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. 🙂
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?
A while ago, my creative writing professor said although he liked the first part of a story I had handed in to him, the last two parts seemed gimmicky. After five minutes of white noise and rapid eye blinking I thought, for a man who makes a living choosing the right words you’d think he’d come up with something a little less harsh. But harsh words or not, he was right, although it took me two weeks of grief to understand why.
Getting feedback on your work is essential to produce a good story. We like to think that we can take constructive criticism on the chin (especially when it’s positive), but when we’ve coddled a beloved story for months, edited, and tucked it in bed, it’s hard to deal with negative feedback. Seasoned writer or no, you’re likely to go through these stages when a story you’ve written isn’t received as well as you thought it would be.
You don’t like my story? I know you’ve had years of training, write professionally for a living, and have published several novels, but you obviously have no idea what you’re talking about.
For every red mark you’ve left on my work, I will kill you.
Okay, my story is kind of terrible. If I could just write one amazing book I promise to drink you once a day for eternity. That’s how all the good writers do it anyway, right?
It’s true, I’m a phony with no talent. I’ll start looking for a real job as soon as I’m through wiping my tears with the pages of my unfinished novel.
Okay, I wrote a bad (really bad) story, so what? I’m going to take your feedback and those red marks all over my pages, and turn them into something awesome.
Sometimes things are best said in GIFs. I think I’d be more accepting of negative comments if they came in GIF form. 😀 When was the first time you had to deal with negative feedback on your work? How do you deal with the red mark of death?
If I waited for perfection, I would never write a word. – Margaret Atwood
The first draft of anything is shit. – Ernest Hemingway
These quotes come at a time when I’m making several revisions to a short story from four or five months ago. Last week I was eager to edit. I got the story out of my desk, edited the first paragraph thirty-odd times, then stuffed the papers back in the drawer deciding my time would be best spent job hunting – I’d worked five months and produced excrement, and worst of all, at one point I’d actually thought it was good. I was suffering from two things all writers go through at one point or another; a disconnect from my work because so much time had passed since the last edit, and feeling stagnated because I was editing my story with the aim of perfecting it.
As writers, we’re all guilty of trying to make our stories perfect because we have a particular message we want to convey, but what is perfection anyway? When does refining become a vice?
Writing is art; personal and an expression of self, so is constantly evolving and is impossible to perfect, so why are so many of us aiming for the impossible? The idea of what makes a flawless story changes as often as our minds do. Constantly judging your writing in pursuit of perfection ends in frustration and chasing your creativity down a hole to writer’s block.
Perfectionism puts a wrench in your writing mojo so, why do we spend so many weeks, months, and years editing and re-editing, in pursuit of it? I think the greatest reason is fear. Writing is incredibly personal, even when you’re not writing about something personal. You write, edit, pour hours into a story and wonder what people will say when they read your work. What will my friends/family think? Will my editor like it? What if no one gets what I’m trying to do? All of these questions rise up and choke the life out of creativity.
Aiming to write a well though-out, clear, soul-filled story is a good thing, but writing for perfection is a hindrance on creativity and productivity, because you’ll be editing with no end in sight.
Some ways I deal with my occasionally overcritical eye are to
Try not judging work while in the middle of writing it. Save judgement for later drafts, the first one is just a place to get your ideas onto paper (or screen). Think of creating your story like painting; start with broader strokes and then go back to refine, not perfect.
Write first and foremost for you, not any potential readers you think may be out there.
Set realistic deadlines to complete work. If you like to keep track of projects in stages; set a deadline to complete your outline, then a first draft, and so on. Having a set time to finish leaves no space for endless edits.
Chasing perfection hurts the creative process, but is something all writers (even the ones you admire and can do no wrong) struggle with. Next time you find you’ve micro-edited a paragraph for the umpteenth time, take a break then come back to the work with a mindset of writing without judgement, and free of the worry that someone is looking over your shoulder.
Do you find yourself struggling for perfection, or leaning on any other vices that stop you from writing? How are some ways you combat the need to aim for perfect writing? How long do you work on a project before deciding enough is enough? Let me know in the comments!
When I realized I had a solid date and plan of action for becoming vegan, but no deadlines or real plan for how I would achieve my writing goals, I took a long look at myself in the mirror, wiped the pizza grease off my mouth and said, Minelli, your priorities are fucked. It’s easy to claim the title as a writer, but what happens next? How do you land that writing job or actually finish that collection of poems you’ve been harping on about for so long? I’m a naturally disorganized person, but when I took my “temporary” hiatus from college it wasn’t long before I found that I could not carry on this way and expect to get anywhere in writing, professional or otherwise.
I’ve had more on my plate writing-wise with trying to post more frequently and taking on a few projects. I’m working with two illustrator friends and my husband (who’s a 3D modeler) to create a small videogame, and I am writing the content and story. I am also finally (finally) editing Melancholia in Molasses for my creative writing class that recommences at the end of the month. It’s been so long since I’ve touched my 5500+ word count story and there’s still so much that needs to be done. Outside of those more elective activities, I have been working on my professional writing; refining my resume, applying for freelance writing jobs, writing proposals and cover letters left right and center. It’s impossible to get through anything without some pre-planning.
Staying organized saves time so you’re more productive and able to stay on top of different projects. Fiction writers have to organize outlines and find writing time outside of their day jobs; while freelance writers have to be on top of their schedules, clients, research, and due dates. Here is a list of organizational tips (and helpful links) to prioritize your writing life like the boss you’re trying to be.
Cleanliness is next to productiveness
Did you know productive writers are God’s favorite children? Clean that desk or dining table (or the bed you use as a table) so you have a de-cluttered space to write and you will be highly favored. Oh, you don’t have a designated place to write? It’s better to be a Starbucks cliche than have no place to write at all.
Set a large goal, then establish small steps to achieve it
You can’t become a novelist and freelance writer extraordinaire without a (realistic) plan to get there. Set smaller goals to achieve larger ones so you can measure progress and stay motivated.
Writing a long story? Establish daily word count goals and log how many you complete.
Looking for writing jobs? Establish a weekly goal of how many you will apply to, then send out proposals/resumes daily to break application time into manageable sessions. No one likes spending hours searching jobs and emailing resumes (unless you’re a resume writer, bless your soul if you are).
Organize as much of your work as you can electronically and take advantage of apps like Evernote or Google Drive. These apps are great for planning stories and articles, taking notes, planning your schedule, saving images, and everything is automatically synced to your electronic devices. This means you will never have to wait until you get to your home or office to find out information for a client, or the details of a story you’re writing. I personally prefer Google but know many people like Evernote’s interface and ability to save articles and images with their original links and references.
Life does not need to look like a planner and mine often doesn’t, but when you’re a freelance writer it’s good if your life resembles some of the rigidity of pre-scheduled days. I’m hardly a fan of them, but if you expect to get a job writing you might as well start acting as if you’re doing it already (my ideal workplace is cat friendly and pant-free, so that is the work environment I perpetuate at home). For creative writers, use your schedule to plan writing around your work schedule.
Do more creative/time consuming projects first
Unless you have something that needs to be done right away or a meeting that has to be attended, start off with the more creative tasks. Our brains are the most alert in the morning so it’s a good opportunity to tap into those creative juices before they’re all drained from other activities. If you don’t work with creative writing, do the harder and more time consuming tasks first rather than leaving them for last – you have to do it regardless, why let it weigh you down at the end of a long day?
Don’t take on every project
You will be tempted to, but if you do you’ll likely take on too much, get burned out, and leave a terrible impression on any clients you’re working with. How productive is it to start a fourth short story when you’ve barely pieced together the second and haven’t revised the first? I know; you’re a writer, you’re broke and motivated, but that practice is not productive. It’s easy to get excited once you get the ball rolling on a story or when the job interviews start rolling in, but the more you do the less time you can spend doing one thing very well.
Take care of yourself, too
I mentioned acting as if writing is your job (if that’s where you’re trying to take it), but remember it’s not just any job-it’s the job you want. Have you had enough sleep, food, and water? If not you’ll be fatigued and won’t make it past noon without several cups of coffee to help you keep up the work. Remember to take breaks, fifteen minutes to every hour, rather than working like a Hebrew slave for hours in a row. Most of us have day jobs; I work 7am-7pm three days out of the week so do not write (or even think about writing) on those days. I’m off four days in the week and spend three of those days writing from 9-4ish. Work on a write-work-life balance that doesn’t burn your out, hopefully these organizational tips will help along the way.
Here’s to productive work and no burn out! Do you have any tips for getting organized? Let me know in the comments!
Depending on how long you’ve been reading Drunk Off Rhetoric you may know I started this blog to improve my writing and broaden the genres of books I read. I had decided to take a long (permanent) hiatus from college and was trying to figure out what I could do to change my writing hobby into a career. It has been just over a year of good books, a few short stories, and spotty blogging. Overall, I can say reading and meeting other aspiring and accomplished writers, attending workshops, and reading a lot of blogs on the subject has made potential paths to writing professionally much clearer.
But at times, pursuing a writing career can feel like hunting an endangered species; seldom seen and just out of reach, you’re sure writing for money (real money that pays big bills) is an elaborate joke at your expense. Writing professionally is not like the typical career with clear paths to success. There is no bachelors in freelance writing and completing an MFA in creative writing won’t guarantee a book deal. Even if you do get some sort of writing degree, who’s to say you can find a writing job to pay for it? So, what is a writer to do? What about one without an English or creative writing degree? As daunting as these questions were when I had no idea what I wanted to pursue, my answer was to experiment with as many paths as possible; learn from numerous outside sources, workshops, literature classes, professors, author readings, and blogs. Now that I feel I’ve progressed as far as I can with those resources I’ve enrolled in UCLA’s Writer’s Program – a structure and choice of classes I think will help carry my writing to a new level and allow me to reach my goal of completing a short story collection and starting a freelance writing career. The program lasts two years and you have the option to submit one hundred pages of a manuscript for review by an adviser, at the end of the course.
Some things that drew me to the program was the flexibility, instructors, and large variety of classes; some that interested me ranged from learning to build real characters to the ins and outs of the publishing side of the industry. The most valuable parts of the program for me are that I will work consistently in a classroom of other writers, and would complete my collection and get valuable feedback for a large chunk of it.
One other bonus is that my resume won’t look so half done, the portion under the Education section won’t be so empty. There is absolutely no need to go through a formal education to become a good writer, but without one you may be lost finding practical, paying work. Experience is the more important of the two, but since the program is a great opportunity to learn and grow, I thought it would illuminate another path of the elusive writing career and make the next step more than a stumble in the dark.
What are some choices you’ve made in pursuit of improving your writing, professionally or otherwise? Have you gone the route of getting an English, creative writing degree, or something equivalent? Did you think it was worth it in the end? Did you struggle to get your first paid writing job?
Writing has laws of perspective, of light and shade just like painting does, or music. If you are born knowing them, fine. If not, learn them. Then rearrange the rules to suit yourself. – Truman Capote
Since reading Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood I thought I’d stick with his wonderful way with words for this week’s craft quote. Seeing this quote, I wondered whether Capote considered himself one of the writers born with a natural talent, or whether he had to read, write, and rewrite his way to perfection.
Is writing craft mostly talent or practice? Personally, I think an innate seedling of writing should be present – but just a seedling, an “ear” for words. But the bulk of craft is practice, work-shopping, having your work read by infinite writers and friends, multiple drafts, criticism, being up to your eyes in books, et cetera. How do you play with writing rules? I play it relatively safe in terms of structure. I have yet to learn all of the rules of creative writing so have not figured out how to break them, but it is always great to read stories from those who have reached this point and seeing how it works for them.