The Disney Effect

Disneyland Paris Castle

 

I’ll let you into a secret.

I’ve been away.

A glorious week at Disneyland Paris, at a fabulous hotel, eating wonderful food and walking eight miles a day.

And spending hours at a time standing in line to go on a ride that took no time at all.

I loved every minute of it. It was like being enveloped in a big, pink, commercial fantasyland where little children were allowed to be princesses and grown-ass humans could wander around wearing Mickey ears without being judged.

I would go back in a heartbeat if I could.

But I can’t, so until next time I’ll just have to knuckle down to real life.

sad face

It wasn’t all play though. I never manage to switch off for long, and I came away with some business-type thoughts. I even had an epiphany at 37,000 feet (as well as the whole plane hearing police sirens from below as we entered French airspace … that was weird).

Now we all love a fairytale (you do, don’t you?), but my trip away left me with questions:

 

  • Why do people pay an exorbitant amount to go and stay in a totally fake environment, surrounded by shops, rides, restaurants and little else?
  • Why do people stand in line for an hour or more to go on a ride that lasts little over a minute?
  • Why do people knowingly spend all their money in shops full of the same old stuff (even if it is mega cute). And I mean ALL their money.
  • Why do normally serious adults suspend disbelief and wander around wearing merchandise, and talking to Disney characters as though they were real (and not *looks around for any children … whispers quietly* human adults in doll costumes).
Pirate ship by Pirates of the Caribbean ride
Yes, we went on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride every single day. At least once a day.

There’s just one answer, people.

It’s the story.

And the feeling of inclusivity (ok that’s two answers).

Disney ice cream
It has nothing to do with the food. Not really. But, boy, was it good!

The reason that Disney is such a huge success is that people love a story, and they love to feel part of something. We’re hard-wired to love a story. It’s one of the most powerful forms of communication, can break down barriers and makes people feel included. Stories encourage empathy, can help people feel less alone and can move people in ways other forms of communication can’t.

A good story opens doorways to new lives

We love places like Disneyland because we become immersed in the fantasy, and it allows us to revert to childhood for a little while. We step inside the story and leave our troubles at the entrance gates. We know it’s totally fake, but that’s ok. We’re living in a fairytale while we’re there and it helps us cope with the adulting once we leave.

We stand in line for an hour to go on that ride because while we stand we’re surrounded by the story of the ride. We stand with other people, make contact and occasionally make friends for a little while. We expand our community for that hour.

standing in line

We spend all our money in the brightly coloured shops, full of brightly coloured toys, clothes and homeware because we’re buying into the dream. We’re a knowingly captive audience who want to extend our experience through into our real lives when we go home.

We suspend disbelief and wear the merchandise because we want to, and the herd mentality wants us all to follow the crowd. Of course there’s also the fact that we want the children around us to believe in the magic for as long as possible … any adult who doesn’t play along is in danger of ruining the dream for everyone else.

Panoramic from the Disney Castle, Paris

 

So what has this got to do with my business and your business?

Well, it shows that storytellers can help create engagement (yes, storytellers like me!).

By including narrative in your business website and material you can engage your customers more. Let people in, let them know about you and your business. Everyone loves a story and stories can make you more real. Help people see the real you.

magnifying glass

If you don’t believe me check out this article from the Harvard Business Review.

 

We don’t all need to go full Disney, but the Disneyland parks are a fabulous example of how storytelling can create an environment that engages customers.

And stories sell.

If you need help creating your story contact me and we can create a narrative that’ll help engage your clients.

A fabulous dish from Walts on Main Street
A fabulous dish from Walt’s on Main Street. Ok, it is sometimes about the food experience.

Now I’m home I’m missing my life beneath that pink fairytale castle. It was a warm, happy, inclusive place where pirates mingled with princesses and fluffy seven-foot-tall teddy bears. And where we rode rollercoasters before an omelette burger breakfast and took a trip with StarTours every day.

Our omelette burger
Ok, so we even tried to recreate our breakfast when we came home. More attempts needed.

But it’s time to get back to reality. And when I’m not helping my clients create their own stories I’ll be helping to create a fairytale pantomime at our local theatre for the next three months. I suppose stories are in my blood.

What’s your story?

Patience is a virtue

small but perfectly formed business

 

the rewards of patience are worth it

 

I’ve two apple trees in my garden.

I’m crap at gardening.

But finally after years of perseverance and patience, this year I have one tree laden with fruit.

Edible fruit.

Yaay me.

 

Some businesses are like my apple trees.

They start small.

They fail to deliver and you wonder if they’re worth sticking with.

Then after a bit of nurturing, the right climate, some expert advice and a bit of optimism they start to blossom.

You’re soon reaping the rewards and glad you didn’t give up.

 

don't give up

I can’t guarantee you sunshine (come on, I live in the north of Scotland!), but I can help you with your writing.

If you need help with your website copy, your training manuals, advertising or any other written material just drop me a line.

I can edit it, write it for you, or just give it a general health check.

Let’s do this!

 

 

 

 

What to expect from a manuscript assessment

A good story opens doorways to new lives

 

You’ve finished your book. Now you’re all ready for that final polish before publication.

Or are you?

stop-1829082_1920

Wooooah, slow down a minute!

speedometer

There are millions of books out there ready to read.

Some will do really well, get loads of 5-star reviews and will climb to the top of the bestseller lists.

Some will do fairly well and will muddle along in the middle lane, get a few 5-star reviews and will stay where they are.

Some will bomb. They’ll be lucky to get any reviews and may even fail to negotiate Amazon’s quality control.

yikes

Where do you want your book to land?

 

While an editor can’t help you climb those bestseller lists, they can give you a better chance of getting there with good reviews and return readers. But don’t think that just because you’ve finished writing your book you’re ready to hand it over to a copyeditor or proofreader yet.

 

A manuscript assessment will give you some big-picture feedback. It’ll let you know if your book is ready for copy editing or if you need to hire a developmental editor first.

 

thermometer

Think of a manuscript assessment as a health check for your writing.

 

When I provide a manuscript assessment, or a manuscript critique as it’s often called, this is what happens:

I read your full manuscript, unless you’ve opted for a mini assessment where I’ll read the first 10,000 words of your book.

I’ll then go on to write up a report for you, which will allow you to see what’s working and what isn’t.

 

Sounds scary?

scared

I won’t lie. It can be. After all, you’re handing over your baby (after what can be a pretty horrendous gestation period) to a complete stranger who’ll tell you whether you have any chance of winning a beautiful baby contest.

When you hit ‘send’ you might need a stiff drink and some distraction therapy. The wait can be agonising.

 

But if you find the right person to carry out your manuscript assessment, when the report comes back you should be fired up and ready to tackle the pruning and polishing.

No editor should be rude, belittling or harsh.

Ever.

True, the report can make for difficult reading sometimes. After all, if something isn’t working for the reader you might not see it at first. We’re all so close to our writing that we often ‘see’ what we want to. That scene you think is brilliant, pithy and exquisitely written might actually fall short of your expectations.

A manuscript assessment will be an honest, unbiased professional opinion, seen from a reader’s point of view.

blank notebook

Generally a report will cover whether the story makes sense, if there are any plot holes and whether the characters are authentic and real or clichés and two-dimensional portrayals. But each editor who offers evaluations will differ in their treatment.

When I carry out a report I’ll usually send you between eight and fifteen pages covering the following:

  • Content
  • Presentation
  • Plot, pace and development
  • Characterisation
  • Target audience
  • Writing – structural strengths and weaknesses, grammar etc.

Some sections will be bigger than others – it all depends on what the assessment throws up. This won’t involve a full developmental edit, but will address similar areas, set out in a written report.  It allows you to see the strengths and weaknesses of your manuscript.

Critiques aren’t just for works of fiction either. Non-fiction documents benefit from manuscript assessments too.

stack of documents, books, writing

So why bother at all?

What you can expect to gain from a manuscript assessment is a new view on your writing.

  • You’ll see with fresh eyes what works and what doesn’t and what needs a little more thought.
  • You’ll see your document from the point of view of the reader – one who will tell you the truth. It’s good to let other readers give their opinion, in fact it’s encouraged, but a professional editor will know how to gently tell you what works and what doesn’t.

 

Why not just get your friends to assess it?

  • Family and friends may not feel comfortable telling you if something misses the mark. Your writing will benefit from a professional eye.
  • Beta readers are great, but might not be qualified enough to go into the nitty gritty, although they will give you an invaluable general reader’s point of view.

 

One huge advantage of an assessment is the time and money it might save you.

A full developmental edit is expensive, and you’ll probably need more than one round of editing. By paying for an assessment first you can tackle the issues that are reported and feel more confident that your story works.

Yes, it will give you an extra step and it’ll add more time to your schedule, but isn’t it worth it to save on a bigger step and learn more about your own writing?

The developmental phase may be shortened after a review and rewrite (if it’s needed), your copyediting may need a lighter touch and overall the process may be easier for you.

jar of money

I offer assessments graded by the word count of your document. And for when the pennies are tight I offer a mini critique of the first 10,000 words of your manuscript.

You can check my prices here.

If you’ve got a book you’re about to finish let’s chat and I can book you in.

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