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Writing a memoir or nonfiction book but afraid you’re not a “real” writer with a broad enough vocabulary and an ability to create elegant metaphors? Banish that fear. I can offer you three ways to energize your writing to bring it up to the next level so that your book is compelling and your ideas and anecdotes come alive for your readers.

1. Pick strong verbs.

Avoid variations on the verb “to be” where you can because “to be” and its forms are weak, wimpy verbs. Also, turn nouns into strong verbs that make your writing and storytelling more energetic and compelling.

 

Weak: Summer is my favorite season.

“Is” is a form of the verb “to be.”

Strong: I favor summer over all the other seasons.

“Favor” is a strong verb compared to “is.”

 

Weak: My partner made an assumption that I was not ready for change.

“Was” is weak.

Strong: My partner assumed that change would overwhelm me.

“Assumed” is stronger than “made an assumption” and it’s less wordy. “Was” is weak. Also, when you begin choosing verbs that could go into that clause, you start getting more precise with your words, which gives your writing more oomph. Here, turning the noun “assumption” into a strong verb helps tighten the writing, making it more energetic.

2. Use a thesaurus to find variations on words.

Look for the overuse of certain words in your writing. Did you use “creative” in the first sentence of a paragraph, “creativity” in the second sentence, and “create” in another paragraph on the same page? Even if your book is on creativity, you want to use a variety of words to get across the concept of creativity. A thesaurus can lead you to words such as innovative, resourceful, imaginative, originality, inventive, and more. Bonus tip: If it’s hard to find a synonym you haven’t already used, maybe you need to tighten the writing so it’s less repetitive.

3. Use figurative language and wordplay.

If you keep using the same words over and over, you’re in the company of the great writer J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series, who said she became frustrated trying to find new ways of saying “corridor” or “hall” when describing the movement of characters. When it seems there’s no way to avoid overusing a word that’s key to your story, work, and message, consider using figurative language and wordplay.

Weak: I created my 40-day program for people who think they’re not creative to help them develop their creativity.

We get it! But using variations on “to create” over and over will bore your reader.

Strong: I developed my 40-day program for people who think they’re not “the creative type” to help them discover their inner playground child, the self that sees the world as a playground filled with possibilities for doing something different and innovative.

Here, the writer actually is using figurative language to energize her writing and help brand herself at the same time. As a developmental editor or ghostwriter who also does book publishing consultations, I would say, “Terrific! Now Google ‘inner playground child’ to see if anyone else is using it, and consider buying the dot com URL (www.PlaygroundChild.com) to reserve it—and setting up an Inner Playground Child professional page on Facebook to help secure your brand and a clever turn-of-phrase to go with it.” Branding is key for setting your book and your work apart from others’ in the marketplace, so I would help steer you toward words, phrases, and clauses that would be unique to you.

 

Need help with writing, strategizing, branding, and envisioning your nonfiction mind/body/spirit book? Contact me today and let me know where you are with your plan for your book and what kind of help you need. (Perhaps a Vision Plan is your next step?)

 

 

energize your writing book power

 

 

 

If you want to be seen as an expert on the topic of your book, you need to start thinking about how you will build your author platform with speaking engagements that help brand you even as you’re working out your ideas publicly and getting known.

 

Which came first, the speaking engagement or the book? Either, depending on what your expertise is. What are you an expert on, and how would you pitch yourself to someone who books speakers at a local public library, your community’s recreation department, a wellness center, a church, a school, a store, a YMCA or similar community center, or elsewhere? You might speak about how to effectively parent middle schoolers—maybe you are a therapist who specializes in treating kids of this age. You might speak about being a survivor of a particular type of trauma and what helped you to move past that experience. Begin to tell your story or give your presentation locally, and ask a good friend or two to attend and give you feedback. Criticism can be very tough when you’re starting out, so be sure to ask your friend to offer you three positive observations, even if it’s just comments like, “I liked the outfit you wore” or “Your PowerPoint presentation had some nice slides” or “You clearly are passionate about your topic.” Then ask for one piece of constructive criticism—and after that, be brave and ask for one more! Keep working at building your presentation skills and soliciting feedback. You can also ask your attendees to voluntarily fill out a form telling you what two things they found most enjoyable, valuable, or beneficial and one or two pieces of advice that might help you in the future. John Gray, author of the mega-bestseller Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus, said that when he spoke about his topic (men and women’s different behaviors and perceptions within relationships), he paid attention to his audience members’ body language. If they leaned forward with interest, he knew that what he was saying was intriguing them and resonating for them. If they crossed their arms or sat back or frowned, something wasn’t working. All that valuable feedback helped him work out his ideas that ended up in his book.

 

Put yourself in the shoes of someone in your audience.  What would make them take time out of their busy lives to see you speak—and what title for your speech would make them think, “Oh, I should check that out!”? Think about what urgent problem they might have that you could help solve (middle schoolers and their moodiness, for example!). Think about how you can inspire them with practical ideas for what allowed you to overcome trauma and create a better life for yourself.

Next, imagine you could speak on three specific topics related to your expertise. What would they be? How would you describe them in a paragraph? For example, I can speaking on Parenting with Sensory Smarts, Sensory Smarts at School, and Practical Tips for Helping Kids with Sensory Issues at Home, at School, and Away. The first and third topics are appropriate for an audience of parents, while the second would appeal to parents, educators, and school administrators. If I wanted to speak to parents, I would start looking for where parents gather and listen to lectures or attend short workshops. Is there a series through a Y or a church, for example?

Identifying what you can speak about, writing your speech, and planning to present it to an audience at a specific venue can help you start identifying your core areas of expertise that you want to get across in the book you will write. Then aim to book a speaking engagement, just one, to get started. And be sure to get out the word about your speaking engagement using social media.

 

Questions? Comments? Let me know, because I hope my advice helps you to build your author platform and brand yourself with a book.

 

 

book speaking engagements branding

Build your author platform with speaking engagements.

 

Why should someone hire you as a coach or consultant, subscribe to your blog or newsletter, come to see you speak, or hire you as a speaker? Because, of course, you are awesome, original, and a unique expression of divine light in human form. Okay, but besides that, why should someone pay you attention or money, or give you opportunities, when there are a gazillion people who do something similar? Because truly, you are unique—and that allows you to create a brand for yourself that is different from every other brand. Branding yourself with a book is an excellent way to expertise yourself and convey to potential clients, followers, and fans who you are and what your message and work is all about. Maybe you will give away your book, maybe you will sell it, and maybe you’ll do a combination of both. Whatever you choose, figure out your brand and brand yourself with a book that serves as your credibility card.

 

For branding purposes, you don’t have to write a full-length book of 50,000 to 80,000 words (or longer—self-help books years ago were typically 100,000 words but the average length has shrunk considerably). You don’t have to get a book deal, although you might want to work with a book publisher or a book publishing coach or service to handle the technical issues involved with turning your document into an actual physical book and eBook (electronic book). Focus on the editorial questions “What is my book about, how does it help the reader, who is my reader, and how will my book help establish my credibility as an expert?” for that’s at the heart of writing a book will solidify your brand. You can give the book away or sell it when you do personal appearances and have interviewers hold it up to the camera when you do local (or national) television shows or Skype interviews that get shared on social media. A snappy title for a book will help people remember you and do an Internet search to find you. Books help you build your platform for your work (consulting, teaching, etc.) just as your work helps you build your author platform. Your work supports your book and your book supports your work.

 

To start conceptualizing a book that fits into your brand, take your personal story of how you became interested in the work you do. After all, that is the very foundation of your brand and what sets you apart from others who do similar work. You have to be present in your brand, and your followers will want to know about you and your life. I give parenting advice and my brand is the Sensory Smart Parent, which derives from my coauthored book Raising a Sensory Smart Child. My expertise is in raising a child with sensory processing disorder who has “sensory smarts”: that is, he understands his sensory processing differences and can meet his sensory needs and self-advocate in a socially acceptable away. You, too, will want to be able to sum up your brand in a few words that capture what kind of parent, teacher, entrepreneur, healer, or speaker you are that sets you apart. You’ll want to be able to quickly describe your expertise. My other brand is Cinematherapy, which is the title of a book I coauthored with my cousin Bev West. Like so many women, we find that movies are more than just entertainment, they’re self-medication that can cure anything from a bad hair day to the dumped-and-out-for-blood blues. (That’s a carefully crafted pitch we used everywhere in promotion.) Bev and I learned the art of Cinematherapy from our mothers and mutual grandmother who made time to watch movies as part of self-care, which for them meant letting themselves feel their emotions fully. Notice that we’re not film experts or therapists, yet we have an identifiable brand we can describe briefly and that is captured in the book’s title. Our story gives our spin on talking about movies a personal touch. And now you know the story behind the brand!

 

So let’s start with your story of how you came to have the idea for your work, whether it’s paid work or volunteer work, volunteering or coaching, healing or teaching, or whatever it is.

 

Know how to pitch your story. Everyone has a life about which a story can be told, says my client Carl Greer, PhD, PsyD, a Jungian analyst, clinical psychologist, shamanic practitioner, and author of Change Your Story, Change Your Life. But if you had to summarize your story of how you developed your message or came to do the work you do, what is your story? Take a look at short author biographies on the back of books you admire that are in your genre (for example, inspirational self-help or memoirs centered around life lessons the author learned). Take a look at what authors write in the introduction of their books. They don’t go on for many pages, but they do succinctly tie in what happened to them with how they became interested in their topic and developed expertise.

 

branding book author self-help life lessons

A book can serve as a credibility card. Figure out your brand based on your story and start thinking about a book tied into your brand.

Know what is universal about your story. Your personal story is absolutely key to your brand. Your unique perspective is shared by no one else, yet what you do can’t be so very personal that people who hear about you have no idea what you have to offer that they can use. They have to make a connection and say “I can relate to that person’s story! He seems like someone who would understand my situation and could help me.” Your message has to be clear, and people have to know what they are getting from you that will help them with their problems and challenges. Your services may be nutritional coaching, helping mothers of babies to find time for self-care, or training professionals to be better at creating YouTube videos that help sell their products and services. Those are common services with universal appeal. A story such as “I came to be a nutritionist because I grew up eating poorly and after becoming very sick, I taught myself about nutrition” is universal. That’s a good start to branding yourself because it’s rooted in your story, but you need to go further, so read on.

Know what is compelling about your story. Perhaps there is a startling, dramatic detail to your story, such as that you nearly forgot your baby in your car because you didn’t take time for self-care and that woke you up to the urgency of this common, universal problem of new mothers not taking care of themselves. Perhaps your own YouTube videos got such devastating bad reviews saying that you seemed stiff and authentic that you vowed to learn how to overcome your stilted performances and now you teach and coach others into creating awesome videos that sell their products and services. Think about emotional extremes–what would make someone go, “Wow, that’s devastating/hilarious/amazing!” when hearing your story. Strong emotions strengthen brands, so find the emotionally compelling aspects of your story.

Find what is different in your approach or voice. Maybe your business model is different from others’ because your approach is different: You coach people with check-ins every week, or you send them daily reminders through mobile devices to keep them on track. Maybe your gentle, warm, kind approach sets you apart from others who coach people who are used to a “boot camp” approach. Ask your clients, fans, followers, and friends what they find different about your approach if you aren’t quite sure what makes you different. And really ponder what’s different in your approach or voice. Close your eyes, meditate for a moment, and pose the question, “What makes my approach unique?” See if an insight doesn’t appear.

What makes you different is key to your brand and to branding yourself with a book. Now I hope you are closer to figuring out your brand and a book that will establish that brand.

Questions? Comments? As always, I’m here to help you!

 

Often, aspiring writers are concerned about creating a unique voice in their writing. They want to sound like no one else, to express themselves in a way that thousands or even millions of people will find compelling. Maybe it’s unrealistic that any of us will truly sound like no one else, but we like to believe that our writing is a true expression of ourselves.
However, if we’re honest, we don’t have one voice any more than we have one side of ourselves. We act differently in different situations, and speak to our best friend one way and a stranger another. The words we use and our tone of voice change when we address different people. Thus, when we go to find our voice as writers, what we are really looking for is the right voice for the piece. The voice we use is determined by three factors:

–What we want to say
–What effect we want to have on the reader or readers
–Who our readers are

Think about it. Let’s say you want to complain about something. You will use different language than if you want to express deep gratitude. If your reader is your best friend, and you want her to feel empathy for you, you will use a different voice than the one you would use if your reader were the customer service representative of a company and you wanted to persuade that individual to replace the company’s defective product for free.
Perhaps you want to write about container gardening. Do you want your reader to container garden as well, and learn some basics about how to do it? Or are you simply writing a humorous essay about how you overcame your brown thumb and became overzealous about your bumper crop of parsley?

What effect do you want your writing to have on your reader? Do you want the reader to experience a particular emotion—if so, which one? Do you want the reader to take action? Do you want to persuade your reader to adopt your opinion?

What language will motivate, surprise, or amuse the person who has stumbled across your blog? What idea will grab the attention of your letter’s recipient?
We all want to express ourselves, but we also want to be heard. When you use a voice that appeals to your reader and serves the purpose of your writing by transforming that reader into a person who is entertained, intrigued, mesmerized, educated, fascinated, comforted, and so on, you not only get to experience the satisfaction of self-expression, but you also get the satisfaction of having your writing be truly appreciated. Remember, your writing voice shouldn’t be determined solely by you and your mood of the moment. Always remember your purpose and your audience.

Many people have enjoyed reading self-help books but when it comes to writing one, they don’t know where to begin. How do you organize the material?

A great self-help book takes the reader on a journey from problem to solution. Watch this new video I made about how to structure a self-help book into six key sections, then take out your favorite self-help book and look at the contents page. Does it have the structure I’ve outlined here? Does it have a variation it? It never ceases to amaze me how often this structure is used and yet no one talks about it!

 

 

 

 

 

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