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 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. :)


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