I'm getting ready for my seasonal break today, so I wanted to take this opportunity to wish all my readers a Very Happy Christmas!
Even if you don't celebrate the religious festival, I hope you enjoy the festive period. Thank you for reading at least some of my blog posts this year, and contributing to some very interesting discussions.
As indicated above, I shan't be around much over the next week or so. If you have any time on your hands during the holiday period, though, my forum at www.mywriterscircle.com is always open for discussions about writing, or any subject you choose in The Coffee Shop.
And if Santa has brought you (or left you with) a little spare cash, don't forget that my blog sponsors, WCCL, offer a wide range of high-quality writing resources that can help you get the new year off to the best possible start. Visit their Write Street portal for a selection, or see this blog post in which I listed all of the WCCL writers' resources. Many of these are available as instant downloads, so you can get started immediately.
Once again, I do hope you have a wonderful Christmas, and a happy and creative new year. Thank you for being a valued reader of My Writing Blog.
Today I'm pleased to bring you a guest post by James Whitaker, an editor with the Custom-Writing.org project.
* * *
If you are an experienced freelance writer, then you probably know that the customer is not always right. Sometimes, the hardest part of communicating with the customer is proving your point of view when you disagree.
But what can you do about it? How can you turn the tables in an argument about who's right and who is wrong? It may sometimes be easier than you think.
First of all, you need to acknowledge the problem. The issue that many freelance writers forget is that we are not always right, either. This is the case whether it's a deadline issue, or topic correspondence, or the relevance of the resources. You need to be able to analyze the problem astutely. First, make sure that you have done everything correctly from the start. Go back and re-read instructions, proof your text, and check the bibliography. If you find a problem in your own work, it is far better to acknowledge this immediately and up front with the customer. As part of this revelation of error, you should inform the client of what steps you plan to perform in order to avert or solve/fix the problem.
On the other hand, if you sincerely believe that the customer was at fault, make sure, before you assert this, that you can support your contention. You need to have marshaled your proofs, and carefully laid out the chronology of what has transpired. Re-read all the messages, check the timing of uploads, and make notes for yourself.
If you can demonstrate that there is nothing wrong with your work, and that the customer is wrong or drawing incorrect conclusions, then it is also up to you to explain this to them. Remember, your customers are under deadlines themselves, and have responsibilities to fulfill. For you, this is simply another freelancing gig. For your customer, it might be what makes or breaks their business! That is why you need to see things from the customer's perspective. Explain everything, assume no prior knowledge or expertise, and be the leader in this client-freelancer bond.
I know, sometimes it's hard to set aside your principles and views, but in order to help the client you need to be able to "be the client". See their point of view, and act accordingly.
Remember, the more time you spend arguing, the less time you'll have to make things right.
You need to keep in mind that freelance writing is a highly professional business. Being a professional means always being able to satisfy the customer, even if the request is unreasonable, and the sources are inadequate.
Of course, I'm not saying that you need to fulfill every request, like writing an additional 50 pages for no extra fee because the customer did not like the introduction. Anything, however, that can be deemed reasonable is worth it. This is, indeed, how you build your clientele, and how you should communicate with your customers. I call it P.R.O. - Professional, Reliable, Organized.
It's not always easy to follow these guidelines, especially when you're convinced your client is being unreasonable. However, taking a step towards realizing how important your work is for your customer is a step towards becoming a great freelance writer. I'm sure that I am not saying anything new to you folks. Nonetheless, it is an important issue, and always will be. Moreover, for those of you who are just starting your career, based on my experience as an editor with the Custom-Writing.org project, I can assure you that these are the basics with which you need to become familiar.
Thank you to James for an interesting and thought-provoking article.
As someone who writes for a living and also commissions other writers (from time to time), I fully agree with the points he makes. If you want to succeed in this business, you do need to be highly professional. Often this means accommodating your clients' idiosyncrasies, but sometimes it means being prepared to tell them that they are wrong. A good client will accept this - if you can support it with convincing evidence - and respect your professionalism all the more. A bad client may not, but then again you wouldn't want to be working with them in future anyway!
If you have any comments about this article, please do post them below.
Some of the moderators on my forum at www.mywriterscircle.com got together to produce this special Christmas video for you...
If you are receiving this post by email, you will need to visit my blog to watch the video.
The mods on view are (top row, left to right) Joe (Joe_Mynhardt), Andrew (Andrewf) and Mairi (Ma100), and on the bottom row, Mary Ann (Maimi) and Don (Don86usa). Thanks to them all for sportingly agreeing to be turned into elves!
A very happy Christmas to all myWritersCircle members. And if you haven't yet joined, we'd love to welcome you to the madhouse soon!
To remind you, this contest was set up to celebrate myWritersCircle's fifth anniversary. The task was to write a short story in exactly 100 words, which included the three words anniversary, luminous and papaya. In addition, entrants were asked to provide a title for their story of up to 15 words, which didn't count towards the 100 words for the story.
The prizes for the three winning entries were as follows:
1st Prize - A copy of The 10-Day E-Book, my latest step-by-step manual on devising, writing and publishing a money-making e-book.
2nd Prize - A copy of Movie in a Month, WCCL’s blockbusting guide to creating your very own movie script and - with just a little luck - selling it to Hollywood.
The contest was judged by the myWritersCircle moderator team, with the exception of Country4gal (Alice), who gallantly volunteered to forward all entries so that they could be judged anonymously. Overall, we were extremely impressed with the standard of the stories, and in particular by the many ingenious methods that were used to incorporate the three key words, especially papaya!
The judges were looking for stories that, even in just 100 words, engaged us both intellectually and emotionally. Ideally we wanted to read stories where the three key words fitted into the story in a natural and unobtrusive way, rather than standing out like beacons. And, of course, we wanted stories that were well written; adhered to the 100 word requirement; had a beginning, middle and an end; and had been checked for spelling and grammatical errors. I'm pleased to say that our three winning stories met all of these requirements. Here, then, are the titles of the stories and the forum names of their authors, followed by the stories themselves.
1st Place: The Joy of Shopping, by Diver
2nd Place: Sucker Punch Versus Checkmate, by rohishetty
3rd Place: How Gilbert Was Able to Give and Take with a Single Gift, by Katehight
I'd be grateful if the winners could contact me as soon as possible to claim their prizes (see above). You can either send me a forum PM or use the Contact Me Form on my blog. I will need to know (a) your actual name if this is not your forum name, (b) your email address, and (c) your postal address, to send your prize (where this is supplied on CD).
Incidentally, if a prize-winner has the product in question already, or doesn’t want it for any reason, WCCL will be happy to substitute another from its writing range to the equivalent value or less. See this post for a complete list of all the WCCL writing courses. Just state the alternative prize you would prefer when writing to me.
Here are the three winning stories then...
The Joy of Shopping
Anne drags me to the department store. Signs are everywhere: Anniversary Sale! 50% Off! The exclamation points and crowds are dizzying. No bargain's worth this hassle.
By the cosmetics counter, a pinched-face woman with blood-red lips accosts us. She has just the thing for my wife's wrinkles. Facial in a tube. Grape-seed and papaya extract.
"Sounds delicious," I say.
Dragon-lady stares. Anne laughs, her lined face radiant, her eyes luminous.
"She doesn't need it," I say, "she's already gorgeous."
Anne kisses me, amidst the crowd, under the exclamation points, for a beautifully long time.
Not a bad deal after all.
Sucker Punch Versus Checkmate
Kate arrived within minutes of Bill’s call, green eyes glittering with excitement.
“How on earth did you manage to get rid of Julia on your wedding anniversary?”
Bill took her in his arms.
“She’s gone uptown for her favourite spa beauty treatment, which includes, so I hear, a body massage with almond oil, a papaya facial, and even a herbal enema. She says it makes her feel ‘spiritually luminous’.”
Kate rolled her eyes. “Well, happy anniversary, sweetheart!”
Wordlessly, he kissed her on her lips.
From her hidden vantage spot, Julia filmed the two lovers with her video-camera and smiled happily.
How Gilbert Was Able to Give and Take with a Single Gift
On his tenth wedding anniversary, Gilbert Smith prepared breakfast for his wife. Finally, he placed a rose on the tray. Not a trace of wheat or peanut anywhere.
Gilbert had already given his wife her present. He carried the tray upstairs, tingling with anticipation. At the open door, he saw his wife sprawled stiffly on the bed, her face a bright orange.
Smiling, Gilbert put down the tray and sat on the bed. Clutched tightly in her hand he found the gift box. ‘Papaya Mask – For Luminous Skin’. He squinted at the small print: ‘Contains nut oil. May cause allergies’.
Congratulations to all three of our winners for their excellent stories - I hope they enjoy their prizes.
The standard of entries was very high, and almost half got at least one vote from the judges (who had three votes each). There were two rounds of judging to decide the winners, and the other short-listed entries were as follows. No prizes for their authors, I'm afraid, but all are highly commended...
Cosmic Karma, by Jason Griffin
Never Say Bottoms-Up to Samantha, by Skip Slocum
Storming Heaven, by Sambpoet
These were all very good efforts. Cosmic Karma was a science-fiction story with a dramatic conclusion. Never Say Bottoms-Up to Samantha was a neat twist-ender that amused the judges (although the way 'luminous' was used was a bit questionable). And Storming Heaven was a personal favorite of mine, a touching story about an unhappy boy, with - in my view - the best use of the word 'papaya', in the line, 'he could see the luminous yellow moon, bright as papaya, closing down the day.'
Congratulations to the winning and short-listed writers, and commiserations to those who did not win on this occasion. As I said above, the standard was remarkably high, and with another set of judges, the results could have been quite different.
I hope everyone who entered the contest enjoyed it, and it will perhaps have stimulated your interest in writing these ultra-short stories. If so, there are many websites devoted to the form that you might like to check out. This blog post I wrote a few months ago lists a number of flash fiction markets and resources. And there are regular flash fiction contests on MWC's Writing Games & Challenges board, of course.
This is a guest post from freelance careers and education writer, Brian Jenkins.
* * *
The popularity of the Internet has created plenty of potential projects for freelance writers, but there is also a great deal of competition. The job auction websites, which utilize a bidding system for projects, provide opportunities, but the pay is typically low because there is such a high supply of writers. Some of the better-paying opportunities on the Web are business writing, copywriting, technical writing, press releases, blogging for commercial websites, writing web content, and ghostwriting. Let's take a closer look at some of the opportunities out there.
Many companies with an online presence send newsletters to customers and prospective customers via email. Depending on the frequency of the newsletter and a few other factors, you can make from $1,500 to $6,000 per newsletter, per year.
Copywriting is one of the most lucrative freelance writing careers. Companies need talented copywriters to create scripts for advertisements, promotional materials, and public relations materials.
Online Writing Services
Send a short query letter via email to online writing services. Impress them with your writing skills. Include a couple of your best pieces. Since some companies are concerned about attachments carrying viruses, you may want to copy and paste your work into the email.
Send query letters via email to commercial websites pushing your ability to write a high-quality blog for them that will help market their products on the Web. For commercial websites which already have a blog, explain how you can improve their blog to increase traffic. Also, if your price is reasonable, they may feel it's more cost effective to hire you instead of having their employees write and manage the blog.
The technical writing industry has benefited from the popularity of the Web. Opportunities are available to create training manuals, user guides, and technical documents. If you have the ability to take complicated, technical material and make it easy to understand for the layperson, consider a career as a technical writer. Plenty of companies need the services of technical writers. Also, many technical writing firms operate exclusively online. They help companies and individuals get technical materials properly published online. Send them a query email to see if they're looking for talented writers.
Write informative articles for Ezinearticles.com and related websites. You don't get a fee; however, you do get some credible exposure. Place a link back to your website to increase traffic.
Some websites have poorly written text which does not reflect well on the company. Offer to rewrite the material for a reasonable fee.
Use social media platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter, to meet other freelance writers and to announce a new promotion or new articles. You can also gain networking opportunities by joining writers' communities.
There is an ever-growing number of websites on the Internet. Make your presence known to these prospective clients.
Thank you to Brian for an interesting and inspiring article. I concur with him that there are lots of opportunities out there, but often you need to be proactive to get them.
For example, around five years ago now, I suggested to a client that what he really needed was a monthly email newsletter to keep in touch with his clients and prospects. I'm still producing this for him today, and am paid a very handy 200 UK pounds (over $300) a month for it.
I am always very happy to consider submissions of guest posts for my blog. Please see my Guest Post Guidelines for more information.
If you're looking for an entertaining creative project to keep you sane in the run-up to Christmas, you may like to check out Write Christmas, a free-to-enter contest from the UK-based website bestforfilm.com. They say:
"The concept of Write Christmas is simple – to write a film review of the greatest Christmas film never made. With Hollywood churning out the same old Christmas tat every year it’s difficult to see how we’ll ever get a truly brilliant NEW Christmas story on our screens. Best For Film are looking for fantastic writers to review the NEXT greatest, most ridiculous, potentially iconic Christmas film - the fact that it doesn’t actually exist yet is merely a quibble."
There are some great prizes on offer. The first prize winner gets a real-life A1 poster of their made-up movie as imagined by OTM Entertain, the world-famous design team that created the posters for The Hurt Locker (see above), In The Loop, Splice and The Losers, along with a hundred UK pounds cash and publication on bestforfilm.com. Two runners-up will each receive fifty UK pounds each and publication on bestforfilm.com.
The competition will be judged by a panel of experts: LARUSHKA IVAN-ZADEH – Film editor of The Metro (3.5 million readers every weekday) EMMA KENNEDY – actress (Notes on a Scandal), author, film critic for the Danny Baker show CLEOLINDA JONES – parody film critic, author, blogger (Movies In Fifteen Minutes)
To enter, you have to invent a film that has something to do with Christmas (e.g. When Santa Exploded). Write a review of your imaginary movie in 300-500 words, including storyline, director, actors, and so on, and email it by 24 December 2010 to firstname.lastname@example.org with 'Write Christmas' in the subject line.
Today's guest post comes from professional writer Mark Davies. Mark offers ten top tips for improving your writing skills, whatever field of writing you specialize in...
* * *
It seems like a pretty straightforward task, but not everyone can string together a set of words and produce writing that makes for wonderful reading. Some people are born to write - they take to it like a duck to water and continue to grow and blossom as writers in their own style. Others, however, need to work hard at it - they aspire to write and so put in a significant amount of effort to improve their writing and provide it with the flair and style that characterize great writing and differentiate it from the mediocre. If you know that you can make it as a writer with a few helpful tips from those who are already established and successful in the industry, read on:
1. Be aware of the importance of good grammar, the right punctuation and correct spelling. Good writing is not just about the flashy creative aspect; it's also about the basic nuts and bolts that constitute correct language. If grammar is not your strong suit, get someone who is well versed to go through your copy; run your writing through a spell-checker to catch inadvertent spelling mistakes; and learn from your mistakes and try not to make them again.
2. Keep it short and simple without losing focus on your primary topic - if you're writing a short story that depicts the relationship problems that two young lovers share, don't introduce too many extraneous characters if they're not really necessary to take the story forward. The more you digress, the more you dilute your original intent and lose your way.
3. Create an outline - whether you're writing a book or a short story or an article, an outline helps you stick to what's necessary and prevents you from deviating from your main idea.
4. Make your introduction compelling - if you start out strong, you're likely to hold your reader all the way to the end. So work on making your introductions compelling and powerful so that anyone reading them wants to stay on and see what lies ahead.
5. Write whenever the urge strikes - perhaps the most wonderful (and most exasperating) aspect of writing is that it does not allow you to set a schedule. If an idea overtakes me and starts taking shape in my mind, I must put it down into words immediately. That's when I find that the sentences flow without any hesitancy or hindrance, and that's when I produce some of my best writing. So don't put off your ideas for the morrow; instead, get them down in writing today.
6. Read, read and read some more - every good writer is an avid reader. One of the best ways to improve your writing, both consciously and sub-consciously, is to continue to read as much as you can. The more you read well-established and successful authors, the better you will become as a writer.
7. Write every day, even if you have nothing much to write about. There will be days when you're just going to sit and stare at a blank screen wondering why inspiration is eluding you. However much you struggle with your words, try and pen at least a few paragraphs each day. If the introduction troubles you, move on to the first paragraph, or try and think of a conclusion to sum up what you intend to say. The idea is to keep at it instead of giving way to laziness and other excuses that prevent you from being the best you can.
8. Go over your writing at least once - when you look back at what you've written, you catch inadvertent errors, and you see how you can make your copy better. The more you read through your work, the more clarity you gain. You must be satisfied before you can show your writing to others.
9. Listen to feedback - you improve as a writer when you take criticism constructively instead of letting it bog you down and giving up on your dream. When you're open to ideas that help you improve, that's when you make progress as a writer.
10. Don't force yourself - if all else fails and you find it impossible to come up with some satisfactory writing, take a break. Clear your head and forget writing for a day or two. Go out for a walk or spend some time with loved ones. When you stop trying too hard, you find that the words that played truant so long come rushing back and beg to be given form.
Good writing is all about persistence, effort, creativity, and most important of all, being able to come up with commendable work no matter how much you've already written.
This guest post is contributed by Mark Davies; he writes on the topic of Masters Degree Online. He welcomes your comments at his email id: markdavies247<@>gmail<.>com.
* I am always happy to consider submissions of guest posts for my blog. Please see my Guest Post Guidelines for more information.
The bar in question is, incidentally, the virtual bar on myWritersCircle, where Tim (along with many other MWC members) whiled away many a happy hour not doing any writing, while being served with the virtual beverage of his choice by Bones, the skeletal bartender...
A lot of work has gone into both these anthologies, so I should like to offer sincere thanks - and congratulations - to the MWC moderators and members who put in so much (unpaid) effort.
In particular, a forum Legion d'Honneur must go to Mairi Angus (Ma100), who co-ordinated both projects and edited the prose anthology, ably assisted by Andrew Fairhurst (Andrewf) and Don Blinebry (don86usa). Thanks must also go to Eric Biggs (Eric) and Leah Witmond (Nelodra), who edited the poetry anthology, and to Gyppo, who wrote the Introductions to both books. And finally, thanks must go to the many other MWC members who assisted with ideas and suggestions, cover images, proofreading, publicity, and so on - as well as contributing poems and stories, of course.
All profits from these anthologies will go to the Buffalo Hospice Foundation, which looked after Tim during his last few weeks. It's a great cause - and they are two excellent anthologies - so if you want some entertaining reading for the festive season, why not order both today, and maybe copies for your friends and relatives as well? Both e-book and printed versions are available. Just click on the relevant cover image to go to the sales page at Lulu.com!
The Creative Genius Deck is a pack of 52 cards for use during creative writing. Each card contains a prompt or a piece of advice - for example, 'Do Something Surprising' or 'The Truth in Lies, Lies in the Truth'. You can see what the cards look like in Phil's video, below...
As ever, if you are getting this post by email, you will probably need to visit my blog to watch the video.
The idea is that you go through the cards one by one, or pick a card at random, then consider how the message applies to the project you are working on.
I must admit, my first impression was that some of the messages were rather gnomic and vague. However, the deck comes with a booklet that goes into much more detail about the meaning of the cards (and how to use them). Personally, I might have preferred some of this info to be on the cards themselves rather than in a separate guide, but that would probably detract from their elegant simplicity. In any event, I would definitely recommend using the deck in conjunction with the booklet - you'll get a lot more out of it if you do.
The Creative Genius Deck is currently on sale for £16.95, with free shipping until December 31 2010. That's not exactly cheap (in my view), but to be fair the cards are hand-finished and only being produced in very limited quantities. If you're looking for a method to boost your creativity and/or beat writer's block, they are certainly worth considering. They might also make a nice gift for the writer in your life!
Incidentally, I'd also recommend signing up to Phil's free Creative Genius Newsletter. Not only is this a very interesting read, he is also giving away two great free gifts to all new subscribers. These are his e-book 'Let’s Write a Story', an excellent guide to creating stories by using existing plots as starting points, and a free audio version of his hypnosis session, 'Amplify Your Creativity'. You can sign up to the Creative Genius newsletter via this subscription page.
Disclosure Notice: My review copy of The Creative Genius Deck was sent free of charge, but I did not receive a fee for writing this review, neither will I receive any commissions on sales arising.
It's a long title, and indeed quite a long report (109 pages), but it covers some very important issues for writers and publishers, especially if they publish any of their work online.
The report (a PDF ebook) is based largely around two real-life case studies. One concerns Ruth herself, and describes what happened when someone stole her content repeatedly and the hosting company refused to take any action against the website owner concerned.
The other concerns a colleague of Ruth's who had the opposite problem - someone falsely accused her of copyright infringement, and her hosting company immediately took her website (her main source of revenue) down.
These are both misfortunes that could befall any online writer, and it's important to be aware of your rights and responsibilities. Although neither Ruth nor her colleague is an expert on copyright infringement, in this report they have detailed what they did in their respective positions and how it helped.
As Ruth says, 'Too many writers face the problem of copyright infringement every day, so we are hoping this ebook will help as many as possible by showing how easy it is to have your work stolen and what you can do about it, plus what can happen (and how fast it can happen) when you are accused of stealing someone else's work, and what can be done.'
Incidentally, the report reveals the names of the two website hosting companies concerned, and this is invaluable information if you're planning on setting up a website yourself. After all, would you rather have a host who takes your site down immediately it gets a complaint about you, or one that refuses to take any action against you in response to any complaints, citing customer loyalty and the First Amendment!