Mid-2017 to date I’ve recorded 36 interviews on my little digital voice recorder. I put “37” interviews in the title because I just did one today but I only took notes…but since we’re counting non-recorded interviews let’s add at least another 15. And if we’re going to do that, why not add the 3 21-question interviews I research, craft and edit for each issue of FitNFabs Magazine, another 12. So 64, 65 interviews in the last 18 months sounds like a lot and some weeks, it is.
I’d say a majority of the interviews I conduct are for the Midpen Media Center newsletter. Last month I interviewed a Stanford professor who developed MyShakespeare, an online multimedia website presenting Shakespeare’s plays in a fun, interactive and dynamic way. From speaking to the site’s creator, I learned the history of the project, what goes into developing it and the positive ways students and teachers have used it to delve into the world of the plays. I wouldn’t have reached a deeper understanding of the MyShakespeare website without speaking to its creator. I was able to bring the knowledge I gathered during the interview into my article through direct quotes and synthesizing information.
Over the course of these 65 interviews, I haven’t had a bad one yet. I know how to frame questions in a thoughtful way and I get more than a “yes” or “no” answer. Several times I’ve had interview subjects pause and say “That’s a great question.” It’s usually something they have to think about for a moment but it’s relative to what we’re talking about and adds depth to the conversation. I use interviews in my writing to capture quotes and information for people profile articles, expert perspectives, introducing new works or projects, Q&A interview features, and professional bios.
I’ve already got another interview scheduled for tomorrow and one next week. The FitNFabs Magazine and Midpen Media Center articles below are samples of recent interviews. If you have a writing project requiring information only the source can tell, I’d love to ask you some questions about it!
No matter how you feel about the act of writing – a difficult chore with tons of roadblocks or you love it so much you can’t stop writing – having a second set of eyes on your creation is a good idea. I’ve been taking on more and more editing work. Many of the people I’ve edited for are experts in other fields like real estate, beauty industry or fitness gurus. I get to read the expert’s article before it’s published and I help them find what needs to be clarified.
As an editor, my goal is to cut away words and sentences that are not contributing to the overall message of the writing. Sometimes words just sit there taking up space instead of propelling the momentum or meaning of the piece. Today’s reader doesn’t have time to sift through paragraphs searching for the point.
Some of the top issues I edit for are:
Flowery clichés not adding to the meaning
Areas to condense and make concise
One of the experts I edited had this to say:
“You are AWESOME!!! You have magic in your pen. I love your edits and greatly appreciate your work on this.”
I was relieved to be getting such positive feedback because I realize being edited can feel invasive like you’re under a microscope. But I made this writer feel comfortable, and she appreciated how the suggested changes made her look as a knowledgeable author. So before you hit “send” on an important email, newsletter or article, it really won’t hurt to have an editor take a look-see.
For the last few years, I’ve experimented with ways to grow my writing business and find new clients to work with. My preferred method has been to get out and meet people at networking events and mixers. I get to know who’s out there, what they are doing and if they by chance have any writing needs or know someone who does.
Two years ago I was in a networking group with a lady who knew the publisher of FitNFabs Magazine was looking for writing or editorial help. She sent an email to the publisher referring me to her, but we didn’t hear back. Later on, I met another lady who also referred me to the publisher, knowing the best way to get in touch with her was through Facebook. Within the next few days, I was setting up an appointment to meet the publisher because she had an opening for Editor-in-Chief!
I prepared for my meeting with the publisher by creating a portfolio of my writing samples, publication history, and resume. I could tell during the meeting my presentation, experience and my networking contacts set me up to be the perfect candidate at the right time for the position. By the end of the meeting, the publisher was already talking about terms and contract.
As Editor-in-Chief of FitNFabs, I’ve been tapping my networking connections hard. I need dedicated health and wellness experts to write content for the magazine and also become a part of the FitNFabs community. I’ve been able to add the knowledge of a professional home organizer, success coach to CEOs and a personal trainer into the pages of the magazine, all people I’ve gotten to know and trust from networking.
If you’re in business for yourself or have a side project that requires clients – get out and meet people in your community.
Attend local chamber functions to meet owners of businesses and find out what their needs are.
Join professional organizations within your sphere. I’m a member of the California Writers Club, where I meet other writers and find out how we can support each other and collaborate.
Join a business referral networking group where professionals from different industries connect, refer potential clients and business to each other.
Be available and accessible — help your next great client find you!
A feeling of dread washes over you when you read the next “to-do” on your schedule.
Write my website pages
Even though you scheduled two hours to work on writing your website, which should be enough time to make headway, you decide to check your emails again and take an extra-long lunch break.
When you check your schedule again, it’s time for the next to-do. Oh well, writing your website pages will have to be re-scheduled. After a momentary sense of relief knowing you can’t possibly squeeze in time for your website today, you realize that you’ll have to write the website pages at some point.
Before you block off another two hours to write your website, figure out the best way to break down this monumental task so that you’ll actually do it.
Give yourself a deadline. Some writing projects have deadlines attached but personal projects you can do “whenever” have a tendency to get done never, put an end date on it.
Break the project down into manageable tasks to sprinkle throughout your schedule.
Any writing project you do can follow a similar writing process.
If you’re working on writing your website, list all of the pages you need to write. For each page you’ll need to set aside time for:
Research – gathering supporting info Outline – bullet points of what you’ll cover and arranging in order Rough Draft – turn bullet points into sentences Writing – type up a clean draft Editing– make notes on what needs to be changed Clean up, Polish – make corrections, read through for clarity
Create the writing project timeline.After you’ve identified all of the tasks associated with your project, estimate how long each task will take. Working backward from the deadline, schedule time to get all of the tasks done.
Do the work of writing. Now that you have a comprehensive plan, you won’t have to think about the next step. Do each step as you planned out. You’re free to have fun as you work on completing each step.
Congrats! You met your deadline and wrote your web pages!
Try following this process the next time you need to write a project that freaks you out.
Instead of giving up or putting it off –
Break it down and put it on your schedule in manageable portions and get it done!
I bought a new cell phone last month. In my world, this is news because I only upgrade when forced. Texted images were constipating my old phone, making me miss receiving some of my messages. I am pleased by the sleek technology of my new phone. The first thing I did was hook all my email accounts up then gave a brief thought to what app I would add next. After Facebook, I loaded “Library on the Go!” from the San Mateo County Library system.
“Library on the Go” has so many useful features: online video streaming, research databases, and e-books just to name a few. What I love the most is being able to search for a book or DVD (as I’m out and about) and clicking “hold.” My order is sent to the Peninsula library where my item is located, someone pulls my choice off the shelf, and then ships it to my local library where I pick it up. So easy, so convenient and so FREE!
If you’re researching a topic, binge-watching every Jane Austen movie adaptation, or reading a book series, search your library system (not just your branch) and check out the material for free. Just think about how much it would cost to buy all the DVDs and books you’d like to watch or read in a year. If there’s a good chance you won’t re-read or re-watch them – then why not check them out from the library? Now that I have the “Library on the Go!” app I’ll be tempted to check items out more often.
Both blogs and e-newsletters are effective methods for building, maintaining and growing an audience interested in what your business has to offer. From doing both types of publications, I’ve found that the main differences between them are: how they are distributed and how they are interacted with. Below, I outline the purpose of each along with their major benefits.
What is a blog?
A blog, short for Web Log, of regularly scheduled posts, is meant to engage readers who return to your website often to find out what’s new.
What’s the Marketing Purpose?
Build trust and authority in your business specialty as you build your prospect following through informative blog postings.
How is a Blog Distributed?
Your audience can subscribe to your blog and receive a notice when new posts are published, people can find your blog while browsing the internet, or people can click on links that you promote through social media posts.
A Cool Thing About Blogs:
Search engines like Google will index each post you publish – making it easier for people to find your business when they search on keywords.
For instance, if you search on “marketing bad attitude” my blog post, “Don’t Ruin Good Marketing With a Bad Attitude” along with my business name appears on page two of Google out of 53,100,000 pages. This is a good thing because people looking for this subject have a great chance of running across my article.
This type of visibility is possible for each blog post you publish!
What’s an e-Newsletter?
A regularly scheduled email in article style layout. E-newsletters can include useful articles, helpful web links, notice of upcoming events, announcements and reminders, fun game or inspirational quote.
What’s the Marketing Purpose?
Stay in front of serious prospects who are interested in your business. Continue to build relationships and your subject matter authority.
How are e-Newsletters Distributed?
E-newsletters are sent directly to an email address. Email marketing services like Constant Contact or Mail Chimp track how many people open your email and click on links inside the newsletter.
People will forward a good e-newsletter to their friends!
A Cool Thing About e-Newsletters:
Your e-newsletter fans will reply to your mailing and let you know that they enjoyed the information you shared. The responses you get back are more personal because you are building a relationship with your readers.
Similarities are Okay
It’s ok to publish the same article on your blog as you do in your e-newsletter. You may have a different audience for each type of publication. If you do have readership overlap, be sure to offer something “new” or different in each place so there’s a reason to check out both.
If you need help planning, editing, or writing content for your blog or e-newsletter contact me for a complimentary 30-minute writing services consultation.
Books, magazine articles even blogs have the power to transport readers through words alone. Amazing right? Have you ever been inspired to write something of your own but get stuck after the first few sentences? You go over your words a few times tweaking things here and there. You want everything you write to be perfect before you move on. So you don’t move on.
Our internal insta-editors can hinder any form of writing – emails, case notes, reports included. How can you get work done efficiently if you’re waiting for perfection? The following steps are suggestions on how to override your insta-editor until the timing is right.
Move Through the First Draft on a Path
I’ve started a new piece of writing only to get stuck polishing the first paragraph over and over because I didn’t know where the rest of the story was going.
I got ahead of myself, skipping the planning phase. Set up your writing path by “brainstorming” or thinking about your idea, finding the focus of what you’re going to write about, then break that down into points that you will turn into paragraphs or sections.
If you know where your writing is going, you’ll be less likely to get stuck perfecting the first few sentences.
I understand the desire to send out perfect writing. I want that too, but it won’t happen if you’re holding up the process re-working the first few sentences. What is perfection anyway when it comes to writing? An email – for instance – doesn’t need to be poetic.
Focus on these goals for your writing instead of perfection:
Clarity: Can your readers understand what you’re trying to say? Because this is the point of written communication, yes?
Concise: Keep focused on an argument or main point. Stick to the reason you started writing in the first place.
Entertainment Value: This is optional, especially for an email, but if you have an interesting take on your topic readers will appreciate it and read to the end.
“E” is for Editing at the End
Lastly, editing does have its place in the writing process and that is at the end. There can be different “end points” like the end of a section, the end of a page or once all of the initial writing is done. Make the conscious decision to edit only when you get to the end point of your choice.
When you edit at the right point, you’ll feel encouraged by the progress you’ve made and how your words are shaping up.
Suffering from FOP? It’s a common condition, especially when starting a new blog, website or newsletter. I suffered from FOP when I began writing this blog. I was worried that internet trolls would leave negative comments on my posts. But as I started publishing and comments started coming in, I found that I could approve or deny those comments. So, I really had no reason to worry in the first place because I can control what comments are allowed on my posts.
When someone tells me that they’re experiencing FOP I feel a little sad. Sharing your thoughts and passion about a topic you care about helps people. It helps you gain a deeper understanding and you get to share that useful information with others.
Let’s take a look at some common forms of FOP and possible solutions.
No One Cares About What I have to Say
Why wouldn’t we care about what you have to say? is my question. I write about historical places to visit around the San Francisco Bay Area. Sure, not everyone wants to read those articles but friends, family, and people searching the internet for local tidbits do.
As long as you care about the topic that you’re writing about, you will develop an audience in time.
My Writing Isn’t Good Enough
Feeling confident in your writing skill is a huge challenge. Some people are just naturally fearless in this department. For the rest of us, this fear can be cured through organization.
For example, I started this article with an idea – which I turned into the title. Then I introduced what would be addressed throughout the article in the introduction. Each section has its own subheading which I’m filling out as I go along.
Following a structure allows you to feel confident that you’re hitting all the points you need to make to give your reader something useful to read.
Not Sure What to Write About
When you start a newsletter, blog or website there should be a reason behind that decision. It could be your business, hobby, or an organization that you participate in. When you write content for those publications, stay on topic.
Take it easy on yourself and use real-life examples like happy customers, a learning experience, interviews or event reporting are just a few ways to inspire a story idea.
Not Ready for People to Read My Writing
Don’t worry, when you start a blog or website, no one knows about it. This gives you some time to get comfortable with seeing your writing online.
Ask a few people to read it and give you feedback. When you feel comfortable with how everything looks, send out announcement emails and social media posts…push that publish button!
Have a Lingering Case of FOP?
If your finger is still hovering over the publish button, I’m happy to diagnose your writing project needs. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Recently a friend of mine forwarded me an e-newsletter she subscribes to. She saw an entry that might interest me. She was right, I was interested. The newsletter talked about hiring writers if you need help developing content to keep your business visible.
The person whose newsletter it is, works locally so I went ahead and sent them an email introducing myself. I told them that I’m a local writer and would be happy to meet with them sometime.
Their response back was a conversation stopper. They had no need for a writer, their marketing department develops the newsletters, and my invitation to meet in person was ignored.
So in other words, this person is sabotaging their business’s marketing efforts.
I question: Why bother sending out newsletters if this is the response you give when someone reaches out to you?
What Went Right
The newsletter itself did what it was supposed to do. Someone on the mailing list received it and forwarded it to someone else – extending the reachof the original marketing piece.
The newsletter elicited a responsefrom the reader. The reader actually sent an emailto the person who sent out the newsletter.
This is the response that you want from a newsletter. You want your readers to reach out to you with comments, feedback, questions, even an invite to grab a cup of coffee. Your newsletter is helping you build relationships.
What Went Wrong and Why
I’ve touched on what went wrong. The “sender” of the newsletter cut short any potential for a relationship.
It seemed like the person didn’t knowwhat was talked about in the newsletter.
They were not ready to respond thoughtfullyto any interest the newsletter might create.
Instead of taking a grateful appreciative approach, they took the “don’t bother me” one.
It’s all too easyto take them up on that sentiment.
The lesson here is to be gracious and engaged when new contacts reach out to you. Make your goal nurturing relationships instead of stomping on the seed.
The sun pours in from the cabin windows and from the open hatch above. A cooling breeze wafts into the cozy space smelling of salt and seaweed. The bark of harbor seals, the “ting ting” clang of various ropes hitting against wrapped sails, and the ever-present seagulls squawk overhead. Eireene and I share our thoughts on writing tucked inside the boat docked at Half Moon Bay California’s Pillar Point Harbor.
Uncommon Approaches to Structure
Eva: I like to base my writing around dialogue. Just focusing on what people would say and then tightening it up and trying to make it sound funnier. I don’t really have jokes, it’s just the situation that’s humorous.
Eireene: Did your family go back and forth a lot?
Eva: Sometimes we’d have a banter.
Eireene: I don’t think I ever learned that.
Eva: You didn’t banter?
Eireene: Yeah, I’m too serious. (laughs)
Eva: But you had music? All of your family members know how to play instruments?
Eireene: Yes. I think it helps to have that. I really write by the sounds of language a lot. So I think I paid a lot of attention to songs. As I write I’m hearing the tones and the sounds. A lot derived from poetry. I love overhearing conversations.
Eva: Right I saw some of your snippets.
Eireene: I’m trying to figure out what to do with the snippets.
Eva: So are you going to take those and make a story?
Eireene: I need to figure it out but I think that’s actually going to be my style. It’s going to have to do with how many conversations I’ve ever heard. Cause I’ve been doing it for years. I have giant files of people’s conversations.
Eva: Do you go back and look at them?
Eireene: Every now and then and I’ll modify them a little bit. And I’ve also learned a lot about storytelling. People are so good at telling stories out loud to each other like in coffee shops. I’m amazed people just visualize the whole landscape and they have a good sense of pacing.
Eireene: Nothing happens in the one little snippet but then you put another snippet next to it…
Eva: It’s like a collage.
Eireene: I like that one little story will connect to another story and deepen it. One sort of becomes a metaphor for the other one.
Eva: You’re kind of like a reporter.
I think a lot about structure. I worry about it and I think about it. And that happens until I know the big structure.
Eireene: I’m more of an arranger. Same with the historical stuff. I just get open to facts and mash them together. I think a lot about structure. I worry about it and I think about it. And that happens until I know the big structure.
Eva: I think of structure as beginning-middle-end, if it flows, if it makes sense, but you have a different scope of structure.
Eireene: I like the detours.
Eva: Do you usually know what the meaning is when you start or does it appear?
Eireene: By the time I’m done writing it’s totally something else. I usually have the beginning and the ending and I stick with those things pretty strongly. Then I spend years writing the middle.
I like the detours.
Eva: So what do you want to get that down to? A couple of months?
Eireene: I’m learning so much. There’s a structural thing about how the beginning and ending are related that you just have to figure out. You can actually, hopefully, this is how I plan to save time in the future —you can sit and think about that a lot then know.
Eireene Nealand’s stories, poems and translations have appeared in ZYZZYVA, Chicago Quarterly, Drunken Boat, Poetry International, Catamaran, Sidebrow, WHR, elimae, and The St. Petersburg Review, among other places. Her work has received multiple awards including a Fulbright Fellowship in Creative Writing, an Elizabeth Kosova Fellowship, and an Ivan Klima Fellowship. To her degrees from UC Berkeley and San Francisco State, she recently added a Ph.D. in Literature from UC Santa Cruz, where she studied proprioception, a neurobiological phenomenon that allows us to see textures and shifts. She currently lives in Santa Cruz, where she writes and translates Russian, Bulgarian and French prose and poetry.
Eva Barrows is a San Francisco Bay Area freelance writer. Eva writes about local places, people and events on her website www.evabarrows.com. She founded the online literary journal Imitation Fruitwww.imitationfruit.com in 2007 and has enjoyed promoting fellow writers and artists ever since. Her writing has appeared in the California Writer’s Club, Fault Zone Uplift anthology, and the San Mateo County Fair’s, Carry the Light fair winner collection.