Insider

Archives

Posts Tagged ‘freelance writing’

Freelance Writing: Earning Top Dollar

Ten Ways to Reach for the Stars

There’s money to be made as a freelancer. In fact, many writers are now supporting themselves full time with income from their writing projects. Perhaps you want to be one of them. Here are my top ten ways to reach for the stars as a freelancer.

 

1.      Set clear goals. If you set them, they become real. Give yourself deadlines. There’s nothing like the pressure of a deadline to kick you in gear! Print up your goals. Keep them handy. Give a copy to your accountability partner.

2.      If you write for the CBA (Christian Bookseller’s Association) get a copy of Sally Stuart’s Christian Writer’s Market Guide. If you’re writing for the general market (American Bookseller’s Association) either buy the Writer’s Market Guide or sign up online. Both of these books will give you names and addresses of publishing houses, along with the needs in those houses. You’ll receive inside information on things like word count, topics, themes, etc. You will also receive other pertinent information: the editor’s name, email address, how he or she prefers to be contacted, and so on.

3.      Type the words, “I am a writer” in large font and print the page. Put it on the wall (or near your desk) so you never forget.

4.      Pay attention to life around you. Don’t just be an observer…be a journalist. Write it all down—what you see, what you hear, what you taste, what you smell, what you touch. Focus—really focus—on the ripple of the child’s giggle. The wrinkles in the elderly man’s face. The lilt in the clerk’s voice. The scar on the auto salesman’s cheek. The mismatched clothes on the young woman in line at the grocery store. The sound of potato chips crunching. The ringing of the cell phone. The more your write these things down, the better you’ll be able to transport your reader.

5.      Write every day. Write even when you don’t feel like it, even if your words are gibberish.

6.      Call yourself a freelance writer, even if you’ve never received payment for your work. You will…soon. Start saying it now. Introduce yourself as a freelance writer, then go on to tell folks what you’re working on.

7.      Study the craft. Take online writing courses. Go to conferences. Ask other writers to take you under their wings.

8.      Start with short pieces. Too many people set out to write a book without publishing smaller pieces first. Figure out how to craft a great magazine article. If you need help, consider taking a freelance writing course. A compelling article will open many doors for you. I know, I know…it’s not a book, but a publishing credit is a publishing credit. Besides, if you’re like most writers, it will be a good experience and will teach you a lot about the world of publishing.

9.      Write in themes. If all of your short pieces are about child rearing, for example, you can later merge those short pieces into chapters for a book on parenting.

10.  Don’t let the naysayers wear you down. They don’t understand your desire/need to write because they don’t share that same need. They don’t have to “get” you. What you do with your writing is your own business (literally) and you have to keep doing the thing you feel called/led to do.

 

If you reach for the stars, your publishing dreams can become realities. Sure, those stars may seem far away at the moment, but they grow closer and closer with every word you write.

Tags: , ,
Posted in How To Be A Freelance Writer | No Comments »

Freelance Writing: Overcoming Problems

Writers are From Mars, Readers are from Venus

Likely you’ve heard the old expression, “Women are from Mars, men are from Venus.” It’s so true, isn’t it? While we may have common goals, our methods of getting there are quite different. Add the various personalities/temperaments to the mix and you will see the potential for both hilarity and adventure.

As writers, we must remember that we’re from Mars. Well, maybe not really from Mars, but we’re unusual people. We think differently. Story ideas pop into our heads at the drop of a hat. Our characters talk to us. We’re always plotting.

Readers aren’t like us. They’re from Venus. They’re not thinking up stories or writing, writing, writing their ideas. Likely they’re overwhelmed with a heavy workload or changing diapers. They’re on the run, headed to soccer practice or taking a loved one to the doctor’s office. They’re facing health challenges, wondering how they’re going to put the next meal on the table or grieving the death of a loved one. When these dear readers find an opportunity to sit and relax, they reach for a book to take them away from their troubles, and to offer excitement. We are their “Calgon, take me away!” opportunity.

So, if writers are from Mars and readers are from Venus, how do we write the stories, non-fiction books and articles that truly jive with their life experiences? Simple. We’ve got to pay attention to the very real struggles they’re facing and write about those. Our stories don’t have to be morose or even intense. It’s possible to write a light-hearted comedy and still touch on relevant life issues.

If we set out to write stories to captivate readers, our characters will seem so real they practically jump off the page. Our settings will sizzle. The reader will feel transported. Our plotlines will move up, down, then back up again, plummeting at just the right moment. In short, we will take our reader on a journey.

Sometimes we get it wrong. We’re so interested in writing what we want to write…so interested in getting our own way…that our writing doesn’t ring true to the reader. She feels left out. And because she feels left out, she closes the book on page thirty-two, tosses it aside, and mutters, “Well, that was a waste of time.”

Learn to Become a Successful Freelance Writer with our Online Writing Courses

Don’t waste her time. Get to know her. Understand what makes her tick. Then invest in characters, plots, settings, and themes that will not only draw her in, but will give her hope. Our ultimate goal is to encourage, to uplift. (Of course, we want to take the reader on the ride of her life, too!)

You can do it, writer. Even though you’re from Mars. You can travel to the reader’s world and give her what she really longs for. And in the process, you’ll learn a great many lessons about what life on Venus is really like.

Tags: , , ,
Posted in How To Be A Freelance Writer | No Comments »

Publishing Trends for Freelance Writers: What’s Hot and What’s Not!

Publishing Trends: What’s Hot. . .and What’s Not!

Publishing houses are governed by what will sell, so understanding the trends is important—both for the houses and their writers. With that in mind, let’s look at what’s hot, and what’s not.

WHAT’S HOT:

  • Romance: prairie romance, in particular
  • Contemporary women’s fiction (dealing with issues of the heart)
  • Action/Suspense/Thriller: This genre is really hot right now. Stories that keep readers up at night will always be in fashion!
  • Comedy: Romantic comedy has seen a surge in recent years.
  • Amish books/stories: What can I say? Amish/Mennonite stories are everywhere.
  • Sci-Fi, Speculative, Fantasy, Allegory (vampire stories, magical stories, etc)
  • Edgy is trendy, even in the CBA (Christian Bookseller’s Association)

WHAT’S NOT:

  • Juvenile fiction: The market for this genre is not as big as you might think. If you do write for kids, make sure you’re writing about relevant topics. No “simple” kids stories (they want real issues/real world)
  • Biblical fiction: This genre went though a boom in the 80s and 90s, but is rapidly declining.
  • Cozy mysteries: This is a tough time for who-dunnits, no matter how beautifully written.

GENRES THAT WAFFLE IN AND OUT:

  • Cozies will always have a small audience. Not a lot of houses publish them, though.
  • Chick-Lit: When Bridget Jones’ Diary hit theaters, the world of chick-lit writing blossomed. First person novels about twenty/thirty-something fashion-forward females went ballistic. It’s getting harder to sell chick-lit, however. If you’re interested in selling first-person novels for women, give them a romance slant.

HOW DO YOU PREDICT TRENDS?

  • Don’t look at what’s popular now. Even if you sell a book today, it’s going to take a couple of years before it releases.

HOW CAN I STAY ON TOP OF THE CHANGES?

  • Subscribe to Writer’s Market Guide (www.writersmarket.com). You will stay on top of all info related to publishing houses and their needs.
  • Conferences/editor panels will bring you up to speed. They’ll tell you what they are and aren’t looking for (you’ll know what to pitch and what not to waste your time pitching to a particular editor/house)
  • Consider taking an online writing course that caters to published authors. There, you can stay on top of trends.

FINAL NOTE, IF YOU WANT TO STAY TRENDY: BEWARE OF PRODUCT USAGE:

  • Products run in trends, too, and can “date” a book.
  • Avoid using particular brand names and/or specific styles of clothing
  • Beware listing television shows or song titles as “contemporary” if you want your book to have longevity

There you have it! What’s in today will be out tomorrow, so stay on top of things if you want to impress that editor!

Tags: , , ,
Posted in How To Be A Freelance Writer | No Comments »

Seven Days To Better Writing

Seven Days to Better Writing

What if I told you that your whole life could change in a week? You would sit up and take notice, right? The truth is, it can. If you’re a writer, all you need is one dedicated week to turn your career around.

  • DAY ONE: Spend a full day thinking about the topics that make sense to you (and your life experiences). Come up with a dozen ideas (for articles and/or books) to fit your life’s theme. Spend at least an hour free writing.
  • DAY TWO: Set major career goals. Write down where you hope to be in one month. One year. Three years. Five years. Write down your financial goals. Next, come up with a strategy to take you from Point A to Point B. Will you write fiction or non-fiction? Magazine articles? Devotions? Will you “brand” yourself by writing one particular genre, (say, romantic comedy)? Spend at least an hour writing a piece about how your life will change once these goals are met.
  • DAY THREE: Begin to diligently study the craft. When I first started writing, I picked up every book on writing I could afford. I read books on novel writing, magazine article writing, self-editing and so on. I participated in online writing courses, focusing primarily on my passion: fiction writing. My passion to learn captivated me. Inspired me. Motivated me. Perhaps you can relate. You’re ready to dive in. Do so…then spend at least an hour crafting the opening scene to a new book (or a magazine article that you hope to submit). Afterwards, look at it with an editor’s eye, weeding out passive verbs and making sure it has a strong hook.
  • DAY FOUR: Surround yourself with writers. There are a host of organizations you can join, both national and local. Look for a critique group in your area. Link arms with bloggers online. Once that’s done, spend at least an hour working on the book or article you started yesterday.
  • DAY FIVE: Incorporate fiction techniques in your non-fiction and non-fiction techniques in your fiction. Fiction techniques would include great characterization, plotting and strong themes. Non-fiction techniques would include writing tight, clear takeaways and compelling stories. Spend at least an hour adding these techniques to your work in progress.
  • DAY SIX: Figure out which publishing houses you would like to eventually target. If you don’t own the writer’s market guide, then join www.writersmarket.com. Membership is not terribly expensive and will open up a whole new world of possibilities. If you’re interested in writing for the Christian market, pick up a copy of Sally Stuart’s “Christian Writers Market Guide.” Look through every publishing house that fits your brand and your genre.
  • DAY SEVEN: Rest your mind, body and brain. Most writers burn out because they don’t take time to refuel.

There you have it, my friends. It’s going to be a busy week, but what wonderful prospects you will face at the end of it!

Tags: , , ,
Posted in How To Be A Freelance Writer | No Comments »

How To Be a Freelance Writer: Learn From American Idol

Five Things a Writer can Learn from American Idol

American Idol is in its tenth season and going strong. New judges sit behind the desk, new singers belt out tunes, and new viewers pick up phones to vote for their favorites.

What does this have to do with writing? Everything! If writers pay close attention, they can learn many lessons as they watch American Idol.

  • LESSON ONE: Not everyone is ready to have a camera put in his/her face. C’mon now. You know what I mean. Some of those singers are no more ready to stand in front of the judges than some writers are ready to present their work to an editor or agent. Don’t embarrass yourself by thinking you’re “all that” when you haven’t taken the time to learn the craft. Do what you can to present yourself in the best possible light. Go to conferences. Take online writing courses. Establish yourself in a small venue before going large.
  • LESSON TWO: When a gifted singer feels “the call” to sing, he or she travels from wherever they are to wherever auditions are being held. Same with the writer. She drives from Kansas to Texas for a conference. She flies from Cleveland to Denver to meet the editor of her dreams. Why? Because she’s driven. She knows in her knower that she must go, just as that singer knows he must make it to the audition site.
  • LESSON THREE: Nerves can bring you down in a hurry. You’ve seen those gifted singers fold like a deck of cards during Hollywood week. Pressure can be a horrible thing, even for a truly gifted vocalist. The same is true with the writer. When the pressures of rejection, writer’s block, conference expenses, critique group issues, financial strain, contract woes hit…your nerves can get the better of you. Don’t let them! Make up your mind to stay calm and steady, no matter what threatens to veer you off-course.
  • LESSON FOUR: When the time is right, you will be chosen. Don’t you love it when the spotlight hits the right singer at the right time? Feels like magic, doesn’t it? The same is true with your writing. At just the right time, an editor will fall in love with your manuscript. At just the right time, a heavenly light will shine on your work, and agents, readers, critique partners and publishing houses will take notice. Hang on, writer. Your day is coming!
  • LESSON FIVE: You will be judged. There will always be those ready to offer advice—some good and some bad—regarding your work. Keep a stiff upper lip when that editor asks for a rewrite. Don’t crater when a reader offers a poor review. Celebrate when you’re told the book/article is great, but don’t let it go to your head. More judgment is just around the corner.

 

You might never sing on the stage in front of millions of people, but it’s likely your words will appear in print for thousands to read. What a wonderful day that will be!

Tags: , , ,
Posted in How To Be A Freelance Writer | No Comments »

Magazine Article Writing: Going From Mii to Wii

From Mii to Wii

So, you want to write magazine articles to earn extra money? Great! Freelance writing is a great way to earn cash. Let’s assume you’ve already taken the time to learn the various article types and know how to slant a great piece to fit an editor’s needs. Your writing is strong, your topic compelling, your deadline looming.

What’s missing?

I’d like to suggest one thing you might have overlooked: the Wii factor. Oh, not the Nintendo version. I’m referring to the “we” factor: universal appeal.

Many twenty-first century articles are focused on the writer, not the reader. We need to reverse that. Any piece you write—personal experience, how-to, informative, inspirational—must ultimately be about the reader, not the writer. Engage him. Uplift him. Sweep him into your story with you. Remind him of something that happened in his childhood. Evoke a strong memory. How? You’ve got to shift from the “Mii” mentality to the “Wii” mentality.

So much of this comes down to captivating the reader. You can win him over with a great story that has a compelling takeaway. Make sure the “tiny nugget of truth” is something he can relate to. If you’re writing about a fishing experience you had as a child, for example, drive home the point that your grandfather taught you how to reel in that first fish. His hand tenderly wrapped yours on the pole as that tiny catfish lifted out of the water. Grandpa celebrated alongside you, and taught you by example that quality time spent with a child far exceeds any other gift you could give. (See the takeaway? It’s clear, isn’t it? And it probably reminds you of someone who poured into your life as a child. That’s the point, after all. It’s the nugget of truth that you, the reader, carry away.)

Think about your work in progress. What sort of article is it? How can you take that piece to the next level? Pause to really think about your reader. Who is he/she? Why will this person care about your story? What’s in it for him? What emotions are you trying to tap into? Will he walk away from your article feeling uplifted? Does your story hit the mark or will the reader toss the magazine down on the coffee table, feeling like he’s been left out?

It’s not about “Mii,” even in a personal experience piece. It’s always about “Wii” (us/the human race/the reader specific).

Here’s a fun suggestion, in closing: Cut a picture of a man or woman out of a magazine and tape it to the wall above your desk. Write for him. Write for her. Write for “Wii.”

Tags: , , , ,
Posted in How To Be A Freelance Writer | No Comments »

How To Begin Writing: Three Steps Toward Publication

Three Steps Toward Publication

Much of what we write will never be published outside of a blog, newsletter or email. Sure, our critique partners read our stories and cover them in red ink, but that’s not quite the same thing as seeing it in book form. Oh, how we long to call ourselves “published authors.” There’s something about getting published that validates our writing.

So, what does it take to transition from unpublished to published? Is there some sort of magic formula? I would like to offer my thoughts in three basic steps.

  • STEP ONE: Write the manuscript of your heart. I mean this quite seriously. If you write on a subject you’re passionate about, it will show in your writing. Don’t worry about what’s trendy and what’s not. Trends change as quickly as the seasons. Above all else, as you’re writing that manuscript, don’t let others—even well meaning critique partners—rob you of your unique voice. I know, I know…those naysayers are everywhere. I’ve heard plenty of them over the years. And I listened to a few, who nearly derailed me. Just stay the course. Write, write, write, then edit, edit, edit.
  • STEP TWO: Take the time to learn the submission process. I’ll give you the basics here. Research the publishing house(s) you will target. Write a professional query letter, sharing a bit about yourself and the manuscript. Send it to the editor at the house (in the appropriate department) and use his/her actual name in the email. If the editor is interested, send a brilliantly written book proposal. This proposal will share the book’s genre, word count, synopsis, marketing strategy, comparative analysis, and will share all sorts of information about you, the author. The publisher wants to know what groups/organizations you belong to, your prior publishing credits, if any, and any other pertinent information. If you’ve been building a platform by writing a blog, this will be helpful, so list it. If you’re a sought-after public speaker, list this, too. For more information about this process, refer to our online writing course for Fiction Writing.
  • STEP THREE: Understand the seasons. Your book (or article) will likely face multiple rejections. Don’t let this get you down. Remember, you want your story to land at the perfect house…and at just the right time. Everything has its season, and seasons are cyclical. A “no” today could be a “yes” tomorrow. And trust me when I say that it’s more important to land at the right house than to get published right away. Trust that the season you’re in won’t last forever. Keep your chin up, keep submitting, and never, never, never give up.

So, there you have it. Three steps toward publication. Deep breath, author! Now…take that first step!

Tags: , , ,
Posted in How To Be A Freelance Writer | 2 Comments »

How To Begin Writing: Ten No-Brainer Freelance Writing Choices

Ten No-Brainer Writing Choices

Oy, the life of the wannabe writer! The ups, the downs, the in-betweens. Maybe you can relate. You come into it convinced you’ll be the next bestseller. Day One: You’re seated in the chair, banging away at the computer. Day Two: You’re slightly distracted by a good friend, who invites you to lunch. Day Three: You’re facing the blank screen, struggling with writer’s block. Day Four: You’re suddenly wondering what ever made you think you could write in the first place. Day Five: You decide you’d rather go to culinary school.

If you’re trying to figure out how to begin writing, start by making a few simple, no-brainer, choices:

  • CHOICE ONE: Keep your rear in the chair. I know, I know! It’s so tempting to get up and leave the room. To stop mid-stream. To watch TV. Don’t! Stay put. Pound your way through the writer’s block. Keep writing, even if you have to put a steady stream of S’s on the page.
  • CHOICE TWO: Find an accountability partner. Choose someone who will call you routinely and ask tough questions…questions like, “What’s your word count?” “How’s that magazine article coming?”
  • CHOICE THREE: Start with short pieces. Many writers give up early on because they tackle projects that are simply too large.
  • CHOICE FOUR: Begin your day with creative writing exercises. You’ll tease your muse and stir up your imagination in the process.
  • CHOICE FIVE: Hang out with other writers. Nothing will motivate you more than spending time with others who love the craft. If you’re writing articles, find other article writers to hang out with. If you’re a novelist, learn alongside other novelists.
  • CHOICE SIX: Start a blog or keep a journal. Doing so will keep you writing every day. Writing in a routine manner such as this will be the equivalent of pouring water from a magical flask. The more you pour, the fuller the flask.
  • CHOICE SEVEN: Consider taking a class at your local junior college or perhaps a few online writing courses. Remember, all writers are on a learning curve. Acknowledge your need to learn then do all you can to develop your skills.
  • CHOICE EIGHT: Set clear, concise goals. You might not hit all of them, but you’ll come closer if you actually set them.
  • CHOICE NINE: Go to a conference but choose wisely. Some focus on fiction only. These won’t be of any help to you if you’re a magazine freelancer.
  • CHOICE TEN: Don’t give up. Think about the great writers from days gone by. If Louisa May Alcott had given up, we wouldn’t have Little Women. If Charles Dickens had given up, we couldn’t enjoy A Tale of Two Cities. If Jane Austen had given up, millions of women around the world couldn’t sigh over Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice. You get the idea. Whatever stories or articles lie inside of you will be nothing but ideas if you give up. Project ahead to those readers you’ve not yet met. Don’t deprive them of the great things they could one day read.

That’s it for today, writers! Read over these ten choices again and make up your mind to do everything you can to stay the course.

Tags: , , , , , , ,
Posted in How To Be A Freelance Writer | No Comments »