Tag Archives: digital media

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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Feed Me, Digital Edition: RSS feeds for tracking the online journalism revolution

Photo courtesy SXC.

If you’ve followed Write Livelihood for the past few months, you’ll notice an increased emphasis on links to information on writing for social media, the future of journalism, and the convergence between print and digital media. Although I seek to cover the entire enchilada of issues–from craft to personalities–related to nonfiction writing, those three issues seem to be an increasingly important part of the “filling.”

As I learn more about the impact of online developments on traditional journalism, I find myself turning to a small cadre of sources for information and inspiration. These four blogs/websites are well worth plugging into your RSS reader in order to keep up to date about what’s happening to professional writing and content creation today.

Word Count: Freelancing in the Digital Age

Michelle Rafter’s blog is a new one in my RSS feed, but I like that she covers freelance writing and editing. Much of the coverage I see on how the Web is changing journalism focuses on newspaper reporters and editors losing their jobs. Which is of course important, but it doesn’t help the thousands of freelancers find their way in a shifting media environment.

Michelle mixes thoughts about the state of digital media with pointers on how to interact effectively with editors (yay!), recommended reading, and tips on the basics of the writing craft. Recent posts have covered how to write first-person profiles; how readers can participate in selecting what topics the Online News Association offers presentations on at its 10th annual gathering; links to free or low-cost classes freelancers can take to pick up skills they need to create content online; and tips on how to get editors to respond to you faster.

10,000 Words: Where Journalism and Technology Meet

Mark Luckie’s blog is new to me, but already I’m in love with it. The author of the Digital Journalist’s Handbook, Mark mixes news about where multimedia journalism is going with plenty of how-tos. Best of all, he practices what he advocates–most posts are liberally sprinkled with photos, illustrations, infographics, videos and slideshows that demonstrate his assertions. He also frequently provides lists of journalists to follow–which is helpful for those of us looking for role models in this new media landscape.

The Center for Social Media (at American University)
The Center, located within American University’s School of Communications, says its mission is to “investigate, showcase and set standards for socially engaged media-making.” It covers topics such as fair use, copyright issues in YouTube mash-ups, how different communities of producers gauge the impact of their media projects, the future of public media and photojournalism, and much more.

I like following the RSS feeds from the center because the organization is charged not only with keeping tabs on new media trends, but also questioning them. The academic environment in which they’re located also assures that their website has a hefty resources section, which provides information on fair use and copyright, documentary film research, audience engagement and social media distribution strategies.

Nieman Journalism Lab

I was originally drawn to this blog/site because of the Nieman Foundation’s reputation in running the Nieman Program on Narrative Journalism at Harvard University. I like the combination of academic rigor, real-world sensibility and fundamental optimism that this blog offers.

As the “about” page of the blog says,

“The Nieman Journalism Lab is an attempt to help journalism figure out its future in an Internet age.

The Internet has brought forth an unprecedented flowering of news and information. But it has also destabilized the old business models that have supported quality journalism for decades … We want to highlight attempts at innovation and figure out what makes them succeed or fail. We want to find good ideas for others to steal. We want to help reporters and editors adjust to their online labors; we want to help traditional news organizations find a way to survive; we want to help the new crop of startups that will complement — or supplant — them …

“We don’t pretend to have even five percent of all the answers, but we do know a lot of smart people. Primary among them are our readers; we hope your contributions will make the Lab a collaborative exchange of ideas. Tell us what’s happening around you, or what should be.”

That last point is worth highlighting as well. Too often, reader input on what’s working and what isn’t is an afterthought, even in an age of “user-generated content” and other interactivity with one’s audience. The fact that Nieman puts it front and center in its mission means it’s providing an example for other news media organizations to follow.

The question to you …

What are your favorite blogs/RSS feeds for information on the online-inspired transformation of journalism?

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Digital Diets, Information Overload, and Your Writing

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Photo courtesy of SXC.

A lot of people resolve to lose weight at the beginning of the year, but few carry through successfully. I’ve discovered from personal experience that sustained weight loss is possible, but what works for many people is a tough, but attainable, set of practices. There’s no quick fix.

What does this have to do with writing and editing? A lot. It appears that 2009 may be the year when “info-bloat” reaches a turning point and challenges the benefits that many have seen from digital and online platforms and Web 2.0 technologies. Thinking proactively and taking preventative steps can keep your writing from suffering the effects of too much information, available too readily, with no focus to guide its usage or significance.

The incredible expanding information waistline

The fact that the digital universe is in “growth” mode is obvious to everyone, but it may come as a shock that, according to market research firm IDC, by 2011 the digital universe will be 10 times the size it was in 2006. ComputerWorld, the source for that fascinating little tidbit, ran a very good article last August about the consequences of information overload and what companies can do to avoid “data-rich” parts of their businesses becoming data dump heaps.

As reporter Mary Brandel writes,

“Today, ideas and discussions are broadcast not at a prescribed time on a specific channel via a single medium, but all the time, on millions of forums, discussion groups, blogs and social networks. And they occupy a growing piece of our consciousness, thanks to RSS feeds, Twitter messages, mailing list and newsletter subscriptions, instant messaging, e-mail and Web surfing … It’s gotten to the point where information — which should be useful — has in some cases become a distraction.”

Inherent in the explosive growth of information is the rise of user-generated content. Duo Consulting, a group of web content experts, posted an article this month about digital overload, noting that “participatory media is resulting in a nearly infinite supply of content, although the increased fragmentation of attention is certainly an implication” of the shift to many-to-many, mass collaboration types of communication.

Do I look fat in this data?

Things have gotten so bad, Duo notes, that some are considering “digital diets,” limiting their intake of computer and Internet based materials to the bare minimum. Leo Babauta, creator of Zen Habits and Write to Done blogs, wrote a great post in 2007 on the Web Worker Daily, giving readers 21 tips for dealing with info-overload. Many of his tips work well for anyone considering a digital reducing program:

Map out your day. (Make a time map of what you want to accomplish.)

Allow RSS feeds to overload. (Just because it is there doesn’t mean you have to read it.)

Learn to focus. (In other words, learn to “unitask” and get one thing done at a time.)

Eliminate the news. (Believe me, as a journalist, I can vouch for this one—if something’s truly earth-shattering, you will hear about it at work or from friends.)

Read only 5 posts a day/Respond to only 5 emails a day/Write 5-sentence emails.

Beyond editorial-type content online, Seth Godin also points out that our writing has to compete against marketing in new media, which is rapidly leading to what he calls “social clutter”:

“It’s the clutter of the impersonal. Yes, you want an alert from a friend when it’s really a friend and really an alert. But what happens when it’s an ad that pretends to be an alert? Or what if it’s not an ad, but not really a totally personal tweet either?”

Seth predicts that social clutter will only get worse, so it appears the best offense against digital info-glut is a good defense. I’ve outlined a couple of steps writers can take to avoid the damage that information overload can produce, both from the standpoint of the information we consume, as well as that which we produce.

Tips for writers as information consumers

Resist the urge to try out every new social media tool that comes along. Be a mid-cyle adopter. Read about the promise of the next big thing while it’s in beta testing, sort through the hype and cautionary tales that follow the initial public rollout, then jump on board when you have reason to. Which leads us to the next tip…

Know why you’re online. The Internet is TV on steroids; not only is it possibly to surf endlessly and view passively, you have billions of “channels” to do it on. Before you sit down at the computer, or before you click the next link, ask yourself, “What am I looking for by going to this site?”

Find the 20 percent of social media/Web 2.0 tools that further your writing and learn how to use them effectively. Writers have a lot of uses for social media. Blogging can make you a better writer, Twitter can be useful for getting a heads-up on breaking news stories or doing quick fact-checks on stories and Facebook is so useful to journalists that numerous news organizations have a presence there. But to use each tool effectively, it helps to find out how your fellow writers or editors are using them.

Use content filtering to help the information you really need come to you. The ComputerWorld article offers several useful options for setting up aggregators or feed systems that provide only highly discussed and relevant content on a given topic. The article mentions using Techmeme for technology news, Blogrunner for general news and Wikio for global coverage. It also recommends customizing your iGoogle dashboard to develop a newsfeed that’s unique to your interests, something that I also recommend highly.

Another way to filter your content is to select a circle of Web 2.0 friends and acquaintances who’s online activies mesh with your information-gathering needs and following their “lifestreams” on services such as FriendFeed or Plaxo Pulse. Mark Krynsky, writing on Lifestream Blog, discusses this filtering strategy:

“I’m now leveraging the ultimate human filtering algorithm to bring me the wisdom of the masses. By selectively following those who are sharing bookmarks, Tweets, RSS shared items, and more, for my areas of interest, I am increasing the chance of having creme of the crop content delivered to me. This shift is treating people as a valued commodity ahead of the content.”

Have an “analog” workday and compare your productivity to a typical digital day. Try reporting, writing or editing “old school” style for one day. Travel back in time to, say, 1990 and work with the tools from that era: using a computer to type up your story is fine, but call sources on a land-line phone, take notes in a paper notebook and go to the library for research (it’s OK if your librarian uses the Internet to help you, but you have to interact with her face to face). Then work on a similar project in your usual digital fashion. If you save time doing it the old way, you may want to put yourself on a digital diet for a while.

Tips for writers as information producers

Think of your audience before beginning any project. What is the return on investment your reader will get for engaging with your material? How can you be of value to “digital dieters,” making their brief plunges into cyberspace worth it?

Think pull, not push. The upside of Web 2.0 is that readers can customize their content and have it come to them. Writing seductive headlines, subject lines and blog post titles is a matter of making a provocative proposition, then backing it up with substance.

Distribute your content in non-paying media (blogs, Twitter, RSS) strategically. Offering content for free is sensible if you’re building your brand, creating a platform for later revenue-generating work, connecting with people who may be important to your projects, or if your passion for what you’re doing is your overriding motivation.

Link enthusiastically, but add value. I’ve pruned several bloggers from my RSS aggregator list who simply posted links every day. While the filtering of content that they provided was useful for a while, I longed to understand their take on the topic of their blog and what they had to share with their audience. When you link online, pay at least as much attention to where you’re sending readers as if you were sourcing the material for print.

Pay attention to usability and information design when creating for online distribution. Sometimes, good online content gets buried in a 2-inch-deep paragraph, or simply doesn’t read the same way on a screen as it does on a piece of paper. Learning to optimize your writing for online display can make the difference between your audience taking the actions you want them to and your voice being ignored.

Letting Go of the Words by Janice (Ginny) Redish is a terrific resource for web content producers and is filled with dozens of before-and-after website “makeovers” that focus almost entirely on how the content is arranged, rather than the visual design or the code behind the site.

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