Sunday, September 30, 2007

Not About Writing

I wanted this blog to be about writing and the struggle to constantly improve writing skills while taking on an incredible variety of projects. But, what's with those wet wipes everyone uses now? I keep seeing these in people's bathrooms, and now they've appeared in two of my bathrooms. When did adults start using what are essentially baby wipes? Have I been too stuck to a keyboard to notice the technological advancement of the flushable wipe? I must have missed the general consensus that decided toilet paper is no longer enough. But you know what? It is. I am perfectly happy with toilet paper. If, in a few decades, I need Depends, that would the only scenario in which I would use those stupid wipes. Viva la toilet paper!

Friday, September 28, 2007

Niche Niche Niche Niche Niche Niche Niche

You can't go anywhere in the writing world these days without hearing that word incessantly. I am seriously sick of hearing about niches. Everyone wants to serve a niche, which is perfectly fine. I just wish they'd stop using that word. I am not a niche writer and I never will be. I'll write about anything and I'm proud of it.

I went into journalism because it meant doing something new every day. Being a reporter required constant exposure to new topics. I went out to a logging company and learned all about logs and the timber industry. I went to a factory that made grocery store freezer doors, learned all about them, and wrote an interesting article about those suckers. Even if you're a beat reporter, you learn so much every day and that's still the type of writer I want to be. An unfamiliar topic doesn't scare me. A client wants me to write about vacuums? Sure. Furniture? Absolutely. Fungal infections? Bring it on.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Where to Get Freelance Jobs and Some Ranting

I keep finding more and more freelance writing job sites. There's one in particular that does very well among the freelancers I'm acquainted with- *nevermind, I hate this site*. It has an excellent reputation among freelancers for finding jobs and gigs that pay well and aren't morally questionable. The only problem I have with the site is that I've never gotten a thing that I've applied for through there. Some of them are great projects- ones that I am more than qualified to do, but for some reason am never chosen. I do have a theory about the reason, though.

Another interesting one is Writer's Weekly. Most of what I see there is for print publications. I don't write for print anymore, but I plan to again someday and love to see what the market is like. Their listings are a great reminder of how high the price is for print publications compared to web writing. Of course, so much of print writing is on spec, which I don't have the time or the finances to do right now.

The Writer's Resource Center freelancing pages are quite thorough. You can search by type of writing or even by which state you're in. The quality of jobs looks great, but there are so many that I can spend forever looking at them and then I rarely get around to applying for anything.

This brings me to one of my biggest issues with web writing- the first-come-first-hired mentality. When I look through Freelance Writing Jobs, Elance and some of the other sites I frequent, I've developed the habit of either emailing the job to myself to look at later or opening a tab for interesting projects and applying for them when I have time. What happens, almost every single time, is that the job is taken by the time I apply. Sometimes the job has only been posted for a matter of hours. I can't fathom hiring the first person who applies, but apparently that's the way people are doing it. I don't get it, and I don't see how it can get them the best work possible. Isn't that what they want? Sometimes not. All too often people just want content quickly and for as cheap as they can get it. That's what is populating the web right now- cheap crap. I see Elance projects that I wanted going to people with portfolios filled with the worst imaginable copy. This is copy written poorly, full of errors and with no discernible style of any kind. I may be going back to print quicker than I had planned to, now that I think about it.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

No Time for Fiction

I'm making a living by writing, which is more important to me than just about anything else, other than offspring (and husband is running a distant third). But, I always thought that by the time this thing happened I would be writing fiction. There isn't much time for fiction these days, though I still have every intention of having a fabulous line of fascinating novels on the racks and a few hundred fan letters in the mail each day. And bagels. Fans send bagels, don't they?

I plan to eventually find a fixed, regular time for writing fiction. Someday. Eventually. But these days, the number of projects I take on has reached a dizzying pace, and none of it has anything to do with fiction. I can't seem to even get a gig editing fiction, much less time to write it. But on the bright side, I'm buying a new bed. What does that have to do with it? Nothing. Non-fiction, beds, offspring- my life in a nutshell.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007


Yesterday I was accepted by Bella, and today it was Suite 101 who came knocking. Ok, I had to apply to them. Twice. But, I'm in and that's what counts. It's a site as old as the hills that has some extremely interesting topics available to its contributing writers. They aren't limited to 10 or 15 or even 100 topics- there are 3,000 separate topics and subtopics there for the taking. The subject matter includes topics as diverse as archaeological digs, motorcycle repair and the paranormal. So what to write about? Shall I be good and write about Regency literature as I had envisioned, or shall I delve into that one time I thought I saw a ghost? The answer, so far, is unclear. Where's the Magic 8 Ball? Maybe there's a topic about that...

Monday, September 17, 2007


I have been hearing a few things about a site called BellaOnline recently, and everything I've heard has been favorable. They claim to be the second largest site for women on the internet, and the number of topics and readers is quite impressive. Yesterday I saw that someone who frequents a writers' board that I visit had been accepted to be an editor there. I decided to check it out and found that there were several interesting topics available- including classic rock. Now, I freely admit being a nerd, but I adore classic rock. I love doo wop, hippie music, the weirdness that was the 70's and the New Wave and punk of the 80's. I flipped at the thought of being able to write about those topics, and applied for the editor position.

This morning I was accepted and I have my own BellaOnline site! It is located at: As of right now, there is nothing on it but my name and the name of the topic. But, I hope to get it going into something that turns readers on to music they might have otherwise overlooked.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

The Trouble With Ghostwriting

I love ghostwriting- I really do. I like being able to match my tone and style to someone else's site and challenge myself to write something that fits right in. People take my ghostwritten items and use them as their blog posts, as content articles and as sales copy for their websites. When I sell the rights, they have every write to do that and to use it any other way they like.

The trouble comes when someone posts a great gig writing about something that I have written about many times before. But, uh oh, all of that writing was ghostwritten. I can't link to it and point to it as being mine, and I can't show it to a potential client and tell them that I wrote it. I take the sale of rights very seriously and have never pointed out something that I have ghostwritten to anyone (except my husband). So how do I get any credibility as having experience in that genre? I wish I knew. I just don't have the time to write out original samples about every single thing that I have experience writing about. The only thing I can really do in these situations is to mention that I have ghostwritten items about the topic and hope they see that I am sincere. I don't think I've ever led anyone to believe that I am not sincere or that I engage in anything morally questionable, but there's really no way for most potential clients to know that.

The internet really is a double-edged sword. There's no reason for any client to know that I often like to listen to music and sing badly while I write. The internet offers enough privacy that I can do that and no one ever need know. You know, unless I happen to mention it in a blog or something. But, it also offers enough privacy that people can make claims about having experience in a field when they have none. The only thing that I can do is to be honest about experience when I have it and hope that clients will see that and respond to it.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Holy #%$@!

It started to get very dark this afternoon, far before nightfall. Thinking there must be a pop-up thunderstorm on the way, I checked the local radar maps online. Um, no, it isn't a pop-up thunderstorm- it's a pop-up hurricane. Working on back-to-back Elance projects all day, I had no idea that during the night an entire hurricane had formed and then hit the coast. It's the fastest forming hurricane on record and is now an hour or two away. Very, very surreal.

Monday, September 10, 2007

The Copyscape Miracle

I think Copyscape is an amazing site and a concept that is revolutionizing the way people write for the web. Instead of clients worrying that something they are buying might be stolen, either whole or in part, they can check it quickly via Copyscape. Try to wrap your mind round it- it checks billions of websites and lets you know where in the world anything you have ever written can be found duplicated.

I love that clients can use it to make sure my items are original. The miracle of Copyscape means that clients will know immediately if anything was copied. It gives clients confidence and lets writers know if their work has been stolen.

Case in point: here is an article that I wrote for How to Do Things:

Here it is reproduced by someone else who put their name on it:

If you will notice, the thief is far from crafty- the date that I wrote it and the date that he stole it are clearly visible. I wrote it three months before he says he did. Not too smart. Why do people even do this? Surely they are aware of the miracle that is Copyscape. And if they aren't, they are about to find out.

The Comma in Hiding

There was an interesting editorial in Newsweek about a month ago about the comma and its usage. Ok, most people wouldn't find it quite so interesting, but I thought it was fascinating that someone else felt the same way I do about the comma. No one seems interested in the poor little dear these days. The comma separates ideas from each other during the course of the sentence, and I think it's one of the most useful pieces of punctuation.

Reading a lot of web writing as I do, I see so many pieces that don't contain a single comma. The sentences are supposed to be shorter and less complex in web writing, hence the need to plow through each sentence as quickly as possible with nowhere to rest. No pausing. No time to pause.

When editing other people's work, I also find that the comma is misused often, and more often it's completely absent. I believe that as people get more accustomed to reading web writing, they begin writing that way instead of the way it is most often written in books. And that's fine, as long as they are able to tell the difference between the two. The short, get-to-the-point style that so many want online is probably the best way to quickly get across non-fiction such as instructional materials, and it's probably best for articles formatted with several steps for the reader to follow.

But is it really best for medical articles? Editorials? Essays? I don't think it is, though I maybe in the minority. I believe those who are seeking to read more complex material will likely be insulted by simple syntax that questions the intelligence of the reader. So, I'll keep my long sentences where I think they will be appreciated, and I will chop them into little pieces for the places where they won't be. But someday, I intend to write the most fantastically long sentences just because I can- think Virginia Woolf's two-page sentences from Mrs. Dalloway. Now that's what I'm talkin' 'bout.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Writing for the Web

Even after a year and a half, sometimes I am still struck by the differences between news and web content writing. I remember in one of my early journalism classes a professor was commenting with absolute glee about the leads in the NYT. They were so complex, the words so entwined together that you never noticed that the whole first paragraph was one sentence. It was all put together so skillfully that it never seemed too long or disjointed. And I agreed.

I spent the next few years striving for that level of intricacy, trying to weave thoughts and ideas together seamlessly into the whole without any part of it becoming awkward. And then I became a web writer. The pieces that people are looking to purchase online are made up of short, choppy sentences with only one main idea. Many times as I proof my web articles I have to cut my sentences in half to make them more suited to web writing. And that's fine- you have to write to the market, setting your own skills to the task at hand. I would like to find clients who are more interested in the way a work is crafted than how many keywords are in it. I have been fortunate enough to find that kind of work here and there, scattered across the web like spiders scurrying into the corners. I continue to chase down those spiders, asking them if I might be allowed to spin a web for them that will be to their liking.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Writing Schedules

As far as writing schedules go- can you really make one? Writing is a business, yes, but there is a large creative element, even in web content writing. Can you then set a schedule for it? Yes. I do it every day. If I have a week to do a project, and I know how many hours it will take me, I have to schedule for working on it that many hours during that week. I hear from so many writers who say they have to contemplate writing for a few hours before actually doing so. I don't get it. Would you contemplate doing accounting before doing it? Would you think for a few hours about using your nursing skills? So why do so many writers think you have to do that to write creatively?

When I was a reporter we had to write the best articles possible, keeping in mind accuracy, creativity and AP style. And it was all done at the speed of light. Sometimes you had less than an hour to gather information and write an article about it. I once had a paper held from the press so that I could wait for a phone call that would give me some vital information about the front page. Imagine if I got the information and then took a few hours to think about writing the article. I couldn't have- that's just not a part of professional writing. You have to see the story as soon as you see the title or subject, and then have it forming in your mind as you go. I learned to write professionally this way, and that's still how I operate. It doesn't mean that what I write isn't creative. I actually think it's the other way around. If you are a creative person, you don't need hours for creativity to come to you.


I am trying to get the hang of this blog thing, and apparently running to Technorati is the first step. So there it is, my grand profile. It consists of a link and a one-line bio. Woo hoo!

Friday, September 7, 2007

The Folly of Samples

There's one thing that irritates me a lot about web content writing. Ok, there are several things, but let's start out with one for now. It seems a little strange for so many potential clients to want a sample that exactly relates to their subject. Like, even if I don't have an article sample about vacationing in Sarajevo, that doesn't mean that I can't write one.

If someone is a reasonably talented writer, they can write about just about anything. My samples are samples of my writing style and ability. They are not a sample of my precise knowledge on any subject. And even if I do have a sample about a certain topic, it's a sample that I wrote on one aspect of the topic. If it doesn't have the exact information someone is looking for in a sample, that doesn't mean that I don't know more about the topic. It simply means that every article is different and every perspective is different. There is no legitimate reason for writing samples about every possible topic and using them to simply regurgitate every piece of information you can find. That's crap, not writing.

If someone can write, then they can write. Period. Another thing some potential clients do is to look at your samples, see that they look fine, and then ask you to write another sample about their topic. Um, no. My samples are there to show my ability- not as a proposal to do free work. I hope my samples show that I can do my job.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

First Post!

There are so many things that go through your head when writing- and sometimes they take up residence for longer than you'd like. A certain phrase, a paragraph you wish you'd put in, worrying about having too many commas, it all collects there over time.

I'm hoping with this blog I can pour them out into cyberspace and get rid of them all. Well, most of them. Writing full time tends to take over your life. The use of any time that doesn't have some pressing immediacy to it gets sucked into the constant stream of "I should do an article about that!" and "why didn't I get that project? I was perfect for it!"