Tag Archives: storytelling

Write This Way: Top Writing and Editing Links for May 15, 2013

Dollars funnel.

Photo courtesy SXC.

10 Simple Steps to Get Your Journalism Project Funded | MediaShift Idea Lab

Jordan Young of the Knight News Innovation Lab at Northwestern University walks readers through the steps she took to get her side project, Boxx Magazine, off the ground with funding. My two favorite tips are things that many journalists have trouble putting into practice …

Get Help. Track down people who have been awarded grants before and ask them for advice. If you’re like me, you’re not naturally inclined to ask for help and you haven’t done anything like this before. You’re learning while doing. Don’t be afraid or ashamed to ask for help. The best way to save time is to gather all the helpful tips from those who have tried something similar before.

 Learn some business. You will need at least a basic understanding of business concepts, or have a partner who does. Not everyone majored in business — I’m finally glad I did. Again this is where research is your best friend. Take a class, ask for advice, and use that Internet.

Confessions of a Twitter Holdout | Poynter

Stephanie Yamkovenko, a freelance journalist in the Washington, D.C., area, discusses how she overcame her fears of tweeting and discovered that Twitter could be a boon, not a bane, to her career. Early adopters may find some of her former fears somewhat exaggerated, but I think this post is a great comfort to more old-school journalists who still wonder what the hoopla is about and how to use the platform responsibly.

Here’s a sample of what she’s talking about, in a segment where she discusses overcoming the fear of appearing biased if she used Twitter:

I feared seeming biased.

I’m no ideologue, but I prefer not to share my opinions publicly and was afraid these might “slip out” on Twitter. I’ve found it’s possible to stay politically neutral on Twitter, though it does take some effort. Before I follow someone or retweet something, I try to imagine how a reader might interpret that action. If it would make someone question my objectivity, I don’t do it — just like I don’t put campaign signs in front of my house or bumper stickers on my car.

What Listening to a Story Does to Our Brains | Buffer

Leo Widrich, co-founder of Buffer, shares brain research that articulates precisely why storytelling produces such a profound impact on our brain and the brains of others. He also provides several tips for leveraging that power to accomplish your goals in terms of influence with other people using storytelling.

Dan Gillmor Says Journalists Are Uninformed About Who Controls the Platforms They Publish On

Caroline O’Donovan, a staff writer for the Nieman Journalism Lab, writes a thought-provoking piece about Arizona State University journalism professor Dan Gillmor (who is a heck of a nice guy, BTW – I have interviewed him for a podcast and he’s judged a writing contest my magazine held) and his attempts to help journalists better understand online security systems and controls. Gillmor’s concern is that journalists aren’t aware of the impact of widely used platforms (like Facebook, for example) when they block or censor content. She quotes Gillmor talking about why remaining ignorant of this issue can do more than just put their own careers at risk – it can endanger the lives or livelihoods of their sources:

It’s not just employees and others who want to blow whistles who need to be more careful — such as using external accounts, encryption and a lot of other tools to be safer. (Note: I didn’t say “safe”, because absolute safety is exceedingly hard to achieve, if it’s even possible.) Journalists, too, need better tradecraft when it comes to their dealings with sources. My impression of the typical newsroom’s precautions is that there aren’t many.

It’s a great introduction to a topic I have to admit I hadn’t really given much thought to before.

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Write This Way, Condensed: Top Writing and Editing Links for December 30, 2012

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Photo courtesy of SXC.

False Starts | Adam Westbrook

Was 2012 not quite what you were hoping, in terms of your creative output? Well, Westbrook, a sharp, talented UK-based multimedia journalist, has a little pep talk for anyone who’s ever started a project, only to see it falter. He lists more than half a dozen of his own false starts, and tells readers of his (recently) retired blog:

The point is, every one has false starts and stumbles. Everyone falters and fails, particularly on the way to doing important work. Although each of these were disappointing and painful at the time, I learned something important from each of them. Don’t be set back by your personal false starts. The people who make it in the end are the ones who pick themselves back up, dust themselves off and get busy again. As long as you learn something from them they haven’t been a waste of time.

The best in narrative, 2012: Storyboard’s top picks in audio, magazines, newspapers and online
The Nieman Storyboard blog, a project of the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard, provides links to 34 pieces of narrative nonfiction in a variety of formats. The list provides access to a sumptuous feast to sate your end-of-the-year reading hunger, and it’s a great guide to writing/editing/producing excellent stories.

Five Things My Literary Agent Taught Me About Publishing Success

Tim Sanders of Net Minds publishing company discusses five valuable lessons his literary agent, Jan Miller, taught him. I like the point he makes about focusing on writing a strong book, rather than expecting promotional tricks to drive everything in terms of sales.

A book must “work”.  Promotion just gives it a chance to work – (Jan) learned this working with all of her authors over time.  Her point is that books must connect deeply with readers, so the reader tells all of his friends to buy the book. While you sleep, your book is working, promting itself via its quality. Without word-of-mouth or BIG media, books languish in obscurity. Marketing and promotion places the book into enough hands for the resulting word-of-mouth to make a big difference.  To write a book that works: Write what you know and then show us who you are.  Be generous, helpful and provocative.

Can You REALLY Make Money Blogging? [7 Things I Know About Making Money from Blogging]

Darren Rowse, creator of ProBlogger, offers his opinion on the blogging-for-money question, based upon his experience and those of the people with whom he interacts and works as the owner of a blog about blogging professionally. I found the post very matter-of-fact and grounding. Here’s a sample of what he has to say, in this case about whether there is a single formula to follow to make a living as a blogger.

From time to time, people have released products that claim to be formulas for success when it comes to making money online. They outline steps to follow to “guarantee” you’ll make money. In my experience there is no formula. Each full-time blogger I’ve met in the last ten years has forged their own path and has a unique story to tell. They have often acted on hunches and made surprising discoveries along the way.

There are certainly similarities in many of the stories but each blogger has their own personality and style, each one is reaching a different audience, and each niche tends to monetize differently. The key lesson is to be aware of what others are doing and to learn what you can from each other, but to also be willing to forge your own path as well!

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Write This Way, Condensed: Top Writing and Editing Links for November 12, 2012

Photo courtesy of SXC.

A Professional Editor Takes on Self-Editing | The Book Designer

Book editor Linda Jay Geldens provides indie novelists (and other writers pursuing options beyond traditional print book publishing) with a compelling argument for finding a way to have a professional editor supplement their own self-editing of their manuscript. She does a wonderful job of outlining why self-editing by the writer can only be partially successful:

Now, self-editing is fine. Going through your manuscript’s rough drafts several times over a period of weeks searching for errors and omissions, perhaps even reading the text aloud to catch awkward phrasing or redundancies or overcomplicated construction, is certainly not going to hurt—and possibly might even improve—your writing. But let’s face it, there’s only so much self-editing an author can do. Frankly, you as the author are too close to the subject matter to be objective, even if you take a break from the material and come back to it later.

“The Power of Storytelling,” Part 2: Jacqui Banaszynski on the future of stories and Evan Ratliff on digital entrepreneurship

A long, wonderful compilation of two presentations from the Power of Storytelling conference that occurred in Bucharest, Romania, last month. Banaszynski is one of my editing role models, and her presentation on what will happen to narrative in the future is amazing and eloquent.

Here’s just a brief sample, in which she is talking about the continuity of storytelling from the preshistoric past until the present day:

I see the connection between that history in the past and what I do now. The troubadours, the scribes, the people who carried fire from camp to camp in Indian tradition because they carried the stories along with it. I also now see that future, that need to recognize that stories are as eternal and essential as humanity itself. We too often in our anxiety confuse the means of delivery with the essence of what we deliver. Sure, how we tell our stories matters. And we must master as many ways of telling stories as there are stories to tell. But the center that will hold is the story itself. Stories will survive and be needed as long as human beings survive.

Ratliff tells conference-goers about his journey into entrepreneurship when he launched The Atavist, which publishes narrative nonfiction that is sold on Kindles and Nooks as e-books, as well as in apps on iPads. He reflects on the success of his business, which took him in some ways far from where he expected to be as a nonfiction writer:

So, lawyers, accountants, investors. That’s the way I spend most of my time now. It was very difficult for me because here I am, fancying myself a writer, and trying to make it in the world of narrative journalism, and suddenly I’m doing all these things I became a writer not to do.

I think the lesson here is one that I’m still grappling with. I think that sometimes you just have to get over yourself, and sometimes you just have to survive. And this is what we had to do to survive. We had to do things that we were not ready to do and I think that is true for a lot of journalists who want to strike out as freelancers, who want to write things that are different from what your editors want you to write, and you want to go out in the world and find new magazines and find new homes.

24 More Fabulous Tips For Writers, From Writers | Daring to Live Fully

Marelisa Fabrega shares two dozen quotes from writers that address how to write fiction, although there are plenty of tips among them that can easily apply to nonfiction writing, as well. Authors quoted include Issac Asimov, Anne Lamott, William Saroyan, and Joyce Carole Oats.

6 Tips For Getting Gigs as a Freelance Journalist | Poynter

Beth Winegarner provides practical advice and support for new freelance writer. I especially like her emphasis on how networking aids freelancers looking for work:

Thanks to Facebook and Twitter, connecting with fellow freelancers has never been easier. Knowing who’s writing, and who they’re writing for, gives you a good sense of which publications are open to taking freelance work. Get to know other freelancers on social networks and, once you’ve built a rapport with them, ask them to introduce you to their editors. While cold-pitching works, your success rate will be much greater with a personal introduction.

The article also has a replay of a Poynter-sponsored web chat with Winegarner on this topic embedded with it, which is a nice plus.

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Making a Statement Without Saying a Word: One Very Awesome Book Trailer By Jessica McCann

Novelist and nonfiction writer Jessica McCann

Jessica McCann has written for the magazine I edit at my day job. She’s interviewed me for an article on the college and university magazine market. I’ve interviewed her about writing fiction and nonfiction on this blog.

But the reason I’m posting today is to introduce you to the book trailer that Jessica developed for her novel, “All Kinds of Free.”  Book trailers are increasingly becoming an integral part of selling a book, whether it be fiction or nonfiction. The trailer for “All Different Kinds of Free” is an incredible demonstration of how to repurpose compelling material from print into a multimedia format and create a persuasive video to sell a historical novel.

Even more inspiring to me is the fact that Jessica made this trailer almost entirely by herself. In an interview on the Wolf and Redhood Media blog, Jessica revealed that she made the trailer herself, using Windows MovieMaker and photos and music from istockphoto.com.

Here’s what she had to say about how she crafted the trailer:

“The text for the trailer came from a variety of materials that had been written over the past couple of years – from my original pitch letter to my agent all the way down the line to the current back-cover copy. Writing and editing those types of materials helps you hone down to the key points in a small amount of space.

“For the trailer, I just whittled it down a bit more, while still hitting the highlights with fewer words. Then, once I had all the pieces in place in MovieMaker, it was a matter of tweaking the timing. I’d watch the trailer and take notes about which slides seemed to linger too long, which ones flashed by too quickly, if they seemed too copy heavy or took too long to read. I’d watch, then fine-tune, watch again, and fine-tune some more. Then I had a test audience (my husband and two teenage children!) watch and give me the same type of feedback, which led to still more fine-tuning.”

Writers of every genre can learn something by watching Jessica’s book trailer. And there is a bonus to going and watching the trailer on YouTube: If you leave a comment, you may win a copy of the book! The publisher will begin giving away one copy of the book to a random commenter when the page reaches 500 views and the book give-away will continue with one book given away for every 500 views until the trailer reaches 10,000 views or Dec. 31, 2011, whichever happens sooner. You can review all the details of this give-away on Jessica’s blog.

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Write This Way, Condensed: Top Writing and Editing Links for July 8, 2011

Photo courtesy of SXC.

Lee Gutkind, Almost Human: Making Robots Think | AT&T Tech Channel

Author and editor Lee Gutkind, dubbed by Vanity Fair as “the Godfather behind creative nonfiction,” discusses his new book. To research “Almost Human: Making Robots Think,” Gutkind immersed himself in the world of the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University, where students, researchers, scientists and engineers are attempting to create robots that can react autonomously to changing circumstances.

Twitter Announces Twitter For Newsrooms, A Best Practices Guide For Journalists | 10,000 Words

Jessica Roy posts about a new Twitter initiative, Twitter for Newsrooms (#TfN), a compelling resource akin to Facebook for Journalists, that will help optimize the platform’s reporting potential. The guide contains four sections, #report, #engage, #publish and #extra, each with a variety of best practices geared towards streamlining Twitter reporting and making Twitter a more efficient journalism tool.

The end of ‘television’ | Adam Westbrook

Online/entrepreneurial journalism expert Adam Westbrook discusses some of the currents moving in the world formerly known as “television” (and secondarily “film”) and exhorts those interested in making inroads in this world in the future to stop competing for training slots in the “old” paradigm channels and pick up a camera and start creating content NOW.

8 painless steps to make time to write a book | WordCount

Laura Vanderkam, author of “168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think,” presents an awesome guest post that gets right to the heart of what keeps most writers from completing a book-length manuscript – time issues – and offers great suggestions for surmounting those challenges.

7 reasons journalists make good entrepreneurs | Poynter

Matylda Czarnecka provides some solid and inspiring thoughts about why journalists can and do succeed as entrepreneurs in a for-profit business (whether news-related or not). Some of my favorites from her reason list: journalists are good researchers and connectors, journalists know how to ask open-ended questions and journalists are used to negative feedback.

Periodic Table of Storytelling by *ComputerSherpa on deviantART

Wild, complex, amazing visual based upon the “Tropes of Legend” from the TV Tropes Wiki that outlines basic storytelling structures using the periodic table of the elements as a frame. Aimed at fiction works, but the examples of how the “elements” can be combined (at the bottom of the post) could be a useful cross-pollinating reference for nonfiction writers.

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Biography of a biographer: Marshall Terrill on writing about the lives of others

Celebrity biographer Marshall Terrill

Today I present my interview with celebrity biographer Marshall Terrill. I happened to know Marshall slightly through my day job at Arizona State University (where he also works), but did not know until recently about his sideline of writing celebrity biographies – or the incredible dedication he has given a craft that is, in his words, an “expensive hobby.”

His interview provides a very candid look at his book writing career, and offers lots of specific advice to writers who are interested in pursuing this nonfiction genre.

Tell us about your professional background and your introduction to writing nonfiction.

My introduction to writing came as a result of unfortunate personal circumstances.  Let’s just say my writing career was as much a surprise to me as it was to anyone else.

In the late 1980s I worked in the mailroom for Phoenix businessman Charles Keating, who was later sent to federal prison as a result of a savings and loan scandal.  At the time I worked for Keating I was attending college, studying business and was in the first year of my marriage.  I had hitched my wagon to his star in hopes that one day I would work in a higher job capacity for him when I graduated college.  When Keating went to prison, I was out work and my future looked bleak.  Because of the stress, my wife left me and so I was very much at a crossroads in my life.  My father called me from Washington D.C. and said, “Well, you just lost your job and your wife left you.  What’s your next trick going to be?”

What I said took us both by surprise. “Actually, I want to move back to Washington D.C. and write a book on the life of Steve McQueen.”  The Library of Congress was not far from my parents’ home, which is where I conducted a majority of my research.  My dad said, “Why on earth would you want to do a thing like that?  I could barely get you to read in high school.”  I told him that I had always wanted to write a book on Steve McQueen and that something had compelled me to do this.  He thought for a moment and said, “Well, you might as well do it while you’re young because if you fail, you can recover.”  So that was it.  I moved back into my parents’ home at the age of 24 and stayed there until I was 28.  “Steve McQueen: Portrait of an American Rebel” was published in December 1993 just as I turned 29.

What motivated you to write your first book?

I had read other books on McQueen and felt they focused on the bad-boy behavior, the man on the motorcycle if you will, and zipped through his film work.  They had only covered parts of his life, but largely ignoring his acting.  There was not one all-encompassing biography of his life and I felt the market had demanded it.  I’ve always felt he was a terrific film actor, perhaps the best of his generation, and was greatly underrated in his lifetime. Turned out I was right.  Every co-star I interviewed said McQueen was gifted and that he was the best actor and they had ever worked with and had this incredible screen presence.  What’s amazing to me is that his legacy grows with each passing year. Today he is the most emulated actor in Hollywood and in the last few years, he’s made Forbes’ Top 10 list of dead celebrity earners.  Not bad for a guy who died more than 30 years ago.

How did you settle on biography as a nonfiction writing genre?

Because I think like most non-fiction readers do – if you’re going to take the time to read a book, you might as well learn something.  Fiction to me is more of an escape and if I wanted to escape, I’ll go to the movies or rent a DVD.  There’s so much you can learn about life when you read non-fiction.  You can learn about history, human behavior, psychology, triumph and tragedy, and invaluable life lessons.

What is the greatest challenge in writing a good biography?

The monumental effort it takes to put it all together.  It’s the ultimate jigsaw when you really come down to it, and you never know what challenges or roadblocks you’ll face.  I wrote a book with boxer Ken Norton that I thought would take maybe a year at most.  However, before I met him, he was in a life-threatening car accident and his memory was completely wiped out. So instead of him telling me his story, I went to the library and researched his entire life, which took almost four years.  As I began to outline his life, I had to repeat back to him his life story, which triggered his memory.  It was a very strange experience, but luckily we pulled it off.

Another interesting experience that took me much longer was the seven years I spent “Maravich” (a biography of basketball legend “Pistol” Pete Maravich co-authored with Wayne Federman) but two of those years were committed to transcribing 300 interviews.  That is a very tedious process.  On top of that I spent another few years culling other information that included newspaper and magazine articles, official documents, memorabilia and interviews with people who knew the subject.  When you’re done with the research, you have to assemble all of that information together to tell the story.  It’s a Herculean effort.  Then there’s the post-production process: editing, trying to find an agent/publisher and finally, promotion.  You can write the greatest book in the world but if no one knows about it, you’ve simply wasted your times.  Those are all skills learned along the way that aren’t taught but are self-learned.  You either sink or swim.

You’ve managed to write 15 books over the past 20 years, often while holding down day jobs that involve writing as well. What are your tips for managing one’s writing time effectively?

It all boils down to dedication, which is 90 percent of the battle.  People always ask me, “What’s the secret of getting published?”  I tell them there’s no real secret to writing a book – you get on the computer and you write.  I mainly see two big problems: 1.) People give up way too easily.  Are they willing to put in the time that is required to finish the task?  Sometimes that task is a year; other times it is seven years.  … When I wrote the first book, I worked 8 to 10 hours a day for three-and-a-half years straight.  You have to have that sort of dedication to get a book published or it’s just not going to happen. 2.) The other problem I see is a form of self-sabotage and it happens more often than not.  I’ve seen many writers start a book, write about half the manuscript, then drop that project and start another.  Or they’ll write a chapter and then go back and edit it to the point where they can’t go forward.  They think this is perfectly normal.  I don’t.  I say finish the first book to the point of perfection and then move onto the next project.  I’ve seen so many stalled careers because the writer can’t complete the first project.

Set aside a time each day and write.  What worked best for me was to write an hour a day before/after work and four to five hours on Saturday and Sunday.  Someone who has kids is going to have a harder time, and that’s the harsh reality.  I don’t have kids and a very understanding wife, who made a lot of sacrifices so I could write my books.

How have your day jobs augmented your career as a celebrity biographer?

It took a while for me to get it through my thick head that I couldn’t earn a living at simply writing non-fiction books.  I dedicated 10 years of my life to make it work and I just couldn’t.  I owned a house and took in boarders (that’s a book in and of itself!), took part-time jobs to bring in some sort of income to pay the bills and I was financially treading water the entire time.  That gets old after a while.  Unless you are selling millions of books, it’s just not going to happen because of the way book that deals are structured, which is always in favor of the publisher.  And that’s not a negative – the publisher is putting up the money and taking the risk, so they should be rewarded.  For example, a typical hardback book will cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $5 to produce.  The publisher sells that to the wholesaler/retailer somewhere in the range of $12 to $15.  The publisher makes somewhere between $7 and $10 per book and the royalty for the writer is around $2 to $3 depending on what you’ve negotiated.  Everybody thinks they’re going to get on Oprah Winfrey and sell a million books, but that’s not reality.  It’s like banking your future on winning the lottery.

Most of my books sell somewhere between 10,000 and 15,000 copies, depending on what kind of publicity I get and if the timing is good (most of my books are timed on anniversaries and key dates so I have a news hook to pitch to the media).  Realistically, I make between $20,000 to $30,000 a book, and keep in mind royalty checks are spread out six months apart.  It’s not as if the publisher is going to let you have all that money at once.  But if you weigh the paycheck vs. the time I’ve put into writing the book, money spent on editors, travel, postage, research, long-distance phone calls and office supplies, it’s literally pennies on the dollar.  It’s supplemental income at best, but the work is full-time.  I call writing my “expensive hobby” because it costs money to write a book.  Ask any published non-fiction writer if it cost them money to pursue their books and they’ll be able to show you their tax receipts.

After 10 years of writing books from home, I decided it was time to get a job because I didn’t want to be 40, have no pension or a big hole on my resume.  So when an opportunity arose at a local newspaper as a journalist, I took it.  It was a practical decision because it’s what I loved to do and I could continue to write my books on the side.  I would have remained a journalist for the rest of my life but then the economic crash hit our country, and I could see the handwriting on the wall.  Newspapers got hit very hard and so I made the switch to the other side – public relations.  I knew how to get publicity from my books and what made for a good news story, so it was a very easy transition.  I work now for Arizona State University in Public Affairs.

Your website mentions you write your books with Cheryl Hosmer, a developmental editor/writer. How does your partnership work?

I instinctively knew that a big part of my success was that when I turned in a manuscript, it was fully edited.  Many reasons why other writers don’t get published is that their manuscripts needed a lot of editing.  This is where the ego gets in the way.  I’ve talked to many young writers who say, “I’m such a good writer that I don’t need editing,” or they didn’t have the money to pay an editor.   I’ve been in publishing now more than 20 years and most of my manuscripts have at least two editors, sometimes three and four.  If you write a 150,000 word manuscript, there’s bound to be mistakes, typos and grammatical errors.  My first draft always has mistakes, and it’s simply a part of the process to clean it up.  I also like to have input and the very first thing I tell editors is, “Don’t be afraid to tell me when I’m wrong or off base.”  Just because I’ve had success getting published doesn’t mean I’m perfect or can be wrong.

Every finished manuscript will have mistakes.  Publishing houses no longer have line editors who will comb over your book looking for mistakes.  They expect your manuscript to be near perfect, and they don’t have the time or money to help you clean it up.  So that’s why I’ve formed a partnership with Cheryl Hosmer, who has edited several of my books. So we offer these editing services to writers who are serious about getting published.  And of course, they get to pick my brain on the publishing industry. I’ve helped many people turn their manuscripts into books.

What are some benefits of writer-editor collaborations such as the one you have with Hosmer?

Many benefits come to mind.  The first is that I am not alone in the writing process.  I have a sounding board in case I am way off.  The trick is to find someone you completely trust, someone who will tell you the truth but not step on your creative toes.  I recently read a great book called “Starting Over,” a book by Ken Sharp on the making of John Lennon’s “Double Fantasy.”  The producer of that album was a veteran named Jack Douglas.  Douglas said Lennon was such a force of nature that his job was to sit behind the recording console and not get in Lennon’s way.  That’s what a good editor should do.  Stand back, let the author do his/her thing, but be ready to give advice when called upon.

What writing projects are next for you?

None in the foreseeable future.  This last book, “Steve McQueen: The Life and Legend of a Hollywood Icon,” took a lot out of me in terms of physical, emotional and mental exhaustion.  Each time I start a book, it’s like going to literary boot camp for five years.  While I like the end result, the experience isn’t always so pleasant because of the intensity of what I have to go through to get published. I’m not saying I’ll never write again, but I’m taking a very long break.

Any advice to nonfiction writers in today’s unpredictable market?

Know the market, know what publishers are looking for, and know who your readers are.  Publishers certainly care about the writing, but they care more about the number of books they can sell.  Not only do they want you to tell them why it’s a great book, but they want to know how you’re going to sell the book, who is the market, why readers will buy and how many books will they sell.  It’s a tough business and failure is not an option in these fiscally tough times.  Learn how to write a killer proposal and take the guess work out of it for publishers.

Is there anything else we haven’t covered that you’d like to add?

I don’t want to come off as sounding very negative because that’s not my intent.  My intent is to paint a very realistic picture of what a writer goes through in order to get a book published.  Everyone seems to think it’s a glamorous profession or something they can do if they don’t want to get a real job.  The reality is that it is extremely hard work.  People think that writing a book is a warm and fuzzy experience and an easy lifestyle.  If you talk to any published author, you’ll find that’s not the case.  I once interviewed Jackie Collins and I asked her about her work ethic.  She puts in 8 to 10 hours a day on the computer.  I hear Steven King writes 12 hours a day.  And something needs to be explained here –writing is physically and emotionally exhausting.  It’s a serious workout.  When you are finished, you are absolutely wiped out at the end of the day.  Needless to say it’s a lot of hard work, sacrifice and time spent alone.  There were many times when my wife had to eat dinner by herself, or spend weekends with her friends because I was working.  I’ve also had to sacrifice time away from my dog, a bike ride around the lake, or an evening with family and friends.  However, there’s a positive here – my work has granted me friendships and life experiences I would have never otherwise had, and worldly experiences that can be taught in a textbook.

My final piece of advice is to write every book with the idea that it’s going to be a labor of love because most likely there won’t be a financial return.  And if there is any return at all, then it’s all gravy.  The only reason you should ever write a book is because your heart and soul is aching to do it, and you can’t move on in life unless you do.

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Marshall’s latest book, “Steve McQueen: The Life and Legend of a Hollywood Icon,” is available on Amazon and at major book retailers.

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Write This Way, Condensed: Top Writing and Editing Links for April 24, 2010

Photo courtesy Mike Homme via SXC.


The Importance of Words in Multimedia Storytelling – Nieman Storyboard
Jacqueline Marino discusses the tension in journalism between focusing on usability and brevity in online projects and using words along with multiple media to tell a long-form narrative in web-based projects.

The Most Important Job for Writers – Being Sticky, Concrete, Memorable
Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen, writing on her Quips and Tips for Freelance Writers blog, demonstrates why stories help nonfiction articles be sticky, concrete and memorable–and why those three qualities are invaluable for any piece of communication a writer might undertake.

How to Use Evernote to Organize Your Writing | Fuel Your Writing
Suzannah Windsor Freeman discusses how she uses this note-digitizing tool to simplify her writing and organizing.

AfterWORDS: The Art of the Start
From Creative Nonfiction, Issue 38. A sampling of first lines from nonfiction books shows there are as many possible approaches as there are stories to be told.

Creative Nonfiction (cnfonline) on Twitter
This is a daily Twitter contest hosted by Creative Nonfiction magazine. Participants should use the hashtag #cnftweet.The publication will print winners of its daily contest in forthcoming issues, and daily winners are posted at the account’s “favorites” page: http://twitter.com/cnfonline/favorites.

The Editor and the Curator (Or the Context Analyst and the Media Synesthete) | Tomorrow Museum
Joanne McNeil explains the differences between curation and traditional editing and why she thinks that calling online journalists who edit “content curators” is a misnomer.

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Write This Way, Condensed: Top Writing and Editing Links for February 26, 2010

Photo courtesy of Patryk Buchcik via SXC.

Audience Development: Critical to Every Writer’s Future
From Writer Unboxed blog. An informative post on why fiction writers must concern themselves with developing and audience for their work. Lots of relevance for nonfiction writers, too.

Access of Mobile News Rises 500%
A brief tidbit from Editor & Publisher about new statistics that indicate a huge year-over-year increase in the number of people accessing news from their mobile device–almost 8 million people total. Local news and national headline stories are the most popular items.

Stop The Presses: Writing Careers are Difficult
An interesting short post about the publishing industry’s participation in the make-it-big-or-go-home mentality, and the writers who buy into this idea. From BREVITY’s Creative Nonfiction Blog.

Five Perspectives on Storytelling in Social Media
Kathy Hansen of A Storied Career blog provides a nice roundup of links related to how modern storytelling (of all sorts) is being impacted by social media.

Why the Blackberry Kindle App May Be More Important Than the Kindle 3
Kit Eaton writing in Fast Company’s Technomix column. The decision to create an app for BlackBerry devices may create a perfect storm for the e-reader.

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Write This Way, Condensed: Top Writing and Editing Links for February 19, 2010

Image courtesy Zsuzsanna Kilian via SXC.


How Alfred Hitchcock can make you a better storyteller

Awesome how-to post, complete with embedded film clips, from the very cool 10,000 Words blog.

10 Pathways to Inspired Writing | Copyblogger

Power blogger Matthew Cheuvront offers 10 somewhat surprising tips on how to perk up your blog posts. He makes such heretical suggestions as reading actual (paper) books and listening to entire music albums from beginning to end!

Writing skill is no longer enough to sustain journalists

Robert Niles writing on the Online Journalism Review. He argues that more people are writing and sharing information than ever before and that journalists will have to bring something extra to the table to get people to pay for what they write.

People Share News Online That Inspires Awe, Researchers Find

John Tierney writing for the New York Times about a University of Pennsylvania study that indicates that people prefer e-mailing articles with positive rather than negative themes, and they like to send long articles on intellectually challenging topics.

Did You Show Up For Your Job Today?

James Chartrand, posting on Fuel Your Writing, discusses an excellent talk by “Eat, Pray, Love” author Elizabeth Gilbert, who, Chartrand says, reinforces one very important point: “You are separate from your inspiration,” so it pays to show up and write even when you’re not feeling inspired.

5 Ways to Manage Distractions for Increased Productivity

Seth Simonds writing for FreelanceSwitch. A list of very sensible ways to handle common distractions in the multimedia, social media, hyper-connected world that is many freelancers’ lot.

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Write This Way, Condensed: Top Writing and Editing Links for February 10, 2010

Photo courtesy SXC.

I’ve had just a few moments this week to search out links… but the blog-o-sphere is positively ablaze with non-fiction writing news!

TALK: The Future Journalist–Thoughts from Two Generations

Sree Sreenivasan and Vadim Lavrusik present a savvy, rich talk about what specifically journalists and editors need to do to adapt their profession–with all its ethics and standards–to today’s technological and social media environment.

News Site in a Box

A helpful toolkit from J-Learning.org that helps citizen journalists (or start-ups) create a credible news site using free or low-cost tools.

The Digital Book in Practice: Valentine’s 14 Languages, Multiple Formats, Wireless Delivery

Alex de Campi discusses the digital graphic novel she is collaborating on with artist Christine Larsen. Every month, readers pay 99 cents and get 70-75 screens of action, adventure and suspense. VERY COOL IDEA!

Better User Experience With Storytelling – Part One – Smashing Magazine

Deep, detailed post on traditional storytelling notions and how to employ them to improve user experiences on the Web. (And elsewhere.)

Welcome to the Virtual Antique Typewriter Museum

A cool online tribute to what the curators call the “ultimate writing machine.”

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