Website Coming Soon

I’ve had my work cut out for me the past six months or so.  The good news is I’ll have my own website by the end of March.  As soon as the site goes live, all useful material from this blog and a few of my other blogs will be moved to the new site.  All new material will posted to the new site as well.  I’m extremely excited about this announcement.  I’ll be able to post at least once per week, but I truly hope to post three times per week.  The new site will focus on detailed descriptions of every public writing site I’ve tried, plus reviews of all sites I use to learn more about my craft, including tips and tricks to make the most of every site.

Another focus of the site will be writing prompts for fiction, non-fiction, poetry and editorials with a place for contests so viewers can vote on the best material for each prompt.  By 2011, I hope to be able to offer monetary prizes, but publicity will be the main prize for now. 

I hope my readers will forgive my long absence and visit the new site when it goes live.  Over the past six months, I’ve dealt with quite a few personal and professional ordeals.  I’ve come a long way towards getting back on track professionally and personally.  Surprisingly enough, I’ve had my worst bout of rejections since I started writing. This is mainly due to branching out and taking risks.  Overall, the risks have paid off.  I’ve learned more about writing for the web, when to take advantage of an opportunity and how to keep trying no matter what.  I thank everyone for their interest in my blog and hope you’ll enjoy the forthcoming site, full of useful information and fun.  Not to mention, a section for all my wonderful, opinionated editorials about any and everything that crosses my mind 🙂

Dealing With Policy Changes

One of the more frustrating parts of writing, both online and offline, is dealing with policy changes.  These can include site changes and updates, licensing, types of articles accepted, changes in payments, and how articles are formatted.  In just the past 6 months, there have been enough policy changes to make me want to scream.  I’ve vented in forums, but of course, nothing changes.  So how should you deal?

First, really look at the changes.  Sometimes they’re not as bad as they first seem.  There have been some changes that I hated at first, but now I kind of like them.  For instance, Associated Content changed their licensing and how you submit articles.  This has made working with them easier.  Brighthub, on the other hand, made some changes on what you can submit, which has made me not even bother with them for now.

Second, watch where you vent.  Sometimes you’re comments can actually cost you.  Some writers are banned, or at the very least ignored, after they’ve made their opinions known.  Even if you’re polite about it, sometimes you get black balled because you didn’t agree with the moderators and the forum pets.  Try looking at Yahoo Groups or another forum group outside of the main writing website(s).  For instance, Demand Studios has a group at Yahoo called DSWriters where you can say anything you want about DS, good or bad, without being punished.  It’s worth it sometimes to just complain for a few minutes.  It helps me deal with the changes just knowing I’m not the only one that hates it.  You can also find ways around the changes sometimes.

Lastly, stick to your guns.  If you don’t agree with a change, write elsewhere.  I don’t like how the Brighthub system works now.  Therefore, I write elsewhere.  The new system works for others, but not me.  Maybe I will later on, but for now I have other sources of income.  Don’t compromise yourself if you don’t want to.  With recent changes at Demand Studios, I refuse to put in the extra work.  Instead, I’m going to do what I’ve been doing, but just rearrange things to fit the new format.  No reason to put in extra work for no extra pay.

The best advice I can give is to be sure you understand the changes and find a calm way to deal with them.  Yelling at the site owners will not change anything.  Even if the changes scream ignorance, the owners and developers believe they know all and refuse to budge until the changes affect them directly.  The best thing to do is let the changes backfire on the owners.  Trust me, you’ll see a new batch of updates that will magically make the bad ones disappear.  The owners save face and the writers are happy once more.

Topic Ideas for Articles

I don’t have any prompts at the moment, but I can provide you with some hot topics right now that websites and publishers are looking for.

Non-Fiction – Articles and Books

  • Recession
  • Barack Obama
  • Baseball
  • Finance (saving money, getting out of debt, reviews of credit card companies and deals)
  • Spring cleaning
  • Going Green (anything from product reviews to green related events)
  • Making Money online
  • Job hunting tips

Fiction – Articles, Books & Stories

  • Vampires (Thanks to Twilight)
  • Children’s books
  • Crime mystery
  • Supernatural romance
  • Humorous takes on politics, government, or the recession

Hope this helps.  I’ve been using some of the non-fiction ideas with great success.

Beware of Writing Scams

When you’re looking to start or even advance your writing career, you have to be careful of scams. There are thousands of websites looking to sell you advice, which 9 times out of 10 is regurgitated BS that tells you nothing but the bare basics.  Below is a list of things to look for to tell whether you’re looking at a possible writing scam.

  • One long webpage full of site promotion and testimonials followed by several links advertising special time pricing.  These are either straight out scams or a complete waste of your time.  This are typically sites that tell you how to create duplicates of the website you’re viewing.  Never give your money to these sites, no matter what they promise.  If there were such professionals, they’d have a professional looking website.
  • Asks for personal information.  If you have to give over your name, address, phone number, and any other personal information just to visit a site, then the site is a scam.  The only things you should be required to give in order to register on a writing website is an email address, password, and a name to write under (only if you’re actually writing for the site).  For most sites, PayPal is used to pay you, so providing your PayPal email address is the only other requirement you need to fulfill to be paid.  There are some writing sites that require tax information if you make over a certain amount each year.  By the time this information is required, you should trust the site.
  • Asks for work before you’re paid.  There are writing websites and forums where users post requests for writers to do certain projects.  Always ask for some type of reference from anyone you want to work for.  Many users take your work and don’t pay.  Before joining a site and taking on a project, be sure you’ll get paid.  Look through forums on other writing sites to see if anyone else has experience on the site you’re looking to use.  Associated Content provides a great forum for Other Online Gigs to help you find which sites work and which ones don’t.
  • Asks you to pay to work.  You should NEVER EVER pay to work.  You can pay for information, access to writing tools and software, and website and blog hosting.  However, if you have to pay just to access a list of available assignments or pay a membership fee just to write for the website, don’t do it.  The site is a scam.  You won’t make your money back.  A true writing site makes there money from a preset amount from each sale or ad revenue.  They’ll make money off you simply by you writing for them.  They won’t deter members by asking for membership dues.
  • Asks for free or cheap services.  Never short sell yourself.  If an ad or website asks you to write an article for far less than it’s worth, odds are, you’re getting scammed.  They want to buy your work for little or nothing, take away your byline, and sell the article elsewhere for profit.  If you retain rights to your work and keep a byline, it’s okay to sell an article for less than it’s worth.  For instance, you can sell a 400 word article at Associated Content for $4-$5, place it on Helium for page views and $.50-$2.50 depending on the category, and then again on Constant Content for around $6 for usage rights.  All of these sites let you retain full rights over your work.  If you’re asked for exclusive rights, no byline, and less than .02 per word, don’t even consider it.
  • Make money for nothing.  This one should be obvious, but I’ve seen so many people fall for it.  One email I recently received had a subject line saying I could make $5000 a month by writing a few articles per week.  I’d love to make thousands a month by writing a few articles and marketing the hell out of them.  Guess what, that’s not going to happen.  The research required to write extremely high paying articles takes time.  Far more time than the few hours a week those types of scams advertise.  You’ll only waste your time and loose money by missing out on legitimate opportunities if you try to take the easy way out.

These are just a few of the typical scams you might find.  If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.  Stay safe and save your skills for real writing jobs.  Legitimate sites will help you advance your career for little or no monetary gain.  That’s what ads are for.  Use common sense and writing communities to avoid becoming the next victim of a writing scam.

So Much To Do…Absolutely No Time

Well, I’m back, at least briefly.  I’ve been struggling with an eye allergy off and on for about two weeks, which makes writing rather difficult.  I’ve gotten extremely behind on my paid assignments and will be putting in some long hours over the next week to catch up and hopefully get ahead once more.  It’s amazing how something so simple can cause so much trouble.

This gave me an idea for a post, however.  Never, ever procrastinate.  I was sticking to my schedule fairly well.  I’ll admit some cute little flash games keep distracting me, but oh well.  The thing was I was sticking to what I had to do on a particular day.  If I finished early, that meant free time to do whatever else I wanted.  I never thought about getting ahead in case something happened.  Instead, I’ve spent a lot of time trying to juggle deadlines that came far too quickly.  If I’d taken advantage of the extra time I had, I wouldn’t be behind much at all right now.  As it is, I’m going to be tripling the amount of writing I’d usually do per day for at least a week.

Some of the extra writing is due to being in a better position than I was a few months ago in the writing business.  I’m being allowed to write more, doing better at promotion, and basically getting into a much better flow.  I’ve learned that to stick with this better position, I need to work harder.  Finishing early simply means getting some of the next day’s work completed.  After all, extra work equals extra pay.  As you become a better writer, you’ll find you learn how to research and write faster and more efficiently.  So take advantage of the time you save to get more done.  You savings account will thank you.  And you won’t be stressing out about your writing deadlines should something unforeseen happen to take you out of commission for a few days or weeks.

Taking Care of Your Instrument

It’s all well and good that you’re churning out page after page of high quality writing. Then again, if you’ve been at it for too long, you may simply be typing gibberish. Granted, I’m sure it looks great to you at the time. However, you need to remember to take breaks when writing.

When you’re on a roll or even when you can’t quite get focused, you need to take a few minutes every few hours to clear your head and stretch your limbs.  You can grab a snack, watch a tv show, call a friend, play a game online, exercise, or whatever you need to do to get away from writing for a few minutes.  A good rule of thumb is to take at least 5 to 10 minutes for each hour.

When you write for too long at a stretch, your muscles become cramped, your writing gradually deteriorates, and you basically burn out.  By taking frequent breaks, you can keep your instrument, meaning you the writer, in shape.  As I said before, you may think doing a marathon writing spree of 10 hours will make up for slacking the day before, but what may sound great to you at hour 9, probably sounds like complete gibberish to anyone else.  Before anyone complains, I realize this works out sometimes, but NEVER EVER make this a habit.  Take breaks during the marathon and you’ll be fine.

One of the things that helps me most is exercising for about 5 minutes.  Exercising translates into basic yoga poses or dancing to my favorite song at the time.  The exercise clears my head, stretches out my muscles, and energizes me for another hour or so of writing.  Whatever you decide to do, just give your mind and body a break to keep your writing at the highest quality possible.

Dropped off the Radar

Sorry for dropping off the radar for a few weeks.  I’ve been busy trying to understand Brighthub’s new system and getting caught up on some other articles.  I was excited to receive the Top 1000 badge on Associated Content.  I’ve been writing for them since late 2007.  I didn’t really get super involved until 2008, but for only a little over a year of work, I’m proud of my accomplishment.  It think that’s one thing freelancers should always remember.  Take pride in every accomplishment.  Yeah, a lucky 100 got the Top 100 badge and a handful actually received annual cash rewards and badges for their work, but at least I did something to receive recognition.

I was actually feeling kind of blah about writing lately until I saw that.  It’s one of those little things that can get you motivated again.  Think about the boss giving you praise at a 9 to 5 job.  It’s pretty much the same thing.  A nice comment, a lot of activity, or just praise from a friend or family member can help re-motivate you.  Or at the very least, make you feel as if you really are making a difference with your work.

I’m using this week as a major catch up week.  So many opportunities have arisen lately and I don’t want to miss a single one.  I’m looking to break my record for weekly earnings this week, so wish me luck.  I advise everyone to take advantage of every opportunity you can when writing, especially if you’re trying to establish your career.  You never know what may happen.  Who knows, you could nail a full time position or regular client, major recognition, or just a butt-load of cash.  I should be back at the end of the week.  I’ll have more writing prompts and an update of how the week turned out.