Tag Archives: research

How to Build A Literary Swipe File

Savvy copywriters use swipe files to build collections of tried-and-true marketing materials to reference when they feel stuck. But whether you’re a writer, artist, or designer, we can all use a little inspiration every now and then. Building your own swipe file could be the very way you find some.

A Collection of Examples

So in the literal sense, what exactly is a swipe file and where is it stored? It is, simply, a collection of words and images that serve to aid your creative endeavors.

Everyone knows artists steal from each other. Okay, not actual theft, and do not plagirize. Instead, let’s call it inspiration. When you place something in your swipe file, your goal is to analyze the text. Why does it work so well? Study and improve your writing skills.

Where To Start

For one, there’s no point in a swipe file that doesn’t get used. The goal isn’t to be a hoarder of images and words and ideas that, once squirreled away, are quickly forgotten. Make sure to create a system that works for you (more on that later).

You can create different swipe files for different purposes. If you work by day in marketing while pursuing your own creative projects at night, create a separate file for each of those pursuits.

What To Put In A Swipe File

Take pictures or screenshots of passages that made you pause, laugh, or cry. The ones that connected with you. Save links to articles with topics that interest you or headlines that grab you. If you’re having trouble locking down the mechanics of your story, you might find what you’re searching for when you pinpoint what about other people’s writing drew you in.

I’ve started to make a note of first sentences. How do authors begin their stories? What about that string of words made me want to keep reading?

As someone interested in digital marketing, I also have a swipe file for advertisements and copy.

If you can’t relate to this, I don’t even want to know you.
If you can’t relate to this, I’m not sure I even want to know you.

Where I Write

It’s different in the summer. During the school year, I write in three very specific places: the research lab which is filled with computers, a mini fridge, and a microwave; my work, where I sit next to the students I tutor and put on headphones to keep them from interrupting me during my time off; or my stuffy, not weatherproofed room. When it’s hot, my room is hot. When it’s cold, my room is very cold. It’s nice enough in the fall and the spring, but come summer and winter, my room really sucks.

In the summer, though, I’m not at school, for the most part. This summer I’m not abroad either. I stayed in California to finish my research and present at Berkeley. I’m glad I stayed, but that means one very big thing for me: I didn’t get to escape from my hot, stuffy room. I had to find other places to go this summer to cool off and write.

I found myself on campus a lot when the summer started. I was required to research there four days a week and I had a campus parking pass. Cal Poly Pomona has a lot of nice, air conditioned spots for me to camp out with my laptop or a notebook and write. On a couple of the cooler days I even ventured outside and sat in the shade of a tree to do some of my writing.

This summer I was writing more than I usually did. Sure, I am often scribbling ideas for stories or poems on pieces of paper, on the notepad feature on my computer, or heck, even on my hand if nothing else is around, but I wasn’t really focusing on any of that this summer.

This summer I was doing academic writing and finishing what would be a forty-seven page research report on the integration of technology into a California Common Core performance classroom focusing on Shakespeare. It was a fairly specific project.

I was also writing blogs. I didn’t miss a beat on this blog—check it out. I posted at least twice a week, usually more. Even while I was up in Berkeley presenting my research I had blogs scheduled to pop up and keep my voice going here while I was away.

I didn’t write in Berkeley. I had decided that it was too much of a hassle to pack my laptop and bring it on the flight to and from. But that didn’t mean I stopped writing. I had notebooks with me as well as my Kindle, which kept me occupied outside of all the networking, preparing, and presenting I was doing and watching at the conference.

I was also busy making awkward faces with my fellow McNair scholars and the McNair program advisers. I was also busy being the only one in a photograph wearing sunglasses. I think I was caught between a sneeze and a smile when this one was shot.

When I got back form Berkeley my writing habits changed. I was solely focused on editing and proofing my research report, which is much different from researching and writing. I had to put on the hat of an editor and scrutinize my own goods. Editing and proofing are part of the writing process, though—one of the most important parts, in my opinion. It’s great if you can write, but it’s better if you can make something you’ve written clear, concise, engaging, and plain old great. That’s what I was trying to do when I returned.

I Can’t Write a Short Story without Structure

I find that for different types of writing I have different writing styles. My process for writing a poem varies vastly from my methods for writing a short story, even though they are both creative writing in nature. For me, a poem is something that can flow naturally or almost be stream of thought – I just think of what I want to say and how to say it, and it happens. A short story is much more complicated than that for me.

When I write a short story, I need to create a whole mythos around the project and flesh out each of the characters before I can even start outlining what will become the plot of the story. When I say short story, I mean something 10 pages plus – if I write anything less than that, I usually think of it as flash fiction, or a very short piece that doesn’t need much development. I’m not the kind of writer that can sit down and write 20 pages without detailed planning.

This is what I look like when I type. Pink dress and all.

This wasn’t always my method for writing, but rather a style I have developed over time. When I first started writing short stories creatively, I approached as I did poetry. I sat down with an idea and just wrote and wrote and wrote to see what came out. Often, what came out was okay, but had a lot of plot holes and developed in weird ways that weren’t exactly engaging to read. I found that while I had good ideas starting out writing a story and the first few days of writing went pretty well and had decent (and believable) plot and character development, as time passed, I lost ideas and plans that I had mentally put together for the piece and what I ended up with was nothing like what I initially intended to put out.

That’s So Chocolate Bar: How a Book is Helping Fund Research to Cure a Rare Disease

When 6 year old Dylan Siegel wrote the book Chocolate Bar and then single handedly pushed for his parents to self-publish it, it was well received by the public, earning over $92,000 and landing him multiple book signings and interviews. So what’s the story behind Chocolate Bar‘s success?

Dylan, right, and his best friend Jonah, left
Dylan (right) and his best friend Jonah (left)

Dylan wrote the book to raise money for his 7 year old best friend, Jonah Pournazarian, who has a rare liver disease, glycogen storage disease.

“My goal is to raise a million dollars!” Dylan told TODAY.com. “Then I think I’ll make a whole series of Chocolate Bar books so I can raise money for different diseases.”