18 June 2010

Last-Minute Writing

Remember when I posted about writing ahead of time? Yeah. It doesn't work out all the time.

Case in question: this very post.

Due to unhealthy amount of studying,my brain had been in overload and I've been struggling with a terrible case of Writer's Block. Not only that, I've also practically disappeared from Twitter, stayed away from my RSS and generally spent time studying and watching summer programming on TV.

But as the deadline to post on this blog approached, I started to stress more and more. Sure, this deadline is self imposed, but still. My brain registered the routine I've developed and the deadline became real. And so, I'm doing some last-minute writing.

I don't know about you, but in my case, that last minute writing is never as good as it could've been. I don't have time to edit properly, rearrange sentences, para-phrase or fix pacing. It all feels rushed and I always worry the reader notices all the flaws as well. I always obsess that the reader feels the idea for the article was rushed and not thought out properly.

And it adds up to the stress.

Sure, sometimes last-minute writing can turn out into additional 5K of words on a novella. And those words might be brilliant.
But I always have to ask my editor afterwards to be especially hard on those last words, pay attention to pacing and word choices.

Not to mention the fact that I often get sidetracked and my writing shows it too...

I suppose the answer to this last-minute writing problem is proper time management. Finding time to write way before the deadline, brainstorming and being more organized. But it doesn't always help. Like in my case right now, sometimes life just throws stuff at you and then you find yourself staying up all night, because of the deadlines.

Then again... Every once in a while probably doesn't hurt much...

16 June 2010

Writer's Block

That's how I feel right now, staring at a blank page.

(Image made by me in Photoshop CS)

14 June 2010

Monday Update - What I've been up to

A lot happened lately in my writing life, so instead of a regular post, I decided to write an update.

Writing Interruptions

Unfortunately it's that time in the year and I have to study for the exams and write those papers. And maybe work on my thesis some more. Which makes it almost impossible to do any actual writing. I'm staying possitive, since I only have one semester left and then, I'll be defending my thesis. And I'll have a new, shiny degree.

Fiction Writing

Since my last update, most of my projects moved forward.

My editor finished correcting the first draft of my bigbang story, and right now I'm fixing the mistakes. It's a painful process, I admit, but I know that it will make my story even better. I need to finish the second draft and send it to another editor before the end of June, because I need to have the final story by the end of July. It's all very exciting, since the feedback so far was completely positive.

The Epic Collaboration Project kinda took over my life. In between what I've written and what my co-author added, we basically wrote almost the entire thing. We still have three chapters to write, with the big climax, and the dramatic reveal, but I'm estimating we should be done with the first draft in maybe two weeks. We already crossed the 30K in wordcount and I think we might reach 40K before we're done.

I completely change the concept of my third big project - the 20K story I need written by September. Mostly because the initial set-up, while dramatic, didn't work with the character development I wanted to have. The scenes I already planned out will probably still happen, and I'll try to rework them into a short story of maybe 5K, but I'll have to outline it to make sure it works.

I also signed up to a writing challenge called HC Bingo. Which is an interesting concept and definitely something of an inspiration. It'll be mostly short stories, but maybe one or two longer ones. We'll see where the muse takes me.

Non-Fiction Writing

Unfortuantely I didn't work on my articles or ebook ideas, due to school and exams. I'm getting slightly worried, because I have to complete 7 more articles for Suite101 by the end of July, and I'd like to add to my articles on Helium as well. And it's not even that I don't know what to write about, it's the lack of time that interrupts with the writing.

Once I'm done with exams, I'll have to really get back into the non-fiction world.

On a plus side, even though I had little time, I managed to keep up with my blogging, which is a huge success. I definitely deserve a cookie. It becomes a part of my weekly routine, writing and posting to this blog. I suspect I'll soon be able to modify that routine to include writing and posting at other places.


A mix of writing and networking, I've been active on Twitter, and it's been great fun. Apart from three days when I went offline to study.

I switched from TweetDeck to HooteSuite, because the latter offered me option to schedule my Tweets, which turned out to be extremely helpful since I share a lot of links to writing resources and blog posts. Plus I can keep it in the background and write or work, and it doesn't interrupt me with constant sound effects when somebody update's their account.

I also ventured into the world of Sponsored Tweets. It was more of an experiment, but it turned out to be a very interesting experience. It's not a big thing, nor it's extremely big revenue stream. But I can choose things I want to advertise, I can write the tweets to match my other content and all in all, I'm very pleased with that site. You can check it out for yourself here.

11 June 2010

5 Steps to Becoming a Freelance Writer

Not so long ago, I wrote an article explaining why you don't need experience to be a freelance writer. I really believe it's true, after all I landed my first problogging job with no experience. Although, if I had a say in how the title was formed, I would rephrase it.

You don't need experience to become a freelance writer.

Whether you stay on the job or not, is a different matter.

There are two schools of becoming a freelance writer. One saying you have to risk it, because that risk will motivate you into pushing yourself and your business into success. SelfMadeChick is a proof that approach works.

There's also the less radical idea to first keep your day job and start freelancing part-time, building your brand, getting clients, finding out what works for you and what doesn't. Save up some money, to create a safety net, before transitioning to freelancing full-time. That's me.

I decided to share the Step-by-Step Guide to becoming a Freelance Writer, which is basically my To-Do list.

1. Answer important questions:
    Do you want to be a freelance writer?
    Why do you want to be a freelance writer?
    What kind of writer do you want to be?
    Do you have a niche you want to write in?
    If yes, why this niche?
    If yes, how competitive is this niche?
    If no, why?

2. Make basic calculations:
    How much money do you need to survive? Count the bills (rent, electricity, media, food etc.). That's what you need to survive. Not counting the holidays, fancy dinners, parties and sudden natural disasters.

Now add to that health insurance, additional expenses like paper, printer, other office supplies.

You got the minimum of what you need to earn every month. Now, you should probably add at least 50% of what you calculated, to actually have some profit.

It's not a good business if there's no profit.

3. Research:
    No, seriously. RESEARCH. Before you jump in and do any actual freelancing. Research the field. Research the markets. Watch, read and learn. There are number of great, informative websites out there designed to help freelancers to build and develop their freelance business. There's FreelanceSwitch, FreelanceFolder, Problogger, About Freelance Writing, All Freelance Writing, The Creative Penn, The Renegate Writer and WriteItSideways. And that's not even half of my RSS Feed. There's a lot of material out there, all you need is to learn from all the great people.

Research also helps you to learn about rates, invoicing, marketing, branding and the business side of writing. And while there are some good freelance writers out there, it's the actual business knowledge that can turn a good freelancer into a great one.

3a. Find out what works for you:
    It could be considered a separate point, but for me, it's part of researching the business. It's about trying out different revenue streams and figuring out what works for you best. Is it blogging? Self-publishing? Writing novels? Writing online content? Writing for print magazines?

What are additional revenue streams you can pursue in addition to your main source of income? Teleclasses? Affiliate marketing? Adsense? Passive income? Anything else?

The reason why I put it in the research step is because I strongly suggest trying out every road. Try querying to magazines, maybe bid on a blogging job or two. See what works for you, makes you more comfortable. What's most fun/better paid/better for you? Sure, you could just read up on the subject, but I strongly believe that you don't really know what works, until you try it out on yourself.

Sure there can be missteps and false starts. But in the end, you'll truly know what fits you and your working style best.

4. Get a website:
    This step is actually one of the crucial ones. Nowadays, a professional doesn't exist if he or she doesn't have a website. Today, a person's first instinct is always to look up something (or somebody) online. Which means that to be found, and most importantly, to be hired, you need a website.

4a. Get a blog:
    If you decided to write in a particular niche, blog about that subject. Not only it will show off your knowledge, but blog posts (if you use proper SEO - what's SEO? Go back to step 3!) will help your website's Google ranking. And a higher Google ranking will make it easier for clients to find you. Additionally, blog is one of the best ways to connect to other people in your niche. And while being a freelancer is fun, it's much better when you have people to share the experience with. So go, and make friends.

5. Work!
    In previous steps you made some decisions about how you want your freelance career to look like. You tried various ways of earning money with your writing. You did your research.

All that's left is doing the actual work. And the actual earning money.

9 June 2010

Plot Bunny Farm - Handling the Ideas

Few hours ago I had an idea for a blog post. I know it was brilliant and it would sweep you of your feet. But I was busy at the time so I didn't immediately started writing.

Now I can't remember what that post was supposed to be about. There's very little chance I will ever get that particular (and no doubt awesome) idea back.

And it's not a problem with blog posts either. Ideas come tome (and to every writer, I imagine) every day, every moment. Sometimes it's like the scene in the "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" when the vampire bunny jumps and rips the poor knight's throat out. That's how I feel with my ideas. As if I'm surrounded by plot bunnies who want to be written nowNowNOW, and don'twant to wait patiently in line.

And in the creative chaos that is my brain, there are hundreds and hundreds of stories running around, articles that peak shyly from behind the shelves wondering if I could maybe, perhaps, write them. And there are blog posts, that come in front of the line, wave enthusiastically and if I ignore them for even a second, they run away, sulking and thinking I don't love them.

I lost a lot of ideas over the years, but something snapped in me today, after that one blog post idea. I don't know why, but today, I decided to change something and save at least some of those plot bunnies.

I set up three new Googledocs files, though I assume regular text files on my HDD would work as well, even a notebook (notebook seems like a popular choice, from what I can tell.) One for stories ideas, one for articles and one for blog posts. I'm determined to use those files to write down ideas, dialogues, snippets - anything that will come to me in moments when I don't have time to write the entire thing right away.

True, I'm not entirely sure how this will work for me. Maybe when I write down the ideas they will dissappear anyway. But I want to find out. Because if there's even a slight chance at this new system helping my productivity (especially in the non-fiction department), then I really want to try it.

Hopefully,it'll work out. If not, I'll move to something else. But I don't want to miss on any ideas.

7 June 2010

Fiction Writing Marathon - Pros and Cons

I spent the weekend at my friend's house (who's also my co-author on the Epic Collab Story I mentioned over and over again). During that time we wrote non-stop for hour, and the story is now over 22K (and it's not even half of it).

You could say that those three days were some kind of a Writing Retreat. Since apart from writing our story we also spend most evenings (and nights) brainstorming ideas for our next collaboration.

Yes, those brainstorming sessions weren't always productive, as too many of them included a variation of the "I'm Batman!" joke. But in the end we did come up with a very good idea that will most likely consist of two longer stories.

I'm sure it's not a secret that after an incredibly productive couple of days, every writer feels satisfied and accomplished. I did too.

But there's a problem with spending so many hours writing. For a few hours after returning home, I felt burnt out. It was as if no words that left my brain and appeared on my screen were good enough. I felt exhausted and I just wanted to sleep (and eat). Not to mention the fact that no posts and articles I wrote in between the writing sessions felt like they were up to my usual standards.

So, on one hand (huge Pro), I wrote an obscene amount of words during those two days. I moved the story along and followed the outline, including some really fun foreshadowing.

On the other hand (a huge con), it really feels like too much in too short period of time. My brain is used to creativity being spread over several days, due to my schedule and fitting the writing after my day-job.

I know I can do writing marathons, I did that in the past when I had a deadline to meet and I wrote over 5K in one day. But this weekend showed me I can't do such an intensive writing all the time. Maybe I could do it once every few months. Maybe even once a month.

Have you participated in Fiction Writing Marathons before? Do you have a routine for insane days when you just write and write and write? Any tips for when I do the writing marathon again?

4 June 2010

Guest Posting?

Lately, I've been considering guest posting. It seems like an interesting thing to do, sharing my thoughts with a different audience, one that might not be familiar with my sense of humor or my writing/blogging style.

But I'm hesitant to pitch any sort of post to the blogs I read on a regular basis.

Mostly, it's because I have never pitched an article to a complete stranger. I either write articvles in response to an assignment or pick any topic I feel like.

And there's the matter of what to blog about. It can't be something I already covered here, it would feel too much like cheating. And coming up with something fresh and totally new? It's a huge challenge.

I'm also hesitant because of a byline. I would have to come up with something, linking somewhere (most likely to this blog?). What would my byline say, anyway? "Executive assistant by day, freelance writer by night" (like on my Twitter profile), or something completely new?

And besides, I'm by no mean an expert. I'm still discovering my way in this freelance world, not to mention my publishing credits aren't very impressive (though I'm very proud of them, it's nothing to write home about.)

I will most likely end up writing all the pros and cons on a piece of papers, trying to decide. Thankfully I have entire month of June for that, as one of the blogs I love just announced they will be accepting Guest Posts.

If and when I decide, I will let you know.

2 June 2010

Googledocs - perfect tool for writers

If you're following me on Twitter or read one of my previous posts, you probably know about my love affair with Googledocs. I promised to write a love letter to Googledocs, and here it is.

Why I love Googledocs?

Easy access
All files are stores online, so you can access your files from every computer connected to the Internet. You can work on your writing from your laptop, using a computer at a library, computer at work, or from anywhere else.

At the same time, you don't have to worry about saving the files on a USB drive. You don't have to carry that drive everywhere you go, and there's very little chance on ever losing any of your writing.

True, what is Googledocs' big advantage is also its flaw. You can't use it while offline, so when you want to write on an airport,while you're waiting for your flight, you need to buy Internet access.

Sharing option
That feature is a single most amazing thing about Googledocs. You can share your files with other people, giving them the ability to edit the file as well, or simply view it. I'm currently sharing my stories with my editors and I have to tell you revising the story based on the comments is far easier than sending the file back and forth allthe time.

Not to mention the fact that I'm also co-writing a really awesome story (also using Googledocs) and let me tell you. I know exactly when my co-author updates the file, and I don't even have to refresh the file as changes appear automatically as the new text is saved.

Googledocs look familiar. It has most of the options offered by the regular word processors like Word or OpenOffice. You can format the file before pasting it into your blog. If you use the Rich Text option on your blog, Googledocs will keep all the links and bold fonts and even different colors.

And did I mention the sharing option? Yeah, it's really awesome feature.

Just because I am completely in love with Googledocs doesn't mean I'm blind and can't appreciate any other great software perfect for writers. So if you use something different, please share!