Publishing: The End or The Beginning?

It’s over. We’ve reached the last step of the writing process: publishing. Simple, right? Just click Publish and you’re done.

Seth Godin on shipping (aka publishing)

Not quite. After tackling prewriting, drafting, revising and editing, there’s still work to do. Depending on your project, some of these questions may answer themselves, or you may have some more thinking to do.

What medium will you use to publish? 

Do you need to add pictures, quotes or other visual elements to strengthen your written work? 

If sourced, do you have permission to use those visual elements? (i.e. Don’t steal people’s pictures, even online!) 

Have you thoroughly completed steps 1-4?

Are you ready for the world to see your work?

The last question can be an oxymoron. Some people are never ready for the world to see their work, but you do have to publish sometime. You can produce the best writing in the world, but if no one reads it, what’s the point? (This is presuming that you want people to read your work, of course.)

After completing the five steps of the writing process, you’ll begin to understand. The writing process isn’t linear and never truly ends. It’s cyclical at best, and sometimes resembles a drunken, disoriented party-goer. Don’t be discouraged.

The trick is to follow the rules until you learn how to break them.

The real trick is learning which rules to follow and which rules to break. It’s different for everyone. Once you figure that out, then you’ll discover how powerful the written word can be.

FREE Download –> The Power of the Pen: 5 Steps to Writing That Produces Results

Publish Your Comments

What publishing advice would you offer fellow writers?

Are you a “publish or perish” disciple or would you rather take more time?

Whatever your medium, do you have recommendations (i.e. blog services, book publishers, agents)?

What would you add to this series on the writing process?

If you have any writing-related questions, please ask. Or we can handle all of your writing needs so you can focus on saving the world before bedtime (or hanging up your cape).

Signing off,
Jaime, Mojo & Penelope

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Editing: Your Path to Divinity (and Divine Writing)

Prewriting ✓     Drafting ✓     Revising ✓

Don’t put down the red pen yet. Now, it’s time to edit.

Edit your writing!

Editing is messy work, but the results are worth it!

Wait, didn’t we just do that? No, we revised our writing. Revising and editing go hand-in-hand, but they focus on different results. While revising makes your work sound good, editing makes your work look good. In the world of writing, both are necessary.

We’ve heard it all before: spelling, punctuation and grammar are important. Blah, blah, blah… But before you file away this grade school knowledge, consider this: grammar, spelling and punctuation can be the difference between your writing being read or not. Why?

  1. Proper punctuation and structure help tell your story. New sentences, paragraph breaks and choosing a hyphen over a comma (or vice versa) help the reader navigate your road map to your point. Imagine trying to read a blog post with no punctuation — one long block of text with no signs where to pause, stop or anticipate a new idea.
  2. With every missing comma or spelling error, you’re asking your audience not to take you seriously. People are interested in what you have to say because they think you know what you’re talking about. But that’s only half the battle; presenting your knowledge is just as important as having it.
  3. Spelling, punctuation and grammar make you look polished, which is important if you’re trying to present a professional image. Stand out from the crowd in a positive way by dotting your i’s and crossing your t’s (and knowing the difference between a hyphen and a dash.

So the next time you’re in a rush and tempted to go straight from writing (step 2) to publishing (step 5), remember Stephen King’s words of wisdom. “To write is human, to edit is divine.”

Sound Off on Editing

What mistake do you always catch in editing?

Do you prefer to edit on screen or on paper?

Share your favorite editing advice below!

If you’re too busy with what you do, we’d love to help you edit your work. Contact us so we can discuss your writing-related project or answer your questions. We may not be all-knowing, but we are here to help. 🙂

Your Editor-in-Chief,
Jaime

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Revising: No Rules, Just (Get It) Right

You’ve tackled prewriting (in the forest or the bathtub) and burst through the drafting phase like a team taking the field. Whew, we’re done, right? No, now it’s time to revise.

Elmore Leonard quote on typewriter

Photo by plaisanter via CC BY-SA 2.0 // text & effect added by author

Revising is all about making your work sound right. So read it — to yourself or out loud. (This is where it helps to have some privacy, or you may receive some concerned stares.) Is it easy to read? Are you intrigued? If not, your reader won’t be either.

Now is the time to make your work POP. Spice up your opening line to grab the reader’s attention. Upgrade your word choices and fill in missing details. Remove redundant or empty words and move sentences around if they make more sense elsewhere. You may end up with a drastically different piece or even a shifted message.

As novelist and screenwriter Elmore Leonard points out above, the best writers aren’t bound by rules. However, they know the rules before they choose to break them, which is a far cry from not knowing the rules in the first place. If something you write is grammatically correct but sounds strange, find another way to say it. Sometimes I use fragments to make a point and fit the tempo of my work, but it’s not on accident. Bottom line: don’t quit revising until your work sounds right.

It can be tough to look at your work with a critical eye. Leave enough time between the drafting and revising phases to see your work in a new light. If you’re on a tight deadline, at least shift focus for a brief period before coming back to your writing in progress. If possible, invite colleagues or peers to review your work. It’s amazing what you can see from a fresh perspective.

p.s. Join us for part 4 of this series on the writing process on Thursday. It’s all about editing!

FREE Download –> The Power of the Pen: 5 Steps to Writing That Produces Results

Revising Review

Do you revise first, then edit? Or do you do them together?

How long does the revising phase take you (compared to the other parts of the process)?

Share your best revising tips for our readers!

Cheers,
Jaime

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Step 2: Now It’s Time To Write

If prewriting is the pregame strategy session, step two of the writing process — drafting or writing — is the mad rush onto the field. After all of the film watching and play designing and planning, it’s time to let it all out.

Wildcat Willie leads the Kansas State football team onto the field!

Step two of the writing process is a rush of adrenaline!
Photo by The U.S. Army via CC BY 2.0 // effects added by the author

draft·ing (verb): the second stage of the writing process during which a writer organizes information and ideas into sentences and paragraphs

You may be wondering why I’m using the term drafting instead of writing. I thought it would help avoid confusion because we’re discussing the entire writing process. But rest assured, we’re talking about the same thing. This is the phase where you try to type or write as fast as the words pour out of you, if you’ve done a good job of prewriting.

Write freely and as rapidly as possible and throw the whole thing on paper. Never correct or rewrite until the whole thing is down.”  -John Steinbeck

This is the fun part, or at least the part where you start to see results. It’s like rolling that first stripe of paint on the wall after hours of prep work or taking the plunge out of an airplane after going through all of the pre-jump requirements. (I prefer the latter but I’m sure painting is just as exciting to some people!) This is the time to introduce your characters or describe the situation or state your points clearly.

This is not the time to worry about spelling, grammar, punctuation or overall structure. I’m not saying that you should leave them out on purpose, but these items will be addressed during the next two steps (revising and editing). If you tend to correct grammatical errors or typos without thinking about it, don’t worry. Some of us are just hardwired that way (including yours truly). It will slow you down if you attempt to not correct these errors at this time.

One of the reasons that I love writing is that you can do it almost anywhere. All you need is a computer, typewriter or pen and paper AND some privacy. How much privacy? That depends on you. Some people want a room with a door they can shut. Others don’t mind light background noise: quiet conversations on a cafe patio, the soothing tones of the ocean or the peaceful sounds of nature.

“Like your bedroom, your writing room should be private, a place where you go to dream… The space can be humble, and it really needs only one thing: a door you are willing to shut.”  -Stephen King

Privacy can be hard to find in today’s corporate America environments. If you’re sitting in a cubicle in the middle of an open concept floor plan, surrounded by talking co-workers, music piped through overhead speakers and other office noises, it can be tough to write — for anyone. Don’t discredit your ability to write if you have issues in this type of environment. Try to find anywhere quiet — an open conference room, a forgotten nook or a local park during your lunch break. It’s frustrating, but you may have to take your writing assignments home in order to produce quality work.

And if you’re into writing by hand (like a certain author of this blog)? Don’t be embarrassed or feel old-fashioned. It turns out that it’s good for your brain.

FREE Download –> The Power of the Pen: 5 Steps to Writing That Produces Results

Feedback on This Draft

Where’s your favorite place to write?

Who’s your favorite writer?

What’s your favorite written piece — by you or someone else?

Chime in with any other thoughts on the drafting (or writing) phase of the writing process.

If you have any writing-related questions, please ask. Or we can handle all of your writing needs so you can focus on saving the world before bedtime (or the big game).

Cheers,
Jaime

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Prewriting: A Precursor To Rad Writing

As I was writing my last post about the importance of revising and editing your work, it dawned on me that many people who are required to write today (blogs, social media, company newsletters, etc.) may not have much experience with the writing process. So I decided to blog about it to explain each step’s importance and throw in some insight along the way.

pre·writ·ing (noun): the creation and arrangement of ideas before writing; step one of the writing process

Do you free write?

Free writing — and espresso — help me get the creative juices flowing.


Think before you write
. Whether you jot down a brief outline in your notebook, draw comprehensive diagrams or kick around a few ideas in your head, you’re performing the first step in the writing process. You may think prewriting is prehistoric (3rd grade, anyone?), but let’s compare. Any professional painter will tell you to spend at least as much time preparing to paint as painting itself. Otherwise, you won’t see professional results.

The same holds true for writing. If you want to write something worth reading, take the time to prepare. Your prep work will reflect the scope of your project (novel vs. blog post) and your comfort level. Some people are comfortable mentally prepping before blogging while others will want a more detailed outline in print. Either way works, as long as it works for you.

The prewriting part of the process may not occur behind a desk or even soaking up the rays on a patio with your laptop. In fact, physical activity is a great way to spur ideas and think about what you want to write. Or maybe you prefer a luxurious bubble bath with a good book or chatting with a friend over coffee. It doesn’t matter where the light bulb goes off, as long as it does. (I like confiding in a pink fuzzy tennis ball, but that’s just me.)

“You don’t write because you want to say something, you write because you’ve got something to say.”  -F. Scott Fitzgerald

And prewriting is the time to figure out that something, not the writing phase.

FREE Download –> The Power of the Pen: 5 Steps to Writing That Produces Results

Post Script to Prewriting

Do you prewrite?

How do you prewrite (mentally, outlining, diagramming, etc.)?

Anything you’d like to add about the prewriting process?

If you have any writing-related questions, please ask. Or we can handle all of your writing needs so you can focus on saving the world before bedtime.

Cheers,
Jaime

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The Power of the (Red) Pen

“To write is human, to edit is divine.”  -Stephen King

When I was in school, there was nothing I hated more than the red pen. Teachers would use it to correct mistakes on your paper and make suggestions. As a perfectionist, I attributed any red marks to failure, which was not high on my to-do list. As much as I hated the red pen, I now understand its importance.

Revise, revise, revise!

Maybe I still haven’t gotten over the sting of the red pen in school. I use black, even for revisions.

The basic writing process has five steps: prewriting (thinking/outlining), writing, revising (rewriting), editing and publishing. Did you notice that 40% of the writing process is dedicated to revising and editing? That’s why, in my humble opinion, it’s the most important aspect of writing. All of the steps are necessary, but not doing a proper job of revising and editing your work will turn readers away. Have you ever read an article that goes on forever — well past its point? Or a blog post saddled with poor grammar and spelling errors? It’s enough to make me walk away.

“I believe the road to hell is paved with adverbs, and I will shout it from the rooftops.” -Stephen King

What makes me want to read your work (and others too)?

  • Revise, revise and revise some more. Eliminate unnecessary words.
  • Strong punctuation and grammar. A lack of one or both makes reading difficult.
  • White space (especially on screen). Use short paragraphs, quotes, images and lists for easier reading.
  • Reduce your adverb dependency. These suckers lead to passive writing and empty word use.
  • A clear point. What are you trying to say?

“The biggest illusion about communication is that it’s taking place.”  -George Bernard Shaw

Yes, rules are made to be broken, but you have to know the rules first. The more that you know (and follow) the “rules” of writing, the easier your writing will be to read. So what are these rules? They differ depending on who you talk to or what you’re writing, but Mr. King’s Top 20 Rules For Writers are a great place to start.

More people are expected to write today than ever before (social media, blogging, etc.), and some just aren’t comfortable with it. I hope this post and upcoming series on the writing process will help. (p.s. Fellow writers, feel free to chime in along the way!)

Of course, I love writing. If you don’t, let me know. I’d be happy to help.

FREE Download –> The Power of the Pen: 5 Steps to Writing That Produces Results

Reader Feedback

What are your most important rules of writing?

Is there a rule that you routinely break?

When did you start writing?

Who’s your favorite writer?

A writer at heart,
Jaime

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Je Suis Charlie: Why This Attack Felt Personal

I was supposed to write about Facebook today, but I don’t have it in me.

Je Suis Charlie

Yesterday, a French satirical newspaper, Charlie Hebdo, was attacked and twelve people were killed — ten journalists, including four well-known cartoonists, and two police officers. More senseless violence in a world that seems filled with it.

Until yesterday, I had never heard of Charlie Hebdo. I didn’t know any of the people who were killed, and I am not French nor have I ever stepped foot in the country. I have compassion for those affected, as I always do when senseless tragedies occur.

“They were cartoonists and editors and humorists. People whose job in life was to point at hypocrisy and laugh at it; to ridicule hate; to make us all try to see our own failings as humans. And they were killed for it.”  -Joe Randazzo, former editor of The Onion

Beyond that, this attack felt personal. Why? I am a writer. I’m not famous, and I have yet to publish a novel. But I use words to make a living — to give brands a voice, to convey meaning to audiences, to evoke emotion and encourage action. I feel a connection to other writers, no matter their success, and all artists: painters, cartoonists and creators of all kinds.

When I see the hashtag, #JeSuisCharlie, trending worldwide, it evokes a mixture of emotions in me. Sadness, for those involved and affected by this madness. Pride, at the unity and compassion shared by so many people around the world. Hope, that people understand the importance of ideas and expression and freedom of the press.

“You cannot kill an idea by murdering innocent people — though you can nudge it toward suicide.” -Joe Randazzo

Charlie Hebdo understands the need for hope. Despite heavy hearts and some fear, the newspaper will go to press next week. As columnist Patrick Pelloux noted, this decision shows that “stupidity will not win.” While next week’s publication will be half its usual length, the newspaper will print one million copies instead of its traditional run of 60,000.

This is what I ask: buy a copy if you can. Support Charlie Hebdo and other newspapers, publications and artists who support freedom of ideas and expression. If you’re an artist of any kind, continue to create art, because this world needs more art and less violence more than ever now. And remember the friends and families and loved ones of those who were killed, because their world has changed forever.

Stephane “Charb” Charbonnier, editor

Jean “Cabu” Cabut, cartoonist

Georges “Wolin” Wolinski, cartoonist

Bernard “Tignous” Verlhac, cartoonist

Phillipe Honore, cartoonist

Bernard Maris, economist

Elsa Cayat, psychoanalyst and columnist

Mustapha Ourrad, copy editor

Michel Renaud, visitor

Frederic Boisseau, caretaker

Ahmed Merabet, policeman

Brigadier Franck Brinsolaro, police bodyguard

“The pen is mightier than the sword.”  -Edward Bulwer-Lytton, English author

Raising my pen in solidarity,
Jaime

Auld Lang Syne & Happy New Year!

The time has come to say goodbye to 2014.

Happy New Year from CCC!

Before we watch the ball drop to kick off 2015, let’s take a quick look back at the year that was. My helper monkeys, Mojo and Penelope, have prepared an end-of-year report for the CCC blog. Thanks to you, what a year it’s been!

Consider this:

 A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 4,500 times in 2014. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 4 trips to carry that many people.

We shared 69 new posts this past year, usually sticking to our Tuesday and Thursday schedule. You came early and often, culminating on November 20th (Mexican Revolution Day?!), our most popular day with 54 views.

What posts tickled your fancy the most?

  1. Promotional Products as Effective Marketing Tools
  2. 50 Things I’m Grateful For… Summer 2014 Edition
  3. A Simple Step-by-Step Guide to Search Engine Optimization
  4. Kindness in the Workplace: A Guide for Your Organization
  5. To Give or Not To Give…

Along the way, we hit two notable milestones: 200 followers and 500 likes. Thank you!

CCC hits 200 likes! 11.25.14CCC hits 500 likes! 11.21.14

Loyal readers, you came from near and far. The United States, India and Brazil were our most represented countries, and we had visitors from 91 countries around the world. Some of you found us through Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest, our top referrers.

“Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.  -Dr. Seuss

OK, now you can sing “Auld Lang Syne.”

Cheers to peace and prosperity in 2015!

The CCC crew,
Jaime, Mojo and Penelope

Welcoming old friends and new, connect with us!
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‘Twas the Night Before Christmas (Almost)

Merry Christmas from CCC!

A Visit from St. Nicholas

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
in hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there.

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
while visions of sugar plums danced in their heads.
And Mama in her ‘kerchief and I in my cap,
had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap.

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow,
gave the lustre of midday to objects below.
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear
but a miniature sleigh and eight tiny reindeer.

With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment he must be St. Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers* they came,
and he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name:

“Now, Dasher! Now, Dancer!
Now Prancer and Vixen!

On, Comet! On, Cupid!
On Donner and Blitzen!

To the top of the porch!
To the top of the wall!

Now dash away! Dash away!
Dash away all!”

As leaves that before the wild hurricanes fly,
when they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky;
so up to the house top, the coursers, they flew
with the sleigh full of toys, and St. Nicholas too.  

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
the prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
and his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot.
A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,
and he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.

His eyes — how they twinkled! His dimples, how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
and the beard on his chin was as white as the snow.

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
and the smoke, it encircled his head like a wreath.
He had a broad face and a little round belly
that shook when he laughed, like a bowl full of jelly. 

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
and I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself.
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head
soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
and filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk.
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
and giving a nod, up the chimney he rose.

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
and away they all flew like the down of a thistle. 
But I heard him exclaim, ‘ere he drove out of sight — 

“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”

-Clement Clarke Moore**

Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah to all of our loyal readers and supporters! Thank you for all of your likes, comments and shares in 2014. We appreciate every one of you and look forward to a tremendous 2015.

How are you spending the Holidays?

*What’s a courser? A swift horse, a charger.
**Some scholars now believe that Major Henry Livingston, Jr. wrote this popular poem.

CCC's head elf

Your favorite elf,
Jaime

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Writer’s Block: 4 Ways You Can Break Through the Wall

You sit down at your computer to write an inspiring blog post and you get nothing. Maybe it takes the form of a brick wall or just an expansive black void. Everyone suffers from writer’s block from time to time, but how do you break through it to produce meaningful content?

Current Events: What’s going on in the world right now? It’s so important to be up on current events, not only to make small talk with potential customers and partners, but also so you can tap the pulse of the world, your country, your industry or your city in your blog. It may surprise you how often there’s a connection between what’s going on in the outside world and what you do. For example: Where Has All of the Good Journalism Gone? | The Olympics: A Global Brand (Kind Of)

Your Story: Your journey on the road of owning a business (or excelling in your industry) shouldn’t be shared only during networking events and hostage situations (kidding on that last one). Talk about memorable moments or how you handled difficult situations. People want to hear from people who have lived through similar experiences. Your personal observations can help others navigate through chaotic moments. For example: Jumping Off A Cliff: My 1st Year As An Entrepreneur | An Omnipresent View? The Life of a Small Business Owner

Your Customers: While you’re answering your customers’ questions, jot them down. Chances are that other people have the same questions. Sometimes when a client asks me a question, I actually think, ‘there’s a blog post in there!’ Don’t be afraid to talk about successful case studies either, especially unique ones. Of course, you should make sure your client’s comfortable with using its name or just talk in generalities if you’re not comfortable doing that. For example: Get Social: 4 Easy Ways to Join the Conversation | Should You Slim Down (on Social Media)?

Your Interests: Have you watched an intriguing movie lately? Attended a thought-provoking lecture? Read an inspiring book? Talk about it. Tell your audience why it affected you and how you’re using the experience in your professional life. You may be surprised at how your everyday life spills over into your business. Trust me, I didn’t set out making leg lamp cookies to learn about my business, but I did.

Your Inspiration: I wanted to be two people when I grew up: MacGyver and Ricardo Tubbs. Either that, or join the A-Team. What does that have to do with your business? Everything. I shared with my readers how MacGyver can inspire their marketing efforts and how to model your team after the best there ever was, the A-Team. Oh, and don’t forget about how Elvis can inspire your success. Big fan here! Use your inspirations to inspire others. You never know what will cause that ‘ah ha’ moment in someone else.

Your Turn

How do you beat writer’s block?

What other writing prompts have you used to break through the wall?

What’s your favorite blog post where someone tied in an unexpected subject to business?

Black belt (in beating writer’s block),
Jaime

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