How to Capture a Reader’s Attention

Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.

100 Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez

 

What catches a reader’s attention? We all have favorite first lines that grabbed us and propelled us into the alternate universes imagined by our favorite authors.

Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way…

As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into an enormous insect.

All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.

 

Mesmerizing! Catching your breath, you could hardly wait to see what was going to unfold from that first delicious beginning.  But you’re not a novelist, you say. You write to promote your business. So how can you grab your readers’ attention and hold it?

There are a few ways you can make your product or service stand out.

  1. Personalize the text-you will not be anonymous that way, but someone the reader can relate to.
  2. Tell a story. Why do we tend to tear up at those Hallmark commercials? It’s because they tell a story.
  3. Appeal to emotions.
  4. Solve their problem.

The best marketing copywriters understand those basic principles and use them to their advantage.

You can do the same. Grab the reader’s attention and then wow them with what comes next. Speak to their desires. Show them that you have the perfect solution to their problem. Remember you need to establish their trust by offering them something valuable and setting yourself up as the expert who can help them or get them to where they want to be.

Whether you are going to help them lose weight, make and save money, have better relationships or make their work easier, you hold the solution in your hands. Make them want it so badly that they will press that buy now button and call for your service, make an appointment, or come in to your shop.

If you find it difficult to promote yourself, hire a professional writer. They have the experience necessary to understand how to best promote you and your business and get YOU where you want to be.

Is Your Bio A Hazard?

Is Your Bio a Hazard?  I can fix it for you!

While I was writing this article, I received a message from one of my clients, a respected photographer. This is a direct quote from her client, a bride, whom she met for the first time yesterday:

‘First I was intrigued by your images. They spoke to me. Then I read your bio and it felt right. Then I went onto your blog posts and I was sold!’

Since I wrote several versions of that biography and many of the longer blog posts, I was encouraged to move forward and publish this article.

The importance of having a great biography

Whether you are looking for a job, clients, or need to establish your credentials, the importance of a well written biography cannot be overestimated. Your biography is the first view people who are online will have of you.  Most studies indicate you have less than three minutes to make an impression, so your biography needs to convey your unique qualities and qualifications in a tightly written and inspiring way.

When do you need to hire a professional writer?

  • You know your field, and you know how good you are, but writing isn’t your strong point. You begin, but you’re not sure what to emphasize, and you find yourself rambling and going off course. You don’t want to bore your reader or have them think less of you due to your choice of words.
  • You need to stand out in your field, but what distinguishes you? Often, it’s not our actual skills but effective marketing that marks the difference between success and failure.
  • You are new to your field and uncertain how to leverage your education or previous experience.
  • You are too modest to blow your own horn. Unfortunately, most of us were taught to not overplay our strengths and to take a self-effacing approach. Even when we know our value, we are afraid to be perceived as arrogant or unpleasant.
  • You are not a native English speaker. I’m a Slav. I have worked for many Slavic professionals who, despite their high levels of education, commonly misplace articles since they don’t exist in our languages. Whether it involves spelling, sentence structure, or phrasing, English is a difficult language. Many natives don’t get it right.
  • You’re busy. You know you need to take care of social media and have a website, but you can’t do it all yourself.
  • You’re not objective. Sometimes we need a second pair of eyes to point out strengths that may not be obvious to us.

It’s all about them

The thing to remember is your skills are commodities in a competitive market place. Your biography needs to be about what you can deliver to your clients or your prospective employers, and yet, it needs to be unique to you.

And lastly, often you will need one or more biographies depending on your purpose.

I offer three lengths: short, medium and long, or any combination of the three.

Pricing:

Short-$75, Now $50

Medium -$150, now $115

Deluxe- $220, now $175

To see examples:

Biographies

If you want to be recognized as a leader in your profession call, contact, or message me to discuss your needs.

Contact

Keep Your Mojo Working?

For the past year and a half I have been looking for an agent for my latest novel. I’ve had two requests in that time from important agents, one who is considered a top London agent, the other, a well -known and respected New Yorker. Both asked for full manuscripts, neither followed up.

Rejection letters from other agents who have seen samples are highly complementary and respectful of the writing but invariably end with, ‘I’m not passionate enough…’, which I understand to be a euphemism for, ‘It’s not bankable.’

Eight books ago, my first novel made it to Little Brown, where it spent a summer and was considered, quote: ‘Important’, but rejected for being, ‘…too high-brow for our commercial lists’. Since, I have self -published idiosyncratic books that gave me great satisfaction to write and which were praised by the few who read my work.

The dilemma now is not even what to do with the current book-I suppose if all else fails I can self-publish again and knock myself out trying to market it, but whether to continue to write fiction at all.

I have to ask myself, if the market doesn’t want my work, am I just indulging in an expensive and time consuming hobby? Am I deluding myself that this novel, or the next, will be the one which will allow me to write professionally?

I suppose there are those who have starved for their art, but I am not made of such stern stuff. And yet there’s an idea that’s been hovering at the edge of my consciousness as I’ve denied it, refusing to begin anything new until the last book pays off. It’s taking shape in two versions, and maybe it will amount to two books. But I can see the opening now: A woman in a khaki raincoat riding a bicycle down an allee of trees, headed for a small country house. There’s her absent and cheerfully unaware art historian husband, and there is the dark painter who intrigues her, but is he someone who is threatening her equilibrium now or is he from the distant past –his story waiting to be uncovered? What will she find out about herself, and more importantly what will I discover as I plummet the inner world of my own psyche?

So the final question remains: Should one keep indulging oneself? Is the satisfaction of producing alternate realities on the computer screen worth sacrificing time that could be spent more lucratively elsewhere?

I don’t know the answer to that question or what I intend to do about it, yet.

Writing for a Specific Audience

 Visuals

The first point that we have to acknowledge is that postmodern society has moved away from the written word towards visual mediums. We see evidence of this everywhere on social media. On Facebook we post and like animal videos. People have made or enhanced their careers with helpful videos on YouTube. Our blog posts are often peppered with photographs, since we know these posts get more views and more shares.

From this we can conclude that it would be wise to add visuals to our material, whether we are bloggers or those making a corporate presentation or formal paper. Illustrations, charts, graphs, videos and photographs help clarify and enhance the experience of our audience and keep them from becoming bored.

Time and Technology

The next thing we have to consider is that our reading habits have changed since the advent of the Internet. With smart phones we are primarily engaged in scrolling and skimming. The leisure of the 19th century is over for the reading class, and the pressures of modern life give us little time to indulge.  We know that Hemingway on his typewriter wrote in a very different style than did Dickens or Tolstoy.  Keep that in mind when you consider your presentation or blog post.  Succinct is always preferable to long winded and wordy. Catchy headlines are also important to engage reader interest.  Sadly, often it’s the only part of the article people will read.

Voice

Should your tone be formal or informal?  First, you must determine who your audience is. We don’t speak to our employers the way we do to our friends. A blog about the joys and travails of being a working mother will read far differently than a white paper. Choose your tone accordingly. This blog post would read far differently if I were to change from addressing it directly to You to writing things such as:

‘When one writes for the board of directors, one should remember to …’

Are you writing a short story or a novel and don’t know who the audience will be?  I can guarantee it will be someone like yourself who will share your outlook and interests and will be enthused to discover your in- depth insights. That is unless you write for children, which is a whole other topic.

Depth and language

Is your audience expert in their field or are you going to be explaining a topic for the general reader? If the latter is true you will have to explain your topic in depth minus the familiar jargon. In truth, few scientific and tech writers can overcome this hurtle and resort to a convoluted academic style which is impenetrable for the most part, and is deadly dull. Remember, explain your topic or paper as you would to an intelligent high school student. You’ll be a standout and your colleagues will actually read what you have written with interest.

Problem solution

Most online readers are searching for a solution to their problems-and they want quick solutions. Make the content easy to understand and bullet or number it. Use large catchy titles, small paragraphs and illustrations. Your audience will be engaged and receptive resulting in recognition of your product and your expertise.

Your audience

In truth, you know who your audience is whether it is a board, shareholders, laymen, colleagues, or the general public. Pick the audience and you will be able to choose the proper voice. I’ve never cared for the advice that you need to imagine your ideal reader and write to them. Most of us are too constrained and self-conscious to begin with and further censoring ourselves with a potential inner critic is overwhelming. Imagine a broad audience and tailor your writing to them instead. If you get stuck, google! Don’t plagiarize, of course. Simply getting ideas from those who have tackled your topic before is extremely helpful before you begin to think about how you will structure your own work.  Above all, keep practicing. In time, all this will come easily to you.

Staying on Track for Bloggers

You know you have something powerful and meaningful to express, but when you read your writing back to yourself, you notice that you have rambled off course. You are not quite sure where you went wrong since you thought it was going so well. Don’t censor yourself until the entire post is complete. You may not know where you are going during the process of writing it, so wait until you finish before you go back to perfect the piece.

So how are you going to deconstruct your article?

  1. Pretend you are writing for someone who has never read any of your previous blog posts.
  2. Understand that while you may be familiar with your back story, your reader is not.
  3. Briefly clarify the things that make no sense or that are incomplete.
  4. Make an outline. You are doing this in reverse of the usual order. However, when you create an outline from a completed piece which is giving you trouble you will be able to tell where you have gone wrong.
  5. Now that you have an outline, you will title each section and think about summing it up in a sentence.
  6. Now put those sentences into order. Do they seem cohesive? Does one topic flow into another? If so keep the sentence categories. If not cut and paste them to the side.
  7. Now reading back –does each paragraph in your blog post reflect the one sentence summary? If it does keep it, if not, cut and paste it to the side.
  8. Now, let’s move on to the sentences within each paragraph themselves. Ask yourself if the sentences follow logically from one to another. Can you edit and organize the sentences to have better flow?
  9. Do those sentences seem crisp or are they running on? If so, truncate them and use the necessary punctuation.
  10. Make certain your tense structure is compatible throughout.
  11. If you are still having trouble, ask someone else to read it. A second pair of eyes will be able to find things which may have escaped you. You can then clarify.
  12. Practice deconstructing a blog post you admire. I know our schedules can be overwhelming but if you want to be a good writer, you must learn to have a discerning eye.
  13. I can’t emphasize enough that reading and absorbing material will make you a much better and more skillful writer. If you are having problems, look to an example. I had a lot of trouble with transitions when I started to write. I also knew that Flaubert wrote the best transitions. I only had to open Madame Bovary to find out how he did it.
  14. Sit on your post for a week. You’ll find you can improve it when your eyes are fresh.

Above all, don’t fret. Let it go. Your capabilities may be limited at present, but you can be sure that you will get better the more you write.

Three Ways to Organize Ideas for Writers

 

 

mark-516277_1920 (2)

 

A few days ago I was speaking to a client who is a business coach. My client has brilliant ideas but is struggling to organize her writing on paper. To be able to advise her I had to think back to when I first started writing.

 

OUTLINE

I have a confession. I hated writing in high school and college. Often I would procrastinate until the last minute. What would invariably save me was my ability to outline. I would break down the subject into several title headings and then –this was prior to my knowledge of bullet points-number the sub headings. The subheadings would then be further broken down into lettered paragraph topics.

This would give me an overall plan. Then I would simply fill in a few sentences on the subject and tie the paragraphs in with a transitional sentence or two, yielding a complete paper. Because I was lazy, I learned to write in the most economical style possible, conveying my ideas in a succinct and forthright manner.

 

DIAGRAM

When I began my first novel, I adapted a technique I had learned from my college major, anthropology. We used diagrams to outline family relationships-something like a genealogical chart. If you are writing fiction you can use this for developing characters and determining how they relate to each other. If you are writing a technical subject you can use this method for seeing how the parts will relate to the whole.

 

PUT EVERYTHING ON A BIG PIECE OF PAPER

This was a trick I used in studying foreign languages. I would use a large piece of drawing paper to write out everything I would need to know on a test-conjugations, tenses, idiomatic phrases etc. The purpose was not to lose track of essential matter by having everything in clear sight and not on multiple pieces of paper.

There are softwares available nowadays which will allow you to do the same thing.

 

PRACTICE

Begin by breaking down an article in your niche, or a simple short story, to get the hang of these three techniques. Once you begin writing your text, you will undoubtedly deviate from your outlines. Don’t hesitate to follow your instincts, and feel free to change things around. As you progress, you will be able to throw these crutches away and let your writing flow spontaneously.

Best Idea Starter for Stuck Bloggers

 

Read

By that I mean everything, not just other blogs within your niche. And not just about what’s trending. You’ve already learned about Google Analytics. You know how to monetize your site. You’ve read multiple tips how to engage your audience. But most of the time, you feel as if you are lost in the crowd and simply echoing what others have said.

However, if you want to be a leader you need to come up with original content.   

You will never be short of ideas with this simple tip

Reading expands your horizons and gives you a much broader paradigm from which to generate ideas. Left alone, your mind will create the connections which will spark your creativity.

Inspiration comes from everywhere

Articles, popular novels, classic literature, news items, biographies, academic interests, historical non-fiction, film, video, and selective television programs (which all began as scripts) will give you a broad base of knowledge from which to draw.

 You Have Time to Read

The time you spend on social media or watching mindless television programs can always be diverted. Boring commutes can be mitigated by listening to audio books or quick reads. Morning coffee, the bath, before falling asleep are ideal times to read.

How it Works

When I first began writing, I conceived a book that would consist of interrelated stories about women. Since I was practicing yoga at the time, it occurred to me that I could order the stories like the 7 chakras on the human body. The first story would be about the world, the second about creativity, the third about power, and so on. Of course, Joyce’s Dubliners served as the precedent.  But I had no idea how to bring these stories to life or how to populate them with interesting characters, and so I filed the idea away.

Fast forward a decade.  I read an article about an artist who decided to spoof the Venice Biennale by creating 100 alter -egos and their work. I immediately realized we all have other selves populating our fantasies.  Shortly thereafter, I fleshed out seven characters whose traits corresponded to the above categories.

Because I had been researching globalization and its repercussions for another book, many of the stories took on the topic of immigration and displacement. Another theme was the about authenticity and leaving behind conventional lives and routines to forge one’s independent creative life, something we in the blogosphere are all trying to achieve.

I also drew on my Slavic background, not because I am particularly interested in identity politics, but to flavor the stories with experiences from a population, which despite its numbers in the Western Hemisphere has failed to forge a literature of its own.

I never sat down and forced those ideas. Instead, they came together organically in random moments when my mind was quiet.

Best Opportunities for Forging Connections

You have to spent time alone for inspiration to blossom, but you don’t have to isolate yourself from the world. My best inspiration has come in the shower, or during my daily walk or swim, which I have to do to maintain physical health.

One of the best methods is to jot down a problem before going to sleep. Amazingly, your mind, in its totality, will come up with ideas. There are multiple theories why that works. Suffice it to say, you can choose to explain it in a way that adheres to your belief system.

Why it Doesn’t Take Hours of Writing and Rewriting

Most of us don’t have time to sit at the computer for hours on end. Refining your ideas can be done while you are doing chores. Driving, cleaning house, exercise, running errands, yard work, and walking the dog are ideal opportunities to let your creativity flow.

Of course, not all of your ideas will be worth pursuing, but you will have more of them if you incorporate reading into your life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Storytelling for Business Owners

You have a vision of the perfect life: Your children are safe and successful, you have a loving spouse, your home is your castle, you have good health, and economic security. Sadly, the perfect life is a place we never arrive at. Once one phase is over another struggle begins.

You may be one of the lucky ones. You own your own business, and yet you find yourself working harder and longer than ever before. You have so many tasks in front of you that you are overwhelmed. Still, you know that you must have a brand, a website, search engine optimization, print ads, newsletters, mailings, and social media interaction to help your business grow.

You have heard that it is necessary to build a mailing list and give away valuable content that will one day convert to prospects to customers. Now you have just read that everyone is doing that and that to stand out you must tell a compelling story. You wonder what that could mean and how you can even get started.

This is where I come in. I understand the power of words and what they can accomplish for your business. Like you, I’m a seasoned professional who has built and managed businesses. Like you, I have had successes and failures and have had to reinvent myself and adjust the way I do business and think about the world.

We feel less secure economically than we ever did before. Competition is tough and we need tighter business plans which will work in the current marketplace. Let me help you tell your story and connect with your customers in a way which will significantly benefit all parties for the greatest good, because we all thrive when you deliver your best product.