Category Archives: Links

Write This Way, Condensed: Top Writing and Editing Links for July 24, 2013

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Photo courtesy of Mateusz Stachowski via SXC.

How To Write A Second Draft
Scott Berkun, author of Confessions of a Public Speaker and Myths of Innovation, provides a concise battle plan for how he was going to revise his forthcoming book, A Year Without Pants. It’s a great glimpse into one way to integrate line and structural edits with feedback from others. So much ink is given to producing first and final drafts, it was a real treat to see a post about the work that must be done in the middle.

Jakob Nielsen’s Alertbox | Write Articles, Not Blog Postings

I ordinarily wouldn’t post a story from 2007, but much of what’s been written by Nielsen, whom some would call the godfather of web usability, is still highly relevant.
In an era when content marketing is the hot trend, his reasoned assertion that quality rules over quantity is more true than ever:

Blog postings will always be commodity content: there’s a limit to the value you can provide with a short comment on somebody else’s work. Such postings are good for generating controversy and short-term traffic, and they’re definitely easy to write. But they don’t build sustainable value. Think of how disappointing it feels when you’re searching for something and get directed to short postings in the middle of a debate that occurred years before, and is thus irrelevant.

He goes onto note that it’s not the fault of blogging platforms – it’s the focus on cheap, uninformed “me-too” content that degrades it to commodity status.

How Memoirists Mold The Truth

André Aciman, who teaches comparative literature at the CUNY Graduate Center, writes a dangerous and provocative essay about how memoirists create multiple versions of their past. I say “dangerous” because this piece will mess with you preconceived notions about memoir as a work of nonfiction. Here’s a sample of what I’m talking about …

Writing the past is never a neutral act. Writing always asks the past to justify itself, to give its reasons… provided we can live with the reasons. What we want is a narrative, not a log; a tale, not a trial. This is why most people write memoirs using the conventions not of history, but of fiction. It’s their revenge against facts that won’t go away.

5 Tips For Transmedia Storytelling
Margaret Looney, writing on the PBS MediaShift blog, provides common sense advice for tackling a story that’s going to be deployed across multiple platforms. Each tip comes with several tantalizing examples.

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Write This Way, Condensed: Top Writing and Editing Links For June 9, 2013

loislanePhoto courtesy JD Hancock

Lois Lane Isn’t Dead, She’s Reinvented: How Journalists Can Adapt to the Changing News Sphere | Engage

Young journalist Stephanie Schaefer discusses how reporters of any age can stay passionate, and keep their careers viable, in today’s greatly altered media landscape. She encourages writers to study and leverage how readers are engaging with content these days (mobile/social media), to learn how to craft or collaborate with others to create integrated, multimedia/multisensory story experiences, and to retain a passion for storytelling. I couldn’t agree more with her points, and her optimism is refreshing without seeming naive.

A new kind of activist journalism: When finding solutions are part of journalists’ job, too

For old-school journos, this headline on the Nieman Journalism Lab blog is going to sound like heresy – until you consider that all the public affairs reporting done over the years is generally provided with the intent of making readers lives more functional by providing a comprehensive look at pressing problems and possible solutions, in addition to examining when a system is broken. Jan Schaffer, executive director of American University’s J-Lab, argues that with the changing business models for new media outlets, she is also seeing a change in how these outlets view their role in the community when it comes to presenting options to the status quo or encouraging particular solutions:

“To be sure, advocacy is still a dirty word for legacy journalists, unless it’s an editorial-board crusade. But activating examples are rising from both inside and outside mainstream media. …

“From my perch, I see many indie news startups embrace what I call more of a “soft-advocacy” comfort level with news. ClearHealthCosts.com is partnering with WNYC to map widely disparate costs of mammograms in the New York region. PlanPhilly has not only spotlighted the enormous problem of delinquent property taxes in Philadelphia, it reported on how the city might fix its broken system. When Catalyst Chicago reported there were too many empty seats in the city’s pre-school programs, it didn’t stop there. It worked with local community organizations to produce a series of forums on early childhood education. A year later, nearly all the pre-school slots were filled.”

Overall, a very interesting look at where journalism is headed, and how embracing this evolving role might also help make the new ventures more profitable/viable, as well.

What journalists need to know about ‘content marketing’

I’ll be honest – I could do with out the scare quotes in this Poynter.org blog post headline. I found them unbelievably off-putting, but this post by Shane Snow, who creates sponsored content for clients through his firm Contently, is actually a very solid guide for journalists who want to/are working both sides of the editorial fence. I am in complete agreement with Shane’s remarks about the need to retain a highly calibrated ethical compass:

“With the exception, perhaps, of independence, branded content ought to abide by the same principles as journalism: honesty and fairness, accountability and transparency. And because the goal of brand journalism is to create a favorable impression of a brand in order to further various business goals, disclosure must be added to its list of ethics principles. …

“It’s all about not deceiving readers. Brand publishers should make clear who is behind a piece of content and why. Journalists who write for brands need to ensure their clients understand the ethical reasons for such disclosure.”

If you’re drawn to the increasing number of good-paying gigs in content marketing, but are wary of tarnishing your reputation in traditional media, you need to read this piece.

What Public Radio Can Teach Nonprofits About Effective Storytelling

Get ready for a new way to engage with workshop/presentation content: this Storify version of a talk presented by Will Coley, nonprofit staff member turned public radio evangelist and Minnesota Public Radio reporter Sasha Aslanian includes an embedded slideshow on Prezi (which sort of blows PowerPoint out of the water …), live-tweets from the talk, and text summaries of their remarks. You can also access their radio example, an interview with Valencia, a local Twin Cities teen experiencing homelessness.

The thing I found most useful, as an aspiring audio producer, is the list of advantages to using audio for nonprofit storytelling. One that’s right at the top is that audio provides greater anonymity for subjects who may be in situations which call for confidentiality and privacy, while retaining a sense of intimacy with listeners. Another advantage for audio is that it is far cheaper to produce.

If your organization is thinking about multimedia storytelling, and they seem to have overlooked audio-only content, read/view/listen to this post and you can advocate for adding public-radio style audio storytelling to the mix.

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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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Write This Way, Condensed: Top Writing and Editing Links for October 15, 2012

Photo courtesy SXC.

Longform Startups, New York and Beer | The FJP

Michael Cervieri of the Future Journalism Project interviews Noah Rosenberg, founder of Narratively, an innovative online/mobile start-up website that’s devoted to covering New York City in a fresh way. Rosenberg explains what the site is and how it works:

Narratively is a digital platform devoted to original, true, in-depth and untold stories. … Each week Narratively explores a different theme about New York and publishes just one story a day, told in the most appropriate medium for each piece. So, Monday might yield a longform essay, followed by a short documentary film on Tuesday, a photo essay on Wednesday, and an animation on Thursday. Fridays, we run a section called the “Park Bench” where we curate meaningful responses we’ve generated from our audience throughout the week, and we publish behind-the-scenes elements from our stories; the “Park Bench” is all about featuring different perspectives on each week’s theme.

He also explains the relaxed approach to editorial meetings that’s alluded to in the post’s title – and I have to say, this sounds good to me!

We like to refer to our weekly editorial gatherings as more “soiree” and less “meeting.” They’re very informal affairs that are as much about story-generation and feedback as they are about forming bonds within our passionate group of contributors. I’ve always loved bringing new people together and it’s been so rewarding to help foster friendships and connections all in the name of good times and great storytelling. The beer and the bar snacks are just a backdrop to some energizing discussions about important stories that would otherwise remain untold.

How Journalists are Using Soundcloud | Read Write Web

John Paul Titlow explains how radio journalists and many other writers are using Soundcloud, a social media tool that allows anyone with an account to share sounds with other users. Radio producers and podcasters are expanding their audience with Soundcloud; content experts such as Robert Scoble are publishing interviews with thought leaders, and The Huffington Post is using the service to crowdsource coverage of political robo-calls readers are receiving this election season. I am just scratching the surface of what Soundcloud can do, so this story was an inspiring prompt to dig deeper.

Best Book Editors on Twitter – GalleyCat

Jason Boog offers a list of editors, from a variety of genres and specialties, who have a presence on Twitter. It’s a great resource if you’re a writer or editor looking to make friends with social media folks who tweet, and the bios/intros for the editors on the list are instructive in and of themselves, in terms of how to be eye-catching in your introductory statement.

The Millions : Where We Write
The Millions, an online magazine offering coverage on books, arts, and culture, asked its readers who are writers to send them photos of where they worked. The photos are both a little astonishing (to me) and reassuring: from the writer who uses a guest bed to create a “writing nest,” to the scribe who created her own improvised standing desk to the gentleman who writes on a Royal manual typewriter and edits and transcribes on a Mac, each set up is quirky, individualized and tells a story about the storyteller.

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Write This Way, Condensed: Top Writing and Editing Links for September 9, 2012

Photo courtesy of SXC.

How I Write About Science | Wellcome Trust Blog

An interesting blog series that ran earlier this year on the blog for the Wellcome Trust, which funds health research, in which talented science writers (mostly from the United Kingdom) discuss how they report on complex scientific research topics.

When Should You Write Your Memoir? | Rachelle Gardner

Literary agent Rachelle Gardner reflects on her reading of Cheryl Strayed’s recently released memoir “Wild.” She notes that Strayed experienced most of what’s in her book in the 1990s, but did not finish the memoir until years later. Gardner asserts that perspective is important to writing a good autobiographical account:

In order for your story to resonate with deeper truth, you should have enough distance from it that you’ve gained perspective. When you’re still too close to it, you won’t be able to write it well.

Rex Sorgatz: What the New York Times Should Do Next – Membership

Sorgatz, a digital media consultant, provides a detailed proposal for how the Times can survive the post-print, post-advertising business model. Using the NYT’s existing assets, he points out how they could be tweaked to form part of a compelling membership-oriented business.

Here’s what he has to say about how the newspaper could exploit their events division as part of a membership-driven model:

Access to Times events. As part of your membership, you get access to upcoming events with Paul Krugman, Yoko Ono, and Nathan Myhrvold. Did you see that David Carr did a live interview with Robert Pattinson and David Cronenberg the other day? Did you know they do these events all the time? Why isn’t this franchise — TimesTalks — as big as TED? NYT has the clout, the curatorial insight, and an awesome physical location, but TimesTalks is treated like a fringe product that isn’t even respected enough to get on the nytimes.com domain. Awareness isn’t even the primary problem — product integration is. It’s so obvious that these events should be bundled with digital memberships to propel overall growth.

Coders Can’t Put Writers Out of a Job Yet, But We’d Better Watch Our Backs | TechCrunch

Klint Finley reports on the wild, weird world of companies trying to develop applications that can find high-interest, low-coverage topics for editors to assign to writers, how “bots” are taking over some basic research duties from cub reporters, and the rise of Narrative Science, a business that is already having computers generate newspaper reports on Little League games and corporate earnings statements. If you didn’t think nonfiction writing could get outsourced to a robot, think again! And read this piece.

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Write this Way, Condensed: Top Writing and Editing Links for February 24, 2012

Photo courtesy of SXC. 

Improving your writing by resting | Jeff Goins
Carol Tice, guest posting on Jeff Goins’ blog, presents a convincing case for taking one day off (and she means *completely* off) from writing and engaging via electronic devices each week.

Five Ways That Consistency Matters | Intelligent Editing
Geoff Hart explains why stylistic consistency matters, especially in the case of numbers (two vs. 2), capitalization, and word choice. I love his explanation about capitalization, since my pet peeve as an editor is inappropriate capitalization …

“In Western languages, capitalization indicates the start of a sentence or the presence of a proper noun. Changing from a capitalized form to a lowercase form triggers the reflex to ask whether the author has switched from discussing a named entity to a generic category. Each such hesitation slows reading, impedes comprehension, and increases the risk of an interpretation error.”

This post might come across to some as a little overly technical, but it’s good stuff for writers and the copy editors who serve them.

10 Must-Haves For Your Mobile Reporting Kit
Elana Zak, posting on the 10,000 Words blog, provides a nice summary of the tools that a 21st Century reporter needs to do his or her job. Some are obvious (mobile phone, business cards, a case to carry your gear) but some are not obvious to those who haven’t been out in the field since the rise of the smartphone (extra memory cards, a USB microphone). And her suggestion to bring a mini first-aid kit is just good common sense!

26 Tips for Writing Great Blog Posts | Social Media Examiner
Social media consultant Debbie Hemley takes readers from A to Z with good advice about writing blog posts that get read and shared. I’ve been blogging since 2007 and I learned a ton! Some of my favorite sections are Categories, Descriptions, Original vs. Curated Content, and Valuable Content.

Want to Make Money Online? Here’s What Sells | Online Journalism Review
Online journalism expert Robert Niles discusses five alternatives to paywalls for web content that can generate revenue for journalists. They include advertising, e-books, videos, merchandise and events.

“Write What You Know” Does Not Mean What You Think It Does | Fuel Your Writing
Icy Sedgwick discusses the old saw to write (fiction, especially) from your own experience, and helps readers go beyond the literal implications. Here’s a sample of her advice:

“Don’t take (the directive to write what you know) so literally – I’m pretty sure Tolkien didn’t have to go to Middle Earth, and JK Rowling never went to Hogwarts! The fundamental fact is that what you know is humanity, and how the world works, and human nature is fundamentally the same. While we all have different drives, desire, fears and goals, we have the same basic needs. The setting is just window dressing … characters need to be believable, even if they aren’t based in our reality.”

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Write This Way, Condensed: Top Writing and Editing Links for January 31, 2012

Photo courtesy SXC. 

10 tips for recording a better interview

UK journalist Adam Westbrook links to a short presentation he did to help his video journalism students record better interviews by focusing on storytelling.

His tip #1 is worth a visit to the post in the first place: “Know your character and story before you start filming” puts an emphasis on pre-interview research and rapport-building that is often lacking in quick media-gathering sessions.

10 ways journalists can use Twitter before, during and after reporting a story | Poynter

Mallary Jean Tenore, writing on Poynter.org, provides 10 solid suggestions for journalists who want to get more out of Twitter as a work tool.

A good example of how she uses the new medium’s strengths while avoiding its challenges to good reporting is reflected in her tip on building credibility.

“Misinformation can spread quickly on Twitter, especially during breaking news situations. …

“As a journalist, you can show your credibility by debunking incorrect information and only tweeting information you’ve verified. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t tweet during breaking news situations. You can phrase your tweets by saying something along the lines of, ‘X is reporting Y, but we haven’t been able to confirm this information yet.’ Or send a couple of tweets saying: ‘We are working on this story and will tweet updates as soon as we have them.’ … ‘Here’s what we do know …’

“This enables you to get your voice in the mix, while letting your audience know that you’re on top of the story and care about getting it right.”

NPR’s Infinite Player: It’s like a public radio station that only plays the kinds of pieces you like, forever

Andrew Phelps, writing on the Nieman Journalism Lab blog, reports on the unveiling of National Public Radio’s Infinite Player, which functions as a Pandora-like web app for audio segments from public radio stories.

Of particular interest to me is the fact that the app came about as part of NPR’s “rapid iteration” culture:

“Infinite Player is a product of NPR’s culture of rapid iteration and a peek into the future of radio. The project came together in one-and-a-half development cycles — that is, about two weeks plus a few extra days to squash bugs.

“And it’s not a product release in the traditional sense, said Kinsey Wilson, NPR’s general manager of digital media. ‘It’s not nearly as baked as something we would launch even as a beta project. But it’s a way to do some rapid innovation and see if we’re even close to the mark and how people react to it.’”

Are You Too Scared to Write? Stop Thinking and Just Do It

Lifehack contributor Marya Zainab offers simple steps for reducing the amount of overanalyzing that often precedes writing sessions and increasing the amount of time spent actually writing.

The benefits of brainstorming for freelance writers | Helium

Contributing blogger Natalia Jones discusses several ways in which engaging in classical brainstorming techniques can kick-start a freelancer’s idea-generation process and boost their productivity.

AP Stylebook’s New Tool Automatically Proofreads Your Writing

A Mashable.com article that notes that the Associated Press will be releasing a Microsoft Word plug-in, AP StyleGuard, which provides guidance on writing copy that conforms to the AP’s standards for spelling, language, punctuation, usage and journalistic style.

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Write This Way, Condensed: Top Writing and Editing Links for January 15, 2012


Photo courtesy of SXC.

5 Things Journalists Need to Know About Tablets | Mashable
Mashable publishes an interesting post from the International Journalists’ Network that describes trends and developments in content for digital tablets like the iPad. There is both bad news (no one has figured out how to make money on tablet content yet – at least not journalists) and good news (U.S. consumers are predicted to purchase more tablets than computers by 2015).

Making news pay: a pressing issue | Microtask.com
Ville Miettinen, CEO of Microtask, discusses the funding structure of journalism and mentions crowdsourcing as one non-paywall-related solution to the thorny issue of how to provide money for investigative reporting projects. He also proposes microtasking, in which citizens perform tiny assignments for reporters in return for access to the news, as another solution. Odd, but interesting, ideas here.

Doing it Anyway: How I Overcame My Fears about Writing | Meryl.net
Melissa Ann Goodwin guest posts on “content maven” Meryl Evans’ blog about how to deal with writing-related anxiety.

One of her best suggestions relates to NOT thinking too much while writing:

“The idea of writing without thinking might sound strange at first, but in my experience, it definitely works! After calming yourself with quiet breathing, open your eyes and start writing whatever comes to mind, without even thinking about it. Keep writing fast, without stopping or thinking, for as long as you can.  If you slow down and get stuck, write, ‘I don’t know what to write this is really stupid I can’t believe she told us to do this and I can’t believe I’m doing it.’ Good! Keep going. The next thing you know you’ll be writing something coherent and unexpected and surprising.  You’ll be amazed by what comes out of you that you had no idea was hiding inside there.”

Writer’s Block: More of a “Spaghetti Snarl” | Hillary Rettig
Excellent, detailed post excerpted from Rettig’s book “The Seven Secrets of the Prolific: The Definitive Guide to Overcoming Procrastination, Perfectionism and Writer’s Block” that proposes on a new metaphor for getting stalled on a writing project, and gives instructions for how to overcome such a problem.

Rettig asserts that writers should stop looking at such challenges as impenetrable “blocks” and start seeing them as tangles that can be resolved and conquered:

“Your block isn’t a monolith; it’s a giant spaghetti snarl with at least a dozen (or, more likely, two dozen) “strands,” each representing a particular obstacle or trigger. Some strands are probably immense hawsers, while others are tiny shoelaces or dental floss.
“The strands are all snarled together, and that’s your block.
“The fact that your block is really a snarl is great news because a snarl can be untangled far more easily than a monolith scaled or chiseled. And that’s exactly what you need to do – identify the strands so you can start coping with (and, ultimately, eliminating) them.”

Overall, a wise post that both recognizes that emotional issues and troubled relationships can interfere with productive writing, and offers clear strategies for dealing with this situation.

10 Writing Tips for Happy Readers
Quinn McDonald, a creativity coach who also works as a writer and trainer, provides priceless tips for nonfiction writing that is supposed to explain something or evaluate something. This post is a perfect blend of instructional design and service journalism!

Here’s a sample of what Quinn’s talking about:

If you are writing a how-to article, include the details of how to. My biggest crazy-maker of 2011–how-to articles that don’t  give instructions, directions, steps, or assumptions. Just a few nights ago I heard a financial expert tell us that if we haven’t saved enough for retirement to ‘find a job and even if you have to move out of state, stay in that job for at least 10 more years.’ No tips on how to find a job (locally, much less out of state), move from one state to another without a substantial savings account, or keep a job for 10 years without getting let go.”

All I can say to a paragraph like that is AMEN!

Infographic: The most-annoying writing mistakes | PRDaily
If you are aggravated by the writing mistakes of others, you will likely find your pet peeves illustrated on this useful infographic. All the biggies are there: using cliches, homophone misuse (accept v. except, anyone?) and punctuation abuse.

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