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Ins and Outs of Becoming A Literary Journal Writer

By Posted on 9 min read 92 views

Every literary journal writer might relate to this…

When you first submitted to literary journals, you probably spent fifteen minutes or more on their websites tracking down any scrap or clue that might help your work be accepted. You read their guidelines multiple times. Every time you received a rejection, you read a lot into it.

But ask any experienced literary journal writer and they will tell you how things are a little different on the surface and after years of writing for the literary journals, they are finally starting to see patterns that they could not when they started out.

The following are things that you as a beginner literary journal writer might wish to know.

The difference between what journals say and what they mean

 Most journals have a statement on their submission page about what they are looking for and what you should submit. Some of these things are clear and true. If they say they are looking for poetry and flash fiction under 1,000 words in length, they most certainly mean it. Do not submit a 2,000-word story.

literary journal writing

Also, if they say they are looking only for works of science fiction or some other genre, only submit works from that genre to them.

However, many submission guidelines list things that are not helpful. They could even be misleading and waste your time if you focus on them too much.

For example, a lot of journals indicate they are looking for experimental work, but few define what they mean by that.

By reading these same journals, you might conclude that experimental work appears to cover everything from a traditional haiku to a list of unrelated words. (It might turn out to be a big mistake!)

Don’t spend  lot of time, when you are first submitting, trying to match a journal’s style with my submission.

This is a waste of time, as what they said they wanted and at times, they can be vague and what they actually wanted were two different things.

Another example is that many journals ask for you to only submit your best work. I have no clue what they mean by that. After all, what you think is your best work and what others think is your best work might be completely different things.

The poems I often think of as my best are the ones I struggle the most to get published. The poems I think of as OK are often the ones that get snapped up right away by literary journals.

I am not alone in this. Many of my friends have had similar experiences.

Focus on what the journal is looking for in terms of concrete statements about length and genre, and ignore the other information for the most part.

writing for literary journals

Buying before submitting

 Many literary journals need to sell copies to survive.

Almost every single print journal I know and a lot of electronic journals try to encourage submitters to buy a copy of their journal before submitting. This is time-consuming.

It is also an expensive proposition for a writer, who might be submitting a single piece or a few pieces of work to ten or twenty journals.

If you like the look of a journal and it is really up your alley, you should subscribe because you want to. Because you are interested in the work they are publishing, and want to support them.

If you want to get a better idea of the work they have published, many do have a few poems and short stories published online. It is worth spending a few minutes to read one or two of these.

On taking rejections seriously

Don’t. When I receive a rejection email, I am not upset. I just update my submission tracker to reflect the rejection. Your work can be rejected for any number of arbitrary or legitimate reasons. If you take each rejection seriously, that will consume a lot of mental energy.

Imagine an average editor gets over 1,000 poem submissions for the next literary journal issue. He or she accepted seven poems out of the over 1,000 submitted.

It is not uncommon for the editor to get simply overwhelmed and not be able to give the poem the amount of time and more importantly, the mental energy, it deserved. That is not even taking his or her personal preferences as a reader into consideration. Do you see?

Instead of thinking about the rejections you have received, focus on submitting as much as possible.

There are so many good literary journals. Take the opportunity the numbers offer. Also, it is good to keep in mind that just because a journal rejects a piece of yours once, that does not mean they are not open to later submissions.

Often, your pieces might be accepted by a journal that previously rejected an earlier piece.

(I know a writer who once submitted to the same journal seven times before they accepted a piece of hers.)

Just keep writing fast and submitting. You will do it.

Below are six steps that will help you submitting your work  to literary journals in the best way possible.

If you have never sent your creative writing out to a literary journal before, the experience can be intimidating. Many productive writers avoid submitting. However, there is no real way around it if you want to get your work out into the world.

Even if you have sent out work before, you may find them helpful. For experienced literary journal writers, these tips are still a touchstone they can rely upon…keeping them on their track.

Set a submission goal for yourself

 Set it at a number that seems reasonable to you—perhaps five submissions to different magazines per month.

A classic human psychology is, you will often exceed your per-month goal, because once you reach that point, you will want the feeling of accomplishment to linger. Soon those submissions will really start to add up.

The more experience you have submitting, the faster you will get; as you progress, it becomes easier to submit your work.

Three of the most respected authors I know suggested that this was one of the ways that they became successful.

Create submission packets

 If you are a short story writer you don’t need to do this, since most journals only consider one short story at a time.

Some publishers of flash fiction (fiction under 1,000 words in length) allow authors to submit up to three stories at a time.

However, if you are a poet, journals generally want three to five of your poems to consider at a time. I have five packets that each contain between four and five poems.

Reserve one packet to submit to a journal that does not accept simultaneous submissions (work that is submitted to other journals at the same time). It is becoming more common for journals to accept simultaneous submissions, though (almost 95 percent!).

Keep track of what you submit and where

Many keep a Word document that tracks which journals they have submitted to, what poems or stories they have submitted to them, and when.

Write down which poems or stories have been accepted and where…which journals have rejected certain poems or stories. Update this “submission tracker” every time you submit; otherwise, you might send the same poems to the same journal twice, or submit poems that have been accepted elsewhere, or any similar minor disaster.

Make sure you regularly update this document, or it will get out of control. I have included a sample of a very small submission tracker.

Sample literary journal submission tracker:

Pending:

The New Yorker, Submitted September 28th, The Living (short story).

The Adroit Review, Submitted September 28th, My Teeth, Superman, Pumpkin Bread (poems).

Acceptances:

Neon, Submitted January 14th, Ham, Companion, Uma Thurman (poems).

Conium Review, Submitted January 25th, Ready (short story).

Rejections:

Threepenny Review, Submitted January 7, 2012. Timer (short story).

The Book Review, submitted January 7, Pancakes for Dinner (short story).

You can also use an Excel spread sheet to track submissions and if you have a Duotrope subscription, there is a built-in submission tracker that is fairly intuitive to use. Electronic trackers are not for everyone, though.

Submittable also has a built-in tracking system, but it only tracks submissions you make using Submittable.

There is no way to manually update it to include submissions you made via email or other submission managers. Because of that, it does not work as a personal submission tracker.

Just make sure you are consistent. At first, tracking doesn’t seem that essential, but over time it becomes more and more important.

If you don’t track submissions, you could end up accidentally sending the same piece to the same publication repeatedly, which will get you remembered by the editors for the wrong reasons.

More importantly, when you are simultaneously submitting, if a piece gets accepted one place, you have to withdraw it from all the other places it is out at.

If you don’t do that, it can reflect poorly on you and even lead to a journal not considering your work in the future.

Create a couple of biographical statements

 When you read submission guidelines—which vary from site to site—almost all of them will require that you include a brief biographical statement and a cover letter. Most submission guidelines are quite similar, so as long as you have a biographical statement and a cover letter on standby, it should take you very little time to submit.

One of your biographical statements should be under fifty words and the other should be under one hundred words in length.

Biographical statements should always be in third person.

Once your work has been published in various literary journals, you should include some of the most recent or prestigious journals in your biographical statement.

However, you should not include all of them; that would just be overwhelming and would come off as unprofessional. Below are examples of biographical statements of less than fifty words.

One contains journal names, one does not.

Sample bio 1:

Maria Smith resides in the rural Pacific Northwest. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in numerous places, including: Tin House, The Liner, Echolocation, and the anthology Tidelines. Her second chapbook, Pancakes for Dinner, is forthcoming in 2017 from Hawthorne Press.

Sample bio 2:

Joshua Thomas is a poet, editor, and recovering New Yorker who now lives in Idaho. Joshua once wrote a sonnet every hour for twenty-four hours straight. He loves to hike, cook, and read.

Create a standard cover letter for all the journals you are submitting to

A cover letter should be as simple as possible; an editor does not have a lot of time and does not want to be bogged down by the details.

If you are submitting to a journal you particularly like, you might include a note about why you like their journal. Sometimes journals will request that you include additional information such as titles and word count in my cover letter and I will cut and paste that information in. Otherwise, my cover letter is almost identical to the sample letter.

Sample cover letter for literary journal submission:

Dear Editors,

The following poems are for your consideration. Thank you for your time,

Katharine Hathaway

Always read the submission guidelines

Now this might seem like common sense, but many writers figure if they have read one submission guideline, they have read them all. This is not the case.

For many literary journals, up to fifteen percent of the work they receive is rejected because it is not what they publish, and not due to stylistic preferences.

For example, a literary journal that explicitly states they do not accept genre work will receive a fair amount of science fiction short stories. Or a journal that publishes poetry may receive hundreds of short story submissions a month.

Krishan Coupland, the editor of Neon, phrased it well when he said:

Neon publishes dark slipstream and magical realist fiction and poetry. A 600-page hard-boiled noir detective novel isn’t likely to find a place in its pages. Neither is a feature-length documentary film, or any number of hobby articles or fashion pieces. And yet these are all things that I’ve been offered in the past year.”

You can read Krishan Coupland’s full article, “6 Cover Letter Mistakes That Can Ruin the Chance of Publication,” here.

Also, many people who don’t read the submission guidelines will end up being automatically rejected, either by a filter on the email the editor has set up, or by the editor themselves because the submitter has not followed one guideline or another.

For example, if the journal’s guidelines say they only accept submissions where the work is cut and pasted into the body of the email, and you send that work as an attachment, they will likely reject your work without ever reading it.

That might sound callous, but many editors read hundreds of submissions every month, and they set up their submission guidelines in a certain way for a reason.

For emailed submissions, the subject line guidelines (if there are any) are particularly important to follow because many email accounts are set up so that they automatically filter out your email if the subject heading is incorrect.

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Is Writing Dead? Not Possible…Ever!

By Posted on 5 min read 19 views

Dear Reader,

Today’s letter is going to be a delish treat for EVERY copywriter standing cold and stiff in the face of micro-blogging trend sweeping over the interest.

To put this into context, let’s start with a little statement by Nicola Mendelssohn, who leads Facebook’s operations in Europe, the Middle East and Africa:

“The best way to tell stories in this world, where so much information is coming at us, actually is video. It conveys so much more information in a much quicker period. So actually the trend helps us to digest much more information.”

What about us, writers?

Well, she did have an advice for us.

Start writing for video.

Or, are we as writers doomed?

I say utter bollocks!

Ha-ha … I see some cheerful hooting and clapping at the back, but most of you evidently are not convinced yet.

When 55 percent of people on internet watch videos and even the very word “video” in the email subject line shoots up the open rates by a whopping 19 percent (that’s huge in copywriting world), you have every right to feel scared, my friend.

Is the art of writing really on the decline?

No, absolutely not.

I will start by talking about a simple fact (or let’s say an undeniable truth) first.

Tell me…

What do you think is the most powerful weapon you got?

What have the likes of Cicero, Antonius, Lincoln and Obama in common?

Did they take mind-blowing pictures that spoke more than a thousand words?

Did they present us with heart-warming animated videos?

No, their most potent secret weapon was WORDS.

The Power Of Language

Only words have the power to weave magic on human minds. And nothing else.

And as you can guess already…

Writers yield the power of language.

is writing dead

Whether it’s a novel, a magazine editorial or a video sales letter, it’s always the words of a writer shining through in all its glory. Words are integral to almost everything we do, and that’s how deeply entwined is the art of writing in our daily lives.

And behind every informative podcast or highly engaging video, there is someone, unknown, unsung or forgotten, typing furiously on the MS Word document in his dark, dingy room. (For the curious ones, mine is small but well-lit )

Frankly speaking, I don’t care whether eight out of ten 18-to-49 year olds watch YouTube in an average month or that Snapchatters share 10 billion videos a day.

From a copywriter’s perspective, it doesn’t mean a damn thing.

You know why?

For the sole reason that while pictures and videos can entertain us, they CANNOT sell.

For sales, you need hard-hitting “words” rooting into your audience, working a deep, subtle and frankly, unstoppable influence on them.

Think about any photo you liked very much. You were probably standing in front it appreciating its mesmerising beauty. “God! How beautiful” you gasp out. Totally understandable because we all have been there.

But step back now. Did you even think of buying something at that moment? Anything?

Of course, not. You were just soaking in the value of that piece of CONTENT.

That’s right. It’s only content—nothing more that.

How about those awesome animated pictures on YouTube? Heck! Since we are talking of animated videos, let’s borrow the very best from the shelf.

How about the recent The Beauty and The Beast? Such a lovely production! I love cartoon movies, and I fell in love with this one. In case you are wondering, no, it didn’t influence me to purchase anything. It just “entertained” me. Read that again. It ENTERTAINED me.

Neither the most beautiful pictures nor the most amazing animated productions force me towards a sale. No, even if the hero of the movie washes his clothes with Tide powder, it does not coax me to buy it.

Content, WITHOUT WORDS, never sells. Click To Tweet

Beside that picture, you need a little punch line that gives you the push towards the sales funnel.

Inside the video, the narrator’s script gradually takes you through the buyer’s journey to the point of no return.

Even if we forget about the selling part, I will point your attention to the most singular flaw of a video. It’s that a video is essentially a “movie”. It doesn’t come as a collection of single pages. Unlike a book where you can tear off a page and make sense out of it, you cannot do likewise in a video. A video is a sequence of moments. These moments constitute the proper context without which there exists no meaning in disintegration.

Citing Robin Hardman in her blog post:

A video organizes the information for me, in a way I may not want it organized, forcing me to wade through a lot of stuff I’m not interested in without being sure I’ll find the information I do want. I want a piece of text that I can search, skim, or read end to end, as I please. I want to control the pace, not have someone else’s idea of pacing fed to me in video form.

(Of course, you want to control the pace, honey. I understand 😉 If she is reading this, hope she doesn’t mind the joke.)

As one of the popular content marketers today, Ann Handley, says, Sometimes you want sprinkles. Sometimes you don’t.” True that.

Liraz Margalit, a web psychologist at ClickTale, wrote that watching a video and reading an article are different “cognitive functions.”

Along the same lines, Phil Rosenthal wrote in the Chicago Tribune that reading demands one’s cognitive system do more heavy lifting and requires committed engagement, she said. Watching video is largely passive and is quicker to make an emotional connection.

And just know that howsoever technology improves or new content formats emerge, reading as an event will not perish. Because it’s hardwired inside us.

We read not because we choose to. We read because it makes us complete as a human being. And if reading exists, writing needs to exist too. Do you now see how the whole universe is connected?

Look, as a consumer, speaking from my POV, I do all. I read. I listen to podcasts. I watch videos. Everything.

Some things are better understood when read gradually in minuscule byte form.

Some things are better experienced when they are accompanied with a lot of visual action.

Some things are better absorbed when listened through the headphones alone.

To sum up, in terms of selling products and services for businesses, writing is simply NOT a choice.

You just cannot do without it.

And even outside the practical realm of marketing and sales, you, as a writer, are a creator in your own right. You create art with words in print.

It will exist as long as we exist.

Thumbs up to writers…everywhere.

We are immortal. We live forever.

Yours ever, with lots of love,
Ron C

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Eleven Steps To Smart Brand Storytelling

By Posted on 12 min read 17 views

When you want to learn how to describe yourself or your business, people look to storytelling as a way to improve their core message.

But what is storytelling? And how do you actually get better at it?

And what does it matter for businesses today?

“Story” — the word is vague and yet so appealing — so it can be difficult to know where to start, and how to use what you learn in your everyday practice.

If you’re not telling your story, who is telling it for you?

This essay will look at some of the core truths about stories and storytelling in Part I, and then I’ll share a few tools that are practical and easy to implement in Part II. Use these core principles across many communication needs, from a personal biography to the description of your company.

Storytelling is a fundamental human tool that we all do innately. The problem is that over time, we’ve been bombarded with terrible examples of bad messaging, and we don’t know what models to look to. Our brains are wired for storytelling, because stories help us learn, explore, and retain information through second- and third-hand experiences. We know when we’re in the presence of a good story, but do we actually know what’s happening inside of them?

We can recognize when we’re captivated by a great story. The problem is, can you dissect what’s happening into tools you can use to your advantage later?

Stories are innately human. Everyone is a born storyteller.

Case in point: when you recount events that you’ve done, even a simple sentence as you walk through the door, you’re setting up a basic story structure:

“You won’t believe what just happened — first I went to the grocery store, then…” — your ears prick up.

You’ve set up the most basic form of a story: do you know what it is?

Here’s another example —

“The beach was dark and quiet. It was eerie — the moon was dark and someone had turned off all the lights on the boardwalk. Alison felt uneasy as she stepped nervously out into the dark. Who had turned out all the lights?”

Both of these examples use a very specific form of storytelling that we’re all hardwired to understand. Do you know what it is?

I’ll explain it today as we deconstruct storytelling. But first, I want to debunk a few myths about storytelling. Somehow we think that only an elite few can be storytellers, and it’s a skill that we don’t have.

personal brand storytelling

Part I: Common storytelling principles that apply to business and life.

1. Everyone is a storyteller.

Some people say that storytelling is limited to an elite few or a professional clique. In reality, that’s not true. All humans are born storytellers, and we are born to look for, hear, and describe our world in stories.

When someone comes back to us and says, “Avoid Atlantic Avenue, it’s crazy full of traffic,” we select a different route because we got information — in the form of a story — about someone else’s experience.

2. We tell stories to connect, dream and imagine.

We use storytelling to connect inwardly to ourselves, outwardly towards others, and to imagine futures. Humans spend up to four hours per day inside of imaginary landscapes — in daydreams, thoughts, visualizations, and places beyond the present. We live in a world of stories.

We use storytelling to connect inwardly to ourselves, outwardly towards others, and to imagine our futures.

Children are born telling stories — in fact, we play for exactly this reason. Playing is our built-in mode of imagining the future and the past. In telling stories, and playing make-believe, we’re able to learn at a much faster pace than if we had to rely only on our own experience.

We are learning creatures. We learn by experience and through our imagination. When something good happens to us, that’s a reward. When something bad happens, there’s a punishment. These incentives teach us over time.

In stories, we get to pick up and enter into the landscape of someone else’s learning — and learn for ourselves, even though we may be sitting in one place, not moving.

3. Stories are how we are hardwired.

Prior to written language, we had to keep important information about the world around us, somehow. We’ve constructed melodies, songs, and other modes of storing information.

Is it any coincidence that “storing” and “storytelling” are related? We are hardwired to remember cause and effect relationships — “I saw a spider, that spider killed my friend, spiders are bad.” “REMEMBER THIS!” Shouts your brain.

Lisa Cron’s research on the brain science behind storytelling is what prompted her book, Wired For Story, if you’re curious about how it works.

In research in The Storytelling Animal by Jonathan Gottfried, he talks about how we actually make up stories all the time, whenever we see two events happening.

If we see a group of women and they’re all wearing tiny shorts, we might tell as a story to ourselves about how they are all going to the beach. In research on people with their two brain hemispheres segmented or separated, they discover that our brains actually wire stories into our minds when presented two pieces of information.

4. A story is what you take with you.

In any situation or setting, a story is what you take with you.

When giving a presentation or sharing your brand or idea, what someone walks away with is the story. They’ve taken all the information they’ve been given and distilled it into the easiest parts to remember.

Listen to what people catch from your descriptions, and guide your story towards what people naturally keep bringing up!

A story is what you take with you. Listen to how people explain

It’s less about what you want to say, and what people do with what you say. Pay attention to what people respond to, and adjust accordingly.

5. We are surrounded by far too many examples of bad storytelling — powerpoints, inadequacy marketing, and droll presentations have numbed our innate ability to tell stories.

Unfortunately, we’re surrounded by terrible examples of storytelling. In The Story Wars by Jonah Sachs, he talks about all the sins of modern storytelling — from our need for vanity to posing as an authority, and more.

There are far too many bad examples out there — boring presentations, terrible pitches, inadequacy marketing — that we’ve forgotten what great storytelling looks like.

Basically, the last century of mass broadcasting let the leaders in charge of storytelling get lazy. There’s too much talking about yourself, not listening to the audience, and shouting lists. Technology (like powerpoint) even encourages bad storytelling by putting bullets and lists as the mode of operation.

The good news is that once we recognize the bad examples for what they are — boring presentations that put us to sleep — we can stop copying them and start engaging.

6. When you sell anything — yourself, a brand, a business — you tell a story.

When you sell things, you tell a story. It’s not about the thing at hand. And powerpoint lists are terrible ways of communicating.

When you sell things, you’re telling a story.

Think about a toothbrush. You’re not selling a plastic stick with a bunch of flexible bristles on it. Why describe it like that?

When you sell a toothbrush, you’re selling the idea of a cleaner mouth. Why is that clean mouth important?

Think about Listerine: you’re not selling a bottle of alcohol, you’re selling … a date.

The ability to be well-liked.

A possibility.

Advertisements are stories about who you are and who you should be, and great advertisements want to capitalize on something deeper than the physical thing that they are selling.

What do they believe about human nature? What story are they telling you, implied or otherwise?

7. We are naturally curious, and we all want to be smart.

Finding Nemo, the movie, is about a little guy who gets lost and needs to find his dad. Along the way, he goes on adventure after adventure in order to return home.

At the beginning of the movie, we, the audience, know the purpose of the whole movie within the first few minutes: this is a story about a father and son finding each other again.

The same is true in most situations. We interrupt because we want to get to the point faster. When presented with a puzzle, most people work furiously to get it right — first.

People like to be smart, and curious. Stories let us engage our curiosity.

We want to be smart. We like the puzzle of a story, and we want to guess how it will end. Stories entertain us because they keep us in suspense, and they tickle our brains to try to guess how something ends.

Part II: How to improve your business and personal storytelling today.

So how do you take all this and make it applicable to your stories and messages? Here are some concrete ways to improve your storytelling right now.

8. Your English teacher was right — it is about “showing” versus “telling.”

Too often we jump straight to the point. Think about each of these as lead sentences:

“It was the hardest day of my life.”

“The thing is, simplicity matters.”

“Never underestimate the power of a good friend.”

These are all true statements, but it’s not gripping or exciting. Whatever your core philosophical statement, think about leaving it unsaid.

Just like the toothbrush examples before, the point of your story isn’t to beat someone over the head with the idea, but rather to SHOW it through lots of vivid detail and an example that highlights your core philosophy.

We don’t need to be hit over the head with ideas. We want to learn through the experience.

For example —

[It was the hardest day of my life.] vs:

“I’d just finished a fourteen-hour shift in the cement factory. I had no idea what my dad did, so that summer I signed up to join him at work. Three days in, and I could barely lift my hands. My forearms burned, and my calves were shot from jumping in and out of the trucks. I’d probably lifted more than a hundred sacks of cement mix in and out of the truck. When I got home that day, all I wanted was to lie down. Then I discovered…”

[Never underestimate the power of a good friend.] vs:

“I’d just found out that my grandmother had passed, and I couldn’t make it home in time. My job had closed the week before, our office putting up the ‘for sale’ sign after more than eight months in the red. On the bus ride home through the foggy drizzle of Portland’s grey fall days, I wondered how I could pay for groceries for the rest of the week.

As I got off the bus, I saw someone sitting on my stoop. “Probably another homeless person,” I muttered to myself, thinking I’d be one soon myself. As I got closer, I saw that it was actually Andy, holding two bags of Indian food takeout. He wrapped me in a big hug. “I thought that you could use this today,” he explained, pointing to the food.

“Let’s eat.”

Words are the only vehicle someone has to understand your vision.

9. Detail, detail, detail. The environment matters — because it lays the foundation for imagination.

Words are the only vehicle someone has to understand your vision. The more you set the stage for where you are, the easier it is for someone to buy in.

Great storytelling is about detail — but a specific kind of detail. How do you set the stage and the context for what’s happening? What does it feel like to be you?

Stories immerse us in an event far away from where we are, catapulting us into a new time and space. Key descriptions anchor us into this new space through the use of all of the senses — smell, sight, touch, taste, sound, texture, even kinesthetics.

Begin by describing the world around you, in vivid sensory detail. The English language has thousands of words to describe the subtle differences in texture and weight and material. Tell the story of what the world looks like. Great fiction books often begin with these details — take a look at 1984 or Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance for great opening scenes.

With written narrative, all we have are words. Contrast this to film, where we can show rich detail through visual imagery. In our hyper-visual culture, we sometimes replace describing feelings with posting a quick picture, because it’s easier.

But in writing, all we have are words. Choosing words and describing the scene, in detail, is what brings someone into your story.

10. Introduce conflict — by using the “bait” method.

Here’s a secret about the human brain: we all like to be smart.

We like to figure things out, and know the answers to things. Whenever we are presented with a puzzle, we like seeing if we can figure it out before someone else does.

In storytelling, a great way to engage your audience is to add a teaser at the beginning.

In storytelling, a great way to engage your audience is to add a teaser at the beginning. By using a little bit of bait, you stoke the curiosity in your listener’s mind. Ira Glass talks about this often, and if you introduce a story with an underlying question (like “the house was eerily dark,” or “it was a different night than any other,”) the listener begins to wonder why it was so dark, or why the night was different.

This “curiosity gap” between a piece of information that asks a question, and the story that resolves the question, helps the reader stay engaged and curious about the story. A little bit of conflict introduces a puzzle to be fixed!

11. Shorter is often better. Keep it simple!

At the end of the day, a story is what you take with you — and we don’t remember every detail of every story, but rather, the highlights vividly.

When you’re presenting your idea, biography, or product, start with something short and sweet.

The idea of an elevator pitch is right, but with a twist. It’s not how much you can cram into 1 or 2 minutes, but how easy you can make something that’s understandable and sticky.

At a conference, if you babble and ramble when introducing yourself to people, they’ll forget most of what you said. If you string it into a story, and you keep it simple, people will be able to take that with you.

You don’t need to get all the perfect information into one sentence; in fact, being imperfect can prompt likability and curiosity!

A quick and easy test for how good your story is is to listen in to what’s being said.

Introduce yourself to someone, and then listen to when they introduce you. I’ll often keep it simple — I focus on writing and swimming. I’ll say, “I work as a writer; I teach writing, and I’m also an open-water swimmer.”

Then, when I’m being introduced, Clay leans over and grabs his friend and says, “You gotta meet Sarah, she’s a swimmer!” — I listen to what people hang on to, and what captivates them.

I can’t possibly capture everything about myself (or my business) in a single sentence. But what I can do is find the most interesting part, and start there.

Conclusions and takeaways: journaling and practice.

What did you take away from this introduction to storytelling?

How can you change your story to make it sweeter, simpler, and easier to understand? Is there anything you’re still curious about? Leave a note in the comments, and I’ll be happy to chat with you.

Here are a few ways to take your work forward in your journal and practice:

  1. Practice: how can you write a one-sentence description of who you are that’s super simple? What three keywords or nouns would you use to describe you? Think of it as a gift to your audience — the less you say, the more they can remember.
  2. Writing exercise: describe your environment, in vivid detail. What is the shape of the space that you are in? What does it smell like, taste like, sound like?
  3. Bookmark 10 great “About” pages that you love and highlight what stands out to you. What techniques and styles are used that you particularly admire?
  4. Take a quick look at your email inbox (but don’t get lost in it!). Take a screenshot of your inbox and print it out. Highlight what’s already been read, and what you’ve skipped. Are there any themes? Look at what you click — which email titles are stories? Which ones are boring? What do you skip over? Your inbox is a great case-study for clues to how storytelling works in your everyday life.

Great storytelling, just like anything else, is a learning journey. The best stand-up comics practice their material dozens (if not hundreds) of times to learn what works best.

And remember: a story is what happens between two people. So get out there, practice your story, and use each experience to get a little bit better.

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7 Fool-Proof Tips Of Firing Up Your Writing Speed Today

By Posted on 4 min read 15 views

Do you want to write a great blog post or email in half the time without losing quality – and perhaps even making it better in the procedure?

Here’s how:

1: Create an outline. Your outline is your plan, plus it is going to make your entire task easier for 3 reasons:

a) Having a plan diffuses procrastination. When we look at a project our mind tells us it is big – too big. This causes stress, which makes us want to avoid the entire thing. By having a plan, we can break the writing down into manageable, stress-free steps.

b) Having a plan keeps you from wandering off topic. In case you’ve a simple outline to follow, it is just a matter of filling out each section of the outline. But with no plan, you can waste a lot of time writing about things that in the end do not even pertain to your main topic.

c) It makes research super easy. After you have an outline, researching can be as simple as Googling each item in your outline. With no plan, your research can lead you into never-ending time-wasting circles.

2: Once you have got your outline, set it aside for an hour or a day and let it bake in your brain.

By setting it aside, you can let your mind focus on something else. Meanwhile, your subconscious continues to be working on that outline. You will be surprised by what your subconscious gives you. All of a sudden you will realize you left out the most important part, or you also have found a far better way to illustrate your main point.

3: Write every day. Writing, just like anything else, is a skill. The more you do it, the better and faster you’ll get.

Write even when you do not ‘fee’ like it. As Stephen King has said, “Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration. The rest of us just get up and go to work.”

Or as another writer stated, “I wait for inspiration to strike. Fortunately for me, it strikes every day at 9 am.”

Even in the event you absolutely, positively DON’T want to write, tell yourself you are going to write for just 15 minutes. Then start writing. You can write anything – anything at all – but you need to write. Pretty soon you will be working on your project and wondering why you were feeling such resistance to something you actually enjoy.

4: Use deadlines in your favour. With no deadline, there’s absolutely no stress. With no stress, your brain puts off the task of writing for later. After all, writing takes brain power, effort, thinking and decision-making – things your brain would rather put off until later. Or never.

However, when you’ve a deadline, you’re stressed to get the job done. The closer the deadline, the more stress. To relieve the stress, you have got to get busy. Now your brain is telling you to, “Write right now!”

If self-imposed deadlines work for you, then you certainly know what to do. If not,you’re going to need to find a way to get others to hold you accountable for your deadlines. As an example, telling your blog readers that your next post goes live on Tuesday at 10 am PST should work nicely.

No blog readers yet? Have a friend hold you accountable. Should you not make your deadline, you owe them dinner.

5: Focus on the “feel goods.” Back when I had a regular job, I loved my days off. I especially loved them when I knew well in advance they were coming.

But if I found out that morning that I was not working, then half the joy of having time off was gone. There was no anticipation. No looking forward to that day off. Frankly, I felt ripped off if I did not know I was not working until that same morning.

It’s possible for you to use this knowledge to self-motivate yourself. Think about how great it is going to feel to hit publish or send. Think about closing the file and doing whatever you love as a reward. Think about the accolades you will receive for finishing the project, or the money you will earn, or whatever it is that motivates you to keep working until you are done.

6: Turn off the internet. Some folks, me included, tend to get distracted by the internet. We think we are going to ‘sneak off’ for 5 minutes to check Reddit, and an hour later we still have not gotten back to work.

So whenever possible, just disconnect your wifi. Turn off your cell phone. Remove anything else that tends to distract you. And then go to work.

7: Speed up your typing. In the event that you are not able to type at least 50 words per minute, maybe it is time you improved your typing skills.

It is difficult when your thoughts are coming faster than your fingers can tap them out. However, you’ve options:

– Type faster. There are lots of free and paid courses online that can teach you the way to touch type faster.

– Use a voice to text program for example Dragon Naturally.

– Record yourself and have it transcribed.

Writing by itself is not hard. It is all of the baggage we attach to it that makes it difficult. But if you’re able to imagine writing as simply assembling the pieces to a puzzle, you will do it much better and faster.

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