Write Your Novel In A Year - Week 51: Finding Your Identity And Power As A Novelist

Welcome to week 51 of Anthony's series that aims to help you write a novel in a year. Read last week's post here

Goal setting
  1. A bit more work on brand building
Breaking it down

Back to basics
Last week, we spoke a bit about your author brand. This week, I’d like to explore that a bit further.

A brand is the emotional relationship you have with your readers. As a writer, the more primal you can make this, the stronger the psychological bond will be with your audience.

Your brand is your identity as a writer and how that identity finds its way into every single one of your novels. If you want to make a career as a novelist, having a defined brand is one way to ensure you have longevity or ‘legs’ as a writer.

Someone like Nicholas Sparks has a strong author brand. You always know what you’re going to get with this author – powerful love stories, inspirational characters, and an emotionally involving story.

On the other hand, think of another iconic author like Bret Easton Ellis on the polar opposite of Nicholas Sparks – hip, nihilistic and violent stories told in a cool detached voice. Both have powerful brands.

There must be a personality, a strategy and, most important, a consistency and commonality to your brand. It’s the only way to stand out – and stay – in the market.

A single image, a powerful idea
Al Ries, a PR guru, writes that, ‘A brand is a singular idea or concept that you own inside the mind of the prospect.’  This is a good place to focus on your brand.

When you’re writing a novel, you often have an image or symbol that captures the theme or plot of the story. You can do the same for developing your brand. If you had to boil it down to just one image – what would it be?

For example, if you’re a writer of modern romance, you could have an image of a striking silhouette of a couple looking over a glittering city.  If you’re going for historical action and adventure, for example, you could perhaps see an embellished Viking cross as your symbol.

And then, as a next step, you can create a brand pay-off line. A unique and powerful sentence that captures who you are and what you write about.

If we go back to the writer of modern romance, your pay-off line could be, ‘Real characters, real passion – real love stories for lovers of contemporary romance.’ And for the historical writer, it could be, ‘Discover the bloodiest, bravest, boldest heroes of the Viking era.’ OK, not great – but you get the idea.

Be real
I don’t think you can fake or manufacture a brand identity.  Authenticity is key – because readers will know if you’re an imitator, they will know if you write your books from an honest place or not. The truth is you can only be yourself in your writing and your life.

I believe there’s true power in knowing yourself, of knowing your faults, your dreams, your aspiration … in fact, everything that makes you unique. The stories and scripts I’ve written that have been most successful always explore the themes that resonate with me: identity, sexuality, and obsession.

As Natasha Ilumberg, the great memoirist says, ‘I was born without mental eyelids.’

Timelock — 2 to 3 hours

Spend some time exploring your brand identity.

5 Quick Hacks
  1. Design or draw a logo for your brand as a writer.
  2. Try an experiment. Each day for a week, work on one of your potential brand ideas. Which one did you connect with the most?
  3. Write on a card. Write: My name is … and my brand is ….because …
  4. Write a profile of your ideal or perfect reader. Who is she? What does he want from your stories?
  5. Make strong decisions and be confident.
Pin it, quote it, believe it:

‘Innovate – don’t imitate.’ Anthony Ehlers

Look out for next week’s instalment of Write Your Novel In A Year!

 by Anthony Ehlers

If you want to learn how to write a book, join our Writers Write course in Johannesburg. 

If you enjoyed this post, read:

Write Your Novel In A Year: Week 50: Building Your Brand As An Author

Welcome to week 50 of Anthony's series that aims to help you write a novel in a year. Read last week's post here

Building Your Brand As An Author – Where Do You Start? 

Goal setting
  1. Create your author platform and brand.
Breaking it down
I was lucky enough to attend an author evening with the bestselling Australian ghostwriter and novelist, Michael Robotham. His advice to aspiring writers was to treat writing like a ‘passionate hobby’.  Great advice.

I think it keeps you focused on why you’re writing, rather than becoming obsessed with getting published. However, at some point, you have to treat writing as a career or even as a small business. And that means becoming more professional. Marketing yourself. Taking some time to understand what your brand is as an author.

You have to start acting like an author – how else will people take your seriously?
First readers
Finding first or beta readers for your novel is much like testing your product – like a focus group for a new lipstick or beer.  You want to get some feedback from a small group before you launch it to the world.

When looking for beta readers online, it’s important to find the right readers – readers who typically enjoy your genre. It’s no good inviting people who read Young Adult fiction to read your Action Adventure story.  There are quite a few platforms for beta readers online – so it’s worth doing some research before you go this route. Often it’s a good idea to start as a beta reader yourself – this will give you a better understanding of the process.

If this doesn’t strike you as a good idea – or if you’re a bit technophobic – then you can approach your writing group for a critique.  I have a handful of trusted friends who are also writers with whom I’d share my manuscript.

No writing group?  That’s not a problem. You could always show it to one trusted person – it may be your wife, your partner, an old school friend whose literary opinion you trust.  You’ll be in safer hands than a hundred anonymous readers.

My sister is a voracious reader and she’ll always offer an honest opinion. She may not know all the technical reasons a book doesn’t work, but she’ll be very clear about whether she enjoyed it or not. I probably value her opinion the most.

Your author platform
In the digital age, no writer can ignore social media.  It’s a must. If you haven’t done so already, you should register a domain name for your website. This should be in your writing name – so if you’re using a pseudonym, this is the name you should try to register.

You don’t have to create a website right away; all you have to do is ‘park’ this domain so that no one else grabs it when you become famous. Depending on your country, this is relatively inexpensive and easy process. 

At this point, you can also think about starting a Facebook author page separate from your private Facebook account, as well as creating a specific Twitter handle. You don’t have to be on every social media platform – so think about the platforms that will suit your genre.  For example, Young Adult novelists will probably do well on Instagram, while women’s fiction may lend itself to Pinterest. 

It’s probably a good idea to invest in some really nice pictures of yourself for your social media and PR.  A selfie or a picture of you in shorts and t-shirt at the beach are probably not the best images you wish to portray.  Choose something that reflects your personality and the type of fiction you write.

You don’t need to hire a professional photographer and spend a lot of money. A friend with a good eye and a decent smartphone could probably do the job.  And your pictures don’t have to be posed and artificial – they can be relaxed, but professional. 

For example, I love the pictures that Nora Roberts used on some of her J.D. Robb hardcovers — the author is walking across a bridge in New York at night, in jeans and a leather coat. It gives the edgy crime flavour that comes across in these detective stories.
Build your brand, reveal your personality
I know that some of you may shudder and grimace when people tell you that an author has to become a brand. I know. I used to be one of them. ‘Brand’ sounds so cold, commercial, and even a bit artificial.

You’re not a bottle of cola or a new watch; you’re an artist, right? Yes, you are – but even artists have a persona, a face they show the world. Picasso, more myth than man, was probably the best PR for his art – his personality and private life was almost as colourful as his art.

Thomas Pynchon, literature’s most famous recluse, is also making a bold statement about who he is and what he writes by not revealing his hand.

So … don’t think of it as a brand. Rather, think of it a bridge between you and your readers. You want to invite them into your fictional world and give them a snapshot of who you are as a writer – in the digital world, writers and readers have never been closer. Use that to your advantage.

Having a clear brand is a way to introduce yourself and your books to your readers. You want to invite them in; not shut them out.

Picture your ideal reader in your mind. What would they like to know about your books? What genre do you write in? What is the promise you’re making to them when they pick up one of your books? What inspired you to write your books? 

For me, branding isn’t about selling books. That’s far too blatant. It’s about It’s about making an emotional connection between the reader and the author – creating trust, intimacy, and a shared value or belief. Fans love strong personalities; they love quirks, humour, boldness.

Timelock — 3 to 5 hours

Spend a couple of hours creating your action plan for your author brand and platform.

5 Quick Hacks
  1. Draw up your Facebook page or website on a piece of cardboard, using sticky notes or cut-outs from magazines. Make it as visual as possible.
  2. Write a press release announcing yourself as an author and your new book just for fun. Get over your shyness about talking about yourself.
  3. Find five author websites you like. What do they have in common? Why do you like them?
  4. Speak to design students or photographers looking to create a portfolio of work. Often they’ll be willing to help you for a smaller fee than professionals.
  5. Write out five ideas for blog topics if you’re going to have a blog on your website.
Pin it, quote it, believe it:

‘Be so good they can’t ignore you!’ — Steve Martin

Look out for next week’s instalment of Write Your Novel In A Year!

 by Anthony Ehlers

If you want to learn how to write a book, join our Writers Write course in Johannesburg. 

If you enjoyed this post, read:
  1. Write Your Novel In A Year - Week 49: Why Writing ‘The End’ Is Not Goodbye (Yet)
  2. Write Your Novel In A Year - Week 48: 5 Elements You Need In Chapter One To Hook Your Reader
  3. Write Your Novel In A Year: Week 47: 3 Secrets to Successfully Submitting Your Manuscript

~~~

Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. Writers Write - Write to communicate.

The Amazingly Simple Anatomy Of A Meaningful Marketing Story

Doing business without storytelling is like going hiking without a bottle of water. You will waste a lot of time trying to find something to drink before you can concentrate on what you want to achieve. 

In business, we need to find a personal story that will appeal to our customers to make them remember us and our products.

We need stories to help us make sense of the world. We are more likely to remember a story than a statistic. Stories give us something to relate to and identify with. Whether we are writing a blog post or giving a speech, we are more likely to to be remembered if we tell a story.

Mother Teresa said: 'If I look at the mass I will never act. If I look at the one, I will.' We are horrified when we are told that 5 000 people died in an earthquake, but it becomes real for us when we are told the story of somebody who lived through the experience.

Human beings have always embraced stories. Legends, fables, and myths, including the many religious texts, give meaning to our existence. Stories teach lessons, inspire us, and show us how to do things and to cope with life.

The infographic from Copyblogger illustrates the anatomy of a business story. Our post, 7 Points You Need To Write A Story For Your Business, will help you to flesh this out.

If you tell the right story, you can entertain, enlighten, and persuade your audience in a few minutes.

    If you want to improve your business writing skills, join us for The Plain Language Programme. Email news@writerswrite.co.za for details.

       by Amanda Patterson. Follow her on  Pinterest,  Facebook,  Google+,  Tumblr  and Twitter. 

       If you enjoyed this article, read these posts:
      1. 7 Points You Need To Build A Story For Your Business
      2. Storytelling for Business - 12 Tips For Better Business Writing
      3. 93 Extremely Bad Business Writing Habits to Break
      4. Persuasive Writing Brainstormer Template

      ~~~

      Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. Writers Write - Write to communicate.

      Storytelling for Business - 12 Tips For Better Business Writing

      We seldom remember the last press release we read, but we almost always remember the stories we are told - even the business stories

      How do we make our business writing more relatable? How do we become more reader-friendly? One of the best ways to do this is by avoiding jargon and 'corporate speak'. We need to learn to write and speak to our customers in an appealing manner.

      Here are 12 storytelling techniques to that will improve your business writing:

      1. Captivate your readers. Entice them with a tale. Don't bore them with acronyms, data and statistics.
      2. Avoid jargon. You and your colleagues may understand what you are saying, but I am certain that no one else does.
      3. Explore the story with your readers. Invite your customers into your world. Be careful not to tell us what you think. Rather show us what happened.
      4. Create a narrative. Don't just write down words. This means you need a story with characters and a beginning, middle and end.
      5. Share anecdotes. Tell your readers about the things that make your company and its staff members human.
      6. Create heroes for us to identify with. Tell us about specific people and how they won the day.
      7. Entertain us. Don't sell to us. When you are promoting your business in a story, never sell anything. The point of the story is to draw people in so that they ask about your product.
      8. Keep us glued to the screen. Don't be dull. Elmore Leonard always said, 'Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.' Only keep the important bits in your story.
      9. Make us uncomfortable. Add some suspense and make us want to find out how it ends.
      10. Keep the story gritty. Give us texture with settings and senses, but don't go into too much detail when you are describing.
      11. Keep it real - people can tell when you're making it up.
      12. Show us the obstacles. Then reveal the solution.

      Source for Infographic

        If you want to improve your business writing skills, join us for The Plain Language Programme. Email news@writerswrite.co.za for details.

           by Amanda Patterson. Follow her on  Pinterest,  Facebook,  Google+,  Tumblr  and Twitter. 

           If you enjoyed this article, read these posts:
          1. The Seven Points You Need To Build A Story For Your Business
          2. 93 Extremely Bad Business Writing Habits to Break
          3. Begin at the end - the one essential email trick every business writer should know
          4. The Top Seven Tips for Writing Emails
          5. Persuasive Writing Brainstormer Template

          ~~~~~

          Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. Writers Write - Write to communicate

          7 Points You Need To Write A Story For Your Business

          Storytelling for business

          Every time you have something important to talk about in your business, you should be telling your audience a story. People forget statistics and names and events, but they never forget stories. A story is the only way we can activate the parts of the brain that get listeners to relate to us.

          Once we understand the power of stories and accept the need for them in our businesses, we need to learn how to tell them. One of the easiest ways to do this is by using a plot.

          What, exactly, is a plot?

          A plot for a business story usually involves a brand (or a business or a person) and a competitor (or a problem of some kind). All stories need an inciting moment – a moment where something happens that requires the brand to act or to react. When this happens, the brand has to set a new goal. This new goal usually causes upheaval, involves planning and requires change. A story is born from the brand’s reactions to these events.

          To make your business story exciting, you need to employ storytelling techniques.

          In all good stories:

          1. The brand has to achieve a goal or face negative consequences if it does not
          2. There is conflict between the brand and the competitor/problem
          3. A plot requires that a brand changes or learns something or improves

          When your brand has a goal, it is able to drive a story. Until then you have an idea. A brand’s motivations and emotions engage your customers and move the story forward.

          Source

          The Seven Points You Need To Write A Story For Your Business

          1. Begin with a bang. Start when something meaningful happens. Examples: Your brand needs to launch a product; a leader has resigned; you are facing a staffing or environmental crisis; or your brand wants to edge ahead of a competitor.
          2. Wants, Needs, Setbacks. Two key elements in storytelling are motivation and conflict. Whichever story you are telling, you need to show the conflict the problem has produced and why your brand is motivated to move forward. Use dialogue. Use emotions. Use the senses.
          3. Goals and Challenges. Your brand has to want to achieve its goals and be prepared to overcome challenges. You should show (not tell) how your brand is coping, how it is finding solutions and what it plans to do.
          4. Embrace the fear. What is your brand most at risk, or afraid, of losing? Customer Satisfaction? Customer Loyalty? Money? Status? Reputation? Use this fear in your story. Tell your readers that these things are important to your brand. Use them to create empathy with your readers.
          5. Tell a story. Tell us what happened in a short series of scenes with a clear beginning, middle, and end. Tip: When you brainstorm, start your story with ‘Once upon a time…’ Use the story outline as the basis for your finished story. 
          6. And just when it couldn’t get any worse… All great (and small) stories need a Dark Night of the Soul. Try to create a moment when things look impossibly bleak for your brand. 
          7. The end. Then show us how your brand resolves it.

          If you want to improve your business writing skills, join us for The Plain Language Programme

          © Amanda Patterson

             by Amanda Patterson. Follow her on  Pinterest,  Facebook,  Google+,  Tumblr  and Twitter.  

            If you enjoyed this article, read these posts:
            1. Six Reasons To Embrace The Power Of Stories
            2. 93 Extremely Bad Business Writing Habits to Break
            3. Nine Things To Avoid When You Write A Report
            4. Begin at the end - the one essential email trick every business writer should know
            5. The Top Seven Tips for Writing Emails
            6. Persuasive Writing Brainstormer Template

            ~~~

            Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. Writers Write - Write to communicate

            The Most Important Lesson for Building a Social Media Following - Being There

            Social Media is not a real conversation, but it is a way to interact in real time with your customers. Everything you do should be aimed at giving as much as you can to get what you need.

            Being There

            You have to be committed and that means you have to post content regularly on your major social media platforms. Consistency is crucial. Even if your clients choose to miss a post, you cannot choose not to post one. People get used to you. They trust you and come to you for information, guidance, ideas, and assistance.  

            Yes, people come to you. This happens because you have earned their attention. It does not take a genius to understand that this reward is the most valuable pay-off for a business.
            Do not ask: ‘What’s in it for us?’ You will fail. People join Social Media platforms to be part of a community. You have to offer something, and wait for a response. 

            Rather ask: ‘How can we help our customers?’ By providing valuable content, you create a customer base. These people need to get to know you and trust you before they will buy your product.
            Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. Writers Write - Write to communicate

            Six Reasons To Embrace The Power Of Stories

            Storytelling for Business

            People forget statistics and names and events, but they never forget stories. Why are stories so powerful? Pamela Rutledge offers these six reasons in her blog on the power of storytelling.

            Why Stories Are So Powerful:

            1. Stories have always been a primal form of communication. They are timeless links to ancient traditions, legends, archetypes, myths, and symbols. They connect us to a larger self and universal truths.
            2. Stories are about collaboration and connection. They transcend generations, they engage us through emotions, and they connect us to others. Through stories we share passions, sadness, hardships and joys. We share meaning and purpose. Stories are the common ground that allows people to communicate, overcoming our defences and our differences. Stories allow us to understand ourselves better and to find our commonality with others.
            3. Stories are how we think. They are how we make meaning of life. Call them schemas, scripts, cognitive maps, mental models, metaphors, or narratives. Stories are how we explain how things work, how we make decisions, how we justify our decisions, how we persuade others, how we understand our place in the world, create our identities, and define and teach social values.
            4. Stories provide order. Humans seek certainty and narrative structure is familiar, predictable, and comforting. Within the context of the story arc we can withstand intense emotions because we know that resolution follows the conflict. We can experience with a safety net.
            5. Stories are how we are wired. Stores take place in the imagination. To the human brain, imagined experiences are processed the same as real experiences. Stories create genuine emotions, presence (the sense of being somewhere), and behavioural responses.
            6. Stories are the pathway to engaging our right brain and triggering our imagination. By engaging our imagination, we become participants in the narrative. We can step out of our own shoes, see differently, and increase our empathy for others. Through imagination, we tap into creativity that is the foundation of innovation, self-discovery and change.

            From: The Psychological Power of Storytelling by Pamela Rutledge, Ph.D. 

            If you enjoyed this article, read these posts:

            1. The Seven Points You Need To Build A Story For Your Business
            2. 93 Extremely Bad Business Writing Habits to Break
            3. Nine Things To Avoid When You Write A Report
            4. Begin at the end - the one essential email trick every business writer should know
            5. Persuasive Writing Brainstormer Template
            ~~~~~

            Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. If you want to learn how to write a book, write for social media, and improve your business writing, send an email to news@writerswrite.co.za for more information.

            Writers Write - Write to communicate