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Writing resources roundup
Friday, February 7, 2014 (All day)

Succeeding as an independent writer means continually learning about the art, craft and business of writing and communications. The following resources offer information, insights and tips that can help you stay current on writing trends and tools and be more effective at what you do.

Craft of writing
When it comes to writing well, we literally always have something to learn. And if that is something you care about, you likely noticed the pointless use of the word “literally” in the preceding sentence. Michelle Rafter has a lot to say about that filler word and many others, and why we need to exorcise them from our writing, in her new blog post. She lists 21 filler words we should avoid, including “a bit” in relation to time (be specific about the quantity, she says, she says; “there” when used to start a sentence (—she thinks it’s lazy and I agree); and “actually” (—“only works in movie titles.”) I agree with most of the words on her list—which ones are your pet peeves?

Prospecting
It turns out sales letters can be effective business lead generators—when the letters are done well. Veteran copywriter Steve Slaunwhite uses them regularly in his business, and in a recent blog post, he shares what he’s learned about developing persuasive sales letters. He says to make the letter highly targeted to ideal prospects, and to ensure it looks and sounds like a genuine letter as opposed to a slick marketing piece. Don’t go too short. We often assume that people don’t have time to read, but Slaunwhite confirms that a two-page sales letter usually works best.

Productivity
Toronto writer I.J. Schecter has blogged about the five golden rules for freelance writers to be more successful—and since he is a prolific and award-winning author, essayist, and interviewer, his advice is worth considering. He emphasizes networking, staying organized, and continually rewriting and editing copy to make words truly sparkle. I especially like what he has to say about having the right attitude: “...celebrate every single word you write, even the ones that never see the light of day, as part of a lifelong process. This difference in attitude will translate into better consistency, higher productivity and, in the end, greater success.”

Investigative journalism
The Poynter Institute has a new resource for journalists, an e-book called Secrets of Prize-Winning Journalism, and it is sharing tips from the book on its website. The latest instalment by Ellyn Angelotti features features advice on reporting techniques for investigative journalism. The post covers the hows and whys of verifying the accuracy of statements with data from multiple sources; the advantages of interviewing sources in person; and the value of cultivating strong interviewing skills. It also encourages journalists to follow up on the impact of their stories after they publish.

Motivation
Freelancing requires being a self-starter, but we all lose steam from time to time. In a post on The Web Writer Spotlight, Katherine Smithson shares her top five tricks to keep writing every day. Some of the points are more tried and true—writing about things you like, writing first and proofreading another day to let the creative juices flow—but one was new for me: start the article by ending it. She writes, “By thinking of how I want my material to affect my readers, I’m able to make a conclusion out of it and have a ‘point of beginning.’” This technique may only work for certain types of writing, but it’s worth a try.

Do any of these resources resonate with you? What are your tips and tricks for staying organized, productive and effective?

PWAC Toronto Chapter blog editor Sharon Aschaiek of Cocoa Media provides communication consulting, writing and editing services to universities, colleges and education organizations, and writes about higher education trends and issues for media publications and websites.

 

 

- Sharon Aschaiek

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