Tag Archives: freelance writer

Defining the Words You Use 2

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Words are the tools of a writer’s trade. It can sometimes be helpful to know more about your trade in order to improve your work.

CLAUSE – a group of words which make sense and contain both a SUBJECT and a VERB. A simple sentence is a CLAUSE, but a more complex sentence may contain more than one CLAUSE.

E.g. The dog ran.

This is a CLAUSE. It can stand on its own without further explanation, so it can also be called an INDEPENDENT CLAUSE.

If we make the sentence longer:

The dog ran because Billy scared it.

The second part of the sentence is known as a DEPENDENT CLAUSE because it could not stand on its own and be understood.

‘because Billy scared it’ – does not make sense.

However sentences are not always that simple or they would be boring. We prefer longer, more descriptive sentences to enable us to keep the reader’s flow going. Short jerky sentences can break up the text too much.

To enable the sentence to be more descriptive, we can use ADJECTIVE CLAUSES or ADVERB CLAUSES.

An ADJECTIVE CLAUSE gives us more information about the SUBJECT in the sentence. Remember, the SUBJECT is the NOUN that the sentence is about.

James is a great magician and he can make his assistant disappear.

This sentence tells you more about James, but it reads in a rather stilted way.

Try this:

James, who is a great magician, can make his assistant disappear.

The words in bold italics have been changed so that they modify the noun they describe in a neater way. The sentence still maintains its sense, but it reads so much better.

This ADJECTIVE CLAUSE will not stand on its own – it only makes sense in the context of the sentence. It is a CLAUSE rather than a PHRASE because it still contains a NOUN and VERB.

Usually an ADJECTIVE CLAUSE will start with one of three RELATIVE PRONOUNS:

WHO – always refers to people

WHICH – always refers to objects

THAT – can refer to people or objects

Find the ADJECTIVE CLAUSES in these sentences:

The girl slid down the hill and tore her dress.

The girl, who tore her dress, had to go home and tell her mother.

The girl’s mother, who had to sew the hole in the dress, was very cross.

Answers

The girl slid down the hill and tore her dress. (No ADJECTIVE CLAUSE)

The girl, who tore her dress, had to go home and tell her mother. (ADJECTIVE CLAUSE)

The girl’s mother, who had to sew the hole in the dress, was very cross. (ADJECTIVE CLAUSE)

Punctuation

When do you use commas in ADJECTIVE CLAUSES?

You do not use a COMMA when THAT is used in a sentence:

E.g. The race that was abandoned was rescheduled for Thursday.

If the ADJECTIVE CLAUSE is essential to the sentence then you do not need a COMMA.

E.g. Children who have mud on their legs will need a shower.

Balls which have gone soft will be put in the bin.

Not all balls are to be put in the bin – just those that have gone soft. Equally not all children require a shower – just those with mud on their legs.

If the ADJECTIVE CLAUSE is not essential to the meaning of the sentence, then use a COMMA:

The dogs, who had been washed and brushed, were going to a pet show.

The boys, who couldn’t stop laughing, were sent to detention.

Photo Credit: Photo on Flickr by akqp

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A Quick Style Guide

When you are producing your piece of writing for a client, it is best to be consistent with grammar and spellings, particularly when using headings. Here are some of the most common things to look out for.

Headings

The beginnings of words in a heading should be capitalised unless they are small words such as ‘and’, ‘is’ or ‘of’. It is sometimes helpful to bold the heading to make it stand out from the rest of the text. Make sure that if you decide to do this, that all the headings are capitalised and in bold.

The Main Body of the Text

Start with your opening paragraph which sums up what the article will be about. Keep it short and succinct. It does not need a sub-heading over it – in fact your first sub-heading should be at least one paragraph in.

If you are writing for the web, then keep paragraphs short and to the point. There should be two to three paragraphs underneath each heading and of course they should be relevant!

Consistency, Checking and Counting Words

Photo by Martin Hagberg and used under Creative Commons licence

 

When you are writing your first draft, then just get the ideas down and let them flow. Write until you have finished, Then go back over it and read through. Check for spelling errors (be aware of the differences between American and UK spelling and use one consistently throughout). Also keep an eye out for grammatical problems and check out the word count.

Clients are usually very definite about the amount of words used in a piece of writing, but it is important to write in a focused way on the topic. Beware of fluff or filler. Take out any words that are unnecessary, read your work aloud to check for flow and ensure that your sentences are short and to the point rather than long and wordy. This makes them much easier to read.

End your writing with a strong point or call to action. Revise it again and again until you are happy with it.

Finally when you think your work is done, put it away for at least 24 hours before getting it out and reading it again. The distance is important: it allows you to view your work with fresh eyes and improve it.

Consistency and care is the key to producing strong work which you can be proud of and which is more likely to please your client and bring in more work commissions for you.

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You Got a Writing Job – Now What?

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The answer came back to your carefully crafted email, letter, query etc and it was positive. You have got a writing job!

Now what?

The natural reaction may to be panic! You’ve achieved the first step on the rung of a very long and high ladder, but now you have to fulfill your promise and do the work.

You are welcome to run round in circles, punching the air or any other kind of victory dance that you may wish to do. When the first excitement has died down, turn your focus onto what it is that you will need to do.

The first thing to do is to make contact with your new client. The contact may be through phone, Skype or email. It is fine to make the first contact – they chose you for the job which means that they must want you to do it.

Try and think of any questions you may have. This first contact is important. You need to know what your client is expecting you to deliver. You need to clarify deadlines. You need to clearly understand what the job will entail. Approach any phone call with a notepad and pen to hand.

Once you have spoken to your client and understood the work, then plan out what you are going to do and when. You may have to do a small sample and send it back to your client to check that he is happy with what you are doing.

Once you get your client’s OK, then you can begin. Do your best work and try to impress them to keep any ratings high and enable you to receive recommendations from them.

You may have to send regular status reports if you got the job through a bidding site, but this is generally just giving the client an idea of where you are up to with the job so that they can be satisfied that you are getting on with your work.

Once you have finished your writing work, give it a final proof-read and polish before sending it in. Make sure that you are finished well before the deadline to allow yourself time to check it thoroughly.

Once you’ve sent your work in, be prepared that there may be small changes that the client wants to make. This is where you may have to be a little assertive.

Some writers will allow small changes or one rewrite, but if a client is getting too fussy then it may be best to negotiate an extra rate. This involves talking to your client and keeping them updated on your progress.

It’s time to invoice your client. Work through a jobs board will have a set up where invoices are generated automatically. If you use a system like Escrow, then the funds have already been made available and the system will release the funds to you once both parties are satisfied with the work.

It is a good idea to set up a Paypal account as this is easiest to administer when dealing with clients through other countries. Many of the jobs boards deal in US dollars when paying contractors.

Finally remember to keep track of your jobs and earnings using a spread sheet for tax purposes.

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Applying for a Writing Job

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You’ve checked out the jobs boards, you’ve trolled the best sites and you’ve found a job that you are reasonably confident that you could do. Now what?

Now get up the confidence to apply for it! No job ever applies for itself and if you don’t try then you will never know if you could have got it. Here are a few pointers when applying for a writing job.

Send Your Best Writing


This sounds obvious, but its amazing how many writers don’t think of it: if you are applying for a writing job, then you need to write at your best. This is not a time for spelling mistakes or glaring grammar errors!

If you are applying to a job advert, then read it carefully. Some employers put instructions in the ad to ensure that applicants have read it thoroughly. Follow the instructions: if they ask for a CV then write a CV. If they ask you to call, then call; email then email. If they ask you to put “buckaroo” in bold in the middle of your CV, then do it! (They were probably testing you to see if you read the application thoroughly or not!)

Email as though You Were Writing a Letter

If you are applying through a jobs board, then the first contact is likely to be an email. Although these are usually informal, it will do you no harm to approach this as though it were a formal letter. Begin with ‘Dear’ and the client’s name and end with the appropriate ‘Yours Sincerely’ or ‘Yours Faithfully’. It sets you out as a business-like person. It creates a good impression and sets you out from the rest.

Explain why you are suited to the job and why you should be considered for the role. Keep it brief and relevant – no major life stories here. At the end of the letter, say that you look forward to hearing from them and sign off.

Include Contact Details

Make sure that you include full contact details so that any prospective employer can get in touch with you quickly.

Leave your email for a while before sending it (some people recommend 24 hours – but give it as long as you have got). Read it through again and correct any errors. Reading out loud will help.

Attach your CV if required. Send the email. Jobs boards usually have a closing date, so you could have a week or more to run before notifications are sent out. Keep an eye on the site to see if the job closes early.

If you have written on speck, then you may get a reply quite quickly. It may be “no thanks, I’ll keep you on record”, in which case keep applying to other people.

If you got the job, congratulations.

If there is no answer, don’t wait on it forever – get on with the next application. As previously stated: the more applications you send in, the more likely it is that you will get a ‘yes’.

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Finding a Writing Job Part 1

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I’m from the UK. I live in a town in the Midlands. I have started to write for a living. I have been researching about freelance writing on the web for a number of months now. Then I decided that it was time I did something about it.

What Did I Find Out?

I found a lot of great websites out there. Many are helpful. Some just want to sell you something. In there, however there are some gems that will help you learn to take on freelance writing as a job.

Where can I find jobs?

There is the traditional way of writing a letter to an Editor of a publication which is known as a ‘query letter’. You are selling yourself through words – something you need to learn to do when you want to make a living that way.

The law of averages says that if you send out enough of them, then you must get a job eventually. You will also get a lot of rejection letters too. It helps you to develop a thick skin but does not necessarily pay the bills.

Content Mills

You can apply to become a member of a content mill. The name says it all: writers churn out a high volume of articles of mixed quality which are then put up on the web usually alongside lucrative targeted advertising which makes the company that owns them money.

Most offer writers some of the advertising proceeds, some will pay writers a nominal sum, still others pay a little more. The process is not perfect and you are not adequately compensated for your time. They could be considered a way to learn your craft.

Jobs Boards

There are websites out there that offer jobs and a way to apply for them on email. They offer free memberships which are restricted as to the number of  jobs you can apply for, or paid memberships which offer better access to jobs. Taking a free membership is a great way to see what is out there.

Apply Yourself

If you have a strong sense of what you are good at: if you can write well and are confident in what you can do, then ask around companies by you and see what jobs you might be able to do for them. This is the best way to find a job that will pay the bills, but it can also be the most scary.

Resources

If you want to put a query to a magazine, then find out the person you need to write to. You can do this online. You might also like to check if the magazine has any guidelines that need to be adhered to before submitting.

Bear in mind that magazines usually work at least six months ahead, so seasonal material will need to be submitted well in advance of the actual holiday.

Content Mills are places like Demand Studios, Associated Content, Suite101 among others. You need to check up on them, read through what they require before deciding to submit to them.

Jobs Boards include www.Elance.com and www.guru.com

They will give you an idea of the kinds of jobs out there, but don’t bid for peanuts just to land a job. That is not the way to get a career going.

I will cover these subjects in more detail over time.

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Helpful Blogs

Photo by Matsuyuki

The Internet is a great place to be involved in sometimes, especially for writers. No longer do writers have to sit in a solitary place, banging out another article on their keyboard.

Now we can network, share blogs, contact other writers and share details. We can even write a novel in a month!

Contact with other writers is essential so that we can share success and horror stories and help one another. We are no longer restricted to our own locality, but now the world is in our own backyard.

Here are some of the writing blogs that have inspired me. Go check them out and feel free to add some of your own.

http://www.aboutfreelancewriting.com/ Anne Wayman’s blog which is one of the best ones out there for newbies to read.

http://allfreelancewriting.com/ Jenn Mattern’s blog tells it how it is. She has strong opinions and pulls no punches, but her advice is always sound. Her blog is entertaining and she offers a free e-book – on writing e-books!

http://menwithpens.ca/ Men With Pens show you how it should be done. It’s a great blog with good advice.

http://bloggerillustrated.net/ If you want to understand what SEO, backlinks, and web sites have to do with the writing world, then you could do worse than visit Allyn Hane’s site. He explains it all simply and easily in video.

What websites have you found useful?

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How to Tell if Your Writing is Good

Photo on Flickr by Janos Feher

You’ve written a story. It may have flowed easily from your pen, or it may have come in fits and starts. You have got it in front of you: on a laptop, a notebook or a piece of paper. Now what?

Leave it for 24 hours. Or 48, or for a reasonable amount of time. You want to lose the immediacy of having written the story and to have forgotten some of the details. Then read it through again, trying to read it as a reader rather than the author of the piece. You will pick up on annoying phrases, repeated words, spelling mistakes. Ignore them for the moment and read through the story as a whole. Jot down impressions, ideas. Did it all work or was the thinking behind it a little woolly?

Go through the story again and pick out the weak points. Mark them out. Check out discrepancies, spellings, grammar. On a computer this can be easy as most desk top publishing packages will help you pick out any glaring errors. Make sure that you are working in the correct language so that the spellings are correct as English and American spellings can vary.

Your story is as good as you can make it? Now what?

Some people are happy to leave it there and just keep their stories in a file on the computer or in a drawer. Others want to know: is it any good?

The easiest way to know is to ask someone else to read it through. Did I say ‘easy’? Actually that is one of the hardest things to do! We all own our writing and can be very sensitive about it. Choose someone you trust and who knows you well. You may find that they have something that they would like you to read as well. The main thing when critiquing someone else’s work is to be kind and gentle, but fair. It is a difficult thing to learn.

Another way to find out if your writing is any good is to join a local writing class or group. Many local colleges offer creative writing courses these days and it can be a good way to get to know people with similar interests and a way to have your stories read. It can be a real confidence booster when you come up with a story that everyone enjoys.

There are also online groups which allow you to post stories to be critiqued and to give you the opportunity to critique someone else’s story. Be warned, however that the anonymity offered by some of these sites can be seen as an opportunity to be blunt.

It is good to take risks. Sometimes the result is a pleasant surprise. If you want to get serious with your writing, then seeking others’ advice is a good way to take. It can be difficult to get your confidence at first, but can also become addictive.

Try showing someone else your writing today and add in the comments if you were brave enough to do so.

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What Do You Write About?

Picture by StaR DusT

There are many different kinds of writing. The first division is between fiction and non-fiction. When people think of writers, the automatic job description is of a fiction writer, a story teller, an author. The other ways of writing for a living can also bring you satisfaction.

Where do you use writing in your everyday life? Do you tell stories to your children or grandchildren? Do you write articles for small, local magazines? Do you write letters to your local newspaper or reviews on Amazon? Every piece of writing helps to build your confidence and if it is accepted by others, then that confidence is worth it.

Writing Stories

This is the obvious one, I know! But have you thought about short stories? Women’s magazines accept short stories, there are plenty of short story competitions on the Web or for collections of short stories. There are lots of opportunities to create short stories for and if you search, there are websites that will give you story starters and a reason to write.

Writing Poems

Who hasn’t written an angst-filled teen poem when they were younger? Yeah, ok, yes I did! And it wasn’t much good! Some people can really express themselves through poems, though and find that they can end up with lots of scribbled poems in battered notebooks. Just as there are short story competitions out there, there are also poetry competitions. There are poet websites, and small poetry publications if you look. So Google, Yahoo or Bing or whatever Poetry today and see what you can find.

News Stories

These days everyone’s a journalist! Well, maybe not everyone. I’m sure that professional journalists deserve their money, but again, some websites are actively seeking news stories written by ordinary people. Including photos can help your story to be used.

Letters

The power of the written word can inform newspaper editors, be offered in council meetings and complain of unfair practices. Go, write and make a difference!

Reviews

When you have really liked something, or really disliked something, then you might review it. The review is there to inform other potential customers and can be a really useful tool.

Writing Articles

You might contribute to a small newsletter or local publication. This is good experience for paving the way to being a more established writer.

Take a moment to think through what you write and the reasons you write. From your writing experiences, what do you think you could do as part of your writing career? What would you not wish to do? Note down your strengths and weaknesses and search the Web for your chosen forms of writing. See what others are doing and take inspiration from them.

Photo Link: Writing Words

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Assessing Your Writing Goals

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You’ve written down some goals in a notebook, but then what did you do? Close the book and go do the washing up? Have you taken any steps towards realising those goals? Or have they lain forgotten in the hustle and bustle of daily life?

It is not enough to write your writing goals down. It’s a good start. You’ve given the matter some thought. Now you need to think it through a bit more.

Go back to where you’ve written your goals. Rewrite out the first goal again. Now, underneath it write out two or three actions that you need to take in order to make that goal happen.

For example, you might have a goal to have a piece of your own writing printed in a magazine. In order to achieve this, you might:

Write in to an Editor on a Letters’ Page for a local or national magazine

Decide to write two queries a week to magazines that you read and are interested in

Decide to buy a book on querying magazines and read it through, acting on two pieces of advice.

You will notice that my ideas for acting on your goal are quite specific. Breaking it down into small steps will help you have an incentive to act towards achieving your goal.

The initial goal was vague, just a possibility. The ideas for achieving that goal make it more likely that you will achieve your goal and gives you not just one, but three different ways of making your goal happen.

Give yourself a time frame where you will come back to your goal and assess where you need to take it next. Queries to magazines take time to compose and many are rejected. In order to increase your chances of being accepted, then you will need to keep sending them out.

Now, go. Write!

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Writing Goals for 2010

I am a writer. I have known that as long as I can remember. I wrote sketches and songs while at school. I wrote stories in English classes that went on for pages and pages. It’s not work to me because I love writing.

I also love reading. I love to read a wide variety of books, including non-fiction, biographies, romance, adventure and not too gory murder mysteries. Reading opens new worlds to my imagination and I often think, ‘how could I possibly do that?’

Here’s something that may never have occurred to you before: these authors once thought that too! They did not just sit down one day and think, ‘I’m going to write a book and its going to be a best seller!’ They started with the conviction that this post started with: I am a writer.

When that conviction got too big to contain any more, they began to write, and write and write some more. As they wrote, they began to gain confidence in their writing, perhaps allowing a close friend to look at it. They took the suggestions on board and wrote a second draft. Then perhaps a third draft or even more. When they were finally happy with their work then they began to submit the manuscript to agents, or publishers. This process can take a long time. There can be many rejections before acceptance. Finally, however they were accepted and more revisions were undertaken before the finished novel hits the shelves.

How do you start this process? Where do you begin? You start to write. You start to plan and you start to dream.

Setting goals can help you on your way to achieving your dreams. It’s not January any more, but you can still set a goal to be achieved in a year’s time. Where do you want to be in a year? Do you want an article published? Do you want to making money from writing? Do you want to  join a creative writing course for the support and help you get there? You decide.

Then think of two or three steps you need to take to get there. You could subscribe to a writing magazine, either online or from the news stands. You might look for a writing course and possibly a friend to go with. You could decide to put some time aside for yourself to investigate the possibilities, reading websites and blogs to find out what you want to do.

Once you have decided what your goal is and how you want to achieve it, then make time to write.

Find a notebook or open a Word document then write. Write regularly. Keep notebooks by your bed to jot down ideas. Look for opportunities to write. Write some more.

Never let go of the thought: I am a writer.

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