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Category: Pros on Prose

Is your idea book-worthy? Ask these 11 questions to make sure.

Posted: February 15, 2019 | By:

It’s easy to tell people “I have a book idea.” But before you invest your time in writing, you need to make sure that idea is powerful enough to build a book on.

Here are 11 questions to ask yourself before you exert significant effort towards becoming a nonfiction author. If you can’t answer these with a firm and confident “Yes!”, then you’d better work on the idea before you work on the book.

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Is writing a book your New Year’s resolution? Better read this first.

Posted: January 4, 2019 | By:

This is the year! 2019. Are you going to write a book this year?


If all you have is burning desire and willpower, you will fail. You need a plan.

This is that plan. (While this plan is designed for non-fiction, much of this advice may help fiction writers as well.)

Here’s what not to do: start writing....

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Good Writers Don’t…

Posted: December 14, 2018 | By:

... write "less" when "fewer" is called for, or "farther" when "further" is needed, or "hopefully" at all—even though these distinctions don't matter to anybody except other writers and people who shop at Whole Foods. (Good writers care about the opinion of other good writers.)

... call moments "special," utter the term "adult beverage," congratulate the birthday boy for being "90 years young," describe everything that's amusing as...

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All That A Speech Can Say

Posted: March 30, 2018 | By:

‘There comes a time when patience is no longer a virtue.’ These seventy-year-old words hovered over the dunes during a misty run along the North Sea coast. It was a Tuesday morning in October. Green leaves turned into brown. In the silence I pondered the words Prime Minister Louis Beel solemnly spoke to the Dutch people in 1947. Words that prepared our small country for war in Indonesia — police actions as they where...

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A Proven Technique To Change More Minds

Posted: February 16, 2018 | By:

Here’s a GEICO commercial you’ll never see:

INT. OFFICE - DAY

ANNOUNCER

Our proprietary actuarial calculations help us pinpoint risk more precisely than other insurance carriers. Moreover, our efficient system of claims assessment increases the number of damaged cars our employees can inspect in a day. Finally, our automation reduces the cost of...

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What Makes A Political Speech Boring?

Posted: January 15, 2018 | By:

New York Mayor Bill De Blasio isn’t pleased with the speeches he is reading, we learn from recently released City Hall emails, reported in the New York Post.

Who’s to blame? De Blasio’s speechwriters, he says. From the Post: 

In particular, de Blasio raged at underlings after a speech about his Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City that apparently had his audience paying more attention to their watches than to him. …

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Your CEO Needs You

Posted: June 23, 2017 | By:

It’s not a complaint one often hears about CEOs. But when it comes to CEO communication, it’s true: CEOs don’t know what they want.

I know this now.

And it’s useful knowledge to have.

I spent two straight days (and two serious nights) with some of the leading executive communication thinkers, practitioners and researchers at the CEO Communication Summit, convened by the Professional Speechwriters Association last week in Montreal.

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Speechwriters Are the Serious Ones

Posted: June 9, 2017 | By:

Some speechwriters might have resented it when I criticized Jon Favreau and Lovett for what I saw as the glib, snarky style the former Obama speechwriters showed on an appearance on The Stephen Colbert Show, back in April.

Does the head of the Professional Speechwriters Association condemn his flock to the back pasture? Once a speechwriter, always a monk—is that it?

My thinking on the...

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Introducing The Hot Sheet: A Great New Resource for People Who Care About Publishing

Posted: | By:

Anyone working freelance in today’s publishing industry is in a double bind. (And you can be forgiven if you feel doubly blindsided, too.)

Not only is a first-rate ghost, an editor, a freelance writer of any kind expected to be up to speed on industry issues, changes, developments, and trends, but she or he is also expected to hit deadlines and contribute the kinds of ideas that in-house teams have handed to them by their managements and support teams.

Some...

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Remind Them What They Know: Speechwriting when everything has already been said

Posted: June 2, 2017 | By:

“People need to be reminded,” said Samuel Johnson, “more often than they need to be instructed.”

Commencement speakers struggle to come up with a speech, when “everything’s already been said.” Keynote speakers wonder what they can tell people that "they don't already know."

But everything hasn’t been said by you, at this moment in history, to the audience gathered today.

And more importantly: Whatever...

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