Just in time for resolution-making, here are some motivation tips to help you write more and sell more. Most are not original with me. Some were picked up from books or the Internet, some from other writers and editors. Whenever possible, I’ve included sources for specific tips.
1. Keep a writing journal—that’s one of the top suggestions from many writers who think that journaling has a direct effect on motivation. They advise you to record what you’re already achieved and what you hope to achieve in the future, and to reread those entries when you need motivation. Journaling can lead to new ideas, new directions and renewed interest in your writing goals
2. Make use of writing prompts. A single word or phrase may give you an idea for a full-fledged article and may motivate you to write additional articles or stories. Author and speaker Susan Taylor Brown says you can gain motivation also by reading interviews with authors and watching movies about writers. Her site has writing prompts and exercises, links to hundreds of author interviews, quotes about writing, and a list of 200 movies about some aspect of writing or writers.
3. Find a writing partner. Two people writing in tandem may produce better results than two people writing separately, and talking with another writer can motivate both of you to be more productive. As a single writer, you may put off writing today. If both of you have made a pact to write for 30 minutes a day on a project, you’re likely to start writing and follow through so as not to disappoint your writing partner.
4. Go somewhere and do something different. The excitement of a new place or a new activity generates its own motivation. Back at your computer, use your five senses to recapture vivid details of your adventure.
5. Go back to school. A writing class at a local university or community college can be a powerful motivator. Look for workshop-type classes that will give you a chance to know other writers. Make it a point to discuss your writing with others who have writing goals similar to yours. Ask your instructor how you might become more motivated.
6. Make deadlines for yourself and stick to them (a great practice for when you actually have to meet editors’ deadlines later on). Write your deadlines down and post them in a prominent place near the computer where you must see them every day. The calendar (or a ticking clock) can be a great motivator.
7. Consider the words of motivational speaker, Kelly James-Enger, a freelance journalist, writing instructor and author (Six Figure Freelancing; Ready, Aim, Specialize! Create Your Own Writing Specialty and Make More Money). In her Writer’s Handbook article, “Freelancing 101,” she says the most effective way to stay motivated is to set two types of goals for your writing.
“Set an outcome goal and then design production goals to get you there. An outcome goal is often what you’re striving for in terms of publishing your work. It might be, ‘I’ll publish my work in a national magazine.’ A production goal, on the other hand, is a small, measureable, specific goal that will help you reach your outcome goal — like ‘I will send out three queries each month,’ or ‘I will write for 30 minutes every day.’
When you’re writing for publication, you need both. The production goals, although seemingly minor, will help keep you on target to reach your outcome goals. They also give you a way to track your progress. After six months of sending out queries, for example, you may not reach your goal of being published in a national magazine (yet), but you will have met your production goal of writing every day. That kind of success helps keep you on track — while making you a better writer and improving your chances of getting published in the process.”
All the tips are good ways to help keep your motivation high. They’d also make excellent writing resolutions. I plan to use some of them and I hope you will, too. Happy New Year and much success with your writing in 2008!
Be sure to check out the current post on The Renegade Writer, where Linda Formicelli has reprinted her Writer’s Digest article, “Waiting for Dollars: Pay on Pub vs. Pay on Acceptance.” It’s a must-read for freelancers, whether you write fiction or nonfiction.
Linda gives both sides of a situation that writers face every day — whether to write for magazines that pay on publication or for those that pay when an article is accepted. It’s a fair and balanced piece, and I found it enlightening that editors revealed why they pay on publication or why they do not. Despite what many writers may believe, paying on publication is not always an arbitrary decision.
On the writer’s side, Linda includes responses from current and former freelancers and representatives of the National Writers Union and the American Society of Journalists and Authors, in which they share their views about accepting assignments from pay-on-publication magazines. Sometimes writers must wait six months or more to be paid. What’s more, writers can’t even sell reprints of their articles until they have actually been published, limiting their ability to make money on their work.
Linda’s article offers negotiating tactics and ways writers can lessen their risk of getting burned when magazines go out of business, plus advice on how to play it smart and profit from writing for pay-on-publication magazines.
Everything Linda writes is first-rate and this article is no exception. After you read it, please let us know about your experience with (and your thoughts about) pay-on-publication and pay-on-acceptance magazines.
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When do you use affect? When do you use effect?
Those questions came from a young relative who is having trouble remembering when to use which word in his sentences. He is still smarting from a grade on his latest English paper, so I agreed to help. I had the affect/effect problem at one time, until someone wiser than I provided a solution that worked for me.
Here’s what that mentor taught me years ago (but updated with examples that a sports-savvy youngster of today can understand):
“Affect” as a verb means to influence — as in “Losing the game will affect (influence or have an influence on) the team’s standings in the league.
“Effect” as a verb means to bring about or cause — as in “The players were able to effect (bring about) a change in the schedule.”
“Effect” as a noun means result — as in “A knee injury can be one effect (result) of the lack of practice.”
If he plugs those meanings into his sentences, my young relative may find it easier to keep his affects and his effects straight. And that may affect his next English grade.
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When Writer’s Weekly appears in my Inbox each week, the section of the ezine I’m always eager to read first is “Ask the Experts.” When one writer asks a question, the answer is apt to be helpful for many writers and I welcome all the help I can get.
This week’s question was about Exclusive First Rights. A questioner, identified only as A, had been waiting for nine months for a magazine to schedule a publication date for one of Writer A’s articles. Then the magazine sent a contract asking for Exclusive First Rights for use of the article on the magazine’s website — still without paying the writer or scheduling a print publication date. The writer was to be paid when the article was uploaded onto the website, but that would take place at the discretion of the magazine’s editorial staff.
Writer A was wise in thinking that the publication could sit on the piece forever (they’d already been sitting on it nine months) and a check might never be forthcoming. Writer A rightly thought that payment should be made when the article was accepted and the magazine should schedule a publication date for it when the contract was signed.
But there was a bit of wavering involved. Writer A needed some good print clips and really wanted to see the article in print. Plus the writer wondered if there would be an advantage to having the article appear on the magazine’s website.
Writers’ Weekly publisher, Angela Hoy, is known for coming up with no-nonsense solutions to writers’ dilemmas. “Tell them to give you a no-later-than date for payment or for publication and make them adhere to that date,” she said.
“If they balk at that request, withdraw your submission. No company has the right to sit on somebody else’s work (and money!) for an indefinite period of time. All writers should insist on a ‘no-later-than publication/payment date’ in their contracts!”
I plan to check my future contracts carefully to see if an Exclusive First Rights clause is included, and I’ll add a ‘no-later-than publication/payment date’ clause to every contract. So far, I’ve never been faced with an Exclusive First Rights dilemma like Writer A did, but if I were, I’d heed Angela’s advice.
In no other business can a company hold a supplier’s product for months without paying for it. We writers are suppliers and our articles are our products. Freelancing is a business and we must learn to be businesslike. That means paying attention to the terms of contracts we sign and standing up for our rights.
I’m grateful for the practical advice I get from Writers’ Weekly. I look forward to reading it every Wednesday, not only for Ask the Experts and Angela’s excellent advice, but for being a source of overall support for writers.
The Paying Publications and Freelance Jobs section helps writers tap into new markets, Whispers and Warnings issues alerts about publications that don’t treat writers fairly, and Interview Requests helps writers find experts or diverse sources for articles. (Very diverse sources — among this week’s requests, writers were looking for animal experts, angry teens — or people who know one, and online dating stories from women). There’s also an online forum for writers.
I chose to have the ezine delivered to my Inbox, but you can get it by RSS feed if you prefer.
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© 2007 by Laverne Daley
A pack rat? Guilty. I admit it. I’ve been a pack rat for years. But I don’t hoard everything. No old newspapers, balls of string, or useless items for me. I hoard articles about writing. My treasures are magazine clippings, some yellowed with age, stored in manila folders, labeled and ready for me to read at will. The clippings that I’ve saved for years have been an education in writing. They’ve taught me nearly as much as my four years in Journalism school.
Before I was a consistently selling freelancer, the words on those clipped pages taught me how to be a writer. They were a constant source of support from successful writers who, amazingly, shared their wisdom with me each month in the pages of The Writer, Writer’s Digest and similar publications. I treasured every clipping. Then, as now, they were the boost I needed to keep going despite rejections, to keep writing, to keep sending out queries.
One example: Back in 1990, I clipped “Dear Friend,” an article by Art Spikol, who was then nonfiction columnist for Writer’s Digest. The focus of his article was on writing personable and entertaining query letters, the kind of letter you’d send to family members or a friend (people wrote letters to family and friends back in the 90s, before email became ubiquitous).
His suggestions were, and are, timeless, whether you were writing a conventional query letter back then, or you’re sending an email query to an editor today. For a query, Spikol advised imagining that you weren’t writing to an editor at all, but to a friend with whom you felt relaxed and confident. Somebody you could communicate with.
“You’re going to tell that person what kind of an article you’d like to write, why it’s interesting, why you’re qualified to do it, and so on. . . . You’re writing to a friend. You don’t have to use language like, ‘I proposed an article of 1,600 words,’ because that’s not how you talk to your friends. So the same sentence may actually come out, ‘I figure the piece will run 1,500 words or so.'”
Spikol said forget the rules. “Communicate . . . If you can say can’t, don’t say cannot. If you can use I’ll, don’t say I will. My theory is that if it sounds intelligent, professional, on target . . . and natural, it’s fine. Concentrate on selling the idea, not individual words.”
Let your enthusiasm and confidence show, he said. “There’s nothing wrong with ending a letter with, ‘I’d love to write this for you,’ or, depending on the publication, even, ‘How about it?'”
Business Writing — A Wide-Open Market
Freelancers can make it big in business writing. It’s a wide open market where you can earn a good income. You don’t need a degree in business — just a bit of talent, some effort, and the willingness to write to please clients and editors.
Some business freelancers write only for corporate clients; others write for corporate clients, trade journals and business publications. I found trade journals the easiest market to start out in as a new freelancer because there are so many of them. It’s hard to find a business or industry without at least one publication covering its field.
The pay rates don’t compare with top consumer magazines but some pay reasonably well. Once editors know you can write acceptable articles for their readers, it’s possible to write regularly for those publications.
After I had a few dozen articles in trade journals, other writing jobs began coming my way. Business people read trade journals to keep abreast of industry happenings and when my writing became familiar to them, some approached me with offers of corporate work. The same thing can happen to you.
When I learned that I was expected to set my own rates for corporate writing, I turned to writer friends for help. They shared the going rate for various services, and they also warned me that many new freelancers underprice themselves, a warning I’ll pass along to you. You may need to network to find out the going rate for your area and price your services accordingly.
Corporate work can be dull and boring at times, but if you don’t mind writing about pumps or machines or ink or soybeans, you can keep the paychecks coming in. On the down side, there are no bylines, clients can be demanding, and the hours long. Trade-offs balance things a bit — you are your own boss (in a manner of speaking), you can plan vacations to fit your own schedule, and the job is as relatively secure (as long as your clients doesn’t lose their clients).
Manufacturers, retailers, wholesalers, distributors and service businesses hire freelancers to write and edit news releases, speeches, corporate histories, newsletters, employee publications, corporate scripts and product literature, and content for web sites and blogs. It’s often more cost efficient for them to hire a freelancer than to pay employees to do those jobs.
How to you get your foot in the door? In his Copywriter’s Handbook, Robert W. Bly tells about sending direct mail pieces to 500 potential customers to launch his freelance career, an approach that also demonstrated his writing abilities. But there are other ways.
A phone call to the person in charge of human resources at a local business may turn up copywriting or editing work. Small insurance companies and service firms were a source of fairly steady work for me early on, as were distribution firms. You might also tap former employers, co-workers and other business contacts for leads to assignments.
When phoning any company, stress that you’re not job hunting — you just want to talk with those who may need freelance writing or editing help.
For advertising and public relations firms, ask to speak to the creative director or the person who assigns freelance work. Request an informational interview and take a portfolio or samples of your work to the interview. And even if that company has no work for you at the time, ask for referrals to other firms and other possible jobs. If you are persistent, you may be able to connect with an agency or corporate clients in a relatively short time.
Breaking into trade journals and business magazines is fairly easy because many editors are hungry for ideas and well crafted articles for their publications. Page through the business and trade journal sections of Writer’s Market or Writer’s Handbook to learn what editors want. Read the writer’s guidelines and study at least three issues of any publication before sending a query to the editor.
Associations, chambers of commerce-sponsored publications, local business newspapers and community magazines also buy business articles — I’ve written for all of those markets. Corporate clients and agencies often refer freelancers to potential clients, and it never hurts to remind any business contact that you are available for assignments. Those referrals are an important component of a growing freelance business.
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© 2007 Laverne Daley. All rights reserved.
What You Can Learn about Magazines while Standing at a Newsstand — And How It Helps You Get PublishedPosted: December 1, 2007
1. From the Cover (including name, photos or other graphics) you can learn a magazine’s focus. That helps you determine if you want to write for the publication.
2. From the Coverlines, you can learn the types of articles editors think readers want to find in the publication. If Coverlines promote weight loss or low-fat diets, you’d be on target proposing a healthy lifestyle article. If Coverlines entice readers to visit Tahiti or go on safari, a travel article query should be a good fit.
3. From the Contents page, you can learn about the magazine’s departments, often a good break-in area for freelancers. Learn what the departments cover and what they include — short articles, quizzes, news items, tips, regular columns, etc.
4. From the Masthead, you can learn the names of editors, assistant editors, department heads. This helps you find the right editor for your query and the correct spelling of the editor’s name (spelling it wrong is a strike against you even before the query is read). You can learn magazine’s mailing address and often its web address.
5. Also from the Masthead, you can learn which editors and contributing editors have bylines in the publications. If bylined articles don’t have editors’ names, they’re probably freelanced. Knowing how many freelance articles are in each issue give you an idea of the competition you are up against.
6. From the Articles, you can learn the number and type of articles used (first person, third person, how-to, narrative, profiles interviews, etc.), and what the articles cover. You can learn how experts are presented, who they are and how the magazine handles attribution (some use speakers’ professional titles; more informal publications may use first names). If sidebars are used, you can learn how many, how large or small, and kind of information used.
7. From the Ads, you can learn about the publication’s readership. Advertisers want ads placed where customers can find them. If you find ads for camps, day care and recreational facilities, the magazine are probably targeted to readers with growing families. Don’t query that magazine about a singles cruise. Ads for exercise equipment and workout clothing are aimed at readers of fitness magazines. Don’t send them your query about home decorating.
Next scoop up one magazine of your choice and head to the bookstore cafe. While you enjoy a cappuccino or a cup of Earl Grey, read every article thoroughly (you might even buy the publication to take home). Let your subconscious digest everything you have learned. Back at your computer, go to the magazine’s web site and read two or three back issues, plus the writer’s guidelines.
What have you gained? A wealth of information about how to slant to your chosen magazine. Insight into what editors look for. Plus what you need to craft a query (we’re assuming here that you have an idea that’s a perfect fit for the magazine). You’re definitely ahead of other, less prepared writers. Put your writer’s imagination to work visualizing a query so intriguing an editor can’t put it down, then get busy and write that query.
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