writing

Writing a Novel vs. That Movie in Your Head

Does this sound familiar to you?

You watch a lot of movies and TV. You have a great imagination. For fun, you close your eyes and make up your own stories, seeing them play out. You might even listen to some music for a soundtrack. You grab your favorite actors for the roles of the heroes and villains. You make up big action scenes in slo-mo. You use fighting moves from your favorite video games.

At some point, you realize the movie you’re making in your mind is actually pretty good. You’ve got some original stuff in there that other people might like. You’ve got some twists and turns. And so you think, “Hey, I’ll start writing this stuff down.” Finally, you think, “This is going to make a great novel.” You might even think, “I’ll make a fortune selling the movie rights.”

There’s only one problem. (Well, there are hundreds of problems when you’re writing, but there’s only one I’m going to talk about right now).

Writing a novel is more than transcribing that movie in your head.

We Have More Senses than Seeing and Hearing

When people read a book, they want to feel they are “there,” living the story. A sure sign a writer’s got a movie playing in her head is that all the imagery in the novel is visual and auditory.

We smell, taste, have a sense of balance, feel, experience pain, get thirsty, itch, and a lot more of the same in our lives. While visual and auditory information take up a lot of our attention, we are easily distracted by a toothache or growling stomach. A room can look like heaven and smell like hell (especially when I haven’t cleaned the cat box).

Writing that only uses two senses can never feel like life.

You Cannot Recreate Movie Effects in a Novel

gaston beauty and the beast reading book

The movie in your head might look fantastic. It might run like a video and be exquisitely detailed. But you must remember that your ultimate product is a bunch of words on a page. Watching something explode and reading that something exploded will not produce the same effect in an audience.

Moreover, you are writing a novel, not a movie script. Slo-mo, distorted sound effects, lens flares, rack focus, and other such techniques are made to produce a super-heightened reality for a story told in two hours on a huge screen in Dolby stereo while the audience downs oversized buckets of popcorn.

The words on the page are the only tools through which the reader experiences the story. They should not be tools to remind us of movies we’ve seen.

Too Much Detail Kills

The experiences of reading and watching a movie are different. While a busy and well-filled screen can make for an immersive experience, it is a strange quality of writing that often less is more. Writing should fuel the reader’s own imagination by providing just enough detail and imagery. A single phrase on the page can build a universe in the reader’s mind.

And I’m not just talking about literary classics like Hemingway’s “The Killers,” which is a masterpiece of using tight writing with specific detail to tell a story of great emotional impact.

I also mean something like Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park. The scenes where the dinosaurs attack people have short, direct sentences, quick and vivid descriptions of action, and terse dialogue.

Giving too much film-like detail and direction, no matter how beautiful it is in your head, actually stifles your reader’s ability to make your story their own.

A Novel Has No Soundtrack

A pet peeve of mine: stories that use lyrics to popular songs in an attempt to simulate a soundtrack. A couple is dancing in the rain, and the radio is playing, “You’d think that people would have had enough of silly love songs. But I look around me and I see it isn’t so.”

Blech.

More to the point, music is used in movies to set mood and drive pace. Good soundtracks do this well because, most of the time, we don’t notice. Movie scores work best when the audience takes it in unconsciously, helping their heart to race or their tears to swell.

Reading takes conscious effort. When a novel mentions music, readers don’t start playing the music in their heads, set the tune to “unconscious,” and then keep reading. They think about the music and wonder what it’s about. Then they stop thinking about the music and think about the next words on the page.

It’s All About the Words

Let’s take an example of great writing.

Yes, the newspapers were right: snow was general all over Ireland. It was falling softly upon the Bog of Allen and, further westwards, softly falling into the dark mutinous Shannon waves. It was falling too upon every part of the lonely churchyard where Michael Furey lay buried. It lay thickly drifted on the crooked crosses and headstones, on the spears of the little gate, on the barren thorns. His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead.

(“The Dead,” James Joyce)

At first, yes, this could play out as a movie in your head: see the snow falling, see the bog and the water, see the churchyard.

But the passage does so much more, and what it does a movie can’t. The repetition of the words and the soft sounds of “f” and “s” mimic the sound of falling snow, not like music but like thoughts. Look at how well we are put inside the character’s head here. We experience the wandering of his mind across Ireland to Furey’s grave. Look at how the reader is invited to get more meaning from the “barren thorns” than just an image of thorns covered with snow. Look at the grace notes. It reads like a poem.

Words and words alone make novels. That’s what makes them so great and, for better or worse—depending upon which art form you favor—so unlike movies.

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Edit911 Review of Guy Kawasaki’s The Art of the Start 2.0

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Starting a business? Thinking of starting a business? Started a business but need some or a lot of guidance and advice? Are you an entrepreneur or have a burning desire to become one? Then Guy Kawasaki’s The Art of the Start 2.0: The Time-Tested and Battle-Hardened Guide for Anyone Starting Anything is the definitive manual for you.

Waste not another minute in getting and gobbling up this completely rethought and revised edition of Guy’s 2004 bestseller of the same name. You can turn the pages of this guidebook into your roadmap for starting or building your business, and realizing your entrepreneurial dreams, just as Guy has and continues to do.

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Precious few entrepreneurs have Guy’s experience: a pioneer at Apple & Google; a prime mover behind 12 successful startups; an author of 12 brilliant books; a towering presence on the internet–with numerous websites for his services (such as Alltop, a curating gem for news, stories, and topics of all sorts), companies (such as Canva, “the easiest to use design program in the world”), and books (such as APE, the very best book about how to become a published author and entrepreneur); and a force in social media with 1.45M followers on Twitter (@guykawasaki), 289K likes on Facebook, and 6.8M followers on Google+.

The Art of the Start covers everything we need to know about the subject–from the nitty-gritty of picking our partners, to the Harvard Business School rigor of attracting venture capitalists; from the basics of finding our company’s niche, to the advanced strategies of pitching to investors. Throughout the book, Guy gives us the GIST (Great Ideas for Starting Things) of every topic with sharp, bullet point takeaways, such as the following:

  • “It’s much easier to do things right from the start than to fix them later” (p.14).
  • “…the genesis of great companies is answering simple questions that change the world…” (p.15).
  • “…find a viable sweet spot in the market” (p. 16).
  • “If you make meaning, you’ll probably make money” (p.18).
  • “People want more than information….They want faith–faith in you, your product, your success, and in the story you tell” (p.42).
  • “Put the best interests of others at heart” (p.142).
  • “Feature your customers” (p. 146). 

Ultimately, The Art of the Start is a meta-guide to making a product or service and marketing it to the masses. It’s a self-aware, self-starting, endless regress of ideas that mirror themselves the more we replicate them in our own entrepreneurial adventures. 

The main message is that we can, indeed, see ourselves in others, conceive a product or service we would like to have, and then safely assume that others would too. We can empower ourselves by being ourselves, realizing our dreams as we envision filling a gap or lack in the lives of others. That is, as we actualize our visions by doing unto others, the good karma will come back around to us in the shape of success. By doing everything not for money, but despite money, not for ourselves, but for others, we can build businesses, audiences, and circles of customers who are believers in what we do.

 Guy Kawasaki AuthorAs Guy sums it up: “The bottom line is that you should do everything you can to foster an ecosystem around your product. It is a powerful tool to increase the satisfaction of your believers and to attract new believers with greater ease–in short, making your product endure” (p. 210).


The Art of the Start 2.0 transcends other “business” books in the same way great companies transcend their competitors: it is enchanting, magical, fascinating, human, and humane. Both practical and whimsical, logical and serendipitous, if we follow its path, we, too, could become like Guy: “…someone who is ethical, graceful, and admirable.” What a concept for the 21st century business world!

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5 Keys to Writing a Great Press Release

Whether you’re an entrepreneur, business leader, non-profit organizer, community activist, inventor, or author, at some point you’ll need to write a press release. A Press Release is the perfect tool that lets the outside world communicate with those who distribute news. A well-written press release is an effective tool that contributes to your promotional success.

It’s important to remember that your press release will be edited or changed somewhat. A press release in and of itself is not news–rather, it carries news. Your goal in sending a press release is to gain attention and have people contact you for more information on your idea, concept, or product.

1) The title must attract attention.


Your title needs to tease at the news in your press release. A title must get your audience to read the entire press release to learn more about your news.

Here are good and bad examples of titles:
“Company X completes a major merger that will revolutionize cell phone access” checkmark
“Company X just completed a merger” x

“Company ABC Exceeds Growth Expectations and launches two new products” checkmark
“Company ABC announces earnings and product news” x

2) Be succinct.

Joey from Friends pointing and nodding like "this guy gets it"
A good press release is approximately 500 words or less. You want to explain who you or your company is, share your news, add a quotation about the news, and direct the reader to contact information so that he/she can learn more about you or your company.

3) Have a great quotation that people can appreciate.

Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson clapping in awe
Many press releases share a quotation from a company leader, industry partner, or end user. You want to make sure that the quotation means something to your audience. Quotations should be short, want the reader to find the person delivering the quotation, and ask him/her more about the idea.

Here is a good and bad example of a quotation:

“Proving the idea before spending on capital equipment will be a huge benefit to most emerging technology companies. Our goal is to save companies anywhere between 30 and 50% of the normal operating costs associated with proving technology.” check mark

“Many companies can spend lots of money trying to prove a technology. In most cases, that money is wasted, although in a few that works out okay. We have really studied this issue and have a solution that we are marketing that will help companies save money. For each company the amount of money they will save using our technology will vary but we think they will find the savings to be compelling enough to purchase our technology.” x

The first quotation is short and makes the reader want to learn more about this idea. The second quotation is long, does not say much of anything, and does not grab the attention of the reader. In fact, the second quotation sounds confusing and unprepared. If you have the time to write a quality press release, you also need to make certain the quotations are well developed.

4) Make it easy for your audience to contact you.

Kim Possible "You can call me, or...beep me. You know, if you wanna reach me."
This seems obvious but many companies forget to put their direct information on the press release. People want to be able to easily access your website, email you, or call you on the phone so that they can learn more about the subject of the press release.

5) Make sure there are no typos or grammatical errors and have a clean format.

Perfection

You must put your best foot forward with the press release. Grammar errors and typos are a bad reflection on you and your company. Make sure you have at least two people proofread and edit your press release. If the press release is critical to your success, consider having it professionally edited. A poorly written press release will keep people from spreading your news. Any reputable news agency (or website), publication, or public relations firm will avoid sharing your information if there are typos and grammar errors. Format is important, so make sure the font is the same type and size for the text and that you have square margins.

Follow these five recommendations and you are sure to have success with your press release.

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