Dear writers and readers, this blog has been dormant since late last year, but I had to mark the 10-year anniversary of my first post by telling you that I have updated the past posts, revising where the information was no longer accurate and making sure all the links worked. Those updated posts are my gift to you. Because I think it would be good to have all the advice put together in one place in a logical order, I am also planning to compile my blog posts into an e-book. I will let you know about that as soon as it’s available.
In the beginning, the blog was called Freelancing for Newspapers. I started it to publicize my then-upcoming Freelancing for Newspapers book. I’ll be honest. Some of those first posts were so lame it hurts to read them now. I was just learning how to blog. Now I offer a class on it. (click on Classes above). Over those first few years, I offered a mix of my own experiences writing freelance articles, plus information about the newspaper business and advice for writers on everything from how to get an assignment to how to get paid.
But the publishing world changed, I changed, and so did this blog. It morphed from Freelancing for Newspapers to Freelancing for Newspapers +, the plus sign indicating I might talk about more than newspapers. Eventually it became Writer Aid so I could address all sorts of writing, including fiction, poetry and creative nonfiction (and also maybe lure readers into my servers for writers).
At the same time, the newspaper business was changing. With the double whammy of the recession and the Internet, newspapers were going under or shrinking. Longtime staff writers were losing their jobs by the hundreds. And freelance opportunities became harder to find. Our local daily, The Oregonian, went from a stuffed package loaded with special sections to a thin tabloid. How could one write for the garden or arts sections when even the decades-long editors of those sections were now unemployed?
My own life was changing, too. I was caring for my husband, who had Alzheimer’s Disease. In 2009, he moved into a nursing home, and in 2011, he died. Through it all, I kept writing, but I was easing out of article writing and focusing more on poetry, fiction and creative nonfiction. I went back to school and earned my MFA in creative writing. I started teaching. I published two more books, Shoes Full of Sand and Childless by Marriage.
All of these changes were reflected in the blog as I talked about self-publishing, poetry, plots, settings, characters, and selling books. For a while, the blog shrank down to three quick tips because that’s all I could manage, but I kept it going. Last December, I decided there were too many writers blogging about writing, and the world didn’t need me doing it. I would focus on my other blogs, Unleashed in Oregon and Childless by Marriage.
I’m still not sure the world needs me writing about writing. Writers are so inbred, and I think it’s important to talk to the rest of the world. But as I put together the e-book, I suspect I will find topics that I have not yet addressed, and I will write new posts to fill in the blanks. If you sign up to follow the blog, WordPress will let you know when that happens.
You can still buy the Freelancing for Newspapers book. Some of the information is outdated now, but the basics of writing and selling articles is the same. The steps in the book will lead you from idea to published story, not just in newspapers but in magazines and online publications. Order a copy.
Now go write something.
As you may know, I’m participating in the A to Z blogging challenge this month. Each day except Sunday we blog on a different letter of the alphabet. Because I have several blogs, my posts travel from blog to blog and we have landed here today, just in time for the letter P, which inspires me to give you a page of prompts. I hope at least one of these will spark your writing. Use them for poetry, plays, essays, articles, editorials, short stories, rants, whatever you want to write. Revise them, turn them around, have fun with them.
* When the woman started crying, he ………….
* Opening the envelope with trembling hands, she unfolded the letter and screamed.
* You’re never too old to ………..
* Three days after the power went out . . . . . . . . . .
* I want . . . . . . . . .
* Pick a coin out of your pocket or purse. What year is printed on it? Write about what happened that year.
* I never thought . . . . . . .
* What have you learned that you’d like to share?
* It was the morning from hell. Everything went wrong . . . . . . . .
* If only . . . . . . . . . . . .
* When . . . . . . . . . . .
* “You’re fired,” he said.
Happy Easter. Remember, everything in life could be a prompt, from your morning oatmeal to insomnia at midnight. Visit Unleashed in Oregon tomorrow to find out what R stands for and come back here next Friday, when we’ll be on the letter V. Now go write.
Is being a writer a job? It’s work. If you’re on the staff of a newspaper, magazine, or other publication, if you write press releases, instruction manuals or annual reports and you have to report in every day at a specific time, if you use your employers’ equipment to carry out the assignments they give you, and if they give you a W2 form for your taxes at the end of the year, you definitely have a job. With luck, your family and the IRS see you as gainfully employed.
Maybe you have a completely different kind of job that supports your writing. Most writers do.
But what if you’re a writer working at home, setting your own hours, using your own equipment, choosing your own assignments, and your earnings are sporadic? Do you still have a job?
This is one of the dilemmas of being a self-employed writer. People don’t see you as working if you’re writing poetry or essays in your pajamas. They feel free to call you on the phone or drop by or schedule you for activities during your prime writing time because oh, she’s just writing. Sound familiar?
It has taken me years to establish my morning writing time as sacred. Most of my friends and family now understand that I cannot chat, go shopping, attend a meeting or anything else before approximately 1 p.m. because I’m working. They expect a surly response if they interrupt my writing. When the receptionist at the dentist’s office says, “Can you come in at 10:00?” I say, No, it needs to be in the afternoon.” Of course, if I just broke a tooth, I will make an exception, but for an ordinary cleaning and checkup, I stick to my schedule. It is not easy to claim this time. I have to tell people I’m working and then I have to actually use the time to work, even when I don’t have editors waiting for me and I’d much rather do anything but string words together.
Is writing a job? Yes. If you are hoping to earn money at it, it’s a business, and you are the sole employee, as well as the CEO, vice president, secretary, tech support, and janitor. If you really want to be a writer, claim your time and respect. Feel free to tell people, “I’m going to work now, and if I’m late, my boss will really be mad.”
Do you consider your writing a job? How do you claim your writing time? Let us know in the comments.
But right now, get to work. Go write.
D is for Deadline.
I’m participating this month in the A-Z blog challenge and it’s Writer Aid’s turn to serve a bowl of my progressive alphabet soup.
Lots of writers tell me they can’t write without a deadline. I’ve had students claim that they could only write when they were taking a class. Otherwise, they’d never write. Although I tend to write no matter what, I understand the feeling. Being a full-time freelancer focusing on creative writing these days, I set most of my own deadlines, knowing all the while that I can change them anytime I want. It’s only when other people are expecting to see something from me that I am sure to finish it on time.
When I was working in the newspaper biz, deadlines ruled our lives. When we were on deadline, it didn’t matter what was going on in the outside world. We couldn’t deal with phone calls or visitors or sometimes even a trip to the bathroom. We just kept our heads down and got the work done because there was always more to do than was logically possible in the time allotted. And we always got it done because if we didn’t the pages would be blank, the story that had to get published by a certain date wouldn’t get in, and all our interviews and research would be for nothing. When I worked on the copy desk at the Hayward Daily Review in California, we were still pasting printed words on cardboard sheets. As I stood proofreading the “boards,” I was constantly aware of printers standing in the doorway watching the clock, ready to take the pages out of my hands, finished or not, when it was time to go to press. That’s a lot of pressure.
Meeting newspaper deadlines taught me how to work quickly and to be realistic about what I could get done. If I was still missing part of the puzzle, I had to write around it. If I wasn’t sure it was my best writing, I just had to do the best I could. As a freelancer writing articles and books, I still have deadlines. The editor is not standing in my house waiting for me to finish, but if I miss the deadline, my story or my book might not be published and I won’t get paid. So I do it, sick or well, happy or not, busy with other things or not.
My deadlines for poetry, fiction or creative nonfiction mostly center around contest entry dates and literary journals’ submission periods. Did you know that most of the latter only consider manuscripts at certain times of the year? If you send your work in when submissions are closed, they’ll send it back unread. Always check the guidelines to see what the dates are. Because many journals are associated with colleges and universities, I’m seeing a lot of deadlines in April, presumably so the staff can put their publications together by the end of the school year.
Some writers just keep writing and don’t need any incentives, but most of us can use some kind of deadline. If nothing else, set goals and do your best to meet them, whether it’s writing a certain number of words, completing a project, or sending out your work by a certain date. Telling other people about your deadlines will help you stick to them and give you something to shoot for. If you are writing with deadlines set by editors and publishers, you know when you have to get it done. Start early to make sure you meet the deadline. Writers who turn their assignments in late will find themselves not getting any more assignments.
So D is for deadline. Now go write.
More than 1300 bloggers have signed up for the A-to-Z challenge. Visit http://www.kmdlifeisgood.blogspot.com/p/under-construction.html for the full list. To find out what E stands for and see the blog schedule for this month, visit my Unleashed in Oregon blog tomorrow.