Archive for the ‘Communication’ Category

A writer may spend years producing a book but only half an hour on a cover letter to potential publishers and ten minutes (if that) on a title. This is a flawed strategy.

Why bother? What can a title do for you? The answer is: quite a lot. The title is the first example of your writing your potential reader experiences. And there are compelling reasons for making it compelling!

Your title will:

  • resonate with readers, encouraging them to open your book. You should treat this as an honour. Yes, seriously.
  • promise a reader an experience – from light entertainment to catharsis to the step by step acquisition of a desirable skill.

So how do you dream up a good title?

Firstly, you need to understand the theme of/idea behind your book. Then, you need to study modern trends in titles. You need to test your title’s uniqueness and how attractive the search engines will find it. You need to do all this research, then sleep on it and hope for a Eureka moment when you wake up.

More than ten minutes’ worth – that’s for sure.

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Sharing your writing is such an important part of the writing process. It is in fact the main reason for writing – you want to be heard. This is one of the basic human requirements for emotional health – not to be sniffed at. And nothing to be ashamed of.

So, how to do this?

The traditional route has been publication. But – as we all know – although you can improve your chances in many ways, publication is a long slow route to ‘being heard’.

Quicker and – in some ways – equally effective is reading aloud. And you can do this to family, friends, and your local community. Writers’ groups and literature festivals with ‘open mic’ sessions when everyone has an opportunity to read abound. The Way in? To find a group near you, check out the National Association of Writers’ Groups (www.nawg.co.uk.)  

Join several – different demographics. More testing that way – and although you may feel more comfortable with, say, the middle-aged and middle-class – how rewarding if your words impact on twenty-year-old former illicit drug users!

If you live in an almost writers’ group free zone, however, all is not lost. There are a number of on-line writers’ communities for advice, information and critiquing opportunities. Google writers’ groups and choose some that appeal to explore. Some are free. Some cost. Some are a mix. I like The Word Cloud arrangement (See http://www.writersworkshop.co.uk )

A stage beyond this is critique groups run by publishing houses on the look-out for new talent. Check out:

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There’s far more to speech than words. Whether you want to write plays, field memorable characters in your novel or simply learn more about people for professional and personal reasons, you need to be able to read the signs.

Here’s an exercise to improve your attentive listening skills – which will particularly help you as a writer creating characters.

  • Take your notebook to a public place.
  • Settle down and listen. Not to the content. To the way speech is delivered.
  • Make notes on the voices you hear:
    • Think about pace – is the speaker speaking quickly or slowly, interrupting their ‘dialogue partner’?
    • Are they waiting for their dialogue partner to finish – without really listening – so they can then say what they want to say
    • Are they finishing sentences for other people?
    • Are they greeting each statement or question with a pause and what impact is that silence having?
    • Do they have an accent? Is a regional flavour present in their choice of vocabulary or the sound of their words?
    • What does this tell you about their educational background or class?
    • Do they have favourite/characteristic phrases which they repeat?
    • What is the tone – high, low, aggressive or appealing?
    • While you are listening, does this change? How does it change?

By doing this, you will develop some guidelines for when you are creating your own characters. But, be careful. People don’t like to be listened to, un-invited. One of my clients was embroiled in a heated exchange for listening and note-taking too obviously. Be discreet!


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It all started when I was climbing the conning tower of the UK’s latest nuclear submarine.  Yes – you’ve guessed it. HMS Astute. My knee not so much gave way as disappeared out of my leg completely.  And that was it – over twenty years of freelance journalism and poor workplace ergonomics (I work from home) were catching up with me. Musculo-skeletal disorders were rearing their pretty ugly heads. Along with a rather peculiar form of adrenaline-aversion which is triggered particularly by deadlines. And deadlines – as we all know – are an essential tool in journalistic productivity.

‘No work’ was not an option and ‘Less desk-bound work’ and ‘using my expertise’ were imperatives.  And – with unusual foresight as opposed to journalistic crisis management – I just happened some time ago to have taken a coaching course. So now, I was able to re-jig my career – for the fourth time if you include motherhood.

I still do occasional medical journalism assignments and I’m working on a series of short stories and a novel.  But, since 2005, when I founded the Lonely Furrow Company, a new world has opened up. Trained in co-active coaching, NLP and transactional analysis, I am now a writing coach.

As a result, clients ask for my help with projects ranging from novels to academic theses. And tricky but common writing coaching problems  include writers’ block, time management and work life balance, where to find ideas, how to handle feedback and how to write a book proposal.

But, it doesn’t stop there. I improve people’s communication skills – personal and professional – by drawing on my eclectic knowledge of literature and my Masters in Sociolinguistics. Communication impacts on human relationships and the simple equation is: better communication skills = better relationships. Of course, other aspects such as shared values and a GSH help. But communication contributes here too.

Within the Lonely Furrow Company stable, there is also the workshop facilitation service, Out of the Box Workshops. Some workshops on offer embrace creative writing for personal development – such as memoir writing and journaling – writing coaching, creativity and opportunities for peer review. Others deal with media coaching issues such as how to write a winning press release or how to give a good account of yourself, your work and your organisation when interviewed by the media. Other presentations deal with corporate interests such as the role of communication in leadership and team building and yet more, deal with the highly-charged areas of family breakdown and healthcare.

And I am a storyteller. I use story to help people reflect on their personal and professional lives. And I train others in the use of story. Clients for these workshops range from healthcare workers to family lawyers to organisational leaders.

In fact, put simply, I tell stories for a living and help others to do the same. And this – in the brave new world of the economic downturn – is what retirement means.

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In July, three Out of the Box Writing Workshops are due to run  – led by published writer Elizabeth Gates MA.

July 2nd               Finding your voice

This is the holy grail of the writer’s art and craft. And, in this workshop, we’ll look at the elements of word and phrase, content and theme. You will then be able to tell the stories that matter to you in your own way.

July 9th                Memoir and Journaling

Have you or members of your family kept journals? Do you want to start?  This workshop will teach you: how to write, how to organise your materials, and how to do justice to the materials others have left you.

These Creative Writing workshops will take place at The Conservatory, 28 Park West, Heswall, Wirral CH60 9JF (10am – 12.30pm). Cost is £20 per participant. For further information, please contact Elizabeth on 0151 342 3877 or email elizabeth@lonelyfurrowcompany.com

July 20th               Style – academic, blogging and journalism. You’re an expert. You want to reach a wider audience but how do you do this? Articles on the Internet or in print could be the answer. But you must adapt your academic style to these other media. And this workshop will teach you how.

Unless otherwise stated, all professional development and communication Out of the Box workshops will take place at The Conservatory, 28 Park West, Heswall, Wirral CH60 9JF (1pm – 3.30pm). Cost is £25 per participant. For further information or to book an in-house workshop for your organisation, please contact Elizabeth on 0151 342 3877 or email elizabeth@lonelyfurrowcompany.com

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Unless you are writing exclusively for yourself – and I’m not sure how possible this is – you are not writing in a vacuum. You are writing for an audience.  That audience may be represented in indirect ways but an audience it remains.  For example, an editor represents the readers of his or her magazine or the buyers of his books.  And, as you write her memoirs, your great aunt Agatha will be sitting on your shoulder – probably tutting.


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Creative Writing comes from our ability to day-dream.  Through it we can practice our narrative competence – making sense of our own lives, our own fears, our own anxieties.  We can generate meaning and find re-assuring resolution.

As writers, as Freud said in his paper on Creative Writers and Day-dreaming (1907) we can make up imaginary worlds, take them seriously, invest them with huge emotion, enliven them with material from the world’ around us and keep these worlds separate from our own reality.


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