PubCoach Top 10: July 2021

Reading time: About 5 mins (faster if scanning)

Here are my 10 favourite articles or posts from last month, focusing on the most useful, helpful and entertaining pieces for writers. 

This is a summer of wildfires, where I live and in other parts of North America as well. So how do you keep writing when the world is going up in flames? Advice from the University of California, San Francisco, suggests three strategies for coping with this climate-related crisis: Expect the unexpected; control the things you can control; stay positive. 

And when you need a break to help you stay upbeat about your writing, check out these blog posts:

Boost your charisma

Some people think that charisma is a gift bestowed upon only a select few, like having blonde hair through middle age. In fact, it’s something you can practise and develop using 12 documented strategies. In a recent post, headlined “12 ways to boost your charisma,” the Throughline (@Throughliners) blog describes those strategies ranging from using literary devices while speaking, to making strong emotional connections to using non-verbal cues skilfully. As writer Christina Hennessy puts it: “Possessing charisma can be a boon to anyone who hopes to become a more effective and memorable speaker.”

Consider questions of integrity

Back when I was a senior editor at a metropolitan daily newspaper, I remember the scorn with which we held “advertorial” — those sections of the paper designed to look like real stories but that were, in reality, paid ads (which probably fooled no one.) A recent post on the Build Book Buzz site caused me to reflect back on those days. 

Under the headline, “Book marketing and integrity: Where do you stand?writer Sandra Beckwith  (@sandrabeckwith) describes an American publicity service offering a $97 package for guaranteed media exposure. How could they make a guarantee for such a low rate, she wondered? Turns out the offer was for advertorial — in other words, paid advertising rather than what’s known as “earned media.” She thinks the offer was deceptive and non-transparent, and I agree. The moral of the story is, understand exactly what you are getting when you pay for PR.

Increase your writing speed (but skip outlining)

If you want to write faster, check out a recent post on the Craft Your Content website (@craftcontent) running under the headline, “9 Tricks That Can Boost Your Writing Speed,”  

The tricks are:

  1. Write when you are most productive
  2. Set a time limit for your writing sessions
  3. Keep research time and writing time separate
  4. Prepare your writing space in advance
  5. Eliminate all forms of distraction
  6. Create an outline first
  7. Write without editing
  8. Use dictation software
  9. Write every day

I endorse all of these tactics except for #6, which is only likely to slow your writing speed. Instead of outlining, check out the cool technique of mindmapping. Learn more here.

Understand why math is so boring

Like many other writers, I was born hating math. In fact, I passed math 11 — the last such class I took — by promising to never take another math class ever again. (I thought it was a trick question. Hadn’t my teacher noticed how much I despised the subject? And how bad I was at it?) But in an uplifting post under the headline, “Why Math Class Is Boring — and What to Do About It,” the Farnham Street blog (@farnamstreet) presents the interesting concept that math should be taught like art.

The site quotes mathematician Paul Lockhart who says, “The trouble is that math, like painting or poetry, is hard creative work. That makes it very difficult to teach. Mathematics is a slow, contemplative process. It takes time to produce a work of art, and it takes a skilled teacher to recognize one. Of course, it’s easier to post a set of rules than to guide aspiring young artists, and it’s easier to write a VCR manual than to write an actual book with a point of view.” 

If you share my views about math, read this post. It’s wonderfully uplifting.

Give all kids cool stories to read

There’s a commonly held view that boys prefer non-fiction stories about subjects like trucks and hockey. But a recent Lithub (@lithub) blog post under the headline, “What parents and teachers are getting wrong about childhood reading preferences,” begs to differ. Turns out a new study reveals that boys like fiction just as much as girls. And why does that matter? According to the site, having more children read fiction, “is definitively “better,” insofar as it unequivocally leads to better reading outcomes over time.”

Stop messing with your readers

If you’re trying to market something — whether it’s a book, a course or an object — pay attention to some terrific advice from Josh Spector (@jspector) in a post under the headline, “Don’t mess with your audience.” The short piece describes how a 1980s advertising campaign for fighting litter in the state of Texas failed miserably with its tagline “Keep Texas Beautiful.” But when a new agency came up with a line that better resonated with readers, “Don’t Mess with Texas,” the campaign was an unvarnished success. As Spector puts it: “This positioned littering as something outsiders would do and nothing a true Texan would do.”

Spector found this report on storythings.com, a website well worth checking out.

Learn how to triple your income

Do you need to make more money with your writing? A recent post on the Writing Cooperative website (@WritingCoop) might give you some useful suggestions. Under the headline, “The Step-by-Step Guide to Tripling Your Income by Writing Hat Tricks,”  writer Melinda Crow (@melindacrow) suggests generating three interwoven pieces of content. 

Begin with one idea, she advises, and then pick one subhead you can expand upon. Voilà, you now have two ideas — the original one and the subhead one. Next, look for something you can mention in passing in these two pieces, but not fully explain. This then becomes story number three. All are related but each one is different. 

According to Crow, “It takes practice to develop the hat trick writing habit, but once you begin, you’ll start seeing ideas for your second and third spin-off articles in almost everything you write. The advantages of writing this way are an almost endless supply of ideas, more money in the bank, and the ability to spread your content across multiple platforms or publications.”

Spark 100 days of joy

I don’t know about you but I’m looking for more joy in my life after the last wretched 16 months of the pandemic. I liked a suggestion from blogger Charlie Blecker (@BleeckerCharlie) in a post under the headline, “100 days of joy.” Blecker decided to spend 100 days doing something for the single goal of sparking more joy in her life. Her choice? Lip synching. She writes, “I didn’t make any money doing 100 days of lip sync. It didn’t get me a job. It didn’t lead to any type of success. But it was one of the most fun and gratifying things I’d ever done. It was pure happiness.” Lip synching won’t do that for me but now I’m busy figuring out exactly what will. And it may have something to do with baking… 

Build a better writing habit

When I read the blog post, “6 Things to Avoid When Creating a Writing Habit,” I thought perhaps writer Radek Pazdera (@radekpazdera) and I had been separated at birth. His insights on the Shayla Raquel blog (@shaylaleeraquel) are exactly the same types of recommendations I make to my clients:

  • Don’t set an ambitious daily goal
  • Don’t be too strict about your daily goal
  • Never skip two days in a row
  • Don’t make up for missed days
  • Don’t compare yourself to other writers
  • Don’t beat yourself up

As Pazdera puts it, “Writing is far from easy. Most people do it alongside their full-time job, which makes it even more difficult. Be kind to yourself when you fall off the wagon. When looking back, focus on what you did right and take it from there. Look at how many words you wrote instead of how many you failed to write. Look at how hard you worked and how much progress you made.”

Understand the peer-review process

In addition to non-fiction and novel writers, I work with a good number of academics in my Get It Done group. I know that many of them struggle with the peer-review process. A recent post under the headline, “The Peer Review Process: What Sets University Presses Apart, provides an excellent primer for writers trying to negotiate this tricky world. 

Written by Laura Portwood-Stacer (@lportwoodstacer) and appearing on the Jane Friedman blog, (@Jane Friedman), the post provides one particularly compelling piece of advice that will surprise many academics: “You should know that peer reviewers don’t have the final say on publication; that will lie with your editor and the press’s editorial board. A brief phone call can be extraordinarily useful for getting clarity on what your editor honestly thinks of the peer reviews and how the editor envisions the project moving forward. If you aren’t feeling reassured after talking to your editor about the reports, you might decide to pull the project from this press or temporarily put it on hold while you seek responses from other editors and presses.”

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Need some help developing a sustainable writing routine? Learn more about my Get It Done program. The group is now full but there is turn-over each month, and priority will go to those who have applied first. You can go directly to the application form and you’ll hear back from me within 24 hours. 

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My video podcast last week addressed how to maintain your enthusiasm for editing. Or, see the transcript, and consider subscribing to my YouTube channel. If you have a question about writing you’d like me to address, be sure to send it to me by email, Twitter or Skype and I’ll try to answer it in the podcast.

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What are the best blog posts you’ve read in the last month? We can all learn from each other so, please, share your thoughts with my readers and me in the “comments” section below.  Anyone who comments on today’s post (or any others) by July 31/21 will be put in a draw for a digital copy of my first book, 8 1/2 Steps to Writing Faster, Better.  Please, scroll down to the comments, directly underneath the “related posts” links, below. Note that you don’t have to join Disqus to post. See here to learn how to post as a guest. It’s easy!

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