Each week, Evan Peterson rounds up stories from across the Web that scribes of all stripes should check out.
We've all considered writing a book about what we do and the advice we have to offer.
We might also dream of writing a screenplay that gets produced, covering sports, or starting a successful independent blog. There were stories about all these things this past week, and another about Gay Talese's tips for writing.
What you need to know about writing a book:
Nick Morgan offers harrowing statistics about authoring a nonfiction book in this piece for Forbes
: On average it will sell fewer than 250 copies a year, and there's a less than 1 percent chance it will appear in a bookstore. This is a piece intended for marketers, not MFAs, so a huge number of readers might not be necessary for the book to be a success. Morgan offers five reasons a marketer might write a book, but his third reason seems to be the real force behind most how-to books these days:
"A book is the beginning of a personal brand and a public persona that will keep you in demand."
Great sports writing:
Sports writing has changed a ton in recent years, with bloggers now controlling the influence and information once monopolized by newspaper beat writers. But great sports writing is still worth reading. Because sports writing covers an event
—and most of us have to cover an event from time to time—this is a good interview to read with Bill Littlefield and J.R. Moehringer about what makes sports writing great. Moehringer likens it to watching a great game:
"suddenly all the things on your to-do list and the lateness of the hour, everything else that was on your mind moments ago, was gone.”
How to write movies:
Most of us are not screenwriters either, but we might have to turn in an ad script at some point. Because we can be inspired by those who've found success, these bits of advice from veteran screenwriters are worth sharing, particularly this from Richard Curtis:
I said to my girlfriend the other day, “The difference between having a good idea for a movie and a finished movie is the same as seeing a pretty girl across the floor at a party and being there when she gives birth to your third child.” It’s a very long journey, and my first idea doesn’t bear much relationship—there are lots of pretty girls at parties, but not many will be there when you have your third child.
How Letters of Note came together:
If your freelance gig isn't working out, there's always the option to start a blog based on things other
people have written. That's what Sean Usher did with Letters of Note, and he writes about his experience here for the Telegraph
. Usher was a freelance copywriter just four years ago when began trolling archives for lost correspondence, often between famous people. The result is a site that is quaint and interesting, because old letters are fun to read. Usher tells a good story about coming up with an idea for a blog and actually making it happen.
[RELATED: Get advanced writing and editing tips from Mark Ragan and Jim Ylisela.]
Lessons from Gay Talese:
One of the best ever writers of what's now known as long-form journalism has a few tips, and you should read them all. But it's No. 8 that might bring about some disagreement:
“Don’t use a tape recorder, because then you have their exact words. You are a partner in the quotation. The quote is polished in your prose.”
As one who likes to use quotes verbatim, sometimes with the help of a recorder, I'm not sure what to think about being a partner in the quotation. It seems to me their words are their words, and if you don't like them, you still have to find something to build a story around. Talese might say I'm asking the wrong questions. What are your thoughts on using an audio recorder for interviews?
Evan Peterson is a writer based in Chicago, and the editor of OpenMarkets magazine at CME Group. He's on Twitter at @evanmpeterson.