Use the Editor’s Note to Tell Your Paper’s Story

Curators show who they are by exposing what they care about, what they consider worthy of other people’s attention. We use stories as currency in the attention economy: picking the best of them and passing them along.

We manage a platform of stories. Yet, it seems we’re not storytellers ourselves. Or when we are, we separate the curation from the storytelling. Browsing through Paper.li, I found that most editors do not use the “editor’s note” text area — myself included. Is it shyness? Do we want to put other people’s content first and foremost?

By putting your curation efforts in context, you add value to each individual link you share. It is not necessarily about taking a larger chunk of your reader’s attention for yourself.

And if you do want the attention, please, put effort in it. Pasting your website URL in there isn’t going to cut it. Whenever I see such editor’s notes, I get a spammy vibe and it hurts your credibility. Self promotion is fine, just make it elegant.

How To Unearth Your Story?

Curators care. Some care enough to set up a Twitter list and a Paper.li to use it themselves. Some walk the extra miles and edit theirs every day before sending it out to their community. We have individual reasons for caring. If you tell these reasons to others, they might be touched and start caring too. To unearth your own Paper.li’s story, all you have to do is ask yourself the questions that the interviewers here have asked to the featured editors. It is better to do it in writing, so open a text editor or grab some paper and a pen. Here we go.

Start with your topic. Explore the reasons why you are interested in the subject. Explain how you became the person who engages in the task of editing your paper. What happened? This is the first “crisis” of the story. Readers get a glimpse of the hero’s background and learn about the event which led you to your subject.

Next comes everybody. Our hero — yes, you! — meets people on social networks. There is a connection. And you use Paper.li to achieve a goal. Maybe they help you. Maybe you help them. Or both. Even if you don’t promote your paper, it’s your chance to take a better look at your sources. What do they have in common? Why did you select them?

The resolution. The hero’s efforts have brought the Paper.li to life. Somebody — it might be only you or your whole community — is now better off. To write this part, ask yourself these questions: do you get a response when you put your Paper.li out there ? Does it have an impact on the people you publish?

It’s OK to not be 100% accurate. I wouldn’t encourage you to lie, but don’t let an obsession with accuracy ruin your story. It’s your inner critic trying to fool you. There are many ways to cover the same sequence of events. The way you recall events isn’t necessarily the most accurate version anyway. Tell your inner critic to shut up and re-frame your story in the most positive and active light possible using the above structure. You should, in fact, feel a little uncomfortable with the result at first.

Editing, The Funny Part

Sprinkle active verbs. Verbs which describe movements engage the reader’s motor cognition. Neurons in the parts of the brain which treat our own movements fire when we see somebody else move and even when we read or hear about movement. You should use this in your writing — even more so in short pieces. For example, you “embrace social media” and you “use Paper.li to pick up interesting links from the community’s feeds”. “Embrace” and “pick up” paint a vivid picture and enhance your story without using too much space.

Disassociation strategies. If your topic is polarizing, you might be afraid to have your name associated with what could get pulled in your Paper. Framing your paper as the result of an encounter between you and the whole community (as we did) might not be enough. If you still feel anxious, describe how Paper.li helps you with its algorithms.

Make it short. You want to preserve space for the stories you and the algorithms have picked. It’s the point, really. So you need to pack your grand story in the tiniest amount of space possible. Don’t worry, though: just lay down the words first. Then, take out the unnecessary nuances and modesty. Eliminate the passive voice, the adjectives and the adverbs. Replace comparisons with metaphors. And see your word count. Repeat until you have sixty words or less.

Now, you’re ready to copy and paste it into your Paper.li. If you do complete this exercise, it might give you the courage to tackle other text areas. For example, take the part that is most personal in your story and squeeze words out until you reach below the 160 character limit of Twitter biographies. It’s a fun game and you’ll reap benefits.

Image credit: “Story Time”, by Dave Parker. Creative Commons.

Suggested reading

  • Pingback: Curation for Brands in Context | Evren Kiefer

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1449502760 Beth Ellyn Andrews Poore

    What a GREAT idea! Now I have to try to become a little bit of a writer so I can help my causes, “The Dignity for All Students Act” and “The Healthy Workplace Bill”. We ALL need to fight against Bullying in schools and the workplace. Unfortunately, for some it’s become Bullyside. We have to make changes, it’s not Ok to Bully, Any-where, Any-time at Any-age or for ANY-reason ! Thank you for this forum !

  • Pingback: Content Marketing for Small Businesses | The People Behind the Paper.lis

  • http://www.facebook.com/davidmichaelcunningham David Michael Cunningham

    Never mind, I was looking right over it. I guess my mind was blocking out things that it didn’t think was important.

  • http://www.facebook.com/davidmichaelcunningham David Michael Cunningham

    Where is this “editor’s note” located? I would like to use it, but I don’t know where it is.

  • http://twitter.com/inMotionKiting inMotion Kitesurfing

    Great article Evren, and excellent advice all round!

    I have been a huge fan of Paper.li from the day I first discovered it. I love the concept, and the commitment and dedication of the staff members behind the scene.

    As someone who hand edits 2 niche papers on a daily basis, I hope that more people will take the time to curate their papers each day in the future… I see many papers that were created and then left on auto pilot, which end up looking rather abandoned.

    Brendon