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Gini Dietrich

Fiction, Write Club, and Content Creation

By: Gini Dietrich | November 7, 2013 | 
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Fiction, Write Club, and Content CreationBy Gini Dietrich

If you’ve been hanging out around Spin Sucks for a year or more, you’ll know I’m a big fan of reading fiction to help your writing.

I don’t talk about it a ton, but it comes out every once in a while, particularly after I’ve read a really good book (cough, Defending Jacob, cough).

That’s why, during Content Jam, I was so excited to see the closing keynote. Billed as WRITE CLUB, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect, but I knew anything with the word “write” in it was going to be compelling.

Jill Pollack, the founder of StoryStudio, came to the stage at the top of the hour and explained we were about to see two people square off, based on stories they had written.

They were given a topic – the retro or modern lives of social media – and they had only five minutes to tell their story and convince the audience their version was the best.

What is WRITE CLUB?

But before I tell you what happened, let’s back up and talk about this concept.

You’ve likely heard of poetry slams, where poets read or recite original work for a live audience. Their performances are judged by pre-selected members of the audience and they can win cash or bragging rights.

WRITE CLUB follows the same principle.

Two writers go up on stage and they clash over opposing ideas. They are given their topic ahead of time and their job is to write a story so compelling you want to vote for them.

They have no more than seven minutes to read you their story, gain fans, and garner votes.

The audience chooses a winner and a cut of the show’s proceeds goes to a charity of the victor’s choosing.

Now back to Content Jam.

The Closing Keynote

Jill asked for audience members to volunteer to serve as judges. It’s likely no surprise (it wasn’t to us) that our own Laura Petrolino practically climbed over the seats to get to the stage first. She was joined by two other attendees and they were given directions: Choose the winner by gauging the audience’s applause.

Ali Kelley, a StoryStudio student in their novelists roundtable, was given the social media retro topic. Throughout her storytelling, she talked about life in the 60s, as she imagined it…having been born much, much later. She was masterful in talking about why it was so much simpler back then – with back of the pickup truck rides and drinking Coca-Colas with your friends – then today’s fast-paced digital world.

Then Keith Ecker, a StoryStudio faculty advisor, came on stage to talk about why today’s world is the place to be. He highlighted everything that is great about social media and made fun of things such as talking in hashtags and everyone wanting a viral video.

In the end, Ali won…even though we all live in the fast-paced digital world and Keith made a great argument for it. She told her story slightly better and even had to catch herself from laughing while she read.

It was an incredible 10 minutes and the conference ended on a very high note.

Fiction and Content Creation

Since then, I’ve perused the StoryStudio site (multiple times), signed up for a couple of classes, and bent Jill’s ear about how this kind of practice might not just improve my writing, but my speaking.

Reading – and writing – fiction uses different brain muscles, which is why I’m such a fan of it for business content creators. Being able to transform readers to another world through the written word provides you the opportunity to think about business storytelling differently.

And now you have the opportunity to not just create the stories for your organization, but to tell them out loud during a new business presentation, through a series of videos, or during an industry conference presentation.

It’s scary. It’s out of most of our comfort zones. It puts you in a position to be critiqued. But it will make you better.

WRITE CLUB is in Chicago, San Francisco, Atlanta, Los Angeles, and Toronto. If you live in one of those cities (or are visiting), I encourage you to check it out.

If you’re so inclined, you can start a new chapter with a simple application and some passion.

As you begin to think about your New Year’s resolutions, add fiction reading to your list, consider taking creative writing courses, and check out a live lit event near you!

Image is Keith Ecker performing with Laura Petrolino photo bombing.

About Gini Dietrich


Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro.

85 comments
ExtremelyAvg
ExtremelyAvg

That sounds like so much fun.

When you say the writers got up and talked about their ideas, do you mean they read their stories? Or was it more of a contest in extemporaneous public speaking. Either way, it sounds fun. I would love to do some competitive writing...to the death! (and by that, I mean to the mildly uncomfortable)

Latest blog post: Post Bookbub Bump

LauraPetrolino
LauraPetrolino

Woohoo! Look at my fine photo bombing performance! See how I do it was such skill and ease. That technique took years to perfect! Years I tell you. Don't try it unless you are a professional.

Anyway, enough about me (for now)...I have to say that Write Club was so cool I honestly thought about moving just to be able to attend their sessions. I don't just think tapping into this creativity is helpful for writing (and speaking), but really all aspects of both your professional and personal life. It forces us to expand our thinking and getting in the practice of doing so will help us expand the way we view the world and think about everything we encounter. So instead of just looking at a fork in the usual way, you start to look at a fork within context of all the stories it might be part of, all the different perspectives of the same fork, and so on and so on...

I'd start a Florida chapter but in the hands of Floridians this would probably just turn into porn :(

SarahAParker
SarahAParker

Fantastic piece. Be a writer first and a marketer second-- or at least remember to step outside of the marketing sandbox often enough that you don't get stuck in a rut of humorless jargon. I would say very few people get excited about reading anything that fits that description. (This is a great nudge for me to get back to doing more reading and less Netflix-ing. After I finish the third season of Downton Abbey, of course.) 

-Sarah  

Unmana
Unmana

I wish I could join one of these clubs! 

I love writing fiction (even though I'm not very good at it.) I actually wrote a blog post once on how writing fiction helps me improve my marketing writing.

jenzings
jenzings

Ah, I so adore this post. Reading fiction has so many benefits (they've done studies that show that people who read fiction are more empathetic and are better at reading the moods of others--that has direct applicability in business settings).


Writing fiction is a wonderful challenge. If people don't think they have the time to write fiction, try flash fiction. It's stories by paragraph, practically. I'm extremely lucky that New Hampshire has a very vibrant writing community--there are writer's nights out, tons of workshops, and the New Hampshire Writer's Project is a wonderful resource. Writing fiction helps your non-fiction writing in so many ways. Storytelling is a key component in marketing and persuasion, is it not?

Aimee West
Aimee West

I wondered what that scar on the back of my neck was.

RebeccaTodd
RebeccaTodd

Absolutely agree! If you want to write, read. Lots and lots and lots. In fact, I go a step further. I always carry my highlighter sticky flag pens, and obsessively use my highlight and notes options in my Kindle app. I flag new words or sayings and make note of them for later. I think about what about those words and lines appealed to me. How has the author crafted that sentence? What caught your eye? Was it the structure, the word choice, the humour? I know, without looking, that one of the most beautiful and challenging sentences ever penned lives on the upper paragraph of page 17 in Ondaatje's "In The Skin Of A Lion." I read that first almost 20 years ago, and committed the page reference, if not the exact wording, to memory as an example of pure brilliance. It struck me so hard I felt a bit like Brian Wilson upon hearing St Pepper's- I will never, ever live to create something so perfect and lovely. But- I analyzed it and learned what I could about his craft. I may never reach that level of word smithery, yet learned from the structure he employed. So it goes.

RobBiesenbach
RobBiesenbach

Totally agree. I took a almost two years of sketch and screen writing classes at Second City and it taught me a TON about structure and story and show/don't tell and tuning into your audience and a bunch of other stuff directly related to writing of any kind for any audience.

marandagibson
marandagibson

Don't be afraid of fiction writing. Writing fiction helps me to understand what I would want to read - which I think translates really well into the content marketing strategy.  More than just understanding how to tell a story, I think writing fiction helps us to understand what our "voice" truly is. 

Why would you write something that you wouldn't want to read yourself? Who is going to share that content? If you wouldn't send out your own link - why would anyone else want to? (Also, if you want to go right into the frying pan - it's not too late to start NaNoWriMo (: )

KevinVandever
KevinVandever

I thought the first rule of WRITE Club was to never talk about WRITE Club? 

Sounds awesome and, yes, scary. I will check it out.

Thanks.

Gini Dietrich
Gini Dietrich

Aimee, about two months ago, you had a procedure. I was inserted into your brain.

BillDorman
BillDorman

Let me tell you a story about a man named Jed...

Yes, if you can paint a picture by telling a story you will captivate your audience. I know a few who do this very well. I think your strategy of putting yourself out there, out of your comfort zone, will only make you better.

Good luck. 

Joshua Wilner/A Writer Writes
Joshua Wilner/A Writer Writes

Marketers who never take a crack at writing fiction are missing out on a big opportunity professionally and personally.

If our basic goal is to tell a story that compels people to respond, act or react it makes perfect sense to exercise all of the muscles we have at our disposal.

Reminds me a bit of conversations I have had with friends who are big on exercise. I often ask if they have ever a real swimmer's workout (I was on the school swim team years ago) and then I try not to laugh when they tell me they could do it easily.

Because if you aren't a swimmer and you try one of those workouts you'll learn first hand just how many muscles aren't being trained or aren't adapted for water workouts.

Same sort of concept here. You don't have to be able to write a best selling novel but if you haven't tried to tell someone about you got arrested for beating someone with a salami and about how you fended off a rapist in jail with a butter knife you really haven't lived.

belllindsay
belllindsay

Back in the good ol' days, I used to take fiction writing night classes - just for fun. I am a HUGE fan of injecting STORY into your writing - especially when writing a boring business article - you have the opportunity to grab people's attention and lure them into your post. And you should do it in the first paragraph if you want it to be super effective. :)

LSSocialEngage
LSSocialEngage

Such a fun post Gini. I have been contemplating taking a creative writing course for a while.  Maybe I actually will now :) And LOVED Defending Jacob too.

amandalgant
amandalgant

They both killed it. So good! Thanks for the Content Jam recaps, Team GiniD! 

...oh, and nice image (stalkers. you AND @LauraPetrolino)

bhas
bhas

@Gini Dietrich  And this is the confirmation that I needed- Being John Malkovich has landed on terra firma. I am hoping the portal left only a scar. 

Or is this straight out of Scott Pilgrim? Maybe @Aimee West should look for a microchip in her neck

LauraPetrolino
LauraPetrolino

@ginidietrich I'm a pretty persuasive force, but I don't think even I am powerful enough to fight the Florida powers of porn....you have no idea! 

Or I could just limit membership to myself, @TaraGeissinger@biggreenpen  and @BillDorman (well maybe not Bill if we want to keep it PG, but the rest of us...)

RobBiesenbach
RobBiesenbach

@ginidietrich Yes but this is the writing program, which is waaaaaay less "out there" than improv. Even though it's at Second City, it's just writers working individually to write stuff, most of which will never be put on stage. Every week you bring in a new sketch, and it does get read out loud in class and people critique it, but that's the extent of the risk to your comfort zone. 

I did the improv, too, though, so had multiple opportunities to make an ass of myself and definitely too advantage of it!

And I know Jill at StoryStudio and have long threatened to take some creative writing classes there. It seems like a great program!

Word Ninja
Word Ninja

@marandagibson @ginidietrich I signed up for the first time this year. I'm trying to finish a rewrite of a novel, which isn't really in the rules of NaNo, but spurred me on to make a "public" commitment to getting it done. Great that you both accomplished those word counts? What kind of books?


LSSocialEngage
LSSocialEngage

That sounds awesome. Now there's two things to look forward to in 2015. The release of Your third book ( and first fiction novel?) and Star Wars VII. I have to look around to see if they have something like that in Ottawa. Otherwise I may take an online continuing Ed course for starters.

amandalgant
amandalgant

@jasonkonopinski the Gant is great and a little tired from all the Blackhawks game attending she was doing last night :)

@ginidietrich you didn't see me?! I'll try harder next time. 

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  1. […] Dietrich writes Fiction, Write Club, and Content Creation for Spin […]

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  3. […] would also encourage anyone in business to take a class in creative writing, screenwriting, acting or improvisational comedy. I’ve done all of the above and it’s helped me […]

  4. […] replay web makes us think about how our content is used and diffused in different ways. If I can mix metaphors, it’s not simply one pitch and […]