Friday, April 5, 2013

7 Rules for Writing in the Internet Age

Bora Zivkovic wrote an article posted in the Scientific American has some tips on how to break into science writing, but it has good advice on how to write, or get read, in the internet age. His original piece is a mine of useful links, but I'm posting a summary below for my own purposes.

1) Find a niche:
"Try to figure out your beat (or obsession) – what is it that excites you the most? Write about that. Try to find your own niche. Become a “go to” person on a particular topic, become an expert (or at least a temporary expert) on that topic" (18).

2) But show your writing versatility:
"Practice the usual journalistic forms – the feature, the interview, the brief news story with inverted pyramid. You will need to demonstrate that you are capable of writing in such forms and styles. But don’t limit yourself to traditional forms. Experiment with new forms. Explain animal behavior by letting animals have a dialogue. Explain science in the form of a fairy tale, Science Fiction or a poem. Try your hand at photography. Draw or paint or graph your own art, illustrations, infographics, cartoons and comic strips. Put some effort into making a video or animation every now and then. Record a podcast sometimes. Give data journalism a try. Try your hand at learning to code (but see). See what works for you" (17).

Also, see this prezi.

3) Don't worry about what's hip:
Blog with some regularity, even if it's just a few links, but you don't have to blog every day. Your readers will find you if they like you Make your blogs as long or as short as you want.

4) Practice:
Writing, of course, even if it's not something you publish, but also reading. How do writers accomplish their goals. Emulate them until you develop your own style. Pay attention to what editors change about your writing.

5) Get some training:
In addition to full-on master programs, there are summer workshops. You can also try an internship.
Educate yourself about writing ethics. Build credibility by citing your sources. Moderate your comments and be present to respond to comments occasionally.

6) Promote yourself:
Don't be afraid to write for free. Nominate yourself for awards. Submit to contests. Make a nice homepage with a simple URL that contains links to everywhere else you are present on the web.

"Your blog can serve as your homepage, or be a prominent and central part of your homepage. If not, make sure your homepage prominently links to your external blog. Make sure your homepage has a well written and accurate About/Bio page, contact information, link to your CV, and your Portfolio with links to all of your published work (perhaps your photography or videos or art on separate tabs). And of course, provide links to all the social media where you have accounts."

As for managing social media, Zivkovic recommends choosing two that work well for you (probably twitter, a professional facebook account, and google+ for the heck of it) and managing those, but also get accounts at other ones that can link back to your homepage.

7) Collaborate instead of compete:
Before, newspapers had to compete for readers. Now, there's so much competition that media outlets need to make allegiances with other media outlets with similar goals. After all, there's so much bad stuff to wade through, the best way to get your message out is to get other people to recommend it--if you recommend messages of similar caliber. This makes sense. Previous advice on how to get into blogging suggests that you comment on other blog posts and post a blog roll. It's also a good idea to join a group blog or do guest posts. Attend some events and network.

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