Glorious Gobbledegook

Writers pour their hearts and  souls into the words that spring forth from hidden depths to caress the pages and tease your minds. Writing from the heart is a truly wonderful way to share what you have to say. The reality is that we all have little sayings, acronyms, ways of expressing ourselves and jargon that leave others utterly bewildered.

To enchant we have to decant with words that ought to remain handcuffed to a radiator in hell. Gobbledegook makes no sense and is indeed utter nonsense. In a world that is full of words that can be used to describe something with simplicity, why must we complicate matters by using words that no-one has heard of. Or if they have heard of them, certainly not in that order.

We believe in regenerated reciprocal concepts.  Do you mean shared repurposed ideas?

The fact is that when any of us writes, our minds slip over overused words and jargon that someone from outside our industry or niche may not be able to make sense of.

Steps to degobbldegook your writing

  1. Be brutal and look for jargon, either explain what it is if you have no other choice or find another word or words.
  2. I recently discovered that one of my overused words was simply. I was horrified how many times I used the word simply. It seems that my thoughts are simply simple. Use something like Grammarly (http://tr.grammarly.com/SHIH) (Aff link), which has a WORD plugin to help your to scrutinise your copy.
  3. Ask other people to read your copy, as they will see it with fresh eyes.
  4. Use built in WORD spell and grammar check as this will highlight odd words.
  5. Make a list of your jargon and over used words and add them to your standard editing plan. Then use the search tool to find them and use your thesaurus or your imagination to find a replacement.
  6. Why use a big word when a little one will do?
  7. Next look at your copy in the context of what you are trying to achieve. Is there a better way to say ‘in today’s competitive marketplace’ or ‘Maximise and optimise shareholder value’?
  8. Consider your reader, do they like flowerly prose or hard facts?
  9. Turn your we’s around. All too often we say that we can do something, when we should be considering what the benefits are to the reader. In the context of your writing, you may be using we, as in we collectively do Xyz or you may be saying we can sort out your terrible problems – who cares and who says I have a problem?

Whilst it may seem a pain in the proverbial, and you may not get all your funnies, using tools and other humans will help to smarten up your copy.

Be kind to yourself, in my humble opinion, one can go over the top and lose one’s voice. Think about your reader, flow and how you can maintain your voice within the context of toning down your gobbledegook.

 

Finding the book in you

Everyone tells you that you have a book in you; the trouble is, you cannot see it or you do not think that anyone would want to read it. Or worse still you have been sketching it out for years, and nothing seems to resonate.

Sometimes what it takes is working with someone else who listens to you, and I mean hears what you are saying and gets what you are thinking. Someone who can pick up on the nuances in your body language and voice.

More importantly, asks you good questions and gives you space to make the connections.

Your book, the way it wants to be written and your inspirational message, is in you. It always has been in you; you have not acknowledged it yet.

Imagine how it would feel to know what this, your first or next book is about?

This is not a process I can share in a blog, not because I do not want to give away trade secrets. Far from it. I cannot give you 10 tops tips because for me, this is a unique and intuitive process. What I will share is this easy exercise and let you find your book.

What next?

When finding the book in you, you need to ask yourself how much do you want a book, one which will help you to share your inspirational message and build your brand?

Finding the book in you – click to download the PDF

Editors and editing your book

In a recent article I talked about being a DIY author or using a book coach to help you get your book written and published. In this article I want to ask you how confident you are in your editing skills?

No matter how good a writer you are there are several things that you must not skimp on, one is your cover and the second is your editing.

Getting to first draft can be a challenge, but it is wonderful feeling knowing that you have just penned 40,000 words or more. You must leave your masterpiece for at least a week and more if you can, this is for reflection. The mind is a wonderful thing and in that reflection time, all kinds of connections and adjustments are being made. Getting to final draft is where the magic happens. Editing covers many things, not only are you bringing your work to life, you are also doing the more mundane tasks like looking carefully at grammar and punctuation. This is usually where we get word, punctuation and grammar blindness.

The key to this process is to keep leaving it and looking at it in different ways with new eyes.

Let me tell you a very salient story

I ‘wrote’ and published a book in a weekend as part of a challenge. It was not a creative process, more of a slog, but fairly easy – or so I thought. I repurposed lots of content that I had and because of the time race, my mind, when reading and re-reading it  in a short space of time, saw perfection. This happens to everyone when reading their own work, the mind very kindly fills in the blanks and skips over words that don’t make sense.

The book once published for the challenge needed to be unpublished and edited. Quite simply life got in the way. I went away for a respite trip and when I came back the person I was caring for died. With other things to think about, everything I was working on was sidelined.

As a workshop I was running drew closer, I suddenly realised that I had a) forgotten to have the book edited b) it was still live and for sale on Amazon and c) I didn’t have any edited copies to give away. Even worse, in the meantime I received a poor review on Amazon from a reader who was also an editor. I was mortified. After preaching to my clients, I had now committed the cardinal sin, I hadn’t used an editor and I was paying the price. (Can you feel me cringing?)

I decided to call the editor and get to know her and ask, if, as she had read the book, would she edit it for me. It was almost synchronicity – nothing ever happens without a reason and I figured I was meant to meet her. She is currently editing / proofing said book, with instructions to do whatever it needs. (Can you feel me breathing again?)

Excuses aside, I took my eye off the ball. However I can share a very powerful lesson with you – the feeling of total mortification and horror of a poor review and feeling like a complete [insert expletive] for letting the basics slip. By the way, poor reviews are something else you will have to put up with when you are a published author. People leave the rudest and most bizarre reviews and comments. I come from the school of if you can’t say something nice or constructive keep your mouth shut or your fingers off the reviews.

A lovely fiction writer I know talks about how she has grown a rhino skin when it comes to reviews. She knows that, not only has her publisher paid a lot to produce the right cover, but the editor has also torn her work apart. Her advice like mine is pay to get your work  edited and proofed. Do this when you think it is polished.

40,000 words will probably cost around £200 to £300 and it truly is an investment in your brand.

Me, well I will re launch said book safe in the knowledge that it has been well critiqued.

What lessons have you learned the hard way?

DIY or use a book coach?

Should you invest in a book coach to help you to plan, write, edit, publish and market your first or next book?

The answer is it depends on you.

Some questions to ponder

  • Do you believe that you have the knowledge, skills and experience to do it?
  • Are you a good finisher?
  • How good are you at motivating yourself?
  • Do you find answers within yourself, by researching or by discussing with others?
  • Do you feel overwhelmed with all of your ideas, the content and how you are going to get it in order?
  • Are you clear about why you are writing a book and what steps to take?
  • Do you worry that no-one will read it?
  • Are you time poor?

There are many more questions I could ask that will tell me if you are serious and if you will get your book written, fundamentally you will be in one of these camps.

Who are you?

Jack – I’m ok Jack, I can turn my hand to anything, it is a sign of weakness to ask for help, so I am just going to keep going even if it looks and reads like a pile of pants when I have finished.

Patty Pants – Patty does things by the seat of her pants, she loves new ideas and flits from idea to idea, never really starting and never really finishing. She is forever telling you that when she writes her book blah blah

Suzy Success – Suzy fears both success and / or failure. If it never gets written and published she will never fail. If it does get written she feels so inwardly insecure that she will never promote it, as success will take her out of her comfort zone.

Edgar Ego – Edgar can’t see the point of a book, he is magnificent and always will be.

Ali Action – Ali has thought about her brand, she knows she needs a book as it will add something magical to her brand. She understands that the book wont make her a fortune, but the credibility and additional services that come from it will. She wants to share her inspirational message and she wants an expert to guide her.

In my experience those people who invest in a support package get their books written, published and marketed. The bottom line is writing a book is a business in itself and should be treated as such.

 Are you a DIY’er?

Look around your business, do you do all of your HR, tax, legal, accounting etc. yourself or do you use professionals to assist you?

When I work with people who only take part of a programme, such as a book discovery day, or a 2 day workshop, without follow on support, their book invariably does not ever see the light of day. They typically no longer have accountability, motivation or the know how to do it.

Investing in a book coach will ensure that, provided you put the work in, you will become a published author.

A book coach will:-

  • Help you to turn your passion, ideas and inspirational message into the book you’ve always wanted to write and others want to read.
  • Show you the the secrets to planning, writing and publishing a book that will be read, talked about and recommended to others.
  • Enable you to get crystal clear on the inspirational message and content of your book.
  • Keep you out of confusion or overwhelm.
  • Stop you writing the wrong book!
  • Ensure your book’s message is distinctive, different and reflects your voice and brand
  • Keep you focused on making time
  • Motivate, encourage and support you
  • Provide lots of resources and contacts for all of the other book related things that you don’t want to do

Words have the power to change lives, books can transform your life, career or business in wonderful ways. Books also change other people’s lives. Books are alchemic, book coaches help you to bring your magic to life.

Just imagine holding your book in your hands, selling it at conferences, or using it as the guide for your coaching and workshops. And watching those orders come in from Amazon.

Competitor analysis and your book

Many inventions come about by accident.  Whilst you are looking in one direction, you may miss something important or you may just hit on something that could change the world. Percy Lebaron Spencer was working on radar when his discoveries led to the invention of the microwave. Christopher Columbus bought rubber to the western world, Charles Goodyear learnt accidentally how to vulcanize it and vulcanized rubber is now everywhere.  When Jesse Kops, of 3M accidentally developed a very-low pressure adhesive, my favourite product was created – the post it note. Viagra was meant to help with angina and instead increased blood flow elsewhere. Researchers studying  ‘change blindness’ concluded that…

”When we’re concentrating so hard on something that our processing capacity is at its limits, the parietal cortex is not available to pay attention to new things and even dramatic changes can go unnoticed. If you’re concentrating on what the magician’s left hand is doing, you won’t notice what the right hand is doing.”

Key learnings: undertake your research, take time to walk around and reflect on your research to look for the ‘and what else?’

Why do a competitor analysis?

We do a competitor analysis to understand the market better, the position we occupy and how to fill the gaps. Competitor analysis is great for crystallising where your book fits with what is already available.  It also informs your book strategy, tells you who your potential reader might be, what else they are buying, what their needs are and gives you an idea about what sort of books and content are out there.

You will see books that you never knew existed, books that you had wished you had written and a space for your work.

When it comes to writing, I like to see my fellow authors as collaborators as opposed to competitors, there is a place for all of us, as we each bring something different to our readers.  Remember, just because there is a book with that title, the one you wanted to use, which looks like it covers your subject, it may not do it in the way that yours will, with your knowledge, skills and passion. It may be completely different to what you will be writing about.

Should you read your competitors books?

There are two schools of thought, one) it’s a good idea to get a better understanding of what is selling and why and two) no because you want to keep your thoughts and ideas pure. I say yes to reading lots of books, because you can learn so much by considering them with a writers eye.

Simple steps to undertake a competitor review

Step 1

Make a list of evaluation criteria. You will use these to assess your competitors work as you read and review their books. E.g.

  • Writing is easy to understand.
  • Uses lists.
  • Has diagrams and drawings.
  • Has action plans.
  • Uses simple words
  • Pages laid out so that the book is easy to read and digest.
  • They understand their reader.
  • Their arguments are well explained.
  • Research is clearly defined.

Step 2

Assess each of the criteria for the three books you are reviewing.

  • What do you like about the books?
  • What don’t you like?
  • What does that tell you?  How will you use that information?

Step 3

  • Write a review of one (or all) of the books.
  • What makes your book different?
  • What key points have been left out?
  • Which readers are not being addressed?

What else can you find out about your competitors?

After a browse around Amazon, surf the internet, look at your ‘competitors’ websites and social media, what can you learn from them?  Armed with this research, ask how does your book fill a gap?  What else can you learn about how they market themselves, what tips can you pick up?  Who do they collaborate with?  What about their personal branding? What can you do better or different?

And don’t forget to ask others, friends and family about the books they have bought in the genre you hope to serve.

How did your competitor research inspire or inform you? What did you learn? How can what you have discovered improve your book?

Bread and butter for the writers soul

There are some essential items that we need to keep us going, food, water , love and a sense of belonging being just a few. Bread and butter for the writers soul is not about food, but more about feeding your writers soul the vital ingredients it needs to flourish.

There will be things in your life that you absolutely know, make you feel at one with you and the world.

For me they are, lying in bed or anywhere with my family around me. My family being with the bald one and our two dogs Ferdy and Marley. Walking in the countryside early in the morning as the sun is rising and the dew creeps up the dogs fur.

Sitting on terrace of our Spanish home watching the sun either waking up or going to sleep. In the morning with a cup of tea and the evening with a yummy wine. This I have to look forward to as we plan the next part of our Spanish adventure. This is often a conversation over dinner, always at the table, and usually accompanied by two patient pooches waiting for left overs.

Talking about dinner, what a wonderful way to catch up and share, to plan, dare and dream together. There are no lap rats in our house, we love being in the kitchen preparing, cooking, and chatting.

Fine tea, chilled white wine or Rioja. Notice I led in with my tea. Tea, not coffee and there are no compromises. As much as I love Aldi, Earl Grey from there is not the same as Twinnings for example. By far my current favourite is Ceylon – malty and smooth.

You can see it is the simple pleasures in life that feed me. Long gone are the days when I would crave new shoes and bags. My Imelda’s closet closed her doors many years ago. I admit to still adoring these things, but my practical walk in the mud tells me to harnesses my frivolousness.

Neither do I desire sitting in a fine restaurant, scoffing expensive steak and swilling the ‘recommended’ wine, always priced to cause an ouch, which lessens with every bottle consumed.

But I digress. What feeds my soul is being able to put pen to paper or fingers to keys and let my unconscious mind spill words. Words that help me to make sense of things and words which can help others to see things in different ways.

What nourishes me is helping others find the link to their passion, purpose and inspirational message and getting their work out there. Not any old writing, but writing that connects them to their reader and themselves at a deep level.

Without words, what I wonder would I do?

When it comes to penning your book, you have to feel that soul connection to your inspirational message, so much so that you couldn’t live a day without sharing. That may be a bit extreme, but ask yourself what drives you? What gives your life purpose? How can you, share what you have to a wider audience?

With your words of course.

Sure there are people who can find vacant niches to park a spare book in. These are the people who are driven by the status of ‘bestseller’ and not the alchemists who want to bring magic to their readers.

What I wonder is the alchemy that you want to bring?

If you were to put pen to paper today, what would feed your soul so that it becomes bread and butter for another to feast on?

Action and the procrastinating writer

Action and the procrastinating writer

Do you believe in writers block or do you believe that we just make excuses for not writing? And if you think that we just make excuses, why do you think that? What are your strategies for procrastinating?

I was having a conversation a few days ago with a friend about why she wasn’t writing. She knew what her book was about, why she was writing it and how she would use it once published. She told me that she was excited and passionate about her message and the content, but for some reason she couldn’t write.

It got me thinking about beliefs and patterns of behaviour and how these either stop us or motivate us towards taking action. I took a good look at myself and some of the people that I work with and I have been reflecting on some of the most common areas for the procrastinating writer.

Fear of failure

Many very successful people with lots of amazing content and a truly inspirational message won’t put pen to paper because they are scared of failure. They don’t have a crystal ball, yet they believe that the book will fail. Typically everything they have ever done has been brilliant and this ‘new thing’ that could be read by lots of people has the power to expose them as frauds. So if it never gets written or published – how can they fail?

Fear of success

A great many people say that they want something, yet go out of their way (unconsciously) to procrastinate so that it never gets finished or started. In doing this they don’t have to step out of their comfort zone and really show how fab they are.

I wonder why we are so scared of playing big – where does that come from? Probably childhood. I’ve thought a lot about my scripts. My father used to say you can do anything you like – until you get caught. He of course was referring to being ‘naughty’, however recently it struck me that I took him at his word – I do believe I can do anything and I used to self-sabotage a lot. Consider the phrase ‘until you get caught’. Somehow implying that I might just be found out to be a fraud.  What scripts might you have around failure and success? Why do they come from? Do you have a phrase from childhood that might be lurking in your recesses?

The way we like to work

I like silence and space. I like fresh, new and exciting – different ways to do things. I am visual and kinaesthetic. Because of this I know that I have to chunk things down and look at how I do things in lots of different ways. For example when I outline a book, I have to walk the outline, use post it notes, mind map, turn it to a workshop outline and I have to take time out so that when I come back – it is fresh, new and exciting. What if you were like me – how would you motivate yourself to get started? What activities would you add to your writing strategy so that you did a) get started and b) finish what you’ve started?

Where we work

If my environment isn’t right, I can’t focus. Simple. I’ve already said I like silence; I also love to write in bed, I hate hot, noisy coffee shops. What about you? How can you create your environment so that it feels like you are having the best back massage ever (or whatever floats your boat)?

Overwhelm

If the project seems too big, we often get into overwhelm. When this happens to me I simply break it down into smaller chunks. I often write or edit books by blogging the content (creating a different way of looking at things) and then chunk it back up into the bigger picture. I have also learned to be brutal when I write too much. It never gets deleted, it may have a use, but I have learned to focus on the message and answering the questions for that chapter. How can you get from big picture to detail or detail to big picture?

These are just a few examples; I bet there are many times you have procrastinated over your writing. All I ask is that you make a note of what you do and then consider why? Where are your patterns and the beliefs that lay beneath them? Then ask yourself how can I break that pattern or learn to work with it?

Only you have the answers, a coach or friend, who is great at asking good questions and really listening, can help you to see where your ‘problems’ lie. Remember when you get feedback to reflect and accept what others might say or expose as positive criticism.

I also have another solution… Get a journal and start writing, not your book of course, more about why you aren’t writing it. I wonder what you will discover that will help you to take action and move you from procrastinating writer to productive writer?