Professional Storyteller

Share a Story - Change the World

I've been working on my first book about storytelling; the working title is "Tricks of the Trade"  with "tricks" meaning "acquired skills".

I've actually written lots of books for private industry.  Training manuals, equipment documents and so forth; but I never "decided" to write a book about storytelling until recently. Like many, I've talked about it, daydreamed about it, and well, just never pulled the trigger. It might seem strange to say but I don't think writing a book about storytelling is anything very different from writing any book.  

So why this blog? I realize that people work differently and that you and I are very different.  But if you have not developed your own methods and structure for writing, well maybe this will help.  Not really rocket surgery, but it might help you pull the trigger, write an article for a magazine, or finally write that book that has been lounging in your heart.

Buck's Steps to Writing Stuff

  1. You have to decide what to write about and whether you think it is worth the effort.
  2. Right here is where I write my "Controlling idea".  A controlling idea is one sentence that contains the one human truth that I want people to walk away with from the material I've written.  I keep this sentence close by, taped to the top of my monitor or on a card that I can keep in my pocket.  Just to get a solid feel for the work.
  3. Then I think a rough outline through and then write a plan, even if it is just a better outline.
  4. Then I write a few brief topical sentences about each bit of the outline or plan.  These are SHORT sentences and I normally number them.  Later I will decide on an order, but for now, I just let the sentences stream out of my fingers.
  5. When I've written those sentences, I pause and ask myself some questions.  Are they relevant?  Which should be first?  What do I really mean by each sentence.  Is anyone I know struggling with this topic?  Do I have know anything about this?  Perhaps, I will have to do some more research.
  6. Now I write some answers to those questions.  
  7. Review what you have written.  Now this set of sentences and questions are nowhere near the elements of a book.  These sentences are the bones of a book.  These could be the topics of chapters and the questions could be the concerns addressed.  Don't forget the old teacher's mantra.  Tell them what you are going to tell them, tell them, then tell them what you told them.
  8. Now that you have the structure, which you can rearrange later if necessary... write.  Don't stop to edit right now, just write, turn off the auto-correct function of your software and just write.
  9. Now your manuscript is ready to send to the publisher... NOT
  10. Now you brutally edit, rewrite, edit, rewrite, and rewrite.
  11. Let someone read what you've written, take notes about their comments, ask questions of their interpretations of your thoughts and then, rewrite.
  12. This process continues until you have something you feel everybody on the planet would lay their money down for and then you need a plan to sell it.  That's another blog

Let me know if you get anything out of these blogs.  I'm hoping that this will do more than just me some good.



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Tags: Authors, Storytelling, Teaching


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Comment by Roger Jenkins on February 15, 2014 at 9:05pm

I hope more tellers will think about sharing their stories, Buck.  What I would add to your list above is having a clear idea of who you are writing for.

Late in 2011, our Minister of Education (here in Singapore) announced an initiative to place values more centrally at the heart of our education system. Immediately I thought three things

a) that's a terrific idea

b) teaching values is a really tough subject for the teacher to teach

c) stories are a fabuluous strategy.

So my audience was clear (teachers) as was the purpose (providing both a resource of stories and a how-to guide) My family went skiing in Japan that December - I hate the snow (one reason I emigarated to Singapore!) so while they were cavorting on the slopes, I holed up in comfort at the hotel and wrote for 5 hours a day for the week, which really got the book moving.   Here's the result:

I felt an accompanying CD-ROM was important to provide

a) video examples of storytelling in action (you can talk all you like about colouring your words or using gesture to illustrate a character, but a video of me telling can help make that concrete.

b) internet links to material ((related teacherly material like poems, photos) which I couldn't print in the book for copyright reasons)

However, including a CD-ROM excluded me from self-publishing options like the one offered by Amazon, so i sourced my own printer here in Singapore: I print a 100 copies of each title every time, minimising my $$ outlay - and how much stock i have lying around in my bdedroom! I'm up to the 8th reprint of each title.

Of course promoting the book is material for another post entirely!



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