Monthly Archives: October 2013

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Have you heard of NaNoWriMo? It stands for National Novel Writing Month and every November 1, participants from around the world begin working towards the goal of writing a 50,000-word novel by 11:59 p.m. on November 30. The “rules” state that you can plan, outline, think, and research as much as you want in October, but on November 1, you start a brand-new novel with no words already written.

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Writing a book is a great exercise in discipline, refining your thought processes, and creativity. Even if you have no desire to write a novel, November is a great month to do the writing you are interested in. Or the writing that you know you’ve been needing to do for your business but just haven’t had time for.

Here are five steps  to get you going:

1. Have a “plan”

You most likely have an idea about what book you want to write for your business. Start there! Unlike a novel which needs characters, plot, setting, mood, theme, etc. the book you need for your business has basic sections that are unique to the information you specialize in.

As you create this plan, jot down all your ideas for chapters, topics, and sub-topics. After you have a page of ideas, you’ll organize them into sections. Don’t think too much! Just get all your ideas down. This will become the “plan” for your book.

(This isn’t an outline! It’s a writing plan. I’ll explain more in step 4.)

2. Get it all out

My writing instructors used to call this writing to silence the critic. It’s when you just keep writing even if you know that you’re not making sense, contradicting yourself, missing steps, and most importantly, writing like crap!

Write anyway.

NaNoWriMo isn’t a slow and steady marathon, remember! It’s a sprint to write an insane amount of words in just thirty days.

So get it all out of your head and onto the page. Don’t worry about grammar, flow, or false starts. Keep writing. You do, however, want to write clearly enough that when you look at it later that you can follow along. So it’s not jotting down notes; it is sentences and paragraphs and *gasp* chapters. But don’t worry if you don’t know how to bridge from one topic to the next.

3. Write every day

The strategy is to break 50,000 words down into daily writing goals. This isn’t a marathon, it’s a sprint. But, unlike writing your term paper the night before it is due (or your blog article the day before you post it!) you can’t just catch up in the days before November 30th!

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You may be able to catch up from a day (or two) off, but if you wait too long, the goal of 50,000 words will slip away. (Speaking from experience here!)

Daily Writing Goals

  • If you write 5 days a week (including Friday, November 1) you’ll need to write 2,381 words per day. (21 total writing days)
  • If you write 6 days a week (including Friday, November 1 AND Saturday, November 2) you’ll need to write 1,923 words per day. (26 total writing days)
  • If you write 7 days a week you’ll need to write 1,667 words per day. (30 total writing days)

And let’s face it, with your busy life and schedule (and the Thanksgiving holiday!) you’re unlikely to write every single day. Go ahead and plan some days off! And in that plan, make sure that you plan other days where you write more words to catch up.

Not every person who starts NaNoWriMo makes it to the 50,000 word finish. And since you’ll most likely not be writing a novel, it will be tempting to let it slide and not work to complete the challenge. But think about this: if you write every week day in the month of November, that’s 21 days. Let’s say you ONLY write 1,000 words a day (about two pages). That’s 21,000 words that you didn’t have before!

4. Don’t publish it!

Yep, you heard me right. Whatever you come up with at the end of November DON’T PUBLISH IT.

At least, don’t publish it as is!

Too many writers, especially non-fiction writers, have the nasty habit of publishing too soon before the project is fully edited. And here, I don’t mean edited for grammar or consistency. I mean edited for THIS should be in the book; THIS shouldn’t.

I recently read a very interested non-fiction “business” book. The author had a wealth to say on a variety of different topics. But that was the problem. There were at least four different main topics and each one shouldn’t get a section. It should get its own book! The topics were loosely tied together under the umbrella of the author’s personal life story but each lost its impact because it wasn’t given enough depth and breadth.

Here’s a personal example:
I just published my “camping book” Pitch Your Tent: A Family’s Guide To Tent Camping (Affiliate link)

This project took me nearly two years from conception to publishing. Why? Because I just couldn’t focus. In my initial “plan” (Step 1) I had everything from tent camping to RVs to how to hook up your trailer to what type of porta pottie to buy to how to pick a tent to why you should go fishing while you were camping. I wrote a ton! After I started backpacking, I wrote sections for the book about that too!

After writing pages and pages and pages (over 200) I realized that the book I really needed to write was just a beginning guide to tent camping.

If I had tried to make my camping book everything to everyone, it would lose the focus and impact. And I’d lose credibility!

Once you have a “draft,” go over it to see what sections naturally go together, what has to be there, and what can be cut.

5. Decide what to do next

From this one big book where you have packed in every bit of your knowledge, expertise, love, and passion, decide what you’ll do with all the content you’ve created. You’ll probably find that at least one book is in there. A book with a tight focus on one aspect of your knowledge that doesn’t give away the farm!

You’ll also probably see 2-3 smaller books that might be ready to stand on their own or be expanded into larger books.

And I know you’ll have dozens of articles for blog posts, newsletters, or to submit to publications.

Then do it!
This is a bonus step: DO something with what you’ve created. It’s not enough to just realize that your 50,000 word business book exists, you need to do something with it!

What are your writing goals for November? Will you participate in a business book 50,000 word sprint?

If you would like to learn more about NaNoWriMo or to sign up to participate, here is the official website as well as the social media links:

http://nanowrimo.org/
https://www.facebook.com/nanowrimo
https://twitter.com/NaNoWriMo

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I’m in the last stages of publishing a highly-technical manuscript for a client. As part of my standardization, I have to make sure that the way the author expresses units of measure is not only consistent but also verify that it should be expressed as a singular or plural unit of measure.

Before this project, I honestly didn’t give much thought to the difference between “2 feet” and “2-foot” or “10 inches” and “10-inch.”

Here’s a down & dirty way to remember:

The singular, with a dash between the number and the singular form of the measurement, is used when you’re talking about a unit of measure. For example, a 10-inch section of board or a two-foot gap.

The plural is used when you’re talking about how many. For example, space the nails 10 inches apart.

The same works with metric (centimeter, meters, etc.) as well! What I discovered is that anytime I was unsure of the author’s exact meaning, I would read the sentence aloud and try it out both ways.

Exercises:

I need a twelve _____ long board.
a. foot  b. feet  c. –foot  d. –feet

Space the cups six ____ apart.
a. –inches b. inch   c. inches   d. -inch

Please hand me the six ____ stapler.
a. inch  b. –inch  c. inches  d. -inches

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This question came up at an event I was at this past weekend. Especially the related questions:

Is there even a difference?

and

Does it matter?

While there are some experts who claim that anything posted on a blog is by nature, a blog post, I can agree that content of any length, posted to a blog can be considered a “blog post” but that’s just splitting hairs! The difference is in the way the two are used.

Blog Post

  • Short! Typically under 500 words.
  • Casual. You’re not trying to explain everything in a blog post.
  • Frequent. Because there’s less content, they can (should?) be posted more often.
  • Tightly written. One topic, one opinion.

 

Article

  • Longer. Over 500 words and up to several pages in length.
  • Professional. The goal is to inform and are can be more formal in style and tone.
  • Detailed. Not always fact-based (can be opinion) but they have all the details outlined.

Of course, this is an oversimplification of the differences but it’s a good starting point! Another way of thinking about it is that a blog post is like a magazine’s sidebar (good content, short, to the point) and an article is the main story.

Which style is right for you?

I think you should use both! Sometimes, it’s nice to post short snippets of information that didn’t take as long to write (or research) and post. But your readers are coming to you because you’re an expert in your field, they genuinely want to know your opinion, and they are looking for good information.

By varying the length and type of posts on your blog, you are engaging your readers. Most people don’t want a steady diet of long, takes time to read it, highly detailed articles. But, by the same token, I’ve seen to many topics only covered in a blog post when the subject matter really needed an article!

Even with our short attention spans and super-busy days, the right topic, written with all the word needed, will be read and consumed. Personally, it makes me crazy when I go to a blog, expected an well written, thought-out article about a topic and I get a blog post: little more than a summary or bullet points that sends me rushing back to Google to do more research. This also means I just left the blog — and the blog’s owner lost me as a converted subscriber, reader, and follower.

PS: This is a blog post! Tipping the scales at only 420 words.

I’ve been trying for the past forty-five minutes to write this week’s article. You want to know the problem? Too many ideas!

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I’ve had fits and starts with everything from promoting your book once it’s written to WHY you need to promote your book; an analogy that books are to marking today what websites were to marketing (and credibility) in the early 2000’s. And another analogy about how books are like life rafts! I even managed to work in a plug for a new teleseminar I’ll be offering later this year.

None of those fits, starts, and ideas actually BECAME an article though.

Why?

Because I am not working from a plan!

In the publishing world we call it an editorial calendar. It’s where you sit down and outline the next [BLANK] articles. I think most people are familiar with an editorial calendar as it relates to magazines. But they’re dead-useful for blogs, newsletters, and articles as well.

An editorial calendar takes a list of articles you COULD write one step further and makes it into a timeframe. For example, I publish an article here every Tuesday. An editorial calendar takes into account what topics I want to cover, any news or events I know are on the horizon, and then helps me merge it together.

I don’t use my editorial calendar as gospel. Sometimes, research doesn’t come together, exciting events take place that I’d rather write upon, or when I get to an article’s topic I find I don’t want to write about it, it’s no longer relevant, or I covered it as part of another topic. But having that calendar gives me a framework for my next six weeks (the time frame I use) AND keeps me from “wasting” nearly an hour on the night of my deadline!

I’ve used editorial calendars to great success in the past with my other business, TheOutdoorPrincess.com. Notice the sparseness and irregular posting recently? Yep, I got away from using the calendar and the quality and quantity of articles has suffered.

I recommend this free resource PDFcalendar.com for your editorial calendar. (And yes, go old school and HAND WRITE it out!) Just print out a month at a time, landscape, and outline the articles you want to cover in the next month. Be sure to build in time to research articles and/or line up guest authors! It also helps when you’ll be searching for stock images or taking your own to know what you’ll need when!

Oh, and all those ideas I had? I’ll be working them into the calendar over the next six weeks!

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Many small business owners, especially those with an online presence, understand the importance of writing and publishing an email newsletter, or eZine. Without fail, they write well researched, relevant content and email it out to their customers and prospects, hoping to gain sales and customers.

What these small business owners/eZine authors don’t realize is that they are leaving easy money on the table!

One of the business owners I’m working with owns a local brick-and-mortar store. It’s a hugely successful garden center. One of the reasons it is so successful, even through the economic challenges and major road construction, and still able to compete head-to-head with the Big Box stores in town, is through the quality content that is emailed weekly to subscribers. The business owner knows the power of content and the garden center’s website has a wealth of resources hidden in its archives.

Since the garden center is known as the place to go to for local plants, garden supplies and knowledge, at first glance it looks like all that weekly content is doing exactly what it’s supposed to do: establish credibility and bring people in the door.

There’s work to write, edit, and publish each article. But after the customers are at the garden center, the content is no longer working on behalf of the business owner.

It like the old adage: make your money work for you. Most people agree that it’s better to get even the tiniest fraction of interest on money in a savings account than to have the money sitting in a sock drawer, lazing around. Money earning interest, even a miniscule amount, is money that is working.

So why not treat articles the exact same way? What do you do with your articles after you send out your newsletter?

If you archive it on your website and then forget about it, it’s the same as letting your money watch bad daytime TV while hanging out in your sock drawer! Content you’ve already written can be put work for you – bringing in additional dollars from a brand-new market in eBook and printed book sales.

I’m currently working to take all the great content that has been created for the garden center’s newsletter and repackaging it into books that will be sold on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other major on-line retailers. Even though it seems like a cut-off market, written specifically for this area, the gardening tips, tricks, and techniques are relevant for other gardeners facing similar challenges. The articles are relevant, well researched, and written by a gardening expert.

The brick-and-mortar store is the local market leader, hands down. While it brings in the lion’s share of all gardening dollars locally, at some point, there are few additional local dollars to be had. By repackaging existing content into a different format, we are able to add an additional revenue stream into the business and expand the potential client base far beyond a local reach.

When the books are sold on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc, the business owners is able to earn additional dollars that aren’t related to local sales. These book sales probably won’t result in additional retail sales due to simple geography, but they will add and additional revenue stream.

The business owner has already spent the time to write and edit the articles. And it’s paid for itself in customers walking into the store. But, each week, new content has to be written and edited for that week’s newsletter. Then the customers come into the store.

Just like vitamins or exercise, it’s a never ending cycle: write the article, email it out, and get customers. Repeat weekly for consistent results.

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Through a one-time publishing process, the same content can start earning passive income as books. After all, the content is already written (and paid for)! Once the book is published on Amazon, it can be sold again and again and again with no additional effort on the part of the business owner.

This is how I got started publishing my own books. For years of I wrote newsletters about outdoor recreation translated into three camping cookbooks, three books of campfire stories, and a book on trout fishing. These books continually bring me income. All I had to do was repackage the content from the articles into books and now I receive a monthly royalty payment without any additional effort on my part.

Is your content working for you? Is it bringing you revenue from the largest retail website in the world? Or is it just archived on a website or hard drive? Find that great already-written content and let it work for you!

This article was first published in “Happier Healthier Women” magazine. Get your free copy today.

I received an email this week from Paul T. Paul asked:

I have been toying with the idea of publishing some sort of eBook. My problem is staying focused on one topic. I could say I probably have topics and starts of layouts for about a dozen books. Do you have any ideas on how to stay on track?

Night Path

Thanks for the email, Paul. This is a really valid concern.
Here’s how you can figure out what path you’ll want to take to get started with your books.

1. Decide why you want to publish your book.
Are you looking to establish your credibility in your field? Attract new clients? Fulfill a life-long dream of being a published author? Make extra money?

No answer is the wrong answer! But the answer to WHY you want to publish your will direct how you go forward.

2. Know your thought process.
Do you need to write it all down and get it all out? Or can you make a list of book topics before actually writing a word?

There are people who work both ways. Either way is just fine and use with what works for you. I’m a list creator and usually that works for me. But sometimes, I end up writing everything that comes through my head and then cutting it down to just the main topic and moving all the rest of the writing to different projects.

While that may seem like more work, when I get to the other projects, a lot of the writing is already started!

3. Find the project’s flow.
You need to have gain clarity on what each book will specifically be about and what flows from one topic to the next. Sometimes you’ll find that what started out as one topic becomes three!

If you try to skip step two, you’ll just frustrate yourself. Give your ideas time to percolate so you can see what works in Project A and what is better in Project B.

For example, I’m working on a book that will be a beginner’s guide to tent camping. My idea creation had all this AND camping games and songs, crafts, stories, and recipes. Too much! I am staying laser focused on JUST information for tent camping for beginners and moving everything else into other books.

Don’t forget that when you have more than one book in a subject area, you can always direct readers from one book to the next. I direct readers to my cookbooks from the campfire story books and vice versa.

4. Pick your favorite topic and GO!
In the case of my camping book project(s), I really wasn’t excited by camping games and songs. I’m sure there’s a market for the information. I’m even pretty sure it would be fun to write. But it didn’t fire me up and make me excited.

I also decided to focus on the beginner’s guide to tent camping as my first project because it would help me establish credibility as an outdoor recreation expert. (Remember, that’s my other love!)

5. Cut everything that doesn’t fit.
I recently read a book that had a ton of potential. But the author wasn’t brutal in removing everything that didn’t fit the main premise of the book so the topics jumped around from her childhood to nutrition to relationships to self-esteem. She had so much knowledge to share but it got lost in lack of focus.

Notice I didn’t say DELETE anything that doesn’t fit your main topic! I said cut. Open up a second manuscript and save those sections for another project.

What advice would you give Paul?