SXSWi Session Notes for 15 Slides, 3 Writers


15 Slides, 3 Writers
Presenters: Jim Coudal, John Gruber, Michael Lopp
  • Jim Coudal
    • Get Yourself on Assignment
      • In avoiding one project, it frees me up creatively to work on another project.
      • When you’ve got a deadline looming the next day for a big deliverable, that’s the perfect time to start a new project
    • Without a Net
      • Not only are you assigning yourself the work, but you are writing it, editing it, and proofing it yourself. There’s no safety net to catch the factual errors, or other kinds of mistakes.
    • Starting
      • Cheat by making up a temporary headline. Give yourself the feeling of having started
    • Drafting
      • Blast through as fast as you can, no thought on grammer, spelling, structure. Just get it done.
      • Then revise extensively. It’s like sculpture: write it all down, and then carve away what is not the final product.
    • Reading and writing
      • He likes to write in BBEdit, and read the published web page. He’s writing in a textual editor, and proofing in a CSS-rich environment. By changing the environment, it helps to make it easier to read what you’ve written with a critical environment.
    • The Lede
      • Be able to add “Let me tell you a story,” at the beginning of the text, and still have it make sense. Does the story grab you from the first line? Is it conversation.
    • Unstuck
      • Don’t get stuck that much. I have a big blob of text that I start with. If I get stuck, I go back to the beginning, and start working on grammer issues and structure, and by the time I get back to where I was stuck, the article has changed enough that I’m no longer stuck.
      • For being really stuck, I take some time away. Go do Twitter.
    • Knowing When You’re Done
      • When the guy from the publishing house comes and grabs the manuscript.
      • Now that stuff is on the web, never. If you see a typo in an article that’s been linked to a hundred times, still go fix it.
    • Footnote
      • Writing is a tool not learned well late.
      • If you are going to hire someone, pick the person who can write well.
  • Michael Lopp
    • Author of several books
    • http://randsinrepose.com/
    • Getting Yourself an Assignment
      • Ideas come from anywhere, anytime. Maintain openness to new ideas.
    • Without a Net
      • When writing books, I do have a net: editors, copyeditors.
      • When writing my blog, I do have a paid editor: Because I’m terrible at doing my editing.
    • Starting
      • All of my writing between 9 and 11.
      • Read something, drink coffee, get the words flowing, then write.
      • All of the quality writing is just those couple of hours.
      • Don’t write all day. 
    • Do You Feel a Draft?
      • Do three drafts
      • First draft, then print it out.
      • Take the printed stuff, and get into a different context: couch, porch, somewhere not on the screen.
      • Then send it off to editor, get their feedback in Word.
    • Foolish Consistencies
      • I’m a nerd, the world doesn’t make sense without rules
      • I think I’m a better writer when my spine is straight.
      • I think I’m a better writer when my hood is up.
      • Where my mouse is, how my monitor is.
    • The Hook
      • What is the thing that is interesting about this thing I am going to build?
      • I don’t really get started until I know the hook.
      • I write about people at work. But I take the characters, and I mix them together. A character is a composite of several people. 
      • The nerd handle: the explanation of why we are, who we are.
    • The Lede
      • I give myself permission to be vague to keep going. I might use square brackets to mark off some vagueness.
    • Unstuck
      • Context switch: print it out, go somewhere else.
      • Rewrite the last three paragraphs, even if they were fine. I can restart momentum. “A running start”
    • Proofing
      • I bring in outside support to help me get this done.
      • I’m horrible at spelling and grammar
    • Leftovers
      • For a long time, never had anything.
      • Now have 60 articles in my drafts folder.
      • Feel like I am a better writer because I’m not so attached now to what I’ve written.
    • Knowing When You’re Done
      • There’s a magical point where I’m maybe 3/4 of the way through, when I can suddenly see the ending. I may have a lot left to write, but it’s rewarding to see it, and then to get there.
    • John Gruber
      • Foreword
      • Give Yourself an Assignment
        • Nobody tells him what to do, nobody ever gives him an assignment, tells him what to write.
        • Delighted to be spending his life writing.
        • It’s almost never been the case before that you could make a living as a short-form writer.
        • No rules for choosing what to write: it’s just what he sees that is interesting or fun.
        • Articles kill me: I am miserable. My wife knows when I am writing an article vs. just linking.
        • The only thing worse than writing an article would be not writing it.
      • Without a Net
        • When I started writing, I had one reader: my wife.
        • I started posting on related articles on the web.
        • Readers grew to dozens, then hundreds, then thousands. Now 150,000 page views a day.
      • Starting
        • Even a day of farting around in Safari counts as work if it ends up as a couple of blog posts.
      • Drafts
        • I never write drafts.
        • Everytime I write, I feel like it will come out perfect. I think I’ll be done in an hour.
        • It never turns out that way, but thinking that is what helps me write.
      • Foolish Consistencies
        • Apple Extended Keyboard II
        • Last made in 1992. 
        • Cost $170 then.
        • “This is a man’s keyboard.”
        • I write better with it.
        • I won it in a college bet playing a game on the Sega Genasis. “It was my millennium falcon.”
      • The Hook
        • Having the hook for an article is the whole thing that makes me want to write it. If I don’t have the hook, I won’t write the article.
      • The Lede
      • Unstuck
        • Dark gray background with white text.
        • If I am stuck, I switch color schemes: light gray background with black text.
      • Proofing
        • I don’t work with anyone, so I have to proof my own stuff.
        • I can’t proof in my editor (BBEdit).
        • If it’s long, I print it out.
        • If I am going to edit on screen, I have to do a preview in BBEdit, and see it in a web page.
      • Leftovers
      • Footnotes
        • Sometimes the best thing in an article is in a footnote
  • Questions
    • Why do you write in BBEdit?
      • A: I write in a text editor. I don’t like knobs and dials.
      • A: It’s simple, no bells and whistles.
      • A: I’ve been using it since the 90s, and know everything about it.
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