Friday, November 19, 2010

Around the Word

Everything old is new again: a new site tracks British rhetoric, a new analytics tool tracks who's reading what, and old James Frey is up to some very new tricks.
  • For our speechwriting friends across the pond, there's a new kid on the block: British Political Speech. The site is an ever-expanding online archive of British political orations of all stripes dating back to 1895. Visitors can submit speeches, explore speechwriting resources, and—of course—discuss, analyze, and revel in rhetoric. Hat tip to David Murray of Vital Speeches of the Day for pointing us toward the site.
  • It's the age of exploration for online writing. Scribd, the document-sharing site called the "YouTube for documents," is releasing a kit of analytics tools that will allow writers to track their documents across the web—and the world—with pinpoint accuracy, according to Fast Company. Aside from knowing the number of hits documents are receiving, writers will be able to identify the most magnetic search terms, watch how their documents travel through social networking sites, and locate reading hotspots, both on the web and in the world. There are even infared goggles: a new "heat map" will scroll along the left side of a document, glowing red wherever readers linger, and darkening to blue on portions that readers skip. Using this heat-seeking tool, writers will be able to shape content based on how readers react. The whole kit and caboodle is free for Scribd users, and requires no programming. Would you try it out? Do you think these tools will revolutionize writing, or are there regions even the best technology can't (or shouldn't) access?
  • James Frey, most famous for his controversial not-quite-memoir A Million Little Pieces, has since moved onto bigger and better things. Or at least, bigger things. Specifically, masterminding Full Fathom Five, a 30-person young adult fiction factory designed to supply the YA market with a steady stream of latter-day Harry Potters and Twilights. "A lot of artists conceptualize a work and then collaborate with other artists to produce it," he told a group of Columbia creative writing MFAs. New York magazine investigates the terms of that "collaboration," which include $250 up front, possibly $250 upon completion, and either 30 or 40 percent of all generated revenue. In exchange for the (possibility of) big bucks, writers agree, among other things, to give up control their name and image: the company can "use the writer's name or a pseudonym without his or her permission…[and] substitute the writer's full name for a pseudonym at any point in the future." So what do you say? You ready to sign on?

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