The Art of Storytelling in Business and Creating Brand Awareness

Humans love stories. They’re how we make sense of the world. Stories present events and actions in a timeline, allowing us to follow cause and effect, and helping us see how different events relate to each other. And as stories progress, we want to know more, we want to know what happens. Who hasn’t stayed up well past their usual bedtime reading a page-turner or watching just one more episode of a TV series on Netflix?

When you launch a business, it’s important to have a compelling story to tell. This wasn’t always the case. Go back a few decades, and all that mattered was having a product or service that was different, but now, the landscape is so saturated that having a good story to tell about your business can help you get noticed, attract investors to take a chance with you, and help build your brand.

Read the rest of the article on The Startup Finance Blog.

Why You Should Outline Before Writing Important Business Documents

While it may not seem like the key to your business, much of what you do revolves around written documents. From your business plan to your website, from press releases to company memos or emails, you write documents to share information and to convince people to buy your products or invest in your company.

Writing these documents is important, and there’s a skill that is essential to crafting efficient documents: outlining. Instead of just starting with a blank page — or window — and writing, it’s extremely useful to take the time to create an outline for your important documents.

Here’s why you should outline before writing business documents.

Read the rest of the article on The Startup Finance Blog.

How the iPad Pro and Apple Pencil Have Changed My Writing Workflow

I became a freelancer back in 1996 to work as a French-English translator. I translated lots of documents, generally working with a printout of the original document on a stand next to my display, and typing my translation on my computer. After finishing draft translations, it was time to edit my documents. To do this, I would generally print them out, sit in a comfortable chair, and read through them making changes with a pencil. You quickly learn that there is a big difference between reading a document on the screen and on paper; when doing the latter, you see lots of mistakes that you gloss over on screen, and you think of different formulations. That process of composing and editing in different contexts allows you to see your work in a different way.

For many years, as a freelance writer, I mostly worked on screen. Occasionally, I would print out articles and edit them on paper, but I have reached a stage where I have enough experience to be able to do all my work on screen. However, that process of editing in a different context can make a difference in my work.

A few weeks ago, I bought a new 11-inch iPad Pro and an Apple Pencil. My goal was to attempt to re-create this writing/editing process using the iPad for the second step. I have found that the combination of the iPad and Apple Pencil allows me to edit in a different context. These two devices together function as a sort of analog/digital hybrid; I get the advantages of working on a digital device and manipulating text more efficiently, together with the analog feel of the Apple Pencil, which I use to select and edit text. I had tried doing this in the past with the iPad’s touch interface, but text selection on iOS is so abysmal that it was too frustrating. The pencil, however, makes this process much smoother.

In addition, I have found that it is actually quite agreeable to control the iPad using the Apple Pencil. Not when I need to type a lot, but even when I do the New York Times crossword puzzle, working with the pencil is much more relaxing than using my fingers.

Analyze Your Writing with Scrivener 3’s Linguistic Focus Tool

Scrivener 3 was recently released, and the app is full of useful improvements. With a refreshed interface, Scrivener 3 also boasts a brand new compile feature (this is the part of the app that exports your projects to various formats). It brings styles, as are common in word processors, making it easier to manage formatting in your projects. Outlining is improved, the Corkboard is enhanced, and statistics are available at a glance. If you currently use Scrivener 2, then it’s a must-have upgrade.

One feature I really like is Linguistic Focus. When you’re writing with Scrivener 3, and get near the end of your project, you may want to scan your work to find certain words you’ve used too much, such as adverbs, or you may want to focus just on the dialog if your work is fiction. Scrivener 3 has a useful new Linguistic Focus tool that can help you zero in on certain types of words and texts.

View a document or your entire project (by selecting your Draft or Manuscript folder), click anywhere in the Editor, then choose Edit > Writing Tools > Linguistic Focus (Control-Command-L). In the panel that appears, select a focus, such as nouns, verbs, or adverbs. Scrivener dims text in the Editor that doesn’t match that focus. (Depending on your Editor’s view, you may need to switch to Scrivenings view to display more than one file. To do this, choose View > Scrivenings, or press Command-1.)

If you select Direct Speech, Scrivener dims all text that is not between quotes, so you can scan dialog more easily.

Linguistic focus

To adjust the dimming of the un-focused text, use the Fade slider at the bottom of the Linguistic Focus panel; if you drag that slider all the way to the right, the un-focused text becomes invisible.

Note that the algorithm for choosing parts of speech is part of macOS and is not perfect, so you may find that certain words are mislabeled when you choose a specific part of speech.

Check out Scrivener 3, and get my book, Take Control of Scrivener 3, to learn how to be productive with this essential writing tool.

What’s Up With That: Why It’s So Hard to Catch Your Own Typos | WIRED

You have finally finished writing your article. You’ve sweat over your choice of words and agonized about the best way to arrange them to effectively get your point across. You comb for errors, and by the time you publish you are absolutely certain that not a single typo survived. But, the first thing your readers notice isn’t your carefully crafted message, it’s the misspelled word in the fourth sentence.

It is infuriating. There is also the Law of Conservation of Typographical Errors. This applies to long works such as books. It states that for every typographical error you correct, another one spawns in the book. I’ve seen it happen.

When you’re proof reading, you are trying to trick your brain into pretending that it’s reading the thing for the first time. Stafford suggests that if you want to catch your own errors, you should try to make your work as unfamiliar as possible. Change the font or background color, or print it out and edit by hand. “Once you’ve learned something in a particular way, it’s hard to see the details without changing the visual form,” he said.

Indeed. When you do that, you see it in a different light. I often use a different font to proofread what I’ve written on my computer. But their are still typos anyway.

Source: What’s Up With That: Why It’s So Hard to Catch Your Own Typos | WIRED

Write on Paper, with Instant Digitization, Using the Moleskine Smart Writing Set

Moleskin has launched the Smart Writing Set, which is a combination of a Bluetooth pen, a special notebook, and an app, which lets you write in the notebook and have your writings – and drawings – instantly digitized. The company has created a video explaining how this works.

I’m intrigued by this idea. I know it’s not the first such device, but I would very much like to write more rather than type, and this could be a good way to do so.

I’ve been using the iPad Pro and Pencil recently, and I found an app that has very good handwriting recognition, even with my chicken scratch, but the iPad’s screen is too smooth to write a lot on. Writing is a tactile activity, and I need the friction of a pen or pencil on paper.

I’m tempted by the Moleskine Smart Writing Set, but at £200 – which is a terrible conversion from $200; it should be about £170, including VAT – it’s a steep price to pay for a gadget like this. Also, additional notebooks cost £24, and they only contain 176 page, and they’re only A5 size, which is a bit small.

This is certainly an interesting type of tool, and I hope it becomes more affordable in the future.

Unblocking the blog – Illuminations Media

But… why write blog posts in the first place? Long ago, I thought that an active blog would bring people to Illuminations and that they would then buy our excellent DVDs and perhaps even commission us to make ground-breaking television and other media marvels. I don’t think it has ever worked like that, although I have met a heartening number of people who have read a post or two, and for whom that might have made them think a touch more positively towards us. There is a utility also in simply being a contributor to debate and helping to raise awareness of interesting things, whether this is a season of obscure archive television, a DVD release of an arthouse classic, or an unjustly overlooked book. Mostly, though, I have long thought that maintaining a blog is above all about personal satisfaction, about affirming things for myself that seem intriguing, about trying out notions, and sometimes about having a semi-public space to work things through. So if nothing more it needs to make sense to me, myself and I to find the time and the focus to post.

John Wyver of Illuminations, a video production company specialize in filming documentaries and theater in the UK, shares some thoughts about blogging. His blog is just a small part of his company’s website; the rest is about his productions, and includes a store where you can buy DVDs.

Why do we blog? For me, part of the reason is to promote my brand; I link to articles I’ve written on various websites, and this helps inform a band of faithful readers who enjoy my writings. But some of my articles here exist just because I have things to say, and this is a place to say them. Writing is my full-time job, so writing a couple of articles on my blog doesn’t get in the way of my work; it’s actually part of it. And some of the articles I write are seeds for paid articles I later contribute to various publications.

Everyone has different reasons for blogging; that’s what makes it interesting.

By the way, you can read my interview with John Wyver where he discusses how he produces the films of productions at the Royal Shakespeare Company. And you can see his next production in cinemas in the UK and around the world, from June 8: a striking new production of Hamlet, with an astounding young actor.

Source: Unblocking the blog – Illuminations Media

Farewell, Loop Magazine

Jim Dalrymple has announced that The Loop Magazine is Dead in a post on his website The Loop, and he has removed the app from the App Store. Jim says:

When Apple started Newsstand, I thought it was a way to reach readers with unique content, pay writers well for their content, and create a great experience on an iOS app. I guess I should have realized when Apple killed Newsstand that it was over, but I pressed on. That was a mistake on my part.

This is a shame. I contributed a number of articles to The Loop Magazine, and I loved the way it covered an eclectic range of tech-related topics. Jim’s experiment was great, but it shows how hard it is to publish on the internet, even at a low price ($2 a month, for two issues).

I hate failure, and this was a failure for me. I will learn from it and focus my attention back on The Loop website, where it belongs.

Don’t worry, Jim. If you don’t try anything, you won’t fail. You tried, it was fun while it lasted, so let’s move on to the next thing.

The Two Key Tips for Being a Successful Freelance Writer

I’ve been a freelancer for nearly 20 years, and I consider myself successful. I make a good living from my activity, and my clients — magazines, websites, and companies — keep coming back to me and offering me work. Over the years, I have realized that there are two essential tips that a freelancer needs to know. If you get these right, you, too, have a good chance of having a successful freelance career.

Working as a freelancer is not for everyone. While the flexibility of working at home is something I would never trade – I’ve done my share of suit-and-tie corporate work – it does require a certain amount of discipline. I’ve seen freelancers fail because they simply couldn’t develop a routine that allowed them to get work done. Sure, when it’s a nice day, you might want to go outside, take a walk, laze around in the sun, because, after all, no one’s looking over your shoulder. And there are days when you can do this; if you done your work, or if you can do it later, it’s great to take some time for yourself. When you consider how much time you save by not commuting, you can use part of your day to enjoy yourself. But the work comes first.

Freelancing also requires a certain amount of financial discipline. You need to keep your books; you either pay an accountant to do it for you, or you learn to do it yourself. Personally, I have a combination of both: I do all the day-to-day accounting, and I have an accountant who takes care of checking my books and filing forms.

And then there’s the marketing. I won’t discuss that here, but that’s obviously the biggest hurdle that any freelancer faces. If you can’t find a market to get work, then you will not succeed.

I said there were two tips that could make you a successful freelance writer. I learned these very early in my career, and being aware of them has, I think, helped me get a steady stream of work. One still needs to be a good writer, of course, and have good ideas, but even good writers can get tripped up by not respecting these points.

Tip 1: never miss a deadline. And I mean never. Ever. I missed a deadline once, because of a health problem that was serious enough to prevent me from working. But that was the only time I missed a deadline; really. In my line of work — writing — missing a deadline can be problematic for people downstream. If an editor is planning on a story for a magazine, and a writer is late, it makes the editor’s life very difficult. They have to find someone else to write your story, or find a different story, because they’ve earmarked a certain number of pages for your article. Even for websites, which try and schedule new content at a certain frequency, not having the expected articles will pose problems.

For many years, I worked as a translator. Deadlines were often very tight, and things such as product launches, or the printing of annual reports, depended on having translated texts on time. If you miss a deadline, the whole process gets delayed, and people will simply not come back to you and offer you more work.

Sometimes you may accidentally miss a deadline, and it’s not your fault. There are times when you send an article to an editor and they never receive it. For this reason, if you send your work to a client or editor, and don’t hear back from them within 24 hours, email them again to make sure that they’ve received it. The onus is on the freelancer to meet the deadline; don’t depend on editors to remind you.

Tip 2: don’t argue with your editor. I’ve heard stories from editors about writers who argue about certain words, certain phrases, even punctuation that editors have changed. For me, the editor is my client and my boss, and I trust him or her to do what’s necessary to edit my work for their publication. When an editor sends an article back to me after editing it, I read through it carefully, making sure that he or she did not introduce any errors. But I don’t spend my time changing words, revising sentences, or reorganizing anything. The editor knows what they want; once I send them the work, it belongs to them.

While these two tips are about being a freelance writer, you can apply them to a lot of freelance jobs. The one about not missing a deadline is the first commandment of freelancing. As for the second one, as the saying goes, “the customer is always right.” I’ve had my share of pain-in-the-ass clients, and I’ve dropped some clients who were too annoying, or who made my work look bad by introducing errors after I’d signed off. If you’re a freelance writer, you’ll find plenty of clients who want to change your work. As long as it’s not wrong, let them.

Being a freelancer can be very rewarding. The “free” in freelancer is, if you’re the right kind of person, the best way to work. These two tips could help make sure that you keep getting work.