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Tools and techniques that help speed up my writing.

My goal has been to write four e-Books  year, one newsletter a quarter, five tweets a week, one blog article a week, and as many “Special Reports” as possible in the time available. So far, I’m more or less on course – at least for the last few years.

I couldn’t do it without the help of a few tools and techniques such as the following.

Dragon Naturally Speaking. It’s not the only voice-activated software available; but it was the one I was weaned on and have seen it improve with each update. It more than compensates for my lack of typing skills and it keeps pace with my rapid speech.

Bibme.org. A website that allows me to compile a bibliography for my books and reports in minutes rather than hours. As long as I can recall the author’s name or the book title – or even a portion of it, it gives me a list of books from which to select the right one, and subsequently formats the complete bibliography for me.

Grammarly. An app that highlights poor grammar as well as typos and spelling mistakes, and reminds me that I am taking liberties by omitting pronouns, using slang words and awkward phrases. Of course I sometimes ignore it.

Pocket Dockets. Mini-notepads that I stash in a pocket of my coats, my computer bag, car glove box, and elsewhere so I am never without someplace to jot down ideas when I’m on the go. Sometimes they go missing for a few weeks, but I have yet to fail to retrieve them along with the ideas.

Leak-proof pens. Not only a time saver but an annoyance saver as well if you’re a frequent flyer. Wish I could have avoided all those blobs of ink on my books, clothes and traveling companions before fly-proof pens were invented.

Topical file folders. This is more a technique than a product – marking the chapter titles of my future books on hard copy and electronic folders – to house the articles torn from magazines and those cut and pasted from the Internet (for reference when writing the books and articles)

Morning walks. Another technique of generating ideas and actually composing articles, which are later combined to form books; walking in the fresh air and exercising both body and mind. I get my best ideas and clarity of thinking as I walk – determining how to express the idea in words. But it must be immediately followed by an opportunity to write it all down before it disappears.

The coffee shop effect. I agree with the results of the research that indicates the background noises of a coffee shop are ideal for both creativity and productivity. A one-hour or 90-minute stop at a coffee shop before returning home from my walk allows me to quickly put my thoughts in writing. Most of my articles and large portions of me books took form at a Tim Horton’s.

Most people have their own favorite techniques and habits that help them with their writing. Some might seem to waste time rather than save time; but for that person, it is effective. For instance, I do most of my writing longhand and then dictate what I have written, editing as I go. I also find a book to daunting a task to tackle so I simply write articles for each chapter, which I post on my blog website – and then expand each article into a chapter.  I also may have two or more books on the go at the same time, and perhaps only two of them may see the light of day and the other one becomes a series of articles only.

I also spend as much time extracting ideas and quotes from someone else’s book as I do actually reading the book. I feel I have wasted time reading a book if I don’t get something out of it that I can use later.

The important thing is to try different things and see what works best. Then you can develop your own routines and habits. Certainly not having to decide what to do next saves time.

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Reading this article could kill you.

Not really. But it did get you to at least read the first line, didn’t it? And did I detect a sigh of relief as you did so? Some people’s curiosity exceeds even their fear of death.

This illustrates the importance of a title when writing a book, article or promotion piece.

Even a weekly blog article deserves a well thought out title. Many of us, myself included, will tack on anything that even hints at the topic – assuming people will read it anyway. After all, once they start reading they’ll realize the value that’s awaiting them.

Not so. Unless you’re some famous expert on the topic closest to their hearts, which you and I probably aren’t, they won’t give it a second glance. There are too many articles out there and too little time available. And if you spend an hour or more writing an article or a day or more writing and e-zine or a month or more writing an e-book, why would you not spend at least a fraction of that time ensuring that your product at least gets read?

The heading or title should do more than simply grab their attention. It should identify the contents to convince the readers to keep reading. Ideally it will be concise, informative, and convey the essential message of the text that follows.

As Karel Rakusan of the University of Ottawa suggests in an editorial on the importance of titles, carefully weigh every word as though it were a $5 million, 30-second commercial during a Super Bowl, costing $167,000 per second.

In the case of a blog post, your title is the most important marketing tool you have. It is what will appear in search engine results, links, and social media sites.

In books, a title is also a marketing tool. It could grab the attention of the publisher and ensure your book is read and ultimately accepted for publication. In the case of self-published books, the fate of the book could be determined in large part by its title. It’s the first thing potential buyer sees upon spotting the book in the bookstore or on your website.

If you do work with a publisher, don’t pressure too much to have your own working title accepted. Publishers have more experience than the rest of us on what would generate sales. “Gone with the wind” might not have been as successful as the original title, “Tomorrow is another day,” and “The great Gatsby” might have bombed as “Trimalchio in west egg.” I had my original 1981 book titled “Managing yourself with respect to time“ since it more accurately defined the essence of time management. But with the publishers changing it to “Making time work for you,” it became a Canadian bestseller.

If your title can be read and understood quickly, contains a benefit or promise to the reader in an area of obvious interest, and is composed in such a way that it is unique or at least “catchy,” you have a great title.

If you can trigger emotion as well, it is a winner.

Techniques available to you include posing a question, being controversial, and using power words. To do all of the above and still keep your title brief is a challenge. But don’t forget, you still have the use of a subtitle as a backup.

But never forget that your article or book has to deliver whatever the title promises. So this article just didn’t make the cut.