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Archive for the tag “Leaves”

Guest Post by John Simmons

John Simmons

I now have a second guest post by John Simmons.


The sum of reading and writing

Reading, writing, arithmetic – somewhat bizarrely called the three R’s. I always inclined towards the first two, but increasingly see them as two sides of the same equation. To become a better writer, become a better reader.

I always wanted to be a writer. And I’ve always read. But it wasn’t until I started training others to write with more impact that I fully appreciated the importance of reading for any writer, particularly to be effective writers at work.

In probing what makes writing ‘effective’ I realised that writing had to be ‘creative’. Now as I was training people to be better writers in the business world – rather than to be novelists, poets, playwrights etc – this was quite a leap for some people to make. Can business writing really be creative? Doesn’t it just need to communicate clearly and factually, with no frills, like the Ronseal ad to do just what it says on the tin? Well, no, because that will only take you so far and people – customers of any kind – are actually looking for a greater human connection. They are not inert recipients of information. Those customers respond to stories and the emotions that are unlocked by stories; stories that help them hear the individual human voice rather than the anonymous corporate one.

So my workshops were not ‘top ten tips to target higher sales’ but were about helping people to tell better stories. Of course, for those stories to work they have to be authentic, true to the writer and the organisation. So I have a fundamental mantra ‘put your personality into your writing’ – because it works. You realise as a writer that you are communicating not with a faceless mass categorised into A/B/C demographics but with one individual at a time – and that individual is your reader.

What are your readers reading by choice? Probably they are reading novels, biographies, poems. One of my fundamental workshop exercises became ‘your favourite book’. By asking a group of writers to talk about a book that represents their best-loved reading, enormous animation enters the room. When I then ask them to produce fictional writing based on, say, To Kill a Mockingbird or Girl on the Train, they begin to find out important elements of writing that can be applied to business writing. You learn by doing, discovering a novelist’s skills and realising that those same skills can be applied to the next strategy document you have to write.

So too with poetry. The techniques of rhythm, alliteration, assonance can all – used well – lift the quality of your business writing. You learn to influence people by using the emotional value of words chosen with care and used with deliberation.

To sum up, you can become a better writer of any kind if we break down the barriers between different kinds of writing. Read well, by which I mean read widely. Reading a good novel will give you pleasure and help you to become a better writer at work.




Book Cover


Matthew Smith is kindly giving away three copies of ‘Leaves’.  To enter just leave a comment about the book cover.


Terms and Conditions

This competition is open worldwide.

The closing date is 11:59 p.m. on the 3rd April 2016.

The winners will be randomly chosen within 7 days of the closing date.  Their details will be passed on to Matthew Smith who will send out the prizes.


Good luck!


Guest Post by John Simmons

John Simmons

This is the first of two guest posts from John Simmons, author of ‘Leaves’.


The collaborative bonus

The old stereotype of the solitary writer, pen in hand, starving in a garret, is not true to reality. Except… In the end writing comes down to the transfer of thoughts from an individual brain to a form that can be read by many. So there is a solitary element, and I suspect most writers love that.

“The novelist is an egomane who refuses to delegate his job to anyone.”
John le Carré

But we are also social creatures and I love the feeling of writing alongside others, supporting and supported by others. Urbane, with its network of writers and readers, offers that. When Urbane published my novel Leaves it brought an end to a long, solitary wait for publication. I had written early drafts some decades ago then consigned it, spurred by the discouragement of mainstream publishers, to that loneliest of all places – the bottom drawer. But Matthew Smith of Urbane encouraged me to get it out and, remarkably quickly, it was being supported by readers and writers whose cause was to get books read that deserved to be read.

I had previously found the value of this collaborative approach through other projects I had initiated. In particular I had established two organisations focused on writing. The first was called 26 (after the number of letters in the alphabet). After a dozen years 26 has grown to a membership of 350+ writers, mainly drawn from the world of business writing.

Business writing has given me an income to subsidise other more personal forms of writing. I believe that writing for business needs to be more creative – there’s more than enough boring business writing out there. This philosophy is behind special projects run by 26 involving large numbers of writers focused on a single theme. Recently we had 26 Pairs of Eyes with the Foundling Museum and currently 26 Twits that celebrates the work of Roald Dahl.

The second organisation is Dark Angels. This started as a book with that name, setting out my philosophy of business writing, and it developed into a training programme that has now reached and influenced hundreds of writers. Along the way we have undertaken some spectacular collaborative events – an exhibition at the Story Museum (Other Worlds), and a collective novel (Keeping Mum) written by 15 writers (amazingly it worked). The writers involved become better writers through the involvement of other writers. There is a joy in working together with other writers and seeing how they take different angles on achieving the same objective.

This experience was distilled into three books that are now being republished by Urbane as the Dark Angels trilogy – the other two books are We, Me, Them & It and The Invisible Grail. Without wanting to sound like a cult, people claim that these books have changed their lives. They have certainly formed a network of writers who have the generosity to work with others and who believe in the absolute pleasure of writing as an essential, shared part of life.



‘Leaves’ is available to buy from:-

Urbane Publications – http://urbanepublications.com/book_author/john-simmons/

Amazon UK – http://www.amazon.co.uk/Leaves-John-Simmons-ebook/dp/B01080YCXM/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1457984419&sr=1-1&keywords=leaves+by+john+simmons




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