Freelance Writing Links and Resources

woman wearing face mask looking at video online
Image by Engin_Akyurt from Pixabay

I can’t believe it’s been three weeks since this whole thing started. Can you? I go to the store and see patches of empty space where there once used to be completely full shelves. Meat, juice, and beans are no longer impossible to find, but toilet paper still requires a hunt. What was initially going to be a couple of weeks (supposedly) of #SlowtheSpread has turned into the beginnings of a new normal. For now, anyway.

And here in America, the unemployment numbers keep climbing.

So, I decided to do what little I could to help. This post is the first part of that. Because the worst thing is to not even have an idea of what to do when it comes to bringing in money,  and because I do have some experience in this, I thought it might be good to share the resources I’ve found helpful when it comes to non-fiction writing.

Why am I starting with non-fiction if I’m all about self-publishing fiction? Here’s three reasons:

  • Non-fiction is easier to market because the need is concrete and can be easily explained (lose weight, improve memory, etc.), plus it can easily flow from skills you’ve already gained over the course of your life. Fiction delivers an abstract experience that can be difficult to put into words, and that can cause issues when it comes to finding your audience.
  • Non-fiction identifies and helps solve an immediate need. People turn to non-fiction when they have a problem they want solved. Now.
  • Non-fiction is, in many ways, easier to write. Because you know the problem and often have a clear idea of your audience, everything from research to the writing itself is geared toward solving your audience’s clearly defined problem.

 

If you need money, need flexibility, and also need a portable job that can easily be done at home, it’s hard to beat freelance writing. I highly recommend trying it if you have a basic grasp of grammar, an interest in sharing information, and the ability to see viewpoints outside your own to give people what they need. Oh, and it helps if you have an intense curiosity about the world around you. Just sayin’.

If it sounds like something you want to check out, here are a few resources to get your started.

First, Moira Allen’s site Writing-World has info on just about everything you’d want to know in order to make money from your writing. It’s an older website, but there’s solid info on how to get gigs writing magazine articles, greeting cards, travel writing, tech writing, and so on. It also has general info for freelance writers (basics like info on grammar guides, how to conduct an interview, etc.), articles on productivity, business information, time management, book and author promotion, and a whole lot more.

If you prefer something a bit more intensive with a site that looks more contemporary, I strongly recommend Carol Tice’s website, Make a Living Writing. Carol Tice is passionate about helping writers make money writing and has a fantastic blog that updates regularly with great info. Though it wasn’t as easy for me to navigate as Moira Allen’s site, she covers an enormous amount of ground, with an emphasis on making sure writers get paid what they’re worth for their work. Highly recommended for those who want to get started making money from their writing fast.

Next, if you like helping businesses sell their products, there’s a wealth of information about copywriting out there. Personally, I recommend Bob Bly’s The Copywriter’s Handbook to learn the basics of copywriting and the website Copyblogger for more specific information and courses. Another very good resource is The Well-Fed Writer by Peter Bowerman (link takes you to his site, which includes info about his book).

If you want to get into blogging for businesses, Sophie Lizard’s Be a Freelance Blogger has great info about not only getting started in this particular aspect of freelance writing but how to handle the other, non-monetary aspects of the job.

ProBlogger is for those who want to make their own blog start paying. Excellent resource, and it has a job board, too.

This final resource is actually kind of interesting. The Freelancer’s Survival Guide by Kristine Kathryn Rusch is a book meant for freelancers of all kinds, not just writers. It’s available for free on the author’s blog, but she also has it available at all major ebook/paperback retailers.

I own a copy and it’s an excellent resource. She really does take the time to try to reference other freelance professions in her examples and her points are clearly stated. Great for those who want to look at general principles when it comes to the freelance life.

(Side note: Kris Rusch has been writing about the corona virus and it’s impact on her blog, particularly on the publishing industry. If you’re interested.)

Those are the resources I’ve found most helpful. More soon.

What about you? Any resources you recommend or ideas for generating income? Leave a comment and let me know. Thanks!

#IWSG: Not a Thing in My Head But Words

Insecure Writers Support Group Badge

This post is part of the IWSG blog hop. If you’d like to sign up, here’s the link.

Click to sign up

(Update: It appears my decision regarding quitting the group has been made for me. I looked at the list to see whose blogs to comment on, and I’m no longer on it. Makes sense, given my erratic posting. So, this is the last IWSG post for me for a while.)

My ponytail is still scrunched up into my hair when I wake up this morning. And panic sets in.

I’ve been so focused on writing my WIP that I haven’t even thought about my monthly IWSG post. I missed last month. Will they kick me out if I don’t have anything this month?

Maybe I should just quit. Maybe being part of a group is too much for me right now.

And yet, habit kicks in, or something like it. I pick up the laptop and open it up.

What on earth am I going to write about? I’m still groggy, miasma is making the laptop slightly blurry, and my WIP is calling from the back of my head, begging me to keep working on it until the adventure is done.

I still don’t know what I’m going to write about.

Pants it, I tell myself, and type whatever pops into my head. My hair feels funny because I accidentally slept with my hair still pulled back into a ponytail, so I start there.

And the words just flow.

And that’s the point of this month’s post. Yes, I’m winging it as I type this. But sometimes it’s better to just write, if only for the sake of habit, because, these days, when I open my laptop, my mind is already getting ready, even if it’s still groggy from sleep. Opening the laptop is the trigger that it’s time for the muse to show up.

I’m finding this is true in my WIP as well. On days when I don’t want to write, I’ll set a very small goal, sometimes as small as 250 words. I open the laptop and habit kicks in. I write down a brief (sometimes not so brief) synopsis of what I want to happen, and the ideas flow. Before I know it, I have that scene mapped out and written and the next one in the queue.

Granted, there are days when I really can’t do more than 250. Even on those days, habit helps. Because it keeps my mind trained that writing time has a structure and in that structure it’s time to get something out.

Twyla Tharp talks about this in more detail in her book, The Creative Habit. Even though her background is in dance, what she describes can easily be translated over to writing, everything from her experience of the “empty room” to putting on her leg warmers in the morning, even when she doesn’t feel like it. Putting on clothes specific to dance gets her moving enough to get in the taxi, which takes her to the studio, which starts the process.

It’s a great book. I highly recommend it.

So now this post is written and I’m about to hit Publish. And my mind is already drifting toward my WIP because my laptop is open, my WIP is open, and the habit has kicked in.

Thoughts on Writing Non-verbal Communication

I’m pretty busy this week, but I came across this excellent article on Writer Unboxed and thought I’d mention it, along with the importance of it. It was a difficult thing to learn, but vital to my writing: emotions show up in all sorts of ways in your characters.

When Zhiv (Trial of the Ornic) is thinking, he taps his thigh.

When Nicholas (The Will of the Unknown) is hiding the truth from Annie, he becomes very interested in some of the things around his cave.

I’m not perfect at this. It’s sometimes difficult for me to figure out how a normal person would react in a situation, let alone my own character. That’s part of why I bought The Emotion Thesaurus. I’m not a slave to the choices they make, but the lists within it get me thinking about how my own character might show the emotion they’re feeling.

Now, I have the Writer Unboxed article as well.

How about you? Do you like it when a writer does this? As a reader, do you have any favorite books that use these techniques? Or do you feel this technique doesn’t matter? Let me know!

How To Think Sideways: Review of Lesson 3

I’m still working on this course (up to Lesson 12 as of today) and, so far, it’s the best writing course I’ve ever taken.  With one exception (a story idea from Lesson 3), I’ve been using the tools on various projects as needed.  My most recent project was in using her working outline technique to try to get myself back on track with a novel that had, out of necessity, run off the rails.

It was bad.  Thankfully, by using her outline technique, I was able to figure out where I went wrong.  Now, I’m pretty happy with the way the story is going.  I wrote my three pages today and didn’t even notice the time until my timer reminded me.

Anyway, because I’ve been so busy with this course, working on my novel, and writing a short story that came from some of the HTTS exercises, my reading time has been pretty slim.  I started The Unbearable Lightness of Dragons by Katie MacAlister, and it’s okay, but I’m not far enough in to quickly finish it and give a review.  So, I present my thoughts on HTTS Lesson 3.

In this lesson, Holly Lisle explains the method she’s used for generating story ideas, using information from her Sweet Spot Map (see Lesson #2) and what I can only describe as magic (in the best sense). I mean, seriously, I did not expect three full-blown stories to come to mind the same day I followed her instructions. I thought it would take a few days or a week. It’s a powerful feeling when the images come together. I’m hooked.

However, there’s nothing in the actual lesson telling you to print out the worksheets as part of the exercise. As a result, I did it the way she described in her example and had to backtrack to fill out the worksheets later. It was very difficult trying to figure out my process after I’ve already got the story ideas and written them down in my little notebook.

But the process itself is stunning! It really works for me, better than anything I’ve used before. These ideas feel so rich to me, or at least the images do, and it took less time than typing and hoping whatever comes out will be good, or playing around with an outline.

I highly recommend this lesson if you feel your ideas are weak, you have trouble figuring out what to write about, or you feel blah about what’s been making its way on to your computer screen. I think you’ll need to buy Lesson #2 or you’ll be completely lost during part of her instructions, but Lesson #2 is so powerful on its own it’s a good investment.

Link to Review on Amazon

No Book Review Today

I am beyond tired.  It’s been a long weekend and I need a little recoup time.  I’m so tired, I don’t even want to think about putting a picture on this post.

However, I did work a bit on How To Think Sideways by Holly Lisle the past couple of weeks and even reviewed Lessons 1 and 2 on Amazon.  (I can’t remember if I reviewed more than that.  I don’t think so.)

Anyway, if you would like to see what I thought about it, here are my reviews:

Lesson 1

Lesson 2

As an addendum, I have to stress this is the best writing course I’ve ever taken.  Even Lesson #7, which has got to be the one with the most amount of worksheets ever in this course (ugh), has been very enlightening and worth the time/effort/money.

Writing Strong Female Characters, pt. 2

West Point cadet reads her poem (photo from West Point Public Affairs)

(Taking tomorrow off, so I’m blogging now.)

A while back on Twitter, Fantasy Faction asked its followers for possible future article topics.  I submitted, “How to write strong female characters without making them warriors.”  Those who follow this blog know that this is something that’s been on my mind quite a bit in the past few months. (Just one example.)

And then I went my merry way because, sad as it sounds, I treated this as a contest and I never win contests.  Ever.

So, after coming up for air from the major revising/editing I’ve done on what may or may not be named Shining Armor (more on that later) I visited Fantasy Faction again and discovered Amy Rose Davis had written a brilliant article on that topic.

For those who read my previous thoughts on the subject, Ms. Davis’ article is a must-read.  I especially love her examination of the current trend in fantasy to make women more like men in order to add “strength”.

(Quick Unrelated Note:  Friday, I’ll go back to my usual blogging schedule. As for books, I’m currently reading The Druid by S. G. Rogers.  The sample made me laugh.  Hope to have it finished in time to blog about it on Monday.  Also, I’m working on a review of How to Think Sideways by Holly Lisle.  The lessons I’ve completed anyway.  It’s the most amazing set of professional-level writing advice I’ve read so far.  More gushing later.)

 

The City on the Edge of Forever: a review

The City on the Edge of ForeverThe City on the Edge of Forever by Harlan Ellison

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I don’t typically give five stars to stories. I also don’t typically read teleplays, screenplays, or scripts. But this combined three things into an irresistible package.

1. It’s Star Trek. Though I’m not as impressed by the series as I was when I was younger, the reboot got me interested again. I mean, a Kirk with emotional scars from losing his dad? Awesome. I hoped to find that same feel here.

2. It’s Harlan Ellison. I’ve read his essays and seen the Outer Limits episodes he wrote. I liked them. When I heard he had written a Gritty Star Trek Episode, I couldn’t help myself.

3. It’s a love story. I’m always a sucker for a good love story.

There are several other reasons to download this book, though. Harlan’s rant/intro, once you get past the justified anger, gives a disturbing picture of the inside of Star Trek. It’s a barrage of facts regarding how the original teleplay (and Harlan) had been increasingly maligned over the years by Roddenberry.

And yeah, I’d heard about Scotty selling drugs as part of the original story (he doesn’t). Inserting drug abuse into the Star Trek universe is part of what intrigued me about the story because, as I got older, I realized Star Trek, as seen by Roddenberry, is a pipe dream. It will never be real. Corruption will continue to exist as long as humans remain human and are susceptible to pain.

There are several versions of the episode in this book, all the way from rough idea to completed first draft. There’s even a couple of alternate scenarios for getting the away team down to the planet, including one with McCoy that makes more sense than what actually aired. So, another reason to get this, from a writing standpoint, is to see a master developing his story.

The teleplay itself, the first draft (May 13, 1966 treatment) is amazing. The opening scene with Beckwith, the drug-dealing officer, and the Jewels of Sound hooked me. It carried me through some slower (and beautiful) scenes with the Guardians of Forever (who look nothing like a glowing, stone doughnut). The time vortex was far more beautiful in this than I expected.

But the heart of this story is the incredible love between Kirk and Edith Keeler. Though I’d enjoyed the episode as it aired, I didn’t think much of the romance. I mean, Kirk didn’t really love Edith. When she was gone, he shrugged and turned back to his ship, the true love of his life.

Not here. In this teleplay, you feel it as they begin to become each other’s world. More than that, you realize that if they had stayed together, their drive and idealism could have made some truly amazing things happen.

Parallel to this is an exploration of the depth of friendship that exists between Kirk and Spock, something that wouldn’t show up until a few movies later. The test of that friendship as Kirk questions the goal he’d had when they first went back in time is as heart-rending as Kirk’s struggle with his duty as ship’s captain.

But the ending is what made the teleplay for me. It has far more emotional depth than the aired episode. Kirk doesn’t shrug. The ship doesn’t comfort him. It’s the kind of ending that demands several episodes to resolve, if it ever could. Loving Edith changed Kirk. Because of that, I can see why it didn’t air. Still, it’s a shame. I couldn’t get Ellison’s story out of my head for days afterward.

View all my reviews

Music and Writing

I grew up around music and heard it in various forms, from marching bands to rock to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.  Oh, and the Dallas Symphony, but that was only once.  As for performing, my dad played an instrument, and when I was nine I joined a local church choir.  (No audition, and they were desperate for voices, but at least I didn’t make any member of the group ashamed to be seen with me.  I think.)

My point is that music has been a large part of my life growing up.  Even now, when my focus is definitely not on music, I’ve found it’s still part of my creative endeavors.

Anyway, here are the different ways I incorporate music into my writing life:

  • Clearing the clutter – The most obvious of the list, I’ll listen to music when I want to forget about writing for a while.  Sometimes it’s because I’m struggling with my story, and sometimes it’s because I’m tired and need a break.  When I listen, I usually make up little stories in my head.  Usually, they’re nonsense, but the act is still creative, and always gets me excited about writing again.
  • Plot resolution – When I get stuck (which usually happens when I deviate from my outline), I’ll start flipping through channels on the radio, or check out some CD’s from the library.  This actually begins as “Clearing the Clutter” but before I know it, I’ve got a music video in my head with key scenes and images.  I spend the next few days listening to that song over and over and soon I’m connecting them into something resembling a plot.  Not everything I imagine during this process gets kept, but I’ve found it’s very invigorating.
  • Deadhead editing – If the editing doesn’t have to do with the story structure, I’ll listen to music as I edit.  It keeps me from messing with the story any further.
  • Searching for inspiration – If I’ve finished a story, I usually have a month or two where I sort of mentally meander with no real purpose.  I’ve been writing long enough now (like I’m an expert!) that the idea of not having a writing project stresses me.  I always calm down when I have something to write or edit.  If I’m not interested in any current ideas, I’ll focus more on listening to music.  And often, I’ll get an image or series of images that I like as I listen.  Sometimes these images will take the song’s meaning and twist it.

Photo by LaertesCTB

the importance of an unused plan

I have written a scene list for every novel I’ve written with two exceptions.  The first two novels I wrote were done without any idea where the story would take me.  The second one I wrote turned out okay, mostly because I had a very clear idea of where I was going.  It didn’t hurt that it was based on a bunch of myths all strung together into one storyline.

The first didn’t turn out as well.  I had characters who added nothing (thus requiring their death in the revision) and lots of scenes where people thought about where they wanted to go and what they wanted to do.  Not exactly nail-biting action.

So, I wrote a scene list, thinking it would keep me from meandering.  I’d be like other writers who follow their plan and end up with a story similar to what they wanted in the beginning.

However, when it came time to write the rough draft, I mostly ignored it. It was a crazy ride and the only times I looked at the plan were when I had no clue what should happen.  I would then hang my head in embarrassment, decide I couldn’t rip out everything that I’d written for the sake of a list and try to get the story back on its original tracks.  Next time, I swore, I’d be more disciplined.

Next time worked better but I still veered off course more than once.  In fact, I noticed that the more I deviated from the plan, the better the story worked.

So why did I write a scene list for this latest novel I’m working on?  Because I learned that, whether or not I actually use the plan, it helps me think through the whole novel from start to finish.  It gives me an idea of where to go and what’s important so I won’t be planning in the novel itself.  It also helps me foreshadow crucial elements or events so that I don’t go back and rewrite as I’m writing the draft.  It helps me treat my computer less like a computer and more like a typewriter.  And all this, I believe, makes my stories better, whether I follow the plan in the end or not.