Category Archives: Writing

How to Write For Video Games Part 1: World Plotting

Final Fantasy III for the Nintendo DS, a singl...

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As some of my faithful readers from the old days at thePuckWrites may remember, I wrote the story, quests, and designed the classes for an upcoming online game called Ghostees!. It was a lot of fun and a lot of work, and since I know that many young creatives feel drawn to games (I know I do) I thought I would do a series about what is necessary when writing for a game.

For the purposes of this series, we are going to assume your game is a role-playing game because these require the most writing. If you are writing for action or strategy games, you will need to tighten up your dialogue and plot a great deal, but you have much less to worry about in the long run because there are fewer possibilities. While in an RPG each decision and will have different possible results, your average FPS or RTS has only two possibilities: live or die.

How to Build a World

Your client or boss has a basic idea of what kind of game she wants. A number of other titles are thrown at you as examples. Genres are considered and abandoned. Finally, all that will be done for you is done, and you have to create your world plot. Now what?

A world plot is the story that the player, whether with others in an online game or alone, has their story take place within. This is the background history of the world, the basic conflicts at work in the big picture, and the basis for your general quest progression. An example is in Warcraft: the storyline originally comes from three real-time strategic games and was adapted for World of Warcraft. This background story defines the locations of gameplay (Azeroth, the Outlands) and establishes the basic factions (Human, Orc, Undead, Night Elves, Dwarves, etc) and their various conflicts. Additionally, the events of the prior games established even more history, defining new conflicts and specific enemies.

Now examine how all of this world plotting works to create the rest of the game. Once you have your world plotted you have a place for the player’s characters to be from, groups for them to both identify with and have conflicts with, and a set of larger plots for them to take part in as their characters become more powerful. In the case of WoW, their world plot has given them an almost endless supply of material for expansions, quests, races, classes, and locations. So when first conceiving your world plot you have to take all of this into account.

So what does it take to make a good world plot?

Consistency

Your world plot must be consistent in its history and rules. This doesn’t mean things can’t change, but it does mean they have to change for a reason. In the plot of Warcraft, the orcs went from demon-worshipping necromancers bent on destruction to tribal warriors profoundly concerned with honor and loyalty. The game mechanic that drove this decision was a desire to make  players better able to identity with the orcs and to render the duality in Warcraft, which had before been about good and evil, a bit more ambiguous. This was a money-decision…they wanted more sides and races so they could attract more players. However, in-game they made sure to justify the change using information from the game lore. Always make sure the events in your world plot are consistent, because contradictions make for a weaker story and a weaker game.

Fertility

A good world plot is defined enough to make writing quests easy but flexible enough to give birth to new sub-plots, creatures, and NPCs. More content will be the cry you will hear from happy project managers, supervisors, and players, so if you wrote yourself into a corner you are screwed. You can’t have there be a single big bad boss, because then you have nowhere to go when your players beat that boss. You can’t have the whole world divided up between two factions and then introduce a third as the project leads you. A closed story, however easy it becomes to build your conflict and plot your quest progression, is a mistake. Instead, build worlds where there is plenty of information to add depth, but plenty of unknowns to leave yourself room for expansion.

The game Mass Effect does this perfectly: the main storyline is truly epic, with a plot spanning millennia. However, the world plot of the game allows for new races, locations, sub-plots, and now a sequel to branch off convincingly. This is because the world plot of Mass Effect is open…its basic premises define it without limiting it. Do likewise.

Tropes and Atmosphere

Tropes are repeating motifs that exist in stories. They are things like “the haunted house”, “the wise old man”, “the lover lost and regained”, and so on. Specific genres have specific tropes, so science fiction has the monster that turns out to really be a man and horror has the man that turns out to be a monster, and both of them, once identified by the audience, can be predicted. However, tropes are useful; they are like cliches in that they sort of work. The secret is not to avoid tropes, but to use them sparingly and well to create an atmosphere that guides the expectations of the audience. You can’t lead them by the nose, but you have to let them know there is something to be led to, otherwise they will get bored.

In a game, tropes are often used to establish the kind of game you are playing. A science fiction game like Fallout 3 will use different kinds of monsters and plot devices to characterize what sort of story it is than Oblivion, another RPG made by the same people using the same engine. An easy way to figure out your tropes is to think about the monsters and locations. While Dead Space and Silent Hill both feature themes of isolated locations with visually disturbing enemies, and both are indubitably horror games, they use the “abandoned town” vs the “abandoned ship” motif to characterize their genre. This example is meant to be obvious, but tropes can be very subtle (and should be!), and also illustrates the proper use of tropes: tropes characterize and establish atmosphere, they are not a replacement for real characters and stories. In your world plot you must use tropes to quickly and easily create the player’s expectations and allow them to see what kind of game they are playing, but avoid simply using generic tropes as your plot points.

Stay Tuned!

That’s it for this installment. Next in this series we will cover lore writing and the details of how to write good background stories. Please feel free to ask questions on world plotting or add pointers of your own below.

Four Sites to Sell Your Writing Online

Hemingway posing for a dust jacket photo by Ll...

Real writers get paid.

You hear me? Remember this, always. Want to know when you can call yourself a writer? The first time you get paid to write. I know this sounds mercenary as hell, but think it through. Carpenters get paid. Plumbers get paid. Surgeons get paid. Only in the creative fields do we say that someone can (and should) pursue the field, with all of the effort and study necessary to do it well, simply for the love of it, without expecting compensation of any kind. Too many of us help other people make money with our writing for free. This is unacceptable.

Hemingway got paid.

Show me the money.

I have already covered places to bid for freelance writing jobs, and I stand by what I said there, they are great sites and allow you to bid on some good jobs. The problem is that you have no way to assure yourself of an income on your terms and schedule. You may or may not win the bid, and there are people out there willing to write for next to nothing on those sites, ready to underbid you. Sometimes you just need the cash, sometimes you don’t want to deal with the bidding, and sometimes you already have things written that you can sell, and you need places where you know you can get paid.

Associated Content

Associated Content allows users to both submit articles for them to make an offer on and puts out calls for specific articles for writers to claim. From their site:

AC’s platform enables anyone to participate in the new content economy by publishing content on any topic, in any format (text, video, audio and images), and connects that content to consumers, partners and advertisers.

Downsides: The pay is very low. Upsides: You get traffic payoffs from them, so if your articles do well you will get ongoing payments. This site is perfect for the beginning writer who just needs to get some credits under their belt.

Bright Hub

Bright Hub focuses on tech and science articles and has a set payment per article. You apply for a contract with them and then join a team of writers working within a specific channel. From their site:

With an expert writer network and an active community of life-long enthusiasts Bright Hub provides a level of technology transparency rarely seen in high tech. The team of writers and managing editors utilize deep domain expertise to focus on creating valuable information for both novice and advanced consumers. With a content inventory of thousands of science and technology articles, software and hardware reviews, buyer’s guides, blog entries and forum discussions, Bright Hub is able to provide readers with a dependable resource to make informative technology decisions.

Downsides: You have quotas to meet and the editors can be demanding. Upsides: Bright Hub is solid, dependable work, you can work in multiple channels (though you end up having multiple editors, each with their own expectations and personality), and you are able to set your timetable by their schedule. While it is not going to make you rich, writers can make a full-time living from Bright Hub if they are motivated.

Demand Studios

Demand Studios is a subsidiary of Demand Media, and is a bit of a cross between Associated Content and Bright Hub. You apply for a position and once you get your contract you are able to claim or suggest articles from their internal menu. Each kind of article has a set price, and you claim and write what you want. There is a limit to how many you can claim at a time, but that limit increases as you write for them regularly. From their site:

Demand Studios enables talented freelancers to create valuable content, reach an audience of millions and earn money. Qualified content specialists can take part in the process, from making high-quality titles to editing finished content. We currently employ writers, filmmakers, copy editors, transcribers and title proofers, and we offer unique promotional opportunities for experts in all disciplines.

Downsides: Sometimes articles take a long time to get approved, meaning you can’t accept more assignments; this can really mess up your working timetable. Upsides: Demand is another low paying but dependable writing gig. You know you can make money there whenever you need to, and you can, once you can claim enough articles at a time, make a living from them.

Constant Content

Constant Content is a clearing house, allowing people to purchase and sell online content among themselves. Writers can sell different rights to their work to content publishers hungry for fresh content. From their site:

Constant-Content is a consignment shop for articles and pictures. Publishers can peruse the archive of articles, find the articles that they are looking for or use our system to reach out to authors and publish a request for new articles on your topic. Keeping content fresh on any site can be a lot of work, especially if you’re aiming to post new content very regularly. Constant-Content has a massive archive of articles and a community of writers who are keen to fulfill your content needs.

Constant-Content is unique in that we do not allow search engines to index our articles. As a consequence, when you purchase a unique or full rights license for one of our articles you can be certain that you will be the first on the Internet to post this article and you will receive the benefits of having unique, interesting and link-worthy content.

Upsides: You can get paid much more, sell work you already have sitting around, and get your work published all over the web. Downsides: Your work might not sell at all.

Tell me more.

I know there are a lot of other sites out there, these are just the ones that I like best and think are the best way for starting writers to establish themselves, get some credits, and most of all…get paid.

What about you? Tell me about your favorite sites to sell your work and I will feature them in a later post and give you credit.

Update (4-5-09)

It seems that Associated Content doesn’t pay out to non-U.S. residents. You just get traffic residuals.

Who is eligible to be paid?
You must be at least 18 years old to be paid by Associated Content. If you are also citizen or legal resident of the United States, you are eligible for both Upfront and Performance Payments. If you are not a citizen of legal resident of the United States, you are only eligible for Performance Payments due to U.S. tax regulations.

How very self-centered of them. I would like to apologize. I know that a lot of my readers are outside the US (that’s right, I’m watching you! *peers around*) and I don’t want to lead you wrong. My job is to help you get your career as writers going, and a non-paying client is exactly what I am trying to steer you away from. So please be advised:

Associated Content only pays residents of the United States of America. Non-US writers should seek other entry-level markets.

Special thanks to my buddy Mark Dykeman for the tip. He’s written for Louis Gray and Mashable and is an overall smart guy who says smart things. Check him out over at Broadcasting Brain or follow Mark on Twitter.

  • New Revenue-Sharing Content Site: Bukisa (onlinepublishing.suite101.com)
  • How To Find More Ghostwriting Jobs (ghostwritinguncovered.com)
  • Are You A Greedy Writer? (ghostwritinguncovered.com)
  • A Freelance Writer’s First Experience With Elance (danaprince.blogspot.com)
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Skills That Pay The Bills: Copywriting, SEO, and Blogging

a typical office day

Hello, intrepid readers. We are going to shift gears a bit in this post and address an issue that is always near and dear to my heart: money. This is not to say that I am obsessed with wealth, but I certainly enjoy being able to live comfortably and enjoy my hobbies, which as a geek can include expensive gadgets, video games, and lots of media. So how does a writer in the modern era get paid?

Copywriting

Copywriting (also known as business writing) is the art and science of creating text that informs, attracts, and sells, all at the same time. To write good copy, you not only have to be a good writer, but you have to understand your audiences and what will drive their purchasing. Your goal is to sell something, and in order to do that you have to understand how your readers will react not just to the content of your words, but their appearance and tone.

Necessary skills:

  • Write in many tones and voices, from warm and friendly to cold and technical. You must get over the notion that you are selling your art and thus must maintain your own authentic voice. While this is true for fiction, poetry, and other creative writing, copywriters must be able to catch the tone and voice that will most effectively represent their client’s interests. Read, listen to, and watch advertisements of all kinds and you will hear many different voices; practice writing in all of them.
  • Understand visual cues. Words are visual, and by purposefully arranging how they meet the eyes  you can make certain impressions without changing a bit of your content. By creating symmetry and asymmetry in your copy (lining up your text and formatting it such that the lines “lead” the eyes of the reader to each important phrase) you can emphasize certain points over others, line up “question and answer” blocks around explanatory copy, and create a general impression of casualness, formality, friendliness, or whatever impression is needed.
  • Be a good researcher. Clients will vary, and you will often need to be able to learn a great deal about a given industry, company, product, or service with very little notice. Make sure you have resources bookmarked and ready to do research on just about anything. This includes niche sites, academic sites, and government sites; Wikipedia, for all its glory, just won’t cut it.

SEO (Search Engine Optimization)

Writing in the online world requires at least a basic understanding of the principles of SEO, including keyword research, competition evaluation, and link-building. Understand, it will seldom be your job to define and entire SEO strategy for a client, but in order to create good online content you have to know how to make sure it can be found and will compete against other similar content.

Necessary Skills:

  • Understand the principles of search. Search is a weird field, in concept and in practice. In theory, it’s just math; search engines index content and use various algorithms to return that content in reply to corresponding searches. And if language, meaning, and knowledge were a simple affair, that would be enough, but they aren’t. We categorize things, use synonyms and conditionals, come up with neologisms (new words), and generally make things very complicated (and very interesting). We teach the search engines what words mean, and in turn the search engines teach us how to ask for what we are looking for. I can’t even begin to cover the necessary knowledge to really understand search, but I will list several resources for learning the basics of search and SEO theory at the end of this post.
  • Learn how to use keywords and keyword phrases without sounding forced. Learn how to research commonly searched keywords and phrases and pepper your writing with them appropriately. Don’t stuff them, don’t use keywords unrelated to the content, and don’t just reuse the same one over and over; use synonyms and related terms.
  • Produce quality content. Realize that keyword use is just part of the battle, what we call a “necessary but insufficient condition”. You have to use well-chosen keywords, but quality content that will attract links and traffic is the rest of the equation.
  • Be generous. Link out often to other blogs and sources, and always make sure your anchor text (the text that you make the link) is actually associated with the content you link to. Try to go for deep links (links to pages inside a website rather than to the frontpage) and when you reference ideas or content from other sources, make sure to credit them.

Blogging

Blogging is big business…for a few. This money comes from advertising, direct sales, and the attraction of jobs. The decision of how to monetize your blog comes down to how much traffic you get and what your niche is. thePuckWrites is monetized by being a sort of virtual resume…I blog about how I do things so that others can learn how to do them, which showcases my knowledge and writing, while making sure a few select pieces of writing are available to show my range, plus a resume and a contact form. Since my blog is set up this way, I attract both writers who want to learn and employers who want to hire. You might also consider blogging for hire…companies may pay you to blog regularly for them, or you could join a blog network or multi-user blog that pays per post like BrightHub. These kinds of jobs can vary a great deal in price, so make sure you are getting paid what you are worth.

Necessary Skills:

  • Picking a good niche. I know a lot of bloggers, and some of them blog about things that no one would ever want to read about regularly. Some industries and subjects, no matter how necessary for society and life, will not draw an audience. Pick a niche you know about, but pick an interesting niche you know about; you might sell toilet paper, but no one wants to read about toilet paper, whether it is making, selling, or using it.
  • Writing for a wide audience. Don’t be a snob. Use language that everyone will understand and if you must use special jargon, explain what you mean without being condescending. Remember, most people do not write for a living and thus it is not their job to know all the $0.50 words. You are not special, better, or smarter because you know what deontological means or can use gerund properly in a sentence, you are just specially trained in your job like others are specially trained in their own. Don’t be an ass.
  • Discipline. You need to update regularly, research new posts, and promote your work. Quite frankly, it can be a huge pain. Depending on your revenue model, you might need to update as often as several times a day. Good scheduling and productivity is a must.

Resources

Copywriting

SEO

Blogging

What Else?

These are my skills that pay the bills, what are yours?

Three Strategies for Success in New Media

PASADENA, CA - OCTOBER 29:  Copies of The Chri...

Image by Getty Images via Daylife

Concern about the death of traditional print media is all over the blogosphere. Newspapers such as the Christian Science Monitor have been forced to take up online strategies in order to compete, and from this new approaches such as the New York Times social network have arisen. In light of this, the question arises:how can the modern writer be successful in a world where the traditional writing jobs are fading away?

Get Diverse

Once upon a time, a writer picked a niche and ran with it. The choice of what you wanted to write and where you wanted it to be printed decided how you wrote, what the best practices and standards were, and how you should attempt to build your career. Books on how to be a writer would differ wildly based on what kind of writer you wanted to be.

Maybe this made sense before the internet, but now it just doesn’t work. As a professional freelance writer, I write in so many different styles and for so many different purposes from day to day that focusing my efforts into only one approach is impossible. In the last few months I have written quests for an upcoming video game, informational articles on computer gadgets at BrightHub, movie reviews, and blog posts on all sorts of topics. Right now my “big” job is copywriting for a start-up. On top of this, I still write my fiction, which will soon be appearing on a new site.

The point of this is that you can’t afford to pigeon-hole yourself into any kind of writing. Now, I know what some of you are saying: “What about inspiration? What about art?” Well, that becomes the difference between writing professionally and being an artist. You can do both, but your attitude is different when you want to write professionally, and you focus on different things.

It is possible that if you are incredibly gifted and lucky, you can write precisely what your inspiration calls you to write and nothing else and make that your career. However, the much greater likelihood is that you need to see your writing as any other professional skill, and thus keep it flexible and open to the needs of the moment. Thus you must diversify your writing and be able to write for any media, as needed.

Get Educated

As the incorporation of new media into the mainstream continues, the needs of the writer’s craft will change. Already we have seen some of these changes, as SEO and social media have become more and more important to online writing. The simple fact is that as the technologies shift, the very definition of what we do changes. Just as I doubt many writers of my generation have done too much of their work on typewriters, I doubt many writers of the next generation will do too much work where search-engine optimization and online technologies do not play a role. If you refuse to learn about these new technologies you are making your skills less valuable, and some other writer who has done their homework will get the jobs that could have been yours.

Get Creative

New media allows for a new kind of writing. As I have written about elsewhere, microblogging has some interesting implications for fiction writers. I think there are even more interesting possibilities with modern technologies, where stories can be structured to unfold over various forms of social media, including video, microblogs, and even leaving trails of social bookmarks and forum posts. Consider the strange tale of John Titor. Ignoring the issue of whether he was really a time traveler, his tale is interesting and the fact that it was delivered across message boards points to hidden possibilities of fiction and meta-fiction. Viral ad campaigns such as that used for Heroes, while used as a way to gain buzz, point the way to stories told across multiple mediums and technologies.

Final Word

Traditional media may very well be dying, or it may become a form of backup media, like we have seen happen to radio. Writers, whether of stories or advertising copy, need to think seriously about the strategies that will allow them to keep plying their trade in the days to come. However, these ideas are just the beginning; what other strategies can writers use to ensure their success in the changing world?

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Picking a Genre in New Media

Journal and penWriters in traditional media eventually have to choose a genre to write in. No one can do everything, and so like every other profession, writers specialize. Some genres are defined by the type of settings and plots used, like horror, science-fiction, and fantasy. Others categories are defined by their content, like historical writings, academic works, and poetry. In new media we also have to specialize, but the genre’s are slightly different. This list will cover the basic categories of online writing.

1. Informational Blogging

By far the most popular of online content, informational blogs allow writers to share their interests, skills, and knowledge with interested readers. This is probably the easiest form of blog, as your own favorite subject is all you need to start out. Just pick something you know a lot about, from wine-making to stamp-collecting, and write short instructional pieces.

2. News

Writing news in an online world is a very different beast than writing for traditional media. Speed is of the essence, and deciding what kind of news you want to focus on is key. In addition to this, you must add content to your news, some sort of analysis or commentary, not just repeat your source. To get started covering news, pick a “beat”, a subject, field, area, or industry that interests you. Find your sources, which can be blogs and other social media as well as traditional sources. Find people online who are involved in your “beat” and try and establish contact with them, allowing you to hit them up for comments and thoughts…this is one place where social media and networking can really make a difference. Make sure to always cite your sources, linking to them when possible.

3. Fiction and Fan-Fiction

Many storytellers use their blog as their primary means of getting their writing out into the world. Whether you are writing your own stories from the ground up or using the characters and settings of someone else, you can make a name for yourself that will allow you to make the transition to selling your work to traditional publishers. Another tactic is to use your blog for short stories or short-short stories and then sell your longer works through e-books. If you are technically inclined you can create your e-books yourself, and if not you can use a service such as Lulu, which will allow you to convert your document and add a cover, as well as allowing you to sell printed copies on demand through your site or through retailers like Amazon.

4. Comedy and Parody

Technically a form of fiction, online comedy and parody can become viral like nothing else. Cracked, CollegeHumor, and the Onion are some of the most trafficked sites on the web because people love to laugh and the humor is quick, topical, and speaks to the concerns of the average netizen. However, not everyone can do funny, and you should consider deeply whether you can truly hack it. If so, pick your tactic and have at it, but the competition is steep. Also remember that, in comedy more than any other field, you have to make your content stand-out…while it is fine for just about every fantasy tale to include magic, the net just doesn’t need any more sites specializing in pictures of everyday things with humorous or absurd captions.

5. Collections

The internet is very big, and despite the best efforts of our overlords at Google, it is very hard to find what we want. This means that collecting lists of links, images, videos, and other content and summarizing why they are interesting is its own genre, with its own readers. While sites like Digg and Delicious have taken this genre and run with it, many subjects are obscure enough (and the web big enough) to make collections a very viable genre. Again, go for a niche, some subject that interests you and you can follow eagerly, and then simply collect the best content and summarize it for others. Collections can also be a good way to finish out a week of other posts by using a “best links of the week” theme.

6. Diaries, Opinions, and Rants

While this genre is hard to pull of well, some people really are interesting enough that their general thoughts can compell readers. This is a difficult call to make, because almost everyone thinks their own thoughts and opinions are interesting even though they are not. A good example of someone who can pull this off is Norimoto over at AvenueToTheReal, who blends humor and absurdity with serious social commentary and philosophical questioning. This kind of writing can be very cathartic, but beware: your readership may be low.

7. Reviews and Product Reports

Increasingly, people rely on other people rather than marketing to tell them about the products and services they want to buy. This means that if you happen to read a lot of books, go to a lot of movies, or buy a lot of gadgets, your personal experiences with them and expertise will help others get feedback and information about their interests. The Movie Space is a great example of a blog with multiple authors who have parlayed their collective knowledge of movies into some sizable traffic. Just like with an informational blog, pick something you are very interested in and have a great deal to say about…a book review that says “I liked it” or “It was boring” and nothing else will get little attention.

Final Word

This list is meant to help you figure out not just how to write for new media, but what to write about. It is not definitive, as these categories are coming into existence and changing as you read this. If anyone can think of any genre’s or categories I may have missed, please let me know.

How to Write for the New Media

Writers write, and we like to think we do it well. But sometimes what we were taught in writing classes and have learned from reading will mean death in online media. This is because the medium is so vastly different and people have different needs from the new media than they did from the old. Here are some tricks and tips for developing a new media writing style.

1. Go Short

In school and literature, often we are taught that more is better. If you can slip in more detail, another source, or another idea, you should. Well, this is just plain wrong in the new media. Here we have to capture a reader who with the click of a mouse can be somewhere else. They are not a professor paid to read a paper or a book-reader sitting and relaxing in a nook. They are on a computer and working in a very “hot” (interactive) medium. Keep your posts and articles between 400 and 700 words. If you absolutely must go longer, consider splitting the post up into a series. DO NOT go for the “multi-pager”. It does not work, nobody reads it and if you keep trying to write your magnum opus you will lose readers.

2. Avoid Big Blocks of Texts

Break your articles up into multiple paragraphs. What seems like over-formatting in a book or magazine can be perfect for a post because of the difference in how they are read. People’s eyes react differently to text on a screen. Use pictures, changes in font size, and lists to break your content up into meaningful chunks. The goal is that at any point a person could finish up a section in just a few seconds and easily come back for the next chunk later.

3. Avoid the Passive Voice

In school we learn to speak in the passive voice to record facts. This makes things very “objective” and “neutral” sounding, but is not what people are looking for online. There are a billion other things they could be reading that can all be objective, but they will read your work because it is yours. Make your writing drip with active verbs and your own personality. Let your voice come through so strongly that the reader will hear you in their head.

4. Lead the Reader

The formatting of online content is always a problem, but the best thing you can do is let your content guide the reader’s eyes and mind. Use lists, headings, and text styling to lead the reader’s eyes to the important points. This is what is sometimes called the “Command to Look” from a book by the same name.

5. Make Your Content “Hot”

This is the internet, web 2.0 thank you very much, and we want our content to be dynamic. We want links, video, and the ability to converse. Pepper your articles with interactivity, even to the point of asking questions for your readers to answer. If you refer to something, link it (but only the first time!), if you say there was a video, include it in the post.

6. SEO

Ok, get the groan out of your system. I know plenty of the community has a bad opinion of SEO, but I don’t agree with them. Search engine optimization is simply par for the course; you have to deal with it. Some simple tips are:

  1. Format your post titles to include the most well-known keywords for your article’s subject.
  2. Write your post to include a few repetitions of various keywords pertinent to your article (don’t oversaturate).
  3. If you are hosting your own blog, make sure your post titles come first in your page titles. The reason for this is that search engines only show the first part of the title, so if your blog title comes first then, even if you are on the front page, all people will see is the blog title, which makes them unlikely to click.
  4. Also, if you are hosting your own blog, make sure that you set your title page, archives, and tag pages to show only excerpts of your post contents. Search engines frown heavily on duplicate content.

7. K.I.S.S.

Keep it simple. No, really. Really simple. Avoid clarifying clauses, complicated thoughts, and involved sentences. This is not say you can’t write difficult ideas…just break them down. Tell them what you are going to tell them, tell them, then tell them what you told them. The reason for this is (again) about how people read on the internet. Since people are always multi-tasking, being able to come back to an article and read it in little chunks without losing the thread of the thought is absolutely necessary.

Final Word

Following these simple steps you can increase your reader loyalty and the uselfulness of your posts. People will be able to get what they need from your content easily and efficiently, which will make your posts and articles appealing and useful, which means people will come back to read more and pass on your work to other potential readers and clients. Help your readers read and they will stay loyal, make them work too hard and they will just click something else.

Does anyone else have any good writing tips for new media?


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Why Choose New Media Over Old?

Leaning tower of manuscripts.I have been promising to focus some posts on the writing side of writing for a change, rather than promotion and collaboration through social media. However, because of my general focus here, I want to focus on writing in the new media rather than the old, and I want to begin at the beginning.

What is the beginning? Well, its deciding to be a writer. What do you need in order to do that? The ability and drive to write, plus actually writing. If you can write (and I have read some people I can definitely say can’t write) and you are writing, then you are a writer.

Now, will you write passionately and artistically while pursuing a day job? Or will you go all in and write full-time? The secret to answering this question is answering the question of what kind of writer do you want to be…new or old media. If you want to go old media, then don’t quit your day job, because you are going to be spending a whole lot of time waiting on editors and a whole lot of money on postage.

If, instead, you have decided that your time is precious and manila give you hives, then new media is the way to go. Waiting is minute and communication is digital. Don’t be surprised if you never want to deal with snail-mail again.

But here is the real reason why new media rather than old. Remember back when we all found out that the music industry was scamming most artists, and that they had created so many paid middle-men in the industry that had to take their cut that the artists, the actual musicians, mostly made their money on concerts and t-shirts? Well, if you are in print media, look in the mirror, because that is us, too.

Think about it…how many different people and structures are in place between you and a full-time career in the old media? First, you need to write the material, shop the material to agents and publishers, who each get a cut. Then they will negotiate deals with promoters and distributers, and they all get a cut. And editors and their secretaries and hard-working people with slush-piles a mile high from people that want to be writers just like you…and the whole time you are waiting for checks. Checks I tell you. Who the hell pays for anything with a check anymore?

Nobel Peace Prize DiscussionOr, you can get a computer, master some basic skills, and pay for an internet connection. Whee! Your off. You find a few resources like my site and start looking at freelance sites, job boards, and social media. You start blogging, and talking and networking with other bloggers. The next thing you know, you have more work than you can shake a stick at and you are getting to turn down people who want to publish your work, rather than sitting in some slush-piles, waiting your turn.

The choice is yours, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls (oh yeah, did I mention kids can get started writing in the new media without getting laughed at by frowny faced meanies in suits?). I have made mine, and I hope this post has given you some good reasons to join me.

Here, in this virtual world, we do not have to compete or wait on bureaucracy that exists only to profit on our creativity. Here we go straight to the reader, on our own terms, and in our own way.

Now tell me, who would choose anything else?

What about you, folks? Any horror stories to tell of trying to make it in old media? How about the new? Success stories? It would be interesting to take a poll.

What is the “New Media”?

When people ask what I do, I tell them I’m a writer. Then they ask what I write, and I say I mostly write online. They then look at me quizzically, like they understand the words but don’t comprehend their meaning. They always ask, “like what?”

Like what?

Like the internet isn’t mostly text, and that the text and content they interact with daily doesn’t have to be written by someone. Like all the content, from the longest essay to the smallest lolcat didn’t have to be created by someone.

Now, I know that inside, deep inside, in the cockles of their hearts, they know all of this. I also realize that this is just an updated version of the treatment writers, artists, and thinkers have always gotten about what they do. This is normal.

What bothers me is when writers, people who should know better, still don’t get it. They just ask if I ever plan to do any “real” writing. As if what I do here and else less real than other writing.lolcat

When I have these conversations, I try to make my point.

me: Do you read?

them: Yes, of course.

me: Do you mean for news, entertainment, and information?

them: Yes.

me: Do you read about those things in newspapers, magazines, and books?

them: Oh, no, I do all that online.

Now, if this were a story, I would go silent and wait a beat, then they would go “Ohhh” with a look that showed their comprehension. Like the professional tale-spinner I am, I try to do this in real life, but it never works. They just wait for me to go on, and I stand there looking increasingly stupid.

The point is, what is this that we do? What is the “new media”? What is so different about writing for the new media that I made my blog about it? Is it the same as writing in other mediums? Well, obviously I would say no. I would say that the “new media” is a developing form of art in itself, a platform for literature and creativity impossible before the internet. It’s a new game with new rules.

So, the new media is all forms of media that exist through the internet primarily or only. Web-shows and podcasts, fanfilms and blogs, videos and playlists. The odds are that you probably have already contributed to the new media by talking on forums or commenting on articles, and never even realized it. We are all a part of this online creation. We exist in it and we help create it.

If you want to make writing your career, you have a choice to make. You can go the route of writers of prior generations and hack away at your novel and snail-mail it off to publishers, waiting for editors to get around to your corner of the slush-pile. Or you can get online, go into business for yourself, and pursue writing in the new media. Whichever it is, you need to be able to write, but to write in the new media you need some other skills and tricks as well.

For the next few posts, I am going to talk about the craft of writing itself, and how writing for the new media is different than writing for print. I have some topics I plan on covering, but I want to put out a call for questions from other writers and people getting started:

Do any of you have any questions or issues you would like to discuss?

Are You a Writer? Use Social Media to Help Tell Your Tale

Datasets in the Linking Open Data project, as ...Image via Wikipedia

Chances are that, if you have not waded through the process of agent, publisher, editor, and chain bookstore, you will answer the question “No”, even if you have been writing for years. Why is this? Because we have been taught for our entire lives that being a writer consists of this process. I have read many books on writing, and while the advice they offer on craft and discipline can be incredible, they also taught me this pattern of “How to be a writer”.

Over a decade of writing constantly and not getting paid and not getting read.

I believed it, and I’ll bet that there are plenty of people out there who still believe it. But it’s not true.

About www.NealJansons.com

This blog has a thesis, a purpose, and a goal.

The Thesis:

There is something amazing happening. Social media, social bookmarking, mashups, lifestreams, blogs, microblogs…these new technologies are leading to a new kind of existence and a new kind of world. In that world publishing companies and advertising agencies will not decide who’s voice gets heard or which writers become successful. No longer will your words sit on a slushpile in some editor’s office only to be lost in the shuffle. In this new world, so long as you can make yourself heard, the real world full of real people will be able to judge your work for themselves.

But you must make yourself heard.

The Purpose:

My goal is to bring together a combination of different resources and ideas that will help writers and content producers in the new media learn how to leverage the new internet technologies that are sometimes called “Web 2.0“, “Web 3.0” “semantic web” or various names starting with the word “social”. I just call them “cyberculture”, because that’s what it is: a culture with its own structure, language, economy, and rules.

Profile services like Facebook, microblogging sites like Plurk, blogs interconnected by trackback links and networks, lifestream services like FriendFeed, mashup applications, and all the other music, video, picture, and communication services that are springing up present an entirely new way to write, create content, and promote oneself.

The Goal:

I will settle for nothing else than a modern renaissance. No, really. I’m serious. Every other golden age in culture came about because of a sudden shift in the ability for people to interact in new ways. Entire schools of thought were founded because a few interesting people have been lucky enough to be able to communicate. What more can we do with ability for literally all of the interesting minds interested in a certain subject to communicate, to create, and to have it read?

Stay tuned!

Why I Write

A good question was asked on the “open-mic” I posted about recently, and I thought my answer was something I wanted to say on my own blog: “When I was little, I loved to read, and I started writing stories that aped my favorite writers. As I got older, I wrote poetry because I wanted to be able to say things without having to explain what it “meant” other than the sheer imagery and nuance of the words presented as they were. Eventually, I started writing non-fiction because I was studying philosophy in school and realized I had some things to say of my own.

Nowadays, I just write because it is what I do. I can’t not do it. When some buffer room showed up in my life financially, I did some research and found out that I could do the freelance thing and make a real living, so that is what I have been doing. What do I want to do with my writing…well, I want to get paid to do what I do already and couldn’t stop doing if I wanted to. Artistically, I want someone else, somewhere, to feel like I did when I was 16 and read “Siddhartha” by Herman Hesse. I realized I had been changed, that nothing would ever be the same again, and I felt so grateful to the book that it brought tears to me eyes.”

That about sums it up