Nancy Erickson

Author Archives: The Book Professor

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writing tips

Nonfiction Writer Tool: Setting

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The time and place of the action in a literary work is called the SETTING.

In literature, the setting consists of where the story takes place, as well as the time period. It is  critical to establish a setting in your story and its scenes, so that the reader can visualize it. Remember when we talked about grounding your reader and answering the journalistic questions who, what, when, where, why, and how? The when and the where are questions of time and place – and they comprise the setting. If your readers don’t know when or where the story or scene is happening, they will be lost.

Setting is, essentially, the context in which a story occurs. You know how a picture has a foreground and a background? So does a story. The main characters and their actions form the foreground. The time and place of the events and the social environment that surround these events form the background, or the setting. People exist in a particular time and place. Where we live may contribute not only to our personality, but also to our values, attitudes, and even our problems. In short, the setting can have great impact on the people in your story and what they do. 

Setting is often a critical element in a story. Can you imagine The Grapes of Wrath set anywhere but in the Dust Bowl era of California? The Scarlet Letter set anywhere but Puritan New England? The Help set anywhere but the south in the 1960s? The Hunger Games set anywhere but a dystopian future? 

Setting: Developing Time and Place

Time and place = where it happened and when. These two elements are the bedrock of your story and must be developed in order to establish and maintain credibility. It wouldn’t make any sense to write about current-day cosmetic procedures in the 1800’s or sending urgent messages by telegram in the 21st century. 

Eudora Welty once said, “Every story would be another story, and unrecognizable, if it took up its characters and plot and happened somewhere else.”

Four Types of Time

There are actually four kinds of time, and each one has a distinct role. They are clock time, calendar time, seasonal time and historical time. 

Clock time can be used to provide suspense or create certain moods or feelings. Think of the pressure of a looming deadline or the girl who sits by the phone, waiting for him to call.  

Calendar time grounds us in the day, month, year, and even a particular day of the week or time of the month. Calendar time can provide an understanding of what takes place in your writing. For example, if you’re in accounting and mention April 15th , Americans will know understand the pressures of tax time.  Others associate meaning with Friday the 13th, or July 4. In the UK Boxing Day is significant and in France, Bastille Day. 

Seasonal time, of course, refers to the four seasons, but winter in Minneapolis is a different setting from winter in Key West, Florida. And since they’re in a different hemisphere, January in Sydney, Australia is nothing like January in New York. Most of us have different lifestyles in different seasons, and even if you life in a moderate climate, it is still dark by 6:00 in December and light until after 9:00 in June.  You don’t snow ski in Vail in July, nor do you water ski in January in Missouri.

Historical time probably has the most impact on setting and can establish a psychological or sociological understanding of behaviors and attitudes. “Time” in this sense refers to specific moments in history. People communicate differently depending on the time in which they live. Americans in the 1950s, overall, communicate differently than Americans in the 2000s. Not that they necessarily speak a different language, but these two groups of people have different assumptions about the world and how to communicate based on the era in which they live. Think of the politically correct language that has replaced the pre-civil rights language from years past, and you get the point. Historical time affects the religious, mental, moral, social, and emotional climate of the setting.

Place 

Now about place. Place can include the geographical location, which can range from an entire country to a single room. I used to love to introduce my university students to the classic fiction story “Metamorphosis” by Franz Kafka, which pretty much takes place in one bedroom, where Gregor, the main character literally turns into a bug. It’s one of the most riveting pieces of literature I’ve ever read, and most of it’s contained within those four walls. 

When writing about a specific location, you might include the physical aspects of the environment. What did it look like, sound like, etc. For example, a subway station has its unique sights and sounds, as does a church. 

But there’s more to it than that. We may find significance in the location where the action occurs, but there are also nonphysical characteristics, as well as physical. And the nonphysical environment can vary from geographic location to geographic location within the same time era. Think of cultural influences such as education, social standing, economic class, and religious beliefs. These certainly vary from location to location. Education is different in Harlem in 2017 than it is in Long Island. It’s different in Catholic schools versus public schools within the same city. There are distinct differences in social standing in India today because of their caste system, in the same year, in the same city. 

Writing tip: Setting

A person’s dialogue, statements, and behavior can reveal their place in society, as well as their geographic location.

 So how do you use time and space to write an effective setting? Quite simply, you use words. Setting is created by language. 

Writing your story involves more than just describing the setting. Using psychological cues from the characters, writers can embed time and place in actions and events, at the same time revealing motivation and goals. The details should be carefully chosen to reflect the character’s inner values, thoughts, and feelings. 

Regarding time:

  • In what period of time does the story or scene take place? 
  • Are there any historical events that affect the characters? 
  • How long does it take for the action to occur? 
  • What clues can you as the author give for the passage of time? 
  • Is the passage of time important to the story? 
  • Does the slow or fast passage of time help to understand the character’s actions and thoughts? 

Regarding place: 

  • Where does the action take place?
  • In what planet, country, locale?
  • What does it look like, sound like, feel like? 
  • Is there a dominant impression of the setting? 
  • Is the geographical location important? 

Setting is, essentially, the context in which a scene or story occurs, and includes the time, the place, and the social environment. It is important to establish a setting in your story, so that the reader can visualize and participate in it.

Just a little more food for thought as you write!


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Messenger of Hope: Santa Claus

At the beginning of 2017, we decided to take the reins and solve the problems that surround us. As ambassadors of hope and help, we set out to find 117 solutions to the problems that plague us. Every week we focused on two specific problems and asked our country for their help to solve them. We believe that all of our problems can be solved and that the answers are trapped inside of everyday people like you!

The response? We’ve been working with numerous authors this year who took the challenge to solve some our greatest problems. Problems like racial reconciliation, bridging the cultural divide, fostering effective change in education, the revitalization of senior living, and the importance of fathers — all topics that were tackled by some fearless, everyday people who decided to get their solutions out of their heads and out to the world. Every month, we featured several of these authors, and we can’t wait to feature more in 2018.

But in December, we decided to feature a special guest named Santa Claus. I know what you’re thinking, what problems has Santa Claus solved? Before you think we’ve lost our focus this month, bear with us and keep reading. You might be surprised.

Hope

People can’t survive without hope. And when you think of the overweight guy with the chubby belly who is always jolly, did you ever think of him as someone that represents hope? Of course, adults know there won’t be a guy with a red suit and silver beard soaring through the sky on Christmas Eve. (Shhh! Don’t tell my grandchildren I said that!). But when you see an image of Old Saint Nick, doesn’t the child inside of you get a little excited and even hopeful about what’s to come? Do you feel joy, love, and peace when you see a picture of Santa, especially when you see the children? I do. The child inside me still jumps for joy this time of year–especially when I look at my grandchildren’s faces when they sit on Santa’s lap. Perhaps we could all benefit from feeling a little love, joy, and peace, even if it comes from a make-believe character.

Thank you, Santa. We appreciate what you represent this time of year and the feelings you invoke in countless adults and children alike. This holiday season take some time to take it all in. Just pause and be present in the lives of those you love most–especially the little angels who bless your life. And if you don’t have small children to inspire you, go sit on Santa’s lap yourself! I promise the little child inside of you will beam with love, joy, peace, and hope.

How About You?

Santa isn’t the only one who can offer hope. When you tell your story and what you’ve been through, what you’ve discovered, what you’ve developed, or what you’ve overcome, YOU become the voice of hope and help to others. Don’t keep that to yourself! Let us help you get your message out of your head and out to the world!


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December: It’s Not Just Christmas Time

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December is always a time of reflection for me. While I usually think over the past year and how things went in each aspect of my life, I also like to think about the upcoming year and what I’d like to see happen–not just professionally, but socially, physically, spiritually, and even intellectually. For many, the Christmas celebration is top-of-mind but there are other traditions and noteworthy causes this month, too.

World AIDS Awareness Day: December 3, 2017

With everything that’s happened in the US this year, it’s easy to overlook problems that we still currently face. So much media attention has been given to our nation’s current political climate and our recent hurricanes that other crises have fallen off the radar. For example, the AIDS epidemic is still alive. Roughly 34 million people currently have HIV–the virus that leads to AIDS. More than 35 million people have died of HIV or AIDS since 1984. While there have been several scientific advances in HIV treatment that have allowed  people to live longer and more productive lives, there is still no cure. On December 3rd, join the world as we celebrate World Aids Awareness Day and show your support and love for those affected by this virus. For more information on how to get involved, please visit www.hiv.gov.

Hanukkah-December 12-20th, 2017

I remember as a kid in elementary school singing:
Hanukkah, Oh, Hanukkah
Let’s light the menorah
Let’s have a party
We’ll all dance the hora
Gather ’round the table, we’ll give you a treat
A dreidel to play with and latkes to eat…

While I’m not Jewish, I loved that my school celebrated Hannukah as well as Christmas. Hanukkah, or the Festival of Rededication, celebrates the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem after its defilement by the Syrian Greeks in 164 BCE. It’s an eight-day festival, also known as the Festival of Lights. Most notable of this holiday is the lighting of the hanukkiah or menorah-an eight branched candelabrum to which one candle is added on each night of the holiday until it is full with light on the eighth night. In commemoration of the cruse of oil, it is traditional to eat foods fried in oil like latkes (potato pancakes), or sufganiyot (jelly donuts). (Source)

For all who celebrate this holiday, I wish you a Happy Hanukkah!

New Year’s Eve–December 31, 2017
Like many, I’ll be working on my goals for the New Year, but I also want to take some time to pause and reflect on the events that have transpired, not only in my own life, but in our country as a whole. It’s hard to ignore the political and racial divisiveness that has occurred over the last year. I squirm every time I turn on the news. Whatever your political beliefs are, I think it’s time for everyone to take a moment and examine their heart.

You don’t need to profess a particular faith to have a basic moral compass: it’s knowing the difference between right and wrong. Isn’t that what we try to teach our children? But how hard is it to teach something when your own heart doesn’t feel that way–especially when we look at people of other races, faiths, and sexual orientation? When you see someone who’s different from you, what do you think or assume about them? Do you fear them? What is your assumption based on? What if you could get to know that individual person before holding onto damaging preconceived notions about their entire race / faith / sexual orientation that kills the opportunity for a true relationship? I’m not judging anyone because I know my heart isn’t perfect. But there is hope:

 

 

Isn’t that refreshing? Let’s all add “learning to love” to our goals for 2018. I promise, you won’t be disappointed with the results.

 

 


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Writing Tip: Comparison

One of the easiest ways to help your readers feel your passion and understand your message is to paint a word picture, and comparison is just the tool to do that. Enjoy this writing tip!

What’s the Purpose of Comparison?

Comparison serves a couple of purposes. It adds complexity to your writing and makes the reader think. It catches their attention and causes them to pay closer attention to the subject matter. 

Comparison is also a tool for explaining complex ideas. When we link an unfamiliar idea to common and familiar objects, it simplifies the meaning and makes for good communication. When you use comparison, you help the reader link the concept to their own life and experience, which keeps them invested in your message. 

There are three types of comparison: the simile, the metaphor, and the analogy. 

Simile

A simile is a figure of speech that directly compares two things. It uses a connective word such as like, as, than, or a verb such as resembles.

Writing a book is like running a marathon.

Similes are so common that you may have ceased to recognize them, but you certainly understand the meaning: 

  • as blind as a bat
  • as busy as a bee
  • as dry as a bone
  • as good as gold
  • as hard as nails
  • as wise as an owl

Should you use these kinds of similes in your own writing? No, no , NO! These phrases are cliches. They  are expressions that were once new and fresh, but have been used so often that they’re irritating. When you use a cliché you prove yourself to be a lazy writer, so invest your time to write fresh and innovative similes. 

Here’s an example of an interesting simile from George Orwell’s narrative essay “A Hanging.”

They crowded very close about him, with their hands always on him in a careful, caressing grip, as though all the while feeling him to make sure he was there. It was like men handling a fish which is still alive and may jump back into the water.

Metaphor

A metaphor is different from a simile. It compares two unlike things by saying that the one thing is the other thing.

Nonfiction is a long, bumpy road.

Where a simile says something is like something else, a metaphor says that something is something else. 

A metaphor compares two dissimilar things and finds a point in common. It sounds like you are stating a fact, but you have to think it through for it to make sense. 

What do these metaphors communicate? 

  • My sister’s boyfriend is a zero.
  • The sky’s the limit.
  • Fear is a beast that feeds on attention.
  • Strength and dignity are her clothing.

For example, if you say, “You are the wind beneath my wings,” you’re not saying that a person is actually wind. Instead, you are referring to the support you receive from that person.

Analogy

An analogy explains an unfamiliar idea or a thing by comparing it to something that is familiar. 

Your story is as explosive as dynamite and will blast your readers into action.

An analogy also shows how two different things are similar, but rather than a figure of speech, it’s more of a logical argument. Metaphors and similes are tools that can be used to draw an analogy. Therefore, analogy is more extensive and elaborate than either a simile or a metaphor. 

You may remember working with analogies on your SAT or ACT test, or on IQ or Mensa tests. book coach, book writing coach

SHARD : POTTERY :: (____) : WOOD

  A. acorn
  B. smoke
  C. chair
  D. splinter 

This analogy compares a shard of pottery to a splinter of wood, but you probably won’t use anything like that in your writing. But you may use an analogy like this:

“The structure of an atom is like a solar system. The nucleus is the sun and electrons are the planets that revolve around their sun.”

This example compares the structure of an atom to the solar system, which helps us understand atomic structure. Notice that this analogy used both a simile and a metaphor. 

If you’re writing about a complex concept – a technical concept perhaps – an  analogy may bring clarity to the subject matter, and your analogy may include a simile and/or a metaphor. This is getting down into the technicalities of terminology, and I don’t want you to get hung up on the word analogy. But if the  subject matter warrants this type of comparison, by all means use it!

Use This Writing Tip!

When you use comparison in your writing, whether it be through an analogy, a simile, or a metaphor, you engage the reader’s imagination and make your writing interesting and compelling. Remember to respect your readers. They are your partners and are intelligent, thinking people. Don’t take the simplistic approach and spell everything out for them as if they’re kindergartners. Allow them to partner with you and invest their own brain power to interpret your message. 


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How to write a nonfiction book

Nonfiction is Life

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… and Life is Nonfiction

Have you seen the movie Hidden Figures yet? I give this nonfiction movie 5 stars, and it exposed me to another angle of Black History Month. Until I saw this movie, I never knew that three female African–American mathematicians were instrumental in the early days of NASA. They weren’t just instrumental, they were crucial to John Glenn’s orbit around the earth! Why hadn’t I heard of this before?

This month gives us the opportunity to recognize and applaud the contributions that black men and women have made. From artists, to poets, to politicians, to religious leaders, to authors, to sports figures, to business men and women, to scientists, to everyday people, this is our appointed time learn more about these people and to celebrate their accomplishments.

black history nonfiction

Nonfiction sports history

My husband is a baseball fanatic, and we recently visited the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City. What a treat! Negro leagues were formed due How to write a nonfiction bookto segregation laws, and they ran strong from 1920 until they started their decline in 1945, when Jackie Robinson was recruited by the Brooklyn Dodgers. They produced strong players like Hank Aaron, Ernie Banks, Roy Campanella, LeRoy “Satchel” Paige, and—of course—Jackie Robinson. Think any of these athletes made history? You bet your boots they did! They were a strong force in the civil rights movement, although all they really wanted to do was play baseball.

As I think about our effort to find 117 solutions to our most pressing problems in 2017, I’m drawn to the racial divide that has plagued our nation almost since its inception. It’s a big problem, and we need to find solutions.

Nonfiction contemporary conversations

I like what is happening in St. Louis, particularly through an organization called Mother 2 Mother, where 11 black mothers share their stories with “thousands of mostly white attendees…” Their purpose is to expose other women to the “dangers and realities of raising Black sons in America regardless of the socio-economic status achieved.”(source)

How to write a nonfiction bookI attended one of these conversations and was dumbstruck by the things these black mothers endure that have never been part of my life. Their sons are consistently pulled over for no reason and, in some cases, have been handcuffed and taken to the police station. One woman’s daughter was told to go to the back of the school bus by some teenage boys, who were never punished, and it happened in the priciest zip code in the St. Louis area. As I heard these mothers – doctors, attorneys, scientists, and professors at Washington University – talk about what they and their kids battle on a daily basis, I shrunk in my seat and thought, “There has to be a solution to this.”

117 Solutions in 2017

We are looking for solutions to problems like white privilege and the racial divide. How about you? What do you know, what have you been through, what have you discovered or developed that can help others? What inspirational nonfiction book could you write that will bring hope to others? Please join us in our effort to find 117 Solutions in 2017!

The purpose of 117 Solutions in 2017 is:

  • To create a groundswell of solutions to problems that have, until now, seemed too big or impossible to resolve
  • To unleash the answers that are trapped inside of people
  • To change lives, save lives, and transform society
  • To use your life and your gifts and your resources to MAKE THINGS BETTER. Not because you must, but because YOU CAN!

 


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Nonfiction Writer Tool: Sensory Language

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Human beings are wired to respond to stories, and we remember things that have an emotional impact on us. When you write your book, there’s a nonfiction writer tool you can use to impact the reader. It affects them on an emotional level, so they will remember what they read.

How do you do that? Well, it’s not so complicated. One way to impact your reader is to bring them in close, to make them feel like they’re right there in the room with you. You do that by creating scenes that use the nonfiction writer tool of sensory language.

Sensory language as a nonfiction writer tool

Sensory language is just what it sounds like – it’s the language of our five senses. When you use sensory language, you describe what you saw, felt, heard, tasted, and smelled. You don’t write, “I was sad when my girlfriend left me.” You write, “When she told me she was leaving, she smiled as she whispered the words, ‘I’m leaving you.’ My throat clamped tight. I blinked hard, so I wouldn’t cry, but one hot tear fell and salted my upper lip.”

In this passage, you find four of the five senses: She told me–hearing; throat clamped tight and hot tear–feeling; she smiled–sight; she whispered–hearing; salted my upper lip–taste. The only sense not included is the sense of smell.

Sensory language punches up your writing and engages the reader. It breaks up the monotony and helps the reader to visualize the scene, so they can experience it.

Before and After

Take a look at the two passages below, and notice how sensory language makes a difference.

1. Becky called me and said that something terrible had just happened. She wanted to talk about it, so I asked her to meet me at the grill on the ground floor of my building. It was almost noon, and I was hungry, so I asked her if she wanted something to eat.

Compare that to:

2. “The police just barged in my house,” Becky said. “It was raining, and their boots tracked bits of grass and mud all over my white carpet. Didn’t even bother to wipe their feet. It’s like they used my carpet as a door mat. There were six of them.”

A piece of red hair – I Love Lucy red hair – escaped from behind her ear, and she slicked it back without taking a breath. My watch beeped twelve o’clock, but she yammered on. The grilling onions made my stomach lurch. I hadn’t eaten breakfast.

“Wow,” I said. “I’m so sorry. Can I get you something to eat? I could use a bite myself, and maybe that would make you feel better.”

Her head banged down on the table, and she hiccuped massive sobs. “What do you think I am, a twelve-year-old?” she sputtered. “It’s not like a snack can make me all better!”

Sensory language is a nonfiction writer tool that is easy to incorporate. All you have to do is describe what you hear, what you smell, what you see, what you feel, and what you taste. Drop those elements in a scene and watch your writing come alive!


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How to Write a Nonfiction Book When It Hurts

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This year, our focus is to find 117 Solutions to our most difficult problems, an effort we call 117 Solutions in 2017. I’m encouraged by the response we’ve had, but I also feel humbled when I’m asked how to write an inspirational nonfiction book when it hurts. Not all stories are pretty, especially those about child abuse.

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Vocabulary for Online Writing Classes

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Your manuscript is comprised of words, and the ones you select are critical to how well you communicate with your audience. The vocabulary you select will either make or break your manuscript. A strong and varied vocabulary is an important writing tool that all writers should strive to have.

We use words to communicate ideas, thoughts, and emotions. Sometimes our communication is successful, and sometimes it’s not. Your job as a writer is to select the words that communicate exactly what you mean, without the possibility of misinterpretation. A wide vocabulary allows you to do that. Without a good working knowledge of words and their meanings, your written communication will be muddied or poorly understood.

If you don’t have a strong vocabulary, one way to develop it is to use a simple but effective writing tool: a thesaurus.

Say you wanted to describe how you felt on the day your first child was born. You might use the word “happy.” However, we use the same word to describe a wide range of pleasant feelings, don’t we? I’m happy when I have a cup of coffee in the morning, but that’s not the same happy I felt the day my daughter was born.

I highly recommend a writing tool called Visual Thesaurus. Simply type in the word you want to replace, and the results pop up in mindmap format. Click on any of the displayed word options, and they will expand to give further meaning. In essence, you drill down until you find the precise word that means exactly what you want to say.

I looked up the word happy because I wanted to describe how I felt when my daughter was born. Some of the selections included blissful, joyful, content, glad, bright, elated, euphoric, etc. The term that really struck me was blessed.writing tool

 

Next, I wanted to describe how I feel when I drink a cup of hot coffee in the morning. I don’t feel blessed, or euphoric, or bright, or gleeful, I feel content. I am content with my cup of coffee.

The words blessed and content are both variations on the word happy, and yet, they actually have different meanings.

A nimble working vocabulary allows you to say exactly what you mean and to be explicit, rather than vague. I caution you to choose words that your audience will understand. In other words, keep it simple. If the reader doesn’t understand your word choice, you may feel intelligent, but you will lose your audience, and that’s not good communication. A thesaurus is an excellent writing tool because it helps you brainstorm and then drill down to the perfect word, but you do not want your readers to need a dictionary just to get through a mess of overcomplicated words on each page. So when choosing your words, remember that you are writing to communicate your thoughts, ideas, and feelings.

 


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inspirational people

Making a Difference with His Nonfiction Book

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I hope you are following our mission to find 117 Solutions in 2017 because you will meet many ordinary, yet inspirational people, who are working hard to make this world a better place. Tom Hofmeister is such a man.

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2017: The Year of Solutions!

Feeling disturbed by the chaos in our world? You are not alone.

 

 

Look around you. We’ve been bombarded with problems that appear unsolvable, and many are in deep distress.

We have so many problems that we don’t even know how to name them anymore, but we do know what doesn’t work. Top-down solutions don’t work. Government can’t fix anything, organized religion hasn’t solved our problems, and we’ve tried to medicate our problems away, but that hasn’t worked either. In many cases, these attempts have made things worse and have spawned new problems.

2017: The Year of Solutions!

I believe that our problems—all of them—can be solved, and that the answers are trapped inside people like you. When you share what you know and what you’ve learned, you become the solution. The answers are inside of you. You ARE the solution.

There are two things that people cannot live without: HOPE and HELP. People need hope that things can and will get better, and they need help to get from where they are to where they want to be. When you tell your story, Nonfiction writing coachwhen you share what you’ve been through, what you’ve learned, what you’ve overcome, what you’ve developed or the path you took, you become the voice of hope and help.

There are people like you who have the answers, the solutions. And there are other people who, in some cases, are literally dying, waiting for those answers. You have what they need, and you can offer the hope and help that they crave simply by telling your story. You are the solution.

Think about what you’ve learned and how you can be a force that changes lives, saves lives, and transforms society. Don’t waste your pain and struggles. Put them to work in the world and let the mess become the messenger — the messenger of hope and help.

Maybe you’ve been through a painful time and fell like you can reach back and give others a helping hand. What do you know? What have you learned? What have you discovered or developed that can help others?

 

The Answer: 117 Solutions in 2017

It’s time for us to take the reins and solve the problems that surround us. In 2017, we are going to find 117 solutions to the problems that plague us. Every week we will focus on 2 specific problems and ask for your help to solve them. Perhaps you have a solution of your own, or maybe you know someone else who does. Introduce us to one another.

You can share the problems you’ve encountered and the solutions you crafted to offer hope and help to this chaotic world. If not you, then who? If not now, then when?

When you  tell your story and what you’ve been through, what you’ve discovered, what you’ve overcome, or what you’ve developed, you become the voice of hope and help.

The purpose of 117 Solutions in 2017 is:

  • To create a groundswell of solutions to problems that have, until now, seemed too big or impossible to resolve
  • To unleash the answers that are trapped inside of people
  • To change lives, save lives, and transform society

 

Call to Action:

You can’t sit around and hope that things will change. If you want change, you must be the solution. Be the one who offers hope and help and write your high-impact nonfiction book that can save lives, change lives or transform society. Click the button to get involved:

Write a nonficiton book

 

The Problems:

We have a lot of problems, and here are a few to consider. What do you know or what have you learned about these problems that could help others?

Immigration Reform
Refugee Crisis
Church-State Separation Tension
Eroding Middle Class
Government restrictions on small business
Suicide
Drug Abuse
Capital Punishment
Misuse of social networking
Animal abuse
Homophobia
Poverty
Women’s Rights
Domestic Terrorism
Religion-based Discrimination
Organ & body donation
Human Rights Violations
Environmental Pollution
Children’s Rights
Corporate Downsizing
Defense Spending and Preparedness
Euthanasia & assisted suicide
Eating Disorders
Unemployment
Homelessness
Racial profiling
Welfare
Recycling and Conservation
HIV/AIDS
Civil Rights
Genetic Engineering
Consumer Debt and Bankruptcy
Obesity
Terrorism
Judicial Reform
Censorship
Violence
Academic Freedom
Gun Control
Gender issues
Environmental issues
Single Parenting
Child Labor
Tobacco
Nuclear Proliferation
Ageism
Stress
Cancer
Prostitution
Education
Health Care Reform
Embryonic Stem Cell Research
Child pornography
Sex Trafficking
Refugee Crisis
Data Security
Use of Drones
Violence through indoctrination
Child Neglect
Child Abuse
Juvenile Offenders
Child prostitution
Information Overload
Instability of the EU
Gender Wage Gap
Child care alternatives
Lack of human connection in over-connected world
Over-stressed parents
Under-served populations
Reliance on government programs rather than self
Effects of childhood traumas
Teen heroin use and overdose
Polarized political parties
Crippling anxiety
Traumatic brain injury
Living with chronic disease
Overcoming childhood abuse
Racial reconciliation
White privilege
Failure of the education system – elementary
Failure of the education system – secondary
Tort reform
Eroding middle class
Domestic poverty
Child-on-child crime
Polarized societies
Alcoholism
Eating disorders
Bullying
Date rape
Cyber bullying
Domestic violence
Gang violence
Classism
Climate Change
Cloning
Colorisim
Cloud Hacking
Computer Hacking
Corporal Punishment
Disaster Relief
Drinking and Driving
Identify Theft
Legalization of Marijuana
Hate Crimes

 

 


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how to start writing

How to Start Writing a Book

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It’s almost time to make New Year’s Resolutions. Many people say that they they will finally write their book, but they get sidetracked because they don’t know how to start writing. The good news is that if you dedicate yourself to the task in 2017, you can finish your book within 1 year.

how to start writing

Some people are life-long learners and love the process of going from not knowing anything to becoming proficient in their area. That makes sense. We all want to be the best we can be, and I’m the same way. But along the way, we have to learn a lot of little things that can either make us the best at what we do or, if we choose not to learn them, will keep us in the pack of average Joes.

I’ve never aspired to be average, and I bet you haven’t either. So I have to continually learn my craft. I have to stay up to date on the industry, and consistently learn new tools of the trade that will either allow me to do things better or allow my clients to write in a more efficient manner. Here’s the deal with me: I only want to know as much as I need to know to use a tool for my intended purpose. I don’t want to learn all its features and functions or try to discover ways I could use the tool in new ways that I hadn’t considered. You know why? It’s because I’m not a natural life-long learner. I don’t like details, I like ideas. I don’t want to learn how to use something, I just want to use it.

I detest the learning curve. I generally try to find every possible way around it, so I can get on to the using stage. Learning frustrates me; knowing satisfies me. But that’s not the way the world works. In order to know something, I must go through the pain of learning, and I have to follow a process.

Make a Decision

Before I can follow a new process, I have to make a decision to do it. I have to say to myself, “Nancy, this is something you need to learn, and there’s no way around it. So make the decision, be committed, and get started.”
You know what the hardest part about writing a book is? It’s making the decision to do it. You’ve probably had the idea for your book for a long time. I bet it’s been percolating in your head, banging against the doors to come out. At times it probably drives you crazy, but books don’t write themselves, and the only way yours is going to get written is if you make the decision to do it. You have to decide to write your book then figure out how to start writing it. It’s your story. Only you can write it.

Whenever I travel, it seems I am seated next to chatty types, and it’s fun to get acquainted. On one particular flight, I sat next to Don, and when he asked me what I do for work, I explained that I help people who aren’t writers become authors of high-impact nonfiction books.

“Really?” he replied. “I’ve always wanted to write a book.”

I hear that a lot. A lot of people say they want to write a book. “Then why don’t you?” I asked.

“I’ve never really looked into it,” he said.

His answer spoke volumes. Don had flirted with the idea of writing a book, but he’d never taken it further than just that — the idea of writing a book. People tend to glamorize the writer’s life and don’t realize that it’s a lot of hard work and it takes a lot of time. Don never made the decision to write his book, so in all likelihood, it will never get done. If he cannot make the decision to write a book, he’ll never know how to start writing it.

Contrast that to Bryan. When I ask Bryan why he hadn’t written his book, he said, “Because I don’t know how to start writing. I have all these ideas, but I don’t know what to do with them. This is where I get lost.”

Make a Plan

That makes perfect sense to me. If you’ve never written a book, how would you know how to start writing one? Writing is hard work and the publishing industry is complicated. Some people sit down and start writing first, but they soon find that all those ideas that have been rattling around in their head have no form, no shape. What comes out is like a spaghetti mess — a bunch of threads that aren’t connected to one another. It’s frustrating. They know they have a message, but they don’t know how to get it down on paper. That’s not how to start writing; you need a plan before you put words on paper or on a screen.

The problem with the “write first” approach is that it’s like trying to build a house without any plans. You have no blueprint to follow, no foundation poured, and you have no idea what the house will look like when it’s finished.

I don’t know a lot about building, but I know you never put up the walls first. They have to be attached to something solid, so you pour the foundation first. But even before that, you need a comprehensive plan, or blueprint, that shows where each room will be and what features it will have. Before you pull out your hammer, you have to have a plan.

The same is true for your book. If you want to save time, energy, money, and frustration, you begin with the end in mind. You take the concept for your book and turn it into a concrete plan.

To do that, we start with the foundation. Perhaps you know the topic of your book, but do you know what you want your book to accomplish? The book must have a purpose, or there’s no reason to write it. Believe it or not, the purpose isn’t always easy to figure out, at least not without some concentrated effort.

I like to start with these Foundational Questions:

1.  Why do you want to write this book?  What is your motivation?
2.  What purpose will the book serve?
3.  How is it different from other books published on this same subject? What new information or angle does your story present that hasn’t already been heard?
4.  What is the main theme of the story, as you see it now? What are the secondary themes?
5.  Who is your audience? Be specific. Define your primary and secondary markets.
6.  How will this work impact that audience? What change do you want to invoke in the reader?
7.  Why will people want to read this story? Why would they recommend it to others?
8.  What is the pivotal moment in your story?
9.  Write a Purpose Statement for the book that begins with, “The purpose of this book is to …” and list the primary and secondary purposes that you have identified.
10. Write a two- to three-paragraph synopsis of the book.
11. Write the copy that you envision appearing on the back cover of the book.
12. Who do you want to endorse the book?

These questions will help you crystallize your message and figure out how to start writing. Beyond that, you need a process you can follow that will get you on the right track and keep you there. In my Group Coaching classes  we create a BookMAP, which is a visual representation of your entire book. We map out all the contents of your book before you write a single word. Then, when you are ready to write, you follow your BookMAP, and even if you only have 15 minutes, you can write something to contribute to your book.

Let me show you how to start writing and finish your book in just 1 year

A new year is upon us, and you can make 2017 the year you finally write your book that will establish you as an expert in your field, raise your credibility, and attract a following. I’m here to help! In fact, a new Group Coaching class begins in January, and you can join now. Make 2017 the year you finally write your book!


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Capture the Time

It often seems impossible to make time to write, or to even make time for anything outside of your normal schedule. I don’t exactly know what time is, but I know I’ve been a slave to it for much of my life. My life, like yours, is filled with so much: things I want to do, things I need to do, and a lot of things I don’t really want to do, but must. There’s always that race against the clock, which leaves me feeling scattered and torn, like a scarecrow with his stuffing pulled out. At the end of the day, there isn’t much left, and what’s left doesn’t feel like me.

Recently I’ve been learning that time is actually nothing — and I do mean nothing. They say it doesn’t actually exist, make time to writeand yet, I’ve not only given it great power in my life, but I’ve allowed it to be a tyrannical and unsympathetic ruler, never satisfied because no matter how much I do, I never have enough time. There’s always more–more to achieve, more to accomplish, more to attend to. Time is never satisfied.

When my husband and I went to the Grand Canyon for a ten day float trip, time changed. I can’t figure out if it stretched, shifted, or stopped altogether, but I do know that one day melted into the next, and the pressure of time was lost. Nothing to do, nowhere to go. All I had to do was to eat, drink, and be. After ten days of floating from day to day, I was fundamentally changed. I had found the wide open spaces inside of me, and I only felt the pressure of time as our trip was coming to a close. I dreaded going back to the calendar and clock that ruled my life.

Somewhere along the way, and I don’t know when, I made a decision. “I don’t want to do anything that I don’t want to do anymore,” I told Tom. He looked at me with a kind of quizzical look on his face, kind of like my daughters did when they were teenagers right before the word “duh” came out of their mouths.

“Then don’t,” he said.

Then don’t? Could it be that easy? Figure out what I don’t want to do and just stop?

It took no effort at all to make a list of the things I didn’t want to do anymore. The list wasn’t that long, but when I matched it up to my day-to-day activities, I saw that the “don’t like” stuff ruled my calendar and, thus, ruled my life. I spent most of my time doing things I didn’t like. All I had to do was stop doing these things—and that was the challenge.

The first thing I crossed off was going to meetings and gatherings that didn’t interest me. I often said “yes” to things like networking events that other people asked me to attend, and I quit doing that. There comes a point in time, especially when you’re a business owner, that you have to say “no” to the good opportunities, so you can focus on building a great business. It wasn’t so much that the events themselves took a lot of time, but when coupled with the travel time and the cost of not doing what I really needed to do, they were simply too expensive, too great a cost for the benefit.

Because I own my own business, there are countless behind-the-scenes responsibilities that must be handled, such as accounting, payroll, social media, and website maintenance. I used to do all these things myself because I had to, but in recent years I’ve gotten help with them. I fully delegated all the tasks in the financial arena to my CPA firm, because I hate that stuff! When I looked at the rest of the bits and bytes of running my business, I decided to hire an Operations Manager to run the daily show, but that was a scary step for me. How would I pay for her?

On the other hand, how could I afford NOT to hire her? Quite simply, I’d pay for her by directing my energies into doing the things that I love and that only I can do — like reaching more writers, developing more programs, and publishing more books by people like you that can change lives, save lives, or transform society out to the world.

Prioritize your time and make time to write

So what does this have to do with you and your book? I assume that you’re a busy professional, and you’re not looking for extra things to fill your time. Life is busy enough with work, but when you layer on the more important things like faith and family, there’s no wiggle room, no gaps where you can sneak in a major project like writing your book. And yet, it’s something you want to do. And you’re only one who can tell your story; you’re the only one who can do it. The reason why people want to write a book varies from writer to writer, but I’ve found that most people want to do it because they have found a solution and they want to help others. They want to make a difference.

You actually have time to do the things you want to do. You can make time to write your book if you learn how to prioritize your time.

When I was forty-eight years old, I went back to school to earn my Masters degree in writing (MFA) because I wanted to hone my skills to the point where I could not only make a living by writing, but because I wanted to help other people discover and unleash the critical messages that were trapped inside of them. At the time, both my daughters were not only grown, but one of them was married and had already earned her Masters degree, and the other one had just started medical school. I was old, and the first day I walked into class, I felt it!

It was hard. I hadn’t been in school for twenty-six years, and I’d forgotten about the rigors of academia. The program lasted two years—that’s twenty-four consecutive months without a summer break—and it seemed like an eternity. When I was in the thick of it, I couldn’t imagine what life would be like when I finally graduated. I mean that. I could not picture life after school. The work was hard, and I had to adopt the attitude that school was only for a season of my life, not its entirety. In order to be successful and earn my degree, I had to cut out everything else in order to get the work done. After all, it was only two years. That time was going to pass anyway. “I may as well have something to show for it,” I thought.

Writing your book is a lot like going to school. You have this major project that you work and work and work on, and you think you’ll never get finished, that you’ll never get out of school, then one day — voilà! It’s over! You have your book in hand, and you can have free time again. The year is going to pass anyway. Your might as well have something to show for it. Dedicate a year to it, and make the time to write.

Just like there’s a season for going to school, there’s a season for writing your book. But it’s only a season. It doesn’t last forever. You must adopt this mindset.

It would be ridiculous to think that someone like you is going to drop everything or possibly even quit your job to make time to write a book. That wouldn’t be healthy. But it’s not unreasonable to expect you to shift your schedule for the next year, in order to prioritize the project. You can’t create time, but you can capture pockets of it and re-purpose its use. Don’t get me wrong. It’s going to be busy, perhaps busier than you’d like, but if you simply get up an hour earlier each day, or commit your lunch hour to your book, or turn off the TV to write, you can absolutely accomplish this, step by step by step. One day at a time, one paragraph or page at a time, until the pages become chapters and the chapters become a book. By giving attention to the little details on a consistent basis, you will build your book brick by brick. The big thing comes forth from the little things, but the process has to be efficient.

You don’t have to do this alone. Work with me and I can help you make time to write your book. The year will pass no matter what, so make sure you have something to show for it.


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