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Writing for Profit, Issue #019, Clearing the Decks for the Creative Process
September 29, 2003

Issue Number: 0118

Date: September 2003

Some embryo writers leap into the creative process before they complete their homework. Do not fall into this insidious trap because it will only serve to cause you frustration and long delays before you complete your book. Even then you will still be crossing the odd t and dotting an i or two here and there when you should be devoting your energies to planning the next project…


Spotlight on ‘Clearing the Decks for the Creative Process’
Tip of The Week
Featured Guest Articles
Famous Quotations of the Subject of Writing


As you immerse yourself in my exclusive tutorial Writing for Profit you will quickly become aware that there are many elements to professional preparation that you must complete before you write a single word of your niche non- fiction book.

Here are 20 Questions to get you thinking on the essential matter of clearing the decks before you make a start on the creative process.

1. Have you finished researching?
2. Have you completed your list of contents?
3. Are you fully aware of the significance of chapter headings?
4. Do you understand the prime purpose of subheads?
5. Do you know how to use sub-subheads to best effect?
6. Do you have an attention-grabbing title?
7. Have you thought about a supporting subtitle?
8. How many pages, how many chapters, how many words?
9. How will you ensure that the content relates specifically to your target market?
10. What will you include in the preface?
11. How will you construct the back cover blurb?
12. Are you the only author?
13. Are there any contributors who require recognition?
14. What type of graphics will you use, if any?
15. Will you include a bibliography, appendix or index?
16. Will you tell readers why you wrote the book?
17. Can you prove that your work is authentic?
18. What kind of information will you reveal about yourself?
19. Could you include a testimonial or endorsement?
20. Will your book have bestselling potential?

PS: You will not crack the final question until you have mastered Writing for Profit


Progressive planning is the key to success in writing niche non-fiction that attracts the attention of commissioning editors, gets published, captivates the reader, and commands multiple editions.


Writer's block (excerpt)
Eric Maisel

Forgive your failures and keep writing

“As a creativity coach and therapist who has worked with writers for more than 15 years I find that writers procrastinate, get blocked and fail to realize their dreams for a reason they never suspect: They're too unforgiving. They have profound trouble forgiving themselves for their past writing mistakes and their all-too-human personal shortcomings. They have equal trouble forgiving others in the writing universe--agents, editors and fellow writers--for what they perceive as their callousness, indifference and unwarranted successes. This unforgiving stance leads inevitably to bitterness, paralysis and depression.

“An astonishing number of writers put themselves on trial, find themselves guilty and mete out the stiffest penalties. What are the charges? That they sometimes write poorly; that they regularly fail to give their best effort; that they leave things incomplete, have trouble deciding among projects, refuse to do the necessary revising.”

Keep in writing shape (excerpt)
Michael P. Geffner

10 commandments for getting your work published

“Every successful writer I ever met, I'd ultimately find out, had, at some critical point, a mentor. Usually an older writer whom they greatly admired, who not only freely offered advice on the art and craft but helped navigate them through the tricky ins and outs of the business. Strangely, my mentor wasn't a writer at all. He was, of all things, a retired salesman for The Wall Street Journal, a tall, white-haired man in his 60s named Al.

“For years, all over Manhattan, Al gave free lectures on how to effectively find work in the increasingly competitive marketplace. While hunting down a couple of research books in the New York Public Library one day, I accidentally ran into one of his talks. It was infinitely eye-opening. I was immediately sucked in by the core of his philosophy: that the secret to finding work, no matter what type, lay in nothing but simple sales techniques in aggressively selling yourself.”

This article is from the January 2003 issue of The Writer

Know your audience (excerpt)
Lynn Alfino

What information to look for and how to find it

“The editor's e-mail read: "Trim some of the details that may be interesting to scholars but not to Aunt Mary. Keep things that have more popular appeal since ours is a popular-level magazine." Such was my first lesson in considering who my readers were and writing to them. But with my academic-historian background, writing colloquially for consumer publications did not come naturally. This editor's advice made it clear that identifying with the magazine's readers would be a pivotal step in my making the jump from academia to popular media--a move that ultimately resulted in more sales to more magazines.

“Discovering who your audience is and writing to that group doesn't start with the article. It begins before you write your initial query. Editors receive hundreds of queries every year, and you want yours to shine above the rest. A query that shows an awareness of the magazine's audience and its needs will receive more attention than a generic query sent willy-nilly.”


C.S. Lewis: "Don't use words too big for the subject. Don't say 'infinitely' when you mean 'very'; otherwise you'll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite."

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow: "Many a poem is marred by a superfluous word."

W. Somerset Maugham: "The secret of play-writing can be given in two maxims: stick to the point, and, whenever you can, cut."

George Orwell: "The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one's real and one's declared aims, one turns, as it were, and instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish squirting out ink."

William Penn: "Speak properly, and in as few words as you can, but always plainly; for the end of speech is not ostentation, but to be understood."

Alexander Pope: "Words are like leaves; and where they most abound. Much fruit of sense beneath is rarely found."


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