Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Why, and How to, Write a Book

Quick, what's faster than a speeding press release, more powerful than a rushing web site, able to leap social media in a single bound?

Look, up on your bookshelf -- it's a bird, it's a plane (Hey, I said look on your bookshelf..!)

It's a book.

Welcome to the un-bound edition of Not Your Usual Marketing Tips from JDK Marketing Communications Management.

Savvy marketers are realizing that, along with the conventional tools of the promoting trade -- web site, brochure, ads, commercials, a social media presence -- a good old fashioned tome can speak...pardon the pun...volumes about what one can offer in the way of expertise. While adding cachet to one's professional status that is virtually incalculable.

And that's whether the book is published through a literary press, or downloaded from a web presence.

There's a book in pretty much each one of us.

But rather than have me tell you about it -- I got Hooked on Phonics only last Thursday -- I thought I'd leave the real muscle to my friend, a former high school classmate of mine (who also lives in Charlotte), now a successful writer and author.

Jonathan Singer began his career at CBS in New York as a copywriter. He moved to Charlotte in 1988 where he has been a creative director and a ghostwriter (How Sweet the Sound, the autobiography of Cissy Houston, Whitney’s mother, Doubleday, 1998) and an occasional contributor to Charlotte magazine. He considers Joel Kweskin a friend – this week. He can be reached at singer.jonathan@gmail.com.

Nothing Beats a Book

If you really want to do something for yourself, write a book. Nothing else compares with the impact, the instant credibility, the authority that a book conveys.

A good book can suddenly get you speaking engagements, and free publicity. It can also leverage you well beyond your current station where a whole new demographic of clients graze.

I can’t tell you how to sit down Friday night and have a finished book by Monday morning. What I can show you is a way to avoid getting stuck – which is when most people quit.

Go out and buy four packs of ruled, 3 X 5 index cards. I’m embarrassed to promise that something so utilitarian will revolutionize your life as a writer. But it will. I know because it revolutionized mine.

Writing is about two things: structure and creativity. Most people think they can do both at once. You can’t.

Our brains do one thing and one thing well, at a time. The index cards give your brain a green light to brainstorm all the things you want to include in your book. Clear off a tabletop. Now write one idea, one thought per card, starting on the first ruled blue line. The temptation is to start writing the book on the cards. Don’t. You shouldn’t be using more than a couple lines to express that one thought; that one fact (garnered from your research); that one quote.

Spread out those cards on the tabletop, willy-nilly. For one particular book I did with under 20 chapters, each chapter had as many as 100 cards on the table.

When you’ve put all your ideas/facts/quotes on the cards start grouping them together by subject. Expect to have several groups. Give each group a one or two word title and write it in red on the top red line, extreme right.

Now, within each group, put the cards in some logical order. Record the order you’ve put them in by numbering them at the top of the card, on the red line, extreme left.

Arrange the cards vertically like venetian blinds with just enough to show what you’ve written on each card. Paper clip the sides of three or four cards together in that position, keeping the whole row of cards in a neat vertical. From the first card to the last, you ought to be able to scan what you’ve written easily from bottom to top.

Continue this process until you have as many separate vertical rows as your narrative warrants.

By this time you should see some natural transitions between the end of one row and the beginning of another. Arrange the rows in some logical order.

From your position above the table (work with as big a space as you can) if it’s a “chapter” you’re working on, then at a glance you ought to be able to see in the first row of cards the beginning of the chapter and in the last row of cards, the end of the chapter.

What you have on the table is the structure of your manuscript, logically progressing from one thought to the next. That in itself is a major accomplishment. But the real beauty of the cards is that now you don’t have to worry about what you’re going to say. It’s all right in front of you. You can, at a glance, see the beginning, the middle and the end.

An added bonus of seeing your material flow in so graphic a manner is that by keeping an eye on the end you will know how much time you can spend on the beginning and mid-section. That’s pacing!

You’ll never write yourself into a corner again. Writing one thought/fact/quote per card in no particular order allows your brain to spill everything you want to say – without having to make any association between the facts.

With all the “information” on the table that’s one less job your brain has to do. That frees you up to just look for the relationships between your thoughts and ideas – connections that may have never occurred to you.

Finally, once you’ve ordered and grouped the cards, then arranged those groups in a pleasing, logical order, you can breathe a sigh of relief. You’ve got a clear field ahead of you. You know exactly what you need to say and in what order. There’s no mystery. With all the facts in order at your fingertips, your brain is free to just be creative and write.

Try the cards. If all else fails, hire a ghostwriter.


Join us again the first Tuesday of next month for another literati gliterati chapter of Not Your Usual Marketing Tips.

Joel Kweskin
704.846.4835 office
704.575.8850 mobile
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