Write This Way: Top Writing and Editing Links for November 1, 2009

Photo courtesy SXC.

The fall madness known as National Novel Writing Month, known as NaNoWriMo to insiders, starts today. The goal for this annual exercise in fictional speed-writing is to finish a 50,000 word (175 page) novel by midnight on Nov. 30.

Although I’m not a fiction writer myself, I like the challenge aspect to the event for several reasons:
• It gives writer-participants a near-term goal for completing a major work.
• It forces them to write consistently—probably every day—for an extended period.
• The consistency and goal pressure may actually relieve some writers’ perfectionist tendencies. The goal is to finish the novel—not write a great one! Writing what Anne Lamott would call a “shitty first draft” is definitely encouraged.

In 2008, NaNoWriMo had over 120,000 participants, more than 20,000 of whom crossed the 50k finish line. One variation of this event that might be of interest to writers in a variety of genres is NaBloPoMo, National Blog Posting Month. The contest (and its website) is more of a social network for daily bloggers, or those looking to improve their blog through marathon posting, and the challenge can be started at the beginning of any calendar month.

The Reconstruction of American Journalism
This link takes you to a watershed report by two esteemed professors at the Columbia University School of Journalism discussing the monumental changes in print journalism these days and proposes action steps to support and maintain quality public affairs reporting.
I haven’t read the PDF version of the report yet, or a shorter synopsis article written by the report’s authors that is posted on Columbia’s popular journal on the state of media, the Columbia Journalism Review. However, I do plan to read these documents, as well as the robust section of responses to the report that’s also on CJR’s website, and post my own take here at Write Livelihood.

For now, here’s beginning of the CJR synopsis version of the report, which lays out the stakes of the questions being asked and offers a hint as to the direction that the authors’ answers will go…

“Newspapers and television news are not going to vanish in the foreseeable future, despite frequent predictions of their imminent extinction. But they will play diminished roles in an emerging and still rapidly changing world of digital journalism, in which the means of news reporting are being re-invented, the character of news is being reconstructed, and reporting is being distributed across a greater number and variety of news organizations, new and old.

The questions that this transformation raises are simple enough: What is going to take the place of what is being lost, and can the new array of news media report on our nation and our communities as well as—or better than—journalism has until now? More importantly—and the issue central to this report—what should be done to shape this new landscape, to help assure that the essential elements of independent, original, and credible news reporting are preserved? We believe that choices made now and in the near future will not only have far-reaching effects but, if the choices are sound, significantly beneficial ones.”

Which Type of Digital Journalist Are You?
After you’ve taken time to read the Columbia University report on the future of journalism, you’ll want to read this post from Michelle V. Rafter’s WordCount blog.
Rafter links to a survey conducted by Northwestern University that explores the current online and social media habits of 3,800 journalists working in 79 newsrooms. (You can download the PDF of the report’s findings.)

The report places journalists who participated in the survey into one of six categories, based upon their desire for digital change …

Digitals: Spend the majority of their time online, perhaps have never worked for a print-only operation, feel comfortable at events hosted by the Online News Association.
Major shifters: Spend a lot of time online outside of work, wonder why they’re not being asked to spend more time exploring online potential for their content when they are at work.
Status Quos: Comfortable with the modest amount of time (average: 30 percent) that they spend producing online content.
Turn Back the Clocks: Only 6 percent of survey respondents fit this category. These folks hope the Internet somehow implodes and print will once again rule.
Moderately Mores: Wouldn’t mind dividing their work time evenly between print and digital content production.
Leaders: According to Rafter, this group is comprised of high-level publishers and editors who typically spend more time focused on print but would like to shift more of their attention to online operations.
Obviously, between the Columbia report and this one, there’s a lot of introspection being done on what journalism means in a blogging, socially networked world, and what it will take for today’s journalists (especially the veterans) to function successfully in a transformed industry landscape. (And if you’re wondering where I fit in the six groups mentioned above, I’d say somewhere between a Moderately More and a Major Shifter, with my tilt being toward a Major Shifter mindset.)

Bonus Links!!

Keeping a project alive
David Hewson, author of the popular Nic Costa novel series, has provided a great set of tips for keeping your writing projects on track, even when you’re not at the keyboard working on them.

People Watching for Character Development
From Shelby Rachel, guest blogging on the If You Give A Girl A Pen blog. Great thoughts on how to use observation in your fiction development.

Viral Loop Chronicles Part 1: Forget Everything You’ve Heard About Book Publishing
From the The Penenberg Post on Fast Company.com. The first in a series about how to get a book published in the social media age.

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