I could have written simply.)

* As a matter of fact . . . Occasionally I've seen it written: As a matter of actual fact . . . In the second example, I assume it's for emphasis, but actual and fact say the same thing.

Like weeding a garden,
I delete words and expressions that mar the beauty of my prose.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Write Tight (Part 3 of 7)

Teresa shrugged her shoulders. Not wrong, but if we want to use the fewest number of words, we write: Teresa shrugged. No one would think she maneuvered her toes.

Another is stood up. Except for the military order of "Stand down," we don’t need to give directions for standing.

We ought to be able to write, "She grabbed the boy by the nape." How many napes do we have? However, the single word doesn't feel right to most of us.

English usage isn't always logical—but you probably knew that.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Write Tight (Part 2 of 7)

"In the midst of all the Christmas merriment, Henry literally fell off the chair in laughter." I read that sentence in an article, but Henry didn't fall. The sprinkling of literally troubles me: To many people, that word has become a symbol for something beyond ordinary responses to events.

Couldn't the writer have told us about excessive laughter? Perhaps Henry kept howling over something others found only slightly humorous. How would we know? The writer took the easy way out—he used an over-generalization that doesn't communicate well. (Originally, I wrote a sweeping statement, but that sounded like a cliché.)

LOL has become popular in tweeting and I often wonder if they really do laugh out loud. More likely, it means, "I thought it was funny."

I ask myself what I want to say; 
then I use appropriate words to express my meaning.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Write Tight (Part 1 of 7)

We used to refer to "the economy of words," which means the same thing as write tight. The shorter our sentences, the easier they are for readers to grasp. One way to economize is to eliminate words that add no value.

Reallyveryjust, and quite top my list. We use these words in oral communications and our voices add the inflection or emphasis. That doesn't carry through in print.

They're not bad words; they're simply limp and useless. If they add no strength to a sentence, cut them.

Because I want my readers to keep reading, 
I eliminate any unneeded words.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Maximize Your Media Interviews (Part 2 of 2)

(This post comes from Don Otis.)

Here are FIVE things I have learned over twenty-five years of working with more than 1,000 authors that will help you make the most of your interview experience.

1. Be enthusiastic. Most listeners or viewers have short attention spans. We all have more listening or 
viewing options than ever before. Be excited about your topic, your book, your organization’s mission.

2. Be aware. Be relevant. Be prepared. Re-read your book. Look for specific ways to connect to the host or audience. Do research about the media before being a guest.

3. Have a hook. Give people a compelling reason to respond and respond now. Maybe that’s a special offer. Maybe it is value-added component. Maybe it is connecting with a felt need that will help their marriage or finances.

4. Tell stories. People care more about your stories than they do about statistics or your opinion. Jesus told parables. People remember stories.

5. Give out your contact information. You might be surprised how many authors fail to do this even if a host does not ask for it. Let people know how to reach you, your organization, or get a copy of your book. 

While it seems self-evident, always be gracious to hosts or producers. Remember the story of Jesus healing the ten lepers. Just one came back to say thanks for the life-changing encounter. Be that one person.

* * * * *

—Don S. Otis, president of Veritas Communications, a publicity agency, has scheduled more than 30,000 interviews since 1991. He is the author of five books, has hosted his own radio show, and has produced radio and television shows in Los Angeles and Denver. www.veritasincorporated.com

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Maximize Your Media Interviews (Part 1 of 2)

(This post comes from Don Otis.)

P.T. Barnum once quipped, “Without promotion, something terrible happens... nothing!” And without trying to be sacrilegious, even Jesus had a front man; John the Baptist prepared the way for Him. Why should you and I be any different with our own books in needing or soliciting help?

The publishing world has changed drastically since I started my first PR agency in Los Angeles in 1991. Depending on the source you use, as many as 500,000 books are published each year in the United States. And as recently as 2012, self-publishing saw triple digit growth. You are a published author, so you know the often-painful process it takes to give birth to a book. I understand this process too.

Even though I am a publicist, I made mistakes along the way. I thought if I just got an interview and just answered questions that people would want to buy my book. I was wrong. That didn’t happen. Not until I had already done 300 interviews did it occur to me that maybe I needed to do something different. Today, part of what I do for new authors is to give them ideas about what works or what doesn’t in the interview process.

* * * * *

—Don S. Otis, president of Veritas Communications, a publicity agency, has scheduled more than 30,000 interviews since 1991. He is the author of five books, has hosted his own radio show, and has produced radio and television shows in Los Angeles and Denver. veritasincorporated.com

Friday, December 2, 2016

Telling Stories (Part 10 of 10)

A few weeks ago I sat through a lengthy lecture with a number of anecdotes—and they were clever. But afterward I wondered why the woman told them. They seemed to have no direct relationship to the message or to us who listened.

I see this in writing as well. So here's my principle: Whenever we want to insert an illustration in nonfiction or a scene in a novel, we need to ask ourselves questions.

* Why am I including this? That is, what's my purpose?

* What will my readers learn from this story or scene?

* Why is this relevant to readers?

* If I left out this scene/illustration, would readers notice?

As we know, many people seem to tell stories just to tell them. But when we ask why people share (and listen to) stories, there is an objective. It may be to encourage or inspire or cause readers to think differently. But there is still purpose in the telling.

When we end the scene or the story, we need to reflect on what we wrote and answer at least two questions for ourselves:

* Why is this relevant?

* What’s the moral or point?