I’m excited to see more from this company
Right now a petition is circulating around Austin fighting for deregulation so folks can live in tin
— Brent Weeks (via victoriousvocabulary)
— Robin Sharma (via explore-everywhere)
Indoor swimming pool, Catskills, NY. © 2014 Adam Salberg
Source: ars-one (reddit)
2. If both pencils break, you can do a rough sharpening job with a nail file of the metal or glass type.
3. Take something to write on. Paper is good. In a pinch, pieces of wood or your arm will do.
4. If you’re using a computer, always safeguard new text with a memory stick.
5. Do back exercises. Pain is distracting.
6. Hold the reader’s attention. (This is likely to work better if you can hold your own.) But you don’t know who the reader is, so it’s like shooting fish with a slingshot in the dark. What fascinates A will bore the pants off B.
7. You most likely need a thesaurus, a rudimentary grammar book, and a grip on reality. This latter means: there’s no free lunch. Writing is work. It’s also gambling. You don’t get a pension plan. Other people can help you a bit, but essentially you’re on your own. Nobody is making you do this: you chose it, so don’t whine.
8. You can never read your own book with the innocent anticipation that comes with that first delicious page of a new book, because you wrote the thing. You’ve been backstage. You’ve seen how the rabbits were smuggled into the hat. Therefore ask a reading friend or two to look at it before you give it to anyone in the publishing business. This friend should not be someone with whom you have a romantic relationship, unless you want to break up.
9. Don’t sit down in the middle of the woods. If you’re lost in the plot or blocked, retrace your steps to where you went wrong. Then take the other road. And/or change the person. Change the tense. Change the opening page.
10. Prayer might work. Or reading something else. Or a constant visualization of the holy grail that is the finished, published version of your resplendent book."
— Margaret Atwood’s Ten Rules for Writing Fiction (via tenstrangecats)
"You want to photograph me eating chicken?"
"Well, if I let you, I need you to help me deliver a message."
"I work at this library. And before that, I was coming here for twenty years. It’s my favorite place in the world. As many people know, the main reading room of this library is supported by seven floors of books, which contain one of the greatest research collections in the world. Recently, the library administration has decided to rip out this collection, send the books to New Jersey, and use the space for a lending library. As part of the consolidation, they are going to close down the Mid-Manhattan Library Branch as well as the Science, Industry, and Business Library. When everything is finished, one of the greatest research libraries in the world will become a glorified internet cafe. Now read that back to me."
5 WAYS TO WRITE A DAMN GOOD SENTENCE:
More than mastering freshman English
“The skill it takes to produce a sentence,” Stanley Fish said, “the skill of lining events, actions, and objects in a strict logic — is also the skill of creating a world.” In other words, sentences are the engines of creativity.
Take this sentence for instance: “Moses fed his muffuletta to the woolly mammoth.”
There is a mountain of meaning buried in those eight words. Sure, change the sequence and you change the meaning, but as long as you don’t screw with that framework, people will stay with you (unlike the misguided James Joyce).
But as a copywriter it’s not just about mastering freshman English. There’s more to it. Eugene Schwartz has the answer:
No sentence can be effective if it contains facts alone. It must also contain emotion, image, logic, and promise.
Here’s a great example: “Baby shoes: for sale, never worn.”
That’s Ernest Hemingway, and that little six-word story is possibly his best (his own estimation, not mine). Why? It’s a story selling a pair of shoes … shoes with an intense emotional connotation.
See, your sentences don’t have to say much. They just have to say the right things. Our imaginations will fill in the blanks.
So, when you are trying to get people to respond to your requests, subscribe to your email newsletter, or donate to your cause … you need to write seductive sentences, and you need to do it naturally.
Here’s how it’s done.
1. Insert facts
This is nothing more than basic subject and verb agreement: “Moses ate a muffaletta.” Logical and consistent. The building blocks of a story.
You insert facts by thinking through the 5 Ws: Who, What, When, Where, Why. Think specific and concrete, but how you say it matters, too.
Compare “On the first day of winter Moses fed his muffuletta to the woolly mammoth” to “On the last day of winter Moses fed his muffuletta to the woolly mammoth.” The significance is heightened in the first sentence, minimized in the second. All by one word.
And notice how your sympathies change when I write, “On the first day of winter, Moses fed his muffuletta to the three-day old woolly mammoth.”
Those new facts heighten the emotional appeal of that simple story. It’s the same sort of feeling you get when you read “Baby shoes: for sale, never used.”
2. Create images
It’s not a coincidence that the root of “imagination” is “image.”
Imagination is the capacity for people to see the world you are trying to paint. Intelligent people like to use their imagination. Don’t insult their intelligence by over-explaining, but also don’t abuse their intelligence by starving it.
Use active verbs and concrete nouns and you will naturally create images. “The buzzard bled.” Introduce one, two, or all of the five senses (sight, smell, touch, taste, and sound), and you’ll enhance those images: “The screaming buzzard bled.”
Use phrases like “imagine this” or “picture this” to signal to your reader you are about to paint a picture. That’s how I opened up the 10 Productivity Tips from a Blue-Collar Genius:
Imagine a fifty-something man in a blue long-sleeve shirt, the cuffs unbuttoned, his knuckles thick and coarse. He’s on the side of the road, quibbling over a stack of used cinder blocks with a merchant.
In those two sentences you learn the color of the shirt, the state of the cuffs, the condition of his knuckles. I tell you where he is and what he is doing in concrete language.
I use very precise language to tell you what he was doing: he wasn’t talking, he was “quibbling.” Something entirely different than chatting.
3. Evoke emotion
You can naturally get mood into your sentences if you follow the two steps above, but as a copywriter you don’t want emotion to be an afterthought. You must carefully plan and manufacture emotion.
This starts by asking: what is the dominant mood of your reader or customer? What problem is he or she trying to solve? Is it fear over losing a job? A spouse? A scholarship? Pride of donating to a good cause? Joy for finally getting muscular definition in his calves?
You must know what keeps your ideal customer up at night. What makes him get up early? What are his hopes, dreams, and fears? And then you must insert that emotion into your sentences.
In a post introducing the benefits of our Authority membership site, I wrote:
How often are these little tragedies repeated in your life?
- You write something clever, but everyone ignores it.
- You hear about a new opportunity, but don’t pursue it because you don’t have the skills or confidence to attempt it.
- You get overlooked by everybody – including your boss – because the guy in the next cubicle seems to know everything about SEO, email marketing, or copywriting.
- You hear about all the new clients your peers are picking up … but none are showing up at your door.
I identified the relevant pain and agitated it so the solution was a no-brainer. In other words, if you can identify with those conditions, then the solution is probably a good thing for you.
But notice those four conditions are all about rejection. Yet I didn’t use the word “reject,” or a derivative, once. I didn’t tell you the emotion you should feel. I simplyshowed it to you. Big difference in the quality of writing.
4. Make Promises
But as a copywriter you aren’t merely interested in heightening people’s emotions for the sake of heightening emotions, otherwise you’d be a novelist or screenwriter. Entertainment is not a copywriter’s bread and butter.
Getting action is.
So, you need people to see hope in your sentences:
- What promises are you making to the reader in this sentence?
- What advantages will the reader gain?
- What pain will they avoid if they obey you?
In the opening to The Dirty Little Secret to Seducing Readers I wrote:
I’m guessing you want to write copy that sells. You want to write copy so irresistible it makes your readers scramble down the page — begging to do whatever it is you want when they’re done reading — whether it’s to make a purchase, send a donation, or join your newsletter.
The promise is that you can learn how to write in such a way people can’t resist your words. And that’s compelling for the right people.
5. Practice, practice, practice
Writing great sentences takes work.
At first it may feel mechanical, wooden. That’s okay. The goal is to get to a point where you unconsciously blend these elements so they feel natural in the sentence and can’t be pulled apart.
Sort of like when a golf instructor stops your swing to adjust your mechanics. That may feel mechanical and unnatural, but eventually your swing becomes natural and he stops interrupting you.
Here are some exercises to help you improve your sentence writing:
- Copy great sentences: Hand-write 100 great first sentences. Memorize portions of great sales letters. Dissect killer lines.
- Opening and closing paragraphs: It’s arduous to consciously think about each and every sentence you write in a 500-hundred word article. However, you can pour energy into every sentence inside the opening and closing paragraphs.
- Headlines: Your headlines won’t be complete sentences, but they offer you an opportunity to focus closely on what you are writing.
- Subject lines: Unlike headlines you can use your subject line in an unconventional way. Write complete, robust sentences. “Thought of you while I was at the steam bath.” Who’s not going to open that email up? Measure responses, adjust, and test more ideas.
- Tweets: Twitter is the perfect mechanism for perfecting your sentences. You are forced to say a lot in 140 characters. And you get feedback. People either respond — or they don’t. Check for retweets, favorites, and replies. And if you don’t get a response, try sharing it again.
lovemyluggage said: Hello! Found you via your promo on fixyourwritinghabits, and HOORAY! I have screenwriting aspirations but minimal idea about what on earth I'm attempting. Up to now I've been focusing on memoir & short story forms. Screenwriting is a thrilling step into the unknown for me. I'm excited to begin following your blog and learning more about what I think I want to try. So…where does one begin?
Hello lovely! You’ve definitely come to the right place. Any form of writing is a great place to start for screenwriting because first and foremost you're telling a story, so once you've got a feel for story telling you can start on learning the screenwriting format.
The BBC Writersroom is a fantastic starting point for getting your head around a screenplay. You can also check out The Script Lab for advice on things like Visual Storytelling and Top Ten Screenplay Essentials
The BBC Writersroom will take you through step by step, which is awesome if you’re looking to break into the screenwriting world.
If you’re looking specifically for screenwriting formats, I’d recommend the following sites:
Writersroom - Formatting your Script (this also includes lots of script examples, with a standard FILM SCRIPT, TELEVISION SCRIPT, RADIO SCRIPT, AND STAGE SCRIPT depending on the platform you’re writing for.)
SimplyScripts - This is a good website because it’s very indepth and specific about how exactly you should set out your screenplay, i.e what fonts to use and where your margins should be.
I have about 15 books on screenwriting but not all of them are useful (and to be honest, I haven’t even read them all yet). There are two books however that I dip into constantly for advice, although they are both very different from each other.
The first book is Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting by Syd Field and can be found on eBay new for around £9 (or around $18 in America) this book takes you right from the definition of a screenplay to what you should be doing when you finish. It covers plot, character, setting, formatting, adaptions, sequences, transitions, the lot. In fact, anything by this guy is worth your money.
The second book is Screenwriting by Tim Grierson. This one is useful in other ways. This is a book of screenplays and screenwriters, each chapter is a new screenwriter, and the pages will take you through how they did what they did. It’s very visual, which for me makes it much easier to read. I venture back into this book when I’m looking for new films to watch. You can find it on Amazon for £13 with free delivery (It was £20 when I bought it) or around $20 in America
Ultimately, my last and most important piece of advice is to read other screenplays. List your 10 favourite movies and then read the screenplays to them all. Personally, my favourite ever screenplay is Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction because I love the dialogue from beginning to end. Keep reading screenplays and then you’ll know for sure whether this is definitely want you want to do; if you read a screenplay and cannot picture the movie happening in your head, then maybe you need to consider other areas of writing. Otherwise, good luck! And let me know how you get on. I really hope this blog will be useful to you!
You don’t want to explain to the audience, because that makes them observers. You want to reveal to them little by little and that makes them participants because then they experience the story in the same way the characters experience it. - Bill Wittliff
— E.B. White (via journaling-junkie)