A Wise Person Said…

Instead of blogging about writing, I’ve just been writing, which is a good thing. But it means this blog has been as inhabited as a desert scene in a Western. Cue in the rolling tumbleweeds. That being said, I wanted to still contribute to it with things that inspire me. Particularly, on the subject of writing. Author Elizabeth Gilbert has been killing it with her Magic Lessons podcast. And I’m so not even trying to compete. But I wanted to throw out this little words of inspiration out there for those of you in the throes of NaNoWriMo. If you are out there, throw me back some love. I need you too!

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An Easy Way to Sharpen Your Fiction

Library

Since I’ve become a SCBWI member (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators), I’ve learned a lot of ways to beef up my fiction. An easy way I just read about in our recent Bulletin, is to read your story aloud in front of a mirror, to a loved one or a crowd of kids. The key, however, is to do it without a manuscript in front of you, but to recite from your memory. Obviously if you have a novel rather than a picture book, you won’t be able to read the whole story. But that shouldn’t matter.

As I’ve learned through doing the exercise myself, reading from your memory cuts out unnecessary details and shows you what’s the meat of the story. Storytellers know this. And you will discover as you do it too, that reading aloud is a completely different skill than writing. Reading gives you added information to what will really excite your audience, what you simply don’t need, and the niggly details that might sound fancy shmancy while typing it on your computer, but will bore readers to death.

Try it and let me know what you think.

Interested in meeting with other writers on the West Side? Writers from all skills and levels will be meeting twice a month to share their writing goals and get information, resources and networking to finally accomplish their 2015 writing goals. I already have interest from an Oahu publication who is searching for local writers and is interested in being a guest speaker. You can find out information for the group here, and sign up here.

 

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All is Well (Even Your Writing)

{Etsy art by justamoment}
{Etsy art by justamoment}

Pastor Joel Osteen says in one of his television sermons, “All is well.” I’m not religious, but I think his wise words can be applied to writing.

That essay you wrote and completed, but haven’t found an outlet has a purpose. It works the same way for the poem you wrote as an angst teen. And although an agent hasn’t yet shown interest in your work, it doesn’t mean you should toss your manuscript yet.

One thing I wish for other writers (and myself) is that they would enjoy the process of writing itself. These days we put too much value on publishing. While it’s a necessary component to a writing life especially if one is making a living from it, it’s only one important aspect.

There are purpose and meaning in seeing your words across the page. It can give you insight to a past experience you’re still grappling with. It can teach you the importance of persistence. If anything, it will humble you. When you look back on your work, do you think about your failed submissions or do you reflect upon how far you’ve come as a writer and as a person?

If we were to cover our judging eyes for a moment and read our prose as a way to learn from instead of criticize it, we might understand its importance in our writing lives.

Not all works-in-progress should be published. Not all writing is meant for readers. Sometimes a writer must write the way a dog shakes off water. It’s automatic. It feels good. It’s necessary.

Sometimes that old prose you wrote years ago might return renewed. Or maybe that essay you wrote needed time to bake in your mind before it was ready. But many times writers need to and should write for the sheer pleasure of it. As Osteen says, “All is well” regardless.

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5 Unexpected Ways You Should Be Looking For Writing Gigs

Etsy Glass Pendant by BayouGlassArts
Etsy Glass Pendant by BayouGlassArts

Finding writing gigs used to be a job on its own. I needed a full-time job to pay for the full-time writing job I was supposed to have. It was a ton of work and not much return. But that’s sort of to be expected when you’re just starting out. However, I quickly learned there were avenues of the freelance writing job search other writers were not taking advantage of. Here are a few less travelled paths that could help you find more freelance writing work no matter what stage of the writing game you’re in:

1.  Online ads: I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Craigslist has been a surprising god send. It’s where I landed my first copywriting gig more than 6 years ago and where I continue to find reputable work from well-known companies. Not many writers like to dig through the scammy stuff to find gold. But it’s like going to a discount store. Spend enough time searching through the junk and you might find a gold mine.

Secret tip: If you want to make sure it’s a legitimate job, cross-check the contact info usually listed on Craigslist. These days with sites like LinkedIn, it’s easy-peasy to do so.

2. SEO: When I first started out, SEO sounded as foreign to me as UFO. Thank goodness it’s a lot less complicated and intimidating than it sounds. And surprisingly, it works! I’ve caught a lot of fish by making sure to draw in the right visitors through my site via appropriate keywords.

3. Be a big fish in a little ocean: While I was living in the Bay Area, I was like a tiny little goldfish swimming in a BIG ocean. There was a ton of competition there. Amazingly, I still landed a good number of lucrative writing gigs. But I also found much more success when I ventured outside my neighborhood. Don’t limit yourself to your hometown especially if you’re hometown is brimming with talented, experienced writerly folks.

4. Attend meetups and local events: I admit my true intention for going to meetups and events in my new hometown (Hawaii) was to network with potential clients. But I didn’t come across that way. In fact, I approached every social event as an opportunity to meet someone new, not to sell my services. Although I’m an introvert at heart and was completely nervous to do so, I have to say the one event I went to a year ago has paid off in multiple writing gigs. And not just from the publication that sponsored that one event. Once I got my name out there, I was able to capitalize on a writer’s favorite way of getting work effortlessly-referrals.

5. Believe in the power of a cold call: This surprised me too because I’ve cold called several times without any success. But then cold calls turned into internet emails and that somehow worked. It did take almost a year, but it was worth it. Imagine my surprise when a short email a year ago materialized into a writing project. What’s more amazing is that the editor who contacted me wasn’t even the person I initially cold called. Somehow my email was passed along into the hands of another editor. It’s always worth the effort to get your name out there. You never know when a short email or brief conversation could pay off down the line.

How about you? Any surprising ways you got a writing gig? Share please! 

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5 Fresh Ways to Score More Freelance Writing Jobs

{flickr photo by mr-numb}
{flickr photo by mr-numb}

Every freelance writer is skilled at something. Maybe you’re a social media whiz or a marketing pro  (If so, email me.). Or you’re just savvy with your “born-this-way” natural writing abilities. Bravo! We should all celebrate what we’re good at.

As for me, I think I’ve got a hankering for getting or at least almost getting jobs. Call it years of experience from being a job hopper, but it’s how I was able to get a job as a PI and a RA and graduate with a MFT.

It’s the type of learn-on-the-job info that’s helped me get responses like these:

“You were one of over a hundred applicants for this position.”

“It’s between you and another writer.”

“You got the job!”

All welcome responses writers want to receive especially the last one.

Want to know how I did it? Read on…

1. Remember you’re emailing a real person. This may seem like a given. But surprisingly, it’s not. I’ve also been on the other side of the coin reading applications. Some people think that saying you can do the job are enough to make you want to hire them. But it’s not. If you’re applying for a writing position, write like it. Write you’re a real person writing to another real life person. You don’t have to write like you’re emailing your best friend (in most cases, you shouldn’t). But there is a difference between being professional and personable versus being unprofessional and personal. Which comes to number 2.

2. Put yourself in the shoes of your potential client. You need to think about who your client is, what they are looking for, what would float their boat. And deliver it in a paragraph or so. They want someone who is flexible, motivated, writes in a casual style? Use your letter as your first writing sample to them. Be the one to show, not just tell them what you can do.

3. Remember what your last client loved about you. We’re not always good at knowing our strengths. But if you can remember what your last happy client said about you, you’ll have a good idea. Use this in your letter to express your strengths and how you can use it to help their company succeed.

4. Check all their boxes. When I’m looking to hire someone, I’m looking for certain things, experience being one of them. Yet, I don’t always have a ton of time to read every application thoroughly so I skim through them for years of experience, work-related experience and anything else related to what’s important to me. If you can deliver exactly what the client is looking for by explaining how you’ve spent 10 years in the business, you’ll have already beaten out much of your competition. Which comes to my last tip.

5. Make it easy for them to hire you. A lot of clients who hire me say they were impressed with the amount of work I’ve done and my versatility. I think it’s because I put it all out there and I mentioned it at the very beginning. Because I know that most clients dread searching for the right candidate among hundreds of applications, I try to make my cover letter stand out from the very first sentence and I’ll leave my contact information so that they can get back to me quick. I don’t waste any time going on about my education or my desire to write for them. Those go in there only if it’s relevant and if it is, only at the bottom of my letter. I know I’m going to need to grab the client from the beginning so I’ll hit them with all the reasons why I’m qualified. And if they need more? Here’s my number and contact info.

That’s what has worked for me. How about you? Got any great strategies you’d like to share?

 

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Tips for Writing a Press Release

{via pinterest originally from sunclouds.tumblr.com}

Boggled by how to write a press release? When you’re first starting out, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by all the different types of writing out there. But once you learn how to write it, it’s just one more thing you can add to your portfolio. This time I’ve got help from a guest blogger to show you how to do just that.

by: guest blogger

Four Things to Remember When Writing Press Releases
Not everything that a reporter writes is scooped by him or her. A lot of times, the news finds the reporter. Press releases are tools used by companies and organizations to disseminate information about them or their products. As people are exposed to around 40,000 TV ads per year alone, they are becoming more and more jaded with traditional advertising. People tune out commercials and ads automatically, and companies are finding it a challenge to reach their target market.

Having one’s company mentioned in a news article can do wonders for exposure and sales. It also boosts brand recognition and creates a positive public image. But before you can reach potential customers, you have to first appeal to the reporter tasked with turning your press release into an actual news feature. Read on as we tackle four ways of doing just that.

  • Users have to see what your press release can do for them. Your press release has to be relevant in order to merit attention. Outlets will only run your piece if they can spin it into something that their readers can get into. If there’s nothing even remotely interesting in your press release, you’re just wasting everybody’s time. Niche publications and websites are harder to penetrate, but could hold the key to a large demographic. Instead of distributing a generic press release, consider making different versions for varied interest groups. This added effort may initially sound like too much work, but the potential payoff is hard to ignore.
  • Learn the common format and follow it. Headlines and subheads are two of the most important parts that you should nail. Reporters go through countless press releases every day and it’s not uncommon for them to just give each one a cursory read. You have to have something that catches attention – but make sure the body has enough substance to back the sensational headline up. The lead paragraph has to contain the entire story. You have to do your best to condense the who, what, when, where, and how into something that can be said in a single breath. Failing to do this could make the reporter pass up on your press release.
  • The body should answer any question that may have been raised by your headline. Many writers are good at catching the reporter’s attention, but falter at keeping it. If your purpose is to sell something, the body is the perfect place for actually closing the deal. Details like prices, features, warranties, and how to place credit card information to order is best discussed here. By waiting until the middle or the very end of the press release, you will seem less eager and not as “pushy” at making the sale. People will appreciate this and view you as someone trustworthy and not just out to make a quick buck.
  • Contrary to what you may think, words like “new”, “state-of-the-art”, “breakthrough”, and “revolutionary” will only make the reporter doubt the credibility of your press release. Fluff like these are best reserved for traditional advertisements and are better left out of press releases. By pruning out unnecessary words, you are in a position to end up with a shorter press release. This is fortunate since short and concise press releases are generally more powerful and effective. Nobody wants to read several pages and then condense it all into just a few paragraphs. By doing some of the reporter’s work, you have a greater chance of getting on their good side. Try to keep it within a couple of pages and you’re good.

The most important thing you have to remember about writing an effective press release is that you have no control over how it will appear on the website or printed media. You can only influence the outcome by playing into the reporter’s psyche and appealing to him or her. Reporters, through years of experience, know what will appeal to their readers and will write features accordingly. Make your press release suitable and easy to work with and you’ll at least have a fighting chance.
Ashyia Hill is a social media advocate.  She helps entrepreneurs compare business credit card deals at CreditDonkey.  How are you using press release for success?  Leave a comment below.

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Why Doing Nothing May Be the Best Thing You Ever Did for Your Business

Time To Get To It Chalkboard from Pinterest

Ever notice the more you do, the less you get done?

Sounds antithetical to what you want right? Actually read it again, it almost doesn’t make any sense. How can the more things you do, the less you actually get done?

There are a few reasons…

1 +1 = 0?

One thing is that doing more doesn’t automatically equal being more productive. You could be doing more marketing, but that makes you have less time for writing, for example. Or you could be spending loads of time solely on writing and then realize you haven’t had any new business in awhile because you ran out of time to do marketing.

The Never-Ending Shopping List

Secondly, the more things you have on your to-do list, the more things you won’t be able to finish. That darn to-do list always grows, which means no matter how much you cross off (boy doesn’t that feel good?), there will always be more to add on tomorrow.

Working Until Your Bone Dry

Thirdly, you might be driving your ideas and inspiration away. There’s a reason for the proverb, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” Although I work argue it makes Jill a dull girl too.

But it doesn’t just make you bored and boring, but keep yourself too busy and your mind won’t have the time or energy to come up with new ideas.

To remedy the situation, make sure to keep your well full. Schedule in at least an hour a week, if not, more to simply sit still and do nothing. (Watching TV doesn’t count.) And do as my holistic doctor once said, “Be a kid again and play hooky.”

How Doing Nothing Has Helped Me

I did almost nothing this past weekend. I kind of cheated because I was ill, but still…Anyway, as I sat staring in space I came up with gazillion new ideas. Ideas for blog topics, ideas for future essays, ideas on how to change up my business. I kept a journal nearby and couldn’t jot them down fast enough. First time that happened in awhile.

But if you won’t take my word for it, how about Cheryl Richardson? In Take Time for Your Life she says,When you slow down, take time for your life, and practice extreme self-care, success always follows.”

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