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 Shane Snow (Founder of Contently) Writes

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If you are going to run a company around a slogan like “Tell Great Stories,” or rally your troops by adopting the Native American proverb “Those who tell the stories rule the world,” then it pays to build an environment that fosters great writing.

Large photographs of your favorite writers covering one wall is appropriate. As is a collection of your favorite books along another wall.

And that’s just the environment Shane Snow has created for the employees of his company.

Shane is the co-founder of Contently, a high-end brand publishing firm. In fewer than five years, Contently has courted the likes of Coca-Cola, GE, Walmart, and Google as clients, providing both software and creative talent to help satisfy media objectives.

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Here’s How Bestselling Author CJ Lyons Writes

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No matter what kind of writing you do, “write what you know” is a well-worn adage every writer finds at some point in their studies.

For content creators of any discipline, being the “likable expert” in the niche or genre you specialize in is a necessity. For fictionists, finding an authentic voice is also a vital stylistic element to establishing believability.

For pediatric ER doctor turned New York Times bestselling author CJ Lyons, not only has she sold millions of books writing what she knows, she has forged a truly remarkable trail for author-entrepreneurs.

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Here’s How Lee Odden Writes

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He’s appeared in the pages of the Wall Street Journal, The Economist, and the New York Times.

He’s presented in Hong Kong, London, San Francisco, and New York City.

He is a fixture at annual events like Content Marketing World, Social Media Marketing World, and BlogWorld Expo.

His list of keynote addresses is equally impressive:

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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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