Reference Your Work

Popping in to write about a thought I wanted to share. 

When I had a book critique done, my writer/editor doing the critique criticized me for having dictionary definitions in my work. She said it was the sign of an immature writing. I took them out. 

What do think about that comment? 

Whether or not you want to add dictionary definitions is up to you, but at the very least--please put quotations around direct quotes and footnote or give credit as to where you got it! 

The same goes for Bible verses--apparently today's publishers prefer you paraphrase the meaning of the Bible verse rather than directly quote it. If you do quote it word for word, please also do the proper quotation marks and add the reference.  

Edit Until...

Writing is the easy part. You sit at a computer or pull out your journal and spew your thoughts. But if you want to share or publish your writing, editing is necessary. Blog posts can get away with a little less work, but articles take thought. 

When I edit something I've thrown together, I first try to decide where I can go with it. It has to serve a purpose. It has to ask and answer a question.

Then there has to be flow. The sequence has to make sense. 

That being said, I've gone back over some things I've written and published and much later see it could have flowed better. In most cases, the piece could have less words.

Cut Words

Cutting unnecessary words is an important edit. When I write eBooks, not only do I cut the unnecessary words I notice, I go to lists I've saved that professional editors say to cut (you can find lists online). I do a word search on various words or phrases and cut down drastically.

Nevertheless, time is needed between edits even if it is simply minutes. I will edit an article, leave it to work on another, and return to it later. I do this on and off until I can read an article through without making a change. Then I know it's ready. 

Of course, the perfectionist in most writers sees more to change. When this becomes problematic, I just call it quits. I say it's good enough, and I send it to the editors. 

How Much Time to Leave an Article Draft?

I read a question asking how long to let a draft article sit before re-editing it. I don't think there is a hard and fast rule, but here is a general impression from my own work experience.

If I'm writing an article to sell, it is usually 500 to 1,200 words. So it is relatively short. Often, the temptation is to just get it done and up on the Constant-Content site for sale or out to the client if it's a private project. (Less editing time would also mean I make more money per hour, always a challenge.)

But more often than not, it's better to let the article sit overnight. It's much easier to spot obvious changes the next day. 

Sometimes, I let drafts sit for weeks or months. In editing, I might totally make a new article out of it or break it into two or more articles. 

There is no time limit except it is better, in most cases, to let it sit a few hours or a day or two. 

That being said, most of my blog posts are published right after crafting them. 

Should You Take a Writing Course?

Every day there are courses offered for writers.  There are online courses and there are writing coaches who will help you walk through the steps of writing.  (I know of several if you would like me to refer you).  Do you have to take a course or have a degree to be a writer?  No.

Just get writing and see where the path leads you.

Do what suits your personality and skill level.  If you feel a course will help, sign up.  If a writing group is of interest, join one.  

Grow it at your own pace.  You should know when you're ready to take the next step of publishing a blog, writing a query letter, sending an article to a content site editor, signing up for personalized coaching, or sending a manuscript to an agent. 


The point is, there is no set path for a writer. 

The field of writing can be tough on you, though.  You will have editors rip your work apart. You will see yourself making dumb errors and feel embarrassed when important people point them out.  You will get rejections and hurt feelings.

Good writers take the pain in stride.  They take what they're dished and pour it back into their writing to be used for good.

A great way to test your skills is to put a piece past an inexpensive proofreader or editor to see how you fair.  Another way is to send it to an article site--preferably  one that has editors that will scrutinize your work before posting it.  If an editor in a situation like this offers you writing tips, take them and learn.

Writing - Where to Start

I've always loved writing and have looked for ways to make money writing.  Finally I've found it--creating web content articles, blog info and fillers, for pay. 

Sometimes the craving in our heart just needs the world to catch up to it.  Now that there is the World Wide Web there are so many opportunities for writers. 

Thank goodness for technology and virtual work!

Years ago, I started with a simple blog.  I began it never thinking I would actually publish it, have followers or get business from it.  But I have.  Not only that, blog writing has given me the opportunity to release my writing cravings.  I need to write.  I have to write.

Since then I have a few other blogs on the go and a website

So, if you're thinking of starting a blog or investigating writing opportunities, take the plunge.  Just get writing.  Leave your work to simmer (work that you plan to sell, that is) and go back to edit it in a day or two. 

This is a start.

Improve Your Writing Skills

The best way to improve on your writing is to write, then go back in a few days and re-read what you've written. 

A second way is to write and then ask an outside writer, proofreader or editor to give you feedback.

A third way is to write and submit your work to a site that screens it through an editor.  Then take heed to the feedback, if any is offered.

Blogging is another great way to grow your writing skills.  You are nudged to update your blog, and thus write.

One suggestion of how not to test your writing skills is through contests.  Many contests are set up to earn money off new writers who pay an entry fee.  Your piece may not even be read.  Look for other ways to have your writing viewed and then try to sell your writing, not the other way around!

Whats the ROI for your Reader?

I am saddened when I learn of a woman who has written books that aren't selling.There are many reasons books don't sell. It may have to do with marketing, reach, quality of writing and, of course, the subject matter. But one reason I've identified is that many writers make their book about telling their story more than about offering a reader something he or she needs or wants to know.

If the story is juicy or inspirational, then it makes sense to tell the story. But even life stories or memoirs can be converted into self-help books. It's all about how the writer chooses to sculpt the book. 


Look at the writing of author Joyce Meyer, for instance.  Her readers know much of her life story because she's shared tidbits of it as analogies throughout her various books. But her books are never about her life path alone. Her books are about helping her audience solve some problem. 

You too can do this if you choose to, Consider what lesson you want to share with your reader. Choose the parts of your life story that best demonstrate the lessons and write an abbreviated version of the story.   


What is ROI?


Aside from the eBooks I write, I'm also a web content article writer. I write on a variety of topics customers use in print publications and in online websites and so on. When I write my articles, I try to have an ROI--Return on Investment for the reader. That is, I try to give them something in exchange for the time they've given to read my article. 


I want my reader to learn something new, to become motivated, or better informed. I want my readers to discover easily understood takeaways. One book for writers I read so long ago I can't remember its name suggested every page have a takeaway, suspense or something to make the reader want to turn the page. 


If your book doesn't have an easily understood takeaway, perhaps you should take a second look. Finish 
these sentences: This book will give the reader hope about ______; this book will give the reader greater faith or inspiration because __________; the reader will feel a greater sense of ________ after reading this book because _____________. This book will help the reader take this type of action ___________.


There is so much more to say on this subject, but I'll save it for another post.  In the meantime, feel free to share your comments below.

What is 'it'?


A book critique I had done by a published author almost turned my writing world upside down. I expected she would love my book. But she tore it apart. I let it simmer for some time before returning to it. 

When I returned to the manuscript, I took her criticism and re-wrote almost the entire book. Then I went ahead an published it on my own deciding not to get another critique or hire a professional editor. 

Most eBooks I sell cost little more than a Starbucks Grande. Why would I invest $500 or so in something where I may earn back $100? 

Writers give a lot of free time up because they have something to say and love writing. Simple as that. And a worker deserves her wages. Selling any book is a risk, and one I'm taking regularly. 

Now, one thing I did learn from the critique was the use of the word "it." She kept circling it and asking "what is it?" Any normal human should understand, I thought. For instance, in this phrase, "If the shoe fits, wear it." 

But now I stop and pause on the word it and plug in what I'm talking about in most cases. Next time you're writing and using the word it make sure a reader who jumps in will know what it is. 


A Tool Called Natural Reader



I may have offered these ideas before. Just now, I re-loaded a nifty program I had on my last laptop. It's called "Natural Reader." Get it here

It's just another way to proofread your documents. Choose the voice you'd like to read your document, upload your document and hear it read. 

I've used this program for editing. It allows me to rest my eyes at times. It allows me to walk around the room, stand, or follow along with it. If it reads well, I'm set. If it does't read well, I'm sure to catch the needed changes.  

There are times I rush to publish or send in my submissions without leaving a block of time. More often than not, leaving a block of time between writing and editing is better. Leaving my writing over night, over a few days, or even over months or years allows me to return to my writing with fresh eyes. 

There is always room for improvement in writing, but we can't just keep editing and expect to make a sale. Still, I want to put out my best work and that often requires several go-throughs. Natural Reader is one more tool I often use. 


Late Night Writing and Other Matters

It's late at night. I was about to head for bed, but I felt the need to update this blog. 

Late nights are nothing new to me. It seems to be the way I'm wired. I write well late at night maybe because by then there aren't competing thoughts of I should do this or that. Working from home, I can't help but feel compelled to balance writing time with housework that I see all around me. If I was out at an office instead, I wouldn't face the constant reminder of things to be done. 

Not only do I tend the home, but my dog can be pretty bossy demanding walks as often as possible. She doesn't understand, "Momma's got to sit and write today." 

My dog is a good fitness coach, but everything I do for her is time-consuming too. My writing is often traded off for dog walks, shampoos, and feedings. 

By day's end, it seems natural to push aside all the other responsibilities and finally focus on writing. The husband is in bed, and the dog sleeps at my feet. 

SOMETHING TO CLARIFY 

But the above isn't what I was going to share just now. Here's what I wanted to write about dreary-eyed as I am:

Recently, I was in a meeting where a woman said she felt suspicious of people who have some sad story to tell, solve it, write a book about it, become a speaker, and make millions of dollars. 

I wanted to slap her. Why? Because most writers don't make millions of dollars. What a myth so many believe.

The person this woman was referring to who had solved her problem and written a book wasn't a high-profile individual with a broad platform. Today, publishers will rarely take on an average person. They want writers with credentials. They want to know the writer will bring in book buyers and do successful marketing themselves. 


DEBT


The idea that an average woman who's written a book will make millions is delusional. Most writers put in more unpaid time than they will ever make back. Publishing on Kindlle is free, but Kindle takes a cut of the sales. Personally, I make only about $3 to $4 per book. It makes it hard to justify all the time I put into writing.

Self-publishing hard copies is very problematic because it's difficult to sell hard copies especially when shipping costs need to be factored in. Shipping across borders is even more problematic as there may be exchange rates and duty payments. I know a few women with garages full of unsold self-published print books. And these are books they paid out-of-pocket to have produced. Some will see a financial loss. 

I pondered this friend's statement and reflected on it as the web content and eBook writer I am. I decided the purpose of writing for most writers is to share our story with a hope to encourage or inspire someone. We may hope to hit it big financially, and that's not unheard of, but we write because we have something to say. And more of us write because we love writing. 

The woman seemed to mock the idea of the woman writer's sad story. But most good stories have a crisis and turning point in them. Even self-help books point to problems and provide solutions. Hallmark movies always have a crisis and turning point. (I know there are more official terms, but I can't think of them just now.)  

Sad stories are part of telling a story. I'm not sure what the woman was so skeptical of unless she sensed impure motives by the woman speaker she'd listened to who had a book for sale. Maybe she wasn't impressed with her story. That's okay. She doesn't have to buy the book. 



A Writer's Life Needs Balance

(reprint of article from 2011)

As I mentioned, writing is something I must do.  I'm writing all the time.  When I'm out and about, I'm gathering information from what I'm doing and often thinking, "How could I write an article on this?"  Or, while working in the garden, around the house, or walking the dog, I find myself writing in my mind.  When I read something online, I want to write my own version, or summarize it, or go off in a new direction from an idea sparked. 

Author Judith Couchman has a quote in her book Designing a Woman's Life, "Many competent women have a difficult time distinguishing between passion and workaholism."  She points out that a passion feeds you while addictiveness devours you. A passion brings out a fuller, happier person while, addiction leads to discontentment and isolation.  She also hints that our passion can interfere with our spirituality when we put it ahead of God and nurture of our spiritual being.

When you become a writer, it's hard to shut the thoughts off when they seem to be flowing from fingertip to screen so well.   I've known dinners to burn because of spending time writing in between cooking.

I've spent way to many nights writing into the wee hours of the morning.  It's hard to say goodbye to imaginary characters or audience for the night.  It's hard to resist sitting at the computer upon rising to do more writing.  

When you become a freelance writer working from home, you need to get the work out or you'll have no income.  The more you write, the more you will sell and the more income you'll make.  It's easy, then, to become tied to your computer.

When you write at home, it's easy to become isolated.  And, as with any passion, it's easy to one day hate your passion for it's inability to give back and meet your other needs.  In other words, made an addiction, it can rob and cheat you.

So the remedy?  Writers must force themselves to build balance into their lives.  They must say no the the computer keyboard.  They must go and visit with their family members.  They must get fresh air and exercise.  They must be more than their writing if they want a balanced life.

How is your balance?

  

Gift Shops, Magazines and Writing

GIFT SHOP BROWSING

I just returned from a short trip that included a stop at a gift shop. There's something that may never change, and that is my love for visiting gift shops.  I'm a self-confessed gift-shop junkie 



One area of the gift shop I'm always drawn to is the magazine racks.  There is a magazine for almost every subject!  Yes, of course we can read all types of information on the Internet, but one thing magazines do is provide gorgeous glossy pictures.  I'm a visual learner and artist, and pictures draw me in.  They are where I find most of my ideas for decorating.  They show me on-trend decor.  They teach how to complete a craft.  Pictures show great depictions of cities and tourist destinations, allowing me to imagine them better than printed descriptions ever could.

WRITING TO SELL


It is still tedious querying to write for a magazine.  I don't know how many magazines are purchasing work by freelance writers. I've sold to many online magazines. My articles can be picked up through content provider Constant-Content.  


Articles can be purchased there by anyone:  website managers, magazines, newspapers, bloggers. My articles can be purchased under my pen name Joy R. Calderwood at http://www.constant-content.com/



I provide the article, you provide the gorgeous glossy photo!  A writer's marriage made in heaven.


Of course with all the web content available, magazine purchases have taken a dip.  You might have noticed the resulting compensating price increase.  (I paid almost $20 for a magazine for my daughter).  Freelancers, photographers and printing companies still need to earn money to stay viable too. If you purchase from one, plan to pay fair market value.

No matter what's on the web, there will always be a place for magazines in gift shops.

How to Become a Freelance Writer

In the past week I've been asked twice about how a person gets into freelance writing. Through the years I've had at least four others ask me through Facebook, and a few in person.

This is the kind of question I love and hate. I love the instant connect writer-to-writer. I hate that answering this type of thing is time-consuming, non-paying, and generally like welcoming competition into my sphere.

It reminds me of a lot of life coaching inquiries I had after becoming a certified life coach. Most coaches offer 20 minute sessions no charge, but I also got a number of email inquiries. After a while I realized it is my right to refuse to answer people who are more-or-less snooping about the career and have no intention of working with me.

Some freelancers and life coaches make a lot of money. Others of us don't. My first word of caution to those asking is to say if they need the income, packing up their day job to become a freelance writer is the wrong choice.

Other than that, would-be freelance writers need to write regularly and they need to dig.  All freelancers dig for work. We all dig for research. We all dig for new clients. The internet is our playing field.

No one will hand work to you. You will have to keep developing, take risks, learn to accept rejection and criticism, and be humble enough to be corrected on improper grammar.

I still don't have it all down perfectly. I know I hyphenate at times I shouldn't. I've taken courses and have guidebooks, but when writing, like a quick blog, who cares? I don't. This is how I practice, vent, and develop.


Just Write, Maybe Take a Course


When I hear of someone who likes to write or ponders becoming a writer, my advice is "just write."  Write regularly.  Write in a journal, write a blog, write into a computer document.

What do you write?  Most times, writing daily is a good way of purging the brain.  It's like venting on paper.  You write your feelings, inspiring thoughts, reinforcing affirmations, about your day, or about a topic of interest.


You don't have to have a result in mind when you write; not like at school where you write because you have to to get a mark.  It really doesn't matter what you write each day.  No one will be marking it!


An amazing thing occurs when you go back and read your notes.  Your notes may inspire you. They might become the basis for a blog or article.  They ground you.  They tell you how far you've come.


Compiled, your writing may become a good eBook one day.  All writing is valuable--either as a personal release or when used to help another person.


Another amazing thing is you get better at your craft if you develop it over time. I've been going back and editing old articles and sometimes I just shake my head. Some of them are lousy-looking now.


HOW TO IMPROVE


If you get to the point where you want to submit work, you will read submission guidelines. You might also read samples of work.  If the submission guidelines are thorough, you'll pick up tips of what not to do.  If you submit to an organization that screens the work, feedback from an editor may be helpful.


Courses have value that isn't necessarily obvious.  I took a copyediting course thinking I might grow the simple editing/proofreading business I had.  I learned that the editors in that organization edit to the "letter of the law."  They reference all types of "official" rule books that ongoingly change their rules.  To be an editor of that caliber takes far more commitment than I'm interested in.


But what was interesting was how the course helped me improve my writing. Through the lessons I learned things I'd never known.  I also used a critique coach.  I picked up a few things from her, although some other things she commented on were maddening.  In all these situations, I've learned to take away the good and dispose of the bad.  No writer needs to feel discouraged.  A lot of writing is subjective anyhow.  There are new ways of writing that old school writers may not embrace and pick you apart on in a critique.  Be wary, and test your gut reaction.  If God has called you to write something, do it.


Sometimes harsh critiques can force you to make harsh changes to your manuscript that are needed in a good way. Sometimes they push you to write as an effort to prove yourself.  Sometimes the critiques give you the impetus to move forward in spite of what you've been told.


Personally, I think there are too many wet blankets out there.  We are in an era of innovation.  Writers usually have a strong need to express themselves, like I am doing in this post.  If I worried about all my punctuation and proper phrasing all the time, I'd get no where.


So find expression.  Forget about perfectionism.  If your piece is to be bought, it will be bought.  If someone thinks it stinks, fine.  Let them have their opinion. Just do your best work, have fun, and go for it! 

Writing Tips for the Novice Writer

It's never too late to start writing, but you'd better not keep putting it off or it will be too late one day.

To be a writer, you need to just choose your media--paper and pen or computer screen--and just start writing.  Pour out all the thoughts craving to be released.

Say Something 

Usually, I write with something to say.  It may be sparked from a number of places, and I may write on a variety of topics. I write in my mind while cleaning the pool, doing housework, walking the dog, taking a shower, reading someone else's article.  My mind spins different themes.  But keeping all the goodness festered up does no good.  I need to get it out. With luck, the ideas take and come to mind later.

Share Your Writing 

The internet is a turning point for many writers and artists.  It gives us a place to show our work which is much better than growing a pile of journals, manuscripts, or even painted canvasses in our drawers or basement.  Sharing what's on our mind not only gives us joy, but it often helps someone. 
Art by Rosalie Garde, 2015

Don't Limit Yourself 

All those ideas you have can be worked on simultaneously.  You don't need to focus only on one project at a time (unless you're doing a for pay piece with a deadline).  I might write on marriage, gardening, midlife crisis, or life purpose all in a week.

Have a System 

Create a system.  That may mean set aside a time to write.  Or it may mean set aside a method.

I have a file in Word called "fodder" and another called "rough drafts."
Fodder is where I collect ideas. They may be cut and pasted off the internet (to use as prompts), or they may be ideas of my own that I don't feel like working in depth at the time.   I also have a separate file for "ebooks I'm working on."

The rough drafts file is where I write without editing.  Later, I will scan through my fodder or rough draft files and choose something of interest to work on hopefully to completion and submission.  Then I'll transfer the piece to "submitted." Often, the rough draft is so long I can pull two or more articles out of it and multiply my revenue.

Joining a group or submitting to a place where there is an opportunity to have your work pass through editors is helpful.  I work through Constant-Content.  Their team of editors checks everything and sends back errors pointing out what's wrong.  Of course rejection hurts and delays income, but this has been a good way for me to learn and improve on my writing. 

Silence the Critics

If you're going to enjoy your life as a writer, you're going to need to shut out certain voices and demolish certain long-held beliefs.

Rules have changed.  Yes, grammar rules should still be followed, but rules about hierarchy have changed.  Those who have been formally published and who do critique or editing work need not be revered as some type of god.  They may feel god-like in their mind, they may be helpful advisers, but today rules are changing quickly and unless they've kept up, their advice might be not only inaccurate, but damaging to your momentum as a writer.

The threat is that those who've held professional positions with publishing houses, those who've been certified by editing organizations, those who've taught courses and been published themselves sometimes think of themselves more highly than they ought to and intimidate new writers.

If you're an emerging writer, shut out intimidation.  If you entrust your writing to an editor or have it critiqued, learn from their feedback, but don't let their advice stop you from pursuing your dream.

Get rid of the idea that only those with a big platform can write, sell an article, sell an ebook or book. So called professional writers may tell you rules they feel a writer must follow, but rules have been broken every day.

Marketers will tell you it's important to follow a set of rules that goes something like this: create a sales page, collect emails, offer a freebie, send out newsletters. Those suggestions might work, but they may just as likely not work.  They may become projects that gobble up time with no return.

Take all the advice you want, but in the end trust your own judgment.  Take a risk.  Write something.  Publish it in a method of your choosing.  Let it go.  See where it leads.


Write for an Audience



I've bumped into several women who feel God has called them to write a book. Usually it's about their life story.  It often ends up being a memoir of sorts.  Or it reads like a Christian devotional.

One trait I often see is women copying the voice of published authors they've read.  They may not do it intentionally.  I know I often write similar to a couple myself.  Nevertheless, it's important to examine your writing to see if you've done that.  If you have, your work may not have the believability you want it to have.  Very few authors can get away with calling their reader "blessed one" or "dear."


Well-published authors have a platform.  Their voice works for them because of their platform.  I urge you to be cautious of this copycat type of writing.  Edit out fluff and phrasing your reader might identify as being from someone else, as best you can.

Three Tips for Good Article Writing

I haven't added to this blog lately, but today heard good advice on article writing.  So I want to share it with aspiring writers.

To write a full-bodied unique article you will need to include several key ingredients. Every article should have these three parts:

1.  An introduction that tells the reader what you're going to tell them.
2.  The body where you tell them.
3.  The conclusion where you tell the reader what you've told them.

It's easy for those of us who like to get to the point to forego an introduction.  It's also annoying to have to wrap it up with a conclusion.  But good editors will reject articles that don't have these ingredients.

Also most articles that have lists need to have examples that demonstrate the reason the item is in the article. The explanation should be tailored to prove the hypothesis, thesis, or introduction.

There are a few exceptions to the rule.  I think if I were to explain the points in the numbered list above further, it would take away their strength.  But most lists benefit from explanations because doing so makes the article unique. It's the way you get to put a spin on an idea.

When no explanation is given to listed items, the article may resemble an article another person has already written.

You can write your introduction last.  I often do.  You can also write a good conclusion by re-reading your introduction.

Above all, make sure your body really does prove a point, not go off on a bunny trail.

Use these tips to tighten up your writing.

Treatment for Writer's Cramp

TREATMENT for WRITER'S CRAMP

The previous post talked about writer’s block or what I call writer’s cramp. I promised a few tips I employ to get me over the hump. Here are a few of them:

  1.  When writer's cramp, or screen depression sets in, I leave go and surf fun stuff like Youtube videos, watch television, do housework, take my dog for a walk, workout at the gym, or I do some form of art.  Basically, I take a writing fast.
  2. Sales are also helpful in healing a cramp.  When I get notification of a sale, my writing is validated, and I'm often ready to return to craft more articles. The only way that’s within my power is if somehow I’ve been able to promote my material.  Otherwise, I’m at the liberty of buyers.
  3. I'll go and apply for jobs.  This is not really a good idea though.  More times than not, the next day or two I'm so glad I didn't take a job that would require I change out of my yoga pants and long shirt.
  4. Usually, I'll simply spend time doing non-goal specific research.  I might flip through magazines, including those builder ones that come in the mail, web surf, check articles I've bookmarked or that have come into my email and had had no time to read.
  5. One of the best relief comes through doing art work, housework, or walking outdoors.  More times than not, when I do these things my brain unwinds. Ideas pop into my head without looking for them. I’ve often left mid-cleaning because I've had an idea I’ve just had to write down.  
  1. Sometimes I’ll just open a rough draft and start reading. The editing brain kicks in.  
Writer’s cramp serves good purposes.  It forces me to take a break. The best writing happens when left to simmer. Ideally, I’ll let days, weeks, or months pass on some piece I’ve started.  Ideas have time to brew.  When I revisit a piece, if it still makes sense and I still agree with it, it's is validated. And that is a very good side effect.   

Writer's Cramp?




Some call it writer's block, I'm calling it writer's cramp.  

When I arose this morning I was ready to write.  It made me think I'd worked through my latest writer's cramp.

When I've thought of the term writer's block, I've always had the picture of someone sitting in front of a blank screen needing to write something and having no ideas or inspiration.  I guess I could say I've felt that now and then. 

A writer's cramp, on the other hand, is more frightening.  For me, it might set in while I'm sitting there doing what I must do--web surfing and collecting ideas I'll put into a fodder folder.  My eyes become blurry, my neck begins to ache, and my self-talk begins to get negative to the point I can no longer carry on.  

With no writer's cramp, I'll go to the fodder folder, review the ideas, and start writing on one of them.  Don't worry, this isn't about plagiarism.  The material in my fodder folder acts as starter fuel. I'll use it to start on a topic, and before long, my mind spews out fresh new ideas.

With a writer's cramp, I'll look through my fodder folder and have zero inspiration.  Not only that, my head may start to hurt.  With writer's cramp I simply can't write. Worse than that, I don't want to write. I want to give up the notion and run away.

One of the perks of being a freelance writer today is I can do both research and writing without ever leaving home.  It is a good era for writers (especially introverts or lazy types).

Unfortunately, though, most of us also spend a fair amount of free time on our computer for entertainment.  So we end up sitting for enormous amounts of time, in the same chair, in front of the same screen.  When we reach a point of wanting to flee our computer, we know writer's cramp has set in.


Worse, when I suffer from writer's cramp, I'm not only unable to write, I want to quit the profession altogether.  With writer's cramp, I'm tempted to run out and find what appears from my standpoint to be a real job, with real pay, and real people to interact with.  


So I'll usually go on a rampage, searching the job boards, and applying for jobs.

Writer's cramp can be painful because what we thought we once loved, we suddenly despise.  We get brain freeze from too many words, grammar rules, and we never want to edit a single thing again!  Worry about slow sales sets in, and doubt about the career grows.


If you were to ask me if I create a plan or put myself on a writing schedule, I'd probably tell you I don't.   Much as a runner with a leg cramp can't run, a writer with writer's cramp can't write.  And we never really can predict when we will become cramped.  Schedule or no schedule, it's not only mentally unhealthy to work with a cramp, it may be impossible.

I don't like really long blog posts, so I'm going to end this one here.  Stay tuned for a continuation where I'll let you know how I work through writer's cramps. 

Collecting Inspiration

I migrate to articles that I feel might be important to read because:

  1. They will help my personal growth.
  2. They will teach me something new.
     
  3. They will keep me current.
     
  4. They will be fodder for my own writing.
     
  5. They might be something I can share for my own content marketing.

While all the reasons contribute making me a better and more informed writer, it is number 4 I want to comment on.  


Usually when I'm researching or reading, I'm not also writing.  So when I come across what I call "fodder" (material that is used for a particular purpose), I will cut and paste it and save it into a Word document.  Usually the url is included for further reference.  

I might save a bunch of clippings together on one document, or I might save fodder on separate pages under separate file names.  I put them in a file called "Fodder".  I don't always title the file because using the first line as the file name usually works for me.  

INSPIRATION

When I'm looking for something to write on, I'll often skim through my fodder folder,  visually scan a file to see if it's a topic I "feel" like writing on.  If it isn't, I leave it for another time.  

If I choose to write on it, it usually doesn't take me more than a few sentences in to start seeing a new viewpoint I can put on the subject.  I try to rite a fresh angle.  In other words, I am not a "spinner".  I may be a sinner, but I'm not a spinner.  


RESAVING 


The finished article is then saved in my "Rough Drafts" folder under the new file name I give it.  The fodder file is closed and probably should be removed at that point, but usually I just leave it.  

When my article is ready for submission, after a few edits, I resave it in a "Submitted Writing" folder.  It is really helpful if I add a note to myself on the file confirming it indeed has been submitted.



You might have software that helps you do this more efficiently.  If so, good for you.  Why not leave your comments below so I can learn from you.  For now, this is what works for me. 

I Am a Writer

This is a cover my daughter and I
designed for a competition we
didn't win.
Yesterday I brushed by this blog, read the stats and clicked on to my next blog, checked its stats and moved on.  I had nothing new to write.  I was empty. There was zip, nada, nil, zero.  As the day wore on I wondered how I could possibly be a writer and be word-dry.

As dawn broke this morning--well, dawn didn't exactly break--it was rainy and dark, I headed to the computer with my coffee.  "Oh," I said to myself, "Today will be a good writing day.  It's always good to write in the rain because there is no temptation to play in the sun instead."

So I zipped past my blogs again, hoping to fill them with something to keep them optimized, but nothing profound came.

Instead of doing any actual writing today I fell back on the old R&R, Read and Research.  Mid-afternoon I stumbled upon some interesting free downloads and in them was the concept I'm about to explain.  The reason I've chosen to add them here is because half an hour ago the same concept came across my path.

When a concept crosses my path twice in short stead, especially by two distinct individuals who, as far as I know, aren't connected, I pay attention.

THE CONCEPT

The first writer shared that if you make vague "I want" type goals, you merely attract more of the same.  You attract a re-occurring want.  For instance if you state, “I want to be a competitive jockey,” your time and energy will result in that outcome--the wanting to be a jockey.

Instead, you should say, "I am a jockey and will compete competitively in 2014." Then you will take steps to actually fulfill the goal."
  
Tonight I decided to re-read a free download called You Are a Writer (So Start Acting Like One), by Jeff Goins http://www.amazon.com/dp/B007YJEIAS?tag=kiq-free-e-20.  In this little ebook, Goins suggests a person needs to believe they are what they want to be, and then start acting like it.    

That kind of goes with something I discussed with my diet coach too.  I suggested to her I do some visualization seeing myself as thin and seeing the scale reporting a lower number.

So the concept is this:  If you want to be a thin, healthy person, say, "I'm a thin and healthy person."

If you want to be a writer, say, "I'm a writer."

Don't wait for someone to validate the idea.  Don't keep putting it in the future.  Accept your calling now.


Just because I haven't written this week doesn't mean I'm no longer a writer.  


Just because I haven't earned pay from writing this week doesn't mean I'm not a professional quality writer.


The same goes for you.

My Writing Love-Hate Realationship

When you're a writer you can't help but write. Maybe you write in a journal.  Maybe you have stories constantly forming in your mind.  Maybe you type pages upon pages of random unpublished material.  Maybe you write a blog.  No matter how it comes out, it seems a writer must get "it" out. 

Writing freelance as a career for myself is a love-hate relationship.  Some days I believe I might as well work out there in the real world where I'd have a regular wage and know where I'm headed day upon day.

When freelancing, there's a lot of unpaid work done.  There's often a feeling of pushing other more tangible chores aside as a gamble that the time spent writing will pay off.

I often feel I must justify myself after not getting dishes done, beds changed, floors cleaned, and so on, because I've spent time writing.  I often get so caught up in writing, I have to rush a shower before getting to an appointment.  I've often hopped into the car a raggedy mess, since I've had a teen to pick up and not left enough time for changing my clothes or applying makeup.

It's a horrible way to live. It often feels like an imaginary job.  But having a real reliable job would minimize free-flow writing time and perhaps become frustrating.  A writer must write when the inspiration is there mustn't she?

When I make an article sale, I announce it as far and wide as I can.  Article sales justify my work.  Having a few digital ebooks eventually, will give me passive income (if promoted well).  Having a book on a shelf may or may not bring the satisfaction I crave.

Because I have other sources of income, I have been able to indulge my passion.  I've learned that my writing is mostly about the message I must get out more than the income I must bring in.

I have been justified by the boundaries of having/wanting to be there to drive my kids to school and their jobs, and to pick them up as needed.  I've justified my work by being the one to buy the groceries and put dinner on the table by 6 or 6:30.  But soon both kids will be in university.  I suspect then I should get a real job.

Now, the time has come for me to jump into the shower before an appointment.  If there are proofreading errors, please forgive them, this writer must now change hats.

WRITE RIGHT

Individuals "write" for a number of reasons. 

  • It's a therapeutic hobby.
  • They need blog posts.
  • They want to create an e-book.
  • They want to write a book.
  • They want to sell articles.

I advise writing with a purpose in mind.  Sometimes it is to make a living.  I sell articles for a living.  That isn't what I'm referring to, though, when I say write with a purpose.  Here are some examples of purpose I have in mind:

  • Your writing will instruct someone.
  • Your writing will inspire someone.
  • Your writing will point customers to your products or services.
  • Your writing will entertain someone.
WRITE RIGHT

Focus on what your reader will gain by reading your writing.  As an example, my hope is as you read this blog, you will gain perspective that will help you hone your writing skills.  It is instructive, but I hope inspiring too. 

Done well, each of the scenarios can become income-producing.  Write in such a way that a would-be buyer will connect with your writing. Give them tips of value. 

Write about what you know.

I write on a variety of topics but try to stick to what I know best.  I have had invitations to write on a host of other topics from technology to solar power, but if these topics require too much research or involve a learning curve, I will never profit.  They will cost me too much time. Plus, I usually feel like a "fake" when I try to tackle things I know little about.

WRITE FROM EXPERIENCE

Instead I try to write on areas I am experienced in. 

Now you might be tempted to think you are only experienced in what you do as your main career.  Each of us, though, has many life experiences worth writing about. 

I have experience as a home buyer, parent, woman shopper, gardener, artist, church goer, car buyer, dog owner...Get the picture?


Writing what you know gives you the unique advantage of knowing an inside angle.  You might know how such an issue can go wrong and write about that.  You might know the right people close to the subject, giving you an insider's viewpoint.

WRITE FOR YOUR READER

When writing from what you know, resist making it about yourself.  One magazine platform I write for doesn't accept first person articles.  Removing myself from the writing has been a helpful exercise.

In one manuscript I'm working I have included first person.  I now find myself deleting large sections in the editing phase.  Some sections have too much information about me. 

Always keep your intended reader in mind and don't just fill their mind with encyclopedic information.  Give them solid takeaways.

Now, be kind enough to comment below.  Let me know if this gave you a takeaway?


Proofreader Errors Online

Forgive those with proofreading errors as you would have them forgive you.



Even good proofreaders and copyeditors make errors from time to time.


Buy Content from Outside Writers

When you have an online magazine or a website you want to keep optimized you will need ongoing fresh material.  Whatever your chosen themes, usually there are several angles they can be written from.  That means you can repeat themes.  But don't repeat them just for the sake of loading content or keywords.  Upload content that says something worth saying.

Choosing to purchase from outside writers will give you a greater chance of discovering fresh angles. 

Why is Content Updating Important?

It's important to include new material on your site because, in an ever changing world, clients need to be kept up-to-date on trends.  You can become their go-to place for new information.

When you are an expert in a certain field, your clients will let you (maybe even expect you to) do the homework they have no time to do themselves.  Over time, with good content, they will learn to trust your expertise.

Your goal should be to have customers look for your latest content, share your content, comment and talk about your content.  Your content should make a reader want to bookmark your page, add you to their RSS Feed, sign up for your newsletters, hire you, or buy your products. 


New fresh content will help optimize your site as web crawlers search for the latest material to include in their search engines.  But search engines aren't the only ones using crawlers, crawlers can be used by anyone searching for  information in an organized manner to be used for a variety of reasons.  Ensure you're found!

Use Freelancers for Article Writing and Blog Posts

Yes, you can purchase web content from an outsider to be used on your site.  You can put your name on it if you buy the full rights.  This doesn't make you less of an expert, it just means the craft of writing isn't your focus of expertise; the subject matter of the articles is your focus.

When you purchase pre-written or requested articles for full rights you can still personalize the material. You can put your name or your company name into the article and add links.  You can change thoughts that don't apply to your business or things you don't quite agree with. 

Purchasing rights is always the better way to use material thereby avoiding plagiarism by trying to re-write something you haven't paid for.

Content is a Vital Marketing Tool 

It is a constantly changing society and one that reads daily.  More people spend time on their computers than reading newspapers or books.  More people look online for solutions and they want to discover what's most current. 

Since there are many ways to cross-promote your business online, if done well, you will never truly be able to predict how a client will find you.  Would-be clients might click a link in Twitter.  They might click a link in LinkedIn.  One writer they follow may have a link on their page your website.  You'll need to have ongoing new material to post if you're to be discovered.

The Internet is like a playground where new friendships and discoveries are made.  It's important to be involved in the playground to effectively do business today.  Don't underestimate the power of adding web content to your blog or website and then adding the links to your Twitter feed, Facebook and Linkedin pages.