Conversations about Creating Compelling Content

Improve Your Writing: 3 Resources I Love

Although I always build in an extra day to review and revise my work before sending it off, I often don’t have extra time to pick it apart and see where I could make it even better.

While I do know a few writers I can ask to review my work, it’s really up to me to make sure I’m improving, just like in any job. So I’m grateful to have found three resources that regularly show up in my email inbox that force me to think about voice, transitions and storytelling.

Two come from journalists while the third is a journalist turned fabulous marketer.

Each resource opens the door to sites rich with good writing, keen insights and useful information.  Each one will help you (and me) be a better writer.


The Open Notebook


My fascination with two science ideas and a quest to find the best science writers led me to The Open Notebook, a non-profit that uncovers “The story behind the best science stories.”

A recent post, Cementing Transitions by Amanda Mascarelli, was delightful, provided clear, well researched examples and commentary by top editors. The post alone is a great reason to subscribe. It inspired this post.

I love the site’s Pitch database where journalists share their successful story pitches and profiles of a Day in the Life of science writers. It’s great to see what worked for others and what editors want in a story pitch.


Nieman Storyboard

I started reading Nieman Storyboard long before the Pulitzer-Prize winning Jacqui Banaszynski took over as editor this year, and it has only grown better with her at the helm.

Jacqui recently retired from a long career teaching journalism as the endowed Knight Chair in Editing at the Missouri School of Journalism, and is a faculty fellow at the Poynter Institute. She won the 1988 Pulitzer Prize in feature writing for “AIDS in the Heartland.”

I met her decades ago through my editor at the PSBJ and her pal, Don Nelson. At one point I remember begging Don to bring her back more frequently as a writing coach for our team. He agreed but said it was hard even for him to get on her schedule. (Full disclosure, I recently hired Jacqui to help me hone a story pitch with national appeal.)

Now I get to learn more from her each week as she brings important long form narrative stories to my attention, raises important journalistic issues, and sparks discussions through the weekly newsletter she sends to recruit us to the Storyboard website.

Just reading Jacqui’s weekly newsletter is like taking a masterclass in storytelling.

At the site, a stellar staff creates Annotation Tuesdays where we learn what major magazine editors want in story pitches, read actual story pitches and why they were successful; and learn why One Great Sentence works and the story behind them.

Totally Annarchy

Don’t you just love that clever name? I told my daughter Anne she should name her film production company something just as great.

Ann Handley’s newsletter is packed with personality and filled with writing tips and tools. She is chief content creator at MarketingProfs, has a journalism background, and wrote a couple of books on Content Marketing, including her latest, Everybody Writes.

I stumbled on Ann’s personal site Ann when I wanted to send her a note about the second most popular post on my blog Every Word Counts: 9 Things I learned at Marketing Prof U’s Marketing Writing Bootcamp. I wrote the post in 2011 when I took the course.

While I only visit MarketingProfs from time to time, I’ve always loved Ann’s writing voice, which I’m sure matches her perky personality, and wanted to hear more of it. I love her infectious smile and cool glasses and wanted to put her in my priority inbox rather than my maybe-I’ll-read-this-sometime subscription email account.

I look forward to hearing what’s happening in her world, about her tiny shed and learning new writing tips and tricks.

For example, one latest missive let me know there’s a tiny in-demand restaurant in Maine that takes reservations only by postcard, and that Google has launched a new search engine to help scientists, journalists, and marketers find the datasets they need.

Ann is a perfect example of how to be authentic and create a personal brand.


Tell me – what newsletters or sites help you be a better writer?


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