Friday, August 13, 2010

Content with the Contents

I've gotten some great feedback so far from people who have reviewed select chapters. Two comments were centered around the Table of Contents, which I hadn't given a lot of thought to.

The first suggested I categorize them. I had sort of ordered them vaguely in groups that I thought might go together best. (And other than two chapters there is no necessary chronological order that's called for.) But I initially resisted something more formal.

Categories are pretty arbitrary when you come down to it. And what if I had outliers? Chapters that didn't belong? Or categories that seemed weak? And do the categories suggest a more comprehensive approach than I've been going for?

Finally, I just decided to take my own advice from one of the chapters. Just try writing it down. You never know until you actually put it on paper. So that's what I did. (Starting with cutting them up individually and shifting the pieces around on the floor.) I haven't decided yet whether I like it, but it does relate to the second comment I got.

Someone said that some of the content descriptions made her want to read more and others less so. Also some showed a clear connection with my theme, and others did not. I then realized that the contents page is a key part of the marketing and packaging of the book. It should help frame and sell the thing. To potential readers, publishers and others.

(And I also found a good use for the language from my alternative titles, which is cool.)

So I've taken another crack at it. It still needs work but it's on the right track.

Communicate Like an Actor

1. Show, Don’t Tell
What we can learn from David Mamet and Jon Hamm.

2. The Power of Emotion
In acting, emotion is everything. In business, it’s a dirty word. But there’s a reason facts are described as “cold” and “hard” – they’ll only get you so far.

3. Tell a Story
From the cave painters to Tony Soprano, everybody’s got a story.

Playing to the Audience

4. Stand Outside Yourself
Getting trapped in corporate-speak is like a verbal Stockholm Syndrome. As Denzel Washington said, “Explain it to me like I’m a four-year-old.”

5. Where’s Your Audience?
Before stepping onto the stage – literally or figuratively – think about your audience’s expectations, mood and interests.

6. Using Humor
Want to know the secret to comedy from real professionals? Being funny is an outcome, not a goal.

Writing That Really Performs

7. A Strategic Approach
In acting it’s called “playing the want.” We all want something – let’s be clear about it.

8. Getting from Point A to Point B
What sketch writing can teach us about discipline and focus in our writing.

9. Staying on Message
Achieving continuity of intent. Just don’t drop your gig.

10. His Master's Voice
Writing authentic dialogue. Tips for capturing the tone, rhythm and style of the speaker.

It All Starts with the Script

11. Plainly speaking
Is your company a Laurence Olivier in a Bobby DeNiro world? Communicate like a human, as if you're talking to another human.

12. Language Matters
Here’s an offer you can’t refuse: nine ways to make your writing sing.

13. Grammar Peeves
When it comes to enforcing the rules, we are all “The Simpsons” Comic Book Guy.

Get Me Rewrites!

14. Slash and Burn
Take it from Tommy Lee Jones: less is more

15. This Ain't Art ... and You're Not Shakespeare
Don’t be the Sean Young of corporate communications. Learn to compromise with clients over edits and changes.

16. Be an Editor, Not a Jackass
Be the type of editor you always wanted to have.


17. Barriers to Communication
Do you live in a van by the river? The fears, assumptions and lawyers that keep people from communicating.

18. Blocked? Get Over It
You don’t have to be crazy to write without inhibition. But it helps. What Second City taught me about turning a brain cramp into writer’s cramp.

19. Pitch It
As writers, we expect our work to speak for itself. As introverts, that approach suits our style. But that’s not the way the world works, whether in business or in Hollywood.

20. Find Your Own Process
Hemingway wrote standing up. Who cares? The only “right” way to write is the way that works for you.

The Big Picture

21. Creating Cathedral Builders
Are your people principals or extras? Ten ways to transform the organization through communications.

22. Communications Drives Strategy
Imagine a play without a script. Wait, you don’t have to. It’s called “improv,” and it can sometimes be as unwatchable as a group of corporate executives pulling strategy out of the air.

23. Meetings Drive Productivity
SNL’s Lorne Michaels famously said that they don’t go on the air because they’re ready, they go on because it’s 11:30. There’s nothing like the specter of a good public shaming to drive productivity.

In the Spotlight

24. Is This Thing On?
Life is an audition, and you’re always “on.”

25. Screw Your Fear
Believe in yourself. If you don’t, nobody else will. And if you can’t, take it from improv legend Mick Napier: learn to fake it.

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