This morning on the train I was reading ‘End Malaria’ and felt inspired to write a little bit about the variety of new writing/publishing techniques and how some people are being so innovative. It goes without saying that the flexibility of the social web has allowed for the creation of lots of different types of content, but here some projects I found particularly interesting.
The writing process
November is National Novel Writing Month in America. It’s also the time when the popular NaNoWriMo takes place (no it’s not a Star Wars robot).
The aim of NaNoWriMo is to write a novel in 50,000, although many people will point out that a novel will usually start around 80,000 words. That’s almost 1700 words every day for a month. Seems like a mammoth task, that only sadists would want to join in with, but in fact 37,479 completed the task and became ‘winners’. You don’t have to write well, you just have to reach the word limit and get words on paper and it seems this process has proved hugely successful.
The week before I heard about NaNoWriMo I was reading Erin Morgenstern’s Night Circus, a magical book about a complex game between magicians which I’d highly recommend and I found out that in fact Night Circus is a NaNoWriMo novel! (Erin’s actually helping support the writers this year).
I’ll be giving it a go myself this year. I’ve got plans to write some science fiction though it’ll be a huge challenge to meet the word limit with my home computer out of action and spending a week of November on holiday, I’m going to give it my best shot.
So why is NaNoWriMo good for the writing process:
- It forces you to write consistently
- Gives you an opportunity to meet other writers in your area
- Is an excuse to spend time writing for a month
- Teaches you to work through an idea (even if you scrap it in the end)
- Allows you to be creative without necessarily overplanning
Last week I created a PDF for the Cardiff University Journalism course about Content and Community Strategies and in it I decribed how Leo Babauta was using Google+ and docs to crowd-source his communities thoughts on what he was writing while he was writing it (read the case-study on page 5). I thought this was an excellent way to engage with your community and use the comments of the people who will actually be reading the eBook. There are lots of ways that a method like this helps the writer:
- Engaging your community creates a more attentive audience
- By writing on a public forum you’re generating free publicity
- You’re doing something new so people like me will want to write about it
- Crowd-sourcing ideas could be less work
- You get instant feedback
- It’s a way of learning more about your community
- People are more likely to follow-up and see other content at the same time
- The book will be shared more and the audience size will increase
- You’re fostering creativity in others
Writing’s Next Frontier: Twitter Fiction by Joel Friedlander, reveals who’s already doing it.
How to publish
Where as Babauta is heavily involved with his community it seems that marketer Seth Godin adopted the Apple approach to do the exact opposite. His short-form blog is published then sent out by newsletter and tweeted from an automated account, but he’s very clued up and offers his community lots of free content.
I’ve written before about the importance for brands to add value for their audience and no-one does it better than Godin. Take this free eBook blog post for example:
‘I hope a new ebook I’ve organized will get you started on that path. It took months, but I think you’ll find it worth the effort.’
By offering those smaller pieces of content for free but pointing out the how much the content cost him in time, he ‘s proving that the audience he offers it to is important. He’s also showing his worth as a writer and encouraging people to invest in his longer content.
Godin has also been pioneering a new way of publishing.
The Domino Project…
is looking to revolutionise the publishing process by throwing out the archaic mechanisms like filler content, pleasing best-seller lists and using all sorts of formats. Despite their new approach the concept is being supported by online book retailer Amazon (you can read more about it in an interview with Godin on Publishing Perspectives). So far Godin and his team have release 6 fantastic books including the incredibly innovative End Malaria (which inspired this post).
Using publishing for good
So back to the start. This morning I was reading marketing book End Malaria on my kindle on the train (already a modern process). It’s not got the catchiest title, but it is an incredibly clever concept. I first spotted this book on the99percent.com in an article called Ending “Business As Usual”: 10 Insights on Rethinking Work. This article describes End Malaria very accurately as a mechanism for change. The book contains short essays from 62 great minds in three sections titled focus, courage and resilience. Doesn’t sound very different from other publications out there eh, but a huge amount of money from sales of End Malaria go towards just that, ending malaria.
Could it get much better? Not only does this publication give people the opportunity to learn something, it also gives them the chance to help save lives. It’s best explained in the prologue:
‘This book is a great example of how doing good makes good business sense.’
The book gives an opportunity for lots of interesting people to get publicity and share their wealth of knowledge. The information shared is great but rather than quote large quantities on here, I’d urge you to buy your own version of it after all they’re aiming to end malarial deaths in Africa by 2015.
There’s lots going on in the world of publishing (and no doubt I’ll write another post on it sometime), but what have you seen lately?