Tag Archives: writing tips

Write This Way: Top Writing and Editing Links for January 16, 2011

Photo courtesy of SXC.

How technology is changing travel and journalism | 10,000 Words
Mark Luckie discusses new advances in travel and location-based mobile and desktop technology — everything from Foursquare and Gowalla to mobile overlay apps Historypin and Streetmuseum — and their implications for travel and journalism.

Disposable E-Readers on the Way? | FolioMag.com
Matt Kinsman posts an intriguing note about new developments in the creation of “e-paper,” which could lead to digital reading devices made of paper but offering ever-changing content.

News Entrepreneuring
Jan Schaffer, executive director of J-Lab: The Institute for Interactive Journalism, posts 10 excellent tips for journalists interested in starting their own news site to make a go of it. Very, very practical!!!

15 magic minutes toward kick-starting your writing
Daphne Gray-Grant, writing for Ragan.com, lists five tasks that can be done in a quarter hour that can move your writing ahead.

William Zinsser’s 5 tips for becoming a better writer | Poynter
At 88, the author of “On Writing Well” is still writing and teaching people to become better writers. He shared five tips with Poynter blog writer Mallory Jean Tenore for sharpening one’s skills. My favorites: “Learn to take readers on a journey,” and “Think of writing as a process, not a product.”

Bonus Link!

Zinsser on Friday | The American Scholar
William Zinsser’s weekly column on writing in The American Scholar.

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Write This Way, Condensed: Top Writing and Editing Links for July 29, 2010

Photo credit: Everett Guerny, via SXC.

My Reading Notebook
Kitty Bucholtz, writing on Routines for Writers, discusses the paper notebook she uses to write one-page summaries of the novels has read, and how it relates to her fiction writing.

How Media Consumption Has Changed Since 2000
A SlideShare presentation from the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project. Interesting statistics and information on trends in our consumption of all sorts of media.

How to Write About a Boring Topic – 5 Good Writing Tips
Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen discusses ways to dig deeper into a story assignment that you’re not crazy about.

Writers: 8 Alternatives to Magazine Markets
Susan Johnston, writing on the blog Urban Muse, discusses opportunities beyond print magazines for enterprising freelancers. Covers everything from newsletters and catalogs to mobile apps and e-books.

More tips for writing fast | WordCount
Michelle Rafter discusses a couple of ways to cut corners (safely) and get drafts put together quickly without sacrificing quality.

Hire a Journalist | Duct Tape Marketing
The “Duct Tape” folks make the case that journalists, not marketers, should be the content producers in today’s business environment. Good news for unemployed reporters and editors!

Bonus links!

J-Lab | 2010 Knight-Batten Award Winners
The Knight-Batten Awards reward news and information efforts that create opportunities to involve citizens in public issues and supply opportunities for participation. Here are thumbnail sketches of the award-winning projects.

Associated Press: How to Pitch a News Story
This YouTube video, featuring editors from the AP, contains good advice for reporters or PR folks looking to interest editors in a news-oriented story.

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Holiday nano-practice for writers

Photo courtesy SXC.

It’s a week before Christmas.  We’re in the middle of Hanukkah. Yule, Kwanzaa and New Year’s Eve are just around the corner. If you’ve got a writing project (or projects) you’re trying to keep on track, it’s very easy to get distracted by holiday festivities and end up both frustrated at your lack of progress and sad that you couldn’t enjoy your holiday recreation fully because you were fretting about your writing in the back of your mind.

I’m just as guilty of giving into this tension and distraction as everyone else. However, I was lucky to recently come across a series of very helpful blog posts by my cyber-pal Christina Thompson, who is a trombonist, creativity coach, music teacher and author of a new book, Women Embracing Creativity.

Her 2008 “No Time To Practice?” (Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4) series has a lot of good tips, broadly applicable to artists of every discipline, for maintaing a connection to our creative work. And it’s inspired me to write this short list of “nano-practice” tips for writers, who actually have more opportunity than most, I believe, to keep their skills sharp during holiday breaks.

So if you’re in the thick of your holiday preparations or celebrations right now, consider channeling your writing mojo into these activities …

1. Take your Twittering and status updates to a new level. I’ve blogged about using Twitter as a writing coach before, and in this age of social media, being able to say something rich and evocative in a few words is an even more valuable skill than ever before. The poetry of some people’s tweets or updates can make connecting with them far more than a perfunctory experience. What can you say in 140 characters or less that might move your personal network and express your feelings and observations succinctly?

2. Revive the art of correspondence. Many of us send paper or electronic greeting cards or annual family letters, but do we think about more than just providing a news report for friends and colleagues? My father used to write a family letter that placed our entire clan in a Renaissance era motif and made its readers howl with laughter. He was following in his mother’s footsteps, who played off her first name to create a yearly missive entitled “The Perils of Jewel and Pauline,” which mimicked the theme of a popular series of films during her youth.

It’s not necessary to summon literary greatness to get your Christmas cards or family letters out, but they are another place where your writing and editing skills can create a story that touches your audience and pleases your “sources,” who are those closest to you!

3. Catch up on your “craft” reading/listening. If you’re flying or riding in a car to your holiday destination, how about absorbing some good books relevant to non-fiction writing? I’m partial to Jack Hart’s A Writer’s Coach and Roy Peter Clark’s Writing Tools, but reading or listening to a well-written novel is also good for picking up tips on how to handle dialogue, expository passages and other writing challenges. Even if you’re only able to read a few chapters, or a few pages, you may pick up something valuable.

4. Practice one-sentence journaling. The point of journaling isn’t to meet a production quota! It’s to convey meaning in a form that will stick with you later. Early last year, I conducted an interesting interview on my creativity blog, Creative Liberty, with journaling instructor Quinn McDonald on this technique. Much like the more public tweet/status update suggestion, the length limitation on this sort of journaling encourages you to both writing something each day and choose your words very carefully.

5. Engage in intentional conversations. If you’re at a family holiday gathering and are surrounded by people, listen to them! Even if you have precious little common ground with your relatives, practicing the art of conversation sharpens your ear for dialogue and accurate quotations, allows you to understand your “subject” on a deeper level, and may improve your interviewing skills.

If you want to make use of your time with your loved ones to record some conversations for posterity, the StoryCorps program can help you get started. They have excellent interview guides, tips on managing audio recording devices and plenty of audio files on the site to hear other families reminiscing. The goal of this non-profit is to create a “nation of listeners” in 2010, and your little conversation could be a part of it, if you choose to be involved.

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How to Make the Editor Your Friend (I): Meet Deadlines


Photo courtesy of SXC.

Today kicks off a new series of posts talking about the skills that freelance writers need to cultivate to ensure healthy and happy relationships with the editors they work with. For happy, successful, prolific writers, these traits and skills are second nature.

Rule number one is: Meet Deadlines.

Deadlines are the ever-present reality of anyone who works in media. If a newspaper says it will publish every day, it has to publish every day. A monthly magazine should come out once a month. Even online publications, which can be updated continuously, set deadlines for copy to ensure a steady supply of new stories.

Managing editors like myself are essentially project managers. We set deadlines for writers within a matrix of other deadlines—sales/ad deadlines, design and production deadlines, printer’s deadlines, etc.—and have to flex with the inevitable changes, such as a special issue that will require an extra day at the printer because of the metallic finish on the cover, or a layout that has to be redone when significant new developments make the gist of the original design idea obsolete.

How a writer meets a deadline says a lot to me about their general work style. If I need the draft by a particular time on the day I’ve specified (first thing in the morning, close of business, early afternoon), I let the writer know. If you aren’t clear if “due next Monday” means “I want it in my in-box when I get into work” or “before midnight Monday night,” ask.

I try to give writers as much leeway as I can with deadlines. In return, I expect writers to let me know how the reporting and writing process is going. If sources aren’t cooperating, tell me a week before deadline, rather than the day before. Editors can usually suggest other people to talk to, or another approach to a topic, if it’s the structuring of the article or the actual writing of it that’s causing problems. I don’t see questions or requests for advice as a sign of weakness.

Another caveat: I freelance myself, and I understand how easy it is to over-commit. But don’t make your full plate my problem. Be honest with your editor if you’re overbooked. If you just accepted the assignment, call them back immediately and beg off, as graciously as possible. Maybe even suggest one of your less-overburdened buddies to do the assignment (you’ll be making three people happy—you, your writing buddy and the editor—if the writer you suggest is up to the job).

If you’re already well into the interview/writing stage, call the editor and talk about what can be done to rectify the situation, but don’t drop the ball unless you don’t want to work for that editor again. It’s an open secret that many of editors pad their deadlines to deal with writer break-downs, but writers who take advantage of that all the time are not at the top of our “favorites” list.

Writers who meet deadlines promptly and who communicate about issues related to deadlines get assignments. Writers, no matter how good, who cannot make deadlines do not.

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