How can we develop a good synopsis of our work so we can easily and naturally communicate the value of our writing to our prospective audience? When you are talking about creating a synopsis of your work, it would be a good idea to put on your marketing hat for a few minutes.
You’re competing in the marketplace of ideas and stories, and the people that you’re competing with are great storytellers. You want your audience to understand why they should be interested in the things that you’re writing.
In the last article, we talked about how to understand who your audience is and how to create a personality profile of your perfect reader -- your reader persona. Now let’s talk about how to craft the message that will get them interested and why they will be interested in what you’re writing.
Jim is writing a book about “The Making of a Warrior.” A book is likely to be 300 to 400 pages and contain a ton of information. Let’s think about Stephen, the retired police Lieutenant. What are the points in “Making of a Warrior” that will resonate with his interests? You want to capture your audience’s attention and begin with something that will compel them to read more.
Keeping Stephen in mind, what could we write as the challenge to peak his interest?
The Making of a Warrior
A warrior’s heart is forged in training and tested in battle, but the struggle never ends. Be there at the foundation of his journey and learn what drives this warrior to selfless sacrifice and dedication. See battle through his eyes and how survival against all odds really feels. There is much more to a warrior than war. See what it takes to become a warrior, how he gets through the battle, and uncover the lasting effects of trauma and war, and how this warrior is forever changed.
This is something that might get his attention. This approach can also help focus your writing and how you approach the story. Your synopsis must:
You should also think about how to capture your reader’s attention with the very first line of your book. I love how many times the very first line in a novel captures the essence of the entire book. Classic novel beginnings are often works of art in themselves. They capture your attention and make you to want to read the rest of the book.
Who Ya Gonna Call?
If you are one of those incredibly dedicated souls who feels duty-bound to serve something or someone bigger than just yourself, to help and protect others – often at the risk of your own personal safety, and sometimes your own life (not to mention the sacrifices you ask of your family…), where do you turn in times of need? Who is your protector, the one who looks out for you and your family?
Well, who are we talking about here? There are a lot of folks who serve society and their fellow Americans, as well as those in need around the world. It is particularly easy to point at the military and veterans, which I was reminded of because I attended the Armed Forces Day Observance ceremonies at the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington National Cemetery again this year (this time with Freedom).
However, even though last weekend’s celebrations prompted me to think about this subject, I’m not talking about just our military and veterans. There are many, many more people who faithfully serve, help and protect us. Besides the military and our veterans (including national intelligence operations), there are law enforcement officers and agents, firefighters, and emergency medical services (including field EMS personnel like EMT’s and paramedics, and emergency room nurses, doctors, and support staff).
Since almost all of these are employed by one sort of government organization or another, should they turn to the government for help and support? While there are some organizations out there that do a good job of supporting their current and former employees…there are many others that do not. Just look at the news about the Veterans Administration debacles over the last several decades to see what I’m talking about. I have personal experience (as do a lot of veterans) just how dysfunctional (or non-functional) that organization is.
Because of the stress and dangers of these occupations, each of these groups has a “recognition” day or week to thank those who are serving (or who have served), and most have a “memorial” day or week to honor those who gave their lives in the service of others. While many Americans know about Memorial Day, a lot of these days or weeks are only known to those who serve in that specific capacity. They are:
US Military and Veterans:
Armed Forces Day – third Saturday of May
Veterans Day – Nov 11
Memorial Day – last Monday in May
National Law Enforcement Appreciation Day – Jan 9
Peace Officers Memorial Day – May 15
International Firefighter’s Day – May 4th
Fallen Firefighters Memorial Weekend – first weekend in Oct
Emergency Medical Services:
Emergency Nurses Week – second week of October
National EMS Week – third week of May
Although the government (i.e., Congress) recognizes each of these groups of dedicated public servants (usually because a concerned group lobbied Congress to create those days), a lot of these folks, or worse yet, their families, still end up having to fend for themselves.
Luckily – or more accurately, because of the type and caliber of those people who step up to serve in these capacities – they all tend to band together in a brother/sisterhood to help not only the public, but each other and their families.
You can’t count on government doing it for you, but you can sure count on your brothers and sisters to be there. Each and every one of these groups has a fraternal organization dedicated to remembering those serving and those fallen, as well as helping their brothers or sisters in need…and importantly…their families and/or survivors.
I’ve talked about a couple of these organizations before. Obviously, K9s for Warriors is a great organization that not only seeks to stop veteran suicides (22 a day, which averages out to 1 veteran killing themselves every 65 minutes, 24 hours a day, every single day) by pairing them with a service dog, but also saves many of those dogs, a lot of whom are rescue dogs from high-kill shelters.
The other organization is Veterans 360, which is designed to identify, engage, educate, and support post 911 veterans, again, with the goal to stop suicides. What is unique about Vets360 in my eyes is two things. First, it was founded, and is still lead, by a good friend of mine, Rick Collins. Rick is not an American veteran who is taking care of his brothers and sisters…in fact, he is a Brit who came to the United States, and was heartbroken by the tragedy of those (mostly preventable) deaths…and was compelled to do something about it.
Secondly, after working with folks with Post Traumatic Stress disorder (PTS(D)), he found out something that in hindsight is painfully obvious. In his words, “PTS will hit most people at some time in their lives whether they realize it or not. It is NOT unique to veterans and it is certainly not a reason to treat a veteran any different than we would a fire fighter or an ER nurse.” It is not just a veteran issue, it is a human issue. If anyone has been in a serious car accident, has been a victim of domestic violence, is in one of the jobs listed above, or in any significant traumatic event, etc., etc…, they could very well have or be affected by PTS.
Vets360 then took a turn. Realizing the breadth and depth of PTS in America, they decided to begin the challenge to “de-stigmatize” PTS, and again, in Rick’s words, help society realize that “PTS is a normal reaction to an abnormal situation.” That’s when Carry the Challenge was born. This challenge will not only be used to further the mission of de-stigmatizing PTS, but is fully inclusive of military and veterans, first responders (law enforcement and firefighters), emergency medical services (EMS field personnel, and ER nurses, doctors and staff), and any others in our society affected by PTS.
It is already going international, and they hope that one day they will be able to include all those different services and organizations that are involved in one way or another with dealing with or providing services to those affected by PTS in the Challenge.
Who ya gonna call? Each other. Stand together as brothers and sisters – you and all those who step forward to support you are really the only ones you can truly count on.
Have you ever been with a friend or an acquaintance and they started telling you about something that happened to them. Did you ever ask yourself “Why are they telling me this story?” or “Why would they think I was interested in that?” You have to consider your audience whenever you’re telling a story. Otherwise it is super easy to lose their attention.
When you communicate in person you get feedback queues. You can see the little glint in their eye when something really hits home. You’re telling that story to that particular person and you have a reason for telling that story.
When you communicate with your readers online, you don’t have those physical queues that allow you to change course or move more quickly or move more slowly. That’s why you have to have an outstanding grasp of the person you’re writing for. Every good writer considers the audience when they tell their story. That is as it should be. You also need to be just as targeted when you are communicating with your readers through your website, your blog posts, and your social media accounts.
If you try to appeal to everyone you will end up appealing to no one. In marketing terms we can create what are called personas in order to know exactly who you are writing for. You should develop personas for your target audience. What this means is that you have to do some research and thinking about the audience you want and document that thinking.
Here are five concrete questions you can ask.
1. Who are we writing for?
2. Why will they read you?
3. Where do they hang out online?
4. What do they like doing in their spare time other than reading?
5. Where do they go to look for new books?
After you really understand your reader and their habits you can start thinking about putting a little story together describing that person and how they find out about published works.
Steven is a retired Lieutenant in the police department and spends most of his time in retirement building replicas of World War II fighter aircraft and often reads stories of survival against all odds. He has been to the Air and Space Museum in Dayton, Ohio six times and visits the Smithsonian whenever he can to find out more about fighter aircraft. He spends some time at the American Legion where he meets some of his friends for a beer or two. He seems to have read every book on WWII aviation but often looks for new good books about fighter aircraft. He loves WWII aircraft because his grandfather was in the Air Force during WWII and flew Spitfires. When Steven was small, his grandfather would spend hours talking about his flying experiences and when Steven was older he got his private pilot's license so he could better understand the stories. He searches the internet to learn more about the aircraft he is interested in. When Steven finds a new book about Fighter Aircraft from World War II he will often go to Goodreads to see who is reading the book and if it has been helpful or interesting. If he finds it interesting he will buy that book. He likes electronic books more than printed books but will occasionally buy hard copy books because of the graphics displayed in hard cover.
Knowing how your readers think and what they get up to on a daily basis will help focus your communications and writing so the person you are writing for can relate much better to the stories you tell. Armed with this information you will be a better writer and you will also have a leg up when it comes to marketing your book online and in person.
Next week – How can we develop a good synopsis of our work so we can easily and naturally communicate the value of our writing to our prospective audience?
Until then – I wish you well.
“Inalienable rights” Really?
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
This all-important Amendment, which is a very bedrock foundation of our way of life and freedom in the United States is so simple that it is hard to understand some current popular misconceptions, misuse, and outright (deliberate) distortions – not just by the uninformed, but by media, public figures, and those who twist it for their own social agendas.
Since the creation of our country, men and women have fought and died to protect these rights, and now some are deliberately stomping on the American Flag to show their disrespect of this country.
This is an outrageous act that is a highly personal insult to many Americans, and that they admit is designed to cause outrage.However, according to the law, this is protected free speech. (U.S. Supreme Court in Texas v. Johnson, 491 U.S. 397 (1989) and in United States v. Eichman, 496 U.S. 310 (1990)). Many have called for a Constitutional Amendment to protect the Flag, but although it has been proposed in Congress (and passed in the House) numerous times, the most recent attempt to adopt a flag desecration amendment failed in the United States Senate by one vote on June 27, 2006.
What does that mean? Well…it means that American Law Enforcement is obligated to protect that right of free speech, and that many United States Military Servicemembers and Veterans have, and will continue to put our lives on the line to protect that right.
It also means that, when not on duty, we have those same rights of free speech, protected under the Constitution, to voice our opposition to the desecration and disrespect of our Flag, and the disrespect to those law enforcement officers, servicemembers and veterans who are sworn to protect the rights of the desecrators.
I actually feel sorry for those who are falling for the latest fad of disrespecting our Flag, our American way of life, our law enforcement and other public servants (and protectors). They did not have the advantages I had of growing up in the military and seeing the many sacrifices the families, as well as the servicemembers paid.
They did not have the advantage of living in and visiting several countries – many of which had totalitarian or dictatorial governments, and NONE of which had our liberties and protections – and Constitutional Rights. They did not have the advantage of being in Turkey in 1969 during the unrest, and having been put down on the ground with an Uzi pressed into the back of their head by the government forces just because they “thought I was a college student”.
No – they live in a country where they can walk on the flag, and the police arrest the Veteran who was so offended she took that flag from them to protect it from desecration, interfering with their free speech…
Many of my fellow law enforcement officers, military servicemembers and veterans understand what it is to sacrifice for the protection of the rights of free speech…and remember those who have gone before us. I know I certainly do.
Every single clause in this brilliantly crafted Amendment has been a source of news lately, with people taking sides, and arguing ad nauseam about what they “mean”. In some cases, this is deliberate – directly from Saul Alinsky’s 12 Rules for Radicals (RULE 5: “Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon” and RULE 12: “Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it”).
We’ve even had the Mayor of Baltimore misuse the “the right of the people peaceably to assemble” (emphasis added), by blatantly allowing the lawless destruction and vandalism of portions of that city, and justifying it by saying “she instructed officers to allow protestors to express themselves and that “we also gave those who wished to destroy space to do that as well.”” (emphasis added).
For me, it is simple. They have the right to free speech as defined by current law. They have the right to peaceably assemble as defined by law. I also have the right to my free speech…and to protect myself and others against non-peaceable actions…do not try to disrespect me, or those who have gone before and given the ultimate sacrifice to protect your rights in my presence – and do not try to take this flag from my arms…
Blogging is so important for authors. It might seem like a trivial thing, but it’s more important now than ever. Blogging looks like an easy thing to do but can be a bit daunting when you’re staring at a blank page and you need to get it done.
Writing is such a private affair between the mind and the page. It’s very personal. It takes a lot of courage to put your work out in public. You have to be willing and ready to accept the praises and the pans.
But if you don’t “put it out there,” nobody will get to read what you publish. You may as well throw your pages in the air and let them drift on the wind. Your thoughts and desires and fears are all contained in those pages. Nobody sees things in quite the same way you do. That is your gift to the world. So you need to target and build your audience.
Blogging is a great method to build your audience and following. Here are some hints and tips to having a successful blog.
Be consistent in publishing articles. It needs to be as consistent as the sun coming up in the morning and it needs to have a specific focus. Done well, a blog can be one of the most effective ways to build a following and become known for something.
Use a Personal Focus
In each post, write like you’re talking to somebody you know well. Not only does it make it easier to write but when the reader gets there, it will sound like a familiar and friendly voice to them.
Explain Something Interesting
To make your writing engaging, think about the things that you end up explaining a lot to different people. The blog is a great place to put those explanations and thoughts in order. Then, you can refer someone to your blog for more info whenever you get the chance.
Invite Readers to Join
Invite your readers to sign up for regular updates. Make them part of your inner circle. Make them feel at home at your blog. You need to engage your readers for them to know more about you.
Be Kind Always
Make sure you are kind. Nobody likes to read anybody else’s troubles or vitriol. Write about things in a positive way. Even if it is a challenging situation, you can make your writing upbeat and positive.
Don’t Overcomplicate Things
As a reader, you don’t want an author to confuse you. I know I don’t have half the attention span that I used to have. If your writing is too complicated, people just aren’t going to stick around to figure it out. There’s too much compelling reading on the internet today. Make it interesting and make it simple.
Read Your Article Before You Post
I know that I like to read my articles out loud to myself before I post them. Reading your own writing out loud will help you catch any slight mistakes or things that just don’t sound right. Have somebody else proofread the article, as well. Spelling and grammar count, so do your very best.
Next time, we can talk about building a profile of your ideal reader. Who are the people that are really going to get something out of your work? Understanding your audience is probably one of the most important steps in building a following.
Until the next time, I wish you well.
Writer, Author, or Published Author – Pick Your Poison
A lot of people want to be a writer…they fantasize that “someday” they will write a paper, book or novel. Everyone has an interesting story (even if it is just interesting to themselves), and many want to memorialize their thoughts, experiences, their life, or just tell a story.
That’s a great aspiration, but is it really for you? As I mentioned in previous posts, I’m not just going to talk about the lives, dedication and experiences of those who protect us, but also on the process of writing about those events and people – and of writing in general.
I don’t want to put a damper on anyone’s efforts, but I do want to insert a little reality here. It’s not as glamorous or as easy as shows like “Castle” make it out to be. It’s hard work, but if you’re serious, it can have its own rewards.
Once, a couple of decades ago, I was on my neighbor’s back patio having a scotch. I knew that besides being a motivational speaker, he was also a published author. I’d had some thoughts about a book in my head for over twenty years at that time, so after we had contemplated the state of the world for a while, I just came out an asked him.
I said “Jimmie, how do you write a book – what does it take to become a writer?”
He cocked his head, like he does…put down his cigar and took a drink of his scotch (The Macallan, of course), and asked me why I asked that question. After I explained that I’d had something in my head for a while, and had always wanted to write about it, he answered.
“There is a very complicated and difficult process to becoming a writer. If you’re really serious about becoming a writer, I’ll tell you the secret”, and he looked at me. I told him I was serious, and he said, “Then if you really want to be a writer, here’s the secret. Go sit down somewhere, and write.”
I’m a very disciplined guy…former Marine, law enforcement guy, etc., etc…, but I’d been sitting around for over 20 years just thinking about writing something that was eating a hole in my head. I just never started writing. It was always something I was going to do…
I picked up my glass, walked over to my house next door, sat down, and wrote the first chapter of my first book right then and there. It was a cathartic moment, and changed my entire perception of writing.
Now lots of folks write something (becoming a writer), and even finish the project (becoming an author), but then never go on to publish what they wrote (becoming a published author). That is something I’ll talk about in a later post.
As hard as it was to actually start writing, it is even harder to keep writing sometimes. As an example of where you can run into difficulties, I’ve had some stumbling blocks with the novel I’m currently writing, The Making of a Warrior (the first book in a ten book series). The book is organized a bit differently than a lot of them are, with the timeline moving back and forth between the present and the past. It sounds a bit complicated, but each book is different, and this is the layout that makes sense for this first book of the series.
Some of the chapters were easy for me to write – they just flowed out onto the paper. Unfortunately, a couple of them from the past were very difficult for me...because I didn’t have all the information I needed to make them realistic. This caused me to stall the book, struggling over those chapters.
After months of struggling, the solution turned out to be very simple, and had been right in front of me all the time. I decided to ignore the early chapters from the past, move forward with the book, and then come back and fill in the first few difficult chapters after I had finished the rest of it. That wouldn’t break my flow of writing, and would also give me time to gather the information I needed to complete those earlier chapters.
I had always known what I was going to write about – and that is key to actually writing. Pick your passion. Something you really know well, or really enjoy, or just a flight of fancy that you can follow through a storyline…and jump in.
There are a lot of difficulties in writing, but a lot of rewards if you do decide to actually “go sit down somewhere, and write.” I look forward to talking with you about those soon, and would love to read some of your comments as well.