So you’re considering the possibility of becoming a freelance writer, but you’re not really sure what steps you need to take to make it all happen. Sound about right?
Becoming a successful freelance writer is a bit of a whirlwind; nobody seems to fall cleanly into the career path. Instead, those who ultimately become successful will almost always tell you that there was no shortage of pure luck at hand. Every success story is different—someone may tell you they got their start with one blowout piece and the work has been rolling in ever since. More likely there were a lot of smaller pieces that paid a bit here and a bit there that ultimately went into building a strong reputation.
Regardless of how most people start, if you are serious about giving freelance writing a shot, there are a handful of things you can do to prepare yourself. Of course, there is no step-by-step guide to success, but having the basics figured out at the start can put you off on the right foot.
As many of you already know, my writing process is a bit unorthodox. With the books so far written in my ‘The Council Of Twelve’ series, I generally worked as follows:
1. Preparation (develop characters and update character sheets)
2. Draft plot and take notes
3. Start writing the first draft of the book by hand
4. Read the first draft, make necessary corrections in red
5. Type the corrected draft into the computer
6. Personal editing I
7. Personal editing II
9. Send book to the editor
10. Additional steps after the book is returned to me, fully proofread, edited, and formatted…
‘The Council of Twelve’ series is published with four books, and books 5 and 6 are written and prepared to be published. I have an additional book connected to the series currently with my editor. Book 7 is in my personal editing; books 8 and 9 are written and need to be typed into the computer. Since I got ‘The Council of Twelve’ series so very well prepared, I permitted myself to write a different story; one that has been in my head for quite some time already.
I have my ‘The Council of Twelve’ plot and character sheets updated and carry them with me constantly in the form of ‘Microsoft OneNotes’, which is a wonderful writer’s tool, at least to me… It allows me to take notes and write down ideas at any given time, on either my phone, my computer, or my tablet, and I have nothing else to do than to sync the program to have access to the latest version on any of my devices. Additionally, after nine books in the series, I know my characters quite well and rarely need to peek at my notes.
Now, I sit here, working on my new book. It’s a remarkable story and wonderful to work on. As soon as my pen touches the paper, it writes. I’m writing, drafting, plotting, writing again… And today I realized that, except a few notes on tiny paper sheets at the beginning and a hand-drafted family tree, I hadn’t done much preparation. In my excitement to start the book, I forgot to prepare correctly.
And now, in my handwritten draft, I’m paying for my omission. I forgot how often I have to flip to the pages to check on descriptions, characters, colors, and names. I discovered two ‘Davids’ and two ‘Peters,’ which angers me to no end.
I’m a very reliable person, and I don’t generally neglect my duties, not even those I have set up for myself, except in the preparation of this particular book. I decided to write a book outside the YA Fantasy genre, where I feel ‘home’ with my series. I should have known that careful preparation to write that book was necessary. But here I stand and could kick myself for not doing what should have been done quite some time ago.
I would therefore strongly recommend to new writers, like myself, to carefully prepare what needs to be prepared before starting the new book. Otherwise, they will find themselves in the same situation I am now, with a few mixed ideas, two very similar conversations, and two Peters and Davids. At least, I find myself discovering my mistake now. I can still work on fixing the problem. But I know I shouldn’t have let it go that far. At least next time, I know what I have to do. Go back to the well-prepared, reliable writer I am.
What kind of advice would you give your fellow writers? What mistake have you been making that you had to correct? What problem were you facing that needed to be fixed? Let us know in the comments.
Last week was Mental Health Awareness Week, and it seems relevant to talk about writing fiction, and the positive way it can impact your mental health. I’m sure a lot of writers write as an outlet, so I thought it’d be appropriate to talk about 5 of the reasons writing fiction is good for you mental health.
Writing is cathartic There’s just something about the act of writing that’s cathartic. It’s relaxing, calming, and allows you to outpour your thoughts and feelings. This is true of journaling, poetry, stories….any writing. When you need a release, getting words down is immensely healing.
It enables you to explore and understand emotions Pent up emotions often lead to further stress and complications. It’s important to go through your emotions and do all you can to understand them. Writing gives you the space to do that. You can use emotions in your work, and through your characters explore them and their outcomes. Often, writing helps you understand how you’re feeling, and that can be vital.
The last three notifications from the ‘Writer Beware’ blog, by Victoria Strauss, left me shaken, like so many others she provided us with. I normally try to spread word about scam, fraud, and other warnings as good as I can, but I refuse to drown ‘Writer’s Treasure Chest’ readers in negativity.
However, I think, it’s important that, in particular new Indie Authors know what dangers they might face when putting their books and their work ‘out there’. I therefore decided to publish one post with links to all three of Victoria Strauss’ warnings. Thank you for your great work, Victoria!
I’ve been doing the Writer Beware thing for quite some time, and I Have Seen Some Shit. But this solicitation from a Philippines-based publishing and marketing scammer calling itself Right Choice Multimedia (among other names) is one of the most disgusting things that has come across my desk in a while…and that’s saying something.
Here it is in its entirety. Read it and boggle. You can also scroll down directly to my (far more grammatical) debunking. Be sure to read all the way to the end, because I have some things to say about why Big 5 publishers should care that their trademarks and reputations are being co-opted in this way.
This is an updated version of a post I published a couple of years ago.
It’s not all that common, but I do see it from time to time in small press publishing contracts that I review: a publisher claiming ownership of the editing and copy editing it provides, or making the claim implicitly by reverting rights only to the original manuscript submitted by the author.
Are there legal grounds for such a claim? One would think that by printing a copyright notice inside a published book, and encouraging the author to register copyright or registering on the author’s behalf, publishers are acknowledging that there is not. It’s hard to know, though, because the issue doesn’t seem to have been tested in the courts. There’s not even much discussion.
Once upon a time, there was a publishing and marketing scammer called Chapters Media and Advertising, owned by one Mark Joseph Rosario. Chapters pretended to be a US company–it even had dual business registrations in Wyoming and Florida, as well as a purported address in Nevada–but in reality, it operated out of the Philippines (much like its many brethren).
As an editor and coach, I’m frequently asked by writers when they should level up from free and low-cost feedback (critique groups, webinars, and classes) to more expensive forms of feedback (workshops, private editors, even MFA programs). Some are newbies who don’t understand the feedback landscape. Other writers have been burned by overly critical MFA programs, bad editing experiences, or critique group dramas—and they’ve learned that while some mistakes hit your pocketbook, the costliest ones can damage your manuscript.
Often these problems have one common cause: You’ve asked the right question of the wrong person.
I like to included humor in my stories. Yet, I don’t want them to be seen as comedies. I like to touch on heavy topics in my stories. Yet, I don’t want them to be seen as serious dramas. That means I need to have both and keep things balanced. That isn’t nearly as easy as some people believe. You can’t throw the two around whenever you feel like it in the hopes of creating an equilibrium. Humor and heavy can clash like battling titans instead of uniting like pieces of a puzzle. So, what are some ways to handle this?
Whichever one is going to be the main tone of the story should be introduced from the beginning. If you want to have a serious story with humorous sections and conversations then you need to set the heavy stage. If it’s supposed to be a comedic tale that moves into serious territory then start with the funny. You do have a runway to work with since the opening is more character and world introduction, so the tone may be neutral first. Eventually, you need to decide on who gets the bigger slice of pizza.
Bethany Henry published a post about six important rules for retelling classic stories. Thanks for your advice, Bethany!
on Fiction University:
I love retellings of fairy tales and classic stories. They can be filled with adventure, love, and magic that is both familiar and fun. When done well, these retellings can resonate with us deeply and be wildly entertaining—the base of the original story providing extra background that enriches the experience.
However, not all retellings are created equal.
There is a tricky balance in recreating a classic story in a new way. Readers have expectations and high standards for stories they may already love. Too many changes to the story and the reader will feel tricked or confused. Too few changes and the reader is bored.
And of course the story we tell needs to be good.
Whether you’re inspired by Shakespeare, Jane Austin, or Grimm’s fairy tales, here are some simple rules to guide us in writing great retellings.
On the ‘Legends of Windemere’ blog, Charles Yallowitz published an interesting view on character bios. Thanks a lot for this post, Charles!
I can already hear at least once pantser preparing to explain why they don’t do this. If it helps, person with fingers at the ready, you’re right. Character biographies don’t work for everyone. They aren’t even universal because everyone has their own way of doing them because every author has different needs. Some even change from story to story or as our own skills grow. I know that I’ve been all over the map as you’re about to see.
Character bios are where I started since tabletop games were my first inspiration alongside fantasy books. This resulted in my originals being more about numbers stats and basics instead of depth. I had hair, eyes, height, weight, skin, and physical attributes with very little variety. I couldn’t tell you what the real difference between a 4 and 5 in strength really was. A 1-5 ranking was probably a dumb choice.
This is an excellent post with recommendations about writing crime. Thank you so much for your article, Connie.
I recently began reading a murder mystery where the author used a mushroom to kill the first victim. That’s where this book fell apart—the idea was good, but the facts and execution weren’t.
Using a mushroom stroganoff to poison him was a poor choice because fungi is an undependable weapon unless you are an expert. Also, individually, one mushroom may be more or less poisonous than another of the same kind, rather like people are. Judging how many one would need to kill a three-hundred-pound man takes more thought than I am capable of plotting out.
Also, it was stroganoff, which is basically beef and mushrooms in a sour cream sauce. This author danced over the fact that serving the food at this dinner party would have been a tactical nightmare. It would have been nearly impossible to ensure the intended victim got the poison mushrooms and no one else did, which is how this murder was written.
Agatha Christie knew that and regularly poisoned entire dinner parties, literarily speaking. Her murderers made everyone at the table sick but only the intended victim actually died.
This particular mystery was set in Scotland, and I don’t know how poisonous their mushrooms are, but I think that logic would hold true there as well as it does here in the Pacific Northwest.
If I hadn’t been on several nature walks with Ellen King Rice, a wildlife biologist and amateur mycologist who writes well-plotted mushroom thrillers, I would have accepted the slightly contrived fatal dinner as written and focused on the other failings of this novel.
This experience reinforced my belief that readers are often more knowledgeable than we authors are. E-readers can do the research just by highlighting the word and hitting search.