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Monday, November 30, 2009

Making Writing Booklets




by guest blogger Linda Johnson
See Linda's personal blog: Various and Sundry Items of Interest http://www.variousandsundryitemsofinterest.blogspot.com/

I just wanted to let you know how much fun we had at last night’s meeting of “Just Journaling” while I’m still pumped up about it! We wrote more than usual and even had time to get crafty as well!

We created writing support booklets based on the prompts, which came from Sark’s book, "Juicy Pens, Thirsty Paper". (Juicy Pens, Thirsty Paper: Gifting the World with Your Words and Stories, and Creating the Time and Energy to Actually Do It. Authored by Sark).

The prompts were questions that we wrote out and answered on note cards, one per card. We punched a hole in the corner of each note card for a notebook ring to go through and hold them together. On the last pages we put contact information for all the members so we can contact each other directly if we want to. This is the basic scenario. Of course, some of us went on to decorate the pages, create covers, etc. while others said, “”No way!” Such is the flexibility and freedom of our group.

Don’t worry if you weren’t there last night. I am including the prompts in case you want to create your own booklet. The idea behind the books is to have something that you can carry with you to remind you why you write or to give you ideas when you’re stumped. Also, some of us decided to put some blank pages in it so we will have more spae to write things down as we go along. They are small, portable, and can be added to or subtracted from.

We used either 4x6 or 5x7 note cards. You could use 3x5s and carry them in your pocket. Experiment and have fun!

Here are the prompts:
I love writing because…
I sometimes hate writing because…
Writing is fun and easy because…
I sometimes don’t write because…
What triggers / tools / set-ups could I use to prompt my writing?



Try actually writing out the answers – I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised!

Books! Books! Books!

The Write Shop now has a selection of books available! I've chosen books about writing and tons of memoirs to inspire and intrigue. Some of them I've read and some of them I want to read. For example, on page 3 of the store you can find "Legacy: A Step-by-step guide to writing Personal History" by Linda Spence. I first found this book at Christmas time at Restoration Hardware of all places! I bought it, read it, and proceeded to write several of my family stories.
"Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within" by Natalie Goldberg is another old favorite. How about "Opposite of Fate: Memories of A Writing Life" by Amy Tan? I love her, but haven't yet read this one...

Check them out at: The Write Shop!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Hub update: week 1

My goal was to write one HUB a day every day until Christmas. I got distracted from the very beginning though by also writing articles for Associated Content. Without actually saying that I also aimed to write one article for Associated Content every day in addition to the HUBs, that seemed to be a goal that emerged anyway.

I want to be realistic – set goals that push and challenge me, but that I am also likely to stick with and be able to accomplish. If I’m going to be writing articles for Associated Content, I feel that, like the HUBs, I need to be active in the communities. This is added time and effort. So in essence, I’ve doubled my work. OK, I think I can do it. At least I’m now making the HUBs my number one focus and Associated Content a close second.

In my first week, I managed to get 6 HUBs written and 5 AC articles. I made my goal. Now it’s week 2. Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and I haven’t yet written any AC articles and no HUBs for this week. I spent Monday morning writing an assignment that was due that day and the rest of the day I was on the road as I went to pick up my daughter at college. Tuesday I went to court in the morning (pending divorce) and spent the rest of the day fighting depression. I wrote another assignment from bed that was due that day.
Today I’ve got to do the grocery shopping and cook for tomorrow… but first, I’ll at least draft 3 HUBs.

HUBs about writing … do I have enough ideas??

Monday, November 23, 2009

Just Gotta Do It

The nitty gritty of writing is much like the nitty gritty of living: some days you feel good and some days you don’t; sometimes everything goes your way and other times you can’t seem to do anything right. You just gotta do it anyway. You just have to get up and move through your day no matter how you feel about it. It’s the same with writing – you just have to do it!

No matter what life throws you, you keep on living. Whether you are sick or happy, excited or troubled, busy or lazy, you keep on living. Your heart beats, your blood flows, and your breath moves in and out through your lungs. No matter what the circumstances of your life may be, you keep on living. Writing is really no different.

I write because I’m alive. It’s really that simple. I write because I think – they are not separate actions. I think more than I write just like the beats of my heart outnumber the steps of my feet, but many of the thoughts I have get written down somewhere, sometime, somehow.

When I don’t feel like writing, I usually berate myself in writing. When I am worried about something, I lay out my concerns in writing so I can either manage them or destroy them. When I am excited about something or totally moved by some life experience, I have to put words to it in order to preserve it.

Writing isn’t about creating genius masterpieces to impress anyone with your gift; it’s about living. Writing is the expression of living. You do it because you just gotta do it. Once you accept this fact about your own existence in this world, I promise you, your blood will flow more freely and your heart will pump more steadily.

Yes, the nitty gritty of writing is really synonymous with the nitty gritty of living: like it or not, you just gotta do it!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Increasing Traffic

I've made a decision: Hubpages is my current focus.

I am still struggling with the learning cure regarding how to get noticed for my online writing. I’ve got a lot of stuff out there, but what I’m lacking is the marketing promotions to attract traffic. I do alright with my SEO articles written for clients, but those don’t have my name on them, so what I’m doing with those articles is promoting the work of my clients, not my own work.

I have been so busy writing for other people that I haven’t been able to devote my energies to building traffic so I can write more for myself. There are so many “how-to-bring-traffic-to-your-site” tutorials and each one takes me in a whole new direction. What I’ve got is my foot just over the start line of too many races and I’m not even on any specific road!

I’m frustrated and overwhelmed.

So what I’ve done this week is assess and analyze all my starts. I’ve researched and read everything I could find on all the companies, websites, and vague ideas where I have, at one time or another, thought I could find the answers to my questions. I still think they are all good starts, but I simply can’t do them all (not now, anyway). So I ordered them according to my own criteria – basically on a whim. Based on things like how clear the language is, the comments made by other writers within the community, my impression of the founders, creators, and staff, and that ever faithful “gut feeling”, I stacked my options in numerical order according to how well I liked them. Then I chose only one to run with and put the others in the filing cabinet.

Hubpages. This is the winner.

I joined hubpages, jumped into the community discussions, and created a few hubs

Check back often because I’m going to keep a running journal in this blog of what I’m learning and how it’s working out.

My aim is to increase traffic to this blog and to my website. And the purpose of that goal is to increase the income generated by the website.

I’ve been training and I’ve finally signed up for one race. Here I go! Wish me luck!

Another hub example
And here's another

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Expressing Emphasis

When we talk, we create urgency, drama, compassion, suspense, and all sorts of other forms of emphasis by the way we use our voices, hand gestures, facial signals, etc. We can create the same emphasis when we write even without the use of these visual or audial tools.

We create emphasis in writing by the way we use punctuation, capitalization and font. We use these tools like you use spices when you cook – know what works best to add flavor and zip, but don’t overuse them or your writing will go down the garbage drain along with the pot of soup that has too much salt.

Ways We Express Emphasis in Writing

1. The Look of the Words
Italics
Underlining
CAPITOL LETTERS
Larger font
Smaller font
A different font
A different color
Indentations

Spaces between lines

Centering

Boxing off

Highlighting

2. Punctuation
“Quotation marks”
Colons:
Exclamation marks!
A series of periods…
Commas,
(parenthesis)
[brackets]

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Write Store is OPEN!

I can't believe it. It's been a challenge to figure out some of this web stuff, but I've finally got 3 products in The Write Shop on my website, The Riverside Writer.
(http://theriverside.synthasite.com/)

There you will find 3 ebooks to help push your writing to the next level.

The first one, Novel Writing Tips by Larry Brooks, is full of tips for writers such as the 5 things you should know about your writing before you start and how to write characters that editors love. His ebook will help ground you on that fine line between authentic creativity and keeping editors and publishers in mind as well.

The second product, Unique and Popular Writer's Resource by Rob Parnell, provides tips on how to produce quality work at top speed and how to keep you going, and going, and going,,, you get the idea.

Finally, I've added Story-Craft Story Creation Software. This software guides you through the process of creating and developing your stories and converts basic story ideas into concise story concepts. It helps identify the genre and category of your story and even helps with organization and revisions! It looks like a very useful product for fiction writers.

To see these products, visit The Write Shop at: http://theriverside.synthasite.com/e-products-the-write-shop.php

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

New Office




I love my new office!

One time in my journaling group we wrote about our dream office. At that time I didn’t even have one, so my writing was pure fantasy. I wrote a description of a working space that had lots of book shelves, lots of color, and lots of personally significant mementos as the decorations.

When it was finally time for me to get my very own office, the dream work had already been done. So when my sister, my personal decorator, asked me what was important to me to have in my office, I knew exactly what I wanted. The problem was that we had an odd-shaped space and it was too small for all of my books. When it got right down to making decisions, I wasn’t as clear as I had thought I was – somehow there was something missing between fantasy and reality.

Fortunately my sister knew just how to bridge the gap. She asked me all sorts of strange questions like what I wanted behind me when working at the computer, and what would I want to see out of my peripheral vision. And here’s the key: she listened to my answers! She has this amazing ability to translate words into four dimensional space. I say “four dimensions” because in all of her interior creations, she includes an element of atmosphere that hums a warm, positive melody and breathes in unison with her clients.

We worked with a very small budget and figured out how to use what I already had. She helped me discern what really mattered to me and what didn’t so we weeded out the less important stuff and revamped the stuff I wanted to keep. She also helped me figure out how to put things away without that terrible anxiety of “out-of-sight-out-of-mind”.

So now I have my dream office and while it doesn’t look like the visions I first had in my head, it is better than I ever imagined possible. Anyone who knows me walks into this space and is amazed by how totally “me” it is.

The walls are three different colors – watermelon, modern Japanese emerald, and sky – and the floor is ocean blue. A peg board, cork board and chalk board provide visual space for immediately relevant items and a pink filing cabinet stores everything else. My dad’s old book shelves, cabinets, and desk offer sentimentality, psychic energy (steady encouragement), and practical use. Other pieces of furniture in the room are whimsical pieces I’ve painted at other times in my life. Everywhere there are pens, paper, office supplies, personal pictures, pieces of art painted by loved ones and given to me as a gift, open counter tops for spreading out projects, and counter-top files for on-going projects.

Colorful, whimsical, eclectic, the space calls to me every morning and inspires productivity. The ancestors are alive in that space – I can feel my dad’s smile on me and I can hear his steady encouragement. My sister cheers me on even when she’s not physically present. God is in this space – a space I can call my own; a space where I can finally do what I was called to do! I am alive in my new office because the space itself is alive.

Oh yes, I love my new office!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Pricing Tips for Freelance Writers

Here are some tips for pricing your products. The number one tip is to be fair. Everything else falls under this heading. This means that you need to be fair both to your clients and to yourself. The tips in this article address three issues you need to consider in establishing your pricing: 1) new kinds of work; 2) time involved; and 3) word count.

New Kinds of Work
The first few times you do a particular kind of project that is new for you, it will take you some time to learn the steps, the style, and your own unique strategies. This is the learning curve. The client shouldn’t have to pay for you to learn. Time yourself so you know how much time is invested, but don’t charge the client for every actual hour. Depending on the kind of project, I always cut my time in half, or even half again when I bill the client. By knowing how much time it actually takes you, you can better figure out how to speed up your work for future jobs. You can also use this information to determine if this is the kind of job you want to take on or not.

So you lose some money on these first few jobs in this particular category; you gain an education. Remember the value of learning something new so you can be fair in how to charge these new clients. I wrote my first few sets of SEO articles for a mere $1.25 per article. It took me about an hour (sometimes more) to write each article. I must be crazy to work for $1.25 per hour! I would never take a job like that! But what I gained from that experience turned into a monetary reward eventually. I learned how to research for several articles at a time: lots of quick Google searches for a general niche, not per keyword; overlapping my writing; speed writing. Now I get $10.00 - $12.00 per hour for SEO articles because I can write 4 – 6 in an hour. Per article, the price is still considerably low - $2.50 - $6.00 – but with better and more efficient strategies, I can justify it. When clients are paying for hundreds of articles, they aren’t willing to pay a lot for each one.

Time
Learn to work efficiently. When working on a particular project, don’t split yourself up into other tasks and projects. Focus on that one assignment and crank it out at your top speed. Get one assignment done and out of your mind. If you let things sit around in your head for days, you end up giving your time and attention to it subconsciously. This is precious time that you are not getting paid for! You know old adage, “Time is Money.” Yes, it’s true. As a writer, you use time differently from most people. A project that sits in your mind keeps you thinking about it, and therefore, working on it until it is gone. So aim to get projects started, finished, and sent to the client in the most efficient time possible. This is the only way to be fair to yourself in terms of how much you are putting into an assignment against what it is paying you monetarily.

Word Count
Lots of writing charge by the number of words on a page. This is fine, but I’m not sure it is the fairest way to price your work. In order to be fair to yourself and get paid for all that is involved before you get those words on the page, you have to charge enough per word so that it balances out. This may not particularly be fair to each client. By charging per number of words, you may get paid a lot of money for easy projects and may only barely cover the cost of your time for more difficult projects. Maybe in the end it all works out, but maybe it doesn’t. If it does, it isn’t necessarily fair to all of your clients. And if it doesn’t, it isn’t fair to anyone – you or your clients.

What works best for me is to have a basic price per page that I work with in my mind as the starting point. Then I charge the client by the project depending on what all is involved. So for example, if I have to do research, that is an added cost. A quick Google search is different from academic research. Consultations, interviews, layout and design, these are all in addition to the number of words.

When pricing your work, keep fairness at the forefront of your mind: be fair to yourself and be fair to the client. Fairness is the “Golden Rule” for freelance writing. It is what will keep you competitive and will also keep clients coming back time and time again.

NOTE: this is 820 words and it took me 25 minutes to write it.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Brainstorming: The Freewriting Technique

When you’ve got a new idea for a writing project, how do you brainstorm to develop that idea? There are a lot of different ways to brainstorm from making lists to mind mapping, but the one I like best is freewriting. Freewriting is simply writing as quickly as you can to spill from your mind everything that comes into it. In freewriting, you do not allow yourself to stop and contemplate the organization of your ideas or the validity of the ideas. You also do not allow that inner critic to condemn you for grammar and spelling errors or to trip you up with doubts about the quality of your work in any way. In freewriting you are truly “free” to let go.

The act of freewriting is exhilarating. It invigorates me and makes me believe in myself and in the impossible. While freewriting, I really get to go to those “forbidden” places such as the sky, the depths of the earth, the places where ideas run rampant. In freewriting the unpredictable takes charge and takes me on a wild ride. Freewriting is equivalent to driving in the country with the top down on the car on a beautiful spring day with the radio blaring and me singing at the top of my lungs.

The most common propeller for freewriting is the use of prompts. Take a prompt and freewrite to it, knowing that there is no such thing as the “right” way to write to it. Let your imagination run and just see where it takes you. This is a natural high and makes you believe that you are potentially the best writer on earth! If nothing else, it is cathartic.

Another common use of freewriting is as a brainstorming technique for an idea that is percolating in your head. You’ve got the idea, but need to let it develop before you begin the actual writing. OK, so freewriting is the most effective way to do this in my opinion. Ask yourself “what if…” and write out the possibilities. The key is to not think first, but to let the thinking happen as a result of what emerges on the page. Thinking first puts your mind in control and kills the element of freedom. Freewriting is designed to go down into your mind where conscious thinking can’t go. In the process of freewriting you go to the places in your mind where magic happens!

Freewriting is wild and passionate! For me, freewriting is the open door where my muse comes in to play with me. Freewriting is a ritual for me, and it is absolutely the most enjoyable aspect of writing.

There are many ways to brainstorm and I believe that brainstorming is an essential first step to any writing project. Sometimes listing works best for me; other times it is mapping or webbing. But always I include the act of freewriting even if I do not consider it an exercise in active brainstorming because without freewriting, I often miss the one key element that makes the difference between good and fantastic!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Writing Articles for Search Engine Optimization

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimized. An SEO article is one that contains keywords that get picked up by the search engines and determines where it falls in the line of thousands of articles about the same topic. How those specific keywords are determined is a whole other topic and will be addressed in a separate article. For the purpose of this article, it is sufficient to know that the keywords are very specific and very important. There is no flexibility or creativity in the use of the SEO keywords.

An SEO article will be based on 2 – 3 predetermined keywords. Let’s say for example, that you are working with the following keywords: acai berry health benefits / health benefits of acai berry / health benefits of acai berries. The SEO article needs to contain at least one of these keywords in the title. Then in the first paragraph, all the keywords need to appear at least once. More than that is even better. The keywords need to continue to appear throughout the article including the conclusion. The more times the keywords (all of them appear) in the article, the higher chance the article has of showing up at the top of the list of search results produced by the search engine.

You completely blow the strategy if you try to get creative with the keywords. For example, if you exchange the words “acai berries” with “little black tropical berries” it doesn’t count. Words such as “acai fruit”, “healthy berries”, “health boost of acai berries”, etc. are some variation of the predetermined SEO keywords and will not get your article to the top of the list. This doesn’t mean you can’t use these variations; it just means that they don’t count in terms of your purpose.

The challenge is to create an interesting article that doesn’t sound elemental to the reader. When you use the same words over and over, it is difficult not to sound redundant. This challenge is where you get to exercise your creativity.

I tend to get bored writing SEO articles, so I have a formula and I play it like a game. I aim to use each keyword a minimum of five times in the article. Each one has to be used at least once (preferably twice) in the title and the first two sentences. Then I hear the keywords like a mantra in my head as I’m writing. Sometimes they fit, and sometimes I choose one of the variations. In the end, I have an interesting, informative article that also fits the requirements.

Write SEO articles quickly, but carefully. Only count your keywords at the end. As you are writing, imagine the keywords as helium-filled balloons that will send your article above all the rest – and remember that there are tens of thousands of articles starting out on the ground just like yours.

It’s like a race. Aim to excel.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Intellectual Property

I was thinking about intellectual property the other day. Much of what I do involves processing information and then creating new ways of articulating it. Until recently, most of my work was purely creative. My most current clients, however, require research and analysis in order to create the product. This is very different from creating something from within me. My own creations are certainly unique, but that is different because those creations happen naturally and they come from within. When I have to do research on the other hand, what I produce is the result of an added dimension to the writing process. When a client asks for commentary on a particular theory, for example, I have to research that theory, grapple with it until I understand it on my own terms, then begin the creative writing process to produce the end product. This makes the end product something I would definitely call intellectual property.

For too long now I’ve charged for the end product based on how many pages it is and how many words there are on that page. I figure in my creativity as a part of the price for such and such number of words or pages. As a result, my intellect has been a “freebie” – a bonus. Writers, your intellect is your most valuable resource!

You may not be able to put an exact price on your intellect, but you can certainly justify its value! Keep this in mind when estimating the cost of potential jobs.