Monthly Archives: April 2013

4 Unexpected Places to Find Writing Jobs

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The world of freelance writing is a gratifying, albeit frustrating, career path to pursue. I’ve been getting paid to write for various websites for three years now. Not only do I get a little pocket change–freelance work also allows me to put my name out for other potential clients and employers to see. If you want to look into doing freelance work, here are four unexpected places to conduct your freelance writing job search.

  1. ElanceOkay, maybe this site isn’t extraordinary. It’s standard fare for most freelancers. Still, Elance is a great place to start looking for work. Clients and employers post jobs for freelance writers to bid on. If your bid wins, you get the job. For each job you complete, your rating goes up, which could lead you to even more work.
  2. CraigslistHear me out. Although Craigslist can be unsavory at times, it’s still a decent source for tracking down freelance writing jobs. You can either post your resume or apply for one of the jobs in the writing/editing section. You never know what could happen.
  3. RedditOnce again, I can feel you shaking your head. I got my current job from Reddit. Post your resume to r/forhire or r/hiring and see what comes up.
  4. Ed2010. This site is the writing world’s best-kept secret. Ed is the only site with jobs and internships geared toward those who are serious about writing. Check it out.

These are just a few resources to get you started on your way to a career in freelance writing. Be persistent, patient, and passionate about looking for work, and you’ll be hired in no time.

What do you think? How do you find freelance writing jobs?

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Pen versus Keyboard: A Pros and Cons List

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One of the most prevalent dilemmas in the world of writing involves the method used to compose novels, short stories, essays, blog posts, poems, and scripts. Should you write your project out on paper or type it up on your computer? Fitzgerald and Wilde didn’t have much of a choice. Stephen King most certainly has a computer, yet he chooses to draft his pieces by hand first. Some people judge other writers by the method they use to write their first drafts. In this article, I’ll be listing the pros and cons of writing longhand versus writing shorthand. It’s up to you to decide which method works better for you as a writer.

Let’s talk about good ol’ fashioned pen and paper. The majority opinion of writers everywhere is that writing longhand allows you some freedom for pretention. Practically-speaking, there are several things to consider about writing your first draft on paper. It increases your focus, removes a majority of Internet- and computer-based distractions, cannot crash or freeze or be lost as easily, and is much more thoughtful on the whole. At the same time, writing on paper is hard work, can be time-consuming, and is difficult to search through when looking for a specific passage or scene.

Typing your draft may seem like the better solution for most writers, but there are two sides to this idea. Writing on the computer allows you to edit as you go along, backup your work, save it to access remotely when away from your computer, write more quickly and easily, search documents with ease, and automatically calculate word count. Some problems with writing longhand include the possibility for distractions, losing data to crashes and freezes, and less planning and forethought.

I’m writing this article on the computer—not because it’s better, but because typing my work is easier for me. I type much faster than I write. I’ve written this article hoping that you’ll use it to make your own educated decision about which method to use. Ignore people who try to judge your talent as a writer based on whether you write or type your work. Those people are silly. Content matters more than method.

Immerse Your Readers in Your Setting

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Imagine yourself in the middle of a meadow on a summer afternoon. Hear the soft buzz of the bumblebee, the rush of wind-blown grasses, and the trickle of a nearby stream. Feel the warmth of the sun on your face. Taste the tart sweetness of the lemonade you sip from the glass in your hands. Feel the chill of the ice in the glass as condensation slides down the sides of it. See the sky—impossibly blue, bright, and cloudless. Reach out to touch the smooth wooden railing of the front porch.

Come back to the present.

Were you in the meadow?

As writers, one of the hardest parts of our job is convincing our readers to dive into our stories. We want them to become fully immersed in the worlds we’ve created. We want them to see, hear, taste, touch, and smell the reality of what we’ve put on the paper. Characters, dialogue, and plot are important, but setting is what makes the prose come alive for the reader. You want to get your audience hooked? Develop a fully-dimensional setting.

Start with sight. When you walk into a room, sight is the first sense activated in the brain. You notice what’s in front of you because it’s at eye level. The same should be true in your writing. If you want your audience to be in the desert with your characters, show them sand, cacti, and perhaps a snake. Once you develop sight, you can move on to the other senses.

Hearing should come next. What do you want your readers to hear? Rushing water? Crackling fire? The dull roar of a crowd? Whatever it is, be sure to describe it in as much detail as possible. Be unique. Find fresh ways to describe the soundscape of your setting to grab the audience’s attention. The readers will feel like they’re more involved in the story if they can see and hear what’s going on.

Smell is the sense with the closest ties to memory. A single scent can be powerful enough to take you back in time all the way to your childhood. For me, that scent is chlorine. I grew up in Florida surrounded by pools. The smell of chlorine is all it takes to bring my mind back to summers spent splashing around with my friends. Describe the smells inside your setting. Use sweet, fresh smells to evoke pleasant feelings and acrid, strong smells to evoke unpleasant ones. Smell can do a great deal in bringing out your setting.

Touch. How does your character interact with the setting? Give the reader the same experience. If he’s petting a cat, let your reader feel the soft fur of the animal’s back. If he’s touched a hot stove, describe the sharp pain of the hot burner. Touch is a sensory detail that is often left out. I would encourage you to utilize it whenever and however you can.

Taste is arguably not as essential as the others, but nevertheless, it is worth mentioning. We are not constantly tasting things. The same is true for your character. If he is walking down the street and not eating or drinking anything, you don’t need to tell us anything about taste. If he’s digging in at an all-you-can-eat buffet, the reader is going to be much more interested in how everything tastes. Use taste when it makes sense to draw your readers in.

Utilizing the five senses is one way out of many to encourage your readers to dive into the world of your story. Sight, smell, hearing, taste, and touch can make your setting come alive. Armed with this knowledge, you should be able to put your audience right where you want them–an encourage them to stay for longer than they’d had in mind.

Finding the Right Title

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The most important aspect of writing a book is the writing, of course. Once the first draft, second draft, and final draft are down, though, a writer’s work is far from over. No matter how much or how little progress you’ve made on a piece of writing, the nagging title quandary is impossible to ignore. The title is what pushes readers away or pulls them in before they even put their hands on the book. It’s the first impression that shapes the way your reader’s frame the content of the novel.

Basically, it’s a massive deal.

If you’re having a hard time coming up with the title of your latest work, consider these tips.

1. Use a character’s name. The name need not belong to the main character of the work, but that certainly helps. Examples: Dracula, Frankenstein, Moby Dick, Carrie, and Jane Eyre.

2. Use an important symbol or motif from the work. Make sure it’s significant. Examples: The Bell Jar, The Grapes of Wrath, The Scarlet Letter, Pride and Prejudice, and The Glass Menagerie.

3. Use a quotation. You can pull one from the work itself or make an allusion to another literary work. Examples: Brave New World, A Time to Kill, Down to a Sunless Sea, Dying of the Light, and Things Fall Apart.

4. Use the main conflict. Don’t give too much away. Examples: The Old Man and the Sea, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief, and Love in the Time of Cholera.

Choosing a fitting title is a difficult yet rewarding task for nearly every writer. Armed with this advice, you should be on your way to the title of your dreams.

Unexpected Sources for Writing Inspiration

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When you write all the time, it’s easy to feel like every concept in the universe has already been exhausted. I understand your pain. If you think your idea pump could use a good priming, you might want to start thinking outside the box. Here are a few unexpected sources of writing inspiration.

PostSecret is one of my favorite places to get story ideas. This website “is an ongoing community art project where people mail in their secrets anonymously on one side of a homemade postcard” (PostSecret). The secrets range from trivial to life-changing in significance and are accompanied by pictures that may or may not relate to the confession. When I want inspiration, I look here first. Sometimes you can get plot situations from here, but more often than not, you’ll come away with at least some interesting character quirks.

You can also find ideas from magazine article titles. This method works better for creative nonfiction, but if you get creative, you can still apply it to your short stories and novels. I wrote a piece not too long ago titled “Five Ways to Make Him Stay” about a troubled marriage. The title came straight from Cosmopolitan. You can also get ideas from news headlines, which tends to be my preference.

Another excellent source for writing inspiration is the re-imagination of actual events–whether from your life or from someone else’s. This method can also be very therapeutic.Take an encounter and turn it on its head. How could the event have happened differently? What could have been some of the consequences?

If you’re still having troubles finding idea, consider this model to set up a story:

A _____ wants _____, but ____ gets in the way.

This model is the one I use for most of my stories. My most recent short story, “Teacup,” looks something like this:

A creative writing professor wants to have a romantic relationship with a pretty girl, but the fact that she’s a student gets in the way.

This format is very basic, but it can be surprisingly helpful. The same is true of the preceding methods. The next time your mental well is running dry, poke around one of these unconventional sources of inspiration.