On most Fridays, Evan Peterson rounds up five stories from across the Web that scribes of all stripes should check out.
Many speechwriters have written a speech as long as President Obama's inaugural address this week; however, fewer scribes are familiar with the long, sometimes agonizing process of crafting such a speech. The chief speechwriter at the White House provided a glimpse into the work behind the speech this week.
Also, the value of outlining in reverse, Zen writing, bad writing advice, and more.
Writing the inaugural address:
President Obama's inaugural address this week was chided by conservatives as divisive, while being lauded by liberals for its themes of inclusiveness. Either way, there's no doubt that it was bolder than anything we heard on the campaign trail. In an interview with The Huffington Post, White House chief speechwriter Jon Favreau discusses why his boss’s second inaugural address was one of the most difficult he's written, and how he approached the lengthy process. Read the article here
In high school, you were likely taught that writing a good paper starts with an outline. How long did you actually practice this technique? Most writers I know either don't outline or they use a loose version of it when crafting articles, speeches, or other pieces. But Aaron Hamburger employs a writing technique with which I can’t identify: the reverse outline. That is, writing down what you have, and then seeing the order in which it best fits together. Read the piece here
Zen writing mode:
I am constantly aware that de-cluttering my computer screen and my desk would make me a more efficient writer. Closing windows on my screen and tidying my work space certainly helps, but what about an option to automatically clear your screen and let you just stare at a serene, bare surface? That's what GitHub, an online collaborative software-building site, introduced with its “Zen writing mode.” Maybe I've missed it, but wouldn't this make a nice feature for an online word processor? Read more about it here
Advice on memoirs:
A couple of weeks ago, I highlighted a piece arguing why good memoir-writing makes good storytelling. This week, Salon.com featured a piece with advice from several successful memoir writers. Here’s some advice from Atlantic
writer Ta-Nehisi Coates: “Accept the limitations and boredom of your life as the challenge of writing.” Read the full piece here
Bad writing advice:
It seems that we never tire of inspirational quotes about writing from famous authors. But we don't often consider that some of their advice isn't all that good. Flavorwire found several examples this week, including this from Charles Bukowski: “Don't Try.” Get all the bad writing advice here
Evan Peterson is a writer based in Chicago, and the editor of OpenMarkets magazine at CME Group. He's on Twitter at @evanmpeterson.