Template from Walter Dean Myers

I like templates. I especially like templates that work. And when it comes to writing, I have used a template I found in a book by Walter Dean Myers entitled “Just Write. Here’s How.” Mr. Myers was a prolific writer especially of literature for young adults. In this book on writing he offers a template for writing fiction and one for non-fiction. Since I write the latter, here’s what he suggests to organize a piece of writing. He calls it the four box model.

In Box I he raises a question.

In Box 2 is the evidence that supports the conclusion in Box 4.

Box 3 is your explanation of why the evidence in Box 2 leads to the conclusion in Box 4.

Box 4 is the answer to the question.

As an example, he cites a biography. One could write an essay on why is George Washington  called the Father of our country?  See? You have a template. Note the question  can be explicit, as with George Washington or implicit as in “It’s 1972 and the man in the corner office is wearing a World War One uniform.”

Comments welcomed.

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The Virtue of Words with Pictures

A few months a back, I attended a meeting at the local chapter of a national organization devoted to training. The subject of that month’s meeting was “storytelling.” After chapter business and the box lunches were done, the facilitator introduced the topic and then invited four or five training professionals to tell their “stories.”

A story has a narrative, usually builds to a point and often contains a theme or lesson. These did not. These were extended elevator speeches designed around each person’s career development. There was a chronology but no theme or lesson.

I’ve used stories in writing one-act plays, video scripts, collateral materials for clients and even magazine articles, like the woman who spent years and money learning how to be an artist until one day she had an epiphany and realized what she was really preparing herself to open and manage an art gallery.

Good storytelling has something the reader, or listener, or viewer can take away. What’s one takeaway from Prairie Home Companion? “Well, that’s the news from Lake Wobegon, where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average.”

So I’m at the local library which I visit often to browse the new release racks. One small book catches my eye. It’s Make Your Own Picture Stories for Kids with ASD by Brian Attwood. His son has ASD and he can be difficult to deal with if he is uncertain of what is happening or going to happen. Here are the author’s comments. .

Keen to help my wife who was bearing the brunt of it, I took a pen and a sheet of A4 paper and began doing my story. Simple little figures, the shortest sentences, with as many of those words as possible in speech bubbles or images. A straightforward narrative that explained what was happening, what the end results would be, and depicting a happy, safe outcome.

It took time to get his attention but we started to read it slowly to him, his son joined in and began smiling. He calmed down. He understood.

We didn’t realize straight away what we had stumbled on. It took several more such tantrums before we started to make our picture stories a first, rather than a last, resort.

My take away from the training session was that most anyone can recite a resume. My stories, I like to think, entertained and also suggested that much is possible if you put your mind to it. But the takeaway with Attwood’s piece was that story telling could help their son deal with a world which he did not always comprehend. To me, that is storytelling with a real purpose.

Comments welcomed!

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Our Video Work

We have written numerous video scripts in our career for marketing, public relations and training, along with self-promotion. Recently we had the opportunity to script and produce three videos for Florida Gulf Coast University. Here is one of them. Comments welcomed.

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Book Review

I just posted a review of this book on Amazon. Take a look. The review and the book are both good reads.

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be vigilant 3

self-indyI’ve been writing for 30+ years and I’ve written for regional publications, one national pub, one international pub and a number of online publications. And I wrote in previous posts about self-publishing because I have a couple of manuscripts I’m attempting to have published. So when I wrote about self-publishing in the previous post, I really didn’t know what I was talking about. I thought self-publishing and independent publishing were synonymous.

They aren’t.

So here is a link to a dated but informative blog post along with links to more resources.

Read and enjoy.

Comments welcomed.

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be vigilant 2

targetIn my not-so-humble opinion, true self-publishing means you print out 90 pages on your HP 2540, staple them together and now you have self-published. If you send your MSS to a company that offers printing, you pay them a fee and they “publish” it. It is not self-publishing. I know, it’s a business and I have no problem with that, but it is not self-publishing.

And the raison d’etre for this rant? Positioning, folks, positioning.

I’ve written lots of content for marketing communications, public relations and advertising. And one thing I learned early on is to define for whom you are writing; who is the target audience?

For the manufacturer of oil burners, it was the HVAC technicians who couldn’t follow the poorly written installation instructions. I wrote a video script that walked them through the process, step-by-step. Did it work? It won an industry award for best training video.

If you contact any reputable publisher and they ask for a proposal for your book, they are also going to ask you how your book, if published, would find an audience. How would you position it?

Here are a few examples from a real life professional association asking how you would promote your book.

  1. How often do you speak to the intended market?
  2. Do you have a list of “high-profile” people who might endorse your book?
  3. Do you publish a newsletter?
  4. Do you have useful contacts in the media?
  5. Are you a member of any professional organizations?
  6. Etc.

And this is before they’ve even looked at your manuscript! You can spend $2,000.00 and up to have someone “self-publish” your book. And I’ll wager they will not ask you any of these questions. They’ll take you money, post the book online and cash your check.

Before you waste any time or money and watch your beloved MSS languish on-line, figure out whom you are writing for. (Yes, that’s a preposition at the end.)

This site can help.


Comments welcomed.

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be vigilant

3mssI have three manuscripts I’ve been putzin’ around with. One is a memoir at 29,000 words. The second is a How To handbook for creating autonomous teams at 25,000 words. The third is a How To handbook for people who want to write as an SME, a Subject Matter Expert.

Recent I went online searching for publishing companies for the memoir. I found a link that had a URL about helping me find the right publisher. So I clicked and clicked and jumped through the online hoops.

I received three emails and three telephone calls. All three were from companies looking to charge me to self-publish my memoir. Nothing wrong with that. It’s their business. But be careful when you click on these sites and expect a rep from Random House to ring your doorbell with a contract, an advance and the rights to a major motion picture.

Many of you probably already know this, so this is a reminder.

PS: If you can recommend a publisher of memoirs, please reply back. Thanks. 

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