Tag Archive | writing

I think I strained my whatchamacallit

When I bought my house, I was gifted a nifty 1970’s desk that has real potential. Yes, I like kitsch. So anyway, I set up the spare bedroom as my office, a thing I have wanted since the beginning of time. A mom cave; my own space to do my writing, surfing, kibbitzing, and daydreaming. It was awesome! I had the desk, a couple of cute chairs and an occasional table, even a smallish grandfather clock. There’s a nice size window that lets in the morning sun, limiting my need for the kinda crappy overhead light. Of course, it was still springlike outside when I did this and I was filled with joy. Until summer hit and I discovered that my central AC is central non-AC. Let’s be realistic here. I just bought a house. I don’t have a spare 5 grand laying around to replace the AC. What I have is 2 small window units and a portable AC unit that has seen better days, but only cost me $40 at the local deal-n-dash. I tried, really really tried, to tough it out in my new mom cave. That window with the morning sun made that little room hotter than the 7th circle of hell by 10 a.m. I was hot, sweaty, and stuck to everything I came in contact with. It was a miserable experience. Keeping the office intact, I took my handy dandy lablet first to the living room, and ultimately to my room. No it’s not a typo. I said lablet. It’s a Surface Pro; a little more than a tablet, but not quite a laptop. Lablet. Deal with it.

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I’m not a young woman anymore. I’m not old, but it’s been a while since I’ve seen my 20’s. Sitting on my bed trying to use my lablet became an exercise in constant hip and knee joint pain, not to mention the joyful feeling it gave my lower back. And since I am now doing the writing gig full time, I spend a lot of hours in front of a keyboard. Like on the order of 8-10 hours a day, depending on what I am working on. I sat on my bed because it was what there was to sit on, and it put me in close proximity of the portable AC. My entire bedroom is currently arranged around the beast, a trade off I made to avoid heat stroke on any given deep-south summer day. Not to mention the fact that it’s a lablet. It’s got a cute little purple keyboard, and a cute little kickstand, neither of which are designed to sit on the bed for hours on end to write article after article.

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At any rate, it was starting to affect my productivity. I was waiting until late at night to work, and rising before the sun to work, so that I could whine about my back, hips, and knees throughout the heat of the day. When you write for a news aggregation service, you can’t always do that. So this morning, I bit the bullet and decided to move the desk into my room. Holy God, Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. I had forgotten how awkward and heavy that damn desk is. I swear I think it is actually made out of cleverly disguised cast iron. It is definitely a solid piece of office furniture, unlike my current desk chair, which is, yes, a lawn IMG_20170723_134411chair with a cushion and a throw I crocheted while darling daughter was in the hospital. Hey, don’t judge. It works. Being the perky little go-getter than I am (stop LAUGHING!) I rearranged my bedroom and pushed, pulled, shoved, and drug the damn desk in here. It’s where I now sit, writing this post. The jury is out on if it’s cooler and more comfortable, though. With all the moving, I think I pulled something. Something vital. My whatchamacallit. That thing. Plus I’m hot and sweaty from the rearranging. So, for today, I won’t judge. If I can actually move tomorrow, we’ll see how it works.

Find yourself some clients, they said…

And every single thing I have ever read on the subject makes it sound just that easy.  I’m going to be honest with you here. It’s NOT easy to find clients when you are just starting out as a freelance writer. People are not going to be lining up in droves to buy your written words. A single person isn’t going to make a line of one either. It’s a bitch to get established, okay? That is why content mills wind up flooded with writers. Don’t get me wrong. It’s fairly easy money that generally requires  minimal research. The more you write, the more you make.  The editors tend to be less exhaustive, although you will get the stray editor that thinks s/he works for the Washington Post. If you’ve ever read some of the mass content presented on sites like Facebook, you understand that a lot of these people churn out garbage on a daily basis. And by garbage, I really mean garbage. If you don’t care about building a portfolio, if you don’t need clips or a byline, and f you are fluent in at least one language, then you can make some great spare cash this way. Use a little common sense, though. If you want to write for, say a Spanish audience, you’ll do much better if you are actually fluent in Spanish. Google translate can only do so much.

So, how do you go about building your portfolio, getting your clips, and seeing your byline out there? Use the rule of K.I.S.S. Keeping it simple to start is going to be your best bet. Stick to writing what you know in the beginning. You may think your research skills are phenomenal, but there’s an editor out there just waiting to tell you otherwise. If you write about something you know, you write with confidence and that shows. You’ll be amazed at how much you do know about something once you start writing about it. the words will just flow, and that saves time over struggling with every single word you type. Make sure of your sources and definitely fact-check! In the information age, there is always some armchair expert ready to troll you mercilessly over misrepresented ideology and misstated facts. Once you’ve got a handle on the basics, it’s time to find your audience.

So, go, find yourself some clients!!

Just kidding. I wouldn’t throw you out there like that. That’s how I was tossed out there years ago, and nobody should have to learn everything the hard way.  So I’m going to give you one resource I wish I had had years ago.  It’s simply this link here. This will connect you to submission guidelines for hundreds of different news and magazine titles. Back in the day, I had to go look this up in the library, one magazine at a time, and one outdated book that listed contacts and guidelines that were no longer valid. This is my gift to you. You’re welcome.

One last thing. Don’t quibble over pay to start. As a new author, you won’t win any contests doing that. Take the scale offered, and keep the ultimate goal in mind. Soon enough, you’ll get to ask for different scales based on your work, but for now, you need the exposure more.

Now.

Go find yourself some clients!

 

So I Sent Out This Query Letter…

via Daily Prompt: Pursue

As I pursue my dreams of being able to support myself from freelancing, I write a lot of cold articles, rough drafts, ideas, and blog posts. Yesterday I got this idea to write a short article and submit it (or a small part of it) to Llewellyn. Query letters go along with it, it’s part of the beast. For some reason, I had the hardest time writing this query letter though.  It all started with their submission guidelines.

They publish books, online content, and annuals and calendars. As I read through the submission guidelines for the annuals, I was thrown for a loop. Their guidelines said they mostly look for 50,000 words depending on the project. For an annual publication that is full of short articles?? 50,000 is almost novel length, right? I’m pretty sure they don’t want me to submit a 50,000 word article. An article is not the same as a book. And there, right there, is where I started getting all weird about the query letter. Here, I was trying to pitch a short article and suddenly my brain vapor-locked. I decided to step away from the computer for a bit and come back to it. So…that’s what I did.

I came back, refreshed, regrouped, and ready to finish this up. Naturally, as hard as I tried to find the actual name of the submissions editor, I couldn’t find it anywhere. I couldn’t find it on their website, I couldn’t find it through Google, and I couldn’t find it through Bing. I finally did something that makes me cringe, and began the salutation with “Dear Annuals Submissions Editor”. I sent the query, closed my computer, and took myself to bed. The pursuit of literary genius would just have to wait until I recovered from the debacle of the really messed up query letter. Not that I consider a short article literary genius, mind you. But you’ve got to start somewhere!

Clickbait and Content Mills

We’ve all seen them on Facebook. Those headlines designed to make you click on the article. You know the ones. “They bought this house with a shocking secret!”  “She used this shampoo and you’ll never guess what happened!” Yeah, those articles. Clickbait at its finest. The first time I ever encountered clickbait, my first thought was MARKETING GENIUS! My second thought was to wonder why they photoshopped flower seed pods onto a woman’s neck. I knew what clickbait was, I just didn’t know why it was. Years back, when I first started freelancing, clickbait wasn’t a thing. My, how the internet has evolved.  Let me de-mystify the clickbait phenomenon for you.

Clickbait articles are written by people that get paid per click on the article. Usually there is also a monetized aspect with the ads that always appear along with it. The downside is they only get paid pennies per click. The upside is that they get thousands of clicks every time the article circulates on social media. That’s where the catchy headlines and weird photoshopped images come in. That’s how they lure people into clicking on the article, sharing the article and even commenting on the article. After my first few experiences with clickbait, I realized that no matter how eye-grabbing the headline is, the article itself was pretty bland. Mundane. Banal. Take your pick. I also discovered that for many of these writers, English was not their first language. In some instances, it wasn’t even their second language. So you figure 5000 clicks nets them about 10 bucks. I can’t live on $10 articles, but I suppose if you are living in a 3rd world country, $10 isn’t so bad. Especially when you consider there is little to no research done on these articles, grammar isn’t important, and creepy photos guarantee clicks. I may be starting again, and having to rebuild my portfolio, but one thing I won’t do is churn out clickbait. Just say NO!

I am however doing a 1 week test on content mills, just out of morbid curiosity. So far, I have registered with 6 different mills…err…companies. With all the content mill articles floating around today, you’d think there would be plenty to go around. One shows me around 20 gigs, and says I’m not qualified to write any of them. One has shown zero gigs, no matter what I try to search for. One has me taking all of their assessments to see what I qualify for. One wants a sample article of 500 words, but their online editor locks up around word 256. One keeps wanting me to share ads on my Facebook and Twitter accounts and the last one is still reviewing my application and writing sample. Sheesh. Not exactly an auspicious start, is it? I’ll let you know how it all works out.  I admit I am not hopeful. In the meantime, I will continue scouring for gigs that are legitimate, actually pay, allow a byline (portfolio building, dontcha know) and don’t require faked photos for exposure.

Freelance Frustration is Running Rampant

Ok so I have been out of the game for a while. I get that. I understand that the internet is constantly evolving and you have to keep up to survive. But dayum! Most of the sites I used to freelance for are no longer in existence, or their platform has changed and they don’t use freelance writers anymore. I find myself starting from the ground up again, which would be fine except for a few little peeves of mine. So if you are interested in freelancing, let me save you some of the frustration I have experienced over the last 24 hours.

  • There are more scam sites than there used to be, and they are getting a lot better at hiding that they are scam sites. My new general rule of thumb is that if they want ME to pay THEM, they are scamming. A legitimate site earns their money off of what you earn, not off of you personally. Why in the hell would I pay someone $20-$120 to look at a list that doesn’t guarantee gigs, when I can just use Google and Bing and find those gigs for free.
  • Avoid sites that use the word “affiliate” as part of their title, tagline, or selling practice. These sites want you to share ads and then you get paid based on how many clicks your share gets. Get real for a minute here. Do you really want to alienate everyone on your social network by flooding your newsfeed with ads? And do you REALLY think your friends are going to happily, madly click away just so you can earn a few cents per click? Yeah, probably not. If I share an ad, its because I’m dropping hints about stuff I want. And as for any ads on here, well what can I say? It’s the free version and so I am stuck with the ads.
  • I have responded to countless freelance gigs in the past 24 hours that have turned out to be survey sites. Nobody ever made a living wage doing nothing but online surveys and if they tell you otherwise they are lying. Doing a survey isn’t freelancing, but they try to make you think it is. Not to mention the fact that 95% of the time, you won’t ‘qualify’ for the survey anyway.
  • Publishing your work for free to gain exposure is a biggie. I can see doing a couple of small articles (500 words or so) to prove you have a grasp of the English language and you know how to research a topic. However, I am not going to write for weeks on end, giving you free content just to get a gig that pays .03 a word once you deem me ready for paying gigs. This is why you see so much content on social media that has appalling grammar and doesn’t relate to the topic they claim to be writing about to start with.
  • Writing assessments to gain “qualifications” to write on a certain subject. This is another biggie these days. It’s simple. I don’t have to be an expert on dogs to research and write an article about choosing a chew toy. That’s WHY you research. The experts in that particular field are generally not writers on the side, just itching for a chance to write copy or content. Give me an almighty BREAK already. Get over yourselves. It’s not War and Peace, it’s hack writing with a sort of purpose.
  • And finally, the old “Get paid to 1. Post on Facebook, 2. Tweet on Twitter, 3. Heart on Instagram, or 4. search on Google.  Yeah, NO. Just. Don’t. Do. It. Clear enough?

Today is another day, that will be full of frustration and hopefully a paying gig here and there. If I find any likely sites, I may do a follow up post. I may not. I’m may overdose on ibuprophen, which is looking more likely by the minute. At any rate, at least I can come here and write to my heart’s content, without any BS to go along with it!