1. "Number One: Read …really look at what the author’s done, in terms of moving the story along, in terms of building up characters, in terms of making the dialogue natural.
    Number Two: Disavow yourself of any romantic notions about the process of writing.
    Number Three: Start
    Number Four: Keep Going
    Number Five: Finish"
    — Five Tips for Writing by Author, Lisa Jewell
     

  2. "

    1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.

    2. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.

    3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.

    4. Every sentence must do one of two things-reveal character or advance the action.

    5. Start as close to the end as possible.

    6. Be a Sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them-in order that the reader may see what they are made of.

    7. Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.

    8. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To hell with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.

    "
    — Kurt Vonnegut’s 8 Tips on How to Write a Great Story

    (Source: brainpickings.org)

     

  3. "

    Two pernicious fallacies embedded in criticism of Twitter—and, by extension, blogs, tumblrs, and GIFs of catbots who kill with laser eyes—are that non-traditional forms of expression can wipe out existing ones, and that these forms are somehow impoverished. The variables unique to the Internet—hyperlinks, GIFs, chat, comments—have enabled new writing voices with their own distinct syntaxes. But we are not dealing with fungible goods—the new forms will never push out older ones because they’re insufficiently similar. You might overdose on unicorn GIFs and go to bed too tired to read “Freedom,” but unicorn GIFs will never replace “Freedom.”

    It takes an investment to make Twitter work.

    You need to edit and trim your feed for weeks, or months, to find the people who link to relevant material, write elegantly within a small space (a good exercise for any writer), and don’t tweet too much.

    "
     

  4. I’m lucky to know this lady off the interwebz and on. Top notch list from a top notch person.

    longreads:

    Jodi Ettenberg is a frequent Longreader, ex-lawyer and founder of Legal Nomads, which documents her travels (and food adventures) around the world.

    ***

    2011 was a banner year for long-form journalism and storytelling on the web, and correlatively a time to appreciate people like Mark who have propelled the Longreads movement forward. I love how this site started as a hashtag on a soundbite-filled medium like Twitter, pulling away the noise to highlight the words and weightier pieces that engaged us all. It has never been easier to find something good to read.

    And as I travel, I find myself connecting the dots between disparate countries or foods, drawing parallels within the stories I digest as I go. It’s extremely hard to whittle down the many fantastic pieces this year to a short list, but the pieces I’ve picked below are ones that had a significant impact, and are now baked into my memories of the places where they were read.

    ***

    1) The Man who Sailed His House (GQ): This piece could have been written matter-of-factly or reported as the news that it was at its base level: a man, lost at sea after Japan’s devastating tsunami, is finally rescued days later. Instead, Michael Paterniti’s beautiful prose turns this astonishing tale into the surreal, raising it above anything else I’ve read about Hiromitsu Shinkawa. Through the patchwork of photos from the tsunami and its vast scale of destruction, the sincere humanity of this story is not something you want to miss. [Read it in: Casablanca, Morocco] 

    2) In the New Gangland of El Salvador (New York Review of Books): I’ve been a fan of Alma Guillermoprieto’s ability to tell a heartbreaking story with grace for quite some time, and her longread about El Salvador is no exception. Returning to El Salvador after 30 years, the piece swings between descriptive travelogue and somber reporting, digging into the history of the country’s ferocious gangs and why they are so prevalent. [Read it in: Montreal, Canada]

    3) The Possibilian (The New Yorker): I first discovered David Eagleman when I read Sum, 40 short stories about an imaginary afterlife. At times funny, at times sad and each packing a punch in a short two-page read, I’ve been foisting Sum on those learning English as the creativity and short chapters make it an ideal learning book. So it was fascinating to learn more about Eagleman and his own brush with death, how he has collected hundreds of stories like his, and how “they almost all share the same quality: in life-threatening situations, time seems to slow down.” In Burkhard Bilger’s wonderful profile of the quirky neuroscientist, not only do we get insight into how and why Eagleman writes the way he does, but we learn about the philosophies behind his prose and how his own history naturally braids in, pushing him further to take risks beyond most of our comfort levels. [Read it in: Chiang Mai, Thailand]

    4) Wikipedia and the Death of the Expert (The Awl)I have Wikipedia bookmarked on both mobile and laptops, and it’s an argument-solver, fact-checker (with a pinch of salt) and using the random article generator, a great way to learn about new things you had no idea existed.  In her Awl piece, the talented Maria Bustillos discussed the pros and cons of the service, noting that “Wikipedia is like a laboratory for this new way of public reasoning for the purpose of understanding, an extended polylogue embracing every reader in an ever-larger, never-ending dialectic.” Instead of being told how it is, you’re given the facts to make your own editorial decision. Great read. [Read it in: Bangkok, Thailand]

    5) Deep Intellect: Inside the Mind of an Octopus (Orion Magazine)One of the more unusual and vaguely discomfiting pieces of the year (“Am I really sympathizing with the brain of an octopus? Yes, yes I am”), Sy Montgomery’s loving investigation of animal we often eat but rarely personify was a wonder to read. Whether talking about the study of octopus intellect, the description of octopus behaviour or Montgomery’s awe as he spends time with a 40-pound giant Pacific octopus, I couldn’t put it down. I’ll never look at octopuses the same way again.[Read it in: Istanbul, Turkey]

     

  5. paulbrady:

    Lately, discussions about press trips* and their appropriateness in a newsroom have consumed more of my time than I would like, which is to say they have consumed an amount of time greater than zero minutes. I was once an ardent proponent of no-trips-ever policies, but my stance has softened considerably because the reality is that nobody—even at outlets that cover travel!—will give the travel desk any money. To paraphrase a thing New York Post travel editor David Landsel once said, it’s easy to be principled when you don’t have to pay the bills.

    Often, debates about press trips center on whether taking free things compromises a writer’s integrity, whether they offer “true” experiences of places, whether coverage should be bought and paid for, a sort of destination payola. I propose to elevate the argument above this circular nitpicking by acknowledging that all the other journalists in the newsroom are already taking free things and writing about them. Ironically, everyone in the newsroom except the travel writers are already taking “press trips,” we just haven’t admitted it yet.

    Submitted for your consideration, a partial list of newsroom people who get preferential treatment, special access and free trips precisely because it is necessary to do the job of reporting on things.

    • Sports reporters, who negotiate access with the clubs.
    • Food writers who get oodles of product samples. (I’ll leave the shady critics off this list for now.)
    • “On the bus” political bloggers and the POTUS pool reporters.
    • Warzone embeds.
    • Style and beauty people. Obviously.
    • Culture writers, deluged with tickets and “press previews.”
    • The book review people—rare though they may be—and other desks that cover books, movies and music.
    • National and international reporters, invited to functions, conferences, university panels. Double down for the ones on the speaking circuit.

    These people often have to take the comps; there is, quite simply, no way to cover some stories without collusion. More importantly, though, readers don’t actually care who pays as long as they’re getting good stories. In fact, 4 out of 5 readers already believe reporters are “often influenced by powerful people and organizations.”

    An executive editor I once worked for told me about a study his former company commissioned on “trust.” This publishing company expected that readers would say they valued the trust they had in the company’s reporters. On the contrary, readers perceived numerous conflicts of interest, were generally suspicious of what they read and bought this company’s magazines anyway. Lots of them, as it turned out, even after the company decided against running a multi-million dollar brand-awareness campaign around the general theme of trust. (It was a very worthwhile study!)

    So if the readers don’t care, the budgets don’t exist and the prohibition on trips keeps us from doing our jobs as well as we could, what does the travel writing business gain from all this hand-wringing?

    *ICYDK, a press trip is when an entity pays for you to visit their hotel, destination or whatever else, with the hope being that you will write nice things about it. Sometimes, they put a fruit basket and a card in your room, which is, for some reason, really supposed to wow you.

    Yes. Freaking yes.