Tag Archives: writing career

Storytelling Exercise: Three Acts

Today’s storytelling exercise is an excerpt from my book, Story Drills, which is filled with fiction-writing exercises that impart basic techniques of storytelling. Today’s exercise is from chapter forty-five. It’s called “Three Acts.” Enjoy!

The three-act structure is one of the simplest and most effective ways to outline or analyze a story and its structure. The three acts are as follows:

  1. Setup
  2. Conflict
  3. Resolution

In the first act, the plot and characters are established, and we learn what the central conflict is. It’s roughly 25 percent of the story, but this is a guideline, not a rule.

The second act is the longest of the three acts, usually about 50 percent of the narrative. In the second act, the story builds up to a climax in which the conflict hits a boiling point.

Finally, the third act resolves the conflict. The third act is usually about 25 percent of the story.

Study:

Choose five stories you’ve read, and break them into three-act structures by identifying the setup, conflict, and resolution for each one. Summarize each act in just a few sentences.

Practice:

Create five story premises, and quickly draft three-act outlines for each one. Use a single sentence to describe each of the three acts. A couple of examples are provided below.

Natural Disaster:

Act I: A natural disaster is impending.

Act II: The natural disaster claims the lives of half of Earth’s population. The other half struggles to survive.

Act III: Earth’s survivors rebuild.

Romance:

Act I: A teenager from a prestigious family falls in love with someone from the wrong side of the tracks.

Act II: The couple tries to hide their relationship, but eventually they are outed.

Act III: The teenager is forced to choose between love and access to the family’s wealth and support.

Questions:

Why do you suppose the three-act structure is universally applicable to almost all forms of storytelling? Would it be possible to write a story with no setup, or with the setup at the end or in the middle? What happens if the three acts are rearranged? Can any of the acts be left out of a story?

By Melissa Donovan

Source: writingforward.com

Visit us at First Edition Design Publishing

 

25 Story Starters for Writing Fiction

Are you a storyteller? Do you want to be a storyteller?

If you’re interested in writing flash fiction, short stories, or novels, then you’re going to need lots of ideas, especially if you want to write professionally.

Some of us have too many ideas; others don’t have enough ideas. Maybe we have a solid idea for a story, but something’s missing. We need to spice it up by adding subplots or characters. Maybe the setting or story world isn’t rich enough. Perhaps your story lacks theme.

Story starters are a great way to get ideas for writing stories, but they can also be used to generate ideas for improving stories that are already in the works.

Story Starters

Today, I’d like to share twenty-five story starters. You can use these story starters to inspire a new story or to breathe new life into a story you’re already working on. Use them to write whatever you want — flash fiction, short stories, or a novel.

  1. We all know about conspiracy theorists. They believe the moon landing was a farce. Come up with a new conspiracy that theorists rally around. The public thinks they’re crazy, but are they?
  2. The world is run by politicians, but sometimes, ordinary people get caught up in political drama and intrigue. What happens when a bike messenger, a restaurant server, and a daycare teacher get unwillingly drawn into the affairs of state?
  3. Technology has developed at a splitting speed over the past century. Before we know it, every house will be equipped with a robot and a virtual reality system. But what happens when a couple of kids venture into the wrong area of the virtual reality and get stuck there?
  4. Witnesses to crimes can find themselves in grave danger, which is why there are protection programs for such persons. But what if the witness decided to join forces with the prime suspect? What does the witness get in exchange for false testimony that acquits a terrible criminal?
  5. Take a look at the world we live in. In some places, life is pretty good. But in other places, life is difficult for most people, especially where there’s a lot of inequality, poverty, and oppression. What if an oppressive culture used war or the media to spread itself around the globe? What would that look like, and would we ever overcome it?
  6. After a family moves into a new house, one of the kids looks for a hiding place to stash some secret belongings and discovers a panel at the back of a closet. Assuming it leads to the attic, the kid removes the panel only to find a window that looks into a world populated with magic and monsters.
  7. Two politicians are in a heated race to win a critical election (governor, president, etc.) and through negative campaigning have become arch enemies. But their kids go to the same college and have fallen in love. What happens when the relationship is revealed in the media?
  8. All the evidence in a brutal, premeditated murder points to one primary suspect, including footage from security cameras. The problem is that there’s no motive, and the alleged killer insists on his or her innocence. Who committed this heinous crime?
  9. While working on a more fuel-efficient space shuttle that will transport tourists to and from the moon, one engineer stumbles into a way to make faster-than-light (FTL) engines a reality.
  10. A stranger comes to a small town that hasn’t seen a new resident since the town’s youngest child was born sixteen years ago. The stranger rarely leaves his or her formerly abandoned home except to buy groceries and strange supplies from the local home improvement store, and the townspeople think something’s not right.
  11. Step back in time hundreds — or perhaps thousands — of years. The leader of a small tribe is butting heads with the tribe’s healer. Meanwhile, a powerful neighboring tribe is infiltrating their territory.
  12. Inspired by Jurassic Park, a biological engineer is committed to recreating dinosaurs. While researching ancient dinosaurs, the scientist stumbles into evidence that fire-breathing dragons once soared over the land and decides to recreate those instead.
  13. While representing an accused killer, the attorney falls in love with the client, partially because he or she believes the accused is innocent.
  14. Teenagers love to rebel and experiment. But what happens when one teenager’s antics end up on video and go viral? Bullying and humiliation ensue.
  15. After working hard for decades, the main character has finally managed to retire and purchase a condo on a small, tropical island, where he or she intends to write a novel. But strange things start happening — things go missing, there are creepy noises, and our character feels like he or she is constantly being watched.
  16. For centuries, humans have wondered if we are alone in the universe. The answer finally comes when aliens arrive. But it’s a time when tensions are high between the nations of Earth. Will humanity unite, or will some nations form an alliance with the aliens?
  17. A young couple believes their fairy tale has finally come true and they will live happily ever after. They are recently married, have good jobs, just bought a home, and there’s a baby on the way. But the fairy tale seems to unravel as secrets and lies begin to surface.
  18. When a foreign operative embedded in the CIA disappears with loads of government secrets, all hell breaks loose. But is this operative truly a foreign spy, or is it a citizen intent on blowing the cover off of government corruption?
  19. A mid-sized tourist plane crashes on a remote deserted island, killing all but a handful of survivors. Rescue is on the way until a devastating storm arises, barring access to the island. Now these urbanites must learn to live off the land and with each other.
  20. After serving a ten-year sentence for a heinous crime she didn’t commit, a former college student gets a new identity and becomes a private investigator intent on exonerating herself.
  21. A group of teenagers spends a summer day on a scavenger hunt in the woods just outside of town. When they reconvene to name the winner of the hunt, one of them doesn’t show up and cannot be found.
  22. When a kid finds out both parents are out of work and the family might have to move in with the grandparents, he or she decides to solve the problem by starting the modern version of a lemonade stand — an online enterprise.
  23. One couple’s nasty divorce leaves their two young children in the custody of their grandparents. Will the couple put aside their differences to get their children back?
  24. Dreams come true when a foster child is finally adopted. But the child’s new family is filled with secrets, and he or she begins to suspect that it wasn’t a chance adoption after all.
  25. The main character receives a strange inheritance from an unknown deceased relative: a key ring with no keys on it. Unusual events occur whenever the key ring is present.

Have you ever used story starters or writing prompts? Where do you find inspiration for writing fiction? Share your thoughts and experiences by leaving a comment, and keep writing.

By Melissa Donovan

Source: writingforward.com

Visit us at First Edition Design Publishing

Storytelling Exercise: Tone and Mood

Today I’d like to share an excerpt from Story Drills: Fiction Writing Exercises, which helps beginning to intermediate storytellers develop fiction writing skills. This exercise is from chapter sixty, and it’s called “Tone and Mood.” Enjoy!

Tone and Mood

Tone and mood give a story a sense of atmosphere—how a story feels—its emotional sensibility.

Atmosphere is often established through a story’s setting: An old abandoned Victorian mansion beneath a full moon on a windy night can elicit a dark and creepy atmosphere. However, tone and mood can also come from the characters. A clumsy, awkward character can evoke a humorous tone for a story. And events can shape a story’s tone and mood; consider the difference in tone between a story about a star athlete making it to the big leagues versus a story about the effects of war on a combat veteran.

Tone and mood may also be driven by a story’s genre. For example, the identifying feature of horror is that it’s scary. Romance is romantic. Any genre can be infused with comedy, although there is little humor in a tragedy. An adventure story can be lighthearted or terrifying; a science-fiction story can be thrilling or cerebral; a mystery can be grim or gritty, or both.

One author might use a consistent tone throughout all of their works. Another might use different tones for different projects. And some authors use multiple tones in a single story: A suspenseful scene can follow a funny scene, or a tense scene can follow a sad scene. The tone can even change within a scene: A light or casual moment can turn grave in an instant. A changing tone affects the rhythm of a story, giving it emotional and atmospheric cadence.

Sometimes tone and mood develop naturally from the story’s characters, plot, and setting. Other times, tone and mood might be unclear, and it’s up to us, as authors, to establish a story’s emotional atmosphere.

Study:

Create a simple outline of about five chapters from a novel you’ve read, and then write a couple of sentences describing the tone throughout these chapters. Then scan through the text, and mark any changes in tone. When you’re done, review the story’s structure through the lens of tone. What is the overall tone? Can you detect a pattern? How do the tone and mood change as the story builds up to its climax, or do they remain static?

Practice:

Choose two descriptive words for how your story will feel—its tone and mood. Here are a few examples: lighthearted and adventurous, dark and humorous, or mysterious and contemplative. Create a quick sketch for a story, including at least three characters, a setting, and a one-paragraph summary of the plot. Be sure to include details about how the tone and mood will be established. For example, a dark and humorous story might be set in a mortuary with a fumbling, silly protagonist.

Questions:

What effect does tone have on readers? Can tone and mood be used to strengthen a story’s characters, plot, or theme? What are some ways authors can communicate a story’s tone and mood throughout the narrative? How is tone related to genre, or are they related? What happens when the tone and genre are contrasted (humor within a horror story)? Do you prefer stories with a consistent tone and mood throughout, or do you prefer a story that takes you on an emotional ride, moving through a range of tones and moods?

 

By Melissa Donovan

Source: writingforward.com

Visit us at First Edition Design Publishing

How to Develop Your Best Novel Writing Ideas

Writing a novel is no small task. In fact, it’s a momentous task. Some writers spend years eking out a first draft, followed by years of revisions. And that’s before they even think about the grueling publishing process.

In other words, you’re going to spend a lot of time with your novel. So you better love it. No, wait — loving it is not enough. You have to be in love with it. You have to be obsessed with it. Committed to it.

It’s normal to lose interest when you’re on your tenth revision, but if you’re losing interest in your plot or characters while writing your first or second draft, the problem might not be you or your novel. The problem might be that you tried to commit to something you didn’t love. That’s never a good idea.

For many writers, the trick to sticking with a novel is actually quite simple: find an idea that grips you.

Get in Touch with Your Passions

Before you chase every crazy idea into the ground, stop and take a breath. Think about what moves you: books you couldn’t put down, movies you’ve watched dozens of times, TV shows you couldn’t stop talking about, and songs you played so many times, you’re sure they have bonded with your DNA.

By identifying your passions, you can figure out what makes you tick, and that’s a great start to your quest for novel writing ideas that you can really sink your teeth into.

All your past and present obsessions hold the clues to your future commitment to your own novel. Pay close attention to your preferences for genre, theme, setting, style, character archetypes and above all — emotional sensibility. Make lists of what you love about your favorite stories, and soon you’ll see the shape of your own novel start to emerge.

Generate and Gather Plenty of Novel Writing Ideas

Once you’ve made some general decisions about the novel you’re going to write, it’s time to start generating specific ideas.

Of course, the best novel writing ideas come out of nowhere. You’re on your hands and knees scrubbing the floor and suddenly that big magic bulb over your head lights up. Or maybe you have so many ideas, you don’t know where to start. It’s even possible that you’re aching to write a novel but are fresh out of ideas. Your mind feels like a gaping void.

Actually, story ideas are everywhere. The trick is to collect a variety of ideas, and let them stew while you decide which one is worth your effort. Here are some quick tips for generating ideas:

  • Hit the bookstore or library and jot down some of your favorite plot synopses. Then rework the details to transform these old plots into fresh ideas for new stories. Try combining different elements from your favorite stories. And use movie synopses too!
  • Load up on fiction writing prompts and develop each prompt into a short (one page) summary for a story.
  • Harvest some creative writing ideas from the news.
  • Grab a subplot from your favorite movie or TV show — a story line that wasn’t fully explored — and make it the central story problem.

Create a stash file for your ideas. It can be a folder on your computer or a box you fill with 3×5 index cards. You can also write all these ideas in a notebook. Just make sure you keep them together so you can easily go through them.

Let Your Novel Writing Ideas Marinate

Some ideas are so enticing, you can’t wait to get started. If you’re writing a poem or a piece of flash fiction, then have at it. If things don’t work out, you’ll lose a few hours or maybe a few weeks. But imagine investing months or years in a novel only to realize your heart’s not in it. Try to avoid doing that by letting ideas sit for a while before you dive into them.

The best ideas rise to the top. These are not necessarily the bestselling ideas or the most original ideas. They’re the ideas that are best for you. Those are the ones that will haunt you, keep you up at night, and provoke perpetual daydreams.

These are the ones worth experimenting with.

Experiment to See Which Novel Writing Ideas Can Fly

There’s a reason people test drive cars and lie around on the beds in mattress shops. When you make a big investment, you want to feel right about it. You can’t know how a car will drive until you actually drive it. And you can’t know how a bed will feel until you relax on it for a while. And you definitely can’t know what your relationship with your novel will be like until you experiment with it.

In truth, the experimental phase is when you start writing the novel — just like the test drive is when you start driving the car. But you haven’t committed yet. You’re still open to the idea that this is not for you. This might seem like I’m nitpicking over semantics, but you’ll find that discarding partially written novels wears on you after a while. If you play around with your story with the understanding that you’re experimenting, and if things don’t work out, you can always walk away without feeling guilty or like you gave up. Go back to your idea stash, and start tooling around with the next one.

How do you experiment with novel writing? I’m so glad you asked. There’s a lot you can do. Start by brainstorming. Sketch a few characters. Poke around and see what kind of research this novel might require. Draft a few scenes. Write an outline. If you keep going through these motions and can’t shake your excitement, then you are finally . . .

Writing Your Novel

At this point, you’ve already started writing your novel. But suddenly, you’re not just writing a novel. You’re deeply, passionately, obsessively writing your novel. If a couple of weeks go by and you haven’t had time to write, you miss your characters. When you get stuck on a scene, you simply work on some other part of the story because you’re so obsessed. You have to fight the urge to tell everyone about how the story is coming along. Your trusted buddy, whom you bounce ideas off of, is starting to think you’re taking it all too seriously. “Maybe you should watch some television a couple nights a week,” he says, looking concerned.

This is a story that’s captured your full attention. And that’s a good sign that it will capture the attention of readers. You are ready to commit.

Many (or most) of your novel writing ideas might end up in the trash or in a bottom drawer. But every one of them will be worth it when all of that idea generating, planning, and experimenting finally pays off. Every idea that doesn’t work will pave the path to the idea that will set you on fire.

So no matter what, no matter how many ideas come and go, no matter how many drafts you discard, never give up. Just keep writing!

By Melissa Donovan

Source: writingforward.com

Visit us at First Edition Design Publishing

From Ready, Set, Write: Getting Ready to Write

Today, I’m excited to share an excerpt from my recently published book, Ready, Set, Write: A Guide to Creative Writing. This is from the book’s introduction. Enjoy!

A Writer’s Journey Begins

When I was a little girl, my mom used to sit, curled up on the couch, with a thick paperback novel in her hands and a big bag of M&Ms in her lap. I’m still trying to quit my candy habit! But books are forever.

My mom taught me to read by the time I turned four. The rhyming stories of Dr. Seuss were among my early favorites. Soon I was devouring Charlotte’s Web and Little House in the Big Woods. Later it was the Narnia books and A Wrinkle in Time. I constantly checked out Where the Sidewalk Ends from my school library. Whenever I asked for new books, my mom would take me to the used paperback store and let me pick out a few. Whenever the Scholastic newsletter came, she let me order a few books from the catalog. And whenever I asked to go to the big public library, she drove me there.

When I was about thirteen years old, something changed. After years of reading other people’s words, I started putting my own words on the page.

They were poems or songs, inspired by the music that I loved and informed by the books I had read. I composed these pieces in my spiral-bound notebook, which was intended for schoolwork. I remember marveling at the words I’d written. I had created something—and I had done it with nothing more than a pen and paper and some words. I was elated. I wanted to write more.

Around the same time, one of my teachers required our class to keep journals. We wrote in our journals for a few minutes every day, and when the semester ended, I continued writing in mine throughout the summer and for years afterward.

I filled many notebooks throughout my teens and early twenties. I wrote about my thoughts and feelings. I explored ideas. I wrote poems and personal essays. I composed song lyrics. Later, I started to tinker with storytelling.

I sometimes hear people talk about what it means to be a “real writer.” Occasionally, someone will say that a “real writer” loves to write, needs to write, or gets paid to write.

I disagree.

I’m a real writer because I write. Sure, sometimes I love it, but not always. Other times, I need to do it, but not always. Sometimes I get paid to write, but that didn’t happen until many years after I’d started writing. There are times when writing is frustrating, exhausting, or just plain difficult. I’ve experienced writer’s block. I’ve struggled with doubt and dismay about my work. I’ve taken long, unplanned breaks from writing.

But I always come back.

Writing is part of who I am. It’s what I do.

If you’re reading this, you’re probably a writer, too. At the very least, you’re an aspiring writer. That doesn’t mean you intend to get your name on a best-seller list (although you might). It doesn’t mean you plan to get paid for your writing (although you might). It doesn’t mean you will submit your work and get it published (although you might).

It just means you want to write.

And so you should.

About Ready, Set, Write: A Guide to Creative Writing

As the title implies, this book is a guide to creative writing. It isn’t a book that delves into grammar, spelling, or punctuation. It doesn’t tell you how to become a professional, published author. It does one thing and one thing only: shows you what you can write and how you can write it.

You’ll start by creating a space in which to write. Then you’ll explore various forms of writing that you can experiment with in your new writing space. You’ll answer some questions about writing. You’ll try some writing activities. You’ll learn techniques to help you stay motivated and inspired. Finally, you’ll put together your own writer’s tool kit.

You’ll find questions and activities to prompt a writing session at the end of each chapter. So get your notebook ready.

Get Ready to Write

The more you explore and experiment, the more fun you’ll have and the better your writing will become. Try different forms and genres. Use a variety of tools and techniques. Take risks, and don’t expect everything to come easily, but know that your efforts will be rewarded.

By Melissa Donovan

Source: writingforward.com

Visit us at First Edition Design Publishing

 

How to Get the Most Out of Your Writing Practice

Everybody wants to know the secret to success, and writers are no exception.

We often talk about all the things one must do in order to become a successful writer. From studying grammar to working through multiple revisions, from sending out submissions to building a platform, writers must wear many hats if they hope to succeed.

However, most of those tasks are irrelevant (and success is impossible) if a writer hasn’t acquired the basic skills necessary for doing the work. There’s no reason to worry about submissions, readers, and marketing if your writing habits and skills aren’t up to the task of getting the project done. You might have a great premise for a story, but if you don’t know how to write a story—or if you don’t have the discipline to finish a story—you’ll never be able to bring that premise to life, at least not in a way that is effective or meaningful.

So it’s essential for young and new writers to develop beneficial writing practices to ensure not only that the writing gets done—but that it gets done well.

Essential Writing Practices

There are many writing practices that you can cultivate. Some will make you a better writer. Some will help you write more or write faster. It would be impossible to incorporate all of them into your writing habits, so you’ll need to choose which ones are best for you and your goals. However, some practices are more useful—and more essential—than others. Below are the writing practices that I have found to be most important for improving one’s writing and producing good work—the practices that are essential for all writers:

Regular Reading

I’m always surprised by aspiring writers who don’t read. I mean, if you don’t read, then why would you want to be a writer? Reading is, in many ways, even more important than writing. It lays the groundwork for everything you’ll write. You’ll learn a tremendous amount of the craft from reading, and if you don’t read, it will show in your work, which will never move past a beginner’s level.

Daily Writing

It should go without saying that if you want to be a writer, you need to do the writing. But many writers spend more time talking and thinking about writing than actually writing. Force yourself to do your writing, even when you don’t feel like it. Allow yourself to write badly, and accept that sometimes you’ll write garbage. Even a short, twenty-minute writing session each day will keep your skills sharp and your writing muscles strong.

Study the Craft

You can learn a lot by reading and practicing your writing, but you can’t learn everything. There are aspects of the craft that you’ll only learn through more formal study. That doesn’t mean you have to run off to a university and take college courses, although doing so will certainly help. You can learn the craft through local or online classes and workshops, by reading books and articles on the craft, and working with other writers (or an editor or writing coach). There is a lot to learn, and the sooner you start, the better.

Revise and Polish Your Work

As you make your way through the writing world, you’ll hear this advice over and over: Writing is rewriting, or writing is revising. A lot of people have the misconception that we writers sit down, place our fingers on the keyboard, and the words magically flow out perfectly. That’s not how it works. The first few sentences or paragraphs are often a mess. The first draft is garbage. But with each revision, everything gets better. That’s how you produce polished work.

Get Feedback

Getting feedback can be emotionally challenging to young and new writers, who have a tendency to take it personally. Harsh criticism, no matter how constructive, can be a bruise to the ego. But you are not your writing. The criticism is not about you; it’s about your work. And without feedback, it’s almost impossible to get an objective view of your skills and the work you’re producing. Separate yourself from your writing. Take the feedback seriously and be appreciative, because it will help you become a better writer. Apply it to your work.

More Useful Writing Practices

Each writer needs their own practice. Another writer’s daily practice of freewriting for an hour at dawn might not be your ideal writing practice. But as long as you’re willing to try new practices, you’ll find what works for you. Here are some suggestions for writing practices that might boost your skills and productivity:

  • Warm-ups: Many writers find that everything comes out awkward at the beginning of a writing session. A ten- to twenty-minute warm-up can get words flowing.
  • Look it up: When you come across a question, such as a question about grammar or the meaning of a word, look it up, especially if it will only take a few minutes.
  • Network with the writing community: Other writers will keep you motivated. You’ll learn from them. And they can offer support and advice.
  • Freewriting is a good way to warm up at the start of a writing session. It’s also a good daily writing practice during times when you’re not working on a particular project. And it’s a fantastic way to generate raw material that you can use in various projects.
  • Set goals and create a five-year plan, and then revisit your goals and plan annually.
  • Collect inspirational and motivational quotes about writing and post them around your writing desk, or jot them down in a notebook. Review a quote or two before every writing session, or when you don’t feel like doing the work.
  • Study poetry (or literary devices and techniques): These tools are the tricks of the trade, and they will take your writing to another level, from methods for structuring language to using devices like metaphors, this is an excellent way to enrich your work.
  • Finish a project before starting a new one: If you prefer (or need) to work on multiple projects simultaneously (I do), then always keep one project on the front burner until it’s complete. That’s your primary (or priority) project. See it through to completion.
  • Step away from drafts for a while before revising to clear your head so you can return to them with fresh eyes.

What Are Your Writing Practices?

What do you consider your most important writing practices? Are there any essential or beneficial writing practices you would add to these lists? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment, and keep writing.

By Melissa Donovan

Source: writingforward.com

Visit us at First Edition Design Publishing

 

7 Sure Signs You Picked the Wrong Freelance Writing Niche

Being vegan in a family of ​very ​carnivorous Texans makes for some extremely awkward holiday dinners.

Don’t get me wrong, though. 

Most of my family is super supportive, and they respect my choice to avoid eating meat or any animal products.

But sometimes, I still have to hear the occasional uncomfortable comment at the dinner table.

​Honestly, these don’t bother me that much. It is what it is, and I’m toooootally down to share stuff like how I get enough protein (maybe it’ll change someone’s mind about their meat consumption)!

But a few years ago, I had an overly pushy family member do something that really bothered me:

“Here, have some of this turkey,” ​he said, even though he knew I don’t eat meat.

To which I replied something along the lines of “No, thanks.”

But he kept pushing. And pushing. And pushing.

wrong freelance writing niche

What I said: “No, thanks.” What I was thinking: “No, and for fuck’s sake, don’t ask me again.”

As if asking me one more mother-effing time was going to make me eat the damn turkey.

I kept saying no, and by some miracle, I managed to keep my cool, and he managed to shut the fuck up.

After all of that, do you think I ate the turkey?

The answer is no. I didn’t. 

No matter how much this guy tried to weirdly pressure me into it, eating that turkey is not something I EVER would have done. 

Because as a vegan, my mind is already 100% made up on how I feel about eating meat. 

It’s not for me.

​What does this have to do with YOU landing freelance writing clients and picking the right niche?

Quite a bit, actually.

Some of you are out there acting like my family member:

Trying to “force meat on a vegan.”

And it’s killing your business.

Let’s start today’s blog post with the #1 sign you picked the wrong niche and an explanation of what I mean:

7 Telltale Signs You Picked the Wrong Freelance Writing Niche

1. Selling to clients – even those with good-sized budgets – feels like trying to sell meat to a vegan.

Whew. As a vegan, I can tell you that this is NOT a good idea.

Read this and let it sink in, friends:

You cannot force a freelance writing client to value what you do.

And tbh, you don’t want those kinds of clients anyway because it’ll always feel difficult.

Example:

When I was doing lots of IT/Tech writing, I noticed that those clients wanted mainly:

  • Website copy
  • Case studies
  • Whitepapers

…Because in their opinion, those things were going to drive the best business results for them.

Which was a problem for me, who wanted to write blog posts.

Now, could I have sat around and convinced these clients to publish blog posts?

Sure, probably.

But I didn’t.

Because clients who are a hard sell are not going to be your best clients.

First, you’ve got to convince them to value what you write.

Then, you’ve got to convince them to hire you.

THEN, you’ve got to convince them to pay you well… for something they don’t really even value.

Friends:

Don’t go for clients who are a hard sell.

Go for clients who already value the specific kind of content you create.

Again, don’t try to “sell meat to a vegan” – only sell meat to someone who eats meat.

2. You notice that most potential clients in your freelance writing niche are broke as shit.

wrong freelance writing niche

If this is approximately how much the shitty “clients” in your niche can afford to pay you… you’ve probably chosen the wrong freelance writing niche.

Here’s something that you might not have thought about before:

A niche could be either profitable OR not profitable depending on who you target.

Think about it…

You can write in the finance niche for some shitty blog that pays pennies per word…

And Sally Jo over there can write in the finance niche for a Fortune 500 company and make hundreds of dollars per post.

So before you write your niche off for good, ask yourself:

Is this really a freelance writing niche problem, or is it a target clientele problem?

Long story short:

Go for clients who have money to spend on content marketing, not broke fucks.

3. Your freelance writing niche is far too broad.

Sometimes, writers email me and say stuff like:

“I’ve chosen a niche and I’m marketing myself, but I’m not getting results!”

To which I reply:

“Hmmm! What’s your niche?”

And they say:

“B2B and B2C Content”

…Aaaaaand there’s the problem.

B2B and B2C means you basically write for anyone and everyone. It’s just a fancier way of saying, “I’m a generalist!”

Seriously, it’s kind of like creating a restaurant in the United States and saying “We serve American food and international cuisine.”

Okay sooo… you serve everything to everyone?

Pass.

I’ve said it a million times, and I’ll say it again:

The best, highest-paying clients want to work with writers who specialize.

So, narrow your niche to a reasonable point (like how I teach in my free class over 6,000 writers have taken).

Don’t just write “copy.”

Write blog posts for real estate agents. Case studies for software businesses.

You get the picture.

4.Potential clients in your niche don’t use the type of content you write best to drive business results.

A while back, I thought it would be cool to write blog posts (my favorite type of content to create) for video game companies.

But after doing some research, I realized:

Video game companies, at least the ones I was researching, weren’t driving business results with blog posts.

They were mostly getting the word out about their new games using Twitch partnerships, commercials, etc.

This goes back to the whole “don’t try to sell meat to a vegan” thing.

Don’t “sell meat to vegans.” Sell them vegetables… or, if they’re like me, sell them vegan ice cream.

You have to figure out HOW your client makes money for their business with content, and give them THAT kind of content.

5. You’re not enjoying any of your projects.

I started my freelance writing career in the IT/Tech writing niche.

And while I was able to make decent money doing it, each project felt about as enjoyable as walking around a theme park in a pair of soaked blue jeans.

It’s not that I was incapable of working on more technical projects like whitepapers – it’s just that I was bored to fucking tears each time I tried.

So I had to ask myself:

What do I actually ENJOY?

What would my ideal niche be, considering my natural abilities?

And BOOM.

Just like that, I knew what my new niche was going to be:

Blogging about marketing.

Marketing is something I’m incredibly passionate about and could talk about all damn day, AND blogging lends itself to more creative expression, which is great for someone like me.

Now, don’t get me wrong here.

I’m not saying you necessarily should jump for joy at each freelance writing project you take on.

BUT…

If you’re hating more projects than you’re enjoying, something is wrong.

6. You’re not using your natural abilities when you write.

Some people are great technical writers AND also enjoy talking with clients.

If that’s you, then guess what?

You’d probably really enjoy writing whitepapers, which are technical-ish documents that often require client interviews and phone calls.

But if you’re like me (you hate phone calls and enjoy more creative writing), whitepapers would drive you fucking mad.

Really be intentional about your freelance writing niche choice, and think about what you’re naturally best at.

Every writer out there has some kind of natural ability they can use to their advantage.

Maybe yours is that you are actually great at interviewing clients.

Or maybe you are great at explaining complex topics in an easy-to-understand way.

Or maybe you’re just really fucking funny and that shines through when you write.

Think about what makes you unique, and ask yourself how you can use that to specialize in a niche you’ll naturally rise to the top of.

7. You’ve tried as hard as you can to make the niche work using a PROVEN strategy, and it’s just not working.

This means you’ve already done things like:

And it means you’ve done these things consistently, with a solid niche marketing strategy driving every piece of your plan.

(AKA don’t come to me and say your pitches are not working when you don’t have a portfolio website or your website isn’t properly optimized for your niche!)

Truth is, you might be giving up way too soon on your niche.

I talked to a writer in the real estate niche once who complained that the niche was “not profitable.”

Turns out, they just didn’t have their marketing on point.

…Nothing to do with the niche being “not profitable.”

By Jorden

Source: creativerevolt.com

 

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How Novelists Can Say More with Less

Less is more. More impacting. More riveting. More intriguing. Throughout history, marriages have failed and wars have been won or lost over a mere word or two. Jesus said, “Let your yes mean yes and your no mean no.” Simply stated, as was his style.

I often share with my clients something my eleventh-grade English teacher used to spout frequently: “Say what you mean. Don’t say what you don’t mean.”

The best way to say what you mean is to use only the words you need—the most appropriate words for your context—and discard the rest. Think of the pages of your novel as expensive real estate. Writers who want to write well should aim to be as picky about the words they string together as the foods they eat or the clothes they wear. Pickier.

Bogging Down Your Writing Is a Bad Thing

Your novel’s pacing will be greatly affected by word choice. If you bog down your sentences with unnecessary words, your scenes will drag. In addition, using boring, flat, or weak verbs and adjectives will make the reading dull, no matter how exciting your plot might be.

Take a look at this Before passage and see if you can spot some of the problems. Then read my revision and compare.

 Before:

Suddenly, lightning struck!!! It was so loud and noisy, Debby screamed and lost hand control of her drinking glass, spilling it and shattering it on the Italian stone coffee table. Somehow, the power was gone, a blackout took place, and Debby trembled as she fearfully listened to the thunder rolling in louder in waves than usual. She felt it was so loud, the house began to shake. As if being in the middle of an earthquake. She began to cry and instantly the danger passed and everything was calm.

Debby was still frozen, too afraid to move much. She slowly turned her head to the left and then to the right as she focused her attention on what was going on through the front room window. She heard the sound of a loud vehicle idling outside of her home and that sound grew louder. Approaching the window with caution, she slowly pulled the left curtain open. Her eyes widened as she saw an old run-down rusty car parked out in front of her house. It showed no headlights . . . just sitting and idling with an ominous sound coming from its tailpipe.

A cold draft suddenly made Debby tremble greatly as she began to see what was starting to materialize. Two red beams of light, very small, like tiny eyes, began to glow from within the car where the driver was sitting on the front seat. The glow grew brighter and then she realized suddenly that they were indeed eyes and they were gazing right at her!!! Debby started to gasp for breath and she felt her heart was suddenly stricken with intense pain as if there was a tight grip of a fist around it . . . tightening. As her pain grew, her body began to crouch forward, nearly ripping the curtain off its rod.

Was that exhausting to read? Try this.

 After:

Without warning, lightning struck. Debby screamed and dropped her glass, which shattered on the Italian stone coffee table. The lights flickered out, and she trembled as thunder shook the house as if an earthquake rolled under it. Then, the night quieted, except for the patter of heavy rain and the murmur of distant thunder.

Debby froze, trembling. She turned and peered through the front room window. A motor idled on the street. With barely a touch, she pulled the curtain aside. A badly damaged black-and-white patrol car sat parked in front of her house, headlights off, no red-and-blue flashing lights. An ominous sound came from its tailpipe.

A cold draft tickled Debby’s neck as she watched two red beams of light, like eyes, glow inside the dark car where a driver sat. The glow grew brighter and Debby gasped. They were eyes—and they were gazing right at her.

A stab of pain made Debby clutch her chest. With a cry, she buckled with her fist entangled in the curtain and fell to the floor, the fluttering cloth covering her face like a shroud of death.

The first thing you probably noticed is the word count dropped by about a third. Think about ditching adverbs and replacing weak verbs with stronger ones. Avoid excessive punctuation, such as multiple exclamation marks.

A great way to seek and destroy extraneous words and passages is to use Word’s Find and Replace. Search for it was, there were, ing, and ly. Often a word ending in ing will reveal a wordy phrase, and ly will catch adverbs (we’ll cover pesky adverbs in a later chapter).

Overall, take the time to consider each word you use and see if you can’t come up with a better word, maybe one more colorful or descriptive. A phrase like “It was interesting and I liked it” is not interesting, and readers won’t like it. Write in your unique style and genre, but do it well.

Think of rewriting as creating a reduction sauce. The more you can eliminate those words and phrases that are not rich in flavor, the less you will have in the end. Which is more. And more, in most cases, is better.

What words or phrases do you often use that are superfluous?

Source: livewritethrive.com

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Assessing Yourself as a Writer: Does Your Writing Make the Grade?

By Joyce Sweeney

Part of The Writer’s Life Series

JH: It’s not always clear to know what to focus on to improve our writing, but Joyce Sweeney has a formula to help writers grade their stories. Please give her a warm welcome.

Joyce Sweeney is the author of fourteen novels for young adults and two chapbooks of poetry. Her books have won many awards and honors. Joyce has recently switched to writing adult fiction and is represented by Nicole Resciniti of the Seymour agency.

Joyce has also been a writing teacher and coach for 25 years and offers online classes. In 2019, she, Jamie Morris and Tia Levings released Plotting Your Novel with The Plot Clock (Giantess Press). At this writing, 62 of Joyce’s students have successfully obtained traditional publishing contracts.

Joyce lives in Coral Springs with her husband, Jay and caffeine-addicted cat, Nitro.

Take it away Joyce…

Joyce Sweeney

Back when I was studying poetry, I discovered a formula for poetry assessment that caught my imagination. I may have it wrong now, but the idea was that you should assess a poem on four things: idea, music, story and structure. As a fiction teacher, my brain immediately went into overdrive wondering how this might translate and I came up with my similar list: concept, voice, plot and structure.

Then, of course, I asked myself how I measured up in these categories and I discovered something magical. I knew I was born with an A in structure and I knew I had a D in plotting. That discovery alone was gold to me on a personal level and it led to an intensive attempt to ‘raise my grade’ in plotting. Moreover, I knew that my concepts were 50-50 (as were my book sales from project to project) and that my voice was pretty bad on the first draft, but I could always polish it to a good level. In other words, my report card as a fiction writer was: Structure A, Voice B, Concept C, Plot D. And I knew just where and how to do my homework from that day forward.

Since I never have a problem with seeing one case as a scientific study, I decided maybe we were ALL like that. Born with one ‘free ticket’ and one ‘horror category’ with the other grades falling in between. I started assessing the manuscripts I edited on this basis and I realized it’s true. Which means identifying where we fall in these categories and working to ‘bring up our low grades’ was very possibly the Key to Everything in being ‘ready’ for publication. I continued to develop this idea into a workshop and also one of my online classes which is actually Lesson One in the upcoming Fiction Writing Essentials. I think it’s kind of a life-changing thing. So here it is in a very abbreviated version.

Let’s start with voice.

For a definition, voice is the whole way a writer uses language. So let’s say that’s the gift you are born with. In fact, I think a lot of people who choose writing have a fabulous voice and that is the easiest thing for teachers and friends to notice. I’ve discovered that people who have a real way with language, that is to say a beautiful voice, can become very frustrated, because they get standing ovations in their critique groups, they dazzle the crowd, and everyone tells them “you’re there!” when maybe they have not mastered the other elements listed above.

To my horror, I find these are people who might give up too soon. They feel, “I can’t make my writing any better so if it’s not good enough, I’ll quit.” They don’t realize they are polishing the wrong thing. Oddly, people who struggle with voice often succeed, even though they get the most picked on in critique group. Fixing voice is a slow process and these people often feel ‘behind’ the others. But they also stick around a long time, determined to crack the code, and if they are strong in plot and structure, they make it to an editor who will help them out.

Some of my voice tips are: use a narrative voice that works with your natural voice. A lot of MG writers have a YA voice and vice versa. Read poetry. It gives you voice by osmosis. And of course, study the elements of voice.

Plot.

That’s my D. I used to write poems and short stories. You don’t need a lot of plot for that. When I started writing novels, I felt if a character had some kind of epiphany near the end of the book, my work was done. Amazingly enough, I was strong enough in other ways to get published, but my sales were very up and down till I mastered plotting. I studied it so much, I’m now known more for plot writing and plot teaching then anything else.

If you’re weak in plot, you often make it beyond the pitch to a request. They may read beginning pages and keep requesting, because your voice is good. But when they get to the end of the manuscript it’s a no-sale. Plotting is easy to learn and easy to teach. Of all these skills, it’s the most mathematical and logical, so once you get the hang of it (unlike concept!) you’re in business. If you’re strong in plot, you may find that your agent, your editor and some critics are still finding flaws in your books, but they always tell you you gave them a darn good ride. That’s what a plot is. A darn good ride. Studying movies and plays is one great way to work on your plot grade.

So, if plot is the ride, structure is the type of vehicle that takes the ride.

It’s the hardest of these concepts to explain, but concretely, it plays out in things like point of view, length of scenes, story beats and swings. It’s an inner knowing of what the reader wants and needs at every turn of the story and delivering it. It’s often learned more by experience or trial and error and especially from feedback by others, so deliberate study doesn’t always work. If you read to a critique group and they say they didn’t understand something, the event went by too fast. If they’re bored, you went too slow.

Working with structure is like tasting and adjusting a recipe. Often writers who study their craft diligently find structure to be the last battle, the thing they work with agents on in R&R’s. Structure is vital because it delivers the emotion of the story. Like those lucky voice people, I was good at structure so even my first novel, which is VERY flawed, was emotionally powerful and that got me published, possibly too soon. If you’re poor in the category of structure, you hear ‘show don’t tell’ a lot and you very likely have more distant points of view than you should. You are a person who can actually benefit from taking colored markers to a powerful novel to see what the author did and when.

Then there’s concept.

Concept means your story has a clear hook, people can easily grasp ‘what it’s about’, and there’s almost always a visceral reaction when you pitch. People hear your concept and immediately want to read, or feel like that’s the story they’ve been waiting for. Your concept has interesting elements or a great twist on something classic. If you’re great at concept you usually have more ideas than time to write them, you excel at pitching but then find yourself frustrated because after you submit, you get rejected. It just means something else in your execution needs work, but the industry is driven by concept, so if you work hard, you will probably do well.

Now I really want to reach those of you who struggle with concept. Because I think this can really sideline you. Some people work on the same book for years, decades even, improving every element of that same book, but not realizing they are pouring energy into something that will never work. I find this heartbreaking. I know, often your first idea is so close to your heart (and maybe your life story or the story of someone you deeply love) but it just may not be the very best idea for launching into a competitive market.

Since I work with writers over the course of many years, I can tell you, the most successful are always starting a new book. Think about it. When you’re published, you’ll have to do that almost every year. And if you write many books, you eventually learn a lot about what makes a good concept. You refine and adjust so that the things that resonate with your heart also resonate with the collective heart. And then you can sell.

Problems with concept can be, it’s been done too many times before and you haven’t innovated enough, not enough drama or excitement, it’s so close to you, you can’t work with it (like a book that’s a tribute to someone you love). I am here to tell you. I won’t give numbers, but I’ve had some really great sales on some books and some really, well disappointing sales on others. The quality of my writing didn’t vary that much. I just sometimes picked concepts that didn’t excite readers. And this is another area where I’ve really tried to learn. I don’t want to waste all that work and energy anymore. If I shoot an arrow, I want to know there’s a target for it. If you have issues with concept, you may have heard the same criticism about your story many times but you keep saying, oh, that’s them. Or you get those rejections that praise you but say ultimately, they just can’t sell that. Do yourself a tremendous favor and move on.

So right now, just for fun, jot down your own scorecard.

I firmly believe that most writers start out with a clear A, B, C and D. And hopefully as they study craft, some of these grades start to rise. I also believe if you can get to an A in all four you can sell a book. Period. So it’s really worthwhile to look at this honestly, and if you find a category that is holding you back…well now you know just which courses to take and which books to read. Finding these categories and working with them honestly made a huge difference to me as a writer, as an editor and as a teacher. I hope they’ll be just as beneficial to you too!

Source: blog.janicehardy.com

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The #1 Rule on How to Write Viral Content for Your Blog or Website

One of the things that surprised me the most when I started Positive Writer was that a lot of my content was going viral. I didn’t expect that to happen and, if I am being honest, I didn’t start writing articles with going-viral in mind. I created my blog to share my thoughts about writing and since I felt what I wanted to express wasn’t really being talked about at the time, I might as well give it a shot and see if anyone cared. They did, and how!

At first, when my posts started taking off, I thought it was just luck. And, to a degree it was, but after a while, I noticed a trend. I had stumbled on to one of the most important aspects of being a writer online – at least, a writer who writes stuff that gets not only noticed but also passionately shared.

Before we get into what the secret is and how you can do it too, let me tell you another little truth, you’re probably a much better writer than I was when I started out, and if we’re really being open and sincere about what it takes to get your work noticed, shared and, well, going viral, it has very little to do with being a “great writer.” If you don’t consider your writing skills to be as good as you want them to be, welcome to the club.

With that said, being a great writer doesn’t hurt, but it’s not the key to success online. Writers with something to say will always get noticed more than great writers just writing for the sake of writing.

The #1 rule to creating content online that goes viral is:

Write What People May Be Thinking But Aren’t Saying

You’ve heard the saying that “The first draft of anything is shit.” Right? Well, my first article on Positive Writer was an argument against this declaration. It was titled “The First Draft is Not Crap!” It was short and, what I considered, a simple post.

“The First Draft is Not Crap!” went on to become my first viral phenomenon. I’m still a bit stunned at how well received the post was and the life it took on for itself. I’d love to tell you, I knew it! But that was hardly the case.

Hemingway allegedly said the famous quote, “The first draft of anything is shit.” as claimed in a postmortem book, “With Hemingway: A Year in Key West and Cuba.”

Thousands, if not millions, of authors and aspiring authors (especially the aspiring ones), have repeated the quote with conviction, even going so far as to post it on vision boards and bathroom mirrors. However, I imagined many actually disagreed with it or felt it went too far. In fact, psychologically it IS a self-defeating statement, which has led more people to let-downs than to publishing contracts.

I’m not going to go into the debate about the quote itself in this article. I’ve already done that. We’re going to talk about how a topic, especially something people may be thinking about, but aren’t really talking about, can get people to react in some way, positive, or negative, in agreement or disagreement, thus sharing your articles.

The result to share and discuss the content is there because it’s different, it’s taboo, and at the same time, it’s meaningful and important.

How dare you contradict the great one! Hemingway was a master.

Or:

It’s about time someone said it! No one can prove Hemingway ever uttered those words.

And it’s not always so cut and dry, some may agree to a point, but not entirely, which opens up more debate, discussions, and ultimately, sharing of your content!

Now here’s the thing, I wasn’t merely trying to stir up the bees. Quite the contrary, I set out to help fellow writers with positive and motivational content. Part of that was to get writers to think more positively about their initial work and give it the credit it deserves. Calling your work crap isn’t exactly all that motivational. And, reverse psychology doesn’t usually work the way a lot of people think it does.

Studies have shown direct requests and suggestions work better than reverse suggestions, in fact, reverse suggestions often work as direct suggestions. So, if you’re one of those who is wired for direct and not “reverse psychology,” then guess what calling your work worthless means. Exactly, your efforts and your work are very likely F**k’d. If that’s you, now you know why you’re always stuck and borderline depressed. Stop that!

Since I hadn’t found any blogs out there expressing things the way I thought about them, I only had an inclination more people thought the way I did. It was a big risk and I figured there would be some push back because, frankly, a lot of the most common and repeated writing advice out there is capital BULLSHIT. I wanted to talk about that and provide other ways of thinking about said bull advice.

To create viral content you have to be willing to discuss topics your readers might not agree with and at the same time do your best to help them see your point of view.

To create viral content you have to be willing to discuss topics your readers might not agree with and at the same time do your best to help them see your point of view.

It’s not enough just to write about that which should not be said, there also has to be a point to it – or rather, a point you’re trying to make. If you’re successful at making your point, whether your readers agree or disagree, they will share your content, and if you’re lucky, it will go viral.

I noticed many new writers and bloggers like to rewrite old advice and popular content. Sure, they give a little of their own twist in the rewriting of it, but really, it’s the same we’ve all already read before. Great for a moment, but ultimately forgettable. Don’t be forgettable. I made that mistake with the first few blogs I started. I hadn’t found my own voice yet, or really, I wasn’t brave enough to let it sing freely. With that said…

Pro-tip: Don’t write content with the sole purpose of pissing people off. Because, rest assured, if you try that you WILL succeed and it won’t be pretty. If you’ve got a point to make – be sure it’s something you believe in and you feel needs to be said.

Your content needs to be valuable. Make your words make a difference. Because they can.

If you leave this article having gained something that will help you in some way, then I feel I have succeeded. I don’t need you to agree with me or disagree with me – I just want to get you thinking, considering, and coming up with your own solutions with what may be a new or fresh perspective. To me that is valuable. To me, that is a win.

You’ve got something you want to say. I know you do. It might not be mainstream, it might be a little edgy, and I am quite sure, whatever it is, it’s pretty damn scary. That’s the type of stuff people care about. Viral content goes viral because people care about it. You would never share anything you don’t care about.

Writing articles to give your opinion is the primary reason to create a blog so that you can share those opinions with the world. However, – this is going to hurt – your opinion doesn’t count for much. And frankly, neither does mine.

It’s the thoughts, the discussions, and the sharing of views that we generate which matters the most. If I could get one person to rethink the draft she’s about to throw in the trash because she thought it was “shit.” Then I’ve done my job. And if that draft becomes a second draft, then a third draft, and eventually turns into a published book – oh my!

And THAT is why I wrote the article without ever considering it would eventually be viewed and read over 2 million times, or that thousands of people around the world would share it with each other.

I’ve written many other articles which have had a similar effect, some have been shared far more, and some much-much less, and some have caused even greater ripples in the blogosphere. But get this, you’re a better writer than you realize and you have things to say you know are important too, so what are you waiting for?

Say what others are thinking, but aren’t saying. The scarier this idea is to you, the more likely you’re on to something.

Go create some ripples. I dare you.

By Bryan Hutchinson

Source: positivewriter.com

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