Connecting the Dots

woman-1594711_1920 (2)I’ve noticed that women and men often have different ways of thinking and communicating. Sometimes my husband, who has years of practice listening to me and exploring how I think, doesn’t understand how I got from Point A to Point B in what I’m saying, whereas a female friend who has known me for only a fraction of that time sees the connections between my ideas immediately without my explaining them. By the way, my husband says he doesn’t have any problem understanding other men!

woman-1594711_1920 (4)Those shared connections between ideas may be hardwired in female and male brains or they may be learned through cultural interactions, but they definitely make communication easier.

When we write, we should assume that our readers don’t automatically understand how we think. Therefore, we must “translate” our thoughts and ideas into words they will understand, so they can conceptualize what it is we’re thinking.  We usually are clear in our own minds about how and why our ideas move from one thought to another, and that movement from point to point is logical to us, at least on a subconscious level. However, we can help our readers when we connect our ideas purposefully through transitions. These transitions often appear between paragraphs, but they can also be placed between sentences. In the previous sentence I used a simple connector by repeating a key word from the sentence before it: “these transitions.” The repeated key word keeps the readers on track and gives them a clue about the emphasis of the current sentence.

Besides repeating a key word or phrase, there are a slew of other transition options. You can choose words that communicate addition, comparison, contrast, time, purpose, place, result, summary, example, emphasis, etc. The idea behind transitions is to provide links between your ideas for the readers who can’t automatically know what you’re thinking.

Here’s a sampling of transitional words and phrases you could use to clarify the connections in your writing.

Transition Words

When I’m working with writers as their editor, I’ll often ask them, “Why does a particular idea/paragraph follow the one before it?” Once they’ve explained their thinking, I can help them find the transitional word, phrase, or sentence to make that movement from one idea to the next apparent to the reader. If an author’s reasons for ordering ideas are spelled out in the piece of writing, the reader can concentrate on the content of those ideas without having to play “translator” as well.

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Capture the Imagination

man-851319_1920Good writing captures the imagination of the reader, grabs and holds his attention, compels her to keep reading. It creates interest and makes her care about the story, the people, the problem, or theme. It affects him deeply, almost spiritually, as if the reader does not have the option of putting down the book, the article, or the essay. She must keep reading. He has to find out what happens next. She wants to know the outcome. He is hooked.

The same is true of any form of communication: television commercials, sitcoms, and movies; micro fiction, short stories, and novels; essays and narrative nonfiction; poetry and songs; speeches and sermons. When done well, it latches onto something inside the mind or the soul of the hearer, viewer, or reader.

This happened to me the first time I read Longfellow’s Evangeline. My wife had recommended it, so I picked it up at a used book store and sat down on the sofa to read on my day off. From the opening, I was hooked. The opening lines from the first page: THIS is the forest primeval. The murmuring pines and the hemlocks, Bearded with moss, and in garments green, indistinct in the twilight (Longfellow, 95).

The story line, the language, the imagery, and the human pathos captivated me. I read the entire story that day, tears in my eyes several times. Being a guy who has always preferred nonfiction, that was the first time I was genuinely moved emotionally by a piece of fiction. I didn’t know how to process my own reaction.

Business communications consultant Milo Frank says, “The attention span of the average individual is 30 seconds. Let me give you an example. Look around the room and concentrate on a lamp. You’ll find your mind goes to something else within 30 seconds. If the lamp could move or talk, or go on and off by itself, it would recapture your attention for another 30 seconds. But without motion or change, it cannot hold you” (Frank, 15).

It is for this reason that William Zinsser writes in his chapter titled “The Lead and the Ending,” The most importance sentence in any article is the first one. If it doesn’t induce the reader to proceed to the second sentence, your article is dead. And if the second sentence doesn’t induce him to continue to the third sentence, it’s equally dead. Of such a progression of sentences, each tugging the reader forward until he is hooked, a writer constructs that fateful unit, the “lead” (Zinsser, 55).

If this is true, writers who want their stuff to be read will use a variety of means to hook and maintain the reader’s attention throughout the work, not just at the beginning. Because his mind can only focus for thirty seconds, every word, every sentence, and every paragraph has to reengage the reader, reconnecting him to the story for another half-minute. There has to be motion, change, something of interest. Even in non-fiction. Otherwise, the average reader will set aside your piece and find something more fascinating.

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So You Want to Sell Your Books?

In a recent post in the Nonfiction Authors Association, Stephanie Chandler discusses what it takes to actually sell your book once it is published. The truth is that some authors spend a lot of time writing the book, then assume that the hard work is over. NOT TRUE! You might want to take some time to read her article. You can find it at:

https://nonfictionauthorsassociation.com/how-many-books-can-you-expect-to-sell-the-truth-about-book-sales-and-the-keys-to-generating-income-from-publishing/

There are some steps you can take to increase your sales, however.

  1. Develop your Platform: Your platform is a combination of your friends and followers on social media, any organizations or clubs you are active in, and your mailing list. Basically, a platform is the way people know about you and find out about you and your books.
  2. Post about Your Book on Social Media: Now that you have a book in print, at least once a week, say something about it on your various online outlets.
  3. Create a Blog: When you write a blog you have an opportunity to create Tags and Categories that people can find when they search for your topics.
  4. Start Asking for Speaking Engagements. According to Stephanie Chandler, Being an author makes you an instant authority. Use your book to help you land speaking engagements, where you can sell books at the back of the room. Use it to impress potential consulting or coaching clients. Use it to show your credibility for teaching in-person or online classes. Another option: write more books. Each book you publish builds your “back list,” and those sales build on each other. Let your book be your credibility-builder, while you cultivate a loyal tribe and build a thriving business. When you do the work, book sales will follow, and so will other opportunities. But it takes time and persistence. Focus on the long-term effort involved, and how your book can make an impact on the world. This can be a fun and rewarding journey when you shift your perspective and set your expectations accordingly.
  5. Develop a Marketing Plan. You don’t have to spend thousands of dollars, but you do need to come up with a list of ways you can get the word out about you and your book. Let people know about what you do and what you write.
  6. Enter a Writing Contest: You never know what might result from doing this. If you win, people take notice of you. If you don’t win, you’ll learn and grow from the process and get better, maybe even make some friends and improve your networking.
  7. Most importantly, Don’t Give Up: Keep on writing, and continue growing as a writer. Consider joining a writers association or workshop. Read books about writing skills and the writing life. Do you remember who won the race between the Tortoise and the Hare?

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Brand New Business

Ladies & Gentlemen:

Paul & Linda Linzey are creating a new entity called P&L Publishing & Literary Services. Their goal is to help writers by offering outstanding formatting and editing services.

Whether you’re working on a novel, a nonfiction book, or an academic dissertation, Paul & Linda can help you put the finishing touches on your writing, so it is ready to publish.

It’s important to understand that more than 90% of all print books are published by Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), which is Amazon’s publishing firm. Since that’s where most authors are self publishing their books, that’s the platform we have chosen to format books for.

Simply stated, you send us your manuscript, and we’ll format it and upload into KDP for you. Done in about two days!

Linda was an editor for a major publisher for over five years, and then a university literature and writing professor, with a Ph.D. in British & American Literature. She also has a lot of experience in drama and oral interpretation, which lends itself to guiding and mentoring writers. She is an expert in story development, editing, writing style, and what it takes to communicate effectively. You can trust her expertise even when you’re planning to submit your book to an agent or a traditional publisher.

Paul has a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing. He has authored two books, dozens of freelance articles, and served as an editor for two compilations. He has been a featured speaker at several writers conferences, and is trained and certified as a mentor.

They’ve put together a staff of trained, experienced, authors and mentors who are certified and available at low cost to provide a fantastic publishing experience.