To do great writing read great writing. Here’s the great writing I’ve been reading this week:
If you’re a WordCount regular, you know I’m a fan of On Writing Well, the classic guide to good writing from William Zinsser first published in 1976 and updated many times since. For Christmas, I treated myself to Zinsser’s latest book, Writing Places: The Life Journey of a Writer and Teacher, and wasn’t disappointed. The book is an autobiography told through essays on the spaces and places Zinsser set his writing implement of choice (Underwood typewriter, IBM PC, etc.) over the years. The book covers Zinsser’s stints as a staff writer at the now defunct New York Herald Tribune, freelancing from various quirky New York offices and teaching and living at Yale. Several of these essays I’d previously read in The New Yorker, including the book’s brief opening chapter, in which Zinsser recounts how he came to rent office space from Valley of the Dolls publisher Bernard Geis – fire pole and all. As a fellow long-time independent writer I could related to the chapter entitled “The Loneliness of the Freelance Writer.” A sample:
I learned very early that the phone doesn’t ring anywhere near as often as it should. I also learned that editors move at a pace little short of cardiac arrest. Secure in their own steady income, they are thoughtless about the professional and financial and emotional needs of their unsalaried writers. I had entered the land of the three-month response and the unreturned phone call and the check that wasn’t in the mail.
Ain’t it the truth.
By the way, if you’re a Zinsser fan, you’ll be as excited as I was to discover that he writes this weekly blog, at The American Scholar.
Here are my other recommended readings for writers for this week:
Roy Wenzl on Abuse Narratives and Victims’ Voices: ‘With a story like this, you just need to say what happened.’ (Nieman Storyboard) Wenzl, an award-winning reporter for The Wichita Eagle, discusses how he wrote “Promise Not to Tell,” a horrifying story of familial sex abuse.
- Finding Your Unique Blogging Voice (Jody Hedlund)
- Honing your mad blogging skillz (The Bookshelf Muse)
Top 10 Media Stories of 2010: WikiLeaks, Facebook, iPad Mania (PBS Mediashift) – Good list, one that MediaShift executive editor Mark Glaser compiled using EtherPad, a crowdsourcing tool that let him write it on a public web page “while people chatted in real time and made their own comments and changes.” Interesting concept – and one I might try here next year.
- If an App is Your Content Strategy You’re Doomed (Gigaom)
- 5 Predictions for the Public Relations Industry in 2011 (Mashable) Because it’s always good to know what they’re thinking on the other side of the fence.
- Tablet-Only, Mobile-First: News Orgs Native to New Platforms Coming Soon (Neiman Journalism Lab)
Tech tools for writers
The Good, Bad and Ugly of Media iPad Apps (Gigaom) – As the proud new owner of an iPad (apparently Santa read my wish list), I’m particularly interested in what apps are out there, something I’ll be writing about more here in January.