Tag Archives: writing

New York: I Still Love You Best

No one who was in New York on 9/11 will ever forget that day. I still well up when I think of the firefighters a few doors down from me and how they lost half of their crew.

Even now, images from that day come back unannounced. All I can do is allow it all to wash over me.

I wrote about some of what I saw and felt 11 years ago in a blog post for Guernica during the “Ground Zero Mosque” controversy, two years ago.

The piece was a bit controversial. I was vilified on Twitter. But there you go: the price of doing business.

 

Blogging Again for The Atlantic

I’ve been working on a sponsored blog for The Atlantic, where I find links, write, edit, and so on. I’ve been finding out about such topics as cloud computing.

The experience reminds me of my first job: I was an editorial assistant/proofreader at PC Magazine, way back when it was still a print publication and the latest system was (I think) Dos 4.1. I used to go home with my head swimming with such terms as ROM, C> Prompt, and 8086. Now it’s a bunch of acronyms and terms such as BPM, Network IPS MQ, or just plain IT.

Is SEO D.O.A.?

In a posting for PaidContent, Ben Elowitz writes that SEO is dead–killed by by “SMO,” or Social Media Optimization. He says readers are now going to content sites, not because of a search, but because of a link provided by a friend on Facebook. He then rhapsodizes how this could lead to a time when good content is what people are after–not keywords and the like.

Over the past five years, Web publishing has been so heavily dominated by search engine optimization (SEO) that, to many publishing executives, the right keywords have become far more important than their sites’ actual content or audience. But this movement toward SEO has been dangerous, as it’s moved publishers’ eye off their most important job of creating great content, and onto the false goals of keywords, hacks, paid links, and technical engineering that their audience doesn’t know or care about.

I hope he’s right, but it’s best to remember that there’s that thing Lewis Mumford called the Myth of the Machine: we always think the latest invention will lead to our finally becoming less vulgar (when TV was invented, we thought it meant we’d all watch cultural programs–HA HA HA).

The death of SEO could also mean (given that Elowitz’s conjectures on where traffic will be coming from is correct) that we’ll be living in a hall of mirrors: only our friends will give us news. Personally, I get my news through Google Reader, a different kettle of fish in many ways (although Reader has a social aspect). I’m not sure where that lies on the matrix. And, while Facebook is what everyone talks about, Twitter is better on click-throughs.

The death of SEO has been predicted before. The last one I recall said Google Instant has killed SEO. Maybe SEO will die like that final scene in the 70s movie, Murder on the Orient Express: everyone is killing it, because it deserves to die.

Stupid Tricks Don’t Bring the Clicks

Using data from the most popular newspapers out there, a group called Perfect Market is saying that while stupid articles about trash personalities such as Lindsay Lohan generate traffic, they don’t bring in the money for the websites involved. Perhaps while this is a fantasy for the newspapers publishing the piece (I read about it in The New York Times), I still believe it.

After all, when I read that crap, I parachute in, and then feel filthy for it. I bail as quickly as possible and rarely forward it.

Ask Me Anything About Bourbon

I just rewrote the entire website for an ultra-premium bourbon company. I wrote thousands of words and did a lot of research on bourbon, its history, and the proper way to drink it.

Now, I know a great deal more about bourbon–I’m even pedantic in my knowledge.

But now when I sip on Knob Creek, Booker’s, Michter’s, or Woodford (those would be my faves, but I also like many others), I’m much more appreciative of it.

I love a job that makes me love life just a little bit more.

Writing on Deadline, Using Google Maps

Under deadline, there just isn’t time to be uninspired. I’m writing a dynamic, online piece that’s about some 25 restaurants in six different cities. Aimed at the business traveler, it uses Flash and it’s all linked to Google Maps. When this thing is done, it should be amazing.

Now, back to Nexis, ProQuest, and Factiva (and my notes from my own travels).

By the way, Google Maps has a sharp picture of my backyard. I don’t have access to that yard (I only have the view). But from the satellite photo, I can see more of the yard than I can from my own window.

And I can also see my rooftop. I don’t have access to my New York City building’s roof. But I now know what it looks like. I now know that my neighbors have a garden on the top of theirs.

Thank you, satellite from outer space for telling me what’s next door.

Reading in Union Sq Today

Park-Lit has a simple concept: writers read from their work,  outside, in a public park. Today at 6:30 on the 21st, Guernica (in association with Park-Lit and Open City magazine) will be having a reading in Union Square Park. (On the south side, right in the thick of things, near the Washington statue). I’m not reading but acting as the MC for the event. The readers will be:

The readers:
Joshua Kors (nonfiction)
Terese Svoboda (poetry)
Alexander Chee (fiction)

More about the readers and who they are (they’re fabulous, by the way) at the Park-Lit site.

Writing: Should You Outline First?

I just ran across this piece by Nancy Rawlinson (who is a contributing editor at Guernica ) on the outlining debate. She says that yes, you should. You should outline your fiction. I have to admit that I sometimes do, and sometimes don’t. If the piece is short, within the realm of flash fiction, then I don’t. If it’s long, then yes. Absolutely. But the outline itself is also a form of fiction, because I don’t follow it all that closely.

But I outline after I’ve done a bit of writing. I struggle to find my opening, then outline it if I think I’ve got a solid opening.

When I feel like there’s a firm foundation to build something upon, then I make sure that I’m going to build it right by outlining. But only then, because if I do it too early, the enormity of what I’m about to undergo disheartens me.

Right now I’m writing the beginnings of a novel or novella  (I’m not sure which). I’m writing 50 pages, first. If the first 50 look like they’re good, then I’ll decide what it is. Or even if it’s crap.

The hardest part of writing (for me) is remembering why I’m writing the piece in the first place, and even worse—staying in love with it. It’s so easy to decide that a piece of fiction in its early stages is terrible, boring, and unfixable. (A journalist I used to know once said fiction writers were weak, because they complained all of the time. She even wrote an article about it, mocking them. But this journalist was wrong: fiction writers aren’t weak complainers. Not at all—we’re inventing a whole world, which is a difficult thing. And the slightest bit of grounding for us—like an outline—is a godsend.)

Procrastination is:

Procrastination hits us in so many ways. Writers probably get hit with it worse than others. Or maybe we just worry about it more.

I’ve many deadlines today, so after watching this video, I’ll have to move on .  .  .

By the way, I don’t like inspirational writing books at all. Except for The War of Art.

I read it out of a sense of obligation. And ended up inspired. It’s the ultimate anti-procrastination book.

Buy it. And don’t put it off.

Advice: 10 Tips for Writers

Janet Fitch author of the novels White Oleander and Paint it Black has some advice for writers, whether they write fiction or nonfiction (although the advice is directed at fiction writers).  Many of these tips were already given to me by Jim Shepard (back when I studied with him), but they’re worth repeating here. I’ll give tip number one below. The rest is at The Los Angeles Times site.

1. Write the sentence, not just the story
Long ago I got a rejection from the editor of the Santa Monica Review, Jim Krusoe. It said: “Good enough story, but what’s unique about your sentences?” That was the best advice I ever got. . .

As far as copywriting goes, I thought this article in Website Magazine was equally good. And like Fitch’s advice, it’s all-purpose.

Will Bad Newsgathering Outlast Good Papers?

Newsonomics has a piece on its blog comparing Patch.com news report with one in the Contra Costa Times. Contra Costa has better reporting. But Patch had more interaction with its readers. It also had better SEO and was listed higher in Google.

The start-ups will have to improve their reporting, because bad reporting is wallpaper. Boring wallpaper. But the news organizations are going to have to figure out this thing called SEO. Or they will die.

Ran across this posting: poor SEO may be what killed thelondonpaper.com (but as the comments to the posting say, that might be pushing it, as a thing to say. Ironically, the writer was going for some good SEO, and thereby misstated things).

Still Working on This Site

It’s a slow process, but I’m putting PDFs of my clips onto this site.

Click on “Editorial Clips” for my freelance writing/journalism and “Copywriter” for my ad-driven writing. Eventually, I’ll also have my all of my fiction up, and information on readings and events.

Right now, clips are also available here: http://www.mediabistro.com/MeakinArmstrong