Monthly Archives: March 2014
Do you ever forget that you’re writing for real people? It doesn’t matter if you’re blogging, writing a weekly newsletter, or drafting your book. There are REAL people reading it on the other end of the wicked-cool communication tunnel we call
But do you ever think about your readers?
And I don’t mean in an “ideal client” or “target market” kind of way. Do you ever think about what they’re doing when the sit down to read your latest bit of wisdom?
- Is it on his computer? Smart phone? Tablet?
- Is she drinking coffee? Waiting for a client call? At a soccer game? Staying up late to finish it?
- Maybe he needs a pre-lunch pick-me-up. Or just a break between tasks. Trying not to giggle too much in the office. Or quickly closing the browser window when the boss/spouse/kids walk by.
- Perhaps your story is so compelling she pulls it up first thing every morning or checks it daily on the morning bathroom break, from her iPhone.
Frankly, it’s impossible to get inside the head of your reader that much.
But there IS something that you can do: Let your reader get inside YOUR head. Let her hear YOUR voice, YOUR story. Allow her to be a voyeur into your life.
Yes, even on your business blog.
This week, I REALLY just wanted to sit down with you, over a cup of something, and SHARE everything that’s been going on in my life. It’s pretty awesome. And very little of it has to do with writing, publishing, blogging or business. Then I realized that I don’t always tell you much about ME in my articles. I don’t always give a huge amount of context to make things understandable.
If you subscribe to my newsletter you get a little bit of this. (And you really SHOULD subscribe. It’s a pretty awesome weekly newsletter.) I have a few paragraphs in the beginning of every newsletter where I catch you up on what I’m doing and what my upcoming plans are. And they usually have NOTHING to do with my “topic” but more about what hiking adventure I had over the weekend.
But here’s the real truth:
I don’t live and breathe writing and blogging and publishing. Nope. I do a lot of OTHER stuff with my life. Just like you. And maybe we have some interests or hobbies or life experiences in common.
So where’s the line between a BUSINESS blog with great content and articles and information that you can use and just us, sitting down over a cuppa something, and sharing? Because I know that chances are slim you’ve read my “About Me” page. And if you DID, I know that it wasn’t really written to show you a glimpse into my world RIGHT NOW.
I strive to be intentional with my articles. I want to make a point or teach you something. And I love using stories to illustrate what I’m talking about.
But in all of this, I forgot one of the TRUTHS of writing, of blogging, of business:
I invite you and challenge you to share more YOU in your writing. So, starting NOW, I’ll be adding at least one post per month that is just me telling you, my reader, my valued friend about what’s happening with me. And I want YOU to do the same to YOUR readers.
One of my least favorite tasks in writing fiction is naming my characters. I know, I know, it SHOULD be fun and easy and well, fun.
For me, it isn’t.
I either AGONIZE over a name and drive myself crazy or I flip open the phone book and chose the first name my finger lands on. I figure I can always change it later, right?
Well naming a character really is something to think about. Often times, without even meaning to, a character’s name will influence her character traits, personality, and the theme of the story.
I still hate naming characters.
Honestly, one of my go-to methods for naming a character is to ask my mom. I give her a snippet about the character, how I see him acting, what he looks like, and some basic framework of the story (sci-fi or romance, action or historic) and let her do her thing. After teaching for THIRTY YEARS she’s got a great name database in her head.
If you’re not so lucky, here are five websites to help you with names!
Social Security Administration: Popular Baby Names by Year
You can set the year of birth and get anywhere from the top 20 to the top 1,000 names in that year
Not only the top names by year, but also by region.
Remember the movie “Heathers”? Not just the trends of an individual name, but also about over-reaching trends.
Another resources for regional names.
Because sometimes knowing the name is time-frame appropriate just isn’t enough!
So when you’re picking your names here are my top five tips:
1. Make it easy to say, spell, and hear in your head!
The reader will be “hearing” your character’s name in their head and you don’t want him to struggle or get frustrated that he doesn’t know how to pronounce your main character’s name.
Want a Blockbuster example of this: Hermione. Back BEFORE all the Harry Potter movies, who really knew how to say this name? I kept getting herm-ony, rhymes with harmony.
Sci-fi and fantasy are FILLED with unpronounceable names. If you’re lucky the reader will just make something up and roll with it. If you’re not so lucky OR if you overwhelm the reader with too many unpronounceable names, she’ll put your book down.
2. Make your name believable for the character’s age, the time period, and nationality.
DO NOT name your 40-year-old, female protagonist in a 1920’s western Crystal!
Many of the resources I gave you above allow you to not only look for popular names but also by time period. As much as it can be a pain, you really do need to do your research. Somebody, somewhere will KNOW that the name Clayton didn’t come into vogue until 1980 and naming your 1880 protagonist Clayton is wrong.
(By the way, I made that up. I have no idea when boys were started named Clayton.)
And make sure that your ethnic name actually matches that ethnicity, nationality, or culture!
Now, that being said, you can modernize or Americanize any name but you may want to explain why you’re doing that. For example, I knew a Russian Jew named Greg. It didn’t fit, right? Well in public he was Greg; at home with his Russian immigrant parents, he was Grishka.
3. Nicknames make the story go.
My full name is Kimberly; I go by Kim. But my dad calls me Munch (short for Munchkin), my grandfather calls me Changa and all through high school, my mom called me Kimber. My grandma calls me Vicki-Rosie-Kim as she goes through my aunt’s name, my mom’s name and finally lands on me.
NOBODY calls me Kimmy. It makes me mad.
Except of course for ONE uncle. It’s okay when he does it.
It’s normal for your characters to have more than one name depending on WHO is addressing them. Just make sure it’s crystal-clear to your READER who everybody is.
And, like the example above, a nickname can say a lot about how a character sees herself, how others see her and what makes her crazy.
A variation on a nickname is a term of endearment like honey or baby. No lover ALWAYS addresses his partner by her full name. Ever.
4. Avoid names that sound the same or all start with the same letter.
One summer in high school I taught swim lessons to a family of five that ALL had names starting with K: Kirby, Kelvin, Krista, Kelsey, and Kermit. (I kid you not!) If that’s annoying and hard to keep your head around in real life, it’s doubly so in fiction when the character is just words on a page.
Also avoid too many similarities like Jimmy and Timmy; Jack and John; Kathy and Christine.
A cast of rhyming names is also out: Jerry, Terry, Kerry, Larry.
Avoid ones that sound similar: Gerald and Gerard; Bob and Rob; Christy and Crystal.
And if you can, also vary the number of syllables in a name. Too many David, Edward, Kelly, Patrick, etc. won’t immediately stand out to the reader as all having two syllables but it will grate on the reader and they probably won’t know why it bothers them.
5. Don’t marry the name.
Soooo you think you have the perfect name, do you? Then you are telling a friend, beta reader, the local barista, your mom about the character and they say,
“Oh, I read a book or movie [insert similar plot line] that had a character named that!”
Our subconscious works in mysterious ways and sometimes it serves up the perfect character name. But with a little more research you realize that the REASON it’s perfect is because it’s already been used.
Here’s an example from a very early (high school!) fantasy story I wrote. I named my bad guy Oomadon. Only to be informed by my widely read friend that Ommadon was the name of the wizard in movie playing that past weekend. (Same name, slightly different spelling.)
I changed the name to Oobadion thinking I was dodging a bullet.
The more I thought about it, the more I realized the names were just too similar and scrapped the character’s name altogether. Throughout the draft I just called him O and went back to rename him later.
And if you REALLY hate naming your character, you can buy a gig on Fiverr.com for somebody to do it for you!
It happens to us all, we want to publish an eBook but writing a book seems like such a huge, daunting, overwhelming task with the biggest question being “How do I come up with all the content?”
Here are three quick and easy ways to generate the first-draft of your eBook.
1. Transcribe a class you’ve already taught.
Most business owners have some form of content already. Maybe it’s an audio or a video training, Or even just a series of PowerPoint slides. You can use this as the framework for an eBook. And you’ll find that BAM! A large portion of your content is already created for you.
A word of warning: Do NOT just publish a transcript! We speak very differently than good writing. Don’t believe me? Read a transcription without listening to the audio. It’s very hard to follow what the speaker is talking about.
2. Start small
When I was first getting started with eBook publishing the idea of creating an entire book was completely overwhelming. So I started with what I knew: short fiction. My short fiction tends to be VERY short, like under 5 pages per story, so I knew that just one story wouldn’t be enough for an entire book. I was able to collect the stories I already had written, write a few more, and publish my first book.
3. Look to your backlist
Chances are you already have “stuff” you’ve written: blog posts, checklists, newsletter articles, white papers, etc. Don’t feel you have to start completely from scratch when publishing an eBook. If you lay out all your articles you’ll find common themes running through them. Look for the patterns and use this as the framework for your eBook. You’ll have to fill in the gaps and write additional content but you’re not starting from scratch!
Now pay very close attention to what I’m going to tell you next:
This is your ROUGH draft!
Don’t think you can just compile this content, format it as an eBook and call it good! You’re still going to need to edit everything, make sure you’re being 100% clear, look for transitions (“In last week’s newsletter I said…”), and completely polish your book.
But this is enough to get you started and moving forward toward publishing your first eBook.
Where are you going to start? How will you be using your eBook?