Several days ago, we posted a breakdown of how we created the cover for Glenn R. Burkey's self-help business book, The First Class Way. We were so taken with Glenn's story of business success and personal development that we asked him to answer a few questions. He generously agreed.
Here's Craig's conversation with him:
Q: When did you realize you needed to write this book?
I had been on a journey to find out why I did, what I did, when I did it, and at about the 22-year mark I found Bob Proctor. His teachings about paradigms brought everything together that I had been studying. When that happened, I started to feel this need to get everything that was in my head out and organized so it would make sense not only to me but also to others.
Q: What was the most difficult part of writing it?
Actually, believing in myself regarding my writing style. I had hired a writing coach who didn’t get what I was trying to say and the way I was trying to say it. So even though I learned some things from her, I had to let her go and finish it on my own.
Also, making the time to write. I always knew that I was a morning person, so eventually I figured out that I had to get up at 4:30 a.m. to write. I am at my best in the mornings.
Q: What is the biggest mistake business owners make?
By far, it is blurring the lines between their business and themselves. Owners of small to medium-sized businesses have a tendency to treat their business like a piggy bank. I coach them to take care of the golden goose and it will take care of them. I coach them to pay themselves what it would take to hire someone to do what they do, and maybe just a little bit more. By the way, I coach them to treat their employees the same. Pay a little more than market to help them get good people.
The second mistake is that they don’t invest in themselves through personal development. Most of them rise to their level of incompetence and stay there. They either go broke or cash out with the excuse that it was the competition, the economy, the government, the employees, or any other excuse they can think of for their predicament.
Q: What is the value of business coaching?
When you are in business, there is no where you can get an unbiased opinion on anything. Everybody you talk to, including your spouse, has an agenda. They want something from you. A business coach has an agenda, too, but his agenda is simply coach you, as fast as you are able, to go out of your comfort zone and grow as an individual. The coach knows that your business can never be any bigger or better than you are. But he also knows that people learn at different rates and tries not to get you into the panic zone. If the company does get bigger than you are, you may subconsciously sabotage the business to get it back down to your comfort zone.
The Professional Business Coaches Alliance estimates that the return on investing in a business coach is about 10 to 1. I personally believe it is much higher than that.
Q: At this stage of your life, after building multiple businesses, what gives you the most satisfaction?
A satisfied client. When I can take someone from being stuck, someone who is owned by their business, someone who isn’t having any fun anymore, and someone who can’t remember why they started their business, and help them fix it, my heart sings! My job is to coach them on how to do it. Once I do that, it lasts them a lifetime.
Q: You’ve been a Marine, a student, a builder, a husband and father, a salesman, and now a writer. What’s next for you?
At 75 years old, because of the work I have done for the past 25 years on my personal development, I now have a future that I get to choose. What I mean by that is I didn’t know why I did, what I did, when I did it. I now understand that I was programmed by my parents, by schools, and by society. I now have the awareness to begin dissecting my paradigms and determining what serves me and what doesn’t. When I discover something that isn’t serving me, I can change my belief about it, which will then change my actions.
As a young man, I escaped my childhood by running away, which saved my life. At 20 years old, I was the happiest, most congenial person I had ever been because of that escape. Then life took over. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I didn’t know how to live life on life’s terms. I went on a 30-year journey of not living life true to myself. I medicated my feelings with alcohol. I now have that same feeling I had when I was 20 years old. I, for now, want to just bask in it.
Then at 49 years old, I began my real journey in life, free of alcohol. What’s next for me is to be the father and mentor to my family and those I coach to seek the truth. And I intend to do that by showing them.
The book was a step in that direction. Getting my story down in writing so that those that follow me will have a reference for their lives.
To learn more about Glenn's business, go here.
To order Glenn's book, go here.
Craig's seventh novel, Julep Street, came out today. To mark its release, he writes below about its journey from concept to manuscript to honest-to-goodness book, and some of the issues an author must think through on the way to publication:
By a happy accident of the calendar, I've had several opportunities to speak to students and civic groups in recent weeks, and during the Q&A portions of the talks, I've fielded some variation on these two questions:
1. How long does it take to write a book?
2. How do you know when you're done with one?
Each is answered with two simple words—"it depends"—and a cavalcade of anecdotes. Do I tell them about my first novel, 600 Hours of Edward, which was drafted in a feverish 24 days? Or my second, The Summer Son, which needed a year to cook and a half-dozen significant rewrites? Or any of the others, all of which came with their own distinct challenges, and all of which announced their readiness in different ways.
With the release of Julep Street, I can speak in specifics, because this book's journey through the manuscript phase and, ultimately, publication was unlike any other I've written.
I started writing Julep Street in 2012, at a leisurely pace (for me). It got interrupted late in the year as Edward Adrift, the follow-up to 600 Hours, pushed insistently at my brain and demanded a quick gestation. In 2013, I finished Julep Street's first pass and a couple of rewrites, and I sent the manuscript on to my then-agent and my then-editor at Lake Union Publishing.
Responses were slow in coming. And when they arrived, they weren't what I was hoping to hear. My agent found the protagonist, Carson McCullough, unlikable, and the book wasn't the high-concept project she'd been hoping to see. (Spoiler alert: One of the freeing discoveries I've made about myself is that "high concept" isn't really my strength. I'm OK with this.) My editor found Carson's dog annoying and suggested that the manuscript wasn't quite there. The problem, for me, is that "there" was a squishy concept; I didn't know what it was or how to reach it. So I put Julep Street away and moved on to the next few books.
Here, I have to give credit and appreciation to my literary wingman, Jim Thomsen, who loved Julep Street from the start and would gently inquire from time to time about it. That kept the manuscript in my thoughts and was a crucial factor in my picking it up late last year and seeing its possibilities with fresh eyes. Thank you, Jim. I owe you. Again.
Upon re-reading the manuscript, I saw my way through. I found deeper empathy with Carson and wrote a more fulsome version of him. Hector, the dog, became a crucial character unto himself. The thematic aspects of the story, lurking beneath the prose I'd squeezed out in 2012 and 2013, became more pronounced in 2016. At long last, I had a manuscript I was ready to prepare for publication. The resulting book is out now, and I couldn't be more proud of it. And I'm pleased to have received validation in the form of strong reviews. (Here, too!)
So what made the difference for Julep Street? Time and perspective, I'd say. The well-grounded criticisms of my former agent and editor were given a chance to seep into my brain and come out through my fingertips in needed revisions. In waiting more than two years between setting it down and picking it up again, I gave my writing and my sense of story time to develop. Reading it fresh, I saw its flaws, its successes, and its possibilities. I acted on all of those, and then I released the manuscript into the editing and publication process.
Here at Lancarello Enterprises, we can't tell you when it's time to bring others into your story. That's your journey, and it's personal and unique. Our best advice is to write as well as you can, develop a strong relationship with your manuscript, rewrite until you've done all you think you can do, and then put some faith in professionals to help you realize its potential. When you've reached that point—when you're ready for developmental editing, copy editing, or publication design—we'll be ready to talk. Always.
We're just a click away.
With apologies to the Talking Heads, you may ask yourself:
Why do I need a writing class when I’m not a writer?
With further apologies to the Talking Heads, you may tell yourself:
I do my job and I do it well. That’s enough.
We’re sure you do, but we’ve seen the research, and we can say this with full confidence and without reservation: A better writer is a better communicator, and a better communicator is a more successful employee, even if your business is widgets and not words.
But don’t take our word for it. Consider this article and its attention-grabbing statistic:
Nearly three-quarters—73.4 percent—of employers want better writers for the jobs they hope to fill. In fact, it’s No. 3 on the list of sought-after attributes, behind only leadership and ability to work with a team. And believe us: If you’re an effective writer, you’re likely to be a better leader and team member than you’d otherwise be.
Now, consider this quote from the article, from Basecamp founder Jason Fried:
If you are trying to decide among a few people to fill a position, hire the best writer. … That's because being a good writer is about more than writing clear writing. Clear writing is a sign of clear thinking. Great writers know how to communicate. They make things easy to understand. They can put themselves in someone else's shoes. They know what to omit. And those are qualities you want in any candidate. Writing is making a comeback all over our society...Writing is today's currency for good ideas.”
We’re sold. And that’s where we come in.
Elisa Lorello, our lead on writing workshops, built her early career on teaching technical and business writing and approaching the craft from a rhetorical-composition standpoint. That means she can tailor workshops to the specific needs of employers and employees. Whether it’s writing more effective memos, organizing information and ideas, or establishing the proper tone, she can lead workshops that meet your objectives in a stimulating, fun, interactive way, and at a cost that’s affordable for the individual or for an entire firm.
We bring up cost for an important reason. Whether you’re an executive or a frontline worker, your company is already losing money. Consider this, from David Grossman’s report The Cost of Poor Communications: Among businesses with 100,000 employees, companies reported an average annual loss of $62.4 million attributable to miscommunication among employees.
Maybe you don’t have 100,000 employees. Maybe you have 10. That’s still $6,240 a year, lost to an inability to communicate well.
We’d like to help you recoup some of that.
Interested? Contact us today.
The following is an abridged excerpt from Elisa’s book The Writer’s Habit, launching on May 25. For more information on pre-order exclusives or future classes, please join Elisa's mailing list.
We have arrived at my favorite part of the writing process: revision. It’s what I call the blood, sweat, and tears of writing. It is simultaneously the sandbox and the mudpit.
Revision is where the magic happens. Revision is, literally, re-seeing. It’s the opportunity to see your manuscript with new eyes and to make it better. Like a piece of clay that’s been molded into the basic shape, revision is where you take a step back, look at your writing from different angles, and use all your tools to reshape, refine, and add the intricate details that bring your story to life.
Writing is rewriting. Whereas drafting can be somewhat carefree, revision is more methodical, although recursive. Some rewrite as they go along, chapter by chapter, paragraph by paragraph, even sentence by sentence. With each one they stop, read, and rewrite, reread and rewrite again. There’s no wrong approach to revision, but a writer who doesn’t revise is selling the writing short.
Revision is where the decision-making gets done. Have I chosen the best words? Should I begin a new paragraph? Does the fragment achieve a rhetorical effect, or is it just bad grammar? Do I have enough description? Is there too much telling and not enough showing? Is the dialogue authentic and fluent? Does the action move too slowly? Too quickly? Are the stakes high enough? Am I telling the truth? Have I persuaded my reader to care? To laugh? To respond? To keep reading? Revision gives us the opportunity to keep making it better, to hone our craft and sharpen our skills, and to keep writing.
The number of revised drafts are limitless. Some revise a couple of times, others get into ten or more revised drafts. Revision is never really finished—in just about every book I’ve published, I’ve since found something that I wish I could tweak a little bit more, make a little bit better, be it one word or one sentence or even a scene. But if you’re a contracted author, a weekly television series writer, a student, or a journalist, you have a deadline. At that point, you have to call it finished. Even if you don’t have a deadline, at some point you have to call your book finished, otherwise you’ll never get it published or write another one.
What follows is a sample of revision choices to take into consideration. They don’t have to be addressed in order or one at a time. Chances are some of these are always in the back of your mind at any stage of the process. Some writers even make a checklist (see Nathan Bransford’s revision checklist in How to Write a Novel). Do whatever works best for you.
Revise for Meaning
I often don’t know what my novel or memoir is about until after I print out the manuscript, sit down with a pen, and begin to read, making notes in the margins usually in the form of questions or insights. Sure, I’ve just drafted a 55,000-word story. But I still find myself asking, What is this really about? Sometimes that question doesn’t apply to the entire manuscript, but a scene or character’s behavior. I may ask questions like: What does she want? Why is she so afraid? Why are they fighting? Sometimes the answers come right away, and other times I need to dig deeper. Revising for meaning isn’t about explicitly spelling out everything your characters say and do and why. It’s about keeping your reader invested in their journey. Above all, you want to respond to the reader’s foremost question--Why should I care?—with a story that engages the reader through dialogue, description, and all the other ingredients of storytelling we discussed. It’s about getting to the heart of the matter.
Revise for Audience
Earlier I said that I don’t think about audience when I’m the drafting stage. However, when it comes to revision, audience plays a role because once your book is out in the world, it’s no longer yours. It’s theirs.
When Duran Duran wrote the theme song for the James Bond movie “A View to a Kill” in the mid-80s, singer Simon LeBon said, “It had to be a James Bond theme. It also had to be a Duran Duran song.” In other words, there were two audiences to consider. (This example also applies to style. And interestingly, the popularity of the song well exceeded the popularity of its namesake.) If you’ve already established a readership, you might have an idea of what those readers love and expect from you. Does that mean you have to give it to them every time? No. But in many cases what they love aligns with what you love. If you haven’t yet built a readership, then I recommend you take a cue from Mr. Rogers and imagine one reader. Stephen King’s one reader is his wife. Mine varies, but I choose one and then stick with him or her. Thus, when you’re revising, read your story through their lens. Will they find this character likable? Will they understand what’s happening? Will they react emotionally? You also need to keep readers in mind when it comes to sentence structure. Long, eloquently worded sentences may be beautiful, but will too many of them interfere with your reader’s ability to process what they actually mean? Likewise, will a succession of short, choppy sentences be too blunt?
Also, keep in mind that you’re not going to be able to please everyone, so don’t try. My mom reads all my novels, but she doesn’t like my use of profanity. Some might think your love scenes are too explicit; others may think they’re not explicit enough. Beta readers help you gauge all of this, which is why it’s important to enlist their help, or the services of a developmental editor.
Revise for Genre
Every genre—mystery, science fiction, romance, horror, suspense, action/adventure—has certain distinguishable traits. And although you don’t want to be too formulaic in your application of those traits, you don’t want to stray too far from them either. I remember a writer who branded his novella as a romantic comedy. When I read it, I thought it was well-written and I liked the story. But I saw none of the characteristics of a rom-com—no overt chemistry, especially in a dueling way; no humorous situations spurred on by character flaws; no witty dialogue or banter; no high concept. In his case, rather than rewrite the story, I would simply rebrand it as contemporary or literary fiction.
Genres can be combined—paranormal romance, mystery horror, science fiction fantasy—and those can be quite fun to write, if not to market. Above all, you want to best serve the story and not the genre. If you’re writing mysteries because you think mysteries are trending or will sell better than, say, science fiction, most readers will see through the insincerity of that. However, if you write mysteries because you can’t get enough of reading them yourself, or you have an idea that won’t let go of you, or you simply want to try it for fun, then your reader is likely to join you.
I say it again: write the novel you want to read. Sometimes it’s not so much about finding readers as it is about them finding you.
Revise for Organization
In just about every draft of this book, I’ve re-organized either in terms of dividing and classifying the book into sections, determining which chapter comes first, second, third, and even at the paragraph level of individual chapters. (I even rearranged this list of revision choices.) In my latest novel, Big Skye Littleton, I made a big revision at the beginning: Whereas I had originally started with Skye stranded at the Denver airport, recalling a conversation she had on the plane, I revised to begin the story midflight, the conversation taking place in real time, and moved the Denver airport scene to another chapter.
Whether it’s at the paragraph level, chapter level, or scene level, make sure your readers can follow the sequence of thoughts and/or action.
Revise for Detail
Have you provided enough or too much? Have you given readers glimpses into the characters’ inner lives, or are they left needing more (something my developmental editor always flags me for not doing enough)? Have you painted a clear picture or is it murky? Did you change a character’s name mid-story without realizing it? (Yes. I’ve done that. Several times.) Check all of these things. Your reader will thank you.
Revise for Voice
Regardless of whether you’re writing novels or nonfiction, there must be a distinct voice, be it a character’s, narrator’s, or writer’s. It is equally important to consider tone, especially if you’re writing something like a letter seeking support or action. Tone can be easily misinterpreted in electronic communication, such as a text, social media comment, or email. Even something meant to be friendly can be interpreted as belligerent.
Revise for Clarity
Clear, concise, fluent—that’s what I encouraged my students to achieve at the stylistic level. The first one, clarity, is making sure your sentences are properly constructed—no dangling modifiers, bad fragments (as opposed to the good ones that add emphasis or lend to voice), or endless prepositional phrases (another flaw of mine, as are too many parenthetical phrases). Clarity also applies to the story you’re telling, whether a plot point or a conversation between two characters or just the complexity of the story in general. That’s not to say that stories can’t be complex. Stories may have puzzle pieces that readers attempt to put together along the way. However, if your reader has to stop reading, go back to the beginning of a sentence or someplace else in the paragraph, chapter, or book to gain clarity, you’ve taken that reader out of the story. You’ve disengaged them. You’ve made them work harder. And you’ve undermined the story you’re trying to tell.
Reading out loud will help you quite a bit with revising for clarity. A sentence that looked perfectly fine on the screen may be a mouthful out loud or not make any sense at all.
Revise for Pacing and Direction
Is your story dragging in some places and racing in others? Are there too many things happening at once? Does the climax come too soon? (No one likes that.) Is your story anti-climactic? Is your timeline accurate? Your beta readers will be essential in determining whether your story’s pacing and direction work. So will reading out loud.
Revise for Style
I have to be careful with co-opting someone’s style if I’ve been reading their books or watching their movies or TV shows while I’m working on a novel. For example, I watched a lot of The West Wing at the time I was writing Faking It. I got into Gilmore Girls while I wrote Why I Love Singlehood. And at the time of this writing, I’ve been reading Nora Ephron’s columns and articles from her journalism career.
Revising for style is about making sure every word belongs. My ultimate goal would be to read a final draft of my manuscript and say: “It’s perfect. Every word that needs to be there is there. Every word is the right word. The best word. Every sentence is the perfect length. The perfect depth. The perfect rhythm. Every word, sentence, paragraph, and the sequence of dialogue fulfills its purpose.”
Montana Quarterly magazine is one of the true treasures of the state we live in. And we're not alone in counting ourselves lucky to have it. If not for the vision and gumption of longtime Montana journalist Scott McMillion, it would no longer be with us.
A few years ago, the Quarterly's previous operator, the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, was poised to shutter the magazine in a cost-cutting move. McMillion, who'd been a senior writer with the Chronicle and a regular Quarterly contributor, stepped in with some investors and rescued it from the scrap heap, never missing an issue. In the summer of 2013, as Craig was preparing to leave daily newspaper work for a full-time writing and freelance career, he signed on with McMillion as the magazine's design director. He'd already been an occasional contributor of short stories, and he relished the chance to join the masthead.
They've been at it ever since.
Here, then, is Craig, with the rest of the story...
The reason the Quarterly cuts such a distinctive figure in Montana is that no other magazine in the state—and there are many—does exactly what it does. The magazine's central mission rests on two tent poles.
The first is that it produces deep, meaningful journalism about real life here, and it does so in a broad way—daring, inventive writing; stunning photography; a beneath-the-surface approach to storytelling where it doesn't so much tell you the what of the news but the why. Your daily newspaper can tell you something happened. The Quarterly will dedicate the space and the resources to explaining it.
Second, the Quarterly takes seriously its place in the arts and letters of the state. Every issue includes an author profile and a short story. Some include poems. Artists well-known and obscure are profiled. Every serious bookstore in the state sells the Quarterly, because the magazine means something vital to those stores' customers. And McMillion invests in the coming generation of writers through offering annual Big Snowy Prizes in nonfiction and fiction, work by young Montanans that gets the star treatment in the magazine every summer.
Here's a selection of page spreads from past issues of the magazine. Note how the presentation of the magazine is driven by the words and the images, as any well-designed publication should be. We endeavor for a clean, quiet look, one where there are no look-at-me design flourishes, because they're not necessary. The work of Montana's finest writers, photographers, and artists does all the talking.
Another reason for the success of the Quarterly, I think, is that McMillion is committed to continually putting out a superior product in print even as the world of daily journalism increasingly shifts to online. He has avoided the great conundrum of the daily newspaper, where most of the money is made in print (although less and less every quarter) while most of the readership gains are online. The Quarterly, not tethered to that daily reality, preserves itself as an experience best left to the tactile pleasures of reading on paper. And unlike the daily newspaper, which is fodder for recycling every 24 hours, research shows that the Quarterly's readers keep the issues long after they come out, returning again and again to the top-notch writing and the arresting photography. That's good news for us at the magazine, and good news for our advertisers, who can see the benefits of their ad buy paying off for months or years after the fact.
Working on the Quarterly—now 15 issues and counting for me—has been a singular joy in my professional career. It brings together a place I love and work I'm passionate about doing, all under the auspices of a magazine that I believe in. Every quarter, as I hunker down on another issue, I think I must be the luckiest guy around, getting to work with the best writers, thinkers, and artists my state has to offer.
You know what? I'm right.
Got a favorite magazine? Tell us all about it in the comments section.
Are you a Montanan, or a Montanan at heart? Consider subscribing to Montana Quarterly. You'll love it.
It’s been said that everyone has a personal story to tell, but what makes a memoir truly memorable? In this four-week course, Elisa Lorello, author of the memoir Friends of Mine: Thirty Years in the Life of a Duran Duran Fan, will teach you how to bridge the past with the present to get to the heart of your memoir, as well as how to bring your story to life with sensory details, dialogue, voice, and more. Weekly activities and discussions will put you on the path to writing a meaningful memoir that will connect with readers.
Date: Tuesdays, May 9 – May 30
Time: 5:30-7:00 p.m.
Place: This House of Books, 224 N. Broadway
Cost: $149.99 (you save $50.00!) – pay upon arrival (check, cash, or card accepted)
You can sign up at This House of Books or contact Elisa.
Here’s the deal: we love stories.
Between the two of us, we’ve been full-time storytellers for most of our lives, albeit in different capacities. Craig’s job was to tell a news story. Elisa’s job was to help students tell their own stories, be it in the form of a case study, a research proposal, or a personal essay. Then, around the same time, we both became full-time novelists.
As authors, we write novels with dynamic characters, dialogue you can eavesdrop on, and places you can reach out and touch. As readers, we feel most at home in bookstores and libraries, houses with a bookcase in every room and a book on every table. As humans, we dig movies and television shows and documentaries and plays and live music concerts, each one a story in one medium or another.
We are a storytelling couple. But we are also part of a storytelling culture.
Here’s the other deal: being an author, like so many other artistic endeavors, is a feast-or-famine business. The markets and trends change. If you’re lucky enough to make it to the top, it’s often difficult to stay there.
We wanted something to tide us over in anticipation of the lean times. But it couldn’t just be, you know, a job. The kind that keeps 9-to-5 hours and has bosses and two weeks’ vacation and requires a parking pass. (Cue Jerry Seinfeld: “Not that there’s anything wrong with that…”) When you’ve been out of that bubble for a long time, it’s hard to get back in. More important, we both feel strongly that work isn’t just something we do. It has to speak to a central part of who we are.
So we took inventory and assessed what we do well:
We’re good writers.
We’re good editors.
He’s a good designer.
She's a good teacher.
We’re good collaborators.
Our skills complemented each other. Moreover, what we do best are also the things we enjoy the most.
And we’re good at being together.
And so we realized that we wanted to help others tell their stories. Together.
Whether you are an author who needs help making your story—and your book—the best it can be, own a business that wants to better connect with its customers, or work for an organization that wants its members to better connect with each other, we can serve you.
We're in the business of telling stories, across a wide range of media. Here's how we do what we do.