The Writer Files

This series is a celebration of some of the world's most accomplished writers -- writers like Seth Godin, Elizabeth Gilbert, and David Meerman Scott. Find out how (and where) these writers write ... and what inspires them to do so.

Here’s How Ann Handley (the World’s First Chief Content Officer) Writes

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Want a quick and dirty way to test whether your content is compelling?

Show it to a teenager … and then answer these questions:

  • Is the teenager still reading, watching, or listening after 30 seconds? One minute? Five minutes? Fifteen? Thirty?
  • Is the teenager happy, confused, or mad?
  • Is the teenager your child?

If your own teenager is still listening after 30 minutes — and is happy about it — you created some good content.

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Here’s How Jon Morrow Writes

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Pat was alarmed when her son wasn’t crawling by age one. So, like any good mother, she took him to see the doctor.

After a long examination, the doctor diagnosed baby Jon with spinal muscular atrophy (SMA). That meant instead of getting stronger as he aged, Jon would get weaker. Eventually he would get pneumonia and die.

The doctor, who said he was being generous, gave him until two years old to live.

Pat, however, would have none of that.

She — and a cadre of medical staff, family, and friends — fought to keep him alive.

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Here’s How Elizabeth Gilbert (Bestselling Author of Eat, Pray, Love) Writes

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Very few writers, regardless of their specialty, can claim the honors of a National Book Award nomination, a hat-trick of National Magazine Award nods, and a #1 New York Times Bestseller, all to their credit.

Elizabeth Gilbert can.

Throw in her radiant new novel, The Signature of All Things, that TIME recently named one of the “10 best books of 2013,” and you have a true marvel.

From her early days in the cutthroat journalism trade, writing copy for the likes of GQ and the New York Times Magazine, to her wildly successful memoir Eat, Pray, Love, Ms. Gilbert has punched her way to becoming a heavyweight wordsmith.

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Here’s How Hugh Howey (Bestselling Author of Wool) Writes

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The bestselling author of Wool, Hugh Howey, has become the patron saint of empowering authors to take their publishing straight to the people.

His own successes with self-publishing have recently placed him squarely in the spotlight as both a fierce advocate and savvy internet entrepreneur.

And Mr. Howey wants you to write a lot.

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Here’s How Maria Popova of Brain Pickings Writes

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Most serious writers and online publishers are relentlessly on the prowl for fresh inspiration to fuel both their creativity and productivity.

If you aren’t familiar with the writing of Maria Popova, prolific author of the “discovery engine for interestingness” known as Brain Pickings, you’ve been missing out on some of the most fascinating and heady publishing on the web.

Ms. Popova is a wellspring of knowledge and she daily cross-pollinates a wide variety of disciplines, all in the spirit of creativity and discovery. She has contributed to Wired, The Atlantic, is an MIT Futures of Entertainment Fellow, and was named to Fast Company’s 100 Most Creative People in Business (among many other accolades).

Although she began her professional career in advertising, she found the DIY integrity of publishing her own website far more rewarding, and her indie work ethic has contributed to a growing legion of fans (including quite a few celebrities).

Join me as we examine the file of Maria Popova, writer …

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Here’s How Sonia Simone Writes

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All great writing starts with a few well-chosen words, a unique voice, and — according to my guest and colleague — a love for your audience.

Sonia Simone is a true original, a prolific author, educator, and speaker who has written countless well-chosen words for Copyblogger (I consulted a team of experts, and we literally couldn’t count them all).

As Senior Editor and Publisher of Copyblogger.com, Chief Marketing Officer of Copyblogger Media, and Head Educatrix over at Authority — a program designed to teach every aspect of creating an online presence that works for your business goals — she is a true authority on copywriting and producing the kind of content that builds a business.

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