- by BlogMistress
by Vickie Jenkins
First let me THANK YOU ALL for creating stories that entertain us!
I’m blogging today to help you break through—not ‘writer’s block’ but ‘speakers block.’
One of the things an author struggles with is how to take those pages and pages of material that you spent days, months and years writing and then distill the concept down into one sentence which addresses the question that inevitably pops up in a conversation or interview:
“What’s your book about?”
Because this communication is verbal not written, I suggest you practice saying your answer out loud, recording it and playing it back. It’s worked for my clients—and for me as well!
When I started in the news business I was a journalism student at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, but I was having trouble getting the who-what-when-where-why-and how details into those opening sentences when writing a newspaper story. One of my professors who had been an Associated Press reporter before joining the staff at SIU saw me struggling, sat me down in his office one day, and said, “Vickie—you’re not good at this. But you’re good at something close to it. So take other courses here in the College of Communications and Fine Arts and find your spot.”
I walked down the hallway to the Radio-Television department and met the head of the broadcast news program. When I explained what had happened, he smiled, and had simple advice for learning how to communicate easily: “Because in this department you’re writing for radio, which people LISTEN to, you’re writing for the EAR, not the EYE. So you should WRITE THE WAY YOU SPEAK.”
And that broke my writer’s block as well as any speaker’s block I had about broadcasting. I went on to anchor the news in San Francisco for 20 years, and I still share that advice as I coach others, who are learning to speak their stories —on radio, TV, online, and at live events.
Since your opening pitch to a potential reader (or media person) is the spoken word, get a tape recorder and practice describing your story in 1-2 sentences. Do the same with your characters. Don’t write it ahead of time, just TALK YOUR STORY—record it and play it back. Examples of ‘what’s your book about?’ responses:
“It’s about a tough female reporter who ends up being the one who’s chased—when a narcissistic killer wants her to cover his ultimate revenge story.”
“It’s about a 13-yr-old boy who runs away from home to find his deadbeat Dad, and the secret he uncovers along the way.”
“It’s about an 18th-century peasant girl in the south of France who makes friends with an old wise man and learns his magic powers of persuasion to get what she thought she wanted.”
“It’s about the man you wished you’d met when YOU were 19.”
Tell it the way you talk. Include the mystery, the fun, the obstacle. And leave them looking for more!
But when you’re translating your written words into verbal storytelling, remember that each communication environment is unique. A National Public Radio station interview can be 10 minutes and slower-paced. A “light rock” music station interview during morning drive (6am-9am) is 2-3 minutes with short, fast answers.
The video clips you record for YouTube and Twitter links should be under 5 minutes and include the author’s personal stories as well as the book plot and characters.
When you’re in the bookstore / live event environment, you want to speak to the audience naturally and conversationally, and then shift into the “once upon a time” reading style that will pull them into the story you’ve created. Then shift again to handle the Q&A, signing, and book sales discussions.
Each of these verbal communication skills takes practice and guidance—but you can do it! And expand not just your reader base, but your confidence and sense of joyful storytelling as well.
Vickie Jenkins coaches authors for successful media interviews, speeches and presentations. Her clients regularly appear on the Today Show, Oprah, CNBC, Good Morning America, as well as many local radio, TV, print, and online outlets. She media trains authors individually and in groups worldwide in person, via phone, and Skype.