Sunday, September 18, 2011

Railin' & Writin': My newest mobile office

Ha! Finally got the pic and formatting to stick. Anyways,
pretty sweet set-up, huh?
From somewhere in Mississippi... 

Welcome to my newest office, the 59 City of New Orleans train.

I love the technology that finds me barrelling towards the Big Easy and not missing an iota of work. If anything I've logged some overtime on writing projects.

Client work for the week is done and I've written ahead on one of my sports beats. Daily deadlines can be submitted from the hotel--from a less shaky desk than I'm presently working.

I'm feeling uber global at the moment and writer-at-large-like. Of course, all the mobile tech doesn't work for long without a good old fashioned electrical outlet. I'll be catching up on news on Wednesday. Until then I plan on soaking up the city. It's a great day to be a freelance writer. If I hadn't been awoken by being smacked in the arm by an Amtrak hat in Memphis, it would be an amazing day overall.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Late Nights, QuarkXPress & Conquering Evil Macs: College newspapers are freelancing bootcamps

Huge boxing gloves + deadline = true story
Throwback Thursday

I know, I know. You're thinking writing for a college newspaper is an obvious way to prepare for a freelance writing career. Of course it is--but not in the ways you think. The skills you gain go beyond learning how to write a lede, interview sources or design a page. What is really going on is on-the-fly training that will help you learn to take only the work you want, what elements are important and how to handle difficult clients.

What do you really want to write?

Eagerness is the bane of many budding journalists. It's nothing to agree to cover a concert, interview the student body president and profile the basketball team's star player--all for the next issue. The problem is finding the time to cover everything and turn in a quality article.

The paper has to be put to bed, whether you've gotten any sleep or not. A deadline is a deadline. So those hours you spent at the student union watching jumbo boxing instead of

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Creating Mobile Websites for Freelance Writers

I've gone mobile! Have you? 


Smartphones are so integrated into our lives and how we find services that not having a mobile version of my freelance writing website was bordering on bad business. I remedied that lapse the other night in about 20 minutes, while waiting on the kitchen paint to dry. If just one client discovers me on their cell phone then that will be time well spent.

Tips for writers considering going mobile:
  • If you don't know how to build a mobile website from scratch, avoid headaches and use a site builder.
  • Landing page should be a short menu of options.
  • Be accessible: leave multiple avenues for contact.

Friday, July 15, 2011

'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2' Premiere a Chance to Mix Work and Pleasure

My movie ticket and non-Harry Potter 3D glasses.
Thank you, Harry Potter

Sometimes the universe aligns and I get the opportunity to go to and write about an event I would totally go to for free. So I was so there when I got an assignment to interview Team Potter members at the "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2" midnight premiere last night/this morning. I didn't get the nifty Harry 3D glasses like I was hoping for, but still had an entertaining time before, during and after the movie.

I've never been to a show where the audience was so involved in the storyline. Also never watched a movie where the audience was rabid for the show to start. If it hadn't of been for those adorable penguins in the previews soothing us savage wizard-loving Muggles, I'm pretty sure the shouts of "Start the movie!" would have turned into a full-blown riot. After discovering how many people loved the storming of Hogwarts scenes, I'm certain of this.

It was a trip interviewing fans after the show. If it hadn't of been 3 a.m. and me on a deadline, I would have loved to have hung out with them in front of the cinema dishing about Neville, Mrs. Weasley and Harry's kids.

Much gratitude to Harry Potter, J.K. Rowling, Warner Bros., Yahoo! Movies and everyone else that enabled me to have an amazing night while making a buck. It was awesome sauce, better than midnight bingo with cheese fries.

What events have you been excited to attend and got paid too?

Photo credit: Tamara McRill

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Saying 'Bye' to My Old Freelance Writing Website

A Throwback Thursday in Honor of My Former Online Presence 

I've had my personal freelance writer website for about two years now. It's been offline for many months, but I've finally gotten around to revamping it. I am paying for it, so might as well use it.

The old site had many components I liked, but overall was just too old looking and too packed with content and buttons. Given my background, it's not surprising that the design comes off a little newspaper-ish. Here's a screenshot of what the site looked like when I was blocking out the design in 2009:

My first attempt at a writer's website.
"Big Inviting Headline that Sells Me" pretty much sums up the site's purpose. Think any writing clients would have found it cute if I hadn't changed it to something more appropriate? Might

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Looking for Quotes on the MTV Movie Awards

I have a few articles in progress about the MTV Movie Awards. (On right now--check it out!) I've decided to try out Survey Monkey, which has been recommended by several writers looking for a large selection of quotes. I'll post my findings tomorrow.

Meanwhile...If you caught the show, feel free to answer the questions on what you liked, loved or hated for a chance to be quoted in the article. (Yep, that was shameless.) The first five or six questions are for an article for YCN, that is likely to appear on Yahoo! Movies. The next two questions are for two separate articles for YCN News/Entertainment.

You can find the survey here

Feel free to share the link (http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/Z7XBRJ5), anyone can answer. Taking answers until Monday, noon EST. Thanks!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Enraging, Endearing Editors--Throwback Thursday

Hopefully, editors won't become as rare as the red pen.
I Miss Them

After discovering my love for journalism in middle school, I was devastated to learn that my high school paper would be off limits until I was a junior. Come junior year, I was amped to get my first by-line in newsprint. By the end of the semester, I had discovered the age-old love/hate relationship between writers and editors.

I learned two hard lessons in one issue, the second as demoralizing, if not as dramatic, as the first. (I cut out the first instance, it was way to long to combine both.) I was writing about the pumpkin patch in a near-by town. I wrote three drafts of that story, before it was approved. That wasn't the problem, though. Those editing lessons were much appreciated.

The work put into the story did make it the one I was most eager to see when the paper finally came out. Grabbing a few copies and rushing home, I tore through the pages to find it. And burst into tears. The version that went to press was the first draft. I was enraged. After all those

Freelancing Means Fun Things Aren't Forsaken

The backdoor in my office leads right to this. Tempting!
It means indulging in quirky fun during the workday

Freelance writing from home has numerous perks besides never missing work to wait on the cable/internet/phone/UPS guy. One of the greatest benefits for me personally is being able to find frequent stopping points in my work day to enjoy a bit of fun. Here are some of the shenanigans I've gotten up to during a normal work day:
  • Impromptu shopping binges. 
  • Eating lunch at home with my guy. Better yet, going for ice cream!
  • Chasing toads/hummingbirds/butterflies in the yard.
  • Going for mud puddle stomping walks with the nephews.
  • Jumping in the swimming pool midday. (So very, very cold!)
  • Playing keep away with the dogs.
  • Finding animals to beg for on Craigslist. (0 for 3 this month: a monkey, baby goats and  a puppy.)
  • Caking on the makeup--topped off with three coats of mascara and crimson lips--and it's photo time!
  • Said makeup, crank the music and dance around like a rock star.
  • Buy tickets to go on vacation the next day. Hey, this office is mobile.
Sure, the mundane stuff happens too. Laundry, cooking and dish washing--even cleaning the toilet--happens between articles. Have to do something while I'm up stretching. At least those chores aren't left for my after-work free time.

Oh, and tomorrow I get to skip out for a couple hours in the morning to go to a nephew's awards assembly. How many jobs would have let me have time off for that?

Photo credit: Tamara McRill 

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Going with My Gut Garners a Featured Article

Circled in red: My 'DWTS' article featured on AC News.
Chalking Up a Win for Instincts & 'Silly' Ideas

Not every topic I write about is steeped in seriousness. Sometimes the subjects would be considered fluff or just ridiculous. I feel confident many people would consider the article I wrote in the wee hours of the morning, "'DWTS' Winner Not a Blonde Celebrity; No Surprise," to fall into the 'frivolous' category. But, hey, I have to share the incongruous information in my head, especially when it eventually connects to form an interesting pattern.

Watching the "Dancing with the Stars" finale last night, I looked at my guy and announced, "Hines is so going to win, Kirstie and Chelsea are blondes." Which reminded me that I had an idea last season to write about how blond celebs rarely made it to the final three, let alone

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Healthy Writing Space Habits = Less Hours + More $

Ergonomics for computer users.
Economics of Ergonomics and Eye Care

I'm writing this post in my living room, by the glow of the laptop screen and slight illumination from the kitchen light. Cross-legged and hunched over...now stretched out with the love seat arm pressing into my neck...and I've just jabbed a toothpick into my eye.

Okay, not just, more like twenty minutes ago. Needed recovery time. Proving--albeit extremely painfully--my point. Which is this: If your writing space isn't set up properly it can hurt you and how much money you are making.

If you can't see what you are doing, squinting or hunting around for things, that wastes time. If you are constantly squirming around, trying to get comfortable, there goes more time. Have to

Monday, May 23, 2011

Interesting New Interview How-To Blog

I'm a big proponent of online writers adding quality sources to their articles and have mentioned several times that interviewing experts is one of the best ways to do so. Wouldn't you know I'm not the only writer who thinks so? Yahoo! News contributor Brad Sylvester has created a brand new blog devoted to the process of interviewing experts.

Discover the realities of interviewing experts.
'Interviews with Experts' isn't just a straight 'how to interview' lecture. What makes it interesting is that the blog is a mix of advice in addition to Sylvester taking specific issues he encounters during the interview process and discussing how he dealt with each one. More importantly, he

Friday, May 20, 2011

Jamming Out and Jotting Down Article Ideas

My trusty article idea notebook.
To the left, to the left
...side of the brain

I can't rock out and write, but that doesn't mean tunes aren't totally part of my creative process. Courtesy of YouTube, today I danced around while 80's hair bands emoted on love, with a little Beyoncé and Carrie Underwood backbone for some confident hip shakin' attitude. With a clear mind and buoyant spirit, I stopped every now and then, jotting down article ideas in my mini Yahoo! notebook.

Queuing up a Bon Jovi ballad playlist, with the likes of Skid Row ("I Remember You"), the Black Crowes ("She Talks to Angels") and multiple replays of "Irreplaceable"  thrown in for good measure, I shook it while doing laundry and cooking supper. By the time I finished up with "Before He Cheats" I had a nice list of evergreen article ideas and talking points to toy with. Oddly enough, mostly centering around children and business. I would of thought I would have been channeling relationship ideas with those songs, but not so much.

For me, brainstorming article ideas to music has to be done to songs I know so well I can keep belting out the lyrics even if YouTube is buffering in silence. It's a process that requires no

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Lazily Lapsing on Leaving Little Love Letters

Has he noticed? Part of me hopes so.

There was a time when a hand-drawn sweetly versed card was tucked ever so secretively into the fridge, nestled next to his favorite drink or treat. The coffee table was often graced with lovingly penned short tributes to how he made me smile.

Now the fridge is home to only to foodstuffs. Prepared with affection, for sure, but not quite the same delightful surprise. The coffee table, well, it is gone, but there are plenty of  lonely surfaces that would welcome such warm company.

It's not like my lack of writing little love letters is something I just discovered. We impetuously decided to spend Valentine's Day in New Orleans. A love gift to ourselves--we agreed the only present to be exchanged--to get away as a couple. I had the thought that it wouldn't be breaking the rules to mail home a postcard. To briefly capture the moment and tell him how wonderful the adventure was. How wonderful he is.

I didn't do it. I had a stamp in my wallet, but I didn't do it.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Malignantly Menacing & Maiming My Manuscript

How I visualize my poor, maimed manuscript.
The things we do to the characters we love...

I am almost fished with my first novel. Okay, I've been almost done for awhile. I'm stuck on the ending. In fits of frustration, I have resorted to attacking the finished chapters. Rearranging events, rewriting whole passages and killing off my MC in epic apocalyptic events I already know he overcomes.

I'm mad at it, him and each carefully thought out scenario. I've deleted, only to frantically click 'undo'. Countless paragraphs have alternate outcomes and events written underneath, to the extent it could be a choose-your-own-adventure book. Except every story ends with death and destruction. There is no route to the happy ending, because it has yet to be written.

Maybe this means my Angelous may not be meant for a happily ever after. Perhaps I have failed him and Daemon in the telling of their story. What have I missed? Something is wrong. I know that.

Mauling my manuscript doesn't seem to be producing any answers, just more hostile questions. The book stemmed from a piece of flash fiction I rushed out to meet a contest deadline. I knew there was more to be written.  But I'll be damned at this point if I know what.

What do you do when you can't seem to write an ending that 'fits'?


Photo credit: Caspar Barlaeus / Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

Monday, May 16, 2011

Never Negate the Need for Novelty

...Lest you find yourself with nothing new to write about

It would be ridiculously easy for me to sit here at my laptop and never look beyond the words I type onto the screen. Scarily easy.

But at some point the typing would become sluggish, strained and eventually stop. Realization would dawn that I have nothing more to offer. No more experiences to relate, because I didn't venture out into the world and acquire them. My perspective would have narrowed onto myself. I would have nothing from which to draw my creativity. The words would not come.

The words would not come. That has to be one of the most frightening scenarios for a writer. To have no more words, nothing left to relate.

So I make sure to get out into the world and try new things, talk to new people. Irrelevant is not something I'm prepared to be.

When was the last time you tried something new and wrote about it?

Friday, May 13, 2011

Quasi QuarkXPress Post

I was planning to write about my initial adventures using QuarkXPress during my years as a college newspaper editor, but Blogger went down yesterday. So I'm shelving that for a later Throwback Thursday. I found some pictures of a few of my page layouts to show and tell.

Yes, this is a post telling you what I was going to post about. Hey, don't blame me, I needed a 'Q'!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Realizing the Differences of Ranting and Reasoning

Commentary Writing is More than Unchecked Opinion

I love a good rant. Nix that. I love an unhinged, unreasonable, completely biased violent outpouring of insane opinion. In movies, plays, novels and even in person. Just not in my news commentary.

In fact, I would never put such an angry display in my own commentary writing, as much as I am prone to spew it for my friends' amusement. (They know me and how silly I can be.) That would be a discourteous waste of the reader's time.

Like a few who read this blog, I have a news commentary beat for Yahoo! News. While I don't always take full advantage of the opportunity, I am aware that the beat is a privilege and don't intend to abuse it by passing off vitriolic opinion as reasoned commentary.

Reasoning is exactly what should be behind and shown in good commentary writing. Never let the reader suspect you've been nipping at the crazy sauce.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Sussing Out Solid Sources for Articles

Searching for article sources becomes easy, once a writer knows where to look.
One thing I've noticed that many online writers find intimidating is finding original and credible sources. While you could just cite and information from other articles, there is a danger to doing so. The writer of the piece you are using for a source could have gotten some of the information wrong or interpreted it in a way you would find to be untrue, had you looked at the original source yourself. Luckily, it is fairly easy to discover the original information or even come up with your own unique sources.

Tips for Finding Original Source Documents Online:
  • Original studies can often be found online. (Hint: If you are having trouble finding the name of the study, search for some of the facts and figures.)
  • Company announcements are often made through press releases. (Hint: Check company and agency websites for the 'Press Room' or similarly named tab.)
  • Government news and reports are published on their websites. (Hint: Search the sites 'News' section for recent stories. A PDF of official reports are often linked in these.)

Monday, May 9, 2011

Throwback Thursday Blogging Theme

Past (1935, Robert Aitken) National Archives Building.
Prompted By the Past

I've been awash in back-in-the-day recollections lately, a side effect of cleaning out the garage. Whether inspired by the boxes of old newspaper clippings or the mold spores that are surely blanketing me during the process, I can't be sure, but I decided all those old writing memories could find a home on this blog. 'Throwback Thursday' seemed like a fitting title.

Every Thursday I am going to blog about something from my writing past. Feel free to join me--I'll enjoy the company. All you have to do is write about something from your past. I'll open a linky list and get a button designed.

**Note: Since Blogger was down on Thursday, May 12, Throwback Thursdays will begin on May 19, 2011.

Photo Credit: AgnosticPreachersKid/Wikimedia Commons

Friday, May 6, 2011

Vexing Vagrant Voice

Have you ever gone back and read one of your older articles and wonder, "Did I write this?" and think "Does that even sound like me?" I had one of those moments a few hours ago and was a bit startled (and irritated) by how every so often my writing voice seems to come from a different place.

All of these personalities shouldn't come through in one article.
Granted, one paper I read was a book report from junior high (remember Fahrenheit 451?), but most of the rest were written within the last six months. The majority sounded like 'me'. Then there were several that sounded more glib or verbose. Those I could attribute somewhat to subject matter and audience.

Then there were those few where it seemed like I checked in and out. That were just slightly erratic in delivery, suffering from multiple writer personalities. Fast-paced one paragraph, weighed down the next, only to pick back up again and finished with a grand blahness. Not pretty.

A consistent writing voice is not something I typically purposely check for. It is more intuitive than that--just knowing something sounds 'off' and fixing it. After being jarred by the ugliness of a wandering voice today, though, I will be more vigilant about consistency in the future.

How do you ensure your writing voice flows naturally?

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Xerox - My First Publisher

Not from my junior high, but eerily familiar looking.
Impressed? I sure was...

We're talking sixth grade and my very first position as a reporter--for the Serendipity Journal. Proud home to my first interviews and a few poems. Serious stuff, all published via the school office xerox machine.

The goldenrod yellow paper was hard to read, but easy to spot littering the hallways on the last day of school. Which--I have learned through the years--is the only day you could be certain a school paper would actually come out.

Did you write for your school paper?

Photo credit: Joseph Barillari / Wikimedia Commons

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Yeah, I'm a Yahoo...

Contributor that is.

I began writing for Associated Content in April 2009 as a way to cut my teeth on and get the grasp of online writing. I continued as a contributor when the site was purchased by Yahoo! last year. The acquisition has provided me, and many other freelance writers, with more opportunities and a larger audience.

Out of all the reasons I love writing for YCN (upfront pay, monthly residuals, weekly beats, plus the freedom to write what I want), my favorite aspect is that there is no such thing as a wasted article. It truly allows a freedom to write on subjects I'm passionate about, without worrying if the piece will ever be published.

The odd part is that I've never had to resort to just publishing something there, because I couldn't find a home for it. Having YCN as a Plan B gives me confidence to go with my gut and interests.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Zipping Along On Zero Zzzzzzs, then Zilch

Unable to Function After Sleep

Pretty sure I looked just like this.
After being sick for a couple weeks now (you can't catch it, don't be skeered), I have to say working through the insomnia bouts has been quite profitable. For instance, take this past weekend, a loopy 38 hour marathon of getting stuff done. By late Saturday night/Sunday morning I must have looked manic, staring intently at the computer screen with burning sleep deprived eyes as I wildly submitted one article after the next!

I did stop so we could have Sunday brunch with the neighbors. A girl can't turn down free pancakes, turkey bacon and good company. Then back to more writing. I vaguely remember watching my guy and brother work on a truck. The meds that have been speeding me up finally lost a grip, so I went flower shopping. (There is no illness so severe that it will force me to turn down the lure of a green house opening for the year. Butterfly bushes will be in mid-June. Must. Not. Forget.)

But all good(?) things must come to an end (okay, I don't really believe that, but in this case I guess so) and I finally got some solid zzz's.

Which ruined everything. Now I'm back to being all tired, blah and unable to string together a coherent sentence. (You've read this far, you know it's true.) My body just wants more rest, but I have a "Thor" interview on Norse mythology article to edit. So I guess I'll go do that.

Note: I feel I should add that this excess of wakefulness didn't totally lend itself well to error-free submissions. Namely, one that was kicked back for only having one sentence. Luckilly, I was capable of copying and pasting the entire article into the template the second time around!

Are you doing the Z to A in May Challenge? Leave a link in the comments. :)

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Key to Freelancing is to Keep on Kicking

Freelance writers have to keep on kicking.
It's the Only Way to Score

Want to make it as a freelance writer? Then you have to keep on kicking. Kicking out ideas, query letters, writing and edits. If you're not on the playing field, then you're not in the game.

If your in the game, you might as well aim for the goal. Don't pass the ball off. No one else can take the shot for you. Look for an opening and make your move. It's not an open net, there are goalkeepers you have to get past. The key is to have the right idea, line up the angle, kick it past the editor and score the gig.

Miss? Try again. Score? Awesome! Do it again. If your writing keeps scoring, you might be added to the team roster.

Are you aiming for the goal?

Photo credit: Xsmith / Wikimedia Commons

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Doing the Job Juggling Jig

Break time is over--back to writing, monkey!
Dance, Monkey, Dance!

It's a week of many small assignments for this writer. Multiple articles going out to many sites. So I'm dancing around like a crazed circus monkey, checking guidelines and pivoting from topic to topic. All while juggling dozens of deadlines.

This is what happens when I don't line up better gigs. Not necessarily more enjoyable ones (I do like the topics), or easier, but just better paying. Dropped the ball there, so it's going to take lots of little projects to meet my goals.

I'm going about it in what I prefer to think of as the smart way:
  • Grouping article writing by site, so as to deal with one set of guidelines at a time.
  • Taking advantage of open news beat assignments, for a little topic freedom.
  • Using one main topic and creating separate pieces with different angles, to save on research time.
This way I'm not duct-taped to my desk chair, downing cold caffeinated goodness to keep from passing out on the keyboard. Time management is a struggle, but I'm still fitting in some living. Nothing major, just simple good stuff; like playing with the dogs, talking to my guy, planting day lilies and chit chatting with the neighbors. Sanity-saving stuff.


Are you juggling a lot this week? How do you cope?

Photo credit: Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons 

Monday, April 11, 2011

Interests are Ideal Idea Generators

Ideas are a writer's bread and butter, or rather the ability to convey those ideas to others. However, it can sometimes feel like the idea well is tapped out. One of the easiest ways I use to find a topic to write on is to look at my own interests and pick those apart for angles. This also works for assigned subjects.


For fresh news angles, I look at how the event or subject affects a group or topic I am interested in. For example: I find advertising trends interesting. So when the Taco Bell meat lawsuit surfaced, I looked at how other fast food chains were already engaging in ad wars over meat quality.

Entertainment and sports topics often have me wondering one of two things: "Who else has done it?" and "What is the person's history with it?" Those are things that are interesting to me.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

HARO: Helping Hand for Reporters

New York Times reporter on the phone, circa 1942.
Website Makes Finding Sources a Cinch

HARO (Help a Reporter Out) is a tool I consider invaluable to journalists. Gone are the days where we have to spend hours tracking down experts to interview for articles. Whew!

You can simply sign up for the service (even as a freelance writer), type up one query and it is sent out among a huge network of experts. Those interested respond to the query, which is emailed to you. It is then simply a matter of choosing the best expert or sources for your piece.

This year alone, HARO has connected me with average Americans for opinions on the Oscars, a speech pathologist to offer opinions on "The King's Speech," Natalie Portman's ballet trainer for "Black Swan" and "Twilight" fans to comment on "Red Riding Hood." For

Friday, April 8, 2011

Getting Over 'Gilmore Girls'

Where is Rory Gilmore now? CNN? The New York Times? Shacked up writing with Jess?
The series ended in 2007 and I still haven't gotten over not knowing how Rory Gilmore's journalism career turned out. That's right--her career. It's what drew me to the show from the beginning and kept me hanging on for seven seasons. Alexis Bledel's book-loving, Havard dreaming, brainiac Rory really resonated with me.

Sure, Lauren Graham was beyond fabulous, Stars Hollow a hoot and the rapid fire pop culture references wildly entertaining. I would have tuned in just for that, but not obsessively. No, it was definitely the writer in me connecting with Rory's own journalistic aspirations that bred the need to see her succeed.


So the series left me hanging. Rory said "no" to Logan's proposal (Yay!) to forge ahead with her career and I was left with an ending that was the beginning of what I tuned in for. Every once in awhile, talk of a "Gilmore Girls" movie pops up and gets me all hopeful. Finally, some answers! But then it dies down and I'm still left wondering.

What television series are you still hung up on?

Photo credit: Jason McELweenie / Wikimedia Commons

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Facebook: Freelance Writer Frenemy #1

Facebook. I rarely get online without checking in there first. It's my virtual social outpost. The welcoming bar I belly up to where the drinks are cheaper, conversation wittier and the games free.
                        "Making your way in the world today
                         Takes everything you've got;
                         Taking a break from all your worries
                         Sure would help a lot.
                         Wouldn't you like to get away"
                                   -- "Cheers" theme song lyrics
Sounds idyllic. Except I'm a freelance writer. Most of my working hours are spent online. So this pleasant outpost of enjoyment is actually a tempting productivity suck.

Me with my #1 Frenemy.
It's not like online writers can ignore social networking completely. Especially the big FB. It's the perfect frenemy. So nice, giving us fan pages to sync up our work, blogs and tweets to broadcast to our network. Providing us with the perfect platform to build our fan bases and connect with clientele, all while insidiously claiming the time we are supposed to be writing.

Damn your usefulness.

So, yeah, Facebook, we can hang--when I have nothing better to do.

What's your Facebook relationship: friend, foe or frenemy?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Enthusiastically Embracing New Writing Endeavors

Yesterday, we talked about diversification, but mainly in terms of writing for someone else. Now I want to focus on our own start-ups, the blogs and websites we enthusiastically create to carve out our own little niches in the world. Out of all the writers I know only a few don't have their own writing endeavors. We're an entrepreneurial lot.

I'm excited about all the writing opportunities we can and do create for ourselves. These passion projects often don't make a dime for months. It doesn't matter. We keep at it because we believe in the idea. We embrace our vision, meld it with our drive and carry the whole shebang out with our storytelling. Sometimes even opening our platforms to other writers' voices.

So, I am sharing  my two newest writing endeavors. They are both still in development stages, but, in the spirit of this blog and to gain some accountability, I feel I should spill the goods.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Dreading Diversification? Don't

Writing venues come and go; be it websites, magazines or publishers. Topics become uber competitive or obsolete. Freelance writers get this. We talk endlessly of eggs and baskets--diversification pontification at its finest. Yet many of us dread actually doing it.

We shouldn't, but we do.

Why does diversification make so many of us apprehensive? Fear of rejection (so they say, 'no'. Next!), unsure of how to proceed (100s of websites and books out there to walk you through it), not enough time (Are you really that busy or is it an excuse?)--the list goes on.

My duck-and-run urges and nervousness come along when it's time to submit that very first article. I'm a winner! They want my work--but what if they change their minds? (What good is that acceptance high without a payday? Oh, not a good fit? Did I mention, 'Next!'?)

The thrill of the hunt: Which outlet is your next target?
Diversification is simply a matter of casting as many well-baited lines as possible. See what you reel in. Toss out the gigs that are too small and don't worry about the big one that got away. There will be another chance to hook it proper. Simple as that.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Challenging Creative Conundrum

What do you do when you need to write something, perhaps a blog post for a certain A to Z Challenge or any other assignment, and cannot settle your mind into 'work mode'? Do you walk away and leave it undone? Sit down and face the blank screen until something comes?

Wordle or my mind?

I write to myself until capable of writing for others. Dump everything onto the page and delete the document. Clean out the creative house and take out the trash. Making everything tidy to make room for house guests, those articles that visit with me for a spell, before they go on to their permanent homes.

Tonight I'll skip the deleting. After all, I have but minutes to post for the letter 'C'. This topic fits, so I'll let it hang around awhile. Maybe copy this post into a document and send it to the trash bin, so as not to be cheated of the ceremony.

Seriously though, what gets your mind settled when it's not yet ready to write? How do you handle challenging creative conundrums?

Saturday, April 2, 2011

It Can Be a Bummer Being a Brand

Oh, to be a brand like John Updike.
Can I get an Updike Pass?

On my mind lately--Like it or not, our individual personal brands as writers touch every aspect of our work. What we write, topics we cover, audience, marketing, what our (future for me) book  covers look like and the name we use on these are all packaged together. At least that's how some some marketing experts say it is supposed to be.

Branding is something I've thought about and practiced some as a freelance writer, but it is even more important for an author. So I've been refreshing and adding to my knowledge, hunting down the best tips. One common piece of advice I've keep running across is to pick a pen name for each genre or don't brand at all.

That's a bummer. I'm not sure I will always stick to the same genre. In fact, I'm almost certain I won't. I already write articles on a multitude of topics. A large part of my passion for news writing is the daily variety in subject matter. I use the same name for everything and intend to keep doing so. Am I already in danger of being a weak brand?

Friday, April 1, 2011

Achieving Writing Ambitions with Accountability

A lot of us have writing ambitions for where we want our careers to be at specific times in the future. You may even be like me and have those goals broken down into small obtainable steps. The problem is, not all of those goals are introduced into our reality. This is where accountability comes in.

Accountability to others, that is. Telling someone important to you what your writing goals are, and asking them to check on you, puts it all out there. It introduces the need to achieve ambition into our lives in a very real way. There are now stakes attached, an incentive to perform.
"Accountability breeds response-ability." 
                                                           -- Stephen Covey
It somehow feels like you are more 'responsible' to get it done. "I want to" turns into "I have to." So we do it.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Blogging from A to Z April Challenge--Prepped and Ready to Go

There's Still Time--Come and Join Me!

Have you heard of the "Blogging from A to Z April Challenge"? Until about a week ago, I hadn't. Marie Ann St. Jean's blog, Write, Wrong or Indifferent, turned me on to it. Of course, you may also be tripping over this pic on every blog you cruise (seems like I am):

A to Z Blogging Challenge badge.
Starting April 1, 2010, intrepid bloggers of all genres are to write a blog post a day, taking Sundays off. Each day's topic will start with that day's letter. For example: April 1 starts it off with the letter 'A' and my topic will be 'Accountability'. The letter 'I' falls on April 11, so 'Interviewing' or 'Independence' would work as topics for me. The challenge ends on April 30, with 'Z'.

This is the first blogging challenge I've signed up for, so I was pretty excited. Started making my topic list that day. I even have the first post scheduled. Yep, like a puppy with a new toy, I had to shake the idea to death, gnaw on it and give it all my enthusiastic love.

Tamara Writes was the 536th blog to join and the total number has swelled to 645 and counting. Everyone is welcome, so come join the motivational insanity..err..fun! Visit Arlee Bird's follow-worthy Tossing It Out to sign up.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Flash Fiction to the Rescue!

Something unbelievably cool happened five days ago. My creative writing was chosen for the March 2011 issue of  Leodegraunce, an online flash fiction magazine.

Leodegraunce was founded and is edited by freelance writer and erotica author Jolie du Pre.
Something even more fabulous happened the month before that--I submitted the story. Say what? If you're a freelance writer, like me, who is always busy plugging away at non-fiction, then take a minute to feel me on this one. Finding the time to unleash the creative writing beast can be an epic battle. And you resent--yeah, just a little--the work that pays the bills.

I've been in a rut, so down in the writing dumps that not even my passion for news writing could light a fire under my...fingers. My creative mind was staging a coup.

Leodegraunce interview with Tamara McRill.

So it was flash fiction to the rescue! I saw Leodegraunce's call for March submissions and that the flash fiction piece had to be less than 200 words. Topic: Isolation. I took a deep breath, let my mind spill onto a blank Word document. Edited--quickly, before deadlines distracted--and submitted. Done.

And the pressure in my head subsided. I enjoy my daily grind again.

So don't feel smothered. Feel free to be a flasher.

Psst...Oh, and also feel free to read my Leodegraunce interview and then click on over to the 'Submission Guidelines.' Looks tempting, huh?

Update 3/19/2011: Leodegraunce does not archive the flash fiction selected to be published to the site. There will be an anthology printed for this year. :) Even if you didn't catch my story "The Machine" you can still view my author interview linked above.

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