31 May 2010

Feedback, the reason why I write online

At the very beginning of my freelancing adventure, I wrote an article explaining why I think online publishing is better for writers than print publishing. But there was one point I didn't cover in that article. A reason while online publishing is so amazing. It's feedback.

When you publish anything in print, the delay between the story going live and getting a response from your readers is huge. Especially by today's standards.

Meanwhile, when you publish something online, you often get your very first feedback the same day. If you post your stories on your blog, or in some sort of writing community, you hear from your readers almost immediately. And it's amazing.

For me, the almost instant feedback is what really motivates me to write more, write better. The response and the comments, telling me I'm doing something right (or, sometimes, I'm doing something wrong) mak me want to cater to that audience, provide them with new material.

The feedback, I get the same day I post something new is the reason why I'm writing another instalment in that cracky little universe I started while in Hague (I mentioned it in my previous post). It's why I post on a regular schedule here (as opposed to the way I posted in the past).

It's the ability to have a conversation with my readers, to improve based on the criticism provided by much more people than just my editor.

I trully believe online publishing is the future of writing.

28 May 2010

Travelling and Writing - How Did It Work Out for Me

When I posted my Writer on the Move blog post, I didn't really know how this whole travelling and writing gig would work out. With so much things on my plate, I didn't want to have my expectations high. Let's face it, it's better for your ego is you get a nice surprise than when you're disappointing yourself.

What I did manage to accomplish:

I wrote a quick little article for Helium about successful blogging. I used both the advice I've read online (at various sources) and the stuff I know worked for me. The topic just pushed the right buttons, because the moment I saw the title available, I knew what and how to write it. And so, even though I wasn't planning on writing any non-fiction during this trip... There you go.

I also wrote a flashfic (barely above 1000 words) that came to me while I was exchanging story ideas via Twitter. It was an unapologetic fun story that could also be described as crack. But people who saw it seemed to like it (demanding another story in that universe - the highest compliment, I suppose). All in all, I had major fun with it.

I worked on my thesis as well. Not much, but I managed to accomplished what I planned during my stay in Hague. So that's a success - not getting too distracted by the new surroundings to forget what I had to do.

What I didn't do:

Not everything got done though. I promised myself to study for the exams... Yeah, not so much. The city was too interesting, the plot bunnies simply needed to be written down. Hopefully, I'll find time to do some studying at some point and pass those two exams.

The really awesome part:

What I'm really proud of is that I managed to keep the regular posting schedule here. Even though this post is being written from the airport as I'm waiting to check-in, it'll still go online on the day I planned. That's a huge victory for me, as establishing routines is usually a very painful process for me.

Have a good weekend everybody. I have a plane to catch :)

26 May 2010

Writing Ahead of Time - Having Things Done Before the Deadline

You probably noticed I started to post more regularly to the blog. Yes, I amaze myself. But I came to a conclusion that if I blog more often, I will naturally develop a writing schedule, just to fit in the time to write blog posts into my day. And everybody knows that a writing schedule is one of the sure tools to prevent writer's block.

But let's not kid ourselves, simply setting up days in my calendar and saying "oh, I'll blog on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, it'll be fun", doesn't mean I will have time or the strength to sit down, write a post, find links that go with it, and edit it to make sure there aren't any embarrassing typos. Knowing life, and my luck, I would never have any actual time to write on those particular days.

And so, for the last week or so, I've been writing my blog posts ahead of time, saving them up in my Google docs (oh how I love thee, I will definitely write a love letter to Googledocs later on) and moving on to another task. And then, on my posting date I just log into my Blogger account, do some copy/paste magic and bam, the post is up.

It actually improves on the entire writing experience, to be honest. Because it gets rid of a lot of stress.

Sure, like any other freelancer, I do incredibly well under the stress, and with my deadlines mere hours away. I mean, when I was finishing my big bang, I wrote over 5 000 words on that last day. And I doubt there's much editing needed in that section of the story.

But at the same time, I remember when I was blogging for Scribophile last year. And at some point, due to some life issues, I had to write several posts on the deadline. The stress of it all took the fun away. And if you don't enjoy writing... it shows.

So for the month of June, I'm setting myself a goal, to do all my writing well before deadlines. Which also means meeting my personal word count goal well before Friday. We'll see how that goes.

24 May 2010

Writer on the Move - Travelling and Writing

On Sunday, I had a plane to catch. My flight was leaving at 6am, which meant I had to wake up at 3am (to be somewhat coherent by 4am when the taxi I ordered would pick me up). It was a crazy few hours but by the time I was on the plane to Amsterdam, I was actually awake and ready for the adventure.

Right now, I'm writing this blog post from Hague (also known as Den Haag), Netherlands. I'm here on a business trip, but that doesn't mean I'm about to completely give up writing while I'm here.

True, I promised myself I would study for my upcoming exams and work on my thesis, but giving up my passion simply doesn't feel right.

So here I am, a Writer on the Move. Here's how the trip went so far.

What I learned during my trip to Madrid, was to take something to read on the plane. I haven't thought about it last time and I spent over 3 hours bored out of my mind. This time, I took three recent issues of Writer's Digest. I didn't want to turn on my laptop while in the air and the noise from the engine meant I wouldn't be able to concentrate on writing long hand. So that left reading.

I found it amusing that the first article I've read was from Chris Guillebeau, who writes for The Art of Non-comformity. He was writing about being a mobile writer. Well what look at that, I'm just giving it a try, Chris.
But, to get back on topic, having good reading material turned out to be a blessing. I didn't even notice when I arrived in Amsterdam.

I'll probabyl write in the evenings, after the business side of my trip is taken care of, and after I study a bit. But that's no different than to how and when I write at home. Though, to be honest, there's one (BIG) difference between home and here. The price of the Internet. While I won't be writing in a park, just to catch a WiFi Hotspot, the hotel's rate for Internet access are terrifying. But one has to sacrifice, right?

I'm looking forward to seeing whether or not these new surroundings will affect my muse. I'll definitely keep you updated.

21 May 2010

Writing Goals and Why Every Writer Should Have Them

Back when I was writing for Scribophile, I wrote a post titled "Challenges, Contests And Writing Olympics: Why Do We Participate?". It was a humorist answer to why exactly writing challenges are so popular among writers. The post is over a year old, so you might be wondering why I'm even talking about it again.

The answer is simple. This year I signed up for FindYourWords again and Friday is the day when I report back with my weekly word count.

I didn't meet my goal last year. For various reasons. Maybe I simply wasn't ready, I don't know. But this year, I set my goal at a modest 65K, thinking that with writing another 20K big bang, I would be able to meet the goal by the end of the year.

And let me tell you, it's extremely satisfying to see I'm almost half way through.

I think at some level, I can attribute this productivity to the fact that I report to someone every week. "Hey, I wrote this many words this week". I see other writers reporting their progress. Some of them posting snippets of their work, others saying they are in the middle of editing and so their word count isn't that big.

And reading all those comments from writers all over the world makes me feel guilty every time I have to admit I haven't written a word.

Now, I participate in the challenge over at Livejournal, because I'm active there in the fandom community. But there are many places out there for writers, where you can share your daily accomplishments.

There's The One-Minute Writer where they post one prompt a day and you can share what you've written with other in the comments. What I did (even though with my current bigger projects I don't have time to write smaller pieces, is subscribing to the blog, and I get my daily prompt with my other Feeds.

And of course you can't forget about Inky Girl and her three challenges: write 1000 words a day, write 500 words a day and write 250 words a day. Basically, based on the time you have at your disposal, how much do you want to push yourself, you choose the challenge best suitable for you.

Now, if you excuse me, I have to go and report those 2642 words I've written this week (not counting the outline I'm working on).

19 May 2010

Wednesday Update: The Writing Adventure continues

I decided to round up all that happened to me writing-wise. You can call it a stress relief tactic as the constant rains had put my city (and half of my country) on an emergency level, with bridges being closed and people being evacuated from the small villages near the river.

The World of Non-Fiction

I remain fascinated with the inner workings of Suite101. True, writing SEO rich articles isn't my very favorite past-time, and I prefer to be provided keywords to work into the article, but it's been a great training. I wrote another article about Studying Abroad; this time concentrating on how studying abroad can cost less than studying in the US. I was quite surprised to do the calculations, but Europe does seem like a cheaper option.

It's my second article, after tips on choosing good study abroad programs, in this area to be published on Suite101. Mostly because it's a topic I know a lot about and I'm seriously considering writing more in this niche. After all, I already wrote extensively on the subject while on Helium (going as far as creating a Zone exclusively about Studying Abroad).

I also decided to branch out into Entertainment and took on the phenomena that is the Vampire Diaries and explored reasons why it's such a popular show. I did extensive research on the subject, which may or may not consisted of spending 20 minutes looking at pictures of Ian Somerhalder... You have nothing to prove it! (but he's very good for inspiration, if you were wondering)

Writing Fiction

I found an editor for my bigbang story. I haven't looked at the corrected file yet. Mostly because I'm a bit afraid of what I might find there. So far I got two very positive feedback comments from two people, but they weren't reading the story to correct it... And we all know how writers are about admitting their story might not be perfect... Well, I know my story isn't perfect. I'd just prefer not to hear it from somebody else.

Yes, yes, I know editors are usually right and we should listen to them and appreciate them for they only have our best interest at heart.

The Epic Collaboration Project is currently on hold (though we're still excited). It's because we both have other, more urgent projects (as in projects with actual deadlines set by somebody else). But we started on the outline so it's going to happen.

Another story I've mentioned before is the other 20k story I have to write by September. I decided to dub it The War Angst as it's describing the story itself rather nicely. I need to do some serious research into the Marine Corps, but because it's more about an emotional turmoil than actual fighting, I think I can hand wave some more problematic facts. The ideas of what's going to happen in this one are floating around in my brain, I just need to write them down and see if I can come up with a coherent outline.

Other Stuff Happens Too

I kept playing nice with other kids, which I suppose counts for something. But seriously, I started to comment a bit more to other people's posts. It's mostly due to the fact that I'm meeting more and more people via Twitter and the #amwriting chat, and various RSS recommendations. And it's... Well, it doesn't feel right not to get involved in the conversations there.

I also wrote down some ideas and projects I'd like to start/get involved in. I could see myself getting passionate about several of them (like expanding and making use of my knowledge regarding Study Abroad programs), but I don't want to take on any more projects with what I have on my plate at the moment. Graduation, getting my degree and finally having more time to pursue those projects, I'm basically daydreaming about that moment.

The plans for next week/more immediate future?

Getting rid of the distractions and completing part of my thesis. At the same time I'd like to write two more articles. One for Helium about my trip to Ostrava (similar to what I wrote about Madrid back in September) and perhaps one more article for Suite101 - the subject of that one is still pending.

Wow. Once I wrote down everything that happened and what I have in store... I'm quite a busy little writer! That's a great feeling!

16 May 2010

Excited About Fiction Projects

Back in November 2009, me and some of my friends decided to sign up for NaNo. And because we live in the same city, we also decided to meet every week to support each other and motivate each other to finish the Nano project.

We actually did just that for several weeks. And even though I didn't manage to write those 50K of words in one month, those weekly meetings helped me get the story further.

The best thing in it all is that we kept meeting once a week. True, right now we don't discuss writing all that much, but it happens from time to time. But during our last meeting, one thing led to another and it somehow ended with me and one of my friends deciding to do a major collaboration project.

Imagine my amusement when I got home and found an article on how to work with other writers. Honestly John, great timing on that one.

This story we started to outline (for the time being let's call it The Epic Collaboration Project) is something I'm really excited about right now.
I haven't been excited about a fiction project since... the bigbang I finished at the beginning of May.

It might sound weird, but those non-profit works I'm doing are really helping me become a better writer. Two years ago, I would laugh if someone told me I can actually write (and finish!) a 20K story. I did that last year. This year, I already finished one 20K story, I have another one to write with a September deadline, I have the ECP in the works (hopefully to be finished by the end of the year).

Not to mention my thesis, which also needs to be written by the end of the year, first bigbang story needs to be edited by July... My writing calendar looks more and more busy.

I love the feeling!

7 May 2010

Recently, Linda Formichelli over at The Renegate Writer posted "3 Excuses That Are Keeping You from a Successful Freelance Writing Career" and then asked "What’s Your Excuse?" I decided to answer her question, since I seem to fit her criteria. I have a full time job, writing on the side, earning not much.

Here's why I'm keeping my full time job, why I don't bid on jobs, why I don't send in query letters to big publications, why I write for sites like Helium and Suite101, which pay for page views to my articles and ad-click and require a huge amount of articles to actually turn a good profit:

I'm still pursuing my degree. With a high tuition, I cannot afford a month or two with lower income. Till I graduate, I have to have the safety net that is a steady income from my full time job. To add to that, I'm currently writing my thesis (or... trying, most of the time), that and the regular exams and classes take up a lot of my attention. Attention I cannot afford to give other things at the moment.

It's very possible that once I graduate (and decide not to continue my academic career), I will reevaluate my stance and change the ways I do things right now.

I have to admit. I am fascinated by the concept of passive income. Even more, I'm completely in love with it. When I had long periods of time when I hadn't written anything and Helium still paid me, I was so high with happiness, it's difficult to describe. And as an extracurricular activity, it's perfect for me.

I'm not going to hide this. Writing short informative articles are easy. I'm writing them mostly from my own experience. It's quick and easy and after a long day at work, the last time I need is stress over deadlines (I have enough of that on my fiction projects)


Apart from non-fiction articles and projects, I also write fiction. Short stories, a novella a year for my Fandom bigbang. Sometimes I need to put everything on the side and spend an entire day finishing my story, because OMG there's a deadline! Sometimes I simply need to ignore everything else and put my fiction projects before everything else.
If I had big clients (or any clients at all, in fact), I wouldn't be able to do it. I would have to deliver first to those that trusted me with their projects and paid me obsene amounts of money for my services. I dont deal well with guilt.

Yeah. You read that right. I actually love my full time job. And I enjoy it. A lot. Not only that, I know there is still so much I can learn about International Education. I just don't want to miss out on that.

This means two things. Some writing jobs are out of my reach becaue I cannot fill in the W9 and those other American tax related forms. And due to exchange rates, what may seem like a small payout for American writers is actually a nice one for me. Yes, I recognize that this argument also means that a nice and big payouts for Americans would mean huge ones for me.

I realize that Freelance Writing is not a career for me right now. But it's not a hobby either. I think, in my mind, it's more of a side project. I still want to succeed in it. I still want to develop my skills in various areas and meet people. But I don't live and breathe Freelance Writing yet. There is this one point, my graduation, when I'll be seriously rethinking my approach to life and my future career.

Right now, I have so many plans, writing projects, novels, ebooks, articles etc.
Hopefully, I can achieve at least some of them while still working and being at school.

4 May 2010

Discovering Suite101 - First Impressions

I already posted about Associated Content politely telling Non-US writers they don't want us there. I basically spent the day before yesterday trying to figure out where I'm standing and where I want to go.

Since I'm currently freelancing only part-time, I prefer to write more for sites that can offer me some passive income, so I can build up on my portfolio and not stress about having to write something or I won't be able to pay the bills.

Still, I don't like putting all my eggs in one basket. That was the only reason while, even though I'm writing for Helium, and I quite enjoy it, I started to write for Associated Content. I didn't want to get all my revenue from one place, in case something happened. Well guess what, something happened. Just not with Helium.

Since AC gave me a choice to keep writing for free until I can apply for their Feature Writer possition, or I can move on.

I decided to move on.

Suite101 is a website I ran across back in 2008 when I was just starting writing articles for the Internet. It was a bit scary, required me to submit two writing samples and threatened with editors and weird submission policies. Back then I went with Helium, which seemed much more newbie friendly.

But two years later, with numerous clips and a lot of experience, I decided to see if Suite101 would make for a good home. I revised their hiring policy, and how one could actually earn with them. Because, let's be honest, I might love writing, but this I do for money.

And so, yesterday, I created a profile, and wrote my very first article for Suite101. Because I know a lot about studying aborad, that is exactly what my article was about. I wrote about finding good study abroad programs. We'll see how it will go.

According to Suite101 rules, I have to write 10 articles every three months, more if I'd like to become a Feature Writer. What's new for me, is the fact that I'm being paid a percentage of the ad-click revenue. Meaning the page views aren't as important. It's people clicking on ads on my articles that will be bringing me money. I don't know how I feel about it. I know I won't be earning huge amounts right away, I've read both incredible earning stories and those more depressing ones.

For now, I'm a bit shy about this new place, I want to try it out, see what works there and what doesn't. I'll definitely keep you updated.

2 May 2010

New AssociatedContent Policy regarding Non-US writers

While I was deep at work finishing the story with the May 1st deadline, I got a surprising email on my inbox.

AssociatedContent was messaging me to inform me of their new and improved policy regarding Non-US writers.

See, I don't hide the fact that I am from Europe. I know that in the online job market the fact that I don't have a Social Security number does mean I miss on some of the opportunities available to my US writing counterparts.

When I decided to check AssociatedContent to see if the site worked for me, I knew that as a European I wouldn't be eligible for their Upfront Payment. But the passive income was still available to me. Meaning I would still get paid for my work.

Well, according to the email I received, that will no longer be the case:

After evaluating our payment policies in regard to international Contributors, our legal team has determined that Associated Content must immediately start withholding a portion of all international Performance Payments pursuant to U.S. tax laws. Due to the cost involved in this process, we can only offer continued Performance Payments to international Contributors enrolled in Associated Content’s Featured Contributors program.

Contributors who are not enrolled as a Featured Contributor, or are not accepted into this program, will no longer be able to earn Performance Payments from Associated Content as of May 1, 2010. If this applies to you, you will receive a final Performance Payment on May 12, 2010 for your page views through April 30, 2010 (if your balance exceeds the current $1.50 payment threshold).

If you are not currently enrolled as a Featured Contributor, we encourage you to apply now. Please note that the program requires you to have top-notch writing skills, and a strong body of work in one of our featured topic areas. You can read all the details and apply to one of the programs here. Note: There is no deadline for applying to the program, but you will not be able to earn further payment until/unless you are accepted.

If you are accepted into the program, you will be asked to submit a United States W-8BEN tax form, enabling Associated Content to withhold earnings on Performance Payments pursuant to U.S. tax laws. In addition, your earning threshold will increase from $1.50 to $100, meaning Associated Content will only process Performance Payments when the total payment balance passes $100. The good news: As a Featured Contributor, you will receive high value assignme nts every month, and will continue earning Performance Payments on all content published.

What that means for me, is that I basically need to continue to write for them, for free, to build up a portfolio in one of their categories to be able to apply for this Feature Contributor possition. And then, I may or may not be accepted. If I am, they will start paying me only for the pageviews, but I won't see the money unless I reach $100...

And they will take away portions of the money I earn.

To be honest, I don't really know how to proceed now. The articles I already published there will no longer bring me any money, unless I decide to tie myself down to the site that doesn't offer me all that many options. I can't delete my content from the site. I don't know if I want to even apply for the Feature Contributor position.

It's basically a weird situation where I can't decide what should be my nesxt step. So, basically, if you have any ideas, please share them.