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Professional creators should use professional tools.

After all, how would you feel if you went to a restaurant and noticed the food was being cooked in cheap microwaves by chefs using low-quality equipment? You would probably rightly assume the output from substandard tools would be a substandard meal.

Writers are no different.

To produce the best work possible, it’s vital to find the right tools for the job.

How many writers do you know who still use a standard word processor app like Microsoft Word? Perhaps you even do yourself. Why? It’s often due to a lack of knowledge about what else is out there.

I still remember the day I found something better and tried it out for the first time.

That something better was a writing tool named Scrivener.

Here’s how this tool has made a major difference to my writing process.

1. Better research and planning

The self-publishing marketplace is more crowded and competitive than ever before.

In the past, it was possible to release a hastily written book containing the minimum of research, and still experience success. Those days are gone. Success in the current climate requires careful and conscious research.

Research isn’t easy. We live in an era of unprecedented information and ideas.

Curating the best and most suitable concepts for your book is no easy task. Yet so many writers make it even tougher than it needs to be by taking a scattergun approach to the collection and storage of information.

Before I discovered Scrivener, my research process typically involved a mess of folders, files and illogically named documents. Even worse, leaving my writing software and accessing my research disrupted my creative flow and led to procrastination and distraction.

Scrivener helped me to collect, organize and access my research in a way I never even knew was possible. Within Scrivener, you have all of your research directly available, next to the actual writing environment itself, as seen below.

Being able to see all of your research without having to leave your writing software is an incredible time-saver and productivity-booster. You never have to run the risk of forgetting about a useful piece of research while in the throes of creation.

Scrivener painlessly integrates text, visual and online research. It also syncs up with Evernote, making Scrivener a superb choice for Evernote fans.

Some of the best research and planning features of Scrivener for fiction writers include the ability to create, store and access detailed character notes, create a detailed and useful outline of your story, and to store images and ideas related to setting and location.

2. Writing well

Any specialist writing software worth your time and money needs to offer functionality and benefit when it comes to the actual activity of writing itself.

While research and planning are important, the core activity for writers will always be, unsurprisingly, writing itself. Thankfully, Scrivener does not disappoint in this area.

Some of my favorite aspects of writing while using Scrivener include –

  • The ability to write in a distraction-free fullscreen mode
  • The option to use a template created by another writer to structure my work in a tried and tested way
  • Setting quantified writing targets and visually monitoring my progress towards them in real time
  • Being able to quickly and easily rearrange chapters and scenes as I write
Write without distraction

If you’ve ever struggled with the problem of being able to zone in on your writing and get things done, you will appreciate the full-screen composition mode offered by Scrivener. It’s a way of digitally tuning out the distractions of the world and zoning in on the vital process of stringing sentences together.

As you can see from the above image, Scrivener blocks out everything but the words you are writing. If you combine this with a time period where you turn off your internet and cellphone, you will truly be able to focus on your writing. The full screen mode shown above displays a plain background, but you can also customize the image seen. Views of nature are a popular choice.

Use templates for successful structures

One of the toughest challenges for me was knowing the proper structure to use when setting out to write a book. This is another area where Scrivener excels.

You can easily download, import and modify Scrivener templates. This gives you a predefined structure for your manuscript and research which allows you to focus on the act of actually creating.

Using templates in Scrivener can also give you the confidence to try out a style or method of writing you may not have experience with. For example, if you’ve wanted to write a screenplay, but haven’t known exactly how, a template can be your best friend.

The above image shows the template selection available when loading up Scrivener. You can always add and modify templates depending on your personal requirements.

Set targets and monitor progress

Almost every writer has a unique approach to measuring progress and monitoring projects. If you like to set targets for your writing, and ensure you stay on track, Scrivener makes it easy. You can easily set writing targets for an individual writing session, or an entire project, and quickly monitor your progress towards them, as seen below.

You can see that the progress box floats over your writing and shows both your overall and session targets.

Scrivener also allows you to quickly combine, separate and rearrange the individual pieces of a writing project. If you are rewriting nonfiction, and aren’t exactly sure of the order you want your chapters to be in, it’s easy to switch up the sequence, as seen below.

3. Formatting and sharing

Have you ever experienced the joy of seemingly finishing a writing project, only to experience unexpected frustration when finding the right format for your work, and exporting it, becomes a nightmare?

This is especially true when writing in software like Microsoft Word. It can be tricky to impossible to find a way of easily converting your work into the right file format. Even if you do manage to export to the file type you need, there’s often no guarantee that your work will look the way you wanted in its final form.

In Scrivener, you can ensure that your writing project will look exactly as you intended after you export it. Some of the options for doing this can be seen below.

Scrivener also supports a wealth of export file formats, which are suited to different types of writing.

Some of the file format supported by Scrivener include –

* .epub (used for Google, iBookstore, Nook and Kobo)

* .mobi (used for the Kindle store)

* .html (used for webpages)

* .PDF (used for Adobe Reader)

* .doc (compatible with MS Word and Google Docs)

This powerful export capability can save both time and money. Exporting with Scrivener can save on the need to hire a freelance worker to carry out the format process for your book. It also can help you to avoid having to invest in a separate piece of software to get the file format you want.

As well as being great for full ebooks, this file format versatility is well-suited to blogging. Bestselling author Michael Hyatt decided to switch to Scrivener for all his writing projects, not just his books. While you may not decide to go this far yourself, it’s good to know that Scrivener is suitable for whatever type of writing project you decide to engage in.

Better Books With Scrivener

Writing a book is a demanding endeavour requiring software that is up to scratch. Scrivener not only produces a better final product, but also makes each and every stage of the writing process easier along the way.

If you have any questions about Scrivener, feel free to comment and I’ll be happy to respond. I’d also love to know about any awesome Scrivener benefits you’ve discovered that I haven’t mentioned here.

This post contains affiliate links. That means if you purchase through our links, you’re supporting The Write Life — and we thank you for that!

The post 3 Ways Scrivener Makes Self-Publishing a Breeze appeared first on The Write Life.

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My brain’s too foggy. The kids stressed me out. I don’t feel good. I’m too tired. My to-do list is calling. I only have a few minutes. The house is a mess. I need coffee. I’ve had way too much coffee. It’s better for me to write in the morning. I have no good ideas. I’m not good at writing. It’s too loud in my house. The kids will be up soon, anyways. I don’t know what to write. My desk is cluttered.

Do any of these sound familiar? Am I reading your mind? Are these types of thoughts keeping you from writing?

Perfect conditions

I could list 100 or more of these thoughts.

I come up with new ones every single day (if only I were so creative in my writing!).  I have not written anything for about two weeks and this perpetual way of thinking really flatlines my writing efforts.

Most of the time, I feel like I am just waiting for the perfect conditions for writing. And as you would expect, those magical conditions never happen.

It’s like I am putting off getting what I need to done until the sun and the moon and the stars align just so.

Then, and only then, I believe I will be able to sit and write with no worries and the words will just flow effortlessly out of my brain and into my fingers as they tap delightfully on my keyboard. And nothing will distract me from my incredible focus because my brain is fresh and clear and I’ve had just the right amount of caffeine to keep me going until every last thought has been captured in the most eloquent way possible.

And yet, even the cosmic rarity of the sun and the moon meeting in a total solar eclipse was not enough to get me to write. Not even one word.


The truth is, the conditions will never be perfect.

I mean, they might have been if I had chosen to be single. And if I had been independently wealthy. And maybe if I lived in some beautiful remote location, with not a care in the world and even a personal chef to boot!

But I’m not and I don’t. Sigh.

I have 3, soon to be 4, kids and a husband who runs his business from home.

My house is loud and disorganized. I don’t even have a desk. Well, actually I do, but I had the brilliant idea to set up my writing station in the kids’ playroom. As if I would have been able to work while the munchkins screamed and played and climbed all over me. Now the desk is so deeply buried that I couldn’t even sit there if I wanted to.

Talk about imperfect conditions!

So, now I’ve come face to face to with reality. All my “perfect condition” requirements are just fantasies that are preventing me from getting into the nitty gritty. The hard aspects of writing. The sitting down and actually doing it, without the reasons and excuses that I allow to hold me back.

The hard part

Writing is an exercise that must be strengthened with practice. Is it hard to sit down at the computer and write while the kids are playing (or screaming or fighting or worse)? Yes.

Is it frustrating to be interrupted just when you’ve gotten to a really good stage of the writing process? Yes.

But, if you don’t work at it, you will continue to get the same results. Day after day of blank pages.

How can you get past the excuses and learn to write no matter the weather? Try these three tips.

1. Recognize the BS thinking

Learn to catch the habitual thoughts in action and recognize them for the excuses that they are. Just doing this removes their power.

Take “The house is a mess” for example. Is it really true that you can’t write until the house is clean? Or, perhaps, you can recognize that the urge to tidy up might be because it is easier to do that than write, and set a goal to pick up the house after you’ve accomplished a writing goal.

2. Stop taking your own temperature

Letting your mood dictate whether it is a good time to write is a quick way to end up not writing. It’s time to stop being so concerned with whether you feel “right” enough to write.

Instead, put pen to the paper, no matter what you are thinking or feeling.

3. Treat writing like the job that it is

Writing is hard work, especially when you don’t have a formal job structure to keep you on target. Setting strict deadlines and blocking out dedicated times to write can really help get you past the excuses.

And with that, you can get back on track. A writing schedule keeps me committed regardless of how I am thinking or feeling about the task at hand. My silver spoon fantasies still linger but I know what happens when I heed them. Nothing. Nothing at all.

What is your most creative (or ridiculous) excuse not to write? Or, if you’ve conquered your own excuses, share your successful strategy to help other writers.

The post 3 Ways to Quit Waiting for “Perfect” Writing Conditions appeared first on The Write Life.

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As a freelance writer, it can be tempting to take every gig that comes your way.

Turning down a freelance gig can sometimes feel like you’re tempting fate to take away all future opportunities because you said no to one. When you think about how hard you work marketing yourself and making connections and inquiries, something about turning down a viable gig feels wrong. Just know that you’re not alone. I did the same thing when I first started out, and I still get tempted to do it now. But along the way, I’ve learned that it’s OK to say no sometimes. In fact, you should. Not every gig is worth your time or effort. The trick is to differentiate between one that has value and one that’s more trouble than it’s worth.

Here are six questions to ask yourself before you say yes to a freelance gig.

1. Is it worth the money?

Think about the time required to complete a project. Is it worth the money they’re offering?

Money isn’t everything, especially when freelancing, but it can go a long way to helping you decide if the gig is right for you.

Remember that your time has value, and the time you put into something that doesn’t pay well can mean less time for those opportunities that do.

2. Will it give you solid exposure?

Sometimes the gigs that give you the best exposure are the ones that don’t pay as well.

Like I said, money isn’t everything. If you can get your name out there by doing a project or writing an article for free or next to nothing, it might be worth it.

Then, you can move onto higher paying gigs once you’re more established in your niche market.

I once had a column where I wrote five articles a week for over a year because it was great exposure. It didn’t pay well, but it helped to get my name out there and increase my credibility as a freelance writer. That was invaluable.

In fact, because of this column, some of my work was featured on the New York Times blog.

3. Will it be the perfect addition to your portfolio?

The plain and simple truth is that to get high quality freelance gigs, a strong portfolio is an asset.

So, maybe the gig you’re considering doesn’t pay well, and it doesn’t give you a ton of exposure, but the piece will be a strong addition to your writing portfolio.

If so, it just might be yes-worthy.

4. Are you comfortable being associated with the company/website?

Perhaps the gig pays well and it will give you some exposure, but you’re uncomfortable with the site or the company itself.

Remember that your reputation is more important than money you can make.

I recently turned down a gig as a regular contributor for a relatively well-known site. I was tempted to take it, and I tried over and over to convince myself that it would be fine, that I would make it work, but I had to be honest with myself.

Their website’s new focus was all about shock and fear. They wanted clicks instead of interesting or helpful content. I decided that I didn’t want my name associated with that sort of site.

As soon as I turned it down, I felt relief. I had made the right choice.

5. Will the client be too difficult to work with?

If the freelance job pays well and it would be great exposure, it still might not be worth it if the client is difficult to work with.

The problem with this one is that it’s difficult to spot in the beginning. It comes down to looking for red flags. If you see some red flags, consider if it’s worth the time, the money and the stress.

If not, move on and leave your schedule open for an even better opportunity. But if it’s the best opportunity you’ve had, the difficult client may well be worth the money and the exposure.

When I wrote that column for a year (for the exposure), I was approached by one of the readers. He wanted me to write content for him, too. I was on board and ecstatic. Then I started noticing some red flags. For example, I hadn’t even signed the contract yet, and he wouldn’t stop calling me and emailing me. I soon learned that he needed a lot of personal attention, and that’s not something I was interested in. I just wanted to do my job in peace, so I ended up turning that opportunity down, and I’ve never regretted it.

6. Do you have the time?

Freelance writers are notorious for overloading our schedules.

Before accepting a freelance job, ask yourself if you have the appropriate amount of time to dedicate.

Again, your reputation is important, and you don’t want to sully it because you don’t have the time to devote to doing your best work.

Saying no to a freelance gig can be hard, but it’s the only way to create the presence and reputation you want. Remember that you need something out of the arrangement, too, whether that’s adequate payment, a boost in exposure or something strong to add to your portfolio. Don’t overburden yourself with opportunities that won’t meet your overall career goals.

Leave time in your schedule for the best jobs, the ones that will help you pivot and lead you to a higher plane.

You’re worth it.

What do you look for before saying yes to a freelance gig?

The post 6 Questions to Consider Before Accepting a Freelance Writing Gig appeared first on The Write Life.

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It’s crazy to think about when I first started my freelance writing career.

I had just moved to a new city and was searching for jobs when I stumbled across an article about freelance writing online. I had no idea what it really entailed but I dove right in because I had always loved writing, so I figured, why not?

But jumping right in without looking may have been a mistake.

Freelance writing is a much more difficult career to get your start in than many other professions. Essentially, you’re starting a business. Your service is your writing and, like any other business, you have to market, build a positive reputation and grow.

And also like any other business, it’s going to take a while before you start gaining traction.

At first, you may not be able to secure jobs. It might be a while before you even land your first  high paying client. The fact that you’re not making a full time income right away can be very discouraging.

It was for me. There were countless times I wanted to throw in the towel and just quit.

But I persevered, hunkered down behind my laptop and remembered a few key lessons that prevented me from giving up.

Now I’m a full time freelance writer and can honestly say that sticking to it was one of the best decisions I’ve made.

If you’re just starting out as a freelance writer or need some encouragement, here are a few reminders for when the weight of this career choice gets a little too heavy.

1. Building a client base takes time

Unless you have a lot of connections, you’re going to have to build your client list from scratch.

And as you can imagine, this takes time.

You’ll have to research publications in your niche, pitch different clients, send out  samples and provide high quality work that people will want more of. Doing this — and doing it right — can take a large chunk of time.

And not everyone you pitch will want to work with you. Sometimes they just don’t need the work and other times they might not be all that impressed with your experience so far. This might feel like a kick to the gut and believe me, you might want to quit after your first few — or dozen — rejections. I sure did.

Having been in this game for a few years now, I’ve noticed a few tactics that help increase the odds of success. This is what I do personally that might help up your chances of clients responding to your pitch or rehiring you for future work:

  • Produce a very clean, grammatically correct pitch
  • Make sure your pitch follows the publication’s guidelines
  • Send high quality samples
  • Respond to emails in a timely manner
  • Put forth your full effort in each piece provided
  • Turn out your articles in a reasonable timeframe
  • Ask questions if you’re not clear on instructions for a piece

Doing the above can help clients see how serious you are about working with them and it’ll also increase the likelihood of them wanting to work with you on a continuous basis.

The goal for freelance writing is to have a decent list of clients you can work for long-term. This will provide you with the stability you need to feel secure.

2. If you put in the work, you’ll be rewarded

Many people love the idea of being a freelance writer because you can work from the comfort of your home on your big cozy couch in your PJs. However, because you can have so many luxuries at work, you have to have one hell of a work ethic.

You need to be able to force yourself to work and be productive even on days when you’re feeling super lazy or tired or just bored with the topic you’re writing. If you don’t work, your business as a freelance writer won’t grow.

Think about it like a salesman who works for commission. The person who’s going to make more will be the one who makes the most calls and gives the best pitch.

Freelance writing isn’t much different than being a salesman. You have to continuously put yourself out there and pitch to companies. The only difference is that you’re selling your writing instead of a product.

The amount of work you put into growing your freelance business will be directly related to how much you get out of it.

So before you decide to quit, ask yourself if you’re giving it your all. Are you expecting too much while not putting in the work to support those ambitions?

Just remember that if you work hard to meet your goals, you’ll reach them much faster than you would if you continue to sit about contemplating giving up.

3. Be patient — building a business takes time

Most businesses aren’t overnight successes. It can take a while to see growth. You’re starting new with next to nothing on your freelance writing resume.

That’s like new businesses trying to sell a product without having any reviews. How likely are you to purchase something when you have nothing to ensure you that you’ll like what you get? Probably not very likely.

That’s why businesses take a very long time to get off the ground.

The same is true for your freelance writing career. If you’re expecting to make a full time income in only a month and land every client you pitch to, you’ll be very discouraged and disappointed when that doesn’t happen. This mindset can actually be sabotaging your potential success.

I had really high expectations right off the bat and when I was rejected time and time again for failing to have experience, I wanted to stop. I even looked at other 9-5 jobs before I realized that this is just a part of the process.

Just remember that building your business might take longer than you initially anticipated. Have a little patience and keep working toward your goals.

Freelance writing is not an easy career choice but it is worth it if you’re willing to put in the work. You’ll have some ups and downs along the way but remembering these few things can help you stick with this career so you can live the life you truly want.

How many of you have ever felt like throwing in the towel when it comes to freelance writing? What made you stick with it through the tough times?

The post 3 Freelance Writing Nuggets of Wisdom for When You Feeling Like Quitting appeared first on The Write Life.

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Starting out as a freelance writer can be confusing and overwhelming.

There are so many options and there’s no traditional path to follow meaning you’re on your own to figure out  the right first step.

But the truth is that first step doesn’t need to be as complicated as it seems.

You just need to take one action that gets your business off the starting line and moving in the right direction, giving you a little momentum.

Here are eight of the simplest first steps you can take right now to start your freelance writing business and finally get the ball rolling.

1. Sign up for a free WordPress blog and publish a short post

The simplest and easiest step you can take to start today is to create a blog and publish a post about a topic you care about.

This doesn’t cost any money – you can sign up for free — and a simple 300 to 500 word post is enough to get started.

Don’t get caught up in the self talk that says it needs to be a perfect blog post, or that you need a professional site. All of that comes later.

You just need to start.

2. Generate three ideas for niches you’d like to write about

Knowing which freelance writing jobs to apply for is difficult.

Job boards and freelancing sites are filled with hundreds of posts and the high amount can leave you suffering from choice paralysis. Having so many options that you take none.

That’s where choosing a niche (or niches) can help you out. It allows you to filter out the jobs that don’t apply to you and focus on the ones that do. Here’s a quick exercises to help you do this:

Set a timer for 60 minutes. Take a look at where you spend your time and where you spend your money. Do you invest lots of hours each week doing a particular activity? Or, do you spend a consistent amount of money on a particular non-essential area of your life?

Then, with whatever time you have remaining, send a message to some of your closest friends asking if they can think of any areas of life where you stand out.

This introspection can show you niches where you’re what’s called a relative expert. Meaning you’re an expert relative to a beginner. You’ll have an above average level of knowledge or experience in that niche, have formed strong opinions about it and can at least teach the basics.

Write the three niche ideas you’ve generated down and use them as a reference to help you filter out the jobs you do or don’t want to apply for.

3. Find five blogs that pay for posts and bookmark them

You’d be surprised at how many sites pay for guest post submissions and it’s often a good indicator of whether a niche you like is going to be profitable or not to work in.

You don’t even need to do much extra work for this. The Write Life already has a list of 231 publications that pay for posts to get you started.

Once published these pieces also work as solid portfolio pieces, so if you can get paid for them it’s a real win/win in the long run.

4. Bookmark five job board listings you think you could write

Job boards are a great place to start getting a feel for the job market.

You can see lots of businesses actively seeking freelancers and see what’s available to you.

Head to one of these 10 jobs boards and look for five listings that you think you could write. Pop them into a spreadsheet or bookmark them to save them for later. (Don’t leave it too long though; the earlier you pitch the better).

5. Find a local business directory and identify five potential clients

If you search for your local area and the words “business directory” in Google you’ll find an entire database of the business near you. For example:

Jacksonville, FL + Business Directory

You can then work through the list and look for businesses that you think you could work with. These could be in your favorite niches, or ones with professional sites and content marketing systems.

6. Email a local business and ask if they’re interested in freelance writing services

You can either use this step in conjunction with the last one or on its own.

Head over to Google and do a quick search for business near you. Provided you don’t live in the middle of nowhere, there should be more than a few.

Click onto their site and use the Hunter tool to grab their email address and send them a quick message asking if they’d be interested in hiring a freelance writer to work on their site. (Either now or in the future).

This can be done without a website, knowing your prices or having a portfolio in place. You’re just getting a feel for what opportunities are out there.

Do this once every day and you could have your first client in a few weeks.

7. Write a short Facebook post asking if anyone needs a writer

Your Facebook friends list is full of potential first clients. It could be someone you know, or somebody they know, but there is almost always a connection there.

My first two local clients — a translation company and a skills center — were friends of my cousin who he connected me with because of a simple ask I made on Facebook. I’d probably never have found them otherwise.

You don’t need to post anything fancy, you can just go for the straight-up shameless ask and see what comes back to you.

If nothing else you’ve stated to your small community that you now have a business that you run. That should be enough motivation to get the wheels turning.

8. Find a Fiverr designer and design your business logo

Logos have the power to turn your business from an idea into reality, making it a useful place to make a start.

Find a cheap and cheerful logo creator on Fiverr and get them to create a design for you. Once you’ve got the final design you can add it to your email signature and blog to give you a professional feel when you head out and start pitching.

By breaking down starting your freelance writing business into little chunks, you find it becomes more manageable. What was once a daunting task is now a simple five to sixty minute exercise you can easily achieve.

Whilst seemingly small and easy to achieve, these tasks can help you build real momentum going forward, without having to take any dodgy shortcuts or hacks.

So, now it’s over to you! Pick one of these options and let me know in the comments which one you’re going to do.

The post The 8-Step Guide to Starting a Freelance Writing Business appeared first on The Write Life.

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Blog writing — and, increasingly, any informative writing — comes with a unique challenge: Share quality information in a casual, entertaining and approachable voice.

Be authoritative…but also, like, totally cool.

While many people think the conversational tone of a blog means writing it will be easy, good writers know the careful calculation that goes into making something read like it took no effort at all.

Unfortunately, too many writers try to achieve the tone by actually putting no effort into it. They write the way they speak — but forget one important thing: Writing can be edited. Sure, write like you speak…but better, because writing gives you the chance.

13 conversational tropes that weaken your writing

Some phrases common to conversational writing always make me cringe.

They’re not grammatically incorrect, and they don’t even break persnickety rules of syntax (think: never ending a sentence with a preposition). They just annoy me.

Setting aside my own feelings, though, these phrases make writing feel sloppy, confusing and long-winded.

Watch out for these 13 chatty sentence structures to tighten your copy and make your writing shine.

1. Just because…doesn’t mean

“Just because you don’t have kids doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the luxury of the family bathroom at the airport.”

How many negatives do you have to dance through to decipher that sentence? The “just because…doesn’t mean” construction adds unnecessary words to your sentence and puts readers through an obstacle course to understand it.

Here’s a clearer path through that sentence:

“Not having kids doesn’t exclude you from enjoying the luxury of the family bathroom at the airport.”

2. Not only…but also

“Not only did she wear a frilly purple dress, but she also wore a floppy yellow hat that made her impossible to miss in a crowd.”

This is classic sentence construction. But it’s overused.

Writers use it too often when all they actually need is an “and” to tie to items together. I assume the intent is to add weight to ideas, but it usually just makes the reader wait longer to understand the point of the sentence.

Let’s try that again:

“She wore a filly purple dress and a floppy yellow hat that made her impossible to miss in a crowd.”

3. Passive voice

“This locket was given to me by an important person from my childhood.”

You know this one. Your English teacher won’t dock your grade for passive construction anymore, but you still shouldn’t use it.

Almost every sentence will be stronger in active voice. You might think passive voice is necessary in the example sentence, because you want to focus on the locket. But try it in active voice, and you’ll usually find it has a better ring.

Here’s that sentence with an active subject:

“An important person from my childhood gave me this locket.”

4. If…then

“If he goes to the festival, then I won’t be here when he returns.”

This sentence construction isn’t incorrect, and it’s not even particularly wordy. I just don’t like it. It sounds elementary, like a set of rules you actually learned in elementary school.

Just cut “then” for a tighter sentence:

“If he goes to the festival, I won’t be here when he returns.”

Or switch it up to cut that boring “if” out of your sentence altogether:

“He can go to the festival, but I’ll probably leave him before he returns.”

5. The thing is…

“The thing about iPhones is you just want to upgrade as often as possible.”

This colloquial phrase makes sense in conversation, when you don’t always know where your sentence will end when you start it. In writing, you have the luxury of fixing those sentences after they meet an awkward end.

Axe “the thing (about X) is,” and choose a more specific subject:

“iPhone fanatics want to upgrade as often as possible.”

6. Anyway…

Do you know how annoying this word is in a conversation?

Your friend starts a story with, “I had the weirdest conversation with my manager in the breakroom last Friday,” then veers off into some extraneous details about free office muffins. Just as you’re wondering how she’ll weave this tall tale together, she takes a deep breath and says, “So anyway…” and you realize you’ve just listened to a bunch of stuff you absolutely didn’t need to know.

The word triggers the same reaction in a reader. If you ever begin a chunk of writing with “anyway,” reconsider the preceding content. Is it relevant, or did you stumble into free-muffin territory?

7. Not to mention

“We ate a caprese salad, fresh Italian bread, homemade soup, mini pizzas and spaghetti — not to mention a giant piece of birthday cake afterward.”

What does this mean? You’re mentioning it! It’s annoying enough in conversation; it’s intolerable in editable writing.

Related: “It goes without saying,” followed by literally saying it. My god.

Dig deeper if you want to emphasize something:

“We ate a caprese salad, fresh Italian bread, homemade soup, mini pizzas and spaghetti. We were stuffed but couldn’t skip the giant piece of birthday cake!”

8. Obviously / Of course

“Obviously I don’t mean your writing should be stripped of any personality.”

Is it obvious? Then why are you including it?

I see this one in authoritative blog posts often. Usually information is obvious to the writer, but they include it because it’s not obvious to the reader. To cover their butt, they throw in the “obviously” or “of course.”

If you think information is obvious to your readers, don’t waste their time with it. If it’s not obvious to all of them, don’t condescend or confuse with this little phrase.

(I do, however, enjoy a sarcastic “obviously.”)

9. As I mentioned / As I said above

“As I mentioned, you’ll want to butter the pan generously before adding the chicken.”

If you’re writing an informative book, this makes sense. Remind a reader of something they read in an earlier chapter, possibly days before.

In a 1,000-word blog post? Your reader’s memory isn’t that short. But their attention span is.

Don’t waste valuable time repeating yourself. And definitely don’t include this giant red flag that warns the reader you’re about to repeat yourself.

10. Be sure to… / Make sure you…

“Before leaving the hotel, be sure to check under the bed, in the closet and inside the shower for any items you might have left behind.”

I’m guilty of this construction. (That’s right. Even I’m not perfect, you guys.) It sneaks into my instructional writing, maybe to add a touch of rhythm to sentences that would be boring or sound bossy.

But it’s unnecessary. Axe it. If you can delete a phrase from a sentence, make no changes and share the same message, you didn’t need that phrase.

Read it, and enjoy how much more quickly you get to the meat of the sentence:

“Before leaving the hotel, check under the bed, in the closet and inside the shower for any items you might have left behind.”

Related: The same applies to “start to,” two words that should never start a sentence.

11. Even though

“Even though you can raise your truck 10 feet off the ground, you shouldn’t.”

This is a lot like the “just because…doesn’t mean” phenomenon. It’s correct, and it gets the job done, but your sentence deserves better than these boring space wasters.

The sentence packs a better punch if you just connect the two clauses with “but”:

“You can raise your truck 10 feet off the ground, but you shouldn’t.”

See how much faster you get to the point?

12. There are

“There are 17 women in my family, and they keep my dad on his toes.”

I axe this every time I see it in a piece I’m editing. Your brain goes to it naturally — mine does, too — and we use it in conversation all the time. But in writing, it feels weak.

Beef up your sentence with a rewrite:

“The 17 women in my family sure keep my dad on his toes.”

13. That being said…

“Apple juice is basically just sugar. That being said, if your kid wants something sweet, it’s probably better than Coca Cola.”

This one just makes me cringe, written or spoken out loud. I feel like someone’s narrating their own dialogue with this phrase. I know it was said. Just say, “but” or “still” or… anything else.

Try leaving “that being said” unsaid:

“Apple juice is basically just sugar, but if your kid wants something sweet, it’s probably better than Coca Cola.”

Make every word count

Anyway, all that being said, the thing about writing is just because something annoys one editor doesn’t mean there aren’t reasons it should be used. If you use one of these phrases, then make sure it’s not only necessary but also better than any other choice.

Obviously, I’m not the only one with pet peeves, so be sure to share yours in the comments!

The post 13 Common, Clunky Sentence Structures That Weaken Your Writing appeared first on The Write Life.

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Five and a half years ago, my writing career finally seemed on the verge of taking off. I’d just published my first novel, I’d finished writing Publishing E-Books For Dummies, which was to be published by Wiley, and I’d launched an online membership site for writers.

Then I got pregnant.

This was, of course, a lovely and joyous occasion. It was also – as you might imagine – the start of my writing career grinding to a halt.

A couple of years on, with a nearly two year old daughter and a newborn son, a great writing day involved 15 minutes of writing while their naps (briefly) overlapped.

If you have young children, I’m sure you know what it’s like. Kids take up a huge amount of your time and energy – not just with feeding, changing and playing, but also all the extra laundry and food prep. Not to mention the broken nights.

You might well wonder if you should just give up on writing all together, at least until they’re in school.

Some writers do: For them, it may well be the right choice.

But the majority, I think, want to keep up at least a bit of writing.

The hard truth about being a writer with children

Becoming a parent is probably the biggest change you’ll ever go through in your life.

When my daughter was born, I had the vague idea in my head that (after a brief spell of maternity leave), life would just…carry on as normal.

But of course, once you become a parent, you simply won’t be able to carry on working at the same pace as before. A great deal of your formerly free time is taken up by caring for your child – and doing all the extra chores that children create.

I’m someone who likes to move fast, and it’s been hard to realize that I simply can’t write and work in the same way as I could pre-kids. It’s also been tough to watch other writers, without kids, zoom on ahead of me in their careers.

If you’re fairly new to parenthood, I’m sure you’ll have been through many of the same emotions. Some well-meaning friends or family members may tell you to “enjoy every moment” of your kids being young, or that the most important thing is to just focus on your children right now.

Please don’t let that sort of advice become a massive guilt trip.

Don’t give in to writers’ guilt

When I’ve surveyed the writers I know, or looked at the discussions cropping up in writing-related Facebook groups and forums, there’s often a lot of guilt associated with writing.

Writers feel guilty for taking the time to write…and parent writers can be particularly prone to this. It may seem self-indulgent, even selfish, to take the time to write when you could be playing with your kids (or putting on the third load of laundry that day).

On the other hand, many writers also feel guilty for not writing – even when things are really hectic. They feel that they should be writing a certain amount per day, or per week, and they berate themselves for not achieving that.

Today, let go of the guilt. You’re not just a parent – you’re a person in your own right, and there’s nothing at all wrong with taking some time for yourself to do something that you find fulfilling.

At the same time…if you need a break from writing, don’t feel at all bad about taking one. There’s honestly no “rule” that says you should write every day, or write a certain amount each week.  

Three crucial steps for carrying on writing when you have kids

If you do want to keep up at least some writing while your children are young, here are three crucial things to do:

1. Negotiate with your partner

Unless your partner is also a writer, they won’t automatically know what you need. Tell them!

Be explicit about what you want: “I’d like to spend two hours every Saturday afternoon writing. Could you take the kiddo out to the park?”

(In return, of course, you might make sure that your partner gets a couple of hours every week to focus on something they really want to do.)

If you’re parenting on your own – first, I salute you; I can’t imagine how hard it must be. Can you rope in a friend or family member to help, even once a week, so you can get some time to write?

2. Make the most of the writing time you do have

I’m a bit embarrassed to admit it, but I’ve actually written more fiction since having kids than I did before!  

Because I now have to schedule in my writing time, I find that I’m more likely to actually do it – before kids, it was easy to wait for “a free Saturday” or “a whole afternoon” to write.

When you sit down to write, write. You might want to switch off your internet connection and silence your phone.

Short writing sessions can actually be an advantage here: most of my fiction writing happens in 30 minute chunks, and it’s easy to tell myself I can focus for 30 minutes!

3. Don’t be a perfectionist

Writers, I’ve noticed, can have a tendency towards perfectionism. While this can be helpful at times (like when editing), it can also be seriously detrimental.

A couple of sayings that I find useful are, “Good enough is good enough” and “Finished is better than perfect.”

This doesn’t just apply to writing. If you’re struggling to find enough time to write, maybe you need to lower your standards when it comes to chores – or your children.

It won’t do any harm to use ready-made meals or to let them watch a bit of extra TV, if that means you can free up some more time to write.

If you’re about to start a family, or if you have young children, you can absolutely keep writing. You may even find, like I did, that you’re more efficient now that you have less time available.

If, however, you want to take a break from writing while your children are young – then do. It doesn’t have to be one-time decision, either: you might decide to have a year off, but if you change your mind, you can always pick up writing again.

Whatever you decide, remember that you are an important part of your family (just as much as your kids are) and you are absolutely entitled to arrange family life in a way that makes you happy too.

The post The Difficult Truth About Writing When You Have Kids appeared first on The Write Life.

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With the explosion of the self-publishing industry and the popularity of platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo, crowdfunding has become an increasingly viable option for authors.

It only takes a cursory search to find encouraging case studies, like how one author raised $12,755 in 30 days to get you excited about the possibilities.

The excitement is justified, but crowdfunding a book takes a tremendous commitment of time and is a grueling journey for many authors. However, for those who navigate the process, crowdfunding can provide value that stretches far deeper than just earning upfront dollars to finance your book.

Below are the top three reasons why authors should consider crowdfunding.

1. Crowdfunding helps defray publishing costs

First time authors often underestimate the amount of money that it takes to get their book to market.

In order to bring a polished book to market, an author must plan to invest in at least the following services:

  • Cover design
  • Professional editing
  • Interior/exterior formatting

These costs can vary widely depending on the level of service you choose.

For instance, a professional cover design will range anywhere from $100 – $1,500 depending if you choose a provider that repurposes stock images or designs a completely original cover from scratch.

Beyond that, editing will generally range between $.02 and $.10 per word. This means that a 100,000 word novel could set you back anywhere from $2,000 – $10,000.

If you are planning on using print on-demand services (such as CreateSpace) or only releasing an ebook, the upfront costs might stop there. But, if you want to do your own print run of physical copies, you’ll have to invest another few thousand dollars to get books in hand.

What’s so appealing about crowdfunding is that it allows you to raise money before you ever incur these costs. Prior to crowdfunding, these costs might have presented an insurmountable challenge to authors.

Now, authors have the ability to bring a professional quality book to market without worrying about the ability to float the expenses.

2. Crowdfunding makes selling your book easier

Crowdfunding presents a unique opportunity for authors to sell  books and build an audience.

Successful crowdfunding campaigns do more than just get fans excited about your book. They get fans excited about the book’s journey. With crowdfunding, your backers are more than just customers. Backers become part of the reason that your book exists, and this creates a level of excitement that simply doesn’t occur after your book is printed.

Further, crowdfunding campaigns inherently impose a sense of urgency.

One of the most difficult objections to overcome when selling your book is fighting people’s urge to say “I’ll buy it later.” The time limit of crowdfunding campaigns (generally 30 days) helps you push people beyond this hurdle.

Crowdfunding can put authors in a position to sell more books and build an audience faster than they ever could otherwise. The blend of urgency and excitement that crowdfunding provides is a crucial element in turning interested fans into paying customers.

3. It can possibly help you get a publisher

There are a number of crowdfunding platforms for authors to choose from. They range from the mega platforms (like Kickstarter and Indiegogo) to more specialized platforms that specifically target authors. This is where authors can leverage their campaign to potentially get a publisher.

For instance some platforms such as Inkshares and Unbound actually act as publishing houses themselves. If you run your campaign on their platform, there’s a chance that they will pick you up and bring your book to market.

Additionally, there are platforms such as Publishizer that will act as your virtual agent. Based on the success of your campaign they will query your book to prospective publishers on your behalf.

However, authors should be aware that many of the “publishers” that offer authors a deal are actually vanity presses. These companies offer to print your book in exchange for a service fee and provide limited (if any) support on marketing and distribution.

Depending on your goals, this might still be the right decision, but authors should investigate further before signing on.

These three factors create a compelling case for authors to launch their book via crowdfunding.

Savvy authors can utilize crowdfunding as a tool to not only offset the costs of bringing their book to market, but also to accelerate sales and their ability to build an audience. If you are willing to put in the work, crowdfunding can be your ticket to bringing a professional book to market without paying the price.

Have you considered crowdfunding your book? Let us know in the comments below!

The post 3 Reasons Self-Publishers Should Crowdfund Their Book appeared first on The Write Life.

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You slave way, agonizing over every detail.

Are his eyes green or blue? Definately green. No wait! He has blue eyes! Blue eyes!

You’re finally ready to share your masterpiece with the entire world.

Except the old saying is true: You only have one chance at a first impression.

And sometimes, you won’t even get that because they don’t even see your cover. They just skim past it like it was invisible.

Your ebook cover is your first chance to grab your reader’s attention. If they become rabid fans, they won’t care what your covers look like. Your fans will just care that you wrote it. Your loyal tribe are the ones that pre-order and tell their friends about the book that kept them up all night until the very satisfying end.

But you’ll never win fans over if you can’t get them to read your stuff in the first place. That’s why it’s essential that your ebook’s cover design makes them stop in their tracks, read your description and then hit the BUY NOW button.

Don’t spend countless hours on an amazing book only to package it in a cover that no one notices.

1. It’s exactly like the rest

Scroll through Amazon’s Romance section and you’ll see a pattern.

Hot guy without a shirt on, hot guy with killer abs and hot guy with a stethoscope.

Nothing against hot guys as I’m a red-blooded gal like all the rest. Except the odds that I’d buy your book with a hot guy on the cover is exponentially lower because your book looks exactly the same as 75 percent of all the books in that section. Although they may be great books, none of them look particularly original. There’s nothing that makes me stop and say: “Wow, the hot guy on this cover is so much better than the rest. I should buy this one because his abs speak to me.”

I don’t mean pick on romance novels. Every genre has something stereotypical that makes it seem generic. Take a look at the fitness and diet genres (they also love hot guys as their cover models!). To stand out in an extremely competitive field, you must be unique and using the same stereotypical images will never help you make a good impression.

Don’t become “just another book” that looks like every other cover in it’s category. You never want your cover to feel cliched or like a stock picture. Don’t be afraid to be different.

2. The template screams self-published

There’s a common eBook cover formula that screams “I made this!”

It’s the block, picture, block combination of a ton of eBook templates. Yet, head over to Amazon and tell me know how many of these formula covers you can find in five minutes. 50? 100?

The top block generally has the title. The second block has a picture, and we top it off with the author’s name in the bottom block. Of course, you can mix it up and put your name at the top. This is not an improvement and it’s still a boring template cover.

Whether you hire a graphic artist or do it yourself, stay away from the most basic templates. Don’t create a formula cover. Again, your goal is to be unique and catch someone’s eye. And it’s very hard when there are thousands of similar covers out there.

Don’t be afraid to be bold or try something different. Look closely to what already exists in your genre and make the choice to look different even if it’s slightly uncomfortable and a bit nerve wracking to be the odd duck in your category.

3. You try to say too much

I’m old enough that I remember making my first business brochure. Remember those? Back in the day, many businesses created these trifold masterpieces that no one ever read.

However, that did not keep me from diligently choosing the right wording, colors and pictures. But no one ever read them…

The main point in any advertising is to get the consumer to pick up the phone and call you. And make no mistake, your eBook cover is marketing. Like these mostly extinct brochures, the only thing that matters is they see a business’s phone number.

Brené Brown’s Rising Strong cover has a ton going on. She has her name, book title, degree titles, her best-selling status, and a subtitle. It works for her because she is a best selling writer and people will read everything on the cover. Her fans would pick it up simply because it has her name on it.

Unless you’re actually Brené Brown, your mantra should be to keep it simple.

Take a look on Amazon and see how much tiny cover script you can actually read while scrolling through genres. Think simplicity and you’ll find the perfect balance.

Don’t be scared to make an impression

Let’s say you’re a cozy mystery writer. Your new book is called The Lost Flower. You have a female lead character and your obvious ebook cover design would include flowers. Or maybe some baked goods and a loveable pet.

But this is such an obvious choice! Take a look in Amazon’s Cozy Mystery genre and it’s filled with flowers, cupcakes and cat covers. You wouldn’t be making an impression. Instead you’d be proclaiming your work as just another cozy mystery.

And it doesn’t matter if you’re book really is just another cozy mystery! It’s your hard work and you want readers to see it because if they like cozy mysteries they will love your book.

One of the best parts about self-publishing is that you can always change the cover if it’s not selling. So take a chance and do something risky. Make sure your incredible writing isn’t invisible.

Be bold, creative and be seen.

What’s the best ebook cover you’ve seen this year? What makes it special or unique? What are you going to do differently on your next cover?

The post 3 Signs Your Book Cover Design Misses The Mark appeared first on The Write Life.

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I wish someone had given me a list of don’ts when I first started freelance writing, then stood over me with a yardstick and rapped me on the knuckles every time I made a stupid move.

Alas, there was no Miss Trunchbull to guide me through those brutal first few years, and I made a lot of stupid moves.

Some of these stemmed from being young and entitled, others from dealing poorly with clients.

But far and away the most common mistake I made was to compromise my true passions in pursuit of money.

I became “The Jill of All Trades”

I know, I know. That story has been told…but not in the way you think.

I’m not talking about sacrificing my morals or anything. I’m talking about picking up the odd jobs every writer is asked to do: A little research here, a few social posts there, NBD, make the client happy, right?

And before you know it, you’re a Jack or Jill of all trades, at your clients’ beck and call for every “quickie” task conceivably related to writing.

Problem is, even if you’re happy with this arrangement, new clients won’t be.

They come to you for expertise, not for your Renaissance Man repertoire. If you don’t specialize, they’ll find someone who does. Which makes it imperative that you start saying no to those little tasks, and start saying yes only to writing work.

Without further ado, the five jobs you should absolutely, positively, under no circumstances, even on pain of death, ever do.

1. Hourly research work

If you’re the type of writer who researches and summarizes content for a living, you can safely ignore this advice. Most of us, however, aren’t.

We’re either creative writers working on spec or copywriters being paid to create original content. In the latter model, a per-word price is usually involved, which is almost always higher than the amount you’d make if you billed hourly. (And if you’re not yet using value-based pricing, you should be.)

Since it’s hard to charge per word for research – you’re just summarizing, after all – you’re pretty much forced to charge hourly. That makes it a bad deal.

Perform research as part of an assignment which you’ve contracted at a per-word or per-project price, but don’t do research on its own.

2. Social media management

Ah, social media. I’ve seen so many writers include this in their services then…slowly… realize that the amount of work involved in pulling together enough tweets or Facebook posts to constitute an assignment is almost never worth the money.

Why? Because this is specialist work.

Culling through news articles, writing pithy phrases and selecting the right hashtags is hard, especially when you’re doing 50 at once, unrelated to a piece you’ve just written. This is best left to social media professionals, because you usually can’t contract a price that’s worth your time and they feel comfortable paying.

The exception to this rule is when you offer a Twitter post or two, or maybe a LinkedIn blurb, to go along with a blog post, white paper or another long assignment you’ve just written.

I do offer this, and clients appreciate it.

3. Photography and image sourcing

Photos go with blog posts, right? Isn’t it normal to include a few with each piece? Most clients will tell you it is.

However, most of the copywriters I know refuse to offer image sourcing, let alone actual photography. With a camera. (Yes, I’ve been asked about this multiple times.)

Honestly, it’s my opinion that you shouldn’t be providing images of any kind. The ideal goal is to turn each gig you get into additional, stable work from that client, as well as a recommendation to a new client, from whom you will hopefully also get repeat work. Providing ancillary services such as images will dilute your work, because it isn’t your specialty – making this client less likely to hire you back or to recommend you to others. Plus, you clearly don’t like it that much, or you’d be a photographer, right?

Providing services you love will exponentially increase the amount of satisfactory work you get; providing services outside your wheelhouse can spiral into more and more jobs that are unrelated to your true passion.

Save your energy for writing, and don’t offer images.

4. Editing others’ work

Many a client will come to you asking if you could “just give this piece from XYZ Department Head a look-see” or “clean up this work from my previous copywriter, whom I fired.”

I’ve gotten both of those requests quite a few times, and they scare me. I don’t want to mess with writing of which some department head is protective. Nor do I want to be in any way associated with a writer who didn’t make the cut.

Also, editing is a deep skill. It’s often harder to edit someone else’s work – keeping its message, intent and voice intact while making it presentable to readers – than it is to write from scratch. That’s why people have whole jobs editing. They’re called editors…and if you’re a writer, you probably aren’t them.

I either offer to write a new piece for clients if they give me the specs, or I send them to the editor with whom I work.

5. Paid reviews

Several prospects have approached me asking if they can pay me to go leave a review on Amazon. They even offer to send me their product, and claim that my review should be “honest.” And honestly I’m a little unclear on how all this works, but I’m pretty sure the Federal Trade Commission’s definition of sponsorship doesn’t include Amazon reviews.

Plus, since I’m not going to get paid until after the review, how honest can it really be?

Say no to this every single time. Even if the money is good, and often it is, it’s not worth your soul. You have a responsibility to the world to use your writing for good. And convincing Great Aunt Ginny to buy a dubiously sourced protein powder is not good. Don’t do it.

While I still can’t come to your house or office or coffee shop nook and rap your knuckles with a yardstick, I can guarantee greater happiness and success if you avoid these jobs. Even if it makes you nervous to limit your repertoire, try doing so for a few months and see what happens. Chances are excellent your workload and profits will increase, not the other way around.

Go ahead, try. I’ll wait.

*sits patiently for 5 months*

See? Told you.

The post Just Say No to These 5 Freelance Writing Jobs appeared first on The Write Life.

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