Crafting your Story

Mental Prep Makes Writing Easier

Mental Prep Makes Writing Easier

Don’t start writing until you’ve put in your mental prep time. It will save you time and energy in the long run.

Mike Long ( or @mikewrites), an award winning speechwriter, screenwriter and instructor at Georgetown University said all writers should go through a 3 step process.

1. What are you trying to say? You need to be able to say what you are trying to say. Thinking it out isn’t enough. Write it down. Your core idea should be able to fit in a sentence 9 words or less. Your core idea should avoid the word and. If you have “and” in that sentence, it means you are writing two things.

2. Who are you writing it to? Give the group a name. If the word “and” appears (ex. husbands and parents), consider creating two separate messages.

3. Why are you telling them this? Do you want them to do something or know something? If you want them to do something, tell them what it is and have a call to action. If you want them to know or feel something, omit the call to action.

Long said it’s important to be still before you write. Remember writing is thinking. Most writers want to “have written.” It feels good once you are through. Writing helps you work through issues. So expect changes. Don’t expect perfection. Expect second and third drafts.

One area writers don’t think about enough is the title.

“It’s important to come up with a title to focus your efforts,” Long said. Writers need to put in the mental effort to come up with a phrase that invokes what you are trying to say.

It’s also important to know what you are being asked to communicate.

“When in doubt, it’s okay to ask,” Long said. “You’re going to have to anyway. Anything you do before you know for sure, you may have to be done again. You don’t want to look like an unprepared idiot.”

Discipline yourself to create and follow a structure. Make a list of things you want to hit in the story.

Long said outlining may feel like you’re elevating formality over the process. In reality, it helps you be creative an not burden yourself with organizational structure.

Speeches and articles are stronger when they contain stories and examples. People enjoy them and they learn from them.

Long suggested writers keeping a notebook handy to write down ideas or scenes when they occur. For the tech savvy, he offered another suggestion.

“I’m using the Record Now app,” Long said. “When I think of a funny phrase or see something, I record it and transcribe it later. I record plot ideas, images, articles, and people I’ve seen.”

Once you’re mentally ready, look at your writing environment.

“Be good to yourself,” Long said. “Be physically comfortable. Work in short bursts. Take frequent breaks. Use the online timer trick and make yourself write for a set amount of time. Surround yourself with things that make you happy. I look around and see color and images that inspire me.”

Feeling stuck? Long said it’s all in your mind.

“Writers block doesn’t exist. It’s a fear of what you put on paper isn’t as good as what’s in your head. Words bring about feelings. Accept that and move on. First drafts aren’t final drafts. Give yourself permission to revise and rewrite. Can you say it simpler. Talk it out. How would you say it to a friend? Be communicative, not fancy or professorial. Don’t try to impress people. Just try to be understood. What you want is what ever effective writer and speaker wants – to be understood and have someone feel the passion and feelings you feel. You get that from speaking as plainly as possible about what matters.”

When you put some mental work into writing before you put pen to paper you’ll be on the path to a better story. It’s not about impressing people. It’s about getting your message across and not wasting your readers time. The less time you spend writing, the happier everyone is.

Write Better Faster

Write Better Faster

We all have those days when an assignment shows up at the last moment, or the boss calls and needs a speech ASAP. Instead of stressing, you can incorporate a few simple tricks that will have you cranking out copy in no time.

First things first. Just get it on paper and clean it up afterwards. The first draft doesn’t have to be pretty. Once you get it on paper, these simple edits will help you deliver copy designed to persuade and inform your readers.

Mike Long ( or @mikewrites), an award winning speechwriter, screenwriter and instructor at Georgetown University said this tip hit home after an encounter with a waiter at a fancy restaurant.

“I was at a fancy restaurant,” Long said. “The waiter arrived at the table and noticed sauce on the edge of a plate. He asked to borrow a napkin and proceeded to wipe it off. Then he served it perfect. It was all about the presentation. It doesn’t’ matter how ridiculous it looks until you serve it up. Nobody needs to see it before you send it out. If you’ve watched the movie Super Troopers, you might be surprised to know the version on the screen is 20th draft. If they do that, you can rewrite 3 or 4 times and not feel bad about it.”

When you start editing, just hit the high points first. Get rid of any exclamation points. Write around semi-colons. They feel pretentious. It’s not about the knowledge of the writer. It’s about the knowledge of the reader. Add bullet points to lists. Use commas sparingly. People will find their own pauses.

If you need to cut a piece for length, cut whole paragraphs, not words and sentences.

Long said it’s ok to get rid of whole paragraphs and ideas.

“Say you’ve thoroughly explored three ideas. It’s better to cut out one whole idea instead of leaving pieces of three to meet space limitations. You don’t have to show you are an expert on everything. The only one who will feel it is incomplete will be you. The reader doesn’t know what they don’t know.”

The next step is cleaning up your language. Use literally only when you mean it. Avoid adverbs. If it ends in “ly” cut it. Find a better verb. Avoid adverbs as intensifiers (very, extremely, greatly). Cut introductory adverbs (basically, actually, truthfully).

Need a couple more editing tips? Read your work out loud. You’ll hear things you don’t see. Print it in other fonts and point sizes. The lines will fall in different places and you’ll look at it in different way. You find things that normally don’t stand out to you.

By doing these things, you’ll write cleaner, stronger copy faster.

From prosecutor to popsicle peddler

What turns a prosecutor into a popsicle peddler? According to Nick Carse (@ncarse), Co-Founder of King of Pops, it’s rum and a summer trip with his anthropologist brother.

As the three brothers traveled through Central America, they watched as locals used left over fruit from the markets before they ruined. These Mexican frozen treats were called paletas. When the recession of 2009 hit, the brothers turned their rum inspired dream into a reality.

“My brother Steven was laid off when the recession hit,” Nick said. “Initially we thought maybe it’d pay for a summer full of burritos. That was in 2010. Neither of us have any culinary background. We didn’t have a business plan. We didn’t have funding. What we did have was folks with a couch in the basement. We knew if it failed they’d let us sleep there.”

Nick hung up his suit, left the Gwinnett County courtroom and joined his brother just a few months later.

“I was in a profession that wasn’t very uplifting,” he said. “Don’t get me wrong. It’s something that’s needed and it can be rewarding. My dad wrote me a letter about all the reasons I needed to reconsider, but it was too late, I’d already quit. It’s funny because it’s truly a family operation now. My dad is our marketing guy and our mom makes sure our AR is okay. She’s a mean bitch…I mean a nice bitch, but she makes sure her boys get paid.”

Nick Crase, Co-founder of King of Pops, shared how he, and his brother, have created a business centered around UMoHs.

What they did have was the same thing we all have, a desire and a dream.

“We say the good ole day is today,” Nick said. “Every day is an opportunity to do something and make a change.”

They’ve created a culture centered around Unexpected Moments of Happiness-or UMoHs.

From their hiring philosophy to giving back to the community, King of Pops isn’t focused on gaining customers, rather creating fans. It’s not about doing something fancy, it’s about doing something special.

“It’s about the experience,” Nick said. “When we hire someone, we look for someone who will laugh and share a joke and make the interaction with our guest a great guest experience.”

So how did these brothers make their dream a reality?

Nick shared their flavorful roadmap to success:

First, set a date. It’s important to give yourself a set time in life when you are going to do something. The brothers launched their business on April 1, yes, April Fools Day, with a freezer cart they bought off Craig’s List. Most people thought it was a joke. Even the rest of the family thought they were bananas. Now the brothers have carts in over 300 locations across the Southeast.

Secondly, embrace the unknown. Nick says most people (aka everybody) don’t know what they are doing either.

Third, you’ve got to rely on people. It’s okay not to know everything. Just find folks who know what you don’t.

Keep growing. Nick said “if you aren’t growing, you’re dying.”

The brothers have taken this to heart. They’ve branched out to King of Pups (all natural dog treats), Tree Elves (a Christmas tree company that allows them to keep their employees on over the winter months), and King of Crops (a farm where they are growing a lot of the ingredients that go in their pops).

Fifth, create a culture uniquely yours. Don’t just exist. Know who we are and create a vision that gets you where you want to be.

“We spent a lot of time recently mapping out our vision,” Nick said. “We’ve been asked to come other places, but we are committed to staying in the south. We’re passionate about supporting the community and of course we have our Unexpected Moments of Happiness. And we do it all while having fun.”

The UMoHs has led to the creation of many events and moments, like yoga on the beltline. It’s about moments with community, family and friends.It’s about getting people to engage with each other.

Whether you love Pops or not, you can’t knock their philosophy and the success they are having building a brand based on happiness, love and community.

P.S. I had my first King of Pops today. I’m gonna need more salted chocolate in my life!