Saturday, April 30, 2016

Weekly Update Apr 15-28

Blog Posts

Story Structure: Dan Wells
In this post, I share about another story structure you can use for writing fiction, structuring presentations, and telling true stories.

Presentation Rehab Tip #4 - Use a 1-page List of Talking Points
When giving a presentation, use a one-page list of talking points instead of a word-for-word script. This applies even when presenting virtually.

The Calf Path
The Calf Path is a poem by Sam Walter Foss, an American poet.

Andrew Mayne's Twitter Promotion Ideas
This post lists some of Andrew Mayne's Twitter tips for book promotion.

Writing 365

The chart immediately below this paragraph displays my progress over the past four weeks. In looking at this detailed view you can clearly see the variation from 8,500 (Week 14) to 9,800 (Week 17). However, in my normal weekly summary chart the variation across the weeks is significantly less visible. Despite the variation, I exceed my goal of writing 1,000 words per day, a total of 7,000 words per week.

I have been excited this week because I am nearing the halfway point in terms of achieving 365,000 words. Within the next couple of days from this writing I will pass 182,500 words. I can't rest, though, because my goal is a daily writing goal that will cumulatively result in a large number of words, not just a total word goal.

Bible Project

In the last couple of weekly updates I skipped the Bible Project portion of the update. Thus, my results look improved when comparing the Previous OT and OT data lines. For some reason I found myself bogged down in the book of Judges, but pushed through. The next book in sequence, Ruth, is a short book of only four chapters. Now 1 Samuel is about 25% completed. Still, there is a lot more to come, as the completed writing thus far represents 33% of the total verses in the Bible.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Andrew Mayne's Twitter Promotion Ideas

This post lists some of Andrew Mayne's Twitter tips for book promotion.

Andrew Mayne is a television personality and author. In his recent ebook, How to Write a Novella in 24 Hours, he includes a list of 100 ways to promote your book. In browsing his website, I came across the same list as a blog post. Definitely check out his book and his website:

Below are 10 of the several Twitter-related ideas suggested by Andrew Mayne. While I have a Twitter account, I don't use it like I should. Check out my previous posts on using transmedia to share your message. It is a good idea and a reminder to me as well. By posting these tips here, I will be able to locate them easily when I'm ready to promote a book project currently in the works.

Twitter Tips from Ways to Promote Your Ebook by Andrew Mayne

Note: many of these tips will work on other social platforms besides Twitter.

  1. Tweet out the link when you first release the book.
  2. Tweet out each time you put the book on a new platform.
  3. Ask anyone who likes the book on Twitter to write a review for the book.
  4. Hold a contest for people to make a blurb just on the cover and tweet it out.
  5. Tweet really good reviews with a thank you.
  6. Tweet and post small facts about the research for your book.
  7. Tweet and post a list of books that influenced your book.
  8. Tweet and post a list of movies that influenced your book.
  9. Ask people on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ for promotion ideas.
  10. Post the first sentence on Twitter and include a "read more ..." link.

Andrew's list includes 100 ways to promote your book, and most are free, only requiring your time and effort.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

The Calf Path

The Calf Path is a poem by Sam Walter Foss, an American poet.

Sam Walter Foss

Sam Walter Foss (1858-1911) was born in New Hampshire. He was a poet who wrote a poem a day for his local paper, resulting in a five-volume set of poems. A portion of one of his poems was inscribe at the U.S. Air Force Academy, and there are references to Foss's work throughout American culture.

The Calf Path

I heard this poem read by a commencement speaker recently.

One day through the primeval wood
A calf walked home as good calves should;
But made a trail all bent askew,
A crooked trail as all calves do.

Since then three hundred years have fled,
And I infer the calf is dead.


But still he left behind his trail,
And thereby hangs my moral tale.

The trail was taken up next day,
By a lone dog that passed that way;

And then a wise bell-wether sheep
Pursued the trail o’er vale and steep,

And drew the flock behind him, too,
As good bell-wethers always do.

And from that day, o’er hill and glade.
Through those old woods a path was made.
And many men wound in and out,
And dodged, and turned, and bent about,

And uttered words of righteous wrath,
Because ‘twas such a crooked path;

But still they followed—do not laugh—
The first migrations of that calf,

And through this winding wood-way stalked
Because he wobbled when he walked.
This forest path became a lane,
that bent and turned and turned again;

This crooked lane became a road,
Where many a poor horse with his load

Toiled on beneath the burning sun,
And traveled some three miles in one.

And thus a century and a half
They trod the footsteps of that calf.
The years passed on in swiftness fleet,
The road became a village street;

And this, before men were aware,
A city’s crowded thoroughfare.

And soon the central street was this
Of a renowned metropolis;

And men two centuries and a half,
Trod in the footsteps of that calf.
Each day a hundred thousand rout
Followed the zigzag calf about

And o’er his crooked journey went
The traffic of a continent.

A Hundred thousand men were led,
By one calf near three centuries dead.

They followed still his crooked way,
And lost one hundred years a day;

For thus such reverence is lent,
To well established precedent.


A moral lesson this might teach
Were I ordained and called to preach;

For men are prone to go it blind
Along the calf-paths of the mind,

And work away from sun to sun,
To do what other men have done.

They follow in the beaten track,
And out and in, and forth and back,

And still their devious course pursue,
To keep the path that others do.

They keep the path a sacred groove,
Along which all their lives they move.

But how the wise old wood gods laugh,
Who saw the first primeval calf.

Ah, many things this tale might teach—
But I am not ordained to preach.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Presentation Rehab Tip 4 - Use a 1-page list of talking points

When giving a presentation, use a one-page list of talking points instead of a word-for-word script. This applies even when presenting virtually.

For every class period of World History I in college, we had a map quiz. Whatever chapter and section we studied inevitably included a map depicting military movement, population change, countries, and cities. Even though I was generally an A student and enjoyed history, I was not doing well on the map quizzes, especially considering that each quiz usually had a maximum of 5 points (miss just one point and the score was 80%).

Knowing I had to do something to improve my performance, and subsequently my overall grade, I went shopping for a book on improving your memory. The book I found remains a classic today: The Memory Book by Harry Lorayne and Jerry Lucas. I found a strategy the helped me, and from that point on, I aced the map quizzes.

One of the techniques discussed by the authors was a memory device that even the ancient Romans used. The technique consists of associating each part of your presentation to a room of your house. The introduction might be associated with an entry way or foyer. Each subsequent section or key point could be linked to another room. When speaking, you can visualize each room of your house - which you are familiar with - and the part of your talk tied to that area will be easily recalled.

Remember, however, that you don't want to memorize word-for-word. Instead, focus on memorizing a general outline of your presentation. With sufficient preparation and review of your material, you may not even have to dedicate time to memorization, it will just become second nature as you prepare.

Even so, you may not be completely ready to give up all notes and solely rely on your memory to present. What works well for me is to create a one-page list of talking points using 18-point font. Place this on a small table or stand so that you can still interact with the audience and refer to your list when needed. I purchased a portable music stand and also use an even-smaller music stand that easily attaches to a standard microphone stand.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Story Structure: Dan Wells

In this post, I share about another story structure you can use for writing fiction, structuring presentations, and telling true stories.

Dan Wells

This is a model first developed by Dan Wells, an author of several books, both as series and stand alone novels. In 2010 he wrote a series of posts writing a story. Several other blogs have summarized his steps. The seven steps represent a very basic skeletal system, if writing a story of any length, but also provide a basic outline for a shorter story or presentation.

Peter Rabbit

In the story of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter, Peter disobeys his mother, explores a forbidden garden barely escaping with his life, and eventually gets back home.

Let's look at the seven point structure using Peter Rabbit as an example.

The seven plot points

  • Hook - this is where you as the writer or presenter grab the readers, causing them to ask, "What happens next?"
  • First plot point - This is point of no return similar to crossing the threshold in the hero's journey structure.
  • Pinch 1 - This is a situation that creates pressure on the main character.
  • Middle - The character discovers something that will help lead to a resolution.
  • Pinch 2 - However, before the resolution, more pressure is applied to main character, possibly a huge loss of some kind.
  • Second plot point - In this step, the main character obtains tools or knowledge in preparation for the resolution/final battle.
  • Resolution - Everything gets wrapped up for good or bad.

One of the unique aspects of Dan's approach is that he follows Stephen Covey's advice from the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People to "begin with the end in mind." As such, Dan starts with the resolution. How does the story end?

The next step is to decide on the hook. What is the main character doing at the beginning of the story?

Next, is the midpoint. The main character moves from reaction, where he responds to circumstances, to action, where he intentionally creates a path forward.

With the ending, beginning, and middle determined, the remaining elements can be determined.

The two plot points should be created. Finally, the two pinch points, where increasing pressure is placed on the main character, should be determined.

Here is my take on Peter Rabbit using the 7-point structure. These are presented in the order using during the planning of a story, so you will have to mentally re-order them to read the story sequentially.
  • Resolution - Peter makes a beeline for the gate and returns home tired, but missing all of his clothes.
  • Hook - Peter lives with his mother and siblings under a tree.
  • Midpoint - Peter realizes the garden is full of dangers and just wants to go home.
  • Plot point 1 - Mrs. Rabbit forbids her baby rabbits from playing in Mr. MacGregor's garden, but Peter ignores her warning.
  • Plot point 2 - Peter climbs into a wheelbarrow and can see the entrance to the garden, but he is on the opposite side from where he needs to be.
  • Pinch 1 - As Mr. MacGregor is chasing Peter, Peter gets caught on some netting and barely escapes.
  • Pinch 2 - Peter runs into the shed and hides in a watering can filled with water. He barely escapes out the window and hides out in the garden.


Dan Wells - How to Build A Story features slide deck and video.
Dan Wells - Writing a Short Story
Construction by Ravenblack7575 (via Flickr)

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Weekly Update Apr 8-14

Blog Posts

Tale of Peter Rabbit
The Tale of Peter Rabbit was written by Beatrix Potter in 1902. Potter incorporated Peter Rabbit into later stories as well. The Tale of Peter Rabbit is a great example for illustrating various story structure models.

Short run Book Printing
This post provides links and descriptions of websites with short run book printing services.

Use Google Forms to Create a Tracking Log
Google Forms is an easy and free way to create tracking logs and surveys you can access from your smart phone.

Writing 365

In a couple of future posts you will read about some of Andrew Mayne's tips. Mayne is a television personality and author. One of his tips is to use the phone for writing activities. In thinking about this, I decided to migrate all of my writing for the Writing 365 Project (where my goal is to write 1,000 or more word per day) from Microsoft Word and Apple Pages to Google Doc. While Word and Pages are great programs, the display of Google Docs is ideal for various screen sizes.

As a result, I have gone mobile this week. I used my iPad significantly more than in past weeks and also used my iPhone to write a few sentences here and there throughout the day. I must say, it is convenient to simply reach in to my pocket, grab my phone, and start writing. I don't even have to retrieve my laptop or iPad. Typing on the phone is still challenging for more than a couple of sentences, but I am going to experiment with the Siri voice dictation options.

I have been using a writing form that I created using the instructions above to enter the number of words completed each each. I later transferred these to Excel in order to create the summary chart below.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Use Google Forms to Create a Tracking Log

Google Forms is an easy and free way to create tracking logs and surveys you can access from your smart phone.

I recently learned about Google Forms from Andrew Mayne, an author and television personality. He wrote a blog post titled "My Secret Creativity Tool," in which he provided a quick overview of Google Forms.

I played around with Google Forms and decided to create the video below. This project took a couple of nights because I was dissatisfied with my first night's result. I realized that I said "so" far too much, something I previously blogged about. To help myself stay on track I created an outline. It seemed to help.

Another advantage of the outline is that it helped me write this post to support the video.

Google Forms

Google Forms is part of the Google productivity suite, which includes apps for documents, spreadsheets, and presentations. Although not nearly as powerful as Microsoft Office, Google's productivity suite is convenient because it already uses the same account information as G-mail, Google+, and YouTube.

Google Forms provides a platform to collect and organize information for free. These forms can be used for surveys, polls, and tracking logs. You are only limited by your imagination and the technical limitations of the tool.

One of the immediate applications of interest to me was a tracking log. I have previously written about a writing project in which my goal is to write 1,000 words per day each day in 2016. I am writing in four different categories, and enter my progress each day into an Excel spreadsheet. However, with a Google Form, I can track the same information simply by entering my writing progress into a form accessible on my phone.

In the video I used the example of an exercise tracking log.

Getting Started

The first step is to access Google Forms. If you don't already have a Google Drive set up, the easiest way to locate Google Forms may be to simply search "google forms" and select the first option. Click the + to create a form.

Google Forms - create and analyze surveys, for free.
Analyze your results in Google Forms. Free from Google. Google Editors Docs Sheets Slides ... About Google Docs Google Docs; Google Sheets; Google Slides;

Another way to start a new Google Form is to go to your Google Drive home page. Click: New > More > Forms.

Enter a title and description of your form. Even if only creating the form for your own use, it is helpful to include a brief descriptions.

Adding Questions

Several different types of questions exist.
  • Multiple choice includes multiple choice where only one option is selected from displayed options, checkbox where multiple options can be selected, and dropdown, where an extra mouse click is required to display the options.
  • Free text includes short answer (one line) and paragraph (multiple lines).
  • Date/Time fields include date and time.
  • Rating scale choices are Linear (Likert) scale, for one item, and multiple choice grid, for multiple items, are also available question types, but don't seem as relevant for tracking logs. 

Setting Up Responses

In order to make a form useful, the data must go somewhere. The easiest way to configure this option is to create a new Google Sheets spreadsheet using the same name as the form. On the Responses tab is a small green button which will create a spreadsheet.

Sending the Form

Three options to send the form include sending by e-mail, copying the link, and embedding the link. E-mail is the best option to easily transfer the link from computer to smart phone.

Before configuring the form on your phone, test the form by copying the link and pasting it into a new browser tab or window. As soon as you submit the form, the data is immediately loaded in the corresponding Google Sheets spreadsheet (which you can verify by navigating to the spreadsheet).

Use on Your Phone

Open the message that you sent from the Google Forms "Send" options and click on the link. The form will open on to your phone's browser (in my case, Safari). Using the Share button, save the link to your home screen. The form will now appear as a icon (just like mail, Instagram, Pinterest, etc.).

Now, whenever you click this icon, you will be taken directly to the form.