Tag Archives: time management

Write This Way: Top Writing and Editing Links for December 6, 2009

Photo courtesy SXC.

Headline Writing Drives Traffic

Excellent blog post by Geoff Livingston, writing on his blog, The Buzz Bin, about the rules of headline writing that appear more relevant than ever in the social media age.

Geoff makes an assertion right off the bat that I couldn’t agree more with:

“It doesn’t matter what the property is. From Twitter and e-mail to document and blog post titles, your ability to write great headlines (or 140 character writing) matters more than ever. Great headlines drive traffic and interest.”

His advice is universal advice for good writing: use active verbs, get sassy or provocative (without being juvenile), provide a preview with your headline, be intentionally incomplete so that the reader wants to know more, and omit needless words.

Geoff reinforces something I hold to be true about writing in a Web 2.0 world—good writing, in the sense of work that is compelling and designed to draw readers into the story, still rules. My Twitter as Writing Coach series (Part I | Part II | Part III) focused on much the same thing—leveraging what good writers already know (and can always brush up on!) to stay relevant in today’s culture.

Are Women Better Writers Than Men?

Writing on FastCompany.com, Lydia Dishman reports on activism among women writers and fans to bring more respect to the work of female writers.

The firestorm over this topic was ignited in early November when Publisher’s Weekly (PW) announced their top 100 picks for 2009 – and not one of the top 10 was penned by a woman. Overall, even PW seemed concerned that no woman was listed in the top 10 and that women  were underrepresented on the whole in this list.

Lydia explains how things unfolded:

“The list unleashed a flurry of posts and comments across the blogosphere, most notably a press release entitled ‘Why Weren’t Any Women Invited To Publishers Weekly’s Weenie Roast‘ from the founders of WILLA (Women in Letters and Literary Arts), an organization dedicated to bringing attention to women’s literary accomplishments.

“She Writes, a Web community for women writers, declared Friday, November 13 a “Call to Action” day and encouraged members to protest by going out and buying books by women authors and voicing their concerns in response to Louisa Ermelino’s (PW’s Reviews Director) statement about the trade magazine’s ‘politically correct’ choices.”

This brief article on the controversy (as well the links provided) is worth reading in full. My personal take? I have compiled best-of lists for several different magazines, and I can tell you, it’s always a complicated process, no matter what criteria you use or how transparent your process is to the reader. My aim as an editor is to always have defensible reasons for any course of action I take on behalf of my publication.

That said, although I think the Fast Company headline for this article is a bit misleading (albeit sassy, like the previous link advised as good!), this dust-up is getting people talking about quality women authors—whether you define “best” as best selling, best writing or most compelling storylines. And that, perhaps more than PW’s list, may help women writers get the recognition that they of course deserve.

(P.S. Just for disclosure’s sake—I just joined She Writes at the invitation of a colleague. Looks like an interesting community!)

Essential Lines from 2009: Group Writing Project

Here’s a fun December project for bloggers to consider: Joanna from the Confident Writing blog is proposing an end-of-the-year group writing project/presentation. It’s very similar to a project she did at the end of 2008 entitled “Simply the Best.”

This post outlines the rules and the deadline, which is December 27, 2009. Bloggers are encouraged to submit their best work and talk about why the submitted post is representative of their blog. The key is to be able to a) pick a post that is “essential,” as the blogger defines it, to the spirit of their blog and b)write a brief summary of the post for inclusion in the post on the Confident Writer site.

Joanna does group writing projects throughout the year, so keep her in your RSS reader if you’d like to participate in other projects like this.

Bonus Links!

5 Ways to Be a Writer When You’re Not Writing

Alison Wells, writing on Studio Mothers blog, has great suggestions for keeping your writing alive while you work on other things.

Pen 2.0: Your scribblings go digital

Jacqueline Evans, writing on CNNMoney.com, reviews several new “smart pens,” pen/computer hybrids that can remember everything you write or sketch in a meeting, then upload it to your PC afterward. Some are able to record audio, as well.

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Don’t give up your day job, it’s good for you!


Photo courtesy SXC.

I’ve wanted to be a full-time freelance writer since I was 13—so long ago, in fact, that the books about it that I borrowed from the public library talked about “over the transom” submissions (hint: it means sending the entire manuscript instead of a query) and gave tips on what sorts of typewriters and typing paper worked best for long manuscripts.

I got published professionally for the first time the next year (I’ll give you a hint as to the era: Reagan was president) and have stayed published for the last 25 years. However, there have been very few periods when I have worked full-time as a freelancer. And maybe that’s OK.

Sarah Hodon, guest posting over at the Urban Muse blog, recently wrote a great post about “5 Ways That Your Day Job Can Help Your Writing.” She has some good points about what working for someone else, regardless of whether or not it is writing-related, can boost your productivity and creativity as a freelancer.

I especially like two points she makes, about focus and self-discipline.

Sarah asserts that focusing on your day job can help you think of story ideas. She notes:

“Your subconscious is still buzzing away, even if you’re intently working on a project or sitting through a meeting. Most writers … admit that their best ideas come to them at the strangest times. … Carry a notebook with you so you can jot down those brilliant ideas.”

It’s true, having something else to focus on, other than the looming deadline for your next article/chapter/etc., can help open the floodgates to fresh ideas when sitting around worrying about it isn’t.

I think, though, that I agree even more with her assertion that having limited writing time helps one develop self-discipline. I did much of my early work as a freelancer during the summers when I was in high school. I had a “job”—stringing for a national magazine aimed at the 14-21 year old crowd—and that helped me manage the rest of my freelancing time very well. I had to do the “paying gig” first (I was given a small monthly stipend for clipping story ideas and sending them to the editorial mothership, suggesting interviewees for upcoming articles and conducting interviews and research for staff writers), then I could work on story pitches and the humorous essays I imagined editors would find gut-bustingly funny (and some actually did).

After college, living at home and without a full-time day job, I had much more time to freelance—but fewer steady writing gigs. I floundered for a bit, not as certain as in high school how to divvy up my time. It was not until I got a full-time job–doing PR for a library system–that I truly got back on track with my freelance writing.

Hodon addresses why having a regular schedule (whether from a day job or a recurring writing assignment) helps you get more done:

“If your writing projects are reserved solely for evenings and weekends, you have no choice but to get yourself on a schedule. Most writers that I know need a deadline—even a self-imposed one. Come up with a to-do list and start tackling the less time-consuming tasks—get those emails sent, look up the name of the book you’re hoping to use for research, or send the photo to the editor for your bio. It may seem overwhelming at first, but it’s a great feeling of accomplishment to get some of those items out of the way.”

In addition to Hodon’s fine list of day-job advantages for writers, I’d like to add a couple of my own.

A day job will get you out among real, live people. People who aren’t your sources, your editors, or your family. In other words, people whom you can observe and relate to in a non-commoditized way (at least where writing is concerned). I’ve heard of more than one writer who’s taken up a day job—anything from teaching to flipping burgers—just to be able to have human contact on a daily basis.

A day job gives you other identities beyond that of “writer.” Unless, of course, you are writing for someone else! In any case, a day job, writing related or not, can give you perspective on your freelance identity—since you are living another professional identity during the day and can reflect on your freelance identity from the outside when you are in the day-job role.

The questions to you…
What advantages have you found to holding a day job while working as a freelance writer? Is steady income a primary motivation or are there other, more compelling benefits in your case?

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