Before Jamison could explain, Suzanne dropped her suitcase outside the front door, ran through the living room and out the newly installed patio doors leading to the garden. Seeing the roof she closed her eyes. Her heels sunk in artificial grass, freshly watered but empty of the pleasant dew smell.
“Fuck, James. You had ONE job.”
Suzanne grabbed her phone and speed-dialed the construction manager, one finger in her ear to block Jamison’s noise.
“Ned! Thank God. About the roof…. Well, my husband’s clearly incompetent!”
Jamison opened his mouth to speak then thought, “Why bother.”
This flash fiction is based off of the photo prompt above for Friday Fictioneers – flash fiction under 100 words. This was my first time participating and it was a lot of fun, so I look forward to joining in for more!
This post comes as I sit in a coffee shop with an $8 latte and plain bagel. There’s a kid watching an action movie without headphones on, clearly unaware coffee shops are a sacred space for writer’s who can’t write unless people are there to witness it. I came with the intention of editing my most recent short The Great Tribulation, and as I stared at the screen with my fingers and creative brain cells numb, thoughts turning to how terribly hard and pointless all of this writing stuff is, I realized it’s been a whole month since I’ve written anything other than a few passing thoughts. So here I am!
My time away at the farm taught me that as a farm-hand you’ll never have time for lounging over a book or jotting down all the stories that pop into your mind while doing some repetitive task. I started reading Here Comes The Sun the day I left and it’s been such a struggle I’m only 47% through. I’m having a hard time caring about the characters and what they’re going through, I think it has a lot to do with my not finding the characters very definitive or interesting. It’s a bit like a drama where the writer wants to keep things suprising but holds your hand the whole way through. Still, I’ll probably keep reading because
I paid full price for the ebook…
I’m curious to compare it to the other First Novel Prize finalists and understand why it was nominated. The writing is good, but my guess is because the plot falls nicely into this year’s selection of finalists that are culturally rich or have LGBT related plots that are all the rage right now.
It’s been about 10 days since I got back and in my time offline I’ve started applying to some Upwork jobs (a freelance website) and am looking for work slowly, applying to jobs that sound within my capabilities and interesting. If you’re new to freelance writing and have little to no experience Upwork is a great website to gain experience and get the ball rolling.
Before I left for the farm I was undecided whether I wanted to keep this blog as it is or focus more on my fiction. I’ve since decided I’m going to keep things mostly story-oriented with the occasional book review or gif related post, especially because improving my creative writing was why I first decided to start Drunk Off Rhetoric. So expect some short stories and flash fiction in the next few days.
That’s all for now, it’s good to be back and I look forward to checking in with you all 🙂
This week I’ve been preparing for a 20 day long camping adventure my husband and I are going on, it’s the furthest north I’ve been from San Francisco. We’re going to spend the days helping at a farm, seeing new things, sleeping under the stars, and I don’t think anything else could be sweeter. While I’m there the internet will be spotty at best so I won’t write here much. When I do have access to WordPress I’d much rather read your blogs than spend time writing my own, so I’ll check in where I can, maybe upload a photo or two. I plan on spending any free time writing stories in my notebook, so hopefully I’ll have a few to post when I return.
As for my Fall reading, I finished The Girls by Emma Cline and there’s no other way to put it: this girl has got balls and an almost obnoxious amount of talent. I’m officially on the Emma Cline train and will keep my eye out for more of her publications. Her contract with Random House included a three book deal including The Girls and that’s the best news I’ve heard all year. I started Here Comes the Sun a few days ago and am having a hard time adjusting to the writing style and tone, so it’s a bit underwhelming at the moment… hopefully it picks up. I accidentally bought Garth Greenwell’s book, so I guess I’ll be reading that one next. Tricky Amazon.
I also want to spend the time away deciding whether I want this blog be more centered on my fiction. That was the original purpose of it, but I sort of veered off from there. I’d like to get back to posting mostly fiction on here and I’m curious if any of my readers have thoughts on that, if they’d miss the other posts.
Well, that’s all for now, I’ll see you all when I see you! And keep writing. 🙂
A week ago the Center of Fiction announced the finalists for this years First Novel Prize. Seeing that the list was a lovely mix of women and color (plus one stoic male equivalent), and I’d already read and loved Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi, I wanted to read other books first-time novelists were being celebrated for. The winner will be announced on December 6th so I hope to have read all except Kia Cothron’s The Castle Cross The Magnet Carter by then, which is a galloping 800 pages.
I snagged a free copy of Emma Cline’s The Girls during my creative writing class (which was equivalent to winning the lottery considering the amount of other people who’d shot their hands up for it), I’m halfway through and it’s so enjoyable. I find myself both inspired and wholly consumed with jealousy by Cline’s style, humor, and insight – so much confidence I didn’t think could (or should) exist in a twenty-seven year old writer. But Cline is an obvious exception to the rule and was published in Tin House by the time she was sixteen, while most of us teens were still figuring this writing thing out through angsty poetry.
These finalists have written novels that explore girlhood, freedom, homosexuality, loneliness, and race. For the same reasons I think it’s valuable to keep up to snuff with what literary magazines are publishing, I think it’s also good to read books by new novelists – it’s a direct observation of what the publishing and creative worlds are paying attention to.
Of the five books I haven’t yet read, I’m most excited to read Here Comes The Sun and will pick that one up once I’m done with The Girls. Have you read any of the books on the First Novel Prize shortlist? What did you think? Are any of these going on your ‘to read’ list? Do you have any guesses at which book might win?
Since I’ve started writing more I’ve noticed that when I’m not confident about my writing or the direction a story is taking, I add filler words to doll up sentences. As if more words will make for a better story. It doesn’t, and usually it’ll make it worse.
Adding unnecessary sentences and words that don’t move the story forward is a common mistake a lot of new or unsure writers make while they’re still gaining understanding of what exactly it is they’re trying to say. They often think they’re following the lead of accomplished writers whose work is dipped in extended metaphor, but fail to see it’s purpose in moving the story forward. Extended metaphors and lyrical language are useful supports to the bare bones of narrative, but overuse (and misuse, with passive language) dull the impact of a story.
As fiction writers, we’ve done half the job when we’ve told a clear story in it’s most basic forms, without any extra words or events that don’t add to or move the story forward, but this is something a lot of writer’s, including myself, struggle to do. Here are some ways I avoid unnecessary language.
Since a lot of this is sparked from self-doubt, remind yourself that the first draft is exactly that, a draft – a preliminary version of a piece of writing – not a finished product. Use the first draft to tell the story from beginning to end, and use later drafts to add in all those bells and whistles of imagery and trim whatever other fat that can be spared.
Remember, a story is not primarily a place to demonstrate your literary prowess. It is also not primarily a place to explore character. Everything in a story should be there to teach the reader something important and push the plot along, not stagnate it for a few moments of your brilliance.
Ask yourself, what organically feels like part of the story and what stops or distracts from that flow? and Could I say this in less words? when reading over your work.
I find that keeping these in mind while combing through my second and subsequent drafts helps bring out the core and most powerful parts of a story, and cuts out what doesn’t have that effect. I hope you find these helpful, too.
Have you got any tricks you use to make your writing more powerful? Do you struggle with writing what you mean? Who are some authors you enjoy that don’t mince words?
Woah, it’s has been a minute since I’ve posted a story. Here’s one inspired by way too many wasted Sunday mornings… I tried to make the title a little less obvious, and failed. Ah well.
Curtis roasted like a pig. He moved in a fever between two pots, holding a wooden spoon the length of his arm. The doors and windows of his small shack were open but the heat was unmoved. He looked to see the girl was still naked and sprawled out on top of his bed with a filthy rag on her forehead. The girl’s breasts spilled away from each other like two repelling magnets, a steady stream of sweat licked her from chin to navel. Her mouth was open and dry and it had been minutes since she’d blinked or sighed.
“Hey you. Hey, you still alive?” Curtis said.
The girl made a sound, something like a squawk and wheeze, and managed a few licks of her lips.
“I think so.” she said.
“Unlucky you. Why aren’t you blinking?”
“Oh… I wasn’t paying mind to whether I was blinking or not.” she said.
“You weren’t.” Curtis dashed a palmful of salt into a pot, “I thought I was cooking for a dead girl.”
Curtis took the joint from the corner of his mouth and passed the dregs to the girl. It was mostly ash, but it was familiar so she inhaled and held anyway. Even bare skin felt like one too many layers, she made herself as wide as she could to cool down. Arms and legs spread open so she looked like she was making snow angels in the sheets. And when was the last time she’d seen snow? Heat had built up slow then wrecked them all at once, writhed out of the ground like some vengeful spirit ready to drive them delirious – and succeeding. The girl was half blind and shriveled like a newborn pup when he found her stroked out in the dirt and sand, the poor godless and sun-bleached girl.
Curtis brought a bowl where the girl laid and she finally sat up at the smell. The bowl overflowed with rice and meat, two spoons for sharing. The chunks of meat were mysterious but they both guessed it was goat’s meat; fibrous and swimming in it’s sweetness. He watched the girl’s mouth work the steaming chunk and wondered how she could put her lips on something so hot without batting an eyelash. She caught his slack look and laughed a crack lipped riot saying, cool as anything, “Man, when you’ve been raised by the sun a little heat don’t hurt.”
The girl’s body looked like a heap of Himalayan salt in the distance. Curtis had watched her crawl on her stomach from noon til late, the cloud’s bellies burnt orange and only a few hours left before they’d disappear. If the girl was going to make it, she’d have to drag herself to salvation and prove she wanted it. To be out at this time of the day was a show that at some point she wasn’t sure she did, and Curtis didn’t have time for people who’d given up on themselves. The girl passed out on the steps to the smell of starch and boiled meat.
From the empty bowl of her stomach, Curtis guessed it had been weeks since the girl had eaten. She downed a mug of water and refilled the mug to cleanse her ruddy face, before starting on a plate of sweet bread rolls and jam. They sat on the bed and the girl appreciated not having to move to sleep, the meal formed a content lump in her gut. The solitary candle wisped around in a moment of breeze and they both held their breaths while it bathed them. Curtis pushed the empty bowl away from himself and wiped a rag on his mouth and all around his forehead and neck.
“Why were you out there like a damn slug?” he said.
The girl didn’t open her eyes but cupped the new pouch of belly in her hands like an expectant mother with little more than a peanut in her womb.
“I was trying to find somewhere cool I could lay a while.”
Curtis lit a fresh joint on the candle, the light sparked the girl up like an angel and blasted the rest of the room into void.
“Hm,” he said, “You can crawl all the way to Lakeland and not find a lick of shade.”
“I don’t know. My daddy told me there’s still some places where it’s cool and maybe not so crowded.” she said.
“And where’s your daddy at now? Nowhere good, I bet.”
The girl shrugged and took the offered joint into her fingers. She tried to remember the last letter she’d got from her father and retrieved a memory from a year prior. She waited as the ocean crept closer and swallowed homes in front of hers, before it finally knocked on her own door and swept her inland. She’d stopped believing her father was alive, but not that there was somewhere else to go. If there wasn’t, they would be alone in the dark when the curtain fell on Earth, leaving only godless souls to crawl on their bellies like blind snakes in a barrel, one climbing on top of the other for a chance at dying last. The girl looked at Curtis’s smushed face and missed when there was only man to fear, and the ground boar more than death.
Curtis poured cold water in a large bucket outside and the girl had a good go at washing herself. Her skin was virginal and free of scars; flesh like the smooth hat of a mushroom. He watched steam rise from the pool at her feet. The girl paused scooping water on her body, opened her arms and face and mouth to the black sky in a silent scream. She gave up bathing when a hot wind kicked up and coated her in dust.
Curtis had craned his neck to the clouds in a similar way but let out a primal scream with his own girl’s body laid in his arms and her looking up, too. The gaze was absent and her neck was cut and leaning awkwardly curious. It was done, but she didn’t fly into grace with open arms. Her body laid useless and Curtis left her there knowing this was their punishment and nothing would lessen the sentence.
The girl fell asleep as heavy as a child with a fever, her garish frame barely enough to make a real lump in the bed. Curtis sat up in bed beside her. She looked like a corpse, her skin opaque and veins ribbed up and down her arms and legs. He watched her and grew angry at her carelessness. Dragging herself through the rotten desert for what – she only had to take one look around and it was obvious; this was it and no magic man saved a place for her, or any of them, in the shade. You could live in a dream or with the steady footing and firm disappointment of reality, and he preferred the latter.
The sky was lavender and a steady heat of steam rose from cracks like geysers. The girl was gone when Curtis woke up and he saw her naked body merge with the mirage of wavering air in the not so far distance. She’d taken his boots, but they both knew he had no use for them. She would hear him call her name if he knew it. If he screamed it loud enough and knew he wanted her to stay. Soon the distance was too much and the heat too strong to see her without straining. He went back inside to the unmade bed, still musty and covered in her dirt, stripped the sheets and dumped them in the sink, running water on them until there was a stream of murk. The girl could have her shade, and Curtis would have his. The comfort that even Earth was mortal, and as long as there were sinners you could crawl for eternity and never leave suffering.
You’ve told your parents, friends, and pets that you’re going to be a writer when you grow up and they’ve all given you that look of pity that roughly translates to You’re never going to move out, are you? You want to write for a living because as much as you love writing, you don’t want to do it for free (and you shouldn’t have to), but what are your options?
When people think of professional writers their imagination only goes as far as novelists before it taps out, but there are so many paths to choose from on the writing track.
Tell your parents there’s no more need to worry that you’ll be performing your poetry on the street in exchange for a bite of someone’s hamburger- although that might be an upgrade to what you’re currently selling your writing for.
Here’s a list of freelance writing positions for writers of all experience levels and education levels; these jobs rely primarily on your capabilities as a writer and ability to sell yourself.
Online Content Creator
If you’re here you probably already do this, but may not even know it. Content creators create original content for online audiences, these are typically blog and article writers. This content can be to inform, sell a product, or simply to entertain. A lot of popular blogs hire out their work to freelancers, whether it be travel, food, or fashion blogs. Next time you’re on your favorite blog or website see if they have a “submit” or “contribute” tab on their website. Most sites will have this somewhere unless they exclusively hire staff writers.
Copywriters are often confused with content writers because they have similar duties of creating content to inform the masses. Copywriters differ slightly because their writing is aimed at generating interest and trust while calling the reader to action, this can be in the form of direct emails to customers, product descriptions, or landing pages to name a few.
Copy writing is one of the more lucrative writing jobs because it directly affects a business’s sales. Good copy means more sales for the business, and more money and recurring work for you.
Technical writing is one of the harder fields to get into without some relevant education in marketing, experience, or knowledge of the product because of the amount of research required for the job. Technical writers enable readers to use a specific product or complete a task by transforming complicated information into simple terms and delivering it through manuals, safety instructions, how-to guides, and FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions). If an activity needs a certain skill to perform, a technical writer lurks somewhere behind.
This path is especially profitable if you already know the area you’ll be writing for, otherwise you’ll spend a lot of time researching. If you don’t have the slightest idea how a H-VAC system works, don’t think you can learn about the product while you’re writing about it.
Press Release Writer
When companies need to let their customers and clients know something newsworthy such as upcoming events, new products, and sales – that’s where press release writers come in. Writers can get press release writing jobs by pitching directly to companies or looking on job boards. Be aware that some clients may also want you to distribute the press release. I personally don’t do press releases, but have heard other freelancers say they prefer just to write the release and if they distribute it, they offer it is an extra service.
Editors can do as little as fact check and remove any errors in spelling and grammar, all the way to completely rewriting a customer’s work for overall quality and clarity. The kind of editor you can become is dependent on your experience and writing skill. Editing is a good job for you if you’re extremely attentive to detail, as you’ll have to read and edit a piece thoroughly multiple times before sending it back to your client as complete.
A proofreader is an editor’s underappreciated ginger stepbrother. Editors and proofreaders have a lot of similar duties, and because of this an editor may also be a proofreader, but typically a proofreader will stick with checking spelling and grammar.
You do not need a qualification to be a proofreader but it is helpful to learn some of the standard skills by reading or taking online tests to see where you stand.
Magazine freelancers pitch articles to editors and if approved can make a nice sum and get recurring work. This is especially good for travel writers and those who like journalism.
It can be difficult for new writers without clips to break into magazine writing because effective pitching does not come without practice. Start by pitching to smaller publications online, your local publications, and student newspapers so you stand a better chance of landing article and getting clips to build your portfolio, then shoot for those bigger magazine-fish. Online magazines usually have a “submit” or “contribute” section on their site, too.
Ghostwriters write for other people, typically books and articles, but give up all rights to the work once finished. This has it’s positives and negatives. For one, because ghostwriters do not get any credit for their work, they usually get paid more for it. The negative is that because you are giving up the rights to your work, you can’t include it in your portfolio or resume.
Ghostwriters have an extensive background in freelance writing and maybe a book (or ebook) of their own published; having the extra notch on their resume won’t significantly change their chances at getting a job, so ghostwriting is a win all around for them. New writers aren’t likely to get a ghostwriting job and probably don’t want to because it won’t be able possible to include it as experience.
I recently saw a job to rewrite the rules for a sex dice game and knew I’d picked the right industry for me. Videogame writing is great for those of us who love fiction writing, and is unique because it involves working very closely with a team. I’m working on a videogame right now and learned that there is a lot of communicationand even more rewriting as the project goes forward. Overall, videogame writing is one of the most creative of writing jobs because there is a lot of free reign with dialogue, plot, and scenery (as long as it fits with the game play).
There you have it: real writing jobs that pay real money, mama would be proud! I hope this has shed some light on the ever-elusive professional writing career. A lot of these job’s duties overlap, so if you qualify for one you’ll probably be able to do another, and another. And (especially in the beginning) you’ll need to do some juggling of jobs in order to get the ball rolling into a proper check. The kind that takes care of rent and bills and other grown up words.
I’ll follow this up next week with a post on exactly how much money freelance writers make in the United States, especially in those terribly expensive cities like Los Angeles.
Have you done any of these jobs or care to share your experience as a freelance writer? Are there any other jobs that should go on this list?
Otherwise titled Life and Other Things That Get in the Way Of Writing.
I was planning on posting a short story this week but sacrificed my usual writing time for a little bit of a social life, and now look what happened – no stories! This is exactly why having a schedule is important. It’s hard to get family and friends to understand that writing takes up a lot of my time (especially since I’m not getting paid to do it), so whenever I tell them I’m going to be busy writing at a certain time, they think it’s something that can be put off until later. It’s really frustrating, but probably something I should speak up about more. Or maybe it’s good to live in the world every once in a while if you want to write about it. I don’t have much of a creative mind this morning so I’ve been tackling an old revision that I’ve been avoiding like the plague. Black tea, smooth tunes on the radio, and an early smoking session have eased the pain, though, and it’s been fun to revisit the story.
My creative writing class starts up again tonight so hopefully that’ll put the fire back under me. Last semester I was churning out stories like no one’s business, but this semester I want to focus on one or two longer pieces so I can get more feedback on story arc, character development, and narrative from beginning to end. I haven’t started the story or got a particular one in mind, but have been thinking about a theme focused on the ways people let each other down. We’ll see how it goes. In the mean time, when I do post a story here it’ll be flash fiction so I don’t get too distracted from my main project, but will be a nice break.
Well, that’s an update on my writing – not much. Maybe I’ll make this a monthly post, just to check in with myself and flesh some new plans out.
Have you got any short term writing plans? Do you sometimes have to sacrifice writing for actual social interaction and life-living? How do you balance the two?
In keeping with receiving criticism and the writer’s super power of growing several layers of dragon scales for skin, is a quote that I read in On Writing by Stephen King. I highly recommend it to all writers, especially those in the early stages of writing and discovering their voice. Although this quote doesn’t necessarily relate to the writing process, it’s a regular occurrence for artists and can lead to self doubt and impostor syndrome – both of which negatively effect the ways we write.
A lot of us keep our writing in the closet (or our blogs) because of the reaction we get when we reveal to someone that you’re a writer and gasp plan to write full time for real money and no you’re not delusional. The general misconception that the only way to make money as a writer is by being a novelist with an absurd amount of luck, doesn’t help either.
Prior to saying this, King mentions a teacher scolding him for wasting his talents writing junk. I’m sure she went on to face palm herself into oblivion, but it goes to show how even someone who is now The Stephen King got more than a few sideways looks for spending his time writing short stories for fun and then for money. It takes confidence to be a writer and this doesn’t come quickly, especially when there can be a lot of having to justify why you’re doing it. I’m a nurse’s assistant and just recently started telling my co-workers that I stopped taking courses for nursing to pursue freelance writing instead, many of my co-workers are very supportive and want to read my blog, while others tell me to go back to nursing school because there’s no way to make a living as a writer. I used to run through a list of ways writers can make a living, but came to the realization that that was a real waste of my time.
Getting involved in the blogging community and indie writer community has been a great way for me to build confidence and “meet” other writers who are either exploring their voice or doing what I aim to do, which is a constant inspiration. Seeing writers do what so many consider impossible is motivation to carry on in your own work, and learn how to just (as the vernacularly challenged say) do you.
How do you cope with nay-sayers? Do you keep your writing online or are you vocal about it with people you know? Why do you think everyone and their mother has an opinion about you being a writer?