Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Happy Halloween: Trick or Tweeting

Halloween is a great holiday for creativity! There are crazy costumes, creepy stories, and lots of strange decorations to come up with.

But here at GG, we have an extra-special Halloween trump card: GHOSTS! What better time is there to recognize the art of ghostwriting?

So here's a fun, ghostly Halloween challenge:

Come up with a creative hashtag for what being a ghost(writer) means to you, and tweet it to us at @GothamGhosts by Thursday, October 31st.         

We’ll round up the wittiest, funniest, cleverest ghostly tweets in a BloGG post next week.

And have a happy and safe Halloween!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Guest Post: How to Get Your Speakers to Sing

by David Murray
Last month in Europe I got asked the same question I get asked in the States: How do I animate and effervesce my wooden, flat speaker?

Bring in a speaking coach, is the easy answer.

Too easy, in many cases. Coaches can polish a rough speaker, but teaching a stiff speaker to act animated is like tying ropes to the arms and legs of a corpse.

Speakers are stiff because they are scared. And they are scared because they should be scared. For they have permanently stolen an hour from the lives of many human souls, and they know full well they don’t have anything to say that is of real importance even to themselves, let alone to this innocent crowd.

Fear and public speaking have gone together since the first fourth-grade teacher forced the first fourth-grader to choose from a list of five weary topics on which to give a speech to the class. And the fourth-grader felt like a fraud because he was made to be a fraud, forced to pretend he had a genuine, studied, heartfelt, unique, and useful opinion about “How does pollution affect society?” Or was it, “Are zoos good for animals?”

And so the fourth-grader stood, shame-faced but brave, in front of classmates with whom he or she had exchanged fart jokes that very morning and pretended to be an authority on the benefits and drawbacks of cloning (while the classmates, with mixed success, pretended to care). And said the expected things for the required amount of time and sat down and hoped that the next such assignment would be proceeded by death.

And that’s pretty much exactly how public speaking went down for the fourth-grader, as he or she passed through junior high, high school, and college, where the phony passion was applied to mouthing rote arguments for or against euthanasia, raising the drinking age, and the legalization of drugs, exactly in that order.

Then a merciful decade or two passed—during the fourth-grader’s early work life, when most of the speeches were being given by the elders—and the fourth-grader’s oratorical participation consisted mostly of pretending to be interested in other speakers who were pretending to be interesting.

But then one day the fourth-grader became a manager. And soon an executive. And then a senior executive. And finally the call came: Would the fourth-grader honor a faceless audience by appearing at a random leadership forum and delivering a speech on an unspecified topic? 

That’s when the fourth-grader became your client. And you wonder why your client is elusive and would appear to prefer to focus on any aspect of her work rather than the speech that’s coming up. Don’t be surprised! Your client is a fourth-grader! And do you know who you are? In the fourth-grader’s mind, you are the teacher who is trying to get the fourth-grader to choose one of the five weary topics that you have suggested!

Long before the fourth-grader understood his or her own mind well enough to have anything genuine to say that could be sustained over more than a single minute of oratory, he or she had utterly disassociated public speaking from true candor and intimate communication. So if you are to recouple these two concepts in your fourth-grader’s fully grown (and thus half-ossified) mind, you will have a hell of a job ahead of you.

You have to ascertain something true and deep about what motivated the speaker to climb all the way from the fourth grade to the position of CEO of your company. Are we dealing here with a brilliant or dogged engineer? A passionate financial analyst? A natural motivator of people? An idealistic believer in the industry? Or just a gasoline-driven ambitious maniac? Whatever the qualities that got the fourth-grader all the way to this exalted position (far ahead of all of the fourth-grader’s classmates)—well, you’ve got to understand something about where those qualities came from, and how they connect today with the fourth-grader who’s still inside.

And now you’re threatening to write a speech that’s outside of the five suggested topics. A speech that feels like something only your fourth-grader could give—because it’s about his grandpa, it’s about what she did over the summer, it’s about why he doesn’t like to get a haircut, or why she thinks it’s better to be a tomboy than a girly-girl. And suddenly, the fourth-grader isn’t so focused on the PowerPoint deck. Suddenly the fourth-grader is up for trying it without a lectern. Suddenly the fourth-grader is laughing on stage, and wondering aloud whether you should maybe be videotaping this speech, to send to all the employees.

Because she suddenly realizes: Shc can’t remember giving a speech that sounds so much like herself.

Actually, this doesn’t happen suddenly at all. A speaker for a Danish government minister came up to me after my talk in Copenhagen last week. “He doesn’t like to tell personal stories,” she said about her client. “But I’ve gotten him to do it, and he knows they love it when he talks about the old car he bought and loves. And he knows that’s always the part they remember.”

Could she have a straight-up conversation with him about beginning to choose the topics he speaks on based on the issues he feels most personally connected to? So that, to whatever extent strategically advisable, every speech he gives is about his beloved old car—or his mother, or his freshman history professor, or his political mentor, or an intellectual revelation or a personal turning point or anything that’s as as true to the fourth-grader as it is to the man?

Yes, she said. She actually thought she could have that conversation.

I told her to keep me posted. She looked at me skeptically but could see that I meant it. The speeches they generate together will all be in Danish. But if she succeeds, the communication they achieve will speak to us all.

I’ll keep you posted on her work with her fourth-grader, if you keep me posted on your work with yours.

David Murray is the editor of premier online speechwriting magazine Vital Speeches of the Day. This article was first published on VSOTD here.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Guest post: End Procrastination Now!

by Arielle Eckstut, one half of the Book Doctors

This past August, we had the honor of attending a conference hosted by behavioral economist and bestselling author Dan Ariely. He studies why human beings make the predictably irrational decisions that they do.

Dan invited a number of writers to the conference because he contends that behavioral economics is often best elucidated through stories. And through Dan’s own stories, we learned so much about the ridiculous decisions we make as writers—as well as how we can become more productive by putting into practice the principles he teaches.

Over and over, we talk to writers with great ideas for books. But these very creative people just can't seem to finish writing them. If we say it once, we say it a bazillion times: In order to get successfully published, you have to actually write. To do so, here are three principles of behavioral economics that will help slay the procrastination beast:
  1. Set real, concrete, achievable deadlines and schedules. Instead of saying you're going to write three days a week, actually name the days—Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, for instance. This way, you don’t get to say, “Oh, I’ll just do this tomorrow.” Map out a draft of your book in your calendar, not just in your head. Put in deadlines, along with reminders of those deadlines.
  2. Find a buddy (or buddies.) Join a writer’s group or seek out a partner, and check in with each other to make sure you meet your deadlines. For example, Arielle and her dear friend Laura Schenone were both working under tight deadlines to finish their books this summer. They were struggling. Then they made a pact: They would both write 500 words a day and then email their word count to each other at the end of each day. It was amazing what this simple social motivation achieved! The knowledge that they would have to check in with someone else produced enormous traction. Day after day after day, they wrote their 500 words. And even when they didn’t get to 500, they did write something—which was a hell of a lot more than they had been doing previously.
  3. Reward yourself, whether negatively or positively. For example, if you finish a week’s worth of reaching your word count, arrange for a romantic date with your loved one, or a relaxing evening on your favorite golf course, or buy yourself that fancy doodad you’ve been craving. Or you could go the other way: Set up an account with a charity you hate, and if you don't meet your goals, send them $50.  Losing something valuable to someone you hate turns out to be a great incentive!
Do you have other great tips to end procrastination? Share them in the comments.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

GG’s Oriana Leckert Featured on TechHive

“Whenever someone sounds drastically more coherent in a tweet then they do in person, they probably had some help.” 
—Oriana Leckert 

A recent article on TechHive, a site that focuses on gadgets, trends, and other tech news, features GG Director of Operations, Oriana Leckert, on growing ghostwriting trends in the social media celebrity-sphere.

In “Who’s actually writing your favorite celebrity’s tweets?Evan Dashevsky illuminates “ghost posting” on social media among high-profile personalities. From celebrities to politicians, ghostwriting has become a common phenomenon in the maintenance of public profiles on social media. “Having worked in this industry for a few years, I just assume that everyone has a ghostwriter,” Oriana says.

So whose writing are we actually reading? We will never know. Dashevsky interviews a celeb ghostwriter for the inside scoop: from negotiating per-tweet rates to client (non)interaction to the legalities of staying anonymous. 

“Ghostwriting [for social media] is definitely gaining ground; the stigma around the whole thing is being lifted,” Oriana says. Fans are going to have to become comfortable with the idea that social media profiles are prepared for, not by, their favorite celebs.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Around the Word: Preparing for NaNoWriMo

Have you ever considered writing a novel? What about writing a novel in thirty days? That may sound crazy, but every November, tens of thousands of people do it, as part of National Novel-Writing Month. Why not join in?

NaNoWriMo encourages high-intensity writing (50,000+ words) in a short period of time. Bringing together professional and amateur writers from all over the world, it's sort of like a support group for those struggling with writer’s block. If you want to push yourself to write more and more quickly, or are simply an enthusiastic lover of challenges, NaNoWriMo is a great way to get inspired, get started, or, if you’re ahead of the game, finally complete your partially finished work.

Shanghai-born, Brooklyn-based writer Jack Cheng once said: “If it excites you and scares the crap out of you at the same time, it probably means you should do it.” If you do decide to accept the NaNoWriMo challenge, register on the site, and then get organized. The better prepared you are, the greater your chances of success, so why not designate October your pre-NaNoWriMo boot camp month?

Here are some tips to prepare yourself for the intensive writing month to come:

o Research
Wondering if NaNoWriMo is right for you? Start by evaluating past writers’ experiences. Not only do you stand to gain valuable tips and tricks from your experienced predecessors, you'll also be able to adjust your expectations and understand what you're getting yourself into.

Seek Inspiration
Writers read and readers write, so try re-reading some favorite books or stories. Reading exemplary writing can light the spark of excitement and encouragement.

o Document Your Inspiration
If you don't already have one, try making an "idea journal" with quotes, images, excerpts, photos, music, and anything else that inspires you. This is a good way to keep track of your current interests as a writer.

o Prepare a Rough Outline
By the end of October you should know what you want to write about during NaNoWriMo. Make a list in your idea journal of the names of your main characters and at least five qualities about each of them, the major dramatic question or conflict, the primary themes, and a layout of the structure. But don’t work yourself up over every last detail—leave some things to fate.

o Find Friends
Crazy loves company! One of the great things about NaNoWriMo is that it's easy to connect with other writers. Acting on this network sooner rather than later is a good way to gear up for the process, exchange ideas and strategies, discuss workshopping possibilities, and establish a support network to lean on during the intensive month.

o Plan Your Writing Schedule
NaNoWriMo can be extremely rewarding—if you get it done. So know your limitations and make up a schedule of when you'll have time to write. Decide on your daily and weekly goals, and plan accordingly. This will help you be most efficient, and understand when you are lagging behind.

If you found these tips helpful, we encourage you to share your NaNoWriMo plan-of-action and personal writing tips in the comments.

Good Luck! You're probably going to need it.