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Author Archives: The Book Professor

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Writing a Nonfiction Book: Where To Start

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Have you ever heard of the saying: “if you fail to plan then you plan to fail?” It might sound cliche, but I think its applicable to many situations in life. Whether your goal is to become financially secure for retirement, lose weight, purchase a home or more recently set a New Years Resolution—it all starts with a plan. You have to know how you will get to that goal.

Writing a book is the same way.  If you’re one of the millions of people that say “I should write a book,” but then never sit down and create a plan on what your next steps should be, chances are you won’t ever write your book. But, with a proper plan in place and some tips on where to start, you can finish your book within 1 year.

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.”

Do 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 us show you how to start writing and finish your book in just 1 year

A new year is upon us, and you can make 2019 the year you finally write your book that will establish you as an expert in your field, raise your credibility, and attract a following. We’re here to help! In fact, a new Group Coaching class begins in January, and you can join now. Make 2019 the year you finally write your book!


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Writing a Book About Your Own Life

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It is my honor and my calling as a non-fiction book coach to help a great many people including business and community leaders transform their experience into a story that moves people to action. I am a believer that the wisdom and power to create real change is trapped in the minds and experience of leaders, community builders, and everyday people all over the world.

As a book writing and publishing consultant, my role is to connect people like these, who have solutions for the world’s problems, with the people who need those answers. I do this by coaching them to write a nonfiction book that makes an impact – a book that will give them a broader platform to share those ideas.

Write Your Story

Your story deserves to be told–and I believe it’s your responsibility to tell it. Most aspiring authors don’t know how to get started on their book and feel overwhelmed before they even begin. Below are some tips & tools, including some I’ve developed for you, which will help you share your truth.

Develop a Concept 

A book about your life, or a memoir, captures a period of time or a set of events in your life, rather than cataloging your experience from cradle to grave, as in an autobiography or biography. In order for your memoir to appeal to an audience beyond your friends and family, you must develop a solid concept that bridges the gap between your life and that of your reader.

Publisher Sharlene Martin once said, “[Your memoir] needs a solid concept for the book that invites the reader’s concerns into the experience of reading it, instead of just saying, ‘Let me tell you all about wonderful me.’” Consider the elements of your story that are universal and find ways to write them that invite your reader to imagine and consider their own life through the lens of your circumstances.

Make it Memorable

You can make your nonfiction book as memorable as its fictional counterparts by using sensory language–language that conveys how you felt, what you saw, heard, smelled, and tasted during the scenes you present. I encourage my writers to close their eyes when they write a pivotal scene to take themselves back to the place, the time, and the emotion of the moment.

Once you’ve transported yourself back to that moment, open your eyes and write your scene. When you’ve gotten it down on the page, go back and look for ways to vary your language to make it richer and more interesting. Break out your thesaurus if that helps!

Your Story is Exceptional

What are you waiting for? What better time is there to write a book about your own life than now? Someone needs your message today. When you share what you know and what you’ve learned, you become the solution. The answers are trapped inside of you; please don’t keep them to yourself. You ARE the solution and your story is exceptional!

I had the great honor of speaking at an Arête – HPA event.  Arête is a truly exceptional group of leaders who have exceptional stories to tell.  In this presentation, I talk about how to go about designing your exceptional story:

 

Contact us today to get started your book!

 


 


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How To Write A Book And Get It Published

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As  a book coach, I’m often asked the blanket question: “So how do I write a book and get it published?” Want to know the short answer? Make the decision. That’s really the first step. Once you’ve decided that you’re ready to write a book and get it published, following the guideline below will put you on the right track.

STEP ONE: WRITING AND WRITING AND WRITING

  • Initial Book Writing – The first step is to plan your book project in a BookMAP and write all the components until you have a finished manuscript. This is where you invest your time, energy, and emotion, and when you are finished you will have accomplished something few others have done! You will have a complete manuscript.
  • Editing Your Book – Every top-notch author has a first-class editor who does several things to improve upon what you have already accomplished. In the first pass, you will want a developmental editor. A developmental editor takes a look at your overall work and gives feedback on the structure and organization of the manuscript, the development of your characters, the consistency in your story line, your vocabulary, the impact of your message, your use of language and how your unique voice can be amplified. A developmental editor will point out any missing elements in your manuscript and make suggestions about how to weave them in. A developmental editor is crucial for every author, particularly if you are not a professional writer
  • Book Focus Groups – I’m a big believer in focus groups, and the best way to understand if your manuscript achieves its goal is to gather a group of six to ten people who are part of your target market, give them a copy of your manuscript, and ask for their raw feedback. This will be invaluable to you. When you receive that feedback, you make the changes you think are appropriate, then pass the manuscript to your editor for final editing.
  • Final Editing Process – This time, you need what we call line-level editing. You editor will scrub your work and make corrections in punctuation, verb tense, spelling, and sentence structure. They will correct your grammar and make suggestions about how to rewrite your sentences for clarity.
  • Proofreading – If you want a flawless manuscript, you can’t skip the step of hiring a proofreader. Understand this: You are not a capable proofreader. You already know what your story is supposed to say, and your brain will fill in any gaps with what you intended.

Once these steps are complete, you are ready to turn your manuscript into a book.

STEP TWO: THE BOOK DESIGN

Before you design your book, you need to know what you want to produce, and you have a lot of choices to make. Do you want a hardcover book? Or a softcover? Both come in a myriad of sizes, and you need to decide which size best fits your format. Will you issue an eBook, and if so, you need to prepare separate digital files for Kindle, Nook, and iPad.  

One of the most important elements is your book cover design. Your title and your book cover art will work together to invite the reader to purchase the book. They also work together to communicate the essence of your book, while creating a key question in the potential reader’s mind: What is this book about?

Remember that books are often shelved with only the spine visible, and you will want yours to stand out. What will the spine of your book look like? Try adding a dash of color to draw attention.

When turning your attention to the interior design, consider these questions: What fonts are you going to use? What will your copyright page look like? Your table of contents? You must use industry standards for chapter starts and page numbering. And be sure you’ve calculated the appropriate thumb holds – that’s the margin space where a reader places their thumbs to hold the book. Readers should not have to shift their thumbs while reading the book because this causes a degree of stress that interferes with their reading experience and causes fatigue.

Just for fun, take a look at some book interiors, and notice how they differ in style to match the book content. You need a professional designer for both the book cover an interior.

STEP THREE: BOOK PRODUCTION

Of course, you’ll need to get your book produced, and you have several options. Do you want to use an on-demand printer that will print the books as they are ordered?  There’s a higher cost per book for this option, but you won’t have to put your money into the inventory up front. However, if you want to pay the lowest possible amount per book, you will opt to print a large quantity of books and warehouse them until they are sold. The warehouse can be your basement, and many authors like this option because they can maximize their profits with this approach.

STEP FOUR: BOOK DISTRIBUTION

So now you’ve got the book in hand. How are you going to distribute it?

There are numerous ways to distribute your book and, of course, your eBooks will be distributed online.

If you print a number of books, you can elect to ship them out yourself as they are purchased, but bear in mind that this option requires you to have shipping supplies and a fair amount of time to send things out. Some people make arrangements with warehouse distributors or sheltered workshops to send out their books, and others elect to work through book distributors who receive orders and ship them out to bookstores, online retailers, and libraries. All your distributions methods require payment, so find out what the distributor requires before signing any contracts.

STEP FIVE: BOOK MARKETING

Books don’t sell themselves, so you need to plan your marketing strategy. Will you engage the services of a publicist? Or will you do what many authors do and use the social media tools that are so readily available? Will you hold events, like book readings? Use email marketing to get the word out? Or go the traditional advertising route?

Be specific when defining your primary market. Picture the person who buys your book. Is it a woman between the ages of 30 and 50 who is unhappy with the signs of aging? It isn’t every woman between 30 and 50, it’s a subset of that group. Who are they?

What are your secondary markets? Secondary markets are those people/organizations/institutions who will also purchase your book, like educators (if you’re writing about children) or mental health practitioners if you are writing about coming out of a depression. You’re going to use this information when you start reaching out to customers, so think it through.  

THE MOST IMPORTANT PART OF WRITING & PUBLISHING YOUR BOOK

So what’s the most important part of this process? The most important part is always what you are working on right now. Focus on today. Don’t get ahead of yourself. Just do the best possible job on what’s in front of you. There will be plenty of time to focus on what’s ahead.

If you need help to write your book, consider one of my nonfiction book coaching programs:

 

 


author-coaching-book-coach-online-writing-class-get-my-book-outAbout Nonfiction Book Writing & Publishing Expert Nancy Erickson

Nancy Erickson is better known as “The Book Professor,” a writing and publishing consultant who specializes in helping aspiring nonfiction authors bring their book ideas to market. Nancy works as a book coach assisting authors that write self-help books, biographies, business books, and other nonfiction books through online courses and book coaching. Contact Nancy with questions or to have her speak at your upcoming event by clicking here.


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Are Book Coaches Expensive?

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If you are predisposed to view money as something you don’t have, you’ll probably see the price tag for a book coach and run the other way. It’s not worth it, you might think.  I can’t afford it, you might say. You will see the cost to write and publish your book as a risk you can’t afford to take. What you are actually saying is I’m not worth it, and you will disqualify yourself without exploring the options.

Writing a Book is a Financial Investment in Your Future

When you make the decision to write a book you must change your mindset. If your focus is just on the dollar amount upfront and not as an overall investment in your financial future, you might miss taking the next right step to financial security.

Meet Joe Fingerhut, Author of Permission To Play How Teens Can Build a Life that is Fun, Fulfilling, and Promising

“I don’t have the money.”

If you’re like Joe, a man who has spent his life figuring out how to get what he wants, you’ll say the same thing he did, “I don’t have all the money — yet.”

Joe saw that writing a book was an investment in his business, that it would be an extension of himself that could help him get more speaking engagements. The expense wasn’t something that would deplete him, it would expand him.

Over the next year, Joe followed my process to a tee, and built the components of his book line by line, chapter by chapter. When he finished his manuscript, it was my pleasure to be his editor and publisher. Of course, he didn’t have the money for that part of the project at the beginning, but by the time he finished writing, it was all there.

About six months after Permission to Play: How Teens Can Build a Life that is Fun, Fulfilling, and Promising hit the market, I ran into Joe at a conference and we sat next to each other.

“How’s the book doing?” I asked him. “What’s it done for your business?”

“Oh my gosh, Nancy,” he said. “It’s unbelievable. Because of the book, I’ve been able to raise my speaking fees. The first time I raised my price I was really scared. But no one even blinked! So I raised them again and I’m still fully booked.”

Being a published author gives you credibility and shows that you are an expert or authority on a particular topic. As an author, you have already proven that you can communicate your message, so event organizers are more likely to take you seriously as a possible candidate for a public speaking gig. New York Times Best Selling Authors can earn anywhere from $25,000 to $50,000 for a single speaking engagement (Source) but you don’t have to be on the Best Sellers list to book an event. The standard starting rate for non-fiction authors is between $2,500 and $5,000, plus the cost of travel and accommodations. (Source) By publishing your own non-fiction book, you become eligible for a pretty good pay rate right out of the gate and immediately present yourself as an authority on that book’s topic. Not only can you give talks based off the title and general subject matter of your book; you can also break your book down by chapter and address its issues in more detail. You put a lot of hard work into crafting your book, and that work can continue to pay off if you can repurpose your content into speaking events.

I Can Help

I have spent more than 25 years developing my process for helping authors share what’s inside of them. I’ve found that everyone has different roadblocks in the writing process-and that each of us must take his or her own path in the creation of their book.

I have developed three tools for writers who are seeking help writing their book, all available online. All of my expertise gained in working as a writing and publishing coach has been distilled into these tools to teach you how to write a book online.

With my three options listed below– Self- Study online writing classes, Executive Group Coaching, and 1 on 1 Coaching Writing and Publishing help – you can choose the pace and the price that feels right for you.

A published book is an invaluable asset when it comes to proving your credibility, and will most certainly improve your reputation and notoriety-an investment in your future! All you have to do is make the decision to write. Let’s get started!


author-coaching-book-coach-online-writing-class-get-my-book-outAbout Nonfiction Book Writing & Publishing Expert Nancy Erickson

Nancy Erickson is better known as “The Book Professor,” a writing and publishing consultant who specializes in helping aspiring nonfiction authors bring their book ideas to market. Nancy works as a book coach assisting authors that write self-help books, biographies, business books, and other nonfiction books through online courses and book coaching. Contact Nancy with questions or to have her speak at your upcoming event by clicking here.

 


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What is a Book Writing Coach and Why Every Business Professional Needs One

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With every New Year comes new goals, hopes, and dreams. You promise yourself that this year will be better than last. As a business leader, you’ve paid your dues. Your independent, self-sufficient, and you’ve gotten the necessary degrees to become an expert in your chosen field. You’re making the right connections to advance your career, yet frustratingly enough, it seems as if your superiors still think you need a bit more experience for that ONE promotion you’ve been waiting for.

We understand. You’re qualified, yes, but they don’t realize just how qualified you are. If you’re ready to stand out amongst your peers, convince senior leadership that you’re the expert you know you are, keep reading.

Showcase Your Talent

So what is a book writing coach and why on earth would you need one as a business executive? As a business professional with years of experience, you know deep down that you’re a true leader. Writing a book helps to establish yourself as an expert with those who don’t know your talent. And, yes, you, have a story to tell.

Here’s the thing: people who write nonfiction books aren’t writers. They’re what I call “livers.” You’ve lived through something; you’ve been through something, you’ve learned something, discovered something, or developed something, and you’re busy living your life. You’re not a writer because you’re a doer. As a business executive, you’re out accomplishing things. You don’t need to learn the publishing industry or take any writing classes to write your book. You simply need to get your message out of your head and out into the world, and you need a comprehensive book writing coach to help you do that.

Step-By-Step Guidance

You might be thinking, “I’m not a writer, I can’t do this,” but that’s not true. You may not be a writer, but that doesn’t mean you can’t become an author. You can do anything you want to do if you get the proper help. A book writing coach can help take the idea for your book and crystallize your message, plan the contents, write the manuscript, edit it to perfection—and finally—publish and distribute your book. You need someone to take you the entire distance so that all you have to do is follow. A great book writing coach can turn a “liver” into a writer.

Listen to what our writer David. J.P. Fisher, author, business leader and entrepreneur had to say after he wrote his first book with us: Networking in the 21st Century: Why Your Network Sucks and What to Do About It:

“Writing the first book was definitely a big hurdle, but I found that it was like running a marathon. Once you do one, you look back and want to do it again. I’ve published three shorter books in the ten months after publishing my first book, and there are more on the way. It’s definitely helped build my professional credibility and stature as an expert in my field.”

What do you have to lose? When will there ever be a better moment than now? It’s time to build your personal brand and establish yourself as an expert with those who don’t know your talent and get the promotion you deserve! All you have to do is take the first step and get started. You have a message, and I have a process. Why don’t we work together?

 


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Write a nonfiction book

Sound Advice for Coaches or Consultants with Jim McCraigh

coach or consultant

If you’re a coach or consultant, you know how hard it is to get started in the business and, once you’re established, to keep the clients coming. You have a lot to offer, but connecting with the ones who can benefit from your expertise is not an easy task.

That’s why I was excited to interview Jim McCraigh, a thought leader in the world of coaches and consultants. Jim teach coaches, consultants, and speakers how to get more high-value clients, and he offers his sound advice in the audio segment below.

Listen time is about 15 minutes.

Click here to connect with Jim.


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New book from Nancy L. Erickons

First 100 Downloads of Nancy’s Book Are Free – Snag One!

Want to know more about writing a nonfiction book? Then download these sample chapters from Nancy’s new book Stop Stalling and Start Writing: Kick the Excuses and Jumpstart Your Nonfiction Book. Only 100 copies are available, so snag one quick!



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Nonfiction Book Coach Advice: Live Your Life on Purpose

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Have you ever asked yourself why you were created? I don’t mean how you were created but have you discovered your life’s true purpose? Sometimes people get their life’s purpose confused with their career choice. Even if you’re successful in a profession that reflects your talents, would you say you’re genuinely fulfilled and have a sense of direction? If you’ve lived long enough, you’ll know that money doesn’t buy happiness, fulfillment, or give us a sense of peace.  Just turn on the news, and you’ll hear another sad story in which a wealthy person self-destructs. But it’s not just the wealthy. Millions of people from all socioeconomic backgrounds are spiraling into full-blown depression because they feel their life has no value and is meaningless. How sad. I can relate because before I became a nonfiction book coach, I felt the same way. That’s before I learned my true purpose.

 Your Purpose is Bigger Than You

As a professional writer and a nonfiction book coach, it’s no secret that I love writing. But I also like to read books from other inspiring authors. One of my favorites is The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren. While the book is from a Christian perspective, I believe that everyone, regardless of their beliefs, can learn a valuable lesson or two from it. In it, he writes: “Service starts in your mind. To be a servant requires a mental shift, a change in your attitudes. Servants think more about others than about themselves.” Warren goes on to say that, “When we stop focusing on our own needs, we become aware of the needs around us.”

We all have problems. But what would happen if you viewed your life as a vessel to give hope and help to someone else? Your purpose is bigger than you. You were created for so much more than you think.

Why Am I Telling You This?

I misspent too many years and brought untold grief on myself because I refused to be me, to pursue my true “calling.” And I’m amazed at how many other people have done the same thing. And once they’ve figured their lives out, are doing what they were meant to do and rejoicing in doing it, they don’t step back to consider how powerful their story is and how it could help others. I guess it’s easy to undervalue what’s inside us because it’s all that we know. So it doesn’t seem special. It doesn’t seem significant. And it doesn’t seem to offer a path that others can learn from and grow from. Don’t fall for that way of thinking.

Think about what you’ve learned, what you’ve developed, and what you’ve overcome—and be willing to give it to others. Your life’s purpose is bigger than you. You were created to serve.

Many of our clients find that they discover more about their life purpose as they’re working on their book. We take them through a step-by-step process to uncover the purpose of their book, and they often find that leads them to the purpose for their life. If that sounds like an experience you’d like to have, check out our Self-Directed Book Writing Course.

 


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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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