* Day One - Why I'm Doing This
* Rule Number One - Master the Language
* Anyone Can Be a Writer? - No.
* Double-check Your Work. Twice.
* Be Strong. Let Go of Your Babies.
* Query, Pitch, Submit!
* Some Rejections Maim; None of Them Kill
* Ready for Feast or Famine?
* Be an Expert at Something... Anything.
* Perceive, Process, Produce
* Develop a Style
* A Process of Evolution
* Widen Your Horizon
* Q&A: Coping With Editors
* Which To Write About First: The Chicken or the Egg?
* The Four M's of Writing
* Freelancing From Overseas
Develop a Style [01/03/02] - It's a tall order, and could take a lifetime to pan out, but taking deliberate and focused efforts to develop a unique writing style may spell the difference between bestseller and mediocre.
You can be a Shakespeare, a Hemingway, a Ludlum, a Bombeck, or a [insert your name here]! You only need to stand out -- to have your own brush strokes, your own rhythm, your own texture, on consistent masterful works of art. Daunting, yes. Impossible, no.
What does it take? Endless reading and astute observation. What makes your favorite authors shine? What sets them apart from the rest? Why do *you* admire them? Learn from them, then experiment on what works for you. Endless writing and honest assessment. Try different styles but develop one that you can sustain -- one that can be second nature rather than a daily grind not unlike pulling teeth.
Where to start? Try material you're comfortable with -- you like telling stories? kidding around? stringing hah-fallutin' words? asking questions and digging dirt? Ahh... see if you're cut out for a certain type of writing. Then evolve, however slowly and graciously, into one of the bestselling writers you have always admired.
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A Process of Evolution [02/07/02] - Turning into a "writer" is a process of evolution. For many, the process starts with a formal education in journalism or creative writing. For some, it starts as early as their parents' moment of union when they inherit genes that can be traced back to Chaucer, or Lincoln's speech writer. For most, becoming a writer starts as a dream, a whim, a compulsion, or a spark of inspiration. Where they take it from that starting point determines how far up the food chain they go.
Writing is a craft that needs to be honed; it is also a mindset that needs to be nurtured; and it is a state of being that needs to evolve. A writer must strive to improve, to keep practising, and eventually "mature" through the years.
Evolving from an amateur grasping concepts and figuring out the tricks of the trade to a seasoned veteran whose smooth flow of words has become second nature, a writer won't be able to escape the many transformations along the way.
Only the writer can determine if this evolution will be as triumphant as a butterfly emerging from a cocoon, or as torturous as pulling teeth.
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Widen Your Horizon [09/17/02] - It's great to be born with the interest, endurance, and persistence to stay on one track, the one you really love to be in, for all your life. Kinda like Spielberg. Most humans, however, are gifted with short attention spans, 96,000 different interests, and a very low tolerance for discomfort. Kinda like ... some folks we know.
Many writers belong to the easily-bored group of humans. Artists dependent on creative muses that flit about in constant search of sparks of inspiration, writers can get bored writing about the same things over and over.
Half of the writing experts says, "write about what you know." The other half says, "write about what you don't know." And the third half, where I belong, says, "write about what you want to know."
Specializing in something makes you an expert, but learning something new everyday makes you... interesting.
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Q&A: Coping With Editors [08/12/03] -
Diana L. in Japan, asked me a few questions about these formidable creatures called editors. Let me share our question-and-answer session:
Q: Are editors more concerned about your credentials than the content of the proposed article?
A: Different venues/publishers have different ways of qualifying writers. Some are strict about the background of the writer -- academic attainment, books written on the subject, years writing professionally, publications that published their work. The editors who are particularly concerned with credentials are those who run trade publications and highly focused topics -- they simply want *experts* to write for them. But there are also publications that are not too concerned about the writer's background, as long the writer can deliver the quality of writing they require.
Q: Do editors really take the number of your published works into account before they even bother to read your article?
A: Some editors prefer published writers only because it saves them the time and trouble to have to deal with *inexperienced* writers. Some editors read the "published in" line of the applicants, and if they see that other major publications have accepted and published the writer, they're more inclined to go ahead and read the proposal/article. Not all editors are like this, though. Many will go ahead and read
proposals, articles, or manuscripts regardless of whether the writer is published or not.
Q: Are there any reasons why some editors don't respond at all?
A: There are hundreds of reasons editors don't respond. To name some: wrong name/address, inappropriate/ill-timed/already-covered topic proposal, unqualified writer, inappropriate writing style, plain bad writing, editor in a bad mood, too many proposals to open, placed in "pending" and never gotten back to, disasters at the editor's office/home/lovelife, inadvertently trashed, changes in editorial staffing, lost in the
forwarding, lost in the mail, buried in spam, deleted with junkmail, not accepting new proposals/articles/writers, etc. etc.
Lately, because most publications are cutting down on costs (recession here in the US), freelancing is rather weak. The publishers make their resident writers work overtime for the same pay, or they rehash/reprint old articles so they don't have to pay for new ones. So, the slush pile gets higher and higher. And answering pitches or queries is limited to the few articles that they acquire. Instead of spending time, effort, and stamps in sending out rejections, the editors just don't respond.
So, if you sent a pitch to an editor, and you've followed up after six to eight weeks (or whatever their timeframe is for responding -- they usually mention this in their writer's guidelines), and you still don't get a response, you can assume you should move on.
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Which To Write About First: The Chicken or the Egg? [10/19/03] - A newcomer to the freelance writing world asked me for advice. She said there are just so many things she wants to write about that she doesn't know what to do first. Here's what I told her:
There are several ways you can determine which topic you want to write about first:
In short, the various ways you can narrow down your priorities in writing are:
- Look in the want ads and see if there's a need for someone who has your expertise. If you're conversant with gardening, and there's an ad for a writer or for articles on gardening, and you think you can deliver, and the price is right, that's what you want to do first.
- If you're like me, my interests come and go. Right now, I'm very interested in handmade decor, which means I'm researching quite a bit about it, which means if I have an opportunity to write about it, I'd do that right now. What are you passionate about right now? If you write about it, will that make you happy? Will you have an outlet for it (sooner or later)?
- Do you want to write a book or a body of work about what you already know? What topic will be easiest for you? Easy will mean you won't have to start from scratch in terms of research or interviews or details that you will include in the book. If you're an expert at something, and you can quickly write or compile material to create something others will be interested in, go for it!
- Do you want to start a long-range life-long type of work? Like a novel -- a biography or a compilation or an epic saga? If that's what you want to do, there's no better time to start than right now.
It may also help if you start with a to-do list -- with short-term, mid-term, and long-term goals. Maybe this way you can figure out what deserves your immediate attention.
- opportunity - if there's a need for something you can deliver
- passion - if you're driven by a creative need to write about something you find very interesting
- expertise - it's always good to work on a project that taps your current skills and experience
- posterity - everyone wants to be remembered forever -- you can start working on that today
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The Four M's of Writing [01/16/05] - "Stories are born from many things. Memory is one of them, and a trigger event in the present is another. Taken together, they can form the stuff of engaging writing, which is exactly what I see here. =)
Now if only I could get this point across to more people. *sigh* When will they understand that writing is, above all else, the stylized craft of weaving meaning through words, and not just an exercise in "oh, look, I have an opinion and I can show people!"
There is motive and there is method in writing, and taken together they form the crucible for meaning. The three M's, I suppose. But they're only as effective as how willing we are to work at a fourth M: mastery. Because really, without that last one, what we write will bear no sense of distinction. And whenever that happens, we're just hanging aimlessly on the mountainside of achievement instead of scaling to the top." - Dante Gagelonia
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Freelancing From Overseas [04/13/05] - I received a couple of questions from a writer in India: "How realisitic is it for a freelancer from India to write for companies in the USA? Your links have been good to go through, but I saw that most of them talked about opportunities in the USA. How okay are these sites wth writers from distant locations?"
My response was:
With the global nature of the Internet, working for an overseas employer is becoming more common. The only "handicap" you would have, being in another country, is the system of remuneration.
The advantage of writers being in the same country as their employers is: payment is facilitated. My editors simply send me a check via the US Postal Service, or send money through PayPal. Not all employers are willing to mail payment to another country (issues about exchange rates and conversion, and employees having difficulty cashing USDollar checks), and not all employers use PayPal.
Other than that, I see no particular hindrance to you bring in India working for a publisher/editor here in the US. More than 90% of the people I've written for are total strangers to me -- have not seen them or even heard their voices. We communicate only via e-mail, which means I could be anywhere in the world. As long as they are happy with my work, and I am happy with my interaction with them, nothing else should come in the way of a mutually beneficial relationship, wherever we may be.
So, my suggestion is, pitch your services, tell them you're in India, and if that's okay with them, you should have no problem going forward.
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