March 15, 2023

How to Best Use Method Writing to Find Your True Voice - BM361

How to Best Use Method Writing to Find Your True Voice - BM361

Do you want to know how to write and speak from your true authentic voice?

Join Leslie Berliant, writing coach, poet, and playwright (a.k.a. the "Writing Whisper"}, as she shares her "Method Writing" technique to help you dive deep inside yourself to uncover your unique stories and authentic voice!

Do you want to know how to write and speak from your true authentic voice?

Join Leslie Berliant,  writing coach, poet, and playwright (a.k.a. the "Writing Whisper"}, as she shares her "Method Writing" technique to help you dive deep inside yourself to uncover your unique stories and authentic voice! 

In this week's powerful interview, you will discover...

  • How to craft engaging writing with greater ease than ever thought possible.
  • How to make your writing come alive by exploring the power of description 
  • How to uncover ways words can be used to emotively immerse readers in an instant.
  • How to use small moments to reflect the human experience and create stories that stick with readers.

And a whole lot more...

Click here to find out more about Leslie's 6-week creative writing programs
Enter code "Mentors" at checkout to get a special discount

Click here to schedule your 20-minute brainstorming session with Susan

This episode is sponsored by QUICKWRITE the only AI tool designed by authors for authors.
Get your lifetime subscription NOW (offer ends March 31st 2023)





Susan Friedmann 

Welcome to Book Marketing Mentors, the weekly podcast where you learn proven strategies, tools, ideas, and tips from the masters. Every week, I introduce you to a marketing master who will share their expertise to help you market and sell more books. 

Today, my special guest is known as the "Writing Whisperer." Leslie Berliant is a journalist, poet, author, editor, and consultant. She's passionate about the power of creative writing and has had numerous famous mentors throughout her career who have helped shape her perspective on creativity and innovative thinking. Using her skills in method writing, she guides and encourages her clients to see beyond solutions they think are obvious and inspires them to write using their deep, authentic voice. 

She's the host of Writrix Salons, which are monthly readings of original work from diverse backgrounds. 

Leslie, it's an absolute pleasure to welcome you to the show, and thank you for being this week's guest, expert, and mentor.

Leslie Berliant 00:01:10

Thank you so much for having me. I'm thrilled to be here.

Susan Friedmann 00:01:13

So, Leslie, as I mentioned earlier, many of our listeners have either written a book or they're in the throes of writing one, which means that they've had some kind of experience with the writing process. And being one of those people, it's either positive or negative or somewhere in between. You guide your clients using method writing. I've heard of method acting, but I've never heard of method writing. So I would love you to talk to us about that. What is it exactly? Let's start at the very beginning.

Leslie Berliant 00:01:50

Yeah, sure. One of my favorite teachers is a poet and playwright named Jack Grapes, who was kind of one of the later beat poet. If you know Jack, you might know his work. He wrote quite a bit about Charles Bukowski, has some very funny stories about interviewing him. He's also an actor, and Jack really came up with this method writing, which I studied with him, which was really taking the same idea of method acting, which is you really put your own experiences into the story and use that to develop a writing method that is really designed to help folks get into their deep voice. So Jack would always say we sometimes use, I should say, voice and style and different terminology and writing interchangeably. But Jack would say there are three main voices that you write from. 

You write from your head what you think, your ideas about things think Dostoevsky any piece of philosophy. You write from what's called the reporting voice. So that's journalism. These are the facts. This is what happened. And then there's writing from the deep voice, which is how a narrator or an author or a character experiences something. 

And what I've found over the years is that when we get into our deep voice, it really doesn't matter whether we're writing journalism, fiction, autobiography, memoir, or marketing materials. I've worked with people who are writing Ted Talks. I just recently worked with a woman working on short films our first one had no dialogue, and yet we used this deep voice method to write it. And the film has won more than 50 awards. It kind of doesn't matter what your subject matter is or what the style of your writing is. When you can bring the reader or the audience or the listener into the experience of something, that's when you've got them. So that's what 

I learned from years of sitting in Jack's living room and then later his office, working with groups of people when I was in La. And I've taken some of that and some of the other techniques that I've learned over the years from various teachers and kind of created my own way of helping to draw that out of folks.

Susan Friedmann 00:04:15

That's a great segue because I was going to ask you, how do you do that? Because when you talked about those three different types of writing styles, first of all, I'm very much in my head and I use that reporting style. Here are the ten ways to do this, six ways to do that. I've written a Dummies book and an Idiot's Guide Book and those are all sort of very factual, bringing me into the book and my real voice. How would I do that?

Leslie Berliant 00:04:48

Yeah, it's such a great question. Let me back up for a minute and say that no one voice is better than the other, right? It's just that in school, most of our schooling, most of us are learning to write from head voice and reporting voice. What did you think about this book? What actually happened historically? Right. Like, we learn that technique. What we don't learn is how to bring ourselves to your point into the story. When I say ourselves, what I'm talking about is not something that necessarily is true, but something that gets at a truth. What readers and listeners and audiences gravitate towards is something that moves them. 

And what moves people generally is something that gets at a truth. I think about films that are meaningful despite being fictional. It's almost always for me because it gets at some truth that makes me start to think about my own life, my own experiences. I'll take the example of the Ted Talk because I think that's probably most applicable to the kind of work that you're talking about writing, which is the piece was about photography. 

And I just kept asking the person to sort of go a little bit more into why photography called to her in the first place and why this particular project spoke to her. What was underneath that? I feel like what it is is this excavation of what is underneath the first layer and then the second layer and then the third layer to get at what the truth of something is. And so even if you're writing ten ways to do something, there's also your own experience that brought you to those ten things. Sometimes that experiences you didn't know what you didn't know and made happy mistakes. And sometimes that experience is fraught. 

Sometimes that experience is playful, but it's a real person having a real experience, even if that real person is fictionalized. It's always about getting to what is the layer underneath and what is the truth of something, even if it's not 100% true. That's kind of how I look at it. And when I work with folks who are writing marketing materials, for example, really talk about the importance of sharing a story that people can relate to. You know, we've all seen them as marketing materials. 

Let me tell you how I made my first million, bought my 240,000-square-foot ranch. It's supposed to be aspirational, but it ends up feeling like it's like a foreign species. A person who can do that, what works, I think better and moves people are those marketing materials. Like, here's something I struggled with, and I looked at all of these different ways to solve it, and here's what I learned along the way, and now I want to share that with you because I want to save you the decade of trying to figure it out on your own. And I think I feel like that speaks to people in a way that is authentic and feels real. And that comes from writing from a place of the depth of truth and of authenticity.

Susan Friedmann 00:08:11

Yes, people want authenticity. They smell in authenticity from a mile off. And what I hear you saying is they want to be able to relate to what you're saying. Yes, it's maybe not exactly the same experience as you had, yet it's similar for them. Then they're drawn in by that. So I get that. Now you talk about you do this excavation with your clients to really get to the depth of what's deep down, what's the real why. Yet if I'm here by myself, how do I do that? I can really get to what's deep down.

Leslie Berliant 00:08:56

That's also a great question. And I think a lot of the techniques I learned from Jack with method writing are really designed to help you get there so that you don't have to be like, I have a deep thing to say and I know exactly what it is. But you can just start the writing process and find the deep places. One of the exercises he really focused on that I think is really important is finding those lines. It's usually In a verb or person's name in a verb where there's something underneath it that gets at a deeper truth about the narrator of the character or the person writing. Let's take I struggled for years to find ways to market my services. 

Let's just take that as the line. You write you're writing a marketing piece and you write, I struggled for years that I struggled might get a deeper truth about the person writing it that might not be the only place they struggled or that struggle to market their services might have created struggles in other places in their life. Right. So the normal rule of thumb is, like, I struggled for years to market my services, but I've come up with, now I'm an incredibly successful widget maker, and you can be too, right. Versus that's that kind of, like, very flattened version versus I struggled for years to market my services. 

And that struggle led into my personal life, and it made it hard. And I started to doubt myself. And the only way I could get through doubting myself was to start to find small steps I could take that could help me put what I know to be my genius out into the world. And it was just one small, little granular thing at a time. And over time, what I discovered is it's through those small steps that I really understood what it is I offer people and was really able to articulate it to them. And I want to share those steps with you because I don't want you to struggle. 

I want you to thrive. Right. Like, when you start to bring people into that, there's something true here about we all struggle in various ways in our lives. Right? Then the reader has something to connect to and say, yeah, that's like me. I didn't struggle with that, but I struggled with this other thing, so I can connect. I can relate.

Susan Friedmann 00:11:26

Yeah. My head is, like, bobbing up and down here. Yes, absolutely. It's like, oh, my goodness. When you gave that marketing example, I'm like, I'm sold. You drew me into that.

Leslie Berliant 00:11:42

I think it's somebody who I like. I never worked with her, but I always liked the way she approached things, which is she used to go to buy Barbara Stanley, and now she goes by Barbara Houston, I think, and she does like, financial stuff for women. I heard her speak once, and she grew up the daughter of one of the partners in H and R Block. She basically grew up being told, like, you're never going to have to worry about anything. You'll be fine. Don't learn anything about money. 

Don't learn anything about whatever. You're going to be fine. Well, she married a guy with a gambling problem, it turns out, guess what? She wasn't fine, and there was nobody to bail her out. And so she had to figure it out from the jump. And she did that by like, I guess I'm just going to talk to women who've made money because I have no idea how to do that. I'm just going to interview women who've made money. And that ended up being her first book, was, like, women Who'd Made Millions kind of thing. But what always stuck with me was I could relate to her. I

'm not the daughter of H and R Black, and I've never been married to a gambler, but I could relate to that sense of feeling, the lack of agency, and trying to figure out how to grab it back. That spoke to me, right? As like, oh, this is a real person talking. This is a real person with real experiences. I would trust her. I think about that when I think about marketing, who would I trust?

Susan Friedmann 00:13:04

We buy from people we like and trust yes. Being real. And as you said, I feel as if I trust her even though I don't necessarily know her. She's revealed enough about herself that I feel I do know her, even though I've not met her or whatever. Yeah, that's really powerful, I think, in.

Leslie Berliant 00:13:26

Any kind of writing fiction, nonfiction, marketing, writing, or Ted Talks, your audience is looking for a connection point. They're looking for a place they can see themselves and say, that might not be exactly me, but I relate to that. The irony of that is, in writing, the more specific you are, the more opportunity there is for that. I think a lot of people think I have to be vague because they let people fill it in for themselves with whatever they imagine. But the truth is, then it just becomes what I call sort of these epistemological ideas, right? 

The idea of epistemology. Like I say horse. You picture a horse, I picture a horse. I assume you're picturing my horse. You assume I'm picturing your horse. But if I say it's a black horse with a small scar on its left flank and it loves to eat SolarNo cookies, you and I are now picturing the same horse. We're having a shared experience of a.

Susan Friedmann 00:14:24

Horse and pleased you told me it was black because my horse was white.

Leslie Berliant 00:14:29

Right. See, mine is always checked up until I start to describe it. But you see how it creates a shared experience that when you start to feel a connection. And it doesn't matter fiction, nonfiction, or what kind of writing. People want to feel that authenticity, they want to feel that truth, and they want to feel that connection.

Susan Friedmann 00:14:52

So you talk about connection points. Now, are there certain connection points? Is there, like, a list of connection points that are the most common, for instance?

Leslie Berliant 00:15:04

Yeah, I mean, I think it's really about when we get into being descriptive. Right. So this is another thing that Jack really hammered home something he calls image moment. I called deep description, but where you're really pausing dialogue, action, narrative to bring people into a moment, it's that show don't tell. So in writing, one of the things we do a lot for writers, we use words. So we're telling, right? We tell, them he was angry, he was mad. But how do you show somebody in words being angry, right? There's a difference between he was angry and his lower lip started to twitch, and he could feel the sweat dripping down the back of his neck. 

And if he'd had a free hand, he would have smacked himself there just to make it stop dripping. His eyes were burning. He wasn't going to cry, he was going to scream. That's like showing an emotion, right. Rather than telling. And so, again, in good writing, whatever kind of writing it is, the connection points are those moments of description where, again, you and your audience are in the same moment together. And it's the difference between people. Writers early on will often describe a conversation rather than bring you into the scene of the conversation, but actually, it's everything that happens in that scene that isn't dialogue, that is actually telling you about the people in the scene.

Susan Friedmann 00:16:41

So if you're telling me about the people, or you're describing the people in the scene, is it going to then make it more relatable in terms of the conversation, so you don't have to explain the conversation exactly?

Leslie Berliant 00:16:55

It's like we are so used to sort of ascribing an emotional state or a mental state to something. But when you start to get into the details of what does that look like? What is it you notice when the phone rings and you pick it up and somebody says, I'm so sorry, dad just died? There isn't an immediate response. There's something you notice. You might notice the crack and the pile behind the kitchen counter. You might notice, like, a cobweb on the ceiling. It's those little moments in between that get at the emotion that's underneath. Rather than saying, I felt sad or I felt shocked. Right? It's like, how do you show that? And very true in fiction, but it is also true in nonfiction, that the more you can show people, the more connected they're going to feel. That's the beauty of writing and words is that there's this incredible thing that we have to connect to one another, and yet so much of our time is spent short-handing what we really mean.

Susan Friedmann 00:18:08

As you're saying this, I'm like drawn in. You're the writing whisperer. I'm with you. It's like amazing. Thank you. These are amazing examples. One thing when I write, for example, I make a point and then come up with a story that can demonstrate that point, that for me, I find a big challenge.

Leslie Berliant 00:18:38

It's such a beautiful way to sort of bring people in. What I would say is, again, two things. One is the trueness of something is less important than the truth of it, but also that sometimes I think the story, the narrative, is the point itself and can stand on its own. And so what would it look like to let the story make the point fall on its own and see where that takes people?

Susan Friedmann 00:19:15

This is beautiful because, yes, if you're giving a presentation, for instance, you could just have one visual. You don't even have to have the bullet points then, because the visual might say it, and then, along with the story, helps the memory of that particular point, which is what you're trying to convey specifically in nonfiction.

Leslie Berliant 00:19:36

Yeah. I mean, listen, it was a real challenge to I was the story editor on a short film that had no dialogue. It was a dance film. It had no dialogue. But we got so granular with, well, how would he show that he's feeling this way? And we had it down, like the way that she would gather the folds of her dress, the way he pulled on the cuffs on his shirt. We got so granular with, what does that look like? How do we show this without having to say it? It was an amazing exercise of what this kind of writing is capable of. 

And this was this filmmaker's first film. I have not written a film before. We were both totally shocked that at the first award, it won 50 awards. And now the second film that we did together has just been released and won eleven awards. This one has some dialogue, but again, it's a short film, and it's mostly told through visuals. And so what that says to me is like, the power of storytelling is so much greater than telling people what they're supposed to walk away with.

Susan Friedmann 00:20:50

And stories, as we know, go back to the beginning of time. What's? The Bible. It's about stories. Some of it's factual, or as factual as we know, based on research that yeah, it's a book of stories. They're wonderful stories.

Leslie Berliant 00:21:09

Exactly. And we gravitate towards stories because they frame our lives.

Susan Friedmann 00:21:16

Yes. Don't they? I mean, our life is a story, every single part of it. We were to describe what you and I are doing now. There's an element of the story here.

Leslie Berliant 00:21:28

Absolutely. And so I would say with marketing materials or nonfiction writing, you're still bringing folks into a story. And when you do that, you bind them to you in a way. Right. We all have those stories that we've read the films we've seen, TV shows we've seen, the homes we've heard, the events we've been to. That is something that sticks with you. And what is universal about those sticking points are usually small moments that just reflect the human experience. And there's such power to that. To those small moments that reflect the human experience.

Susan Friedmann 00:22:11

That's beautiful. And which is, again, another great segue. I know that our listeners are going to want to know how they can get hold of you, Leslie, because you're just amazing. I'm just, like, glued here. My face is almost on top of the microphone.

Leslie Berliant 00:22:30

Thank you.

Susan Friedmann 00:22:31

Was that a visual or what?

Leslie Berliant 00:22:32

That was a great visual. That was a great image. I can be found. It's my first name. My last name  I teach these six-week writing classes. They're all done on zoom. So I have people coming from all over. I have somebody in Burgandy right now. I have people come in from Spain and Israel and France and all over the US. I also run Creativity Retreats, writing retreats, and weekend and week-long retreats.

My next six-week writing class will be starting in the beginning of April. And for your listeners, if they use the code "Mentors" at checkout, they get a discount. We'd love to see some of you in the next round of writing classes that will also pull you into the Writrix's community. 

At the end of every six weeks, we do a virtual reading on Zoom, where you read one of your pieces and invite your friends and family, and audience to come. And it's really a beautiful experience of hearing some really amazing work. And I've never had anybody not walk away from that, hearing from their friends and family, oh, my God, I did not know you could write like that.

Susan Friedmann 00:23:51

I know. I attended your last one and I was blown away just hearing how people were expressing themselves. And I'm like thinking, oh, my goodness. What would be interesting for me would be, what was their writing like before and what it looked like?

Leslie Berliant 00:24:08

Yeah, I mean, it's so interesting because I believe we're all good writers, right? We grew up writing. We know how to write. The job isn't to be a good writer. My job is to uncover your unique genius. Right. Everybody comes in, they know how to write, but they don't necessarily know how to articulate their own unique point of view. Right. They don't necessarily know how to find their genius. 

They often come in thinking they have a great story to tell. Then my job is to push them away from the story they think is so good and help them find the story they never even imagined. I will use an example of somebody who came in and very early on she's writing these sorts of family narratives, but they felt very flat in a way. Everybody was just great. 

Everybody was wonderful, perfect. And I started asking questions about the characters, and now she's writing these pieces like very complex characters, much more humanized, wonderful and loving and also dark side. The work has just gotten so much richer because the characters now have come to life. 

That example I gave in the marketing, like, I made a million dollars and you can't too. And now I'm living my best life. It's like this flat caricature. People do that in fiction, too. They do that a lot in memoirs. I want to get you on my side as the audience, so I'm going to write about how evil this person is and how great I am, right? But none of that is really how the world works. 

Things are complex and people are complex and good and bad coexist. And my job is to pull out of folks the characters and the narration that is the most true and authentic. That often involves some amount of complexity and digging deep into who these characters are.

Susan Friedmann 00:26:08

Amazing. I'm going to definitely look at signing up for that six-week program.

Leslie Berliant 00:26:15

I'd love to have you.

Susan Friedmann 00:26:16

Yes. And listeners, I'm going to put the link to Leslie's program in the show notes. So if you're driving or whatever you're doing while you're listening to this, know that it'll be in the show notes. And Lizzy, we always end off the show with a golden nugget. Now, you've given us so many golden nuggets, but if there was one small thing that you would want people to walk away remembering, what would that be?

Leslie Berliant 00:26:47

As a writer, don't wait for inspiration to hit you. Just start writing and see where it goes. I think a lot of writers feel like there's a secret sauce of inspiration. One of the teachers I studied with was Kurt Vonnegut. I will say he was not my best teacher. I loved him. His work, I was totally starstruck. But he said something that always stuck with me, which was when I sold cars, I was a car salesman. When I write, I'm a writer, you are writers. And you don't have to wait for some secret sauce to hit you, some spark of imagination or the perfect idea. Just sit down and start writing. And don't be afraid to find that line that feels like it has some truth to it and see where it goes. And it may not go where you thought it was going to go. And that is where your genius lies.

Susan Friedmann 00:27:42

Very powerful. And we could go into the whole writer's block thing, which many years ago, a colleague said no such thing. Just write whether it's I am, I am, I am, whatever it is, it's a bright and sunny day. Just start writing, get it moving and something will come. Yeah. Beautiful. Thank you, Leslie, so much for sharing your wisdom. This has been super.

Leslie Berliant 00:28:09

Thank you so much. It was a real pleasure. And I look forward to connecting with you and with your audience very soon.

Susan Friedmann 00:28:17

I hope so. And by the way, listeners, if your book isn't selling the way you wanted it to, let you and I jump on a quick call together to brainstorm ways to ramp up those sales, because you've invested a whole lot of time, money and energy, and it's time you got the return you were hoping for. So go to to schedule your free call. In the meantime, I hope this part author interview sparks some ideas you can use to sell more books. Until next week, he is wishing you much book and author marketing success.

Click here to find out more about Leslie's 6-week creative writing programs
Enter code "Mentors" at checkout to get a special discount

Click here to schedule your 20-minute brainstorming session with Susan

This episode is sponsored by QUICKWRITE the only AI tool designed by authors for authors.
Get your lifetime subscription NOW (offer ends March 31st 2023)