How to Write Better

I remember my first Mastermind meeting like it was yesterday. It was at a swanky hotel in the wealthy Washington suburb of Bethesda. To get there, you had to drive past a seemingly never-ending row of all the high-end shops, from Louis Vuitton to Bulgari and Hermes. Of course, you stopped before reaching the 4-H club of Chevy Chase, Maryland.

The first night of the Mastermind included dinner at Morton’s steakhouse. I was 30 years old and had only been to Morton’s – and other fine steakhouses like it – once or twice in my life. But my mentor – and many of my fellow Mastermind members – ordered virtually everything off the appetizer menu and rounds of drinks for everyone. And that was before they even settled on getting the most expensive steaks on the menu for their main course.

It was a powerful introduction to the Yanik Silver Mastermind experience, a story that I’ll never forget or tire of telling.

The next day, in our first meeting, Yanik handed out copies of his favorite book, “Influence,” by Dr. Robert Cialdini. Yanik claimed he’d read the book nine times. Later that day Yanik taught me how to use stories in marketing – including embarrassing, even damaging admission stories – to get people’s attention and draw them in. Stories, like the one that started this article, are a key element to good writing, particularly when you are trying to teach a lesson.

As an ETR reader posted the other day on my recent essay about The Problem with Habits, “Thank you Craig for an excellent article. I so enjoy how you tell a story first and weave it into the focus of the article. And with your storytelling, it helps to lock it into my memory. Thank you for your contribution to this great community, our world.”

I couldn’t have said it better (about the storytelling). Stories lock in the lesson to your memory. That’s why you’ll remember the stories I told about Yanik. It’s also why we remember the great stories of Daniel in the Lion’s Den, David versus Goliath, the Testing of Job, and of course, the story of Jesus’ birth, decades after first hearing them in Sunday School. Stories are essential to your writing and communicating important ideas within your business and even in your personal life.
But most of us feel as though we lack the “storytelling gene”. As amateur writers we tend to vomit facts and instructions from the first sentence in their emails or in our PowerPoint presentations.

I understand.

I once did that too.

But through practice and hard work, I’ve been able to acquire the “storytelling gene” little by little, and I’m getting better every year. And you can too.

Putting a greater emphasis on storytelling in marketing is a big message I’ve been teaching to all of my coaching clients. Currently I’m working with the CEO of a $100 million company as he attempts to improve his writing. Each week he sends me an article (a lesson for his junior employees) to review. I provide my feedback, explaining how he just needs to make the already excellent content more engaging, particularly by using a story at the start.

As Yanik taught me back in the days of the first Mastermind, starting a message or presentation with a detail rich narrative stimulates their imagination.The story gets the reader emotionally involved and hooks them to keep reading.

Your stories must remain focused. It is tempting to try and teach too many lessons in an article or a presentation. My coaching client was guilty of this. The Bible, however, is not. There is really just one big lesson from each one of the epic struggles I mentioned earlier.

Mark Ford describes this as the all-important Rule-of-One, which is incredibly helpful in guiding everything that you write. Your ability to enlighten your readers only occurs when you go all-in on discussing one lesson. Avoiding creating lists that only scratch the surface with general bullet points. Instead, take all your efforts and magnify them on one big lesson, creating a bigger impact. This goes for short emails, long articles, and even full-length sales letters.

Through writing, you too can reach your audience by sharing your experiences in a way that makes sense to them.

The “storytelling gene” is a vastly different from normal genetics because you can develop it through practice.

Share your stories, deliver your messages and add value to the world.
Each and every time you put your pen to paper (or hands to the keyboard in this modern world) you will be getting better and better at telling your story.

When you are weaving your intricate tales, remember these tips and you will have no problem connecting with your audience, and they will have no issues identifying with you.

That’s the beauty of words, they connect us all.

[Ed. Note: Craig Ballantyne is the author of Financial Independence Monthly, a complete blueprint to helping you take control of your financial future with a web-based business that you can operate from anywhere in the world – including a coffee shop, your kitchen table, or anywhere around the world where there is Internet access. Discover how you can achieve the American Dream and your financial independence here. You’ve never seen anything like this before.]
  • Don

    Craig,

    Excellent article on the value of “storytelling”. Stories do engage the listener or reader. Unfortunately it is a valuable technique that is being lost in our “information society”. I truly enjoy your contributions to ETR. I almost always find them engaging and pulling me in to read them even when I am short on time and need to get on to other items in my day Thank you so much, you are challenging me.

    • Craig Ballantyne

      Thank you!

  • Christine M

    Hi Craig,

    This article is just real. It reflects what happens in the real world. I have a brother who is an evangelist. He has this power of words to pull audiences and to make them listen to him attentively. Now I know. His story telling at the beginning of his sermons adds salt to the sauce.

    Thanks, this is very inspiring

    • Craig Ballantyne

      Thank you!

  • share nice 🙂