SXSWi 07 Notes: Writing Better

The following are my panel notes from SXSW. As I am not the fastest typer I have paraphrased what was said. Should you notice any mistakes please do point them out in the comments for corrections.

Greg Storey Principal/Creative Dir, Airbag Industries LLC
Bronwyn Jones Mktg Comms, Apple Computer
Erin Kissane Editor, Happy Cog
Ethan Marcotte Vertua Studios

Greg Storey - The Amateur - Getting Started

Recommends writing as if you are a having a kitchen table conversation


These are alien symbols. These prevented me from getting started. Where does the comma go. These has a lot to do with me not paying attention to english classes at high school. People will call me out on this. I still get hate mail from the English police. Don't get caught up on this. Tell your story. What's important is that people get your story.

I try not to sound the same. The panel told me I've failed utterly. You get yourself out of your comfort zone. I recently told a story about how someone had screwed up my Wall Street Journal (they'd shortened it). I went upstairs and wrote about it, 'cos that'll show them.

I went to Starbucks said I've just written something clever it's on Airbag, ever heard of it? She hadn't, I just got my latte (laughter)

Find something to talk about that you have no idea about and write about that. It's a great brain exercise.

David Foster Wallace wrote about crab fishing in a town, and he talked about when they were small and how they grew up and then the evil mens came along and turned them into food products.

Dance like nobody's watching.


I am a constant amateur. I got my writing to the point where people can follow along what I am trying to say.

Ethan Marcotte the Reader. On Reading.

Walt Whitman, To a Locomotive in Winter.

... (Attention shifted to getting the wi-fi working)

Bronwyn - The professional

Write in email. I can save things as a draft. Staring at a blank word processor document is just scary. Learn enought to fake it convincingly. You ned to do some research, when you write you are just relating the sum total on all of the knowledge you have on a given subject.

Remember no-one knows the rules. Every cheats. EB White - I write by ear.

Erin Kissane, the Editor On Editing.

I edit A list Apart.

We have to say no to something. I've never had to reject an article because someone doesn't know how to use our style guide. Mainly things will be rejected because they're written for the wrong audience. We've had article sent to us about gardening and it wasn't a metaphor.

Sometimes it's not clear enough the point that the person is making.

Focus - know your audience.
and clarity. Be wary of jargon.

Organised Process:
Plan (focus)
Outline (structure)
Revise (clarity)

my process look s more like this.

Disorganised process

I normally write a few pages.
Then have a conversation with my boyfriend
Then I move stuff around.

Don't let anyone force you to do an outline first. GS: Fork stab those people!

Greg Storey: find inspiration. Don't let the rules get in the way of getting your voice. Just go do it.

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