Thursday, 27 October 2011

Winning a written argument

Tell Me a Story

Presenting and winning a written argument can be a struggle without coming over as overbearing. So what do you need to do to get there? The short answer is, be logical.

Apply these ideas to your argument and you won't go far wrong:

  • Incitement: Describe the problem that must be settled.
  • Description: Clearly state your solution.
  • Reiteration: Recap your premise.
  • Influence: Establish your credibility with rational, responsible statements, facts,  figures, and consistency
  • Verification: Cite or refer to experts to support your argument.
  • Forecast: Describe an encouraging outcome to your solution.
  • Expectation: Anticipate or counter disagreements or doubt, by disproving other options.
  • Assessment: Encourage conformity by indicating examples of existing events that replicate your proposition.
  • Enclosure: Invite readers to be party to your viewpoint. 
  Manner and Approach
You should always consider your readers when establishing your tenor. Keep the nitty-gritties in mind: You should always write:
  • Clearly, 
  • Logically
  • Succinctly
  • Use an active voice -passive voice has no place here.
 Also keep in mind such winning tactics as: stressing benefits; writing for the ambivalent; and focusing on communicating with, not impressing, the reader.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Tribute to an old man - poem by Anon.

Tell Me a Story - Tribute

This is a copy of an email sent to me by Jack Chambers. I thought it very poignant.
When an old man died in the geriatric ward of a nursing home in an Australian country town, it was believed that he had nothing left of any value

Later, when the nurses were going through his meagre possessions, They found this poem Its quality and content so impressed the staff that copies were made and distributed to every nurse in the hospital

One nurse took her copy to Microsoft in Melbourne, and the old man's sole bequest to posterity has since appeared in the Christmas editions of magazines around the country and appearing in mags for Mental Health A slide presentation has also been made based on his simple, but eloquent, poem

And this old man, with nothing left to give to the world, is now the author of this 'anonymous' poem winging across the Internet

Old Man

What do you see nurses?  What do you see?
What are you thinking when looking at me?
A cranky old man,  not very wise,
Uncertain of habit  with faraway eyes?

Who dribbles his food  and makes no reply
When you say in a loud voice 'I do wish you'd try!'
Who seems not to notice  the things that you do
And forever is losing a  sock or shoe?

Who, resisting or not,  lets you do as you will,
With bathing and feeding, the long day to fill?
Is that what you're thinking?  Is that what you see?
Then open your eyes, nurse you're not looking at me

I'll tell you who I am  as I sit here so still,
As I do at your bidding,  as I eat at your will
I'm a small child of ten  with a father and mother,
Brothers and sisters who love one another

A young boy of Sixteen with wings on his feet
Dreaming that soon now  a lover he'll meet
A groom soon at Twenty  my heart gives a leap
Remembering, the vows  that I promised to keep

At Twenty-Five, now  I have young of my own
Who need me to guide  And a secure happy home
A man of Thirty  My young now grown fast,
Bound to each other  With ties that should last

At Forty, my young sons have grown and are gone,
But my woman is beside me  to see I don't mourn
At Fifty, once more,  Babies play 'round my knee,
Again, we know children  My loved one and me

Dark days are upon me  My wife is now dead
I look at the future I shudder with dread
For my young are all rearing  young of their own
And I think of the years  And the love that I've known

I'm now an old man  and nature is cruel
It's jest to make old age  look like a fool
The body, it crumbles   grace and vigour, depart
There is now a stone  where I once had a heart

But inside this old carcass  A young man still dwells,
And now and again  my battered heart swells
I remember the joys  I remember the pain
And I'm loving and living life over again

I think of the years all too few  gone too fast
And accept the stark fact  that nothing can last
So open your eyes, people  open and see
Not a cranky old man Look closer see  ME!!

Remember this poem when you next meet an older person who you might pass by without looking at the young soul within
we will all, one day, be there, too!

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

How to Doctor Your Own Book

Tell Me a Story

"The most essential gift for a good writer is a built-in shock-proof shit-detector."
- Ernest Hemingway -
The Book Doctor
Most first time writers fail to understand that writing the first draft of a novel is but one small step on the long road to becoming published. Most think that getting those precious words down is all that is needed. They are wrong, they must now become a Book Doctor …..

To complete a novel is an astonishing achievement in its own right, most people never get to do it, but more is required before submitting it to an agent. Invariably, most novels need a huge dollop of revision before they are up to publication standard.

Artists, dancers, and actors tweak their work until it is perfect. Why then, do new writers baulk at improving their work?

The Book Doctor and Amateurs
Publishers, agents, and literary critics differentiate between amateur and professional writers quite easily.
  • The amateur is sensitive about their work and fiercely defends any part of it. ~ A professional considers criticism part and parcel of the game.
  • Amateurs take adverse comments as a private slight. ~ Professionals understand there is nothing personal about it, they realise that publishers have their own house-style and, they must conform to those requirements.
  1. As a book doctor you must check that the first chapter holds the reader’s attention - does it need a more intriguing start?
  2. As a book doctor you must check that you are happy with your characterisation. Do your characters come across as living, breathing people who act in rational and consistent ways, or are they cardboard cut-outs?
  3. As a book doctor you must check that your dialogue is spot on. Remember not to let characters make speeches or preach to readers. Also, don’t forget that dialogue must SEEM as if it’s natural and lifelike, which is NOT the same as recording ‘normal‘ speech. Everyday conversation is too jumpy and incoherent to make sense when written down.
  4. As a book doctor you must check that you have a strong story line which runs unambiguously throughout the book.
  5. As a book doctor you must check that you have you preserved a good pace throughout - a pace that varies yet never flags.
  6. As a book doctor you must check that the conflict and tension in your novel is sufficiently strong. Is it plausible? Remember that conflict doesn’t mean that your main characters are squabbling all the way through the story. Some of the best tension comes from inner conflict.
  7. As a book doctor you must check that the theme of your story runs unequivocally yet not laboriously throughout the book.
  8. As a book doctor you must check that you have balanced bright with sinister, delight with grief. Remember that there is frequently a silver lining to clouds. Don’t lose sight of the fact that most readers are looking for entertainment.
  9. As a book doctor you must check that your ending is rational and satisfying to your reader. Have you tied up all loose ends?
  10. Finally, as a book doctor you must check that your writing style flows smoothly. Style is everything.

The Book Doctor And The Second Draft.
When you’ve finally decided which revisions you need to make, go ahead and write the second draft. Be brave about it. Don’t hang on to favourite passages simply because you think they’re well written. If they don’t move the story forward in some way, they should be deleted. There is no room for hangers-on. Every word should count.

So that’s it. Your book is surely ready for submission now… Wait - there is still more to do…
The Final Task For The Book Doctor.
The final task for a book doctor is to go through the manuscript line by line - starting with the last page and working back towards the beginning - this may sound strange, but it is to avoid the trap of falling in love with your own words…

This time you are searching for technical errors - correcting grammar, removing purple prose, eliminating the over-use of adjectives and adverbs, checking for long sentences, inspecting for repetitions of favourite words and phrases, etc.

The Book Doctor and Critique.
An external, analytical eye becomes invaluable at this stage - and an understanding that any criticism will not be aimed at you as a person, but at improving your novel. However, you should resist the temptation to let unqualified people read it. The opinions of friends and family are almost worthless - unless of course, they are professional publishers, or agents.

Invite the comments of your local writers’ circle by all means, but unless members are published writers their comments might be coloured by personal likes and dislikes - and maybe a certain amount of resentment. You might receive a more balanced viewpoint by using an online writers’ circle instead.

For a truly impartial judgment, you must pay for a professional critique. If you can’t afford a professional critique for the whole of the manuscript, consider a report on a synopsis and the first three chapters. This should provide an important guideline and help with further revisions.

The Book Doctor and the Final Draft
When you’re happy that you’ve removed all obvious errors and weaknesses, you’re ready to type out the final copy - the one you’re prepared to submit to your agent or publisher.

Don’t be fooled into thinking that it’s the editor’s job to iron out wrinkles. Agents and publishers want your manuscript to be as perfect as possible - if it isn’t, they’ll dump it and pick up the next one.

Be wise - be a Book Doctor.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Amazon take on the publishers

Tell Me a Story - opinion

Amazon has already shown readers they do not actually need bookstores. The squeeze has put many brick and mortars out of business.

Now Amazon is inciting authors to cast aside their publishers. This is a significant step forward. To have the equivalent worldwide exposure in brick and mortar bookstores would require an enormous distribution network. Amazon, as a publisher, can put books virtually anywhere.

Amazon is about to publish 122 books this autumn in a range of genres, in both physical and e-book form. It is a conspicuous move by the retailer’s fledging publishing program, which will site Amazon in direct competition with New York publishers that are also its most important suppliers. 

It has established a flagship line run by publishing past master, Laurence Kirshbaum, to produce brand-name fiction and nonfiction. It signed its first deal with author Tim Ferriss. Last week it announced a memoir by the actress and director Penny Marshall, for which it paid $800,000. 

Publishers claim Amazon are aggressively pursuing their top authors. Amazon are also nibbling away at other services that publishers, critics and agents, used to provide. No wonder the whole of the publishing world is feeling dazed.

For authors it seems to be a good thing. For too long, large publishing houses have grasped the reins that held back promising authors. Publishers have had their heads in the sand, and only recently realised their power has diminished. Is it already too late? Amazon has put so much squeeze on them, the cries we hear from publishers, may be their death rattle.

I only hope that once Amazon controls the whole of the literary world, they don't turn on authors and put the squeeze on them too.

Monday, 17 October 2011

CS Forester Writes Steamy Book

Tell Me A Story

CS Forester's previously unknown talent as a steamy writer has been exposed. It seems he also writes with an inclination for racy scenes and thrilling plots, which is soon to be seen when an undiscovered book by the author is published for the first time. 

Written in 1935, The Pursued portrays slaughter, incest and forbidden love, in a plot far-removed from Horatio Hornblower's usual bravado escapades at sea.

Labelled a "dark, twisted tale of murder, lust and retribution," the recently unearthed book discloses the story of Marjorie, an unhappy London housewife who returns home one evening to find her younger sister dead in the kitchen, with her head in the oven. 

During her endeavours to expose the truth about her sister’s death, Marjorie begins an affair with the family's lodger. Secret liaisons and murder ensue.

Due to be released next month, The Pursued is keenly awaited by Forester fans and upheld as a "miraculous discovery" flaunting new light on an author customarily linked with the Napoleonic wars.

Saturday, 15 October 2011

A Bad Review Doesn’t Have to Mean Your Book is Bad

Tell Me a Story

John Locke says something along the lines of – Write for people who love your book, not for ones who don’t.  Good counsel.

We all want good book reviews, but books are subjective. Like all art, books have separate meanings to separate people.

Some readers enjoy WITHOUT REPROACH by Ellie Jones while others don’t - it can't be helped. We can’t write to please everyone.  People might feel passion for your book, or they might not. Different things affect people in different ways – it makes us one-off. We are unique. Celebrate it. It would be a lacklustre place if we all enjoyed the same things.

What to do if you get a bad review… Check a popular writer on Amazon and read their bad reviews - it will make you feel better.  It highlights that occasionally even top writers receive bad reviews yet they remain successful.

Remember - you can discover more from an unpleasant but honest review than you can from an impressive but false one

A bad review doesn’t have to mean your book is bad, just the wrong person read it.

Friday, 14 October 2011

Building a Relationship with Potential Readers

Tell Me a Story - book promotion

In order to maximise book promotion, we are often told to foster a relationship with prospective readers. Fine words. Yet how do we go about it? A lot of writers, me included, are introverts. I could do shy for the Olympics. I’m not really a people person. Socialising is hard work, and to push myself or my work onto people is abhorrent. 
I hate book promotion and tend to shut my mind to it, so it’s good when a PR person spells out what I need to do. Here is a list of things to tackle in this extract from an article to build up relationships, by Phyllis Zimbler Miller - best selling author and book marketing guru

List of things to help in building a relationship with potential readers

  • Videos – book trailers as well as videos of the author talking to her/his audience
  • Blogs – on the subject of a book, on the subject of writing or publishing or whatever the author believes will interest her/his audience
  • Articles – submitted to article directories – again on a variety of subjects connected to the target book audience
  • BlogTalkRadio show – the subject of the book, other authors, fictional characters
  • Social networks – Twitter, Facebook (including a page for the book), LinkedIn, etc.
  • Book sites – places such as where a partial or the entire book can be uploaded
  • Book author website – a major strategy in getting in front of an author's target markets
  • Online press releases
  • PR pitch sites such as
  • Audio recordings of a book
  • Virtual book tours

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

A Tour of Rhodes Old Town - Greece

Tell Me A Story - Rhodes

I thought you might like to take a peep at this short video of Rhodes (Greece). It's mostly around the old town, with a quick trip to the temple of Athena.

Hope you enjoy the visit. Rhodes old town is a unique living monument. Incredibly, most of the ancient buildings are still occupied.

In my opinion, its just the sort of place to get the old brain-juices flowing to stimulate your writing.. ah well. Dream on...

End of Rhodes Old Town

Saturday, 8 October 2011

How Do YOU Find New Authors?

Tell Me a Story

According to a survey instigated by Mark Coker of Smashwords, the most popular way for readers to find eBooks and new authors is through recommendations from fellow readers via online forums, blogs, and message boards.
29% of those who took part in his survey chose authors this way. In contrast, only 4% selected, "Personal friend/family member recommendations." This is interesting, because it infers readers might have more confidence in the collective wisdom of strangers and online contacts than of friends and family. I wonder why this should be?

The second most common answer, "I look first for my favourite authors," came in at 18%. This makes sense. Looking for a favourite author is traditionally the way people choose deadwood books, and probably the way I choose.
For new authors, this is surely useful information; we all want to be discovered. Yet if recommendation from forum members is the best way to be noticed, how do new authors jump on the bandwagon?
It seems to be yet another ‘Catch 22’ situation. Established authors who are popular are recommended most, thus becoming more popular. New authors who have yet to be discovered are not talked about, so remain undiscovered.
How the hell do we break into this world? The only way forward that I see, is to write dozens of books in the hope of chance discovery - and/or offer free books on forums, keeping fingers crossed for a positive response.
Any ideas anyone?