Thinking about this is why the decision about writing about freelancing came to mind. The title is Taming the Freelance Market. Because of some computer problems, this is taking longer than it should.
It is time consuming to try and writing while reading books for review. As a writer, you have to make time where you can, like sitting in front of the computer, pad, and pencil, or whatever you use to write.
First, Taming the Freelance Market is about what it takes to be a freelancer, what types of freelancing are available as an entrepreneur. Freelancers are solo business people, thus the term entrepreneur.
Being a person that does not sugarcoat things, the book Taming the Freelance Market will explain various aspects of being a freelancer, exploding some myths of freelancing, and the various hats entrepreneurs must wear unless you have the money to outsource parts of your business.
Second, a book repurposed from a course created to help overcome procrastination. While taking some online writing courses at Writers’ Village University, creation of a course on procrastination came to fruition after many asking, “Why not create a course about procrastination?” Once completing the course creation, began facilitating the course and other courses, and created a Creative Writing Workshop. The course on procrastination will become a book titled Overcoming Procrastination.
Working on two books, editing manuscripts for authors, and reading books for review is a bit rough to schedule, probably why getting to sleep around midnight or one am is normal.
Everyone needs to take a break, work on the mundane things that life puts in your way.
You have to find the time to work on your freelance business, to which you must work on as a freelancer whether full-time or part-time.
Many entrepreneurs want to run their own business and tell their boss they quit. As explained in
Date: April 27, 1966
Place: ABC News bureau on the 6th floor of the Caravelle Hotel in Saigon.
“How do you do, sir? I’d like to introduce myself. My name is Yasutsune Hirashiki—just arrived from Japan.”
Well, my initial greeting went very well. I shouldn’t have been surprised–after all I’d been practicing it for days.
The man with the mustache gave me a smile and a handshake. His name was Jack O’Grady, the bureau chief for ABC News Saigon. He wasn’t all that tall, just a bit taller than an average Japanese.
“Welcome to Vietnam! New York told me you were coming. They said you were a damn good cameraman.”
He went on to tell me that he’d screened the demo reel of film clips that I’d sent to New York weeks ago and that he was struck by the creativeness of my photography.
That sounded good.
“I’m ready to work, sir. When shall I start?” I said.
“Well, this week is very quiet, so why don’t you check with us next week?” He replied.
What? I hadn’t expected that. Did he just say that I didn’t have a job this week but I might have a job next week. But only if it was busy?
I was sure he was mistaken. I had a letter from Jack Bush, the executive in New York who hired camera crews around the world for ABC. He had very clearly said that I should quit my job at a Japanese local TV station and fly to Vietnam where a job was waiting for me.
This is what I’d wanted for years. I quit the news cameraman job where I’d spent the past ten years, packed up everything I owned, and came to Saigon to join ABC News–one of the mighty American News Networks.
Clearly, this O’Grady fellow hadn’t gotten the message.
I hadn’t practiced this speech but I believe my English was very clear. “Mr. O’ Grady, I was hired by New York as Saigon bureau cameraman. According to New York’s instructions, I quit my job at a Japanese TV station, and come here to work.” I said.
Mr. O’Grady patiently listened to my terrible English and said, “Show me the letter.”
I gave it to him. He read it, smiled, and said, “Look at this line.”
He then ran his finger along the line of incomprehensible English words as he carefully read them to me. “It says that you will have a chance if you go to Saigon but there the word ‘hired’ isn’t in here. We will give you a chance. Come back and check next week. If it’s busy and we need a cameraman, we’ll send you on an assignment and you’ll have a chance to show us your work.”
I was in shock. He was right! Being Japanese, I had translated the letter with a dictionary and only paid attention to what I thought was the important parts of the letter.
Quit. Go to Saigon. Have a chance.
The Six Best Tips From ‘On Writing Well’
My favorite writer on writing died. William Zinsser, author of “On Writing Well” died yesterday. He was 92 years old.
Was his book any good. I don’t know. It sold 1.5 million copies. His students and readers are practically every non-fiction writer I look up to.
Stephen Dubner, who wrote Freakonomics, first recommended him to me. I’ve always hated books like Strunk & White’s Elements of Style but I was looking for a good book on writing nonfiction and Stephen recommended Zinsser’s book.
Are Writers Born or Made? Jack Kerouac on the Crucial Difference Between Talent and Genius | Brain Pickings
by Maria Popova
“Genius gives birth, talent delivers.”
“All of us, we’re links in a chain,” Pete Seeger observed in pondering the nature of creative work. Mark Twain put it much less mildly in his lively letter of solidarity to Helen Keller: “Substantially all ideas are second-hand, consciously and unconsciously drawn from a million outside sources, and daily used by the garnerer with a pride and satisfaction born of the superstition that he originated them.” Indeed, there is compelling evidence that we as a culture are allergic to originality.
But count on Jack Kerouac to offer a provocative counterpoint in a 1962 essay for Writer’s Digest titled “Are Writers Made or Born?,” later included in The Portable Jack Kerouac (public library) — the same treasure trove of stories, poems, letters, and essays on Buddhism that gave us Kerouac on kindness, the self illusion and the “Golden Eternity.”
OK, I admit that I write barefoot but should I suffer for this?
After smashing several wimpy office chairs into dust under my Jumbo-size frame (twice last week, I ended up flat on my back while on Skype. I was told it was pretty funny to watch but my wife took the chair out the second time and refused to give it back. )
So I went online and order a Heavyweight Office chair from a major retail Office Supply chain–let’s call them “Paper Clips.” After disposing of the broken chairs, I constructed this metal monster and, despite it’s total lack of padding, felt secure that it wouldn’t self-destruct.
Little did I know that deep within this beast lurked a hunger for blood–specifically MINE.
At some point this morning, I realized that there were bloody footprints all over the house. OK, I admit that I’m working on a new private eye novel but these were REAL. A thorough investigation revealed that the steel pipes that are used by “Paper Clips” to hold up my hefty frame have razor-sharp edges and were gouging holes in my ankles. More irritating was the fact that I got slashed another two times while bending over to take a look.
Finally, a liberal application of gauze (to me) and adhesive tape (to the chair edges) appears to have lessened the bloodshed in my office. I really would prefer to keep the blood to the pages of the novel–if nothing else, it’s easier to clean up.
Funny, all those tough detective heroes never talk about having to get the blood out of the wood grain or soaking a dishcloth in cold water to get the stains out.
Those of us who struggle with low self-esteem tend to shun whatever activities might conceivably make us lose, drool or look ridiculous. This avoidance is not entirely conscious. We might not realize how seldom we feel safe.
We might not say out loud: The less I do, the less I can do wrong. But this is our default response to invitations, obligations, opportunities and life itself.
It keeps us sitting very still.
Passivity spawns passivity. And we confuse our inactivity for inability.
In our passivity, others see peace. Stillness can be holy. Stillness can heal. Passivity evokes serenity. And if we choose it for that reason, so it is.
But where do those of us with low self-esteem draw the line between serene stillness and frozen-faced passivity?
Low self-esteem turns life into hard labor. Just getting out of bed, getting dressed, and going outside takes courage, given the ferocity of our fears. Deeming our spontaneous, authentic selves unacceptable, we lock into performance mode around others, doing and saying whatever we hope will help us escape mockery or worse. Ironic as it sounds, passivity exhausts us — spawning more passivity.
In a “Just Do It” society, we’re the ones who chant: “Don’t Do It.”
We’re passive because we assume that we will lose all arguments, disputes and debates. We’re passive because we assume that we can only make things worse. Pondering the very prospect of a before-and-after, cause-and-effect arc, we retreat.
Why even pretend to spar? Our white surrender flags are permanently raised. At the first whiff of conflict, we go slack and/or silent and/or say Okay okay okay with a sad or falsely cheery sigh — and/or we send our self-abasing minds a million miles away.
That’s what we do when facing the everyday: the ordinary but unknown. When facing fun or even potential fun, we affix virtual chains to our own ankles and lock ourselves up in tiny, tight virtual cells because we’re so sure that we don’t belong wherever good things are occurring or might occur.
Good Book Cover Design is Vital
The book cover design is one of the most critical factors in a book’s success.
There are only really three things that make people pick a book up:
- They recognise the author’s name and liked their earlier work.
- They had the book recommended to them.
- The cover grabs their attention.
The blurb and the first page might grab the reader and help sell your book, but only if the reader picks it up first.
Recognition and recommendation aren’t really under your control, so the only thing you can do that will help sell your book is make sure you have a book cover design that attracts attention.
The Book Cover Design Process
Get the rest at Book Cover Design: How to Make a Book Cover.
and check out Graeme’s book cover at http://www.tiredoftalkingaboutmyself.com
The Strongest Brand In Publishing Is …
David Vinjamuri Contributor
When comparing authors, publishers tend to focus on book sales. But sales figures tell only part of the story. Expensive advertising and a strong push for distribution and display at bookstores might yield strong initial sales but create lots of returns and low profitability. An early and fortuitous movie deal might overexpose a book that doesn’t meet the promise of the movie.
A thousand other externalities make sales data inadequate to measure the strength of an author’s franchise. To understand which authors are worth investing in, publishers need a better measure of an author’s value.
Brand, Not Platform
The metric often used to evaluate new or developing authors is platform – roughly defined as the social reach of the author though Facebook fans, Twitter followers, blog views and speaking engagements. But according to Peter Hildick-Smith of the Codex Group, which polls thousands of readers to determine their preferences and purchase behavior, platform is a misleading metric.
We’ve seen celebrities with extremely high name recognition and very large platforms fail miserably in book sales. Being famous or having millions of Twitter followers alone is not enough to build a strong franchise as an author.
Hildick-Smith points out that only about half of adults read books and just a fifth are regular book buyers. So a celebrity with a large and dedicated following will not automatically become a bestselling author.
The Rest is at The Strongest Brand In Publishing Is ….
We’ve all heard the old adage, “Don’t quit your day job” when it comes to writing for a living. It’s true that there are far too many authors who have to squeeze writing around the dreaded “day job” to keep the bills paid. Also, there is no question that self-publishing, has proven itself to be viable for some…but exactly how many is always in dispute. There has always been secrecy surrounding how much income a traditional published earns, and when many self-published authors share their numbers it is met with skepticism.
In the past, self-publishing was a “fallback” position, the option many took when they couldn’t get a contract. But more and more authors are choosing this option, even turning down very lucrative offers. H.M. Ward turned down more than 1.5 Million in contracts to self-publish and she became the #1 Bestselling Kindle Direct Author over the Christmas season (even though she has NEVER traditionally published). Likewise Brenna Aubrey turned down $120,000 for a three-book deal and instead went the do-it-yourself route. I myself calculated that I would lose $200,000 – $250,000 by going traditional, but I thought it was a price I should pay to further my career. As it turned out, that didn’t happen, but it is in large part due to larger than expected audio sales and foreign contracts.
So the question that is on every author’s mind is, “Which path should I take?” For the record, I see benefits in both routes, and actually think there is a good argument to be made for hybrid authorship. Then there are the people who have no interest in one or the other. Entrepreneur authors who can’t bring themselves to signing contracts that are too weighted in the publisher’s favor, as well as those who don’t want anything to do with taking on all the responsibilities that the publisher does for them, have a pretty clear direction. But increasingly there are those who feel they could go either way and just don’t know which way to turn.
While money isn’t the only consideration, it certainly is a large one. The problem is getting good data on this is nearly impossible, as we shall see.
DBW & Writer’s Digest Survey
Recently DBW and Writer’s Digest teamed up to do an author survey, collecting data from more than 9,200 authors. I myself took it, and found the questions to be really well thought out. The best part was they divided up authors into four distinct types: Aspiring, Traditional only, Self-publish only, and Hybrids (who both self and traditionally publish), which is exactly the way I think about the pool of authors. The data has been analyzed by Dana Beth Weinberg, who is well qualified to take the mass of information and try to break it down to chunks that can provide insights.
It was an ambitious project, and generally well executed, but there are some significant problems. I should note that these aren’t introduced by Jeremy Greenfield and Dana Beth Weinberg, but problems with surveys in general.
More at Author’s Earnings – Amazing Stories.
As I wrote about in my last post, the data that Hugh Howey and “Data Guy” are extracting from Amazon is quite interesting. With it we can see how authors who have taken various routes are selling at the world’s largest bookstore. Amazon is of course just one venue, but if authors are able to earn full-time livings off of it alone, than it really doesn’t matter (to some) that they don’t have books sitting on a shelf at Barnes and Noble.
Data Guy was nice enough to provide me with a data pull of just fantasy titles (as that is the genre I’m most concerned with). And I’m going to share some of the things I found from it. So let me tell you a bit about the data set:
- Taken on 2/7/2014
- Consists of 1,452 Fantasy Titles
- Rankings range is 17 – 556,100
I like this pool of data because it represents a large range of different types of authors, including the mid-list. I took this data set and divided it into 7 groups:
- Extreme Best Sellers (Rankings 1 – 100): Most authors will never have a book that hits this range, and if they do it may be very short lived. It usually occurs when a highly anticipated book is first released or (more often) when a well selling book becomes heavily discounted or is picked for an Amazon promotion such as the Daily Deal. To give people an idea of the sales at this level, I broke the top 100 on two occasions with Theft of Swords (both due to a Daily Deal). One was in December 23, 2012 the other was June 29, 2013. In both cases I hit #17 and the rise and fall from that rank showed similar patterns. One day sales on Dec 23rd was more than 4,700 copies and on June 29th the sales were 3,400.
- Bestsellers (Rankings 101 – 1,000): Any author selling in this range should be a pretty happy camper. They will be selling about 100 to 1,000 books a day or 3,000 to 30,000 books a month. Considering a solid mid-list trade paperback will sell 5,000 -10,000 copies over its entire time in print, this level of sales is a good place to be. Also because there are 900 potential slots, the likelihood of reaching these levels is more obtainable. I even know of books that have spent months or even more than a year at these levels. Still, while easier than the Extreme Best Seller status, I’m going to consider people in this category as close enough to the top of the pool that I don’t want to spend much time with them, as few will reach this standing.
- High Mid-list (Rankings 1,001 – 3,000): At this range authors are selling 80 – 100 books a day and hitting some of the secondary bestsellers list (such as Epic Fantasy or Sword & Sorcery). Top ranking at the time of this article for Epic Fantasy was 5,551 although in the past I’ve seen this as low as 3,000). People with ranking as this level are doing very well and can be considered successful authors if their appearance at this (or the next level) isn’t a momentary blip of just a few days.
- Mid-list (Rankings 3,001 – 10,000): This is a range I’m very familiar with as my books have been there for more than two years. Sales are generally 15 – 80 books a day which still produces 5,475 – 29,200 books a year. At this level of sales it only takes a few released titles that are priced well to earn a living wage. I think this is an obtainable level that “a good” author can obtain. What do I mean by “good” – a book that gets good ratings and is recommended by those that read it. Because there are 7,000 slots, this range represents a band that allows for a good number of authors.
- Low Mid-list (Ranking 10,001 – 25,000 range): Those selling in this range will sell a “respectable” number of books over the course of its time in print only 5 – 15 books a day but they will add up: 1,825 – 5,475 over the course of the year. Authors at this ranking aren’t paying all their bills (unless they have many titles out), but they have some nice extra money for a trip or to pay some of their expenses. They can hang their head proudly by producing a book that isn’t a failure.
- Low Selling (Ranking 25,001 – 100,000): Those at this level sell 1 – 5 books a day. No one is making any serious money at this ranking level, and generally it is a level that books fall to after they have seen their peaks, but are still generally well regarded by readers. If this level is the height of a book’s ranking it would have generally been thought of as a failure by traditional publishing standards and would only sell a few hundred (or thousand) over its time in print.
- Not Selling (Ranking 100,001 – 500,000): Books at this level are selling a book every few days or maybe once a week. More often than not, they will be: poorly execute books; those written by inexperienced authors; or books that have fallen off the radar even if they had some popularity at some point. For those with rankings over 500,000 they might only get 4 or 5 sales in a month. These are books that are generally thought of as “self-published dreck” who fall into the abyss of obscurity. From an income perspective these books are pretty much non-existent.
Michael J. Sullivan
This week I’m continuing in my series regarding Author’s income. If you haven’t read the other posts here they are:
- Two different approaches to Author’s Income: DBW Survey and Amazon Ranking Analysis
- Midlist Author sales on Amazon: Self, Traditional, Small Press, and Amazon Publishers
One of the advantages that traditional publishing has is extensive print distribution. When I was self-published my print sales were a small fraction (about 5% or less depending on the month) of my total sales. Most self-published authors I speak to only see 1% – 2%. But what kind of money are we really talking about? Today I want to explore a typical mid-list author’s sales.
To do this analysis I used Bookscan data. Bookscan is the industry standard when it comes to how many print copies are sold in the United States. Run by the Nielsen Organization (the same ones that track TV shows), they track weekly point-of-purchase sales for books. This means books that actually walked out the store, bought by a real person…not books that left a warehouse and may or may not be on a shelf in a store. Nielsen estimates their numbers to account for 75% of all sales made. Depending on whom you are published through, Nielsen numbers could be way off. I’ve heard some people from small presses complain that bookscan is only picking up 20% of their sales, but for a book from a major publisher I do think they are capturing pretty accurate data. For my own books, I’ve seen that Bookscan is pretty consistently at 68% of my net sales.
To run the numbers I picked a “representative” mid-list author. The book I selected came out over a year ago, is the first in a new series, is released as a trade paperback, and the author had previously published six books across two series. They are well known and well respected and based on my knowledge of the industry I would call them a “good solid mid-list author.” This is the type of author who has established themselves as a “name” in the industry and would likely not have any problem getting any new books picked up.
Published? Don’t get the big head about it.
Posted by marjoriespages.com
A cautionary tale by Ron Argo
In the beginning of my writing career I’ll admit to overplaying the right to call myself an “author”—as in no longer just a “writer.” In 1987, when my agent sold my first ms. to Simon & Schuster for a “nice price” and then put together an auction for the paperback and also selling it to Japan, I rather sat back on my laurels, thinking, “Oh yeah, I’m on my way.”Things had looked promising from the start. A few years earlier I had mass-mailed 85 queries to mostly NY agencies, and a full 15 responded with offers to represent me/the novel. Granted it was an enticing query, and granted as well in the mid-’80s, some editors still nurtured their writers, as mine would do over the next two years. Agents knew that so they were also patronizing and nurturing to new, promising clients. I was on a roll.Didn’t have to worry about those pesky details of printing, editing, etc., either, like we have to do now to e-publish a saleable book. S&S had a gaggle of Radcliffe/Vassar girls for that. All I had to do was merely approve or not. (Mind you I did put in a dozen years writing that first book, adding, deleting as if slicing off chunks of my heart, this over and over and over…) Seemed like I got important next-day FedEx envelopes a couple times a week. And they did a job on the book itself—Tom Clancy-large and thick with art inside, beautiful font, sewn bound and printed on cream paper. Tops. Soon the pre-reviews began to roll in, not one negative and several starred. Talk about the proverbial sliver spoon. It was mine.I had this nonchalant attitude and naive concept that the big house would take care of publicity with the promised $10k advertising budget—well, certainly you’ll understand how I let myself get the big head.But then, with no notice, the curtain fell and it fell hard. Everything died; the paper auction, no review appeared in the NYTimes or any other major and my editor and agent both grew silent. What happened? I begged to learn. “Your book got lost in the abyss,” was Publicity’s response. “Sorry, s— happens.” That promised advertising was hijacked, most likely for some other promising writer’s novel. My editor, who had first option on the next “great” novel, a few years later rejected the next one, calling it a monstrosity, or such, when the real reason had been that I was now a dreaded “midlister” so they didn’t want to gamble on me again.My NY agent dropped me too.
Read the rest at The Thrill Begins: Published? Don’t get the big head about it..
Do not put statements in the negative form.
And don’t start sentences with a conjunction.
If you reread your work, you will find on rereading that a great deal of repetition can be avoided by rereading and editing.
Never use a long word when a diminutive one will do.
Unqualified superlatives are the worst of all.
If any word is improper at the end of a sentence, a linking verb is.
Avoid trendy locutions that sound flaky.Last, but not least, avoid clichés like the plague.
Murder mysteries are about the rights of the individual versus the rights of the community, the battle between good and evil, and the triumph of justice. While, in general, murder mysteries follow the traditional dramatic arc, with the protagonist’s fortunes rising, climaxing, and resolving, there are a few more twists and turns in a mystery arc.A = a body is discovered. The book’s events are set in motion.B = suspects, clues, and red herrings are investigated. The protagonist makes a tentative and often impersonal commitment, as in she’s a police officer. It’s her job to investigate; or, for the amateur, her best friend is in trouble, so naturally she’ll help out. Note that during this stage the protagonist’s ups and downs are shallower than they will be later.C = a second body is found. The protagonist has failed to prevent this subsequent crime.D = the protagonist makes a second, more personal commitment to see that justice is done. At this point her personal fortune becomes tied to the greater group good, and she makes a promise, at least to herself and perhaps to others, that she will carry through to the end no matter what the cost.E = the clues and red herrings become more significant, with a greater impact on both the personal and public stakes.F = the protagonist confronts a personal threat in bringing the killer to justice.G = resolution. The protagonist doesn’t return to the original starting point — except perhaps in farces, see below. She has been irrevocably changed by the search for justice.The above arc deals with the murder resolution. There are also one or more personal arcs that deal with the private fortunes of individual characters. Personal arcs include romance and relationships, danger to family members, danger to the personal community, personal fortunes, and living conditions (house, salary, possessions, etc.).The personal community is a small part of the larger community. It includes those people with whom the protagonist had day-to-day contact: friends, co-workers, and maybe a special interest that the protagonist has, such as rescuing abandoned dogs or running a store. It is terribly important to the protagonist, but isn’t important to the larger public community in the same way. For example, a police abuse scandal might enrage public opinion, but the police officer involved is concerned about how the scandal affects her partner, who is one of the people accused.The personal stakes are played out in contrast to or in synchronization with the public stakes of righting of wrong and the triumph of justice. Mysteries from North America and England usually ground themselves in the need for justice to triumph. Mysteries by writers from other parts of the world may have a different view of justice or may reflect a society where justice is not possible or is not common.Here are four ways that this interplay of public and private stakes can play out.
Public Stakes Public Stakes Private Stakes Both the public stakes and the private stakes rise in synchronization. Justice is done and everyone lives happily—or relatively happily—until the next book in the series. Usually found in traditional (cozy) mysteries, but also quite common in many mysteries. The public stakes and the private stakes operate in contrast. Justice is done, but the private stakes fall. The characters sacrifice personal happiness for the good of the community. When well done, can lead to an award-winning book. Private Stakes The private stakes rise, but justice is not done. Very rare in North American mysteries because it leaves the reader dissatisfied that the world is not put right. Not so rare in the rest of the world, particularly in countries that have a recent history of civil wars, dictatorships, or civil rights issues. Both the public stakes and the private stakes fall. Justice is incomplete or is not achieved and there is a personal loss. Characteristic of mean streets, noir, and the suspended tragedies written in the past 15 to 20 years. Suspended tragedies often involve serial killers who escape, only to return in subsequent stories.
Get the rest of the story at POE’S DEADLY DAUGHTERS: The Murder Mystery Arc.
- We Have A Murder Mystery! (villainousedition.wordpress.com)
- It’s a (Murder) Mystery! (anediblequest.wordpress.com)
- !:Lybra:! Limited Edition Men’s Outfit – Murder Mystery Charity Hunt (theoinsl.wordpress.com)
-Posts About Freelance Writing and Business
[Terry: If you’re wondering–as I am–whether you can make a living by sitting around with your fingers on a keyboard–well, Robert Medak has the good news (yes, it’s possible) and the Bad (it’s going to take work and planning.)’]
Much more information at Robert Medak Freelance Writer’s Writing Projects | Robert Medak.
- Welcome to a new friend| Robert Medak – Freelance writer (getmerewrite.me)
- Freelance writing: Dealing with rejection (nextlevelofnews.com)
- Freelance Writing (winnersmakeusfeelgood.wordpress.com)
- 3 Reasons you shouldn’t be scared of freelancing (wordspicturesmusic.wordpress.com)
- My First Freelance Writing Assignment! (adragonmuses.com)
Bringing Personal Experience Into Your Writing.
t’s generally understood that many fiction writers have a semi-autobiographical protagonist in their first books. Certainly Dr Morgan Sierra, in my ARKANE series, is my own kick-ass alter-ego!
But whatever we write, bringing our own personal experience to the page only enriches and deepens the experience for the reader.
In today’s guest post, crime thriller author T.J. Cooke guides us through some questions that will help us bring more of ourselves to the page.
As writers mature, their content and style are increasingly influenced by their life experiences, which can become a crucial part of the writing process. Whether it’s a scene or location that you long to recreate, a nuance of someone’s personality that is just what your character needs, or the recall of a hurtful feeling that helps portray emotion… each could be valuable.
It’s not always easy to draw on your own experiences. Though some may be joyous and celebratory, others are likely to be delicate or painful, but if you aim to write with authenticity then sometimes you have to be brave.
Let’s have a look at the sort of experiences that can be helpful. In doing so I’ve revisited some of my own influences, to see how these have shaped my work.
(1) Childhood and Upbringing
What were the themes of your childhood that still resonate through your life today?
(these are just the headlines – to get the rest Click Here
(2) Previous jobs
Where have you worked? What type of work was it? Who did you work for, and with?
(3) Visits and vacations
Where in the world have you been? What places have you visited, either professionally or recreationally?
(4) Learning from other writing disciplines
What other forms of writing have you done?
(5) Life’s journey
I guess all of the above is a tip for using your own life journey in your writing – and not being afraid to do so. That doesn’t mean that what you write is autobiographical, or even semi-autobiographical, and we all get asked that question don’t we? What it means is using your experiences to add depth to every aspect of your work, whether it be character, narrative, location, plot, etc.
I couldn’t have written ‘Kiss and Tell’ and ‘Defending Elton’ without drawing on all these life experiences. Some were professional, some were personal, but they were all valuable events.
I’m a strong believer in that old adage ‘write what you know’. It’s a sensible dictum, but ‘write who you know’ is just as useful. One thing I have always remembered from an early scriptwriting course is to give each and every character, no matter how seemingly insignificant to the plot, a reason for existing… a reason that comes from their own character. If you fail on this point you have in effect a cipher, a vacuous being who is simply performing a plot function.
I think it’s a good tip to always ask every character what they are doing, and why they are doing it? They should be able to answer for themselves. Your own life experience should help them answer, but if you find yourself answering for them something somewhere has gone wrong.
I would be fascinated to read other writers accounts of how their own life experiences have shaped their work… and what tips they have learned to help other writers along the way.
Find out more at www.tjcooke.com which includes his regular blog. You can also connect with Tim on twitter @timscribe
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Magic 5-Step Plan To Writing a Post That Will Easily Win Pulitzer Prize
This is a guest contribution by Tim Soulo.
I bet the next sentence will totally blow your mind!
Though… I think a bit of preparation wouldn’t hurt. No really, when I told this to my friend the other day he had a heart attack and I had to drive him to the hospital (he’s ok now btw).
But you just have to know that! This is probably the most important piece of advice in your whole career.
So read along…
1. The Power of The Post Opener
Ok. I was bluffing, I’m sorry. I don’t have a “sentence that will blow your mind”. But did you even notice how easily you got involved into reading this post and how intrigued you were to know what’s going to happen next?
If you look at the very first sentence of this post, it’s sole purpose is to make you read the next one. But the next one doesn’t answer the question I’ve planted in your head (“what will blow my mind?”), it just adds more drama to keep you intrigued and make you read even further.
This kind of “post opener” follows the well known AIDA formula: Attention, Interest, Desire, Action.
- My first sentence got your Attention.
- The story about a friend that got heart attack got you Interested.
- The statement “you have to know that” played with your Desire.
- And I invited you to take Action by offering to “read along”.
But what’s the point of going an extra mile to make your post opener intriguing and catchy? Actually there are quite enough reasons for that:
- If a person opens your post, this doesn’t mean he will read it. Your post opener helps him to make the decision if he wants to read this post or not;
- Generally people don’t want to read, they just want to consume some valuable information. If you fail to present it in an entertaining and engaging way someone else might win their attention;
- We’re easily distracted: an email or tweet or maybe a phone call can easily steal our attention and make us forget about the post we were reading. So your opener should be good enough to make people ignore everything else until they finish it.
2. Who Needs An Opener When The Headline is Poor?
You have the best opener in the world, but what if noone will ever see it? Why?
Because your headline isn’t good enough!
My RSS reader pretty much illustrates the point:
Headline is the most important part of your post. Literally. So make sure it’s compelling enough to steal person’s attention.
There are plenty of good tips and techniques to writing powerful headlines, but I think if you master this single document “Headline Hacks” your headlines will rock!
3. Subheadings are Headline’s Best Friends
Subheadings are not only used to improve the structure of your post, but they actually improve the chances of the post to actually get read.
And here’s how.
Many of us (including myself) will always skim through the post quickly in order to determine how big it is, how much time it will take to read it and how valuable it is for us. In case your post is just a since chunk of text and there’s nothing that catches the eye and gives you an idea of what the post is about most people won’t risk their time to read it.
By using interesting and compelling subheadings you’re drastically increasing the chances of your post to be read.
4. Your Post Structure And Styling May Cost You Readers Too
Let’s keep talking about the “phenomenon” of skimming the post before reading it. What else might catch the eye?
- Pictures? Absolutely!
- Numbered (or unnumbered) lists? Definitely!
- Text in bold or italic? Pretty much.
- Quotations? Yeah, why not.
Everything that’s different from the common paragraph of text might get person’s attention and make him quickly read this part. Don’t be afraid to use photos, graphics, videos or anything else along these lines.
Take a look at my post and see which of these things I’ve already used and if they fit naturally and really help you (as a reader) to consume information.
And by the way, make sure your paragraphs of text are not bigger than 34 sentences, because most people have have some hidden psychological fear of huge chunks of text and they just won’t read them.
All in all, usage of all these things inevitably leads to improving the logical structure of your post. Subheadings alone mean that the article is not just a random flow of thought, but it’s actually structured into certain logical parts, which makes it a lot easier to comprehend it.
BONUS TIP: Try to always add captions for the images. Studies show that 80% of people who are skimming through the post will read the image captions.
5. All of The Above Is Useless Without Research
We love to think that we have enough knowledge in our heads to produce compelling content which others will find interesting and valuable. Yet quite often we’re awfully wrong.
To prove my point I invite you to google the hell out of the next topic that you’re going to write about and see yourself if there’s anything you didn’t know. And besides, if it so happens that there are tons of posts on the topic already listing the same thoughts and ideas you were about to write… maybe the world doesn’t need yet another one?
But if you’re confident that you can do a much better post than any of those already there go for it, my friend! And make sure you send me the link once it’s published for I want to read that!
One last thing I love about a thorough research it makes your brain work! I don’t remember where I heard this advice first, yet it works for me so damn good:
When you need to generate some fresh ideas or uncanny solutions go read all you can on the topic and then do something else and let your brain rest and slowly digest all the information you’ve just consumed. Sooner or later a great idea will strike you out of nowhere! Believe me, this really works!
The Topic Is Exhausted? Talk To Your Readers!
Don’t know about you, but I write articles with a sole purpose of communicating to people. And I love when the communication goes both ways for otherwise I might as well just bury the article on my hard drive once I’m done writing it.
I’m sure you guys have something to say about this very post. So speak out! I’ll be glad to continue the conversation in comments.
Tim Soulo is a blogging experimenter and conversion junkie. He is passionate about discovering new marketing ideas and sharing them with his readers. Why don’t you visit his personal blog at BloggerJet.com and take his free email course on boosting your traffic.
By Dana E. Neuts
I write in my pajamas, take daily naps, work four-day weeks, watch Netflix and play Facebook games all day. That’s what some of my friends think the freelance life is all about. “You’re so lucky,” they say with envy. But that’s not exactly how it works. Allow me to explain.
1) Writing in my pajamas: I write in my pajamas…sometimes, maybe 10% of the time, but only because I get up in the middle of the night to write down an idea before I lose it. After working on a story all day, I sometimes get stuck on the lede, but once I go to sleep, my creativity percolates and the lede writes itself. I have to capture it before I lose it, and that often happens when I’m in my pajamas. The rest of the time I’m dressed for the day, just like everyone else.
It’s okay to be an awful writer. In fact, I suspect most great writers are also terrible writers. It all depends what you show people.
I think this is the key to beating the empty screen. Because it’s the pressure that kills, right? The urge to write the next great novel, or make a boatload of money with scandalous, (un)literary smut, or prove what a deep, deep thinker you are with stark poems about the common man. The pressure is too consistent, too constant, to ever get anything done.
So, yield to mediocrity, accept that the next word you write is likely going to be the wrong word and keep going anyway. The real worst case scenario isn’t that you might write something bad–you have a recycling bin (real and virtual) that can and should overflow with bad writing. The worst case scenario is that you might write nothing at all.
When I sit down to draft now, my sentences have more clichés than your average pop song, my metaphors are mixed, and I indulge every urge for an easy adverb or adjective. And then I cross most of those sentences out.
The real work of writing is rewriting. It’s the nitpicky editing, the big cuts, the salvaging of good lines and sections from otherwise horrible stories and poems. You can’t be great all the time, but, hopefully, you can be good once in awhile. The best poem from my first book spent a long time being the weakest of the bunch, and knowing that gives me a lot of hope because the readers and the critics don’t ever have to know just how bad rough writing is, unless, of course, you tell them.
- Joni Mitchell to make rare appearance at Luminato (canada.com)
- Chaka Khan joins Joni Mitchell tribute at Luminato (globalnews.ca)
[I’m looking for ideas to finish out the second “Courier” book and I ran across this article by Hunter S. Thompson in the 90s. I KNOW that he didn’t have the vast majority of his braincells by then but he still wrote like he’d had a visionary glimpse of Hemingway’s perfect sentence in some 1960’s drug dream and was pursuing it with every keystroke. If I could write one-quarter this well, I could die happy.]
From Song of the Sausage Creature
by Hunter S. Thompson
Cafe Racing is mainly a matter of taste. It is an atavistic mentality, a peculiar mix of low style, high speed, pure dumbness, and overweening commitment to the Cafe Life and all its dangerous pleasures… I am a Cafe Racer myself, on some days – and it is one of my finest addictions.
I am not without scars on my brain and my body, but I can live with them. I still feel a shudder in my spine every time I see a picture of a Vincent Black Shadow, or when I walk into a public restroom and hear crippled men whispering about the terrifying Kawasaki Triple… I have visions of compound femur-fractures and large black men in white hospital suits holding me down on a gurney while a nurse called “Bess” sews the flaps of my scalp together with a stitching drill.
Ho, ho. Thank God for these flashbacks.
The motorcycle business was the last straw. It had to be the work of my enemies, or people who wanted to hurt me. It was the vilest kind of bait, and they knew I would go for it.
Of course. You want to cripple the bastard? Send him a 130-mph cafe-racer. And include some license plates, he’ll think it’s a streetbike. He’s queer for anything fast.
Which is true. I have been a connoisseur of fast motorcycles all my life. I bought a brand-new 650 BSA Lightning when it was billed as “the fastest motorcycle ever tested by Hot Rod magazine.” I have ridden a 500-pound Vincent through traffic on the Ventura Freeway with burning oil on my legs and run the Kawa 750 Triple through Beverly Hills at night with a head full of acid… I have ridden with Sonny Barger and smoked weed in biker bars with Jack Nicholson, Grace Slick, Ron Zigler and my infamous old friend, Ken Kesey, a legendary Cafe Racer.
Some people will tell you that slow is good – and it may be, on some days – but I am here to tell you that fast is better. I’ve always believed this, in spite of the trouble it’s caused me. Being shot out of a cannon will always be better than being squeezed out of a tube. That is why God made fast motorcycles, Bubba….
I passed a schoolbus on the right and got the bike under control long enough to gear down and pull off into an abandoned gravel driveway where I stopped and turned off the engine. My hands had seized up like claws and the rest of my body was numb. I felt nauseous and I cried for my mama, but nobody heard, then I went into a trance for 30 or 40 seconds until I was finally able to light a cigarette and calm down enough to ride home. I was too hysterical to shift gears, so I went the whole way in first at 40 miles an hour.
The Ducati 900 is so finely engineered and balanced and torqued that you *can* do 90 mph in fifth through a 35-mph zone and get away with it. The bike is not just fast – it is *extremely* quick and responsive, and it *will* do amazing things… It is like riding a Vincent Black Shadow, which would outrun an F-86 jet fighter on the take-off runway, but at the end, the F-86 would go airborne and the Vincent would not, and there was no point in trying to turn it. WHAMO! The Sausage Creature strikes again.
There is a fundamental difference, however, between the old Vincents and the new breed of superbikes. If you rode the Black Shadow at top speed for any length of time, you would almost certainly die. That is why there are not many life members of the Vincent Black Shadow Society. The Vincent was like a bullet that went straight; the Ducati is like the magic bullet in Dallas that went sideways and hit JFK and the Governor of Texas at the same time.
It was impossible. But so was my terrifying sideways leap across the railroad tracks on the 900sp. The bike did it easily with the grace of a fleeing tomcat. The landing was so easy I remember thinking, goddamnit, if I had screwed it on a little more I could have gone a lot farther.
Maybe this is the new Cafe Racer macho. My bike is so much faster than yours that I dare you to ride it, you lame little turd. Do you have the balls to ride this BOTTOMLESS PIT OF TORQUE?
That is the attitude of the new-age superbike freak, and I am one of them. On some days they are about the most fun you can have with your clothes on. The Vincent just killed you a lot faster than a superbike will. A fool couldn’t ride the Vincent Black Shadow more than once, but a fool can ride a Ducati 900 many times, and it will always be a bloodcurdling kind of fun. That is the Curse of Speed which has plagued me all my life. I am a slave to it. On my tombstone they will carve, “IT NEVER GOT FAST ENOUGH FOR ME.”
Trained by reading hundreds of submissions, editors and literary agents often make their read/not-read decision on the first page. In a customarily formatted book manuscript with chapters starting about 1/3 of the way down the page (double-spaced, 1-inch margins, 12-point type), the first page has 16 or 17 lines.
The challenge: does this narrative compel you to turn the page?
Evaluate this opening page for how well it executes the following 6 vital storytelling elements. While it’s not a requirement that all of them must be on the first page, I think writers have the best chance of hooking a reader if they are. The one vital ingredient not listed is professional-caliber writing, a given for every page.
Let’s Flog Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter
Following is what would be the first manuscript page (17 lines) of Beautiful Ruins, the number 1 trade paperback on the May 5, 2013 New York Times bestseller list.
The Rest of the Story…er the Flogging is on Writer Unboxed » Flog a Pro: Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter.
Mason Currey: Daily Rituals of Famous Authors
All of us have the same 24 hours a day to do things we need and want to do. But it often seems that certain people manage to do more with their allotted
hours. How is it that some of us can barely manage to stay on top of our laundry (I’m speaking from personal experience here) while others manage to write plays, compose operas, or paint landscapes? Do these remarkably accomplished people have fewer daily commitments? Are they more efficient, more driven, or more disciplined? Where do they find the time?
Those are some of questions behind my new book, Daily Rituals: How Artists Work, which looks at the routines and working habits of 161 inspired minds–among them, novelists, composers, painters, playwrights, philosophers, filmmakers, and scientists. In researching the book, I aimed to find out how exactly these artists made the time each day to do their work, and what rituals helped (or hindered) their creative processes. My primary goal was to present entertaining sketches of these figures’ daily lives–but I also wanted to show how lasting works of art can arise from small increments of labor. And I hope that aspiring or practicing creative artists will find some useful strategies for their own projects.
Of all the different types of artists in the book, writers seem to be the most prone to unshakeable routines and elaborate superstitions. In this slideshow, I present the daily rituals of eight literary legends–from John Milton working in bed at 4 a.m. to Maya Angelou hiding out in a motel room with a dictionary, a Bible, a deck of cards, and a bottle of sherry.
John Milton was totally blind for the last 20 years of his life, yet he managed to produce a steady stream of writing, including his magnum opus, the ten-thousand-line epic poem Paradise Lost. Milton devoted the morning to solitary contemplation in bed, beginning at 4:00 a.m. (5:00 a.m. in the winter). First he had an aide read to him from the Bible for half an hour. Then Milton was left alone to compose as many lines as his memory could retain. At 7:00, Milton’s aide returned to take dictation—and if the aide happened to be running late, one early biographer noted, Milton “would complain, saying he wanted to be milked.”J
Sort-of Related articles
- Franz Kafka, professional procrastinator (terrymadeley.com)
- Today in 1667, the 59 year old blind and impoverished John Milton sold the copyright of his biblical epic Paradise Lost for £5. Now WE know em (nowweknowem.com)
- Writing Rituals (diamondpublicationz.wordpress.com)
- Darwin’s Daily Routine (brainpickings.org)
- Paradise Lost (yunusemrekeskinaibu.wordpress.com)
- What does nearly every genius have in common when it comes to work habits? (bakadesuyo.com)
- How Dan Brown and other authors defeat writer’s block (guardian.co.uk)
Since the NYT didn’t include definitions of these words, I decided to post a job to MediaPiston to produce an article defining and using each word in the list. Voila! Just a few hours later, here it is. So avoid coming across as jejune and laconic in your speech. Dive in to this list with alacrity!
The New York Times 50 Fancy Words (defined and used)
1. Inchoate: just begun and so not fully formed or developed; I am glad your inchoate proposals for integrating the company were not accepted this time, thus saving us face.
2. Profligacy: recklessly wasteful; wildly extravagant, profligate behavior; Anderson’s profligacy cost him his job and its better you tighten up your belt before you go the same way.
4. Austerity: severe and morally strict; the quality of being austere, having no pleasures or comforts; Every major war on this planet were followed by many years of austerity.
5. Profligate: using money, resources, etc., in a way that wastes them; The firm’s profligate spending only hastened its downfall.
6. Baldenfreude: Satisfaction derived from the misfortune of bald or balding individuals (coined by NYT columnist Maureen Dowd); Humpty Dumpty’s antics remain a constant source of baldenfreude for children and adults alike.
April 29, 2013
I’ve talked about doing this, so here it finally is. My folder of rejection slips:
(With handy dinosaur ruler for scale. That’s over three inches of paper there.)
These aren’t all the rejections I’ve gotten. This doesn’t include all the e-mail rejections, which are quite legion. Or any of the rejections I got before 1995, which are hidden away in some folder I haven’t rediscovered yet. (I started sending stories out in about 1989). The most recent rejection in this pile? Spring 2012. Yup, I still get rejections. People sometimes ask me how many rejections I’ve gotten, and I’ve never counted. I have no intention of counting them now. Just estimating, based on how frequently I was sending stuff out during my busiest submission period (roughly 1995-2006), I have upward of 600. I know this stack is taller than a ream of paper, which is 500 pages. But you know what, I never paid attention to how many there were. I put them in the folder and never looked at them again. Out of sight, out of mind, move on to the next submission.
I imagine some people are asking, how did I keep going? How could I possibly keep going, after all that rejection? The answer: my writing got better. I could see it getting better. Every story was better than the one before. If the earlier one got rejected, maybe the new one wouldn’t be. Well then — Why didn’t I wait to send my stuff out until I was “good enough?” Answer: I didn’t know what good enough was. I thought I was good enough with the very first story I sent out. I realized very quickly that I wasn’t. Repeat for ten years and several dozen stories. Obviously, I was not the person to be judging if I was good enough. So I sent stuff out and let the editors decide.
I made my first pro sale in 1999, ten years after making my first submission. Now, in 2013, I’m approaching 70 short story sales, plus 15 novels published. Was all that rejection worth it? Yeah, it totally was.
On Wednesday, I’ll talk about some of the things I learned that I think helped me finally start selling stories.
(Update: It just occurred to me to let people know that the story that collected rejections in 2012 was “Astrophilia,” which went on to be published in Clarkesworld and will appear in two “Year’s Best” anthologies this year.)
Buy Rejecting Rejection Book by Steve Steinberg (9781575024219) at Angus and Robertson with free shipping http://bit.ly/10vSyyX
(Steve Steinberg was Ted Koppel’s writer for many years and taught me more about writing and real news than anyone else I ever knew)