December 20, 2014

Writing techniques: Episode #1

SmallerIn this first podcast on remarkable writing techniques, I look at 4 things:

1. (Begins at 4:00 mins.) A simple but powerful writing technique that gets people to read and keep reading anything you write: How to create anticipation and suspense in your writing.

2. (Begins at 18:00 mins.) Why writing in recent years has become a very big deal. In the connected economy the opportunities for those who can write are astonishing. Never before have we seen these types of opportunities.

3. (Begins at 29: mins.)  ‘How to be an extremist.’ These are a few ideas from my upcoming course on writing like Seth Godin.

4. (Begins at 35:00 mins.) What to expect in future podcasts.

And here are some of the highlights:

1. Writing technique: Suspend the reader

(Begins at 4:00 mins.) Let’s talk about reader engagement. How do you get people to read any piece of writing? How do you pull them into your book, your blog, your pdf, or for that matter, your podcast? How can you get readers so involved that they really want to find out what you have to say? How do you ramp up reader engagement and get people to read from beginning to end of your piece?

Well, there’s a very simple technique for presenting information and creating that type of anticipation. So here it is: You ask questions but you delay the answers. You ask questions but you delay the answers. This is the secret to creating anticipation. It’s as simple as that. Posing the right questions in the right way will draw people in and an keep them on the edge of their seats.

It’s all about the questions. Human curiosity is an incredibly powerful thing. Look at how people can be led around by their noses on the web. Think about how people sit for hours helplessly following links that look interesting – even if they have no value whatsoever – simply because they’ve had their curiosity aroused.

And so, in your writing you can use your own questions to mobilize reader curiosity. Whether you pose the questions directly, like in non-fiction, or indirectly, as stories and novels, human curiosity may be the single most powerful thing the writer can use.

Ok, so questions. But what types of questions? Which ones are most effective? Well, although we’re mostly about non-fiction here, I want to look at two questions from the world of fiction. These two questions can create a very strong kind of anticipation that we call suspense. And so we’ll see how crime writers and writers of action novels create the most powerful effects of anticipation and suspense… [For more, listen to the podcast.]

Also, for more on suspense and for other techniques see David Lodge’s excellent The Art of Fiction: Illustrated from Classic and Modern Texts

2. Why writing is suddenly a very big deal

(Begins at 18: mins.) I have a message that I want to share with you and I want this message to sink in slowly so that you can meditate on it. This message is for anyone who wants to lead a more self-determined life, anyone who wants to build a personal brand, anyone who wants to take advantage of the the new reality – the reality of a connected world, a connected economy.

I’m not addressing people who necessarily see themselves as writers, but people who may not have realized how the transformation around us presents us with staggering new possibilities. And many of these possibilities grow out of the ability to write.

So here, in broad terms, is the point: The context for writing has shifted radically. The context for writing has shifted radically.

Writing in the professional sense used to mean writing business letters, memos, reports. It’s sad to say, but that was writing in the professional world. And it bores me to tears just thinking about it. Writing memos? That’s what writing was about? Yes. Talk about a lack of imagination. But what’s even more astonishing is that this is still how people think about writing in the professional context. It’s writing in the most limiting, stifling, nauseating, horrendous way. No wonder we rarely learned to write well.

But now the context has shifted radically. Now we write in ways and write for purposes that didn’t exist even five years ago. I know it’s a cliché but it’s true – we live in a new world, a new business world. It’s a world that has already been transformed. We just haven’t come to terms with what it all means. And of all of the characteristics of this new world of ours,  one is the elevated role that writing now plays in it.

Writing in that new context isn’t about how to format a memo or the etiquette of the business letter. The new writing is far bigger than that.

Because something has changed. Something big. And if we fail to see what’s happening, then we will fail to take the opportunities that the change can yield for us.

So, what is the big shift? What is it that changed? What happened?

Well, the platform is what happened. The platform. The platform. The platform… [For more, please listen to the podcast.]

 

3. How to be a writing extremist

Over a period of 6 months I studied Seth Godin’s writing in depth – the books, the blog, the articles, whole thing. (Now, by this I mean his writing, his writing techniques, rather than his ideas per se.) I think I may have become an expert on his writing style and technique.

And now I’ve built a short writing course around that. In the course, I’m going to give my take on how he does it – the secrets and the techniques behind his writing success.

So, here’s one short and simple insight from dozens that appear in the course: You have to be an extremist.

Ask most people about their impression of Seth Godin and they’ll tell you he’s a think-outside-the-box guy, a maverick, maybe even a kind of corporate malcontent. And to an extent, he is all of those things. But what I want you to understand is this: He’s way more radical than that. He’s an extremist. Not a political extremist, but a writing extremist.


In his book, Free Prize Inside, Godin explains the idea of ‘edgecraft’. Edgecraft is a way for marketers to get radical. Edgecraft is about finding and developing extreme qualities in your products and highlighting them over the bland. Because products that are just a little bit different and a little bit better than what already exists, are bland. And bland is never going to cut through the clutter that surrounds us to reach an audience. Bland is not on the edge.

But edgecraft, according to Seth Godin, goes beyond mere differentiation. It means going beyond the obvious to find what he calls the free prize inside the product, to uncover its purple cow quality. It’sa a practice that most definitely applies to good writing…[More in the podcast.]

4. Future podcasts

Here are some of the thngs you can expect to see in future Remarkable Writing Techniques podcasts:

– Techniques, techniques, techniques. That’s what you can expect. In each podcast I’ll be bringing you the most powerful writing techniques that I can find. I’ll present them in ways that are clear and simple and do not require grammar in the descriptions.

– A short course on the fundamentals of good writing – the basic stuff you have to know about writing. This will offer a logical starting point for anyone who has never assessed his/her own writing but would like to get more effective at it.  And I’ll do my best to make it interesting.

–  Expect a free e-book on the top ten techniques that helped me improve my writing. This is the result of three years instensive work. It condenses what I learned during those three years. The e-book will be out soon and I’ll be talking about it in future shows.

–  Another theme I want to look at is how to tell good writing from bad. Appreciation comes before production. You won’t go very far in writing until you learn to appreciate the good stuff. We’ll do a lot of work on appreciation, so that you will be able to distingusih good writing when you see it.

– The super writers. There are some truly excellent writers out there. I’ll be looking at techniques from people like Malcolm  Gladwell as well as from super writers from the past.

–  Super articles and books. From time to time I come across an article that is so pristine I just have to discuss it. Get ready for some imformative discissions from the very best sources and see how we will pull the best techniques out of them.

–  The greatest book titles of all time and what makes them so special.

–  Courses, tutorials, and so on.

So, I’m here to help you get better at writing, to work with you so that you can take advantage of the new opportuntiies on the platform the new opportunities that exist to create a personal brand or create new and exciting information products. Because common to all of those goals is the ability to write effectively.

So, what are you struggling with? Let me know what I can do to help.

Btw, the music in the podcasts is my own – I recorded it on Garage Band. (Hey, I told you it’s a new world out there.) I’m very interested in how music can be integrated with speech to make the experience more effective. I’ve also tried some other experiments in these podcasts. I may add separate links to the music in mp3s if anyone is interested.

Ken Carroll

 

 

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    Comments

    1. Tom "Wills" (Singapore) says:

      Great stuff! The podcast so far is rather good, isn’t it?

      Love the “dialog with yourself” format. Very original – never encountered that anywhere. And nice to see you back in play in the podcasting world, Ken. Looking forward to future episodes – I definitely value this type of learning and insight.

      Possible to put this up on iTunes (it may be there already, but I couldn’t locate it)

      Cheers,
      Tom

      • Ken Carroll says:

        Tom,

        Thanks so much for this. It’s very encouraging.

        Actually I plan to get a lot more original and do some unexpected things in the future. The sky is the limit with this stuff.

        I will put it on iTunes in a day or two.

        I appreciate the feedback.

        Ken

    2. Mark Woodworth, Ph.D. says:

      Congratulations, Ken, on this new project. I wish you the best and certain,y will subscribe.

    3. Dan says:

      Congratulations, Ken. I’ve always enjoyed your commentary on language and learning on CP. Its great to be able to listen to you again.

      Dan

      • Ken Carroll says:

        Thanks, Dan.

        I’ll be trying out some new and hopefully different ideas in the future. Feel free to keep the feedback coming.

        Ken

    4. Michael Butler says:

      This is frightfully good and very timely. Now, I can see why your voice disappeared for so long. You have obviously put a great deal of determined work into this. I love how the content and the way you express yourself are so in-synch. This has disruption written all over it!

      I hesitate to make suggestions because my guess is that you are already one step (or probably three steps) ahead of us. But, here goes….I would love it if you could offer up some “standard” prose pieces and then give us a chance to transform that prose using your technique(s) (with, of course, your suggestions on offer).

      • Ken Carroll says:

        Thanks, Michael.

        Yes, I took my time to develop the idea and see how I could disrupt and create value and some other things as well. Sometimes you just have to wait and let ideas work themselves out. I’m pretty sure now that this is the direction I will develop.

        I have plans to get ever more experimental. I’ve always hated doing the same thing twice. Luckily for me, the platform is like that. There really is endless potential for creative and disruptive ideas.

        Nor is there any shortage of bad writing around. I think it wouldn’t be that difficult to pick something and see how you could improve it. The problem I have is looking as if I’m picking on someone! We’ll come up with something, though.

        I really do appreciate your feedback. You know as much as I do in many of these areas. I’ve always respected your ideas. Please keep them coming.

        Ken

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