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Writer Tip: Summary and Scene

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As a writer of creative nonfiction, you have two primary tools for telling your story: scene and summary. A scene is where your characters appear in a specific setting, do what they do, and then leave. A summary is simply a recap of something that happened. It’s your job to skillfully combine scene with summary and write a compelling manuscript that keeps your readers engaged and delivers them to the end result – the purpose of your book.

Difference Between Writing Summaries and Writing Scenes

An almost universal mistake that new writers make is that they write summaries when they should be writing scenes. It’s not that summary is bad. The problem is that they summarize (TELL) when they should actually write a scene to SHOW what is happening – yep, it’s the old show, don’t tell again.

It’s the SCENE that transforms your writing from mere theory to reality, and it’s the scene that activates the reader’s imagination. In a scene, you don’t tell the reader what is happening, what a character is thinking, or what they are like, but you allow the reader to experience it firsthand and to draw their own conclusions. A scene recreates an experience you had and lets the reader be part of it.

When you summarize instead of writing scenes, the reader misses the elements that bring the story to life — the scents, colors, tastes, and sounds of action – the sensory details. They also miss out on how the characters behave, how they act and react, how they relate to one another, how they conduct themselves. Instead of the full-color HD experience, they get the flat, monochromatic, less-than-soundbite version.  

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that summary is wrong or that it’s bad. You just need to know how and when to use it. You can’t go passive on your audience and refuse to do the hard work of writing scenes. In fact, your manuscript should ultimately be a carefully constructed story where summary connects your scenes.

Did you ever play with Tinker Toys as a child? Well, the scenes are the hub or the wooden spools, and your writing scenessummaries are the sticks that connect them. You cannot join two sticks together. If you want to put them in consecutive order, the only way to do that is to lay them down end to end. But that doesn’t really connect them. You have to have a spool to connect the stick to anything. Likewise, you don’t lay out summary after summary after summary. Just like a child will get bored with a pile of sticks, your readers need scenes to carry them through your work.

Summary is Telling. Scenes are Showing. Tell me a little, but show me a lot!

 


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brand yourself

How establishing a clear purpose as a speaker is essential in getting booked

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When you head to the movie theater, chances are you’ve already read about the plot or watched a trailer or two. If you purchase a book, you may have heard about the basic premise from someone else or you read the back cover. The point is, before you commited your time and money to either of these, you had a good idea of what you were getting into. No one wants to invest valuable time or money into something before they know what to expect. The same is true when it comes to booking public speakers.

Brand yourself to show people what you are all about

If you want to prove yourself as a desirable speaker and land more speaking engagements, you need to establish a clear purpose. When you try to appeal to every audience, you don’t stand out as an expert in anything. If you brand yourself as an authority in a specific field, you are more likely to get booked to speak at relevant events.

So how can you decide on your personal brand and purpose?brand yourself

It’s important to take a closer look at who you are, what you do, and what messages you hope to convey through your public speaking. If you are a personal finance expert, maybe your purpose is to help the average person better understand their finances and manage them. If you are a domestic abuse survivor, maybe your purpose is to tell your story of survival and help others recognize dangerous situations and see that they are strong enough to get out.

Be unique

Your personal brand and purpose might be similar to others within the same field, so what makes you so special? When you brand yourself, make sure that your purpose sets you apart from the rest. Make your message one that people will be dying to hear. If you want to get booked, you need to be like a great movie trailer — catch people’s interest and leave them wanting more.

Show the world you are available

You could be an excellent public speaker with a wealth of knowledge, but how will anyone ever find you if they don’t know you are available? If you want to brand yourself as an expert and public speaker, you will need to put information about your skills online so that the people who are interested in booking you can find you.

A bio is essential, as people will want to know your background, including relevant personal, professional, and academic achievements. There should be a clear statement, separate from your bio, stating the topics that you address for your public speaking engagements. That clarity alone will give a valuable preview of your unique message.

Visuals are always useful to catch people’s eyes, so whenever possible, include videos and photos of yourself in action. You want to demonstrate that you are confident and captivating in front of an audience.

Find your purpose and be the best you

As I always say, you are the only one who can tell your story. Explore yourself and your story to decide what your purpose is as a speaker, and then commit to the brand you have put forward. Clarity and confidence are sure to lead to more speaking engagements on your calendar.

Of course, one of the best ways to establish yourself as an expert in your field is to write a book, and it would be my privilege to show you how.

 


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