The New Writer’s Handbook: A Practical Anthology of Best Advice For Your Craft and Career by Philip Martin

Rating: Nine Stickies.

I’ve decided to rate the books I review with how many stickies I used.  Stars are OK, but what do they mean really?  Good writing, good idea, great cover, a famous author?

Exactly.

Stickies mean, these are the pages that I NEED to come back to because there is something I can use.  Something that is going to make an immediate change.

If you see this:

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You’ve got a pretty informative, life-changing, biz altering read.

For this book, The New Writer’s Handbook, nine stickies is pretty good.  It’s a 60 article collection contributed by best-selling authors, journalists, writing instructors, bloggers and literary agents.  I am not reviewing this book for Writers.  Because what freelancer, entrepreneur, solo flyer or small biz guy is not a writer today?  We’ve all been pushed into this field, and frankly, you may drink like Hemingway, but that will only make you think you are a writer.

I have found Tequilla works best for that particular delusion.

The first two chapters, Creative & Motivation and The Craft of Writing are kind of ho-hum.  Motivation?  If you don’t have it, this book’s not going to help you.

What rattled my brain was a short article called Story Techniques, written by Ira Glass, the host and executive producer of the nationally syndicated show This American Life (www.thislife.com).  It’s an ‘aha’ moment.  A master storyteller, Glass invites us discard the notion we all learned in high school – a topic sentence is always followed by the facts that fill out the argument.

What blogger has not been told to start with a story to reel the reader in and have them continue beyond the 8 seconds we have now allocated to the human attention span?

But how do we write a good story?

He suggests you start with two building blocks.  The first is the anecdote, which are literally a sequence of actions.  This happened, and that led to the next thing, and that led to the next thing.  He says the power of the anecdote is so great that in a way, no matter how boring the material is, in a story form, an anecdote has a momentum in and of itself.

“Okay, I’m going to think of the most boring possible story.  There’s a guy…

…and he wakes up.  And he’s lying in bed.

And the house is very quiet, very quiet.   Just unearthly quiet.

So he sits up, and he puts his feet on the floor.  And he walks to the door of his bedroom.

Again, it’s very, very quiet.

He walks down the stairs, looks around….

It’s just unusually quiet.”

This is the most boring possible fact pattern.  And yet, there’s suspense in it.  It feels like something is going to happen.  Sequence of events.  Moving from space to space.

The second thing about the anecdote is it’s raising a question from the beginning.  You want bait.  You want to continually be raising questions. The bait in this story is the house is very quiet.  So the question hanging in the air is why?  Glass says the whole shape of the story is that you’re throwing out questions to keep people watching or reading and then answer then along the way.

The other building block you have, is to have a moment of reflection.  Offer the point of the story.  Here’s the bigger something that you’re driving at.  The story is meant to tell the reader something new – your new idea or a new way of looking at what you want them to “see” or understand.

Oh Ira! – Beautiful, yes?

Five Steps to Successful Email Interviews by Terry L. Stawar, Boost Your Personal Brand Online by Philip Martin, Business Card as Offline Home Page, by Tony D. Clark were a few of the other stickies.

Well worth reading if you choose the chapters that relate to you.

Let me know what works for you in building a story or share a successful blog that always starts with a story – maybe it’s yours or maybe it’s someone who knows their craft.  Use your outdoor voice, people!

BTW  Check out indieawesomeness.com – we’ve launched a new site that is filled with awesome business generators, hacks and fabulous cheats to make the life of every independent a little easier and a lot more fun!

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The Most Successful Small Business In The World by Michael E. Gerber

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Rate: *****

Read:  Cover to Cover

Category: Big Idea, Entrepreneur, Small Business

Michael Gerber should not be a new name to you (if it is, tisk-tisk).  He is the author of thirteen books, including what the PR guys call a mega-bestseller (sort of like a power seller on ebay).  If you haven’t read the E-Myth Revisited, I recommend you read that one before this one (maybe that’s how he got the mega).   As in his other books, he is like your wise grandpa (assuming your grandpa is Sam Walton on your father’s side or Warren Buffet on your mother’s), part philosopher, part inspirationalist, part evangelist and poet, but always passionate about steering you in the right direction.   And he has nailed one thing that, to me, has always been the stop sign, the red light and for some, the cyanide in growing our self-employed life.  He strips away all the extraneous help – better marketing, how to use SEO, be an expert, grow your business in three easy steps – he throws all that out the window and starts with a premise that no one wants to hear.   “That small and independent business are populated by owners working for a living…that all they ever wanted to do was create a job; to create control over their personal income; to create a place to work; a place to do what they know how to do.  In short, they want to be self-employed.”  What is wrong with that, Gerber says, is that it is no business at all.  He wants you to understand that you have the potential, the brains, the chutzpah, to look at your business as a business, not just a place to answer the phone when it rings, complete a job and wait for the next customer.  Lather.  Rinse.  Repeat.  But if you follow certain rules, you can change not only your own future, but you can change the world.  Yup, you can change the world if you change your paradigm to how you see what makes a business vs. what your business makes.  Great stuff.  But like all great grandpas, he hits you with his cane and then gives you a lollipop and says, “I know you can do better.”

My takeaway:

While I was reading the book, I had an inspiration from his words that will change my own business.  This is no easy feat – I am a “creative,” and ideas happen faster than planes landing at JFK.  But this was a BIG idea that will impact my present business and it came from Gerber’s chapter on the First Principle, “A Small Business, Built Rightly, Can Grow 10,000 times Its Current Size.”  So this is not just another book to read, say “Wow, that was great” and then go on doing the things you’ve always done.  You are reading this blog because you want to know if this is a book that can change/add/empower you in growing your business.  If you are interested in having job that you created for yourself, and just want to know how to get more business, this book is not for you.  However, if you want, nay need and desire to create a business that you can grow, sell, innovate and possibly change the world – this is a must read.