Handbook Interrupted

syephen kingThere are four of us who meet every three weeks for a couple of hours in what is a critique group. Each of us brings four or five pages of something they wrote and we all critique it.

My work in progress is a handbook about how to form and grow teams of people, initially using Tuckman’s four stages of team development as a foundation.

But for the last couple of meetings, I found myself struggling with the handbook for developing effective teams. Initially, I was being confounded by having 60-to-70 pages on the computer screen and trying to scroll through them and determine if what I had written was coherent; did it flow from paragraph to paragraph and chapter to chapter.

I printed out the first 50 pages and started editing them with pencil in hand. I soon discovered that some of my cutting and pasting had created duplicate sections, such as introductory paragraphs at the opening, but also the same paragraphs 30 pages in!
By that time, it was Christmas, so I clipped the pages together and placed on my desk, out of sight and out of mind.

Back in October or November, I requested a copy of The First Five Pages: A Writer’s Guide to Staying Out of The Rejection Pile by Noah Lukeman. At one point, I stopped by the library to check on the status of my request and was told it was in route. Okay. I waited. Finally, it’s after the New Year and I’m convinced the handbook has all the necessary parts but somehow it doesn’t work.

Then the library calls and the book has arrived. I spend probably the next four or five days reading it. The author is an editor and pretty much tells it like it is when it comes to how he reads a submitted manuscript.

First, he reads several of the opening pages. If there are no major errors there, he reads several of the final pages. If there are no problems there, he’ll read several pages in the middle of the piece. If these pass muster, then he’ll read the entire manuscript.

However, what will get a manuscript tossed very quickly are signs that the author is a novice, or sloppy, or lazy or just not very good. Misspelled words, too many modifiers, dialogue that runs on, too much or not enough description, and the listed goes on.

So I read and in one of the later chapters, he addresses the issue of sound, as in how a work sounds when it is read aloud. And that’s when it hit me. The manuscript for the Handbook had all the parts but they were artificially hung together by a reliance on Tuckman’s four stages of team development. Those stages were and are valid, but when I read what I had written it didn’t sound like something I had written. It sounded more like Tuckman According to Me.

The second thing I realized is that I had access to a perfectly good structure for the Handbook based on a real team of network marketers Sally Vickers and I had worked year years ago. I had copies of their checklist, and copies of the surveys they took
So here is what I decided needed to be done. Create a doughnut using the real team’s experiences as the doughnut and the tips that helped them become successful as the materials for the doughnut hole. Here is what I came up with.

For example, here’s the outline I decided upon. The actual forms are pushed into the Appendix so as not to interrupt the flow of the narrative,
1. The Prologue with the Apollo 13 tales remains the same.
2. Introduction: The Handbook’s Purpose
3. Designing a Team
4. Who Gets Picked
5. Sample Team Configurations
6. A Team’s Natural Talents
7. Team Prep & Team Tools
8. The Baseline (It is here I will insert a summary of the network marketing team and show the results of the first time they took the survey, which puts them smack dab in the forming stage.)
9. With that team as a baseline, I can know start telling the story in my words of how I and my partner got that team to the performing stages and how the reader can do the same for their team, with some real life case studies inserted to show what works and what doesn’t

This approach I think will work.  Comments welcomed!

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About Bob McCarthy

Originally from the Northeast, I now call Southwest Florida home. I have been a professional copywriter and editor since 1979, both freelance and in house. I have had article published in regional, national and international magazines. Plus, a video for which I wrote the script won an industry award as Best Training Video.
This entry was posted in Advantages of Teams, Challenged Teams, Collaborative Teams, Storytelling, Team Development Strategies, Writing and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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