Thursday, September 13, 2018

How to Write More

by Tony Thomas

To write more, first, you must write. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? It begins with a single word.

That word turns into a sentence. That sentence turns into a paragraph. Paragraphs turn into pages. And so on.

To get the single words that you need to build pages, begin to think in keywords—single words that encapsulate rich ideas that you can build upon. 

These words can be unpacked and expanded to create ideas and sentence structures that form the skeleton of your written composition. These keywords will make it easier to start writing. They stimulate your brain.

They are like a small flame that turns into a raging fire.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

The Book That Changed How I Approach Writing

by Tony Thomas

On Writing WellThose three words say it all.

William Zinsser's book on non-fiction writing is a true gem and is must-read for any writer. It certainly revolutionized the way that I approach writing.

Zinsser taught me that "less is more" and that I need to simplify. He taught me to write to an individual and not to an audience. He also taught me to think clearly.

One of my favorite quotes from On Writing Well:

“But the secret of good writing is to strip every sentence to its cleanest components. Every word that serves no function, every long word that could be a short word, every adverb that carries the same meaning that's already in the verb, every passive construction that leaves the reader unsure of who is doing what--these are the thousand and one adulterants that weaken the strength of a sentence. And they usually occur in proportion to education and rank...” (1)

Word economy is the key to clear communication. When I read older works, I often labor to dissect a sentence to determine exactly what a writer meant to say.  This is unfortunate and a lot of us are similarly guilty of unnecessary embellishment. We use several paragraphs to convey information that can be summarized in one sentence. Sometimes this is due to arrogance.  Sometimes it is just plain laziness.

As Zinsser says, "Writing is hard work". I would add that editing is even harder work.

(1) On Writing Well, William Zinsser

You can buy a copy of On Writing Well here:

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Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Why I Write

by Tony Thomas

Why do I write? I write because I love words. I write because I can sculpt my sentences into the messages that I want to convey. I write because writing is the ultimate form of communication.

I have been writing professionally for over 40 years. I've written articles, ad copy, radio commercials, collateral material, white papers, and books. I have loved every project and every moment that I have spent writing.

Sometimes words don't come easy. I have to stop, reflect, and think hard to coax them out. Eventually, they exit my mind and appear on the page. I am not a voluminous writer. I am stingy with my words. I believe in word economy. I mercilessly excise every superfluous sentence and word. Each word in the sentence has to work harder to perfectly render the correct shade of meaning.
I am a writer.  That is why I write.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

The Changing Landscape

by Tony Thomas

I've noticed that writing is a lot different than it was in the 70s, 80s, and 90s when I was an active writer.

First of all, there aren't that many print magazines around anymore. The exceptions are large consumer mags and some specialized trade publications. Paper and printing costs have risen astronomically, and that has either bankrupted or constrained many players in the magazine business.

It seems like the British are still very active in magazine publishing judging from my trips to the local Barnes & Noble. Those buying their beautiful magazines probably get sticker shock every time they look at the prices. Some of them cost as much or more than a trade paperback.

Consolidation has also taken hold, and there are conglomerates with several similar publications under one roof. Many publications are entirely staff-written and, as a result, there is less work for freelancers. And most of the companies that were once involved in the magazine business have moved their content to the Internet, even if some of them maintain a print version.

The Internet has been a game changer in a lot of different ways. Some good, and some not so good. Content mills and writing brokers are pervasive. Some websites that allow you to bid on work, but it is a race to the bottom. Writing rates are going down, down, down. If you are a professional writer and want to get paid well, you have to market yourself to find clients that value quality writing.

On the plus side, anyone can start their own blog and write their own self-published book very quickly, easily and inexpensively. As a result, there are fewer barriers to entry for those who want to write. Technology has also improved greatly.

In the 70s, I wrote all of my articles on a manual typewriter. In the 80s, I moved to computers. And now, I can dictate my words into a microphone and they are automatically recognized by the programs that I use. That allows me to write faster, even if the final product requires a bit more editing.

The only thing that I struggle with is getting back into the frame of mind to write. That requires discipline and a lot of deep thinking. Right now, I am in the process of working to streamline my workflow and strengthen my writing muscles.

Monday, July 23, 2018

My Review of the Speechnotes Voice Dictation App

by Tony Thomas

I did a quick YouTube review of the Speechnotes voice dictation app that uses the Google voice recognition engine and works inside the Chrome browser.  I use it quite a bit and think that it is a great tool for any professional writer since it is quick and easy to use and requires no setup or training.

You can watch my review here:

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

My Writing Journey

by Tony Thomas

I began writing professionally in 1976. My first project was a brochure for a small loudspeaker manufacturer. Thankfully, my client was patient with me because I wasn't very good. In fact, he suggested that I take a writing course. I took his advice to heart and took steps to become a better writer.

I started reading voraciously and bought an unabridged dictionary. I brushed up on grammar and sentence construction. I also discovered the David Ogilvy book: Confessions of an Advertising Man. That book had a tremendous influence on me and defined my trajectory as a writer. Ogilvy was a brilliant copywriter and a true advertising titan.

I went on to become a partner in an advertising agency and started writing for Cleveland Scene, a popular weekly newspaper. Later, I moved to Los Angeles and began writing for a number of magazines including Mix, Electronic Musician, AV/Video, Roland User's Group, and more. I moved back to Cleveland and continued writing. I returned to Cleveland Scene and also began contributing regularly to Recording.

As soon as I discovered the Internet, I began blogging.  I started with Tony Thomas' Techtrends beginning in the mid-1990s and added The Frugal Fountain Pen in 2014.  I wrote some short e-books that are on Amazon and plan to write many more.

Over 40 years later, I am still writing. And I plan to share my writing experiences with you in this blog. I look forward to the journey ahead.

Check out the YouTube video: