I have come to believe that stories are the only indestructible things we have as human beings. A thought or idea is nearly as indestructible but a story has that extra oomph that wills itself to live on and on. It is for this reason that I liken a good story to legacy; something of value that is handed down from generation to generation.
For those of us that dare to think we can change the world, there is a singular common thread that joins us together, we can imagine a better story. Martin Luther King called these invisible, connective threads “a dream”, but in fact, it was the story he told over and over again that resonated in the hearts and minds of the people. It was a story we all love. One of hope, perseverance and triumph against insurmountable odds.
All great leaders are born from great atrocities, imbalances or injustices whether they be persecution, oppression, tyranny or war. For this reason, I love working with entrepreneurs. Often they have experienced an imbalance or injustice and feel driven to overcome it. At some point on their journey, they come to realize that the burning drive they possess deep inside comes less from a desire for money and more from a desire for change.
It is my job to catch a glimpse of this kernel of truth and weave it into your story, crafting your words from a deep understanding of who you are and what makes you tick. If this makes you nervous or excited, we’re already on the correct path.
Parables, religious texts, myths and fables have lived on for as long as we have recorded history of mankind. The characters names may change, features may be different, but the heart and soul of a good story never dies, nor do we tire of repeating or hearing it over and over again. Hollywood knows this and so do many great authors.
But what about style?
When we talk style I am reminded of Charles Schwab. Man that guy has style! One of my favorite stories from Schwab was an excerpt about his management style. With but a piece of chalk and 5 minutes of time, he doubled production at one of his milling factories in just a week. What was the secret? His story was a simple “choose your own adventure” with a visual assist.
By having a deep understanding of human nature, Schwab was able to up production by saying very little and simply asking his manager to draw the number of units that nights shift was able to produce. When the morning crew came in, they asked what the number meant. All the manager knew was that “the boss” had asked him to write it down and write theirs down too at the end of their shift. From there both shifts (and the manager) made up a story about what might happen if one shift produced less than the other and what that might mean for them. The rest is history.
In this way, stories do not have to include a volume of words. They can be told with visuals and sometimes it is more powerful to do so. Seth Godin is another fan of this type of storytelling. Yes, he writes but he also takes away elements you would normally expect in order to draw you in. Who actually wants to see the monster in a horror movie? Some things are just better left to the imagination!
A story has a thousand ways of being told. It can be long and threaded like the epic tale of Homer’s Odyssey , a short and poignant verse reminiscent of Emily Dickenson, a bit of punchy prose in classic Hunter S. Thompson style or perhaps a meaningful metaphor comparable to one of Abraham Lincoln’s speeches. A great story crafter will take into consideration your personal style, what your audience desires and marry your thoughts, hopes and dreams with the words that transforms your reader. Do you remember being teleported by reading a great book as a child? That is what a great story will do for your reader. It will teleport them into your world and cause a permanent connection, forever changing them and hopefully, leave them wanting more. This is how raving fans are made and loyal customers are born.
How long should it be?
This is my favorite question and the infuriating answer is, as long as it needs to be. In general, it is much harder to write succinctly and is often regarded as the mark of a skilled story-crafter to be able to say more with less. I could blather and prattle on for hours while keeping you entertained but when the goal is more than mere entertainment, getting to the point and causing an action or transformation in the reader is how I distinguish myself. Here’s an example of what I mean. I’m going to say all that above in once sentence. Ready? Here we go!
“If a great idea could only be expressed by filling pages with words, then commercials, ads, quotes and sayings would cease to be of any importance.”
Let’s say it now with less…
“If it can’t be said in a sentence, is it worth saying at all?”
And now even less…
“Simplicity Speaks Volumes”
I do not mean to imply that there is no room for voluminous text. As you can see, my personal style is verbose and filled with examples, metaphor and prose. I like to talk, type and write. I like to say a thing 50 different ways. It works for me but not for everyone or every situation.
Writing Credit & Ghostwriting
Credit is a big deal for writers. Credit is like currency. It’s less about ego and more about being recognized as the originator of a thing. It is for this reason that ghostwriting (the service of writing under a Non Disclosure Agreement and crediting someone else with the work) is more expensive as a service. I absolutely love to ghostwrite for people but yes, I am going to charge a lot more for that service. Why? Because if you hire me as a ghostwriter it is highly unlikely that you will pass me any referrals, nor will I get credit for the work!
Think about it. If you hire me to say, ghostwrite that book you just could never sit down and write, how likely are you to admit TO ANYONE that you had someone write it for you? Not likely at all. You will likely take that and my services to your grave, and that’s ok. I totally get it. You are just going to pay more for that kind of service. To make any service into a ghostwriting project, just add %25 to the cost.
That being said, ghostwriting is super fun for me and very freeing. When I write in the name of someone else, using their words, thoughts, hopes, ideas and dreams, I am free to really become someone else for a time. I can put down my biases and truths, wash off my opinions and walk in someone else’s shoes for a time. It’s a lovely experience and a value it greatly.
My process is to “pull” your story from you. I usually do this by recording interview style conversations with you that I then transcribe and weave together to produce your book, story, article etc. It is during this process that I get to know you, get a feel for how you speak and think, what you care about and what drives you. The words I write are your words, often direct quotes mixed with a bit of connective wording. It really is you and your story. I am simply the vehicle you drive to get there.
It is a collaborative effort when it’s at its best but I can take scant thoughts and ideas and transform them into an entire piece. It’s up to you how much time, material and energy you want to put into the process. The more you allow me to extrude, the better your material will be. The less you give me the more it will sound like me. Again, it’s completely up to you.
For normal writing projects I expect to have permission to pull samples of the work and post them here on my site to serve as examples of my writing. If I wish to attribute your name and company to the sample online, I will always seek your permission first. You do not to attribute my name to the work and can post whomever you like as the author, but I reserve the right to show that writing to potential customers to help me sell writing services.
If you have worked with me in the past you likely know that I have dyslexia. In my early life I thought this meant that I could never be a writer. I would struggle and often break down crying when part of the grade on a paper was to hand write a paper without any technical (spelling or grammatical) errors. It just was not possible for me. I transpose numbers, leave out letters and switch entire syllables around.
This never bothered me when I read things as it can many people with dyslexia. My brain just reads it back to me correctly no matter what my eyes see. It’s the actual writing itself that stops me in my tracks. I just can’t see it. I cannot for the life of me see a transposed letter or even a typo where a random letter is added. My brain just skips over it.
So, you can imagine my relief when the magic of word processing and spellcheck was invented. Problem solved…almost. Unfortunately, spellcheck is not yet advanced enough to always differentiate a “for” from a “fro” nor a “that” from a “hat”. I recently sent out a newsletter with a heading including the word “Garndeners”. That word is supposed to be “Gardeners” for those non dyslexics in the room. It looked fine to me even on the third pass, so I sent it without another thought. Oops.
About 5 years ago, when I first began to start writing professionally I ran headfirst into that issue agian. To overcome it, I turned to proofreaders and made it a strength rather than a weakness. I included “professional proofreading” as part of my package deal and no, you could not buy my services without it (and still can’t) but even this does not stop people from noticing this bizarre and sometimes infuriating handicap.
When you hire me, I will send you emails with strange words and spellings, I will text you words that are backwards and yes, it happens more the longer I write or more tired I get. That’s just the way it is. So if you can’t get past the fact that my drafts will be riddled with typos and simply trust that the end product will be professionally proofread and error free, then we are not a match you and me!
If you instead value superb writing, creativity, storytelling and persuasive content, and we can leave the polish to the proofreaders (where it belongs in my humble opinion) we can produce amazing content over and over again for as long as you wish.
How long does it take to write a book?
This is another fun question I get. This time I can answer a little better than the “length” question. For most books it takes anywhere from 4 weeks to 3 months. It can take longer if we discover more in the interviews or the book requires many revisions. Revisions are not a problem and usually I stick to three. A rough first draft. A second draft where we hone the content, remove any glaring errors in understanding or omissions and them a third pass to sprinkle some magic on top of the muffin if you will.
For technical books the length is dependent on my understanding and familiarity with your subject matter and how much information you provide me vs how much you want me to research on my own. I write technical sales books and industry specific papers best when you pair me with an expert so I may pick their brain. Give me an expert and I’ll give you amazing internal or external sales material in whatever format you would like.