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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Writing as a microbusiness: An interview with Adam Westbrook

 

Today I am pleased to host an interview I conducted recently with UK journalist Adam Westbrook. Adam, a reporter who also works as a video producer, an instructor, blogger and the owner of his own series of writing-related microbusinesses (the concept of which will be explained in a moment), is one of the best documentarians of the entrepreneurial spirit manifested by today’s most successful nonfiction writers.

Adam is confident, focused, and excited about the future of journalism. After you read this interview, and perhaps some of his blog, you will be too.

Tell us a little bit about your background as a journalist.

After training at City University in London, I started my career as a radio reporter working in different cities in the UK. Over the next three years I covered all sorts of domestic and international stories and spent a short time reporting from Iraq.

At what point in your career did you realize that the journalism industry was undergoing substantial changes? How did you respond?

When I was training it felt very much like we could see storm clouds on the horizon, but none of us could have predicted how much the industry was going to change. In my years as a reporter I continued blogging about my work, and eventually started getting more involved in social media. It was around this time (in 2008-09) that I found my work online excited me more than working in broadcast news.

Then later in 2009 I decided to take a leap and quit my job to become a fully independent multimedia producer, and haven’t looked back.

You spend a lot of time on your blog writing about how journalists can (and should) create microbusinesses or other entrepreneurial ventures. Why do you think this is important?

I don’t necessarily believe everyone should start their own ventures -it is not for everyone. But at the same time, creating and publishing content on the web has become so much cheaper and easier, and the audiences bigger, that it seems to me to be a shame not to explore its possibilities. It’s also far more exciting (I think) than mainstream media because the rules haven’t been written yet, so there’s great scope to create the work and career suited to you. Meanwhile, starting a business involves a much lower overhead, and more people are finding it brings them freedom and creative satisfaction.


In your mind, how might the approach taken by a proprietor of a journalistic microbusiness differ from the way an old-school freelance writer looked at their sources of income?

As a freelancer, despite how much freedom you have you are still selling your time in return for money. So you are at the mercy of client wants and needs, and you are only making money for yourself. Entrepreneurship is about creating a product or a service that does not involve selling your time, but something else (that is) distinct from you; it also has the potential to generate wealth, jobs, etc.

If you’re just starting out, a freelance business is much easier to set up, so it’s definitely worth beginning down this path, but if it’s career freedom you want, you should investigate product or service ideas alongside.

What skills should writers trained to write for print consider adding to their professional toolkit at this point in time? How can they leverage what they already know?

There are so many, but don’t worry about becoming a “jack of all trades and a master of none.” If you want to make a living writing online, you ought to have an understanding of online publishing – so learn how to self host a WordPress blog and do some basic HTML. The great thing about the web is it is so easy to learn new skills, whether its video, data, graphic design or web design. I wouldn’t say professional training is necessary either. Just start practicing and get your questions answered online.

Why did you choose to make one of your latest projects, Inside the Story, a fundraiser for Kiva? How did that end up fitting into your professional/business plan?

The Inside the Story was a project idea I had running around my mind for a while, and when a gap came up at the start of 2012 I thought I might as well get busy and do it. I always imagined the book raising money for a good cause, and in retrospect it wouldn’t have been possible to get the caliber of contributors on board if it had been for my personal profit. In terms of my ‘business plan’ it didn’t cost me anything but my time, which I know how to use well, and was a good profile raiser. But mostly, I believe that generosity is a really important part of business online: you have to give lots away. It’s what I do with my blog every week too.

You’ve talked a lot on your blog about building a “portfolio” career. What did you mean by that, and how important is it in terms of managing one’s career as a journalist these days?

A portfolio career basically involves having more than one form of income to support you. Again, it’s made possible by the time and energy savings of working online.  So I make most of my income as a multimedia producer making films for clients; but I also lecture in journalism, do training and consulting and sell books. It’s got better variety and means you’re not reliant on just one job. Every business has a by-product, and there are always other ways to make money from the skills or products you already have.

Want to learn more from Adam Westbrook? He offers several e-books on journalism topics, including one that’s free!

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Beyond Comma Patrol: 10 Ways Editors Can Supercharge Your Communications

Photo by Nicole_N courtesy of SXC.

I’ve known for most of my career as an editor that there was a whole lot more to what I was doing than copyediting. Yes, knowing how to copyedit is one of the basics for my profession – like knowing basic principles of balance and proportion if you are a visual artist, or having basic arithmetical skills if you are an accountant.

Yet being a crackerjack copyeditor doesn’t ensure that a journalist will be a good managing editor or editor-in-chief. Editors bring far more to the table than just checking your copy for stylistic consistency, grammatical correctness or compliance with generally accepted rules of punctuation. Here’s a handy list of 10 ways that an editor can improve your writing, whether you’re writing a 200-word report or a 100,000-word book.

1) Content curation – “Curation” has become a buzzword in the past few years, but editors have been evaluating, selecting and arranging content to appeal to their audiences for a long time. As the Internet spews skyrocketing amounts of information at us, an editor’s ability to filter and screen content and present the best/most appropriate materials will become increasingly valuable.

2) Content aggregation – Curation of content focuses on the selection of individual items; aggregation of content focuses on grouping materials together in meaningful ways. Before there were RSS feeds, there were wire editors, piecing together national or international news sections by aggregating content in a way that allowed readers to keep up on developments and remain well-informed citizens. I call my personal approach to aggregation “getting the mix right.” Whether it’s a collection of sports briefs or an entire podcast or magazine issue, my editorial focus is on grouping content in a way that forms a coherent whole.

3) Story organization – Some stories have an obvious structure – chronological, say, or a bulleted list (“5 Ways to Fresher Breath”). For those that don’t, an editor can help you dump out your reporting notebook and research files and build a structure that will help the reader pay attention to the story, not the way it is being told.

4) Story-crafting – When I discovered the story coaching method of editing, I had a major epiphany about what value editors brought to the writing process itself. Practitioners of story coaching, such as Don Murray, Jack Hart, Jacqui Banaszynski and Roy Peter Clark, actively collaborate with the writer, both before and after the story has been filed, to shape the story for maximum impact and readability. This skill, along with #3, are two prerequisites that will ensure content that is worthy of having “comma patrol” performed to provide a final polish.

5) Project management – No small amount of a managing editor’s job is being a traffic manager for a communications deliverable. He or she must ride herd over a small stable of writers, shape and polish the story, AND hand it off to design on time, all while remembering how the content in this issue fits with that of 3 issues down the road, and checking to make sure page folios are right and ads do not contain coupons or other offers that are expired. It’s possible to be an editor and be disorganized, but I am not sure it’s possible to be a good editor without a sense of how to move content through the system quickly and efficiently.

6) UX/usability expert – Not just for web geeks, the concept of UX or the user experience is something editors concern themselves with constantly. We are the reader’s primary advocate. If we can’t make sense of a passage or an idea, how will they?

7) Moderator/listener  – I am not convinced that journalists can be objective, but editors are charged with listening to all sides with an open mind. This assignment makes them good at orchestrating interactions between those who hold divergent perspectives, and also tends to make them good at listening for subtle things, such as that which is NOT being voiced during any given debate.

8) Creative consultant/innovator – Editors spend much of their day working within well-defined parameters, such as budget and the format of their publication. They are constantly challenged to make something novel and engaging out within a defined template. This require an ability to innovate and find a way to pour new wine into old wine skins and make it all hold together.

9) Historian – A good editor makes assignments and revises copy with a keen appreciation for the background of whatever topic he or she is working with. Most issues do not spring into existence with no frame of reference. Editors must understand that frame, and make it visible to the audience.

10) Contextualizer – closely related to #9, this role has the editor make visible all the elements, current and historical, that shape a given story. Readers who understand the full context of an issue will be far less easily swayed by sound bites and polemics.

Another view of what editors do: Who am I this time? Roles editors play

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Recommended Reading: “Help! For Writers”

The Book: “Help! For Writers: 210 Solutions To The Problems Every Writer Faces,” by Roy Peter Clark.

The Takeaway: This is a great book for nonfiction writers who are looking for specific strategies to combat common writing problems, such as organizing their material, selecting fresh, imaginative language to use in their stories, or how to complete a draft of their work.

The Review: Too many books about writing try to be all things to all people, when they really aren’t capable of the task. The author will cover everything from how to interview celebrities to how to hire a copy editor, lavishing many pages on his or her areas of expertise, while giving everything else a cursory glance. The result is often a lopsided, unsatisfying book.

Roy Peter Clark, vice president and senior scholar at the Poynter Institute, deftly avoids this trap in “Help! For Writers,” while still managing to cover vexations from across the entire writing process. His secret weapon is his approach – instead of presenting writers with his “master plan” for how to write and expecting them to fit themselves into his paradigm, he organizes his material, as the subtitle suggests, by addressing specific “trouble spots” that are frequently found on the writing journey, such as “my work habits are so disorganized” or “I can’t stop procrastinating.” (He also wins points with me for phrasing the trouble spots in language that clearly has come directly from the mouths of actual writers!)

The beauty of training this lens on the writing process is that it avoids one-size-fits-all solutions and makes the book useful to a broad spectrum of writers. For example, when responding to the problem “I hate writing assignments and other people’s ideas,” Clark suggests the following strategies:

  • Learn to turn an assignment into your story.
  • Treat assignments as story topics rather than story ideas.
  • Make it your own.
  • Send up a flare to express dissatisfaction with an assignment or to suggest something better.
  • Take what you think is a bad assignment and brainstorm with other writers to turn it into something special.
  • Use your favorite search engine to discover surprising connections.
  • If a story assignment points left, don’t be afraid to turn right.

“Help! For Writers” will be very useful to those looking for those looking for tips and tools to move them out of a writing bog caused by an issue that they can articulate and define. Newbie as well as experienced writers will be able to relate to the problems Clark addresses and benefit from his proposed solutions. It’s also a book that will continue to be useful to writers as they advance in their careers, as the situations that Clark pinpoints are ones that can challenge all writers, regardless of their experience level or professional status.

Learn more about the book

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“Your story is your power and your truth” – Author Gloria Feldt on advocacy writing

Photo of Gloria Feldt courtesy of MaryAnneRussell.com

Today we present an interview with Gloria Feldt – an author, blogger, and advocate for women. I met Gloria through my work at Arizona State University, where she teaches a course each spring relating to women, power and leadership.

Gloria is a former national president of Planned Parenthood, and author of the books “Send Yourself Roses,” co-authored with actress Kathleen Turner; “Behind Every Choice Is a Story”; and “The War on Choice.” Gloria’s most recent book is “No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power,” which recently came out in paperback. In that book, Gloria interviewed dozens of women politicians, business owners, and activists and concluded that the doors of opportunity are wide open today, but too few women are leading the way to claim their power and reach parity with their male counterparts. To counteract this, her book provides 9 practical “power tools” that help women to embrace their power in their relationships and at work, in order to lead unlimited lives.

In today’s interview, Gloria discusses how writing can be used to fuel one’s social activism, and how writers who want to change the world can make a living doing that sort of work.

You can keep up with Gloria’s writing and advocacy work at her website.

Give us an overview of your career, and the place of writing within the work you were doing.

I knew when I was five that I wanted to be a writer. I carried a notebook and pencils with me at all times. My teacher shared a poem I wrote about Halloween with the whole class and kept it to teach future classes. That sealed the deal.

But life intervened. As a teenager, I drank the cultural Kool-Aid and focused on being popular, especially with boys. After marrying and having kids, I fell into my career first as a Head Start teacher, then leading Planned Parenthood affiliate offices.

Though writing was always a part of my work, it wasn’t till I was 60, national president of Planned Parenthood, and had a board chair who made my life miserable, that I decided I had to start writing books or I would die inside. So that’s when I wrote my first book, “Behind Every Choice Is a Story.” Then a few years later, after writing “The War on Choice” and realizing that its thought leadership was greatly appreciated by the general public but not so much by those inside the organization, I knew it was time to speak in my own voice. It was time to free that five-year-old to fulfill her original vision for herself.

What was the first piece of advocacy writing you had published in the media? What did that experience teach you about yourself as a writer?

The now-defunct Phoenix Gazette published an opinion column I wrote exhorting moderates to get as passionate about advocating their beliefs as the zealous right or be steamrollered by policies they don’t support. That must have been in 1979, not too long after I became the CEO of Planned Parenthood in Arizona. The experience taught me the value of devoting the time and effort it takes to do cogent opinion writing.

And by the way, I was right.

Which of the “power tools” discussed in your book No Excuses involve writing?

All of them. Over and over, depending on the day. You write the book you need to read.

Certainly, writing is a part of

  • Employing every medium to get your words out,
  • Wearing the shirt of your convictions,
  • And it plays a role in telling your story, using what you’ve got, knowing your history, embracing controversy, carpe-ing the chaos, and defining your own terms.

Even in the case of the power tool of creating a movement, which seems like a communal act, writing plays a role, because advocacy always involves joining with others.

Yes, they all apply. They are versatile tools and tips to help anyone use the power of her or his words.

How does writing empower women?

Your story is your power and your truth. Women are too often looking for external validation. Writing is its own validation. It comes from inside.

How have your professional writing assignments changed over the years? What has stayed constant?

Blogging didn’t exist when I started out. Now I am asked to blog by many outlets and that has opened up new opportunities to showcase my thinking, though not necessarily to earn money.

What has stayed constant is that I write nonfiction, mostly opinionated in some way about the current social and political issues as they apply to women. I love controversy.

Has there been a new form of media or a new genre that you’ve found particularly daunting? How did you eventually master it?

I break out in a cold sweat about writing book proposals. I can write the book but the proposal daunts me. I have not mastered it.

What new writing projects are you most excited about now?

My next book, but I can’t talk about it yet.

I’m starting to blog for ForbesWoman.com, which is exciting because it puts me in contact with women in the business community and expands my knowledge of their concerns.

What tips would you give to readers interested in using their writing skills to advance a cause?

Think first of being a thought leader and second about being an advocate. It’s a subtle but important distinction. How can you write about your advocacy topics in a way that is fresh, persuasive, interesting? Where should your writing appear to influence the people you want to influence?

How can advocacy writers make a living with their craft?

Think as you write about how you can parlay your writing platform into paid speaking opportunities and articles. It took me years to realize that you have to think about the marketing of a book with the same intensity as you think about its content. They are inseparable.

Also, know that most advocacy organizations and political leaders are desperate for great writers to help them with speeches, op-eds, books, and media messages.

INTERVIEW BONUS – For those of you who are members of the She Writes community, you will want to check out the “Countdown to Publication” blog series Gloria wrote before the initial publication of “No Excuses” in 2010. It’s a great look at what she went through to prepare the book for publication!

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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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Write This Way, Condensed: Top Writing and Editing Links for December 4, 2011

Photo courtesy of SXC.

Why New Media Literacy Is Vital for Quality Journalism

Josh Catone, writing on Mashable, discusses the continuing (and increasing) importance of critical thinking skills for journalists and everyone else who gets their news from social media, blogs, online websites, etc. Lots of good examples peppered through out the piece.

Here’s a sample of what Catone has to say about how to define media literacy:

In today’s media-saturated world, the concept of literacy is again changing. According to Pinkard, kids in school today may not be considered literate in the future if they don’t fundamentally understand new forms of media — things like blogs, Twitter and streaming video. To be truly literate, though, you also need to be able to think critically about media, discern fact from fiction, news from opinion, trusted from untrustworthy. These issues have always been thorny, but the explosion of self-publishing has only made media literacy more vital to the preservation of our democratic society.

Conventional Wisdom and What It Says About Journalism | Adam Westbrook

Westbrook, a UK journalist who launched his portfolio career as an independent entrepreneur-journalist in the depths of the 2009 global recession, makes an assertion that conventional wisdom is rarely the protective influence many journalists assume it must be.

He writes,

Conventional wisdom is dangerous because it stops us doing the things we know we really want to. It stops people who ought to do great things, stretch their abilities on ambitious work and ultimately shape the future of journalism and publishing.

Why I Write With My iPhone

Lifehack contributor Chris Smith discusses why he prefers doing his daily writing work on his iPhone (vs. the iPad) and offers links to a few apps that make writing on that most popular of smartphones easier.

How journalism professors can use screencasts as an effective & efficient teaching tool

Journalism educator Katy Culver shares in a brief post on Poynter.org how she uses screencast technology to help students retain copy editing tenets through “narrated” quiz answer keys, record video software tutorials, and provide feedback on video and slideshow submissions from students.

Amazon Rewrites the Rules of Book Publishing | NYTimes.com

Amazon.com taught readers they don’t need bookstores – now it is teaching writers they may not need publishing houses. Amazon published 122 books this fall in an array of genres, in both physical and e-book form, representing a striking acceleration of the retailer’s fledging publishing program. An important article for everyone who wants to write books and have readers buy them!!!

How to Write What People Actually Want to Read | Write To Done

Mary Jaksch, chief editor of Write To Done, provides a quick, easy-to-understand tutorial for using a keyword search tool to determine the best topics to include in a blog, story, etc., based upon readers’ search queries.

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Write This Way, Condensed: Top Writing and Editing Links for October 18, 2011

Photo courtesy SXC.

25 Insights on Becoming a Better Writer | The 99 Percent
Jocelyn K. Glei has compiled a great list of insightful snippets from 25 famous authors, from P.D. James and Kurt Vonnegut to Margaret Atwood and Annie Dillard.

Here’s a sample of the quotable wisdom provided, from Cory Doctorow, author of “For The Win”:

Write even when the world is chaotic. You don’t need a cigarette, silence, music, a comfortable chair, or inner peace to write. You just need ten minutes and a writing implement.

The 5 Step Process That Solves Painful Writing Problems
Copyblogger contributor Brian Clark presents a simple regimen for avoiding writer’s block, bloated copy and do-nothing endings. The most surprising part of the system he recommends? Headlines and subheads should be developed before the rest of the body copy – which is rarely the order in which they are developed for magazine articles.

Spend Some Time Living Before You Start Writing | Advice to Writers
Jon Winokur quotes novelist Annie Proulx, who confronts the old saw “write what you know” head-on, saying, “It is the most tiresome and stupid advice that could possibly be given. If we write simply about what we know we never grow. ”

Game Changer | Fast Company
Do games have any place in the training of future journalists? Adam L. Penenberg, a journalism professor at NYU, reports on the improvement in learning retention in his graduate classes after he layered in game mechanics (prizes, walking tour treasure hunts, social media leader boards) to his business and economics course. An intriguing article and interesting reading for anyone following the emerging trend of schools employing simulations and games to stimulate learning.

If “He Said, She Said” Journalism Is Irretrievably Lame, What’s Better?
Jay Rosen, journalism educator and author of Press Think blog, discusses his criticism of a recent NPR investigative series on security at the Mall of America and shares examples of paradigm-busting online publications that insist on fairness but do not hide behind “objectivity” as a way of coming to a well-researched and well-reported conclusion about the facts as a reporter has discovered them.

How to feed your journalism cow
UK journalist Adam Westbrook suggests a number of idea-sparking sources for writers of nonfiction and those in associated genres (filmmaking, photography, design). I’m most interested in exploring Adam’s own Video.fu film library, which focuses on nonfiction films that tackle their topics in a story-based way, and using the crowdfunding site Kickstarter as a source of ideas that their owners are trying to make viable.

Bonus!

Forget the candy, give books for treats this Halloween
Book editor Barbara McNichol shares a link related to the Books for Treats campaign, which aims to replace the candy-begging ritual in American neighborhoods at Halloween with adults giving out books to kids instead of candy. What a great idea!!!

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