What Writers Can Learn From Three Authors Who Left Us In 2016

German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer once said: “Mostly it is loss which teaches us about the worth of things.”

We lost so many good authors in 2016 and people of the literary world mourned their deaths. This year, we were forced to bid farewell to some of the brightest ones we’ve ever had. Let’s have a look-see at these authors who’ve contributed a great deal of knowledge and inspiration to writers in the content world.

 

Umberto Eco

(January 5, 1932 – February 19, 2016)

 

Umberto Eco was an Italian author, critic and literary theorist, most notoriously known for his classic mystery novel “The Name of the Rose.” Now how can 1.) a mystery novel, 2.) set in medieval times, and 3.) with monks as detectives become a classic and sell millions? You’d be surprised at how Eco was able to weave in these three factors and add to it a religious theme and a winding journey of symbology. No wonder, books like The Da Vinci Code and documentaries about the Knights Templars seem to draw audiences to this mysterious enigma to what the truth holds and answer the dreaded questions about the church. Eco himself would describe his millions of reading fans as masochists, meaning they tortured themselves into wanting more of his brand of confusion. And Eco was a master torturer. But people around his literary circle would admit that Eco was not only a great author, he was also a very lively person. He had a certain humor around him.

One of the most memorable lessons that writers can learn from Eco’s style of writing is that we should never rush our work. We may not all be novelists but we all have an article, essay or eBook that we’ve done and can be proud of. What Eco is trying to say is that we need to take time with these “literary masterpieces” in his case, his books. Why? Because for him, writers who publish on a regular basis like clockwork lose the pleasure in telling a wonderful story. His best advice and something all writers can relate to and should follow: “Go step by step, don’t pretend immediately to receive the Nobel Prize, because that kills a literary career.”

 

Elie Wiesel

(September 30, 1928 – July 2, 2016)

 

1c125f8107fa8d743065234384042b09Elie Wiesel was no stranger in the literary world. He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986 and is most famous for his autobiographical novel “Night.” This is a distressing description of Wiesel’s days during the Holocaust and in that ever-famously grim Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. He tells of how the men and women were separated and so he and his father were thrown in one ghetto while his mother and three sisters were placed in another. At the tender age of 10, he witnessed how World War II began and was in his mid-teens when the Nazis invaded his town. The mere thought that your young life cannot unravel because of war will send chills down your spine. His descriptions of what went on during those times will make you imagine how sickening life was with the Nazi’s treatment of Jews. Readers could have had more of the gory stuff had the novel not been trimmed down to a fourth of the original manuscript.

Yet, Night was written with a simplicity that can be devoured easily even by the non-reader. It does not hide its intention to scare you of the horrors of war or the concentration camps. But you become like the boy Eliezer and you realize that nothing stays permanent and that things can turn dramatically south with just a blink of the eye. What Wiesel has done was to make his journey your own personal journey, too. This is something writers can take note of. Our stories can and should inspire even the most stoic members of society. His journey was horrible to say the least, but he had an optimism while horror was staring right at his face. He says forgetting is not healing and we should not forget the ills of history. In fact we should inspire people because there is a story to tell.

 

Harper Lee

TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, Mary Badham and Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Harper Lee, on the set of the film, 1962
TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, Mary Badham and Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Harper Lee, on the set of the film, 1962

(April 28, 1926 – February 19, 2016)

 

Harper Lee was the author of only one famous book – the classic novel To Kill a Mockingbird – which was written over several years with multiple revisions. After it was published in 1960, TKAM became an instant best-seller with great accolades from literary critics and awarded Lee a Pulitzer Prize. In just after two years, the novel was adapted into a full-length movie. This proves time and time again that, you can’t hurry a masterpiece.

Why was it such a hit with the readers? It was a clear case of “whodunit?” Something that will always sell as it entices the readers to get to know characters, cases and evidences. Case in point: The television series Law and Order ran for twenty seasons. We do love our courtroom drama!

Lee’s topics were quite controversial: racism in the 1960s and rape. Two taboos during that time but that’s where the draw was! We like what is taboo; we love to try what may be sinful. Which brings us to a few lessons in writing as taught to us by Lee: be daring sometimes! Not all taboo topics should be ignored. Lee believed that “real courage is when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.” If you think a topic may not be a hit, but you believe in it, then go for it. If you are doing a biography, you have to get involved in the character. Atticus was trying to explain to his daughter, that you need to “climb into his skin and walk around in it” to get his point of view.

Fans of To Kill a Mockingbird were thrilled to see the publication of the prequel Go Set a Watchman after 55 long years and before Harper Lee died. And a third novel? We’ll just have to wait.

 

Go read their works

These are only three of the biggest names in the literary world and they all left us in 2016. While their written works will never leave us, their lessons too will never be forgotten. If you haven’t read any of these authors’ books, grab one now and start getting inspired and by their works. Together we can celebrate their individual uniqueness that changed the lives of so many readers around the world.

 

Bob Dylan – A Poet Genius That Stood the Tests of Time

More than half a century ago, Bob Dylan started his musical career. Little did we know, he wasn’t just a songwriter, he was also a poet. He is this year’s Nobel Prize in Literature recipient. That in itself is an incredible feat for a musician. Songwriters could use some writers’ tips from Mr. Dylan’s passion and creativity. As you will see, his accomplishments are quite expansive as a writer.

Some recent recipients of this award of late are – Alice Munro, Patrick Modiano, Svetlana Alexivich and Mo Yan, none of them sang their written works. And so the literary world went into a mini-uproar when it heard the news. Which begs us to ask: Did Bob Dylan deserve his prize?

The Academy says yes

If you ask the Swedish Academy (prize giver for the Nobel Prize in literature), they will say it was not a difficult decision to give it to Dylan. And it’s a step towards progress because this category has sort of widened its frontiers by making an original choice. And there were plenty of accolades from the literary academe calling his work humane, funny, and most times angry – really one of the greats. This decision set off an argument of whether song lyrics are at league with poetry or novels in the artistic sense.

If you put Dylan’s lyrics on paper, you can read it like a hanging poem, something that is hard to make sense of. But add a melody and the words sink in and suddenly have meaning. His writing has a certain rhyming rhythm that sets him as a sort of word guru – a kind of genius in the song lyrics department. He uses rhetoric in a very organized manner and sometimes, scattered among the other lines of his song. A rhythmic chaos, so to speak – it’s brilliant!

That voice

Dylan’s voice is not among those memorable (think Sinatra) or iconic (think Freddie Mercury) ones people are accustomed to hearing. In fact, you could say his voice sounded as if his throat was dragged through gravel as he belts out his lyrics. What sets him apart and why he’s stood the test of time is that he just lets his words do the singing for him. A poet laureate that even the worst-sounding voice can make audiences stop, ponder and marvel at Dylan’s words.

Maybe he could have just stuck to poetry writing when he started his career. But the genius in him saw that with music, his poetry can reach more people. He knew that not a lot of people appreciate listening to the narrative voice of poetry, even if it was the most haunting and calming of all voices. With music and melody, his statement words reached a bigger audience.

A writer’s tips

Bob Dylan has sung his way as a poet through many different relevant issues. His songs reflected life in a very realistic way. He had protest songs when he wanted to be an advocate (“Oxford Town”), slave songs when he needed to be dark (“Blowin’ In The Wind”), Cold War songs when he wanted to be political (“A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall”) and funny songs when he wanted to be whimsical (“Bob Dylan’s 115th Dream”). With his words, he could make audiences aware of what goes on in the world through songs of sadness, triumph, faith and deeper feelings. Any budding writer could take it all in as some great writing tips.

There is no doubt that Mr. Dylan deserved his award. He is considered a cultural figure in his 50 plus years in the industry. And it’s not because of his singing but because of his writing. This proves that poetry when given melody is in a literary league with Shakespeare’s poems, the Grimm brothers’ stories or Hemmingway’s plays.

A Writer’s Retrospective: What 2016 Has Taught Us All About Content Quality

Google’s best advice in 2016 and beyond is clear and simple: produce only quality content – nothing more, nothing less. Although patience is necessary, it nevertheless is rewarded handsomely.

Experts in content will give you some writers’ advice but it can get tiresome to both writers and readers if you churn out the same style of content. Sometimes variety pays off, too. But as long as constant and consistent quality are the main characteristics of your content, it could help your branding. Remember, patience is a virtue.

This crazy year that is 2016

2016 saw a crazy rollercoaster ride in social sharing. But one thing was clear, this year topped in the number of shares on almost all popular platforms. Someone raised the sharing portcullis and the social shares just came flooding in.

An important lesson is that it’s not only having a great, eloquent, inspirational and thought-provoking writer. But one should also be intuitive, relevant, creative and with foresight. What could go viral, what topics can attract my audience, what is the next big thing and where can I get inspiration? Invest on this because good content is what will give you an audience.

Some of the most viral content on social media made the year all the more crazier. Let’s have a quick look at some that went amok in 2016 and what we learned from them:

  • Fake News

The proliferation of fake news taught us a very important lesson in content quality. Too good quality will make people believe and defend the “truth” in them. This was so evident in the elections. Viral fake posts prevailed before, during and after the elections.

Even posts about honest opinions on why they supported their candidates also went viral – proving that genuine, straight-from-the-heart articles caught readers’ attention and shared away. So stay true to what you believe in – your brand. This teaches us to create genuine heartfelt articles that can touch many nerves.

But then again, maybe these posts just seemed genuine and honest but were also all fake. Be aware of what goes on, be current and always check with news authorities.

  • Research results are in

Posts about a cure for memory loss for patients with Alzheimer’s, benefits of protein snacks, first-born children being smarter and cancer cures from common Dandelion roots all came from some form of medical research and people jumped right in to read and share it. Feel good articles like these just may be what people wanted to read and share.

 

  • How about a quick quiz?

For engagement, give readers an easy quiz – something that they will surely ace to make them feel good and make them read the results with great interest. Can you pass an elementary test? Do you want to know what your Spirit Emoji? Playbuzz offers some great writing tips through their viral quizzes: create a quiz that can generate mindful sharing. The quiz gives a very personal prize (the result) yet people are still willing to share it. They loved their prizes!

  • Funny posts

Chewbacca Mom went viral because we sort of wished we were as happy as she was. That’s another writers’ advice: incite happiness because it is the most powerful emotion that your brand can conjure. While other emotions have the same effect, like laughter, fear, jealousy, pride, anger and lust, they don’t top the sentiment that happiness does.

  • Calling readers to action

Call-To-Action posts asked readers to “pick one,” One post had two famous football players pitted against each other. The call to action here was “Like for Player A” and “Comment for Player B” and football fans gave out their choices then scrolled to find out who got more votes.

One of the great writing tips here is to give direct instructions to your readers. You have lured them to your site; keep them glued by making them follow instructions! With your wonderful content come these action words “Download,” “Subscribe,” “Join,” “Discover,” “Learn” and “Tell Us.” Add the magic word: FREE!

These posts made a wide appearance around the net all through well-written posts and a good amount of sharing. These are only a few of the millions of viral content. What else would you add? Any writers’ advice?  Now it’s our call to action: Tell Us What You Think in the comment box below.

 

2016 Best-Selling Authors’ Great Writing Tips for Every Writer

Every writer can never be content with what he or she already knows. They will strive every single day to hone their skill and be more effective like a sponge that absorbs every piece of writers’ advice and would love to devour all the great writing tips out there, if only they could… These are three best-selling books on Amazon for the year 2016 that any writer would love to have written just by learning a few writer tips.

 

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by J. K. Rowling

Who doesn’t know J. K. Rowling? Every writer would love to achieve her literary and financial successes. This prequel to the Harry Potter stories reached the top spot in 2016 because of one very good advice by the author.

Rowling advises writers to put heavy emphasis on planning. Resist the temptation of going right down to the writing without careful planning. If you want to create an entire world of a boy wizard, all those magical characters, creatures and events and make them all connect beyond your audience’s wildest imagination, then create a great plan. It took Rowling five years to plot everything in each of those seven books. You want to write a great book? Plan it out well.

 

Oh, the Places You’ll Go! by Dr. Seuss

Who would have thought that a children’s book would make the best-seller list in Amazon? But this last novel of the beloved children’s books author had such style of writing, it overcame the big novel names – thanks also to the buying moms of newborns and toddlers.

Dr. Seuss advised: Make sure that books are fun to read while at the same time, making it a source of learning. “Cat in the Hat” it was supposed to help children read but came out to do beyond that.

Cut down the writing to only what is essential. Length does not equal quality and Dr. Seuss would leave only about 5% of what he first wrote leaving 95% on the author’s floor. So write only what’s necessary.

 

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanathi

This book by neurosurgeon Paul Kalanithi, posthumously published after the author died of cancer, seeks answers to life’s ultimate question: What makes life worth living?

A writer should catch Kalanithi’s contagious characteristic – driven to succeed to the top in many ways we, mere mortals are not. We may not be the genius that he was but we should be as driven.

And as a writer, one should be driven to a single goal – wanting to write about finding the answer, even while dying. Not to be too morbid but yes, write as if today is your last day and tomorrow’s ideas have to be written in print or else they will be gone. Kalanithi didn’t make any excuses to write with passion and drive, not even his impending death.

So there you have it! No wonder these books reached the top of the list in 2016. These are great writing tips for writers new and old. We may not always get to the success we imagined but keep at it and for sure you will get there. Just always remember these simple writer tips: Plan ahead, make it fun for your audience and most importantly, be driven in your writing passion. Who knows, we will see your name in many best-seller lists next year.