A few links for the end of the week

Taking a quick look at How to Write Short

Cover of How to Write Short Even though longer-form writing is making something of a resurgence, it’s still important to know how to write tightly. That’s regardless of whether you’re writing online or offline.

Learning to write short takes work. It can be difficult if you don’t have a good teacher or a good guide. How to Write Short by Roy Peter Clark tries to be that guide. And it succeeds.

It’s a useful book that can help you come to grips with condensing your message without losing any of its impact. Let’s take a closer look at it.


My writing setup, 2016 edition

A manual typewriter and some notebooks

While I don’t indulge in (much) tool fetishism, every so often I re-evaluate the tools that I use to write, and the ones I use to plan and organize my writing.

The tools I’ve been using over the last couple of years have been fairly stable, but at the end of 2015 I decided to pare down the number of tools that I use.

What hasn’t changed

I still spread my writing across a laptop, a Chromebook, and a tablet.

On the laptop, I do most of my writing in a text editor called Atom. Atom was created for software developers, but it also has some useful plugins for writers (which I looked at elsewhere). When I need to use a word processor, I still turn to LibreOffice Writer, and I format and publish ebooks using LyX and Sigil.

On my tablet, I write blog posts (and more) with Writebox. When I need to process words, I turn to Google Drive.

What has changed

Those changes have come mainly with what I use on my Chromebook. I do about half my writing on that device.

Much of the writing I do on my Chromebook is with Writer. Writer is a distraction-free online editor that has a number of useful features — including the ability to export files to Dropbox or Google Drive and an mode that lets me work offline. I’ll be looking at Writer in a bit more detail in a future post. As with my tablet, I turn to Google Drive when I need to process words on the Chromebook.

On all my hardware, I take notes exclusively with Simplenote. It’s easy to use, supports Markdown, and has a decent mobile app. I do all my planning with Workflowy.

My writing setup is simple. It provides me with a consistent experience across all of the devices that I use. I don’t expect it to change in the near future.

Thoughts? Let’s start a conversation on Twitter or Google+.

A few links for the end of the week

Using photos with your blog posts

A pile of old photos

While I’m not sure that a picture is worth a thousand words, I know that a good photo can enhance your blog posts.

It’s easy, even for someone like me who’s not a visual person, to choose the right photo to accompany a post. Well, most of the time anyway. Having said that, there are a few small challenges around using photos with your blog posts.

Here are some ideas that can help you overcome those challenges.


Changing (writing) careers

A man typing on a laptop computer

One of the great things about making your living with words is that there are so many kinds of writing that you can do. There’s a niche for just about everyone. Some niches, obviously, pay more than others but there are multiple options for you to carve out a career as a writer.

But what do you do when you’ve been writing for a living for a while and need a change? Consider changing writing careers. Changing writing careers isn’t something many of us do very often. But if that time comes, you can make a change. It’s not always easy. It’s definitely risky. It will take time and work. The risk and effort can be worth it.


A few links for the end of the week

A quick thought about personal writing

A manual typewriter

We all have stories to tell. Not just stories about others, but stories about ourselves. Things we’ve seen, things we’ve done, things good and bad that have happened to us.

Writing those personal stories can be difficult. Not only do those stories expose our inner thoughts and feelings, we can never be sure that anyone wants to read them. Even if you are confident of your personal writing, there might not be a market for it.

At its best, personal writing is an opportunity to share an experience from your unique perspective. Personal writing can teach. It can enlighten. It can entertain. It can spread a smile.

At its worst, personal writing is self indulgent. It’s self pitying, and we learn more than we want or need to about the writer.

It’s inevitable that you become a component in personal writing (it is personal after all), but you don’t need to be the primary focus. You’re there to provide the lens, to provide the filter, to provide the perspective. Share what you’ve seen or done, rather than making you seeing or doing those things the centre of the story.

You don’t need to fade into the background. Not always, anyway. Provide your thoughts, your opinions, your feelings, your reactions. Don’t get up on a soapbox and preach or proselytize.

What about sharing your writing with the wider world? There are more than a couple of publications out there that accept personal writing. It’s been a while since I’ve tried to submit to any, so I can’t point you in any direction. But personal writing can be hit and miss — what you think is a great story might not be a fit for a print or online magazine.

That can be demoralizing. Yes, I am speaking from experience. There are alternatives. You can create your own market. That’s one of the reasons I started a newsletter: to share personal writing that couldn’t find another home. You can follow that lead, or you can start a blog or collect your personal writing into an ebook. The options are there. Why not use them?

Thoughts? Let’s start a conversation on Twitter or Google+.