Category Archives: Media Production

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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Recommended Reading: Mediactive, by Dan Gillmor

Image courtesy of  Mediactive.com.

I was lucky enough to grab an e-copy of Dan Gillmor’s book, Mediactive, on Amazon while it was 99 cents. Although the price has since gone back up to $5.99, the book is well worth it. It’s a great read for anyone who cares about the present and future state of journalism as it’s practiced in America, and works equally well for journalists and other nonfiction writers and those who simply wish to know about the world around them via the media.

Gillmor is the director of the Knight Center for Digital Media Entrepreneurship and the Kauffman Professor of Digital Media Entrepreneurship at Arizona State University. (And in interest of full disclosure, I’ve interacted with Dan in my day job at ASU, via a podcast on writing today and asking him to judge a writing contest for the magazine I edit.) Before coming to ASU, Gillmor wrote the book We the Media and was a technology columnist for the San Jose Mercury News from 1994 to 2005.

The main thing that makes the book so good is Gillmor’s ability to parse both the current state of American media and what skills citizens need to cope with the implosion of traditional journalism’s business models. As a consummate participant-observer in the new media landscape (and a veteran of the old-school newspaper industry), he’s well equipped to critique what went wrong with journalism over the past 20 years, why it hasn’t adapted well to the rise of the Internet and digital culture in general, and what exciting experiments are going on along the fringes that are poised to move to the mainstream soon.

Here’s what he says about the promise and the challenge of the media landscape in the early 21st century:

Welcome to 21st century media. Welcome to the era of radically democratized and decentralized creation and distribution, where almost anyone can publish and find almost anything that others have published.

Welcome to the age of information abundance. And welcome to the age of information confusion: For many of us, that abundance feels more like a deluge, drowning us in a torrent of data, much of whose trustworthiness we can’t easily judge. You’re hardly alone if you don’t know what you can trust anymore.

But we aren’t helpless, either. In fact, we’ve never had more ways to sort out the good from the bad: A variety of tools and techniques are emerging from the same collision of technology and media that has created the confusion. And don’t forget the most important tools of all—your brain and curiosity.

Mediactive is useful to both professional journalists and those who care about what happens in our society because he discusses skills needed by both media producers and their so-called consumers. He focuses especially intently on work being produced by those who are not traditional journalists, but who create media that gets into our virtual news feed, including bloggers or YouTube’s amateur broadcasters. While he often notes the shortcomings of such work, he generously praises citizen-journalists and nonprofit organizations for engaging in what he calls “almost journalism,” producing fact-filled background reports that shed light on stories the mainstream media misses.

I’ve read a number of articles and books discussing the state of journalism today, and I have to say that Gillmor surveys the media landscape far more clearly and less defensively than most of his peers. I particularly like his explanations of nuanced concepts. For example, he makes a persuasive case that media outlets should drop the charade of presenting themselves as bias- or viewpoint-free, and suggests reasonable alternatives. Here’s a sample of what he has to say on the issue:

Professional journalists claim independence. They are typically forbidden to have direct or indirect financial conflicts of interest. But conflicts of interest are not always so easy to define. Many prominent Washington journalists, for example, are so blatantly beholden to their sources, and to access to those sources, that they are not independent in any real way, and their journalism reflects it.

Mediactive is potentially useful to a wide variety of people who care about journalism and other forms of nonfiction writing – reporters and editors, new media creators such as bloggers and podcasters, and ordinary people who care about what they read in the news and want to ensure they are truly well-informed. Gillmor walks newbie media creators through the essential tenets of trustworthiness (and provides an excellent refresher for the rest of us) without becoming pedantic or stodgy.  The book, like the thinking behind it, is fresh, and Gillmor has used his http://mediactive.com site to make the book a living document, adding examples and continuing the conversation on these topics in his blog.

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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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