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Archive for the ‘Getting started’ Category

Get Your Writing in the Hands of Readers

In Getting started on August 20, 2010 at 1:46 am

Before I jump right in, I wanted to remind everyone that I am hosting my first giveaway to celebrate the re-launch of this blog.  You can win a copy of Christina Katz’ book Get Known Before the Book Deal.

Breaking free of the “beginner” or “aspiring” writer titles can be tricky.  It requires that you have actually done a fair amount of writing, and if you’ve gotten paid to do so that’s an extra boost. 

Querying is a necessary evil in the writer’s life.  But it is not the only proactive step you can take.  Getting published is not only about pure ability and persistence; it is also about demonstrating that you have an audience.  So, it would stand to reason that building your audience would be a worthwhile endeavor (I talk more about that here and here).

In the posts linked above I talk a lot about building your audience through Twitter and online networking – which is great.  But it doesn’t get your product into the hands of your audience.  Having hundreds of followers is lovely, but those followers are an untapped resource if they’re only reading your tweets.  You want people reading your work.  You want to show editors and publishers that you are writing, and people are already reading/buying your work.  Show them you’re a good investment!

Now for the “how“.  I have chosen to start with blogging, which is an excellent example of getting your writing into readers’ hands.  However, you’re options aren’t only limited to blogging. 

If your goal is to become a best-selling author, then a good place to start would be with an e-book.  There are some opposing opinions on this, but if you ask me it’s a great way to get your first book in the hands of readers, at no cost, and build fan base in the process.  Bare in mind that “e-book” doesn’t mean you put in any less effort.  You will sill have to promote it and make sure it’s flawlessly written.  You can get away with making it shorter than your average full-length book though, depending on how much you decide to sell it for.  Smashwords is a great resource for selling your e-book.

You can produce an e-newsletter, or an e-zine.  The benefit of the newsletter is that it gives you the opportunity to collect the email addresses of potential customers for when you do have a product to sell.  You can search out online writing opportunities as a contributing writer (in most cases larger sites will be looking for more experience).  This gives you the growth potential of a blog without the pressure of facilitating the site yourself.

Whatever avenue you choose to take – keep the mission in mind.  You want people reading your work.  How are you going to get your writing out there?

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The Breeds of Writer

In Blogapalooza, Getting started on August 17, 2010 at 5:52 pm

So you want to be a writer, but what kind of writer? And how do you get there?

There are many different breeds of writers: authors (fiction & non-fiction), screenplay writers, bloggers, grant writers, journalists, etc.  So which is the best fit for you?  And bare in mind that in most cases writers dabble in more than one area.

I, for instance, primarily write blog posts as a means on acquainting myself with my audience.  But I also have an interest in journalism (editorials & personal essays mostly), and authoring books.

It’s also important to consider the “less glamorous” writing jobs like grant writing, technical writing, business writing, and the like.  How does one break into one of these fields?  The best way is to research first.  Talk to other writers in the field.  Do internet searches. Read books.  This alone will give you valuable insights into your intended field.

Until you feel sure of what kind of writer you want to be try a few different assignments.  In the beginning your primary goal is to accumulate experience. And diversity in a writer is not bad.  There will be times when writing jobs in one field are sparse but others may be available.

Opportunities Are Everywhere

In Getting started on November 17, 2009 at 6:02 am

The hardest part for many writers is getting started.  The first clip is usually the hardest one to obtain, after that each writing assignment should become less and less intimidating.  In the spirit of getting started, today I thought I’d share a couple places that beginning writers can showcase their talent.

Most writing books and websites I’ve come across suggest pitching your ideas to smaller local publications first – which is a phenomenal idea.  But where do you find these small local publications?  If they’re not terribly popular they may also be more difficult to find.

Tip #1:  Call or visit small organizations.  If you know of a local organization, stop by or give them a call.  Chances are they’d be open to having you write for their newsletter – or if they don’t have one they may even like for you to start one for them.  Approach these jobs with caution, you will have to do some research on newsletter formatting before promising to deliver a fabulous project.

Tip #2: Pick up free papers.  It’s very likely that your town or city is the home to at least a couple free publications.  When you’re out at the supermarket or walking around, instead of walking by those free papers, pick them up!  Peruse them, if the subject matter is something that you could write about, pitch to them.

Tip #3: Go back to high school.  For some of us that last statement may have cause dry heaves.  But for the beginning writer it’s worth considering.  Some high schools have a newsletter for their alumni, sponsors, or donors.  You can call and ask if there’s an alumni newsletter of anything of the kind and if they’re looking for writers.

Tip #4: Apply for Examiner.com.  Okay, this may sound like a cheesy plug, but it’s not.  It’s a good way to build your expertise and readership.  Not to mention, Examiner does pretty well on search engines.  I can’t say how selective their application process is, only that the application does take some time and planning.  Give it your best shot, pick a topic to examine that you feel comfortable with, and try not to over think it.  Work on your application for 2 weeks TOPS.

Being Brave

In Getting started, Writing & Motherhood on October 27, 2009 at 9:38 pm

I had someone comment on a previous blog post about how intimidating it can be to launch a freelance career.  I couldn’t agree with her more.  Some days it seems like I’ll be stuck in this “beginner’s limbo” forever.  Most days the only way I can get anything done is to pull some ridiculously late nights wiritng after the little one and my husband are both in bed, and then wake up to perform my motherly and wifely duties.  It can be demanding, to say the least.

Up until now none of my writing experience has awarded me a pay check.  And it seems like I’ve filled my plate with so many other writing tasks in hopes of building my portfolio and credibility that I have no time to move into the realm of writing for pay.  So what’s a writing mama to do?  Follow my own advice and stay the course.  It can be done.  Or else there would be no writers.  Right?

A fellow writer friend of mine (recently featured in a Q&A here) commented on the amount of rejection in the writing industry and a mentor of her’s encouraging her to “get out their and pitch, pitch, pitch!”  I think that’s all there is to it.  Resilience.  The determination to keep going.  Because unless you’re famous, or know someone famous it won’t be easy – you just have to want it.

Some thoughts to part with: if you just get out there and do it, one day you’ll look up and you won’t be a beginner anymore.

Long time no blog….

In Getting started on October 11, 2009 at 3:31 pm

  I hadn’t even realized that it had been so long since my last blog post – 13 days, that’s almost 2 weeks.  I guess it’s about time that I gave my valued readers an update!

  So where have I been all this time?  Working.  Of course it goes without saying that the little one has been keeping me on my toes.  And to make matters worse I spent a couple days sick in bed.  Outside of that – I conducted an interview with Suzanne Reisman, both online & in person.  I finished my book review on Bookkeeping Basics for Freelance Writers by Brigitte Thompson; which is a very big deal for me because that was one of the tasks on my list.  And registration for the free online class I’m offering is now closed, I’m excited to see how things go.

  Needless to say, I’m very proud of myself.  What I wanted to share with you folks are the findings from my interview with Ms. Reisman. 

  If any of you reading this are working on a big article and thinking about conducting interviews, plan on it taking a little longer than you’re expecting.  Unless you know the people you plan to interview personally it may take awhile (I’ll expand on this soon). 

  I got in touch with Suzanne thorugh Blogher.  She’s a contributing editor and has an unmistakable presence on the site, so finding her profile page was easy.  She has her writing experience right there on her profile.  She’s written for some publications that I’m familiar with, so I figured she’d be a good person to interview for an article I’m working on.  After sending her a message asking if she’d be willing to do the interview in the first place, I sent her my questions and set something up to meet in person to discuss any follow up questions I had and pick her brain about her professional experience.

  For beginning writers looking to accumulate clips: you may want to consider Metro, a free daily publication based in NYC.  They have a section called “Voices”, in which they run some pieces written by freelance writers. 

  Some other helpful tidbits Suzanne shared with me…I’m working on a book and she has a friend who also wrote a book on similar subject matter, she suggested I try proposing the book to the same publishing house.  How you can use this information and take it one step further: if you’ve read a book on nutrition during pregnancy and you’re thinking of writing a book on fitness during pregnancy, see if the auhor has a web page or an e-mail address, muster up the courage and e-mail them.  Be gracious and unassuming – asking if they be willing to answer some questions about the publishing house they worked with for you, from an insider’s point of view, because you’re thinking of proposing a book to them.  In my case it helps that we have a mutual contact, but I’ve contacted plenty of people with no previous connection (Suzanne was one of them).  Keep in mind that they may say no, and that they may not respond to you at all.  That’s okay – nothing ventured, nothing gained.

  Cosider writing for lots of differen residual income sites (such as e-how, info barrel, etc).  You don’t have to write for all of them like a mad person.  Just give different sites a try – then you’ll know which ones you like and which ones you don’t.

  Lastly, if there’s something you’re truly interested in consider proposing a syndicated column to a publication.  If you’re just getting started as a freelancer consider small publications first.  Getting a syndicated column is not easy, but it’s worth a try.

Think toward the future!

In Getting started, Writer Challenges on September 1, 2009 at 2:36 am

  When you think of a business plan you might think of corporate businesses and chains….not your freelancing career.  But the truth of the matter is a business plan is a very important tool for a freelancer writer.  The difference between the business plan for company vs. your business plan as a freelance writer is that your business plan is meant for your eyes only (unless you opt t share with others).  You’re business plan doesn’t have to win over a loan officer or anyone else for that matter.

  BUT, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t put some time and thought into it.  The purpose behind this exercise is to  get you thinking & give you some direction.  With your goals in mind you can work more efficiently than if you don’t really know what you’re trying to accomplish.

  How do you go about writing this business plan?  It doesn’t have to be anything fancy.  You can type it, or write it if you feel more comfortable.  You can use a time line, or just some “finish line goals”.  Basically whatever format you can dream up for your business plan that’s how you do it. 

  I wrote my initial business plan over a year ago when I first began my research into the freelance writing industry.  It had undergone lots of changes since then and that’s okay to.  Don’t be afraid to make changes to your business plan.  As long as you have a plan.  Here’s what mine looks like right now:

“Finish Line” Goals:

  • Successful parenting website/blog
  • good following for my blog(s)
  • published books
  • Mommy Writers (large following, conferences, seminars, etc)
  • Trade Magazine
  • syndicated column
  • at least 2 assignments per month
  • at least 3 monthly newsletter assignments

Q&A with author Lisa Saunders

In Getting started, Q&As on August 28, 2009 at 12:07 am

How long have you been a writer?

I started writing a humorous column for my high school paper in 1977, no longer had anything to say so stopped writing for a while, then resumed after the birth of my severely disabled daughter in 1989. I first tried to get published in 1994.
How long did it take you to land your first paid writing job?

When I first started getting stories published, I was only paid in free issues of magazines. When I self-published my first book, “A Time to Weep; A Time to Laugh,” I received some money through its sales. When I signed a contract with a publisher for it, I received a $1,000 advance. I was finally paid as a freelance writer for a local magazine after I first offered to do a piece for them for free.

What would you do the same starting out your writing career?

Join a local writers group.

Differently?

 Take a writing course at a local college where I could meet local editors/writers.

Did you have help from more established professional writers when you were starting out?

I received good advice from writers in my group on editing myself and how to find work.

What has been the most helpful tool to you as a writer?

 Perseverance.

The biggest obstacle?

 Writing what I felt like writing instead of trying to write what would sell.

Who has been your biggest support system as a writer?

My husband Jim. He puts up with a messy house and very simple meals so I can use my spare time to write.

Have you been a part of a community for writers in your career?  If so how big a role has that played in your success?

I needed my writers group early in my career—you need others to critique your work. Now I just reach out when I need advice.

What would you say has to be in place in order to have a successful writing career?

Meeting people in the industry is important. You can’t spend all your time behind your computer.  I am a full-time writer now for a college because I took a Journalism course there and met the woman who would later offer me a job.

What would be your best advice for beginning writers? 

 Find out what audiences want to read and then find a way to write about that while remaining true to your “voice”—your unique way of expressing your thoughts. Only when you have developed an audience can you can branch out and truly say what you want to say. When you write from your heart, really share your soul—don’t write what everyone else is writing. If you lay your heart bare, your readers may just find a kindred spirit in you and feel less alone in the world.

Lisa Saunders is a professional writer and author, mother of 2 , and helps educate parents about CMV.  For more of her wisdom you can visit her blog online.

What have you done to further your career today?

In Getting started, Writer Challenges on August 27, 2009 at 5:16 am

  I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, as a writer it’s essential for you to understand that you have some very stiff competition – lots of it.  If you want to advance as a freelance writer, you must take certain calculated steps in that direction.  If you want to be a magazine writer at some point you will have to actually begin writing for magazines.  If you want to be a novelist you will have to start writing that book.  So where do you start?  You start with today.

  I have to ask myself this all the time – what did I accomplish today as a writer?  Some days all you will have to answer this question is one paragraph of an article, and you have no idea what you will do with it yet.  That’s okay.  Other days you will have made huge progress toward your goal of being an “established writer”.  That’s great too.

  What did I accomplish today?  I contacted some other writers on Mom Bloggers Club to solicit feedback on my work, I wrote this blog entry, I worked on an article that I hope to have published soon, and I started brain storming a query letter I hope to have sent back by the end of next week.  And I feel good about that.  If at the end of the day you feel good about the work you’ve done then you should rest easy.  If you feel like you should have done more, then you probably should have.

  What do you do if you have no clue where to start?  You start by asking yourself what do you want to write.  Once you’ve answered that question just start writing.  Of course at some point you will have to do market research and query letters, but for now you just want to start writing.  You want to have something to work with.  You don’t want to over complicate things.  Just write. 

  Tomorrow try to accomplish one writing task – just one, and then the next day maybe two, and so on until you are getting the most out of your time and moving towards your goals at a pace that satisfies you.  And don’t forget to ask yourself – “What have I done today?”

Taking the Plunge

In Getting started on August 22, 2009 at 2:26 am

  Do you want to write for a living?  Do you want your words in print?  Are you trying to get your story published?  Do you want to make  a more than decent living doing all of the above and then some?  Join the club.  So do I, and so do hundred or thousands, maybe even millions of others.  So how do you compete?  That is the million dollar question.  If you have the answer please let me know.

  What I hope to accomplish in this blog, by sharing my successes and failures in the freelancing industry, is helping others advance their writing careers by avoiding some of my mistakes and taking some of my advice.  

  I’ve known since high school that I wanted a career writing.  But it wasn’t until about a month ago that I really started to do something about it.  I had read all the books on freelancing, but I hadn’t sent out a single query or gotten one byline since high school.  I had my work cut out for me.

  What was my first step?  I decided I needed a writing community to help me stay motivated.  I couldn’t find a community for writing mothers.  I started my own (Mommy Writers).  I figured I would be able to benefit from the experience of other writers and take advantage of the networking opportunities while supporting each other.

  What will be your first step?  Have you long toyed with the idea of a writing career but done nothing to make it happen?  Maybe your first step should be meeting other writers, pick their brains.  You’d be amazed what opportunities you might stumble upon, and how encouraging it can be just to talk to someone who’s been where you are and succeeded.   

 

For more information on Mommy Writers visit us online.