Before I decide to take on a new manuscript, I first ask to review the first few pages. This is typically either the first chapter or the prologue (if there’s one). I do this because these first few pages are the most important parts of any manuscript that comes across my desk. It lets me know whether the writer has 1) self-edited, 2) paid close attention to hooking their readers, and 3) understands the essence of the story they wish to tell.  The beginning is always the most important part of any storytelling process, whether it is a work of nonfiction, fiction, self-help, a movie script, or a play script. Here are a few reasons why you should pay close attention to the opening lines of your manuscript:

Last week I shared a Shonda Rhimes video with my readers because I could not focus on writing an inspirational post. As I was reflecting on why; I found that I was feeling a little drained by my life. Juggling several roles in the span of a few hours will do that to anyone. So today I decided to share with you a few things I came up with that helped me survive the rest of the week. This may or may not apply to your current situation, but I'm sure there are areas of your life where some of these lessons may still be helpful. 

I pulled this from my "unpublished articles" archive from a few years ago. I'm sharing it because I think it is even more relevant now to the success of writers and businesses than it was when I first wrote it. Read below:

Social networking as a trend, has taken on a life of its own since the concept, and its acceptance, first burst onto the technology scene almost a decade ago. For many, there exists a love-hate relationship between social networking and their private lives. About six years ago, right around the time when blogging had become trendy, I was one of millions who jumped on the blogging bandwagon, albeit at first reluctantly. Admittedly, the lack of privacy to one’s thoughts and ideas was not all at once appealing, but with time, I was able to get on board having learned the many benefits social networking offers.

Studies have shown that social networking has both its advantages and disadvantages, as with any other means of communications and networking. This article will focus on the benefits of social networking.

The Human Element: As much as it is known that social networking is missing a human element due the limitless number of false identities and personalities that exist on social networking sites, the fact still remains that real human beings (many of whom are real and genuine) prance around online on a daily basis. As a writer/blogger, I have first-hand experience of how social networking circles can be beneficial by providing that human element. Most of the friends/acquaintances I’ve made in my social circles are a result of social networking – most of whom I have never seen in person. Also many of us fail to acknowledge the fact that our acquired knowledge is not enough to get us ahead in life. We often times fail to acknowledge that our social connections can get us even further, making our knowledge valuable in the process.

Far-Reaching Abilities: Everyone today seems to be involved in one social networking site or another – some roaming multiple networks at a time. Yes, it can sometimes get overwhelming, but there is no denying that in one way or another, social networking is a global phenomenon that has caught on fast. For business owners of all sizes, social networking has proven to be a necessary tool. In a recent survey, an overwhelming 94 percent of survey respondents said they plan to use social networking and other social media to promote their books and themselves, according to Dana Lynn Smith, author of The Savvy Book Marketers Guide to Successful Social Network Marketing. In a recent Nielson Online survey, Facebook alone had 29.9% of the global internet users compared to MySpace’s 22.4%. Imagine being able to reach that many people over a short period of time, something that was almost impossible only a short time ago when social networking did not exist.

Building Personal Reputations: Of course, hiding behind a computer screen and posing as someone you’re most likely not can be disturbing on so many levels, but for personalities who genuinely wish to build a personal reputation, but are too shy to do so in public, the anonymity that social networking provides can be a good thing. While not everyone who says they are friendly and outgoing on Facebook actually are friendly and outgoing, there may be those who feel more comfortable being anonymous but who still wish to connect to people on a more personal level that does not require a face-to-face meeting.

Expand Your Professional Circle: Social networking is a great place to connect with other professionals just like you whom you would probably never get a chance to meet in real life. LinkedIn is a good professional site that links professionals from across the globe in various fields with varying degrees of interests. In a place like LinkedIn where many professionals create smaller groups tailored to the specific needs of its members, personal interaction can be even more beneficial. Making contacts within a professional circle is also a great way to increase your chances of finding a job, if ever you should find yourself looking for one.

Social networking, however, is not only for the benefit of those seeking business prospects and exposure. There are also those who owe their dating lives, lasting friendships, and even marriages to social networking sites like Facebook, blogs, MySpace, Hi-Five and others. The benefits are numerous if one cares to see the positive side of social networking sites. And just as with any invention, or anything else for that matter, too much of everything can quickly become a bad thing. So while social networking does in fact have its numerous benefits, there are also downsides to it when it’s overused and abused. But either way you choose to look at it, it seems social networking is here to stay. We all might want to find ways to adjust how we communicate with others. Google Plus just joined the revolution.

Your company's blog is a great tool for getting the word out about your company's products and services, but are you using the blog in a way that truly reflects the mission of your organization?

What many business owners don't know is that your company's mission statement should serve as a guide when  placing content on your blog. Are the two of them aligned or is the blog creator simply writing about things that don't matter to the company? For example, an organization whose mission is to bring about awareness to the issues faced by women should not be posting content on its blog about last night's NBA playoffs. This might seem like an exaggerated example, but I cannot tell you how many times I have seen a company whose blog's content has nothing to do with what's happening inside the organization.

A blog should be a place to toot your company's accomplishments, goals, events, related news stories, etc. If not, then you are misusing and under-utilizing your blog in a way that you may not even be aware that you are. To help you get back on track (it's never too late to turn things around)
, here are a few things to consider before you write your next blog post:
  • What is your organization's mission statement?
  • Are your posts focused on accomplishing your company's mission/goals?
  • Are you more interested in your potential reach rather than the quality of the message you're sending out?
  • Will the blog post serve to promote something related to your company?
  • Are you sharing your knowledge and expertise with your readers?
Most importantly, are you reaching the right kind of people with the right kind of message that properly reflects the mission of your company? Think about these things the next time you get ready to click publish for a blog post. And if you need help, the Brielle Agency is here to help. We provide free consultation and offer reasonable proofreading and editing services for company blogs.

In February, when well-known freelance writer, Janelle Harris, wanted to register her nonprofit organization and trademark her brand's marks and logos to protect her brand, she retained the services of the Brielle Agency to lead the project, which included detailed legal research and application filings with the IRS and state agencies. We are proud to work with this brilliant writer and Essence Magazine Point of View columnist. 
In February 2014, The Brielle Agency partnered with UK-based publisher Accomplish Press to offer editing services to their publishing clients. The partnership, based on mutual interest, will link Accomplish Press clients to the outstanding editing services provided by the Brielle Agency, and link the Brielle Agency's clients to the superb and high-rated publishing services provided by Accomplish Press. To date, the Brielle Agency has been contracted to assist two clients with their soon-to-be-published manuscripts. We're excited about the wonderful opportunity to work with just a reputable company, as we strive to continue to grow as a first-rate business, while serving our world-class, first-rate clients.
When well-known freelance writer, Janelle Harris wanted to register her nonprofit organization and trademark her brand's marks and logos, she retained the services of The Brielle Agency to lead the project. The project included detailed legal research and application filings with the IRS and state agencies. We are proud to work with this brilliant writer and Essence Magazine Point of View and Write or Die Chick columnist who is also the founder of SheScribes, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping Black women and girls embrace the healing power of writing.
You've been staring at the blank screen for months, you probably have a title or you don't, but either way you're stuck and can't seem to move forward. Here are a few tips to get you started on your journey to put words on paper/screen.

Believe in your story: in order to give your story a voice and bring it alive, you must first believe in your own story. If you don't then you'll have difficulty trying to put words on paper for fear that no one else will believe it.

Believe your story is worth telling: Every story is worth telling, and every story has its reader. So know that once your story is told, it will find its audience. You just have to give them something.

Reading is key: Read for inspiration. Read for style and voice. Read for lessons - to know what you like and don't like. Then find your own unique voice and own it.

Pay attention to that tug: Don't ignore that yearning tugging on your heartstrings. It is the one voice you must listen to.
Just write: If all else fails, just sit down and write a starter sentence. You'll be amazed at how the story will flow from there.

Write everyday: Once you get started, be sure to add a little to the story everyday. Then be sure to stick to it until you have a final draft.

If all else fails, seek outside help. A writing coach can help you get started, and a ghostwriter can help you write if you feel you have the right story but not the right skills to get it in print.

There are many reasons why someone with a book/website/print content idea might want to hire a ghostwriter, but the most common reasons usually cited are lack of time, difficulty getting started and lack of focus or sense of direction. A ghostwriter is supposed to be able to take your ideas and listen to your story and translate those ideas and stories into words. But before you hire a ghostwriter and trust them with your story and your ideas, here are a few things you must consider before signing those dotted lines:

Have a clear vision in mind: You must know exactly how you want your story to be told in order to have it written just the way you envision it. The vision doesn't have to be unalterable, just solid enough to give your ghostwriter a sense of direction.

Know you own story: In order to put your story into words in a way that pleases you, you must make sure that you narrate your story and ideas to your ghostwriter in such a way that makes it easy to tell the story in a creative way without losing sight of what matters. Have as much information available (timelines, scenes, lessons etc.) ready ahead of time.

Be ready to put in some time: One of the reasons you're considering hiring a ghost writer might be due to lack of time. However, remember that during the story-writing process, your ghostwriter will need to be able to get a hold of you at different times, for various reasons. It is therefore important that you not schedule to have your project started during a stretch of time when you know you'll be hard to reach. 

Communication: Be ready to communicate your needs to your ghostwriter. Again, this is your story and a reflection of you so you want to be as involved as you possibly can be. Review drafts, suggest changes, and voice concerns until you feel satisfied with the final product. Your ghostwriter is there to serve you the best way they can and you have paid for their expertise. Never feel like you can't suggest a different way of doing things.

Know that it takes time: Any piece of writing takes time. The key to finding a good ghostwriter is not to find one who promises to have your project ready in the quickest time possible, but to seek out someone with a track record of dedicating time to producing a quality product. A good ghostwriter should be able to judge how much time is needed to complete a specific project - and it almost never is in two weeks or less.

Make sure you like your ghostwriter: Never hire a ghostwriter you're uncomfortable with. If you have an odd feeling about their personality, chances are you will find their writing odd as well. Seek out someone who suits your personality, someone who gets your story and brings a certain enthusiasm to your project. It is okay to reject a writer with whom you sense a lack of compatibility. The process is supposed to be fun, not stressful. Remember that you and your ghostwriter are a team and should be able to work together as such during the duration of the project.

At the end of the day, this is your story, your project, and a reflection of you, and you want it to represent you in the best way possible. So make sure to do your homework and hire only the best match for your needs. Good luck!

The Brielle Agency will be hosting a free webinar series in January 2014. The webinar which will run on January 15, 22 and 29, will provide free consultations and information sessions. Topics to be discussed and details will be published soon. Registration is required for this webinar series. Please sign up below.

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