Short essays by Douglas Winslow Cooper, Ph.D., the author of TING AND I: A Memoir of Love, Courage and Devotion, published in September 2011 by Outskirts Press (Parker, CO, USA), available from outskirtspress.com/tingandi, Barnes and Noble [bn.com], and Amazon [amazon.com], in paperback or ebook formats. Please visit us at tingandi.com for more information.
Write Your Book With Me... One of the most complete volumes on writing I have ever read!
Sadly, the world is full of skeptics. You may be thinking, Douglas Cooper, never heard of him. Why should I buy his book, after all, what makes him an expert? There are several books about writing, so what sets his book apart from all the others out there? Dr. Cooper's credentials are impressive. With a Ph.D. in Engineering from Harvard, along with several years on the faculty of the Harvard School of Public Health, there's a good chance that he is dedicated and has his ducks in a row.
Doug Cooper has used the knowledge he's gained to pen two wonderful pieces of nonfiction, a memoir he wrote a few years ago entitled Ting and I and more recently this book to help others write well, Write Your Book with Me. Over the last few years he has helped several people write fiction and nonfiction and has earned the right to bill himself as Editor and Book Doctor. I can attest to the difficult job at hand. Helping others realize their dreams for those that desire to write is both rewarding and taxing.
So... to got back to one of your questions, (What sets this book apart from the rest?), I just finished reading Write Your Book With Me. Honestly, while I think the book might be useful to any writing novice, the book is probably geared to those preferring to write a piece of nonfiction. Doug is not trying to recreate the wheel here, nor does he profess that this is the only book you'll ever need to write well. Doug has written a candid, well-researched, very thorough volume on writing. He has read several current books about how to write well and attempted to separate the wheat from the chaff. He shares the writing style that worked best for him with his readers, citing specific things he went through while writing Ting and I.
In my opinion, Doug has left no stone unturned penning categories on the importance of proper planning, preparing, publishing, promoting, and the payoff with important subcategories within each segment. He's even included a segment on reflections and an all-important resources section. I have read several books on writing and this one, Write Your Book With Me, more than exceeds most of them when it comes to hitting on all the important things it takes to write well. On a side note, Doug's editing acumen is to be commended. I have edited fiction for over seven years and spoke to and interacted with many writers. During that time, I've only met one writer that edited his own work superbly. I feel confident adding Doug's name to my slowly growing list of professional editors that are willing to go the extra mile to help their clients by doing a flawless job. Purchase a copy of Write Your Book With Me today; you'll be glad you did.
wouldn’t go to a movie without knowing the title of the film. If
uncertain what the title implies, you would ask what kind of movie it is.
Romantic? Comedy? Mystery? Drama? War? Horror? If you are not a fan of the
movie’s genre, you’ll likely skip it.
readers know what they want, and it is hard to get them to go far
afield. Let’s see: romantic, comedy, mystery, drama, war, horror…so far similar
to the movies, but also paranormal, fantasy, historical romance, young adult, etc. Go to amazon.com and start to
browse, and you will be presented with a smorgasbord of choices. [Metaphor, no
food there actually.]
Evans (2015) classified
novels’ genres as follows: mysteries, science fiction, fantasy, Westerns,
horror, thrillers, romance, historical. Another classification he offers
depends on word count: adult commercial (80 to 90 thousand), science fiction
and fantasy (100 to 115 thousand), middle grade (20 to 55 thousand), young
adult (55 to 80 thousand), Westerns (50 to 80 thousand), memoirs (80 to 90
thousand)…though memoirs are not supposed to be fiction.
TRUTH THROUGH FABLE – THEMES, SETTINGS, CHARACTERS, ACTION, DIALOGUE,
DESCRIPTION, ARCS, FORESHADOWING, CLIFF-HANGERS, RESOLUTION
Note the Foreword to this
book, which is Stephen King’s Foreword to his own On Writing, Second Edition. He’s not sure anyone can tell another
how to write outstanding fiction. Not having his skill and expertise, I will
venture where he might not.
If you go to amazon.com and
plunk down $11 for the Kindle ebook version or $14 for the paperback, you will
likely profit from Writing Fiction for
Dummies by Randy Ingermanson and Peter Economy (2009), which, when I looked,
had received a couple of hundred very favorable reviews at Amazon. Naturally,
the smart “Dummies” to whom the title refers are the would-be-author purchasers
of this easy-to-follow handbook, rather than the audience for whom the writers
of fiction will be writing…at least I hope so.
As I do not have the Dummies book myself, I’ll lead off with
advice from another source, which I do have. [A variation on the theme of “love
the one you’re with.”]
Start with some good advice
from novelist J.P. Kurzitza (2011) in a booklet So You Want to Write a Novel: “the story is everything. If you
don’t already have that, then this booklet won’t be of much use to you.”
Without an engaging story, great language won’t save you: “it’s like spraying a
skunk with perfume.” [Notice that he avoids the over-used “lipstick on a pig”
simile.] Later on in the booklet he offers three story templates to guide you.
We’ll look at two.
got to develop characters, plotlines, chapters, scenes for each chapter.
caused by coups or wars, floods or tornados, famines or disease, fires or
vehicular accidents, or the more common, but still hurtful, separations,
divorces, deaths in the family—traumas cause physical and psychological
injuries that need healing. There is encouraging evidence that we often become
stronger after such healing is completed. That is fortunate, because a
world-wide study has shown that more than 40% of men and of women have suffered
trauma at the hands of other people.
probably heard the same adages I have: “the blow that doesn’t crush you
strengthens you,” “every knock is a boost,” “when the going gets tough, the
tough get going.” You may have thought you could do without quite so much good fortune,
those helpful blows and boosting knocks, and that you’d get going…elsewhere.
The School of Hard Knocks
successful people have attributed success to lessons learned in the school of
hard knocks, temporary blows that provided permanent benefits. Harlan Sanders
worked from age 40 to age 62 before his Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise
operation became an overnight success. World-class athletes and their weekend
work-out cousins confirm: no pain, no gain. Some companies emerge stronger from
bankruptcy, though others collapse. Why?
we break a bone, the break heals to become stronger than the surrounding bone. Skin
scar tissue is often tougher than the original. Even personal slights that produce
hurt feelings can toughen us up. Adria Goldman Gross, my friend and co-author [Solved! Curing Your Medical Insurance
Problems] came back from a life-threatening brain operation for her debilitating
and embarassing epileptic fits to establish a successful patients’ advocacy
say “the dose makes the poison.” Small doses of caffeine are invigorating;
large doses can kill. Responses to alcohol depend on the dose and on one’s constitution.
You can over-dose on vitamins. The technical term is “hormesis,” found widely,
including exposure to radiation. Even sunlight, beneficial in moderation, can
be overdone. Individual sensitivities vary.
life’s other major, non-fatal stresses?
research demonstrates post-traumatic toughening, the beneficent sibling of
post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Here, again, the nature and degree of
injury (and the constitution of the injured) greatly influence the outcome.
this topic, I found Supersurvivors: The
Surprising Link between Suffering and Success, by David B. Feldman, Ph.D.,
and Lee Daniel Kravetz. Their message: often we have choice between merely
surviving and “supersurviving,” gaining from the traumatic experience.
chapters titles captivate: To Survive or
to Supersurvive, The Paradox of Positive Thinking, The Truth of Illusion, The
World We Thought We Knew, The Company We Keep, Awakened by Death, Faith’s Mixed
Blessing, Forgiving the Unforgivable, The Right Choice. Let me give you a
and Kravetz begin: “On the spectrum of trauma survivorship, everyone falls
somewhere between hiding under a rock and becoming a rock star.” From survive to
thrive. A majority of survivors feel strengthened by the experience, though not
necessarily glad that it happened.
thinking? It’s more pleasant than negative thinking, but the data on its influence
on survival are mixed: be sure to take prudent preventive actions like
mammograms and don’t optimistically search for unicorns.
of illusion? Surveys show we think we are safer than we really are, perhaps
leading to taking ill-advised risks, like texting while driving. Yet, studies
have shown that CEOs generally are risk-takers, not because they underestimate
the hazards, but because they are confident they can handle them, they have
“grounded hope.” Hope stimulates action, fights depression, and serves as a
support? It’s been shown to extend the lives of those in hospices after major
disasters. Such help is a boon, even if temporary. Survivors do better
emotionally when they expect continued support. A parent, spouse, sibling, or
friend who stands by the survivor can make a world of difference.
Catholic nuns and Seventh Day Adventists have greater longevity than average.
Faith sometimes consoles and inspires, but can also perplex or distract, when
you break its rules.
While physically and psychologically beneficial, forgiveness is hard and cannot
fairly be expected of any victim. Still, as South African Archbishop Desmond
Tutu noted, an eye for an eye leaves everyone blind.
Limits---What if a Meteor Strikes You?
as the dose makes the poison, the degree of trauma can be too great to expect
you to recover from. This varies from trauma to trauma and person to person. Furthermore,
not every cloud has a silver lining. Yet, we can often salvage something even
while regretting having been injured. We do the best we can.
Recovering from My Own Saddest Time
learned my first wife was having an affair, I decided to divorce her. I spent the
next year dejectedly merely putting one foot in front of the other. I felt
crushed. Our happy decade together seemed a lie. The second year was a bit
better, dating, finally getting engaged but then disengaged. Not quite a happy
time. I did, however, hope that perhaps divorce could work out for the best…if
I could someday marry my college sweetheart, Tina Su. The rest is joyful history,
as told in our Ting and I: A Memoir of
Love, Courage, and Devotion.
What You May Gain from Pain
a blow crushes you or strengthens you will depend on the challenge, on your constitution,
on your situation, and on your responses. Shakespeare’s Hamlet somewhat
over-stated it, but there is truth in his “there is nothing good or bad, but
thinking makes it so.” Often, we conquer trauma by how we choose to view it and
what we learn from it.
Have you overcome a serious harm by how
you chose to view it? What do you think are the limits to this? To what extent
is it fair to expect this of others?
A former Harvard environmental
science professor, Dr. Douglas Winslow Cooper is an author who helps
others write and publish their books, via his coaching enterprise http://WriteYourBookWithMe.com. His life's central
theme has been his half-century romance (http://TingandI.com) with Tina Su Cooper,
his wife, now quadriplegic due to multiple sclerosis and receiving 24/7 nursing
care at home, care discussed at their website here.
This extraordinary novel opens with its protagonist,
who has the same name as the author, hanging upside down over a rocky jetty
near the very southernmost tip of New Zealand, suspended by his paralyzed legs
wedged between the rocks and his wheelchair. Right below him is the man,
Darrell Zoyl, of the infamous Zoyl family, who has just tried to kill him.
How Finn Bell got there and what happens next
propel the plot, but the book is much more than just a mystery, it includes
some profound reflections on life and death, suicide and survival, love and
loathing, sanity and madness, happiness and depression.
The breadth of topics in Bell’s fascinating work
reminded me of the tale told by Lewis Carroll’s Walrus, who captivates an
“The time has come,” the Walrus said, “to talk
of many things:
Of shoes---and ships---and sealing wax---
Of cabbages and kings---
Of why the sea is boiling hot---
And whether pigs have wings.”
Those who take the pleasure of reading both Finn
Bell’s gripping novel and this poem, “The Walrus and the Carpenter,” will see a
sinister parallel as well.
The author uses flashbacks, not my favorite
style, to have his hero tell how he has reached this predicament, while putting
many of the chapters in the present. Yet, it was effective: I could hardly put
the book down once I started reading it.
The reader learns much about life in New
Zealand, along with the psychology of the paraplegic male, and the offbeat but
effective method of one psychologist-counselor in dealing with the nearly suicidal.
The author’s notes at the book’s end provide
some additional value, about bees and their ability to sense our emotions, the
African country of Benin with its unusually high incidence of twins (a pair of whom
play an important role in the book), whaling and the rendering of whale
blubber, cannibalism in pigs, and the various phases of New Zealand’s settling
and economic development. Within the story we learn of Murder Ball, a rugby
variant for men in wheelchairs.
There is love…love lost and love found, love
among friends, love between man and woman and among extended family members.
And there is terror, terror generated by the
Zoyl family with their wicked secrets and their cunning tactics to keep atrocities
hidden for decades.
The writing flows. The editing is excellent.
If you like mystery, with psychological depth,
mixed with arcane information about exotic places and people, spiced with some
terror and intermittent action, you’ll love this book, as I did.
I’ve already bought another Zinn Bell novel, Pancake Money, also a mystery set in New
Zealand. I can’t wait to read it.
you want to write about money? Better have a lot of it. For
credibility. Who heeds a pauper? Plus, to
cover any lawsuit that might ensue from someone who followed your advice and
failed. I’ll say it here and perhaps elsewhere in this book: take all financial advice, even or
especially mine, with skepticism. Do your own “due diligence.” “Past
performance is no guarantee of future results.” Clear? Now we can continue.
It makes “the world go around.” Most people want to make more
of it and waste less. For this genre, academic credentials seem almost
made a bundle brings credibility. Buffett, Gates, Trump, and
their ilk are well suited to write, but often too busy getting richer. And yet,
since “past performance is no guarantee of future results,” as the SEC (Securities
Exchange Commission) makes the investment community remind us all, we are to
ignore (as if we could) that so-and-so got rich quick doing whatever it is he
claims was key.
can’t imagine scientists saying “past performance is no guarantee of future
results,” or we’d have no science, no engineering, no equations,
just hunches and guesses and a lot of bridges of doubtful reliability.
is boring, but important. Putting a bit away regularly for a rainy day will
enable you to buy an umbrella when you need one. If
inflation kicks up, you may not be able to buy much more. My favorite book in the wealth genre is The Millionaire Next Door (Stanley, 2010), which shows how the old virtue of frugality retains its basic
power: “Waste not, want not. Use it up, wear it out. Make do, or do
without.” Taleb’s (2012) Antifragile would have you put a small
but significant fraction into high-risk, high-payoff investments and the rest
in the safest, stodgiest investments you can find. You can double your money by playing red at roulette, once, if
successful. Hold back a little for bus fare for getting home.
is like saving, only riskier. So many schemes, so little time, so little
disposable income to put at risk. If you have a great idea, use
it to make money rather than to sell a book. Typically, once your great idea gets out, others will get into the act, and prices
will be bid up or down to erase the temporary advantage. If you are a Nobel
laureate in economic theory, then you might establish a firm like Long-Term
Capital Management, rely on exotic equations and naïve assumptions about
probability distributions, and go belly-up impressively.
Writing a book about money
should be approached with caution, because although “past performance is no
guarantee of future results,” you just might become rich and famous, which the
tabloids demonstrate is no way to find happiness.
From my magnum opus, Write Your Book with Me, written for neophytes and published by Outskirts Press, available from OP and online booksellers like amazon.com and bn.com in paperback and ebook formats.
The book is intended to inform, entertain, and get some of you to sign me up as your book writing and publishing coach, so see http://WriteYourBookWithMe.com. As Stephen King might have said, "Douglas Who?"
divorces, deaths in the family, economic hardships, illnesses…many of our Sixty and Me community have made it
through difficult times and are survivors. We have learned from our experiences
and from the experiences of others.
of my favorite TV shows is the History Channel’s Alone, a reality show that starts by putting ten survival experts
each about five miles apart on the shores of Vancouver Island, basically an
uninhabited jungle, and awards half a million dollars to the contestant who
quits last. They are given some standard survival gear and can choose a limited
amount of additional stuff, but they will have to weather the rainy Vancouver
climate and try to find food from the ocean and in the jungle, while coping
with complete solitude. The first year had five of the ten contestants quit within
the first week, and the winner won by enduring for 56 days. The second year’s
crew did much better, the new group having learned from watching films of the
and recently, an exciting and dramatic adventure novel, Paul Draker’s New
Year Island, examines the question of what qualities are crucial to
successful survival under very unusual conditions. It made me wonder to what
degree these qualities might be important in our everyday lives.
book presents an Alone-like
competition on an isolated island. Early on, novelist Draker has a lecturer
tell the competitors what characteristics psychologists have found to be common
among the exceptional one-tenth who survive extraordinary, life-or-death
WILL TO LIVE - survival is as much mental as physical.
RESILIENCE - flexible in the face of adversity.
SELF-CONFIDENCE - feel no need to prove anything to anybody.
PLAYFUL CURIOSITY - experiment, break rules, test limits.
ALERTNESS - appraise changing situations rapidly, read people well.
UNPREDICTABILITY - combine opposing characteristics for flexibility and
EMPATHY - care about others without being paralyzed by concern.
INTUITION - trust their feelings, their instincts.
SYNERGY - combine dissimilar elements, making hard problems easier.
SPIRITUALITY - have faith and believe they will survive.
can these attributes contribute to our own lives, even outside of crises?
Will to Live
is the basic version of what the French call joie de vivre, an
exuberant, energetic appreciation of the gift of life, a gift that comes with
an expiration date unknown to us. We enjoy life fully, while we can.
helps us cope with ups and downs, twists and turns…at work, at play, at home.
We don’t sweat the small stuff, don’t fuss about minor matters. We accept that
life is change. Defeat is temporary.
fuels our moving forward. It attracts others to us, as long as we do not become
smug or over-confident. We succeed partly because we believe we can.
adds to our enjoyment of life and to the enjoyment felt by those with whom we
interact, helping us to attract allies. Competition in business or school or
even in love can be seen as a game, and we can take an attitude of “win some,
lose some” to temper our elation at winning or our dejection at losing. Playfulness
can stimulate creativity.
must be alert, aware of our environment and the people around us. Opportunity
may knock, but we must be listening to hear it. Prudent early action can
prevent major problems.
This surprised me. What author Draker meant was that we should not bring the
same approach to all our situations. We need to be able to be rational or
emotional, sweet or acerbic, soft or firm, even gentle or rough, as
appropriate. Varying your style can reveal new options to you. If your only
approach is to be a hammer, you will misjudge problems to be nails.
is not just nice, it is a component of success. Our consideration for the
feelings of others will often be returned through their consideration for us.
Teamwork is fostered, allies gained and maintained. Shared success is more
likely and more valuable than individualistic failure.
know more than we can prove. Can you trust him? Is she a true friend? Going
with your gut has merit, although one needs to apply it cautiously. The heart
has reasons the mind cannot grasp. However, if we get solid information that
contradicts our gut feelings, it is time to reconsider.
occurs when the combination of two things produces results much greater than
the simple sum of the two would predict. When two people do more than just fill
gaps, they have synergy. When each improves and reinforces the other, this
pairing out-performs prediction.
has been found helpful, often crucial, in sustaining those in terrible
situations. In our daily lives, a belief in the benevolence of the universe or
a faith in the guidance of a Supreme Being helps propel us through adversity
and contributes to confidence, resilience, empathy, and enjoyment of life.
Besides, God might just give us a helping hand.
can be thriving, not just surviving. Skills that have gotten you this far can
be honed to take you farther still. Play on!
Have you weathered a
situation recently that made you feel like a survivor? Did some of these listed
skills come into play?
A former Harvard environmental science
professor, Dr. Cooper is an author who helps others write and publish
their books, via his business http://WriteYourBookWithMe.com. His
life's central theme has been a half-century romance (http://TingandI.com) with Tina Su Cooper, his wife, now
quadriplegic due to multiple sclerosis and receiving 24/7 nursing care at home,
as discussed at their website here.
First published, somewhat edited, in sixtyandme.com ezine:
categories for successful nonfiction books include health, wealth, and
Yes, we are all going to die
sometime. However, we’d like it to be later rather than sooner, and along the
way we would like to look good and feel good. So…diet and exercise, and maybe
If you have the credentials,
possibly if you only have experience, you can write credibly about these
of my writer drop-outs wanted to write a book about weight loss through
exercise and diet, having lost scads of weight she had put on
during and after a divorce. She took up body-building
and developed a body that most men would like…to have themselves. My
limited test marketing with some women I knew indicated that they did not want
to learn how to look like her.
I did learn that 3600 calories
are equivalent to about a pound of fat, and that much of the early weight loss
in various diets is due to excretion rather than fat loss. While most of us
expend around 1500 calories per day, the Navy SEAL trainees expend 6000
calories per day.
you want to look slimmer, you need to eat less and do more. Hey,
I’ve got the basis for a book, How to
Look like a SEAL. Maybe not. At least it isn’t How to Look Like a Seal, although they are sleek.
Short of being a psychiatrist
or a psychologist, what credentials do you need to be a mind- or mood-improver?
One of my other writing dropouts was a kind of martial-artist-plus-meditator in
a get-up, who eventually drifted off into multi-level marketing.
They say that old age is not
for sissies, and neither is writing a book. Expect to spend hundreds of hours
on it. And lots of mental calories.
Excerpted from my magnum opus, Write Your Book with Me,published by Outskirts Press and available from OP as well as from online booksellers like amazon.com and bn.com.
Consider visiting my writing-coaching-editing site for a free ebook version of WYBWM and a free consultation on your plans to write and publish your book.