How to Streamline Your Writing Process Using Technology

(Note: This is a guest post by Eric Gordon.)

Photo by Aaron Burdenon Unsplash

 

While people still herald paperback books and handwritten letters as wonderful traditions worth preserving, technological advances have made the writing process much more streamlined so production is faster than ever before.

Technology cannot generate content for you, however. Your writing projects need to be your own brainchild, but technology has a way of streamlining the process from conception all the way through to publication.

The right tools can help you with brainstorming and organization, and make the writing itself so much more seamless. These innovations have a way of sparking creativity and allowing writers to think outside of the box.

The Writing Process in the Digital Age

In the Digital Age, content is the backbone of marketing and sales. Businesses are constantly writing and creating new content. This includes business plans, blog posts, infographics, video scripts, magazine articles … the list goes on forever.

All that content conveys different messages, depending on the intended demographics and overall purpose, but there’s one thing it has in common: the writing process is typically the same.

While there is no overall consensus on how many steps the writing process has, with some saying four while others going as much as six or seven, experienced writers often combine some steps in the preliminary section. Overall, the most common process that’s used is:

  1. In the pre-writing section, writers start with idea conception. This is where choosing your topic, brainstorming, and the gathering of ideas takes place.

  2. The next step is organization. This is where ideas are put into an outline or a mind map. While you may not know the exact flow of thought at the beginning, you can see what ideas predicate others.

  3. The actual writing process is what follows. Individuals have unique approaches to the way they tackle this step.

    1. Some people believe the most effective way is to write one paragraph at a time. You write the first paragraph, then you go back and edit it. Then you write your next paragraph. You continue the process until you reach the end of the piece.

    2. Others prefer the all-or-nothing method. This is where they put their stream of consciousness onto a piece of paper and they write from start to finish without stopping. Most people fall into an in-between category where there’s editing done as they go, but mostly they write first and revise later.

  4. Last, there is the revision and editing step. This is where you go into your paper and add in sources, change grammar or sentence structure, and do final proofreading.

For each of these steps, there are various tools on the market that enhance the processes, make them more streamlined, help you research faster, or spellcheck automatically. Here are four great tech solutions that can help you write better content:

1. Mind Maps

Mind maps are brainstorming techniques and tools which help writers to conceptualize their ideas. They are used to join themes and topics, which normally wouldn’t be thought to be related. By seeing them on a mind map, you can think of new creative ways to link them together.

A good mind map tool is an app called Coggle. Coggle allows you to create colorful diagrams, which connect a variety of ideas, resources, and topics to encourage creativity in the initial stages of writing. It takes a bit to master mind mapping, but once you do, you’ll find new ideas for articles faster than ever.

2. Style Checkers

Style checkers, like the Hemingway app or Pro Writing Aid, are useful for the editing phase. While spell checkers and thesaurus apps are excellent for finding grammatical issues and helping writers choose more descriptive words, style checkers help writers determine the grade level at which they are writing. The choice of which one would be better for you is entirely up to you and your preferences.

This allows you to know if you’re too casual in writing, too formal, overly technical, or using too much jargon. This information helps you reach your targeted demographic. When marketing to seniors, for example, your language will differ greatly as opposed to writing about academic software for graduate students.

3. Cloud Sharing

Cloud computing has revolutionized the way content is produced, too. Instead of relying on onsite software, you can do everything from your browser with solutions like Google Docs or Office 365. Most are already familiar with Office 365 that comes with cloud apps (Word, Excel, and others) and their own storage solution: OneDrive. This allows you to have your entire writing project backed up online and accessible at any time.

Now, the beauty of cloud sharing is that you can share your drafts with collaborators. If you’re collaborating on a project, you can invite others and work on it simultaneously. This makes the editing and revision process much simpler since you have multiple pairs of eyes looking at a document within a short period of time. This means that not only will you have spellcheckers looking over your document, but will also have fellow proofreaders who will catch errors and think of other ideas to improve the content.

4. Speech to Text

Speech to text is actually how this article was written. Some people are verbal processors, while others do better by typing or handwriting their drafts. Whatever form of writing works for you, speech to text is an incredibly helpful tool for creating content in 2019.

By using speech to text tools for your drafting, not only do you really flesh out your ideas, but you have better chances of sounding more natural in your writing style. This will make your blog posts and scripts more relatable.

Technology has improved the writing process by making it more streamlined and given us great ways to explore new ideas with systems like mind maps. Collaboration is easier than ever now, thanks to cloud solutions.

 

Eric Gordon is an independent business development and marketing specialist for SMEs. He loves sharing his insights and experience to assist business owners in growing their revenues. You can find Eric on Twitter @ericdavidgordon

The Art Of Seduction: Does Your Writing Engage And Enthrall?

With so many books and articles published every year, writers have had to up their game. It’s no longer enough to write something good; you have to seduce readers in a way that gets them intimately involved with your narrative. It doesn’t matter whether you’re writing fiction or something else—seduction is the name of the game.

Think about your own experiences. There have probably been times in your life when you’ve started reading a book, only to yawn after a few pages and wonder why you ever picked it up in the first place. Long-winded introductions, poorly constructed characters, and long sentences can all take the charm out of a book.

The trick to getting people’s attention isn’t so much in what you write, or even how well you write, but whether or not you create a desire in them. There has to be a reason for them to continue reading—whether it’s to discover a secret formula for losing weight, what’s going to happen to a key character, or how to do something they’ve always wanted to do. Emotions drive reading decisions—everything else is secondary.

But creating desire and seducing readers isn’t easy. Often, it requires you to step out of your comfort zone and write in a way that sees the story from their perspective. Once you get into your audience’s shoes, though, you can start to work your magic. Here’s how:

 

Express Strong Emotions In Action

One of the problems with J.R.R. Tolkien’s writings is that he rarely took the chance to express his character’s emotions in action. It was always the job of the reader to infer why they had done what they had done (which is why the films were such masterpieces). But today’s top fiction authors recognise that merely providing a catalogue of events isn’t enough to draw in readers. There needs to be strong emotional content.

Image: Flickr and credit: thedailyenglishshow.com

 

But what does that look like? It’s not about long monologues or in-depth descriptions of emotional experience. Readers don’t usually like this. It’s more about the nuance in the way characters talk to each other, and, importantly, what they do. This is actually a much more difficult thing to do than merely to report a character’s emotional experience. It takes time to think carefully about the way characters interact in their world in a way that is convincing and authentic.

Remember, although you may be writing a work of fiction, the emotions shouldn’t appear fanciful or unrealistic. Readers want to be able to connect to the people they read about, whether they are made up or not, and so they need to be believable.

The other thing to remember is that emotions in your story should follow a narrative trajectory. Feelings should build as your novel develops and, hopefully, reach a climax as the story resolves itself. Drip feeding readers emotional content helps to keep them invested in your work, safe in the knowledge that they’re going to be rewarded at some point.

Find Out What Scares Your Audience

Fear and desire are two fundamental driving forces in all human interactions, and they form the basis of many of the great works of fiction. These two emotions are so central to the human psyche that they can’t help but have universal appeal, as they have done throughout the centuries.

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The characters in your story face these emotions all the time. Fear comes in the form of death, rejection and failure, while desire is related to love, peace and safety. It can sometimes be a little uncomfortable to explore these issues in your characters, but they’re things that everybody has to face and will strike a chord with your readership. Some writers can be downright afraid to put their creations in danger or reveal aspects of their personalities that they’d rather keep secret. But it’s these traits which can help transform a book from ho-hum into something gripping.

Think about the times when you’ve been most interested in a character. Almost always it will be times when they have been in danger or had to make a decision tempered by desire. Because your audience knows these feelings so well, they will empathize with your characters and wonder what they might do next. Characters help introduce readers to emotional danger, which can be very intoxicating.

 

Avoid Cliches

Virtual Writing Tutor says that one of the biggest problems in people’s writing is the use of cliches. Although they may be a part of the vernacular, cliches almost always reduce immersion and make your writing less seductive.

The trick to engaging writing is to come up with your own way of saying things. Not only is it more interesting for the reader, but often it’s also more appropriate for the context. Cliches, unless used ironically, should be avoided.

 

Keep Your Readers Asking Questions

 

The screenplay for the TV series Lost was, in many ways, genius. The writers knew that to get people coming back season after season, they had to introduce random, unexplained elements which would be resolved later on. Many people watched the show just to find out how the writers were going to explain all the mysteries of the show. Their strategy worked, and Lost ran for a lot longer than initially intended.

Writers need to use this tactic too. They need to present something controversial, exciting or unexplained that requires an answer, such as a weird turn of phrase by a particular character, a strange event, or an inexplicable emotional reaction. Getting your reader to ask questions automatically generates interest in your book, forcing them to think about it differently than, say, if you gave them all the answers up front.

 

Get Right Into The Action

 

While setting the scene has its place, readers aren’t usually that interested in all the minutiae of your fictitious world; they want action. Smart writers create the scene as the action unfolds, rather than describing it separately, giving readers both something rich and compelling. Launching right into the action helps set the pace and provides interest immediately, making it easier to captivate than long, meandering descriptions.

 

Interview: Vahe Arabian @ State of Digital Publishing & Seek An Audience

Happy Monday, readers!

It’s been a while since I’ve interviewed someone in the business (publishing), and Vahe Arabian actually reached out to me first to be featured as a digital publishing expert in an interview on his site. You can read my interview by clicking HERE. And since I felt so honored, I wanted to respond in kind and feature him and his work on my blog.

It’s an exciting time, as ever, in digital publishing, and Vahe is taking advantage of the ever-changing landscape by building a network for those in the industry and interested in joining it. So, check out my interview with him below, and then go check out his site and join the growing network!

 

Tell us about your startup–State of Digital Publishing & Seek An Audience. Why did you start it and how did you start it?

 

When I was in university, I had the opportunity to intern at a startup comparison site (now Australia’s leading one that has also expanded overseas) and it excited me to see how they were building their audiences and brands.

Deep down, I knew I wasn’t as passionate in the topic(s) they were publishing, and so I continued my career in SEO & Content strategy consultancy within startup agencies. After 8 years, I’ve decided to pursue my digital media/publishing career and business through the inception of the State of Digital Publishing Network.

The State of Digital Publishing Network consists of State of Digital Publishing, an online publication which aims to provide professionals perspectives and actionable news/insights within the digital media and publishing industry, whilst Seek An Audience is the community supporting discussion, collaboration and discovery of new media and technology.

State of Digital Publishing originally started out as a blog, and I decided to start it for self-development purposes, but since switching to it full-time, I am genuinely trying to build it as a dedicated digital media/publishing editorial brand. Other brands also focus on media and advertising or just digital publishing (book publishing and design), but there are enough developments within this space worth covering it alone.

Within the first few months of State of Digital Publishing, I was surveying people for feedback and came to the conclusion that people were going to dozens of sites in order to find practical information for their day-to-day issues or skill gaps. In addition, the respondents were keen to having a network of contributors where they could ask advice 24/7. And from this, Seek An Audience was born.

 

Why do you feel it’s important to share the State of Digital Publishing and Seek An Audience?

I know how editors and digital media/publishing professionals are under-resourced and “time poor” (Going through the ropes myself currently!), so now, more than ever, it’s important to slow down and really focus on being practical in your audience development efforts.

The skill gap is widening between leading and smaller-sized digital media/publishing brands and startups, due to historically relying on paid media for growth. There are many things each side is doing that the other isn’t across, so it’s important to have an intersection where both sides can meet.

It’s not there yet, but I strive for the State of Digital Publishing Network to be this intersection.

 

You interview many people who are involved in digital publishing in some way. What are some takeaways or even common threads you’ve found so far?

 

It’s really interesting to learn about the interviewees’ background stories and how they got to where they are today.

What I found some of the common threads and takeaways to be are:

 

  • How people can similarly shape their careers based on lifestyle factors or prioritising on family first. This was especially apparent with female editors who have families.

  • The creativity and flair of responses from professionals working in larger media publishing companies and how their networks charged up engagement on State of Digital Publishing.

  • There are so many niches that people specialise in that I didn’t reaslise i.e. Gay Travel. So awesome!

  • The majority of respondents work remotely with basic tools and workflows (particularly Slack). So anyone can do it–it’s all about mastery and persistence!

  • In terms of the passionate problems professionals are trying to address, professionals who work in media publishing companies tend to focus on audience growth or team management problems, whilst remote/self-employed based editors focus on self-promotion or a passionate product or writing project they are working on.

  • The majority of respondents advised professionals starting out in the industry to get their work out there and practice writing ASAP!

 

These people are genuinely passionate in what they do and I’m fortunate to have profiled them (and you as well, Tamar!), especially considering that I have no prior history in working with any of them.

 

What would you say the state of digital publishing currently is?

 

It’s a mix of publishers trying to genuinely find the right content subscription model, with a focus on properly executing media distribution strategies (catering and publishing unique content on platforms instead of pushing it out) whilst automating basic roles and site features that can strengthen the overall content/product quality. All of this is aiming to to develop more sustainable businesses that rely less on advertising.

Last year gave publishers a shock in the system as advertisers experienced further decreasing revenue from advertising with the rise of ad blockers and fake news, but more platforms are providing publisher centric features to help build subscribers within their environments and encourage premium publishing. Snap, AMP and Facebook Instant Articles distributed media strategies have seen mixed results. There are also innovators like the Washington Post who already have AI written 800 general news stories and The New York Times creating an editorial bot to moderate user comments, removing once-required roles.

It’s an exciting time to be a publisher, and I anticipate to see proper segmentation of media brands based on their revenue models within the next few years.

 

How can readers support The State of Digital Publishing & Seek An Audience? Where can we find you?

 

Providing feedback in the type of answers and case studies you are looking at will be absolutely key, as this will allow The State of Digital Publishing network to build a long-term solution for our existing and new readers.

You can find us on the State of Digital Publishing and Seek An Audience sites, respective social media profiles and speaking with other editors and publishers all the time!

 

Is there anything else you have to share with us?  

We’re excited to be building new features and resources within the Seek An Audience community that will help existing users gain better opportunities with finding vendor solutions and network with other professionals within the space.

State of Digital Publishing will also be going down the path of covering unique stories whilst continuing our featured interviews.

So, watch this space 🙂

Vahe Arabian is the Founder and Editor in Chief of State of Digital Publishing and Seek An Audience. His vision is to provide digital publishing and media professionals a platform to collaborate and promote their efforts, and his passion is to uncover talent and the latest trends for all to benefit.

Self Published? Promote Yourself!

Self publishing is now a popular and accessible way to get your work published. There are many positives to self publishing: you can decide everything about the book from the cover artwork, to the page size, to the lettering font, to the publication date.

Compare this with a traditionally published writer, and you will have a lot more leeway in deciding what you want and what you do not want for your book. Publishing houses tend to decide the artwork (with sometimes a little bit of input from you), they decide the publication date, and they also decide on the look and feel of the book as a whole.

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Picture source

 

However, publishing houses also do put a lot of work in for you, their author. They will promote your book, get in touch with reviewers, set up giveaways on book websites, and they will also be able to get your book stocked in bookshops big or small. They will also contact literature events and festivals for you, so you can attend these spaces and read your work to an audience.

Self-publishing involves a lot of work from you, and that is something you should be prepared to do in order for your book to be accessed, seen and read by as many people as possible. Of course, you can employ freelancers to market and promote your book for you, but that can involve a lot of money and sometimes will not mean you get the results you want.

A lot of self published authors make the decision to promote themselves. This gives them complete freedom in connecting with other readers and writers, and they can develop a voice of their own on social media.

Websites like Facebook and Twitter are great and unique ways to develop an audience for your work. Facebook allows you to create a separate page from your personal profile where you can make an ‘author page’. This allows you to set up promotions for when you feel ready to, giveaways for when you reach a certain amount of page likes, and is great for blogger outreach – in the sense that you can connect with book bloggers on their personal Facebook profiles, see if they are the right blogger for you, and create a more personal relationship with them rather than just sending them a copy of your book.

Twitter is fantastic at creating instant connection between your readers – and you.Simply by using relevant hashtags, you will gain more followers, and you can also develop a loyal following of fans on there by posting photos, retweeting and voicing your opinion. The more followers you have, the more successful you will look – so get following and sharing!

Self-publishing is now a viable route which many writers are taking very seriously. You solely control your finances rather than a traditional publisher taking a percentage of sales, have the only say on what your book is going to look like, and generally have complete control over absolutely anything to do with your book.

Turn Your Idea For A Book Into A Business

If you have an idea for a book, chances are that you are really excited about the prospect of becoming a published author and joining the echelons of writers who are household names. You are dreaming of the royalty cheques streaming in, making you richer than you have ever been before, and find yourself daydreaming about attending highbrow literature festivals, with venues packed out at the just the whisper of your name. But, of course, you need to find the time to write your book first – and that can mean making some brave and hard decisions.

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Picture source

It is not uncommon for writers to take breaks from their jobs in order to write a book, or even turn to part-time hours so they can have more time to themselves to write while still maintaining a cash flow. It can be really hard to actually finish a book – starting one can be much easier depending on your creative flow and the way you work – but getting down to finish a book can, indeed, take much longer than you initially planned.

It is also difficult to earn a comfortable living as a writer – let alone a lavish one – so you will need to do all you can to ensure your name is known and that your writing gathers a following. A finished book can take numerous edits and rewrites until is fully formed into the work that you want it to be.

If writer’s block is a problem sometimes, it can be tempting to delete all your work off the laptop, or scrap hard copies of it. Some writers work like this, and it works for them well as they tend to remember a lot of what they have written and adjust and edit it as they start again. Look at Paper Shredder Pros if you are a person who works better from their mind. However, never ever delete any work regardless of how tempting it may seem. Each word, each sentence, each phrase may come in handy one day, so keep all of your writing and even back it up in your computer.

Once your book is complete, it is then up to you to decide whether to self-publish or traditionally publish. Once your book is published, there is a chance you can make good money from it and earn your living that way – therefore, you could eventually turn your idea for a book into your own self-employed business, doing what you love!

Do not be downhearted when you get rejection letters. Every writer in the world has been rejected during their career. Even the most famous writers have received rejections only for their books to become bestsellers worldwide, and some of these books have even ended up holding an important place in today’s literature scene.

If you firmly believe your idea for a book has the potential to be popular and will be received well, then a good and astute piece of advice is this: go ahead and write it.