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Monthly Archives: May 2013

Know When to Say No – Seeing a Bad Writing Job Coming


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Every writer works for money. If you know a writer who doesn’t have an outside job and is working at writing as a business and they say that they aren’t working for the money…call BS. We all need to eat right? I admit it; I am in it to some degree for the cash flow. I have bills, and kids and bills and did I mention the kids? Living in today’s world requires that you have a certain cash flow; if you are making that cash flow with your writing well all the better then.

So how does one make money with their writing? The answer is as complicated as there are jobs out there for writers to do. I ghost write books and articles, I blog, I write ad copy, I do resumes, I write letters (both personal and business) and all while working on my own books which tend to sell pretty well. This is just a small list; it goes on and on. When you are a writer you have to take the work where you can get it until you start selling those blockbuster novels. Often times the work is there but it is small and it takes a lot of those little jobs to equal a paycheck from….say…7-11. The small jobs aren’t so bad until you discover that many of them end up being non-paying gigs. And to make matters worse, even some of the big writing jobs can turn out to be nothing but a solid waste of time.

Case in point…yesterday I received an e-mail from a potential client. I have ads up on job sites as well as my regular website and this blog offering my writing services. Now and again I get a bite on those sites and yesterday the potential client had been to my entire platform. They appeared to like what they saw in my work and were now offering me a 6 month writing job. At first I was thinking, “whoo hoo” but then I came back down to reality and started researching the client. What I discovered was that this writing job was not for me at all. Sure the money would have been good but the client was an intimacy coach who was requiring that the person hired be “comfortable” with fantasy. Turns out the job was ghosting a platform for a new writer but also someone who could (and would) “service” her other needs too. I’m getting married in 2 weeks and I don’t think I would have gotten this job by the spouse. I declined the job.

My point in sharing this is that there will be all kinds of writing jobs that come along but you have to be able to determine if they are the right job for you or if the person is honest enough to pay you in the end. Even more importantly you have to be able to turn down a job when your instincts tell you not to take it. Sure I could have used the money on that last one but I also want to go through with the wedding so…there was my decision. I still get taken from time to time and it is frustrating but over the years I have learned to weed out the bad ones. I do some online research and I ask a lot of questions before taking a job…I have to, my time is valuable and so is yours so take the time to really consider those jobs you take and listen to your inner writer…you will know when it’s good and when it’s not.

© The Writer’s Advice, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

 
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Posted by on May 30, 2013 in Business of Writing, Writing

 

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Think INSIDE the Box this Time


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I know, I know…the general concept is “think outside the box” but for the purposes of this column we are going to think “inside of the box” instead. We aren’t talking about creativity today but instead security of your work.

Many writers today rely on the digital world to keep their work secure. USB drives, the “Cloud”, Dropbox and even just plain old leaving it on your hard drive have taken the place of old fashioned paper. I have embraced digital storage to some degree. I have to admit, as much as I fought it, I do enjoy the fact that I can get to my files through Dropbox anytime I want. HOWEVER….(and you knew there would be a however…) digital storage shouldn’t be your end all.

While digital storage is convenient and is touted to be “safe”, there is a huge part of me that still doesn’t trust it completely. I admit I am a little anal when it comes to my work. I have a USB drive on my keys, I use Dropbox and I back everything up once a week, but I also take advantage of good old fashioned paper too. I run a copy of my manuscripts and I store them off site in a safe deposit box and here’s why…

  • ·         These days computers go down – You read stories on a regular basis about how systems have been hacked and I think that we are just skimming the surface of what really goes on behind the scenes in the digital dimension. I am waiting for the day when a novelist comes forward and says that someone stole their work and the only place they could have done so was through “the cloud”. It’s gonna happen.
  • ·         Natural disasters happen…all the time now – Let’s face it, the planet is changing and we now live in a world where you don’t know where the next natural disaster will strike. One look at photos on television of a tornado ravaged town and you realize that your home too could be here today and gone tomorrow.
  • ·         Home break –ins – These are becoming more prevalent too and what’s the first thing they take? Your computer system and anything else remotely electronic are the first things to go.

These are just a few things that should make you at least consider off-site storage. Bank safe deposit boxes are cheap, ($75 a year) they are secure, (takes two keys) and they are in buildings that are built to withstand most of the crap Mother Nature can throw at us. I know that personally I feel better knowing that there is a hard copy somewhere just in case I get on the bad side of criminals, hackers and even Mother Nature. (And it happens….trust me)

© The Writer’s Advice, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

 
 

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I’m Fast but Am I Any Good? Sacrificing Good Writing for Speed


writerRecently I have read a lot of blogs and interviews with writers touting the need for speed. (Insert Top Gun reference here) There are tons of writers out there who will tell you that, if you just keep writing as much as you can quickly, per the laws of natural order, you will be published. That is not only NOT true, but it has to be one of the dumber things I have heard recently.

I complete about 2.5 novels per year. This includes writing, editing, re-editing and following it through to publishing. Granted I have to fit my novels in with my freelance but still…that’s pretty good for the average writer. It gives me the time I need to make sure that the work is done and polished without having to worry about churning out the next piece. It is a steady even pace. Now don’t get me wrong, I do know some writers who churn out four or five novels a year. In fact I think Stephen King is averaging about four but those writers are rare.

There are a number of reasons why a writer shouldn’t attempt to write as much or as quickly as they can.

The story suffers – If you are trying to write quickly you are forcing the story and that is never good.

You skip the important detail – Have you ever noticed when a person is telling (orally) a story really fast they sound like they are skipping on the detail? That’s because they are. The excitement of telling a story really fast makes you skip the important back story; the same happens when writing fast.

The writing becomes less about what you write and instead ends up being about how much – Quality vs. Quantity is a fight that we as writers should never pick up a sword for. I have a friend who writes for Harlequin and she churns out 8 books a year. While I love my friend, her writing sucks. It reads like cheap fiction.

The editing suffers – How often do you pick up a book (especially Kindle books) and there are more misspellings that anything else…or a ton of run-on sentences?  Often times that is because the writer is trying to get onto the next book; editing takes time….

These are just a few of the reasons it is important to slow down. I know that it seems really cool to put out book after book but, trust me; your writing will suffer in the end. It is better to tell the story than to put your book out there in fancy clothes but no innards.

© The Writer’s Advice, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

 

 
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Posted by on May 26, 2013 in Editing, Inspiration, Writing

 

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Lessons from the Trenches – Freelance Lessons


trenches-british10This morning I wrote a 350 word blog article for a guy I have never met. As of the writing of this column I have no idea whether or not this guy is actually going to pay me for my work. I have several ads up for freelance work and he discovered one and contacted me late yesterday. He wanted a 500 word blog article at first and then a 250 word one. When I was done the piece was 350 words (250 would not have done it justice) and I will charge him at the 250 word price.

There are several lessons here. First, sometimes you just have to take a chance. I get a lot of response from my ads and about ¼ of the time, I don’t get paid. It’s frustrating but it is the nature of the beast when you float ads for work. Sometimes the work goes well, like a woman who contacted me to rewrite some stuff on her website that I charged $30 for. She loved what I did so much that I got an envelope in the mail several days after the completion of that job with an extra $20 in it and a note that said “thanks”. Then there is the SEO job I took on where the handler didn’t pay any of the subcontractors she hired. That job lost me about $150 worth of work. The thing is, it can go either way and often, it does.  But you won’t make any money at all if you don’t take that leap of faith.

The second lesson is that we have to be smart about the way we charge for things. I generally charge a new client half down and then the rest on delivery. I know that there are a lot of clients out there who won’t buy into that but the way I figure it, if they want quality work, they will invest in it just like I am investing my time and trusting that the payment will come.

Finally, there is the lesson in human nature and communication. I believe (and this is my humble opinion) that in this day and age with the advent of all the technology we have stopped really listening to each other. We communicate in short bursts of verbiage that often amounts to nothing more than a sneeze. Long gone for many are the days when you got to “feel a person out” during initial conversations. If you are going to freelance, you have to get back to the basics and go back to the days of getting an “impression” of a potential client. Last night, when I first spoke to the blog article guy, I asked him key questions. I had him explain his blog to me and from the way he explained it, I could tell that he was passionate about it. (Good sign #1) I also discovered that he was looking for a certain “tone”, again this show me that he is serious about the work. (Good sign#2) Finally, he was willing to put that half down on the project which means he really was investing in the work. (Good sign #3) I wouldn’t have been able to determine all of this had I not listened.

So if you are going to freelance understand that it is a rough road at times to travel. It can be rewarding but it can also feel a little bit like that road in China that the truckers travel with the very large no-return drop offs. It is a road you must travel carefully and slowly, watching for the dangers along the way BUT once you get to the other side, there is a lot of reward. In the care of freelancing, slow and steady really does work best.

© The Writer’s Advice, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

 
 

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Change underwear…Check….Eat Breakfast….Check….Write…..Check, Check


writingThere are a lot of things we do every single day. (Or at least we should) We change into clean clothes, we shower, we eat, (no one forgets to eat) and we let the kids into the house after school. (I know not doing so in my house will get me into trouble) Many of these things we don’t even think about doing, we just do them. I know I don’t think about the clean clothes bit until I see some guy on the street that doesn’t have clean clothes…or one of my sons’ teenaged friends comes by. (not all but most make me want to stand at the door with a bucket of water and a scrub brush) I get up out of bed on a sort of automatic pilot and just do stuff.  So with this being the case, meaning it is possible to just do stuff automatically, why don’t we do the same with our writing?

I don’t know about you guys but there are often times when sitting my behind in a chair and writing gets tough. I procrastinate…a lot…in fact, for me; it’s kind of an art now. I find every reason under the sun to put off the days’ pages. The dog brought me his ball…gotta play with him. There was a big disaster and it’s all over the internet…got to watch that. My e-mail/text/Google alert just went off…what if it’s important? There are a zillions things that I use to not work. I don’t use that crap to not take a shower or change into clean clothes or, for Pet’s Sake, eat!

I think that it is easy to put off writing because, in the end, the only person you are truly offending is yourself. Let’s be honest, if you don’t shower your family will give you a hard time and if you don’t eat, well, who doesn’t eat really? I think the key is to find a way to hold yourself so accountable that you have to write at least a little something every day. For me I use watching television or a cold beer or doing something fun as my rewards for writing. I also have a spouse who holds me accountable. We as writers need that. We need some way to make the writing a habit.

So this week I am going to give you some homework. Write something every single day. It doesn’t necessarily have to be on a manuscript…just write something, and then reward yourself on Saturday when you have looked back and realized that you have written something every day. I am told that if you do something for 7 straight weeks, it becomes a habit…so make it a habit. If you stick with it there will come a time when it feels just like that morning shower or breakfast and it will be something that you HAVE to do. Think about it, you’ll be showered, have clean clothes on, a full stomach and some great writing…how can you pass that up?

© The Writer’s Advice, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

 
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Posted by on May 21, 2013 in Inspiration, Writing

 

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I’m Excited! The First of Three this Summer!


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What if it Never Happens?????


i-love-to-writeI recently had a crisis of faith. Not in the “is there a God” way but instead in the “what if my writing isn’t good enough” way. I know…crazy…right?

Yes I have been writing most of my life. And yes, I have had thousands of articles published and even a few books. And yes, I run a wildly successful blog and I have readers all over the world.  Let’s face it, you have really arrived if someone other than your mom is reading your work and, at this point, OTHER people’s moms are reading my work but still, here I sat last weekend wondering, am I good enough?

You might be asking (or screaming at the screen right now) what the hell is wrong with you Jai? How much more proof do you need? The answer is, shamefully….tons. I am not unlike thousands of other writers out there who need constant validation. There are number of reasons why we writers are so needy…

  • 1.       We work in an industry where, most of the time, we don’t get that pat on the back.

 

  • 2.       We do our work alone which can lead to insecurity.

 

  • 3.       We get paid crap, so when the bills come in; it’s easy to question our skills.

 

  • 4.       We live with the myth of fame. If I’m not famous, I’m not a writer. (cough, cough…BS…cough)

These are just a few reasons; trust me, the list is really long enough to create an Elvis type belt around the equator of the planet. But here is the thing (and I realized this last weekend in-between bags of over salted chips and bowls of Safeway Cherry Cheese cake ice cream…) If I am wondering if I’m good enough, maybe I have lost focus on why it is I write in the first place. (Ah Ha!)

If you consider the reasons above every one of them have nothing to do with writing and everything to do with being noticed. Pats on the back, people around all the time, more money, fame…these are all external needs…what about us as a writer at the heart of the matter? I began to write for two reasons, (1) I loved storytelling and (2) I couldn’t NOT write. Writing for me began as a need. I needed to tell the story, I needed to write, but over the years I let other people convince me that it was a “job” that had to be validated. When that happened…I stopped writing for the love of it and it became something I HAD to get done. It’s no wonder my books weren’t getting done…I had given up on the magic.

So this past weekend I dug until I found my magic again. I turned my back on the concept that writing was something I HAD to do and began doing it once again because I wanted to. I put the manuscript away that I was trying to force and began the book I knew I wanted to write this year. I may go back to that other book, but in the meantime, I am having fun again AND the writing is better.

So stop asking yourself, “what if it never happens” and start asking yourself, “am I having fun yet”. The truth is, if you are worried about it never happening, it probably won’t but if you are having fun and feeding your writer’s soul…it probably will and then the gift of success isn’t an accomplishment anymore but instead the next step in an amazing life.

© The Writer’s Advice, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

 

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