Stepping Up Your Writing

Want to step up your writing and take it to next level? Here is what one writer suggests – reading at least 15 minutes a day.

I discovered that a reading regimen, even if only 15 minutes a day, requires discipline. William James wrote that discipline is needed in the formation of any new habit. In this case, the habit was reading regularly and outside my comfort zone. I often had to fight against an inclination to skip a day. But the relative brevity of the selections kept me on track—a hint to teachers who assign too much and thereby encourage cribbing and cramming. With a 15-minute assignment, I could push on, knowing that the end was near

Read more here:

http://www.wsj.com/articles/paula-marantz-cohen-a-year-of-15-minute-daily-doses-from-the-harvard-classics-1419637070?KEYWORDS=paula+marantz+cohen

The Renaissance of Novelizations

jp-NOVELIZATION-1-articleLarge

How do movies and television shows live on: with novelizations. This “reverse flow” method of the normal publishing and media methodology is back – with a vengeance.

Studios and producers have long used novelizations as a way to capture fans’ attention between television seasons, or installments of blockbuster film franchises. For publishers, tie-in books have become cash cows that offer instant brand recognition and access to huge fan bases for vastly larger media. One of the longest running, most successful tie-in series, the “Star Wars” novels, dates to 1976 and now has more than 125 million copies in print.

Read more here:
http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/05/business/media/popular-tv-series-and-movies-maintain-relevance-as-novels.html

Go Wild with Writing

Writing Techniques

Want to write something fabulous in 2015? Most of us do…but we run into so many barriers. It makes what should be a fun and enervating task seem daunting and even overwhelming.

In his new book, The Sense of Style, Steve Pinker helps us get past some of those speed bumps. Read it…it just might inspire you to do your best work. Here is part of what a review says:

The cause of most bad writing, Pinker thinks, is not laziness or sloppiness or overexposure to the Internet and video games, but what he calls the curse of knowledge: the writer’s inability to put himself in the reader’s shoes or to imagine that the reader might not know all that the writer knows — the jargon, the shorthand, the slang, the received wisdom. He may underestimate a little how much deliberately bad writing there is, writing meant to confuse and obfuscate. Just look at the fine print at the bottom of your next credit card bill or listen to a politician in Washington reading a speech about the tax code.

Read more here

Art Meets Life

Shortcuts-articleLarge

What part does writing a good narrative play in your life? What if you don’t want to publish a book or even a story or a blog post? Should you be able to tell a good story? Yes!

Harvard Business Review called it a strategic tool with “irresistible power.” What exciting new 21st-century technology is this?

The age-old art of storytelling — something humans have done since they could first communicate. So why has it become this year’s buzzword? And what is its new value?

In these days of tougher-than-ever job searches, competition for crowd-funding and start-ups looking to be the next Google or Facebook, it’s not enough just to offer up the facts about you or your company to prospective employers or investors. Or even to your own workers.

You need to be compelling, unforgettable, funny and smart. Magnetic, even. You need to be able to answer the question that might be lingering in the minds of the people you’re trying to persuade: What makes you so special?

You need to have a good story.

Read more here

A Transformed You!

21GRAY-blog427

Did you make a New Year’s resolution to read more? I suspect many of us have. While many of us value reading as something we enjoy doing and an activity that delivers some sort of hard-to-define intrinsic value, it’s often hard to pin down precisely what that value is. Keith Oatley and Maja Djikic have taken a good stab at it. They suggest writing transforms us. Here’s part of what they have to say:

A great deal has been written about art, but only recently has research begun in earnest about what goes on in the mind and brain when reading literature. Outside the domain of love relationships and some forms of psychotherapy, the idea of communication that has effects of a non-persuasive yet transformative kind has rarely been considered in psychology.

Read more here

Writing a Blockbuster!

MV5BNDcxODkyMjY4MF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwOTk5NTc5MDE@._V1_SX640_SY720_

Want to write a blockbuster that will get optioned and made into a blockbuster movie. Consider this bit of wisdom:

Imagine “Jaws,” if it were released in 2014.
We open on a rock star (played by Shia LaBeouf) and his supermodel wife (played by a supermodel) snorkeling in the crystal blue waters off Bora Bora, when a fin the size of a house emerges from the water. They swim away frantically as the rock star yells: “I just wanted to go to Italy, but noooo! Bora Bora, you said. It had to be Bora freakin’ Bora!” We zoom in for a super-close-up of the shark’s enormous computer-generated teeth, in 3-D, chomping them both in half. As the rock star screams, the camera races into his mouth, down his throat, to his pumping red heart, which stops as his screams die out.

Cut to: Coast of South Africa. A world-renowned shark expert, Chloe Fabrice, 23, brisk and no-nonsense in her clinician’s white bikini, observes terrifying great whites from a shark-proof cage. “Gettin’ choppy!” a man’s voice says to her through her wristwatch walkie-talkie. As the cage lifts out of the water, we see an enormous shadow in the ocean behind it. We pull up for an aerial C.G.I. shot of a monstrous shark, bigger than a battleship, creating a giant wake that tosses Chloe’s tiny boat aside.

The original “Jaws,” released in 1975, was the first movie to make more than $100 million at the box office, and it has been blamed for every insipid summer blockbuster to hit the theaters ever since. For example: “ ‘Jaws’ whet corporate appetites for big profits quickly, which is to say studios wanted every film to be ‘Jaws,’ ” writes Peter Biskind in his 1998 book, “Easy Riders, Raging Bulls.” The movie’s success “single-handedly [drove] serious movies off the summertime calendar,” Walter Shapiro wrote in Slate in 2002. “Hollywood had been happy to hit for average,” John Podhoretz wrote in 2010 in The Weekly Standard. “After ‘Jaws,’ it began swinging for grand slams.”

If nothing else, though, we should once and for all stop blaming “Jaws” for all the terrible summer movies and start crediting it for the few, rare good ones instead….

Read more here

Harness Social Media

If you are a writer you need social media to spark sales. It works in commerce and it is important for books too. Here is what Business Insider has to say:

There’s been a lot of hype surrounding social commerce — the idea that posts and ads on sites like Facebook and Pinterest would generate lots of immediate sales on e-commerce sites.

Today only a fraction of retailer’s online sales are actually generated directly through a referral from a social network. But the volume of social commerce is growing quickly, in the triple digits in many cases. Overall, social commerce sales grew at three times the rate of overall e-commerce last year.

In a new report from BI Intelligence we break down how social media is impacting retail sales throughout the purchase process — whether a social media user clicks directly from a retailer’s Facebook ad to make a purchase, or sees a pin on Pinterest and ends up buying the product in-store a week later. We look at the varied metrics that underscore social commerce performance at the different networks, including conversion rates, average order value, and revenue generated by shares, likes, and tweets.  We also outline the latest commerce efforts by leading social networks.

Read more

Are Strong Women Necessary?

Writing Techniques

Whether it is books or movies, strong female leads are not any more frequent today than they were a generation ago. Really? Here is how Frank Bruni addresses it in: “Waiting for Wonder Woman.”

But she’s in an industry where the overwhelming majority of decision makers and directors are men; where the reliance on pre-existing source material — comic books, video games — means that a gender disparity simply perpetuates itself; and where the robust ticket sales for “Aliens,” “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider” and even “Zero Dark Thirty” don’t seem to spawn all the take-charge female characters that they should. Studio executives treat such hits as if they’re one-offs. “There’s this collective amnesia,” said Susan Cartsonis, a veteran producer. “Whenever a movie with a female icon at the center is successful, it’s a glorious fluke.”

Read more here

Writing Revelations

Writing Techniques

Best-selling writer Marilynne Robinson offers tips to aspiring, emerging and established writers. In a wide-ranging interview, New York Times Magazine writer Wyatt Mason encourage Robinson to share some of her secrets. Some of her advice was targeted specifically at writers, while some had more universal appeal. For example:

“There was a very strong tendency among people to be kind of isolated,” she said. “More hermits per capita than you’d find in most places. We were positively encouraged to create for ourselves minds we would want to live with. I had teachers articulate that to me: ‘You have to live with your mind your whole life.’ You build your mind, so make it into something you want to live with. Nobody has ever said anything more valuable to me.”

Here is more from Mason: This June, as a grandfather clock rang the quarter-hour in her modest Iowa City living room, the American novelist and essayist Marilynne Robinson, a woman of 70 who speaks in sentences that accumulate into polished paragraphs, made a confession: “I hate to say it, but I think a default posture of human beings is fear.” Perched on the edge of a sofa, hands loosely clasped, Robinson leaned forward as if breaking bad news to a gentle heart. “What it comes down to — and I think this has become prominent in our culture recently — is that fear is an excuse: ‘I would like to have done something, but of course I couldn’t.’ Fear is so opportunistic that people can call on it under the slightest provocations: ‘He looked at me funny.’ ”

Read more here

Life on a Warship

dyer-master495

The sea has inspired innumerable writers. Many of them have spent time at sea – while others have not. What happens when you take a well-known writer and provide him with total immersion at sea – in this case, the U.S. Navy’s newest super-carrier, USS George H. W. Bush? You learn a great deal about writing, about the sea, and about the U.S. Navy.

The British author Geoff Dyer is known for being a genre bender — a writer of novels that sometimes read like nonfiction, and nonfiction that occasionally feels invented — and for being what he calls a gate crasher: someone who writes about whatever happens to interest him at the moment. His newest book, “Another Great Day at Sea: Life Aboard the USS George H. W. Bush,” recounts two weeks he spent embedded on an American aircraft carrier, a life for which he was almost comically ill-suited.

To begin with, Mr. Dyer is a beanpole of a man: tall, skinny, unable to walk around below deck except by stooping. He is also, by his own account, a slacker, a whiner, an eater so fussy he couldn’t abide mess hall food, a hater of anything having to do with engines or oil, and someone so bad at sharing that he insisted the Navy give him a private cabin, an almost unheard-of luxury aboard an aircraft carrier. And yet his account of his stay on the ship is mostly blissful, filled with curiosity and with admiration for the crew and the dangerous, difficult work it does: repairing airplanes, flinging them up into the sky and then snagging them when they come back down again.

Read more here