Blogging: Cold Emails

Blogging: Cold EmailsFirst, I must apologize for my absence. I took some time to myself this summer to do things that were not writing blog posts, and it was absolutely lovely. But let’s jump right in, shall we?

As a senior writer at my place of employment, I frequently receive inquiries from hopeful freelancers asking to write content for the company blog. Some of these want to drop links for companies they work for and others just want to see their work published on a blog that gets around 15k visitors per month. Either type is fine, as long as they meet our requirements.

The emails that I receive usually go something like this:

Hi Brittany. I was just looking over the _______ company blog and think that I could offer some great content for your readers! Let me know if you accept guest posts. Thanks!

Needless to say, emails like that don’t really do a lot for me. Now, since a lot of you are freelancers or at least freelance hopefuls, I want to use this post to 1) show you the right way to contact strangers, and 2) why you shouldn’t feel bad about sending cold emails.

Our basic requirements are as follows:

  • We’ll need to see 2-3 writing samples
  • You may not include affiliate (paid) links
  • The content must be 100% original (barring any direct quotes)
  • You have to suggest a couple of suitable topics
  • You remember that we are not internet or marketing stupid

Let’s break into the reasoning behind each requirement so that you can understand why each one is so important.

Samples help to show how skilled you are when it comes to writing. When selecting a sample to include, try to choose one that has a topic related to the business you are contacting. Always send at least 2, and no more than 5. Make sure that if they were published, the site they are hosted on is reputable, there are no spelling mistakes, and that any and all links work. It’s also best if the post is actually attributed to you and not someone else.

Affiliate links are not “the devil”, but if you’re writing content for a business, it’s underhanded and unprofessional to try to scrape a profit from their readers. Never include an affiliate link in an organic post  unless you have been given permission.

Original content is an absolute must. I don’t want to get dinged for duplicate content, and I also don’t want your recycled information. If you wrote a post for a business and it fell through and never went live, that’s one thing, but if your blog post was published elsewhere you had better think twice before asking me to give it to our readers.

Suitable topics are another must. Spend time reading any content that the business has on their site. Skim some of their blog posts and peruse a few of their articles. When you send your email, include 2 or 3 topic ideas that you really think will work for them. One of the worst things that you can do is to suggest a topic to me that would never fit with what we currently cover.

For example, I was recently contacted by a potential guest blogger who suggested, specifically, maintaining a pool. This was about a week ago and we’re on the verge of snow here in Canada. That topic is not timely, and it is far too specific for me to use since we cover much more general real estate content.

We’re writers and marketers, we know about the internet. We know that you want to get in some good backlinks, we know if you are actually talented when it comes to SEO, and we know when your writing skills are subpar. We aren’t dumb, we know the motivation behind your content is completely selfish, but so is our reason for accepting it—we like free content. So be honest and don’t bother trying to butter anyone up too obviously.

A Good Cold Email

That being said, I will judge you on your initial email, and it greatly affects my reply. If you frequently send out cold emails to businesses or individuals, I would suggest trying something like this:

Hi ________,

I’m a *insert writing profession* and came across your blog through *insert where you found them*. I thought that your post *insert interesting post name related to what you want to write for them* was very *insert an adjective or two of your choice*.

I am writing to ask if you accept guest post, and if so, what your guidelines might be. I have attached some writing samples in order to give you an overview of the topics I have covered in the past and my writing style.

I thought that a post about one of the following topics would be both a fit for your blog and beneficial to your readers:

*insert topic 1
*insert topic 2

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask. I look forward to hearing from you.

*insert name (example: Johnny Awesomesauce)

Are Cold Emails Bad?

No. They aren’t bad. Although most businesses will be savvy to the fact that you are only contacting them to either get your name in print or promote a client, we appreciate when you at least make a good effort to be polite, clear, and thorough.

Sometimes you may not get a response at all, other times you may get a short and direct “No.” But once in awhile, you’ll come across someone who wants to give you a shot and who, even if they do say no, will tell you why. I try to be that person as often as I can because as a writer I know that we are expected to accept rejection without an explanation, and it can be very tiring.

So if you’re trying to break into the writing profession by sending out a few cold emails, good on you. Take note of the tips in this post and understand that no matter how good you are, you are going to hear the word “no” often. But sometimes, you’ll get a “yes”, and when you see your post go live to thousands of readers, it’ll all be worth it.

Do you send out cold emails? Do you look for guest posting opportunities often?

I post funny things on Facebook sometimes, so if you like funny things, pay my page a visit. If you do not like funny things, just avoid it.

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How to Make a Professional Portfolio Without Work Experience

How to Make a Professional Portfolio Without Work ExperienceWe are all aware of the vicious circle that new grads and professionals face—employers want you to have work experience before they will hire you, but you can’t get a job without having experience in your chosen industry.

So, how are you supposed to get work as a writer if you can’t get experience anywhere?

It’s time to use one of those writerly tools that you have hidden away in your back pocket—your creativity. If you can’t find work to put in your portfolio, you’re just going to have to make some for yourself. Because the writing industry is booming with non-fiction postings right now, I’ll focus on how to build your portfolio as an online content creator.

To start, you’re going to have to do some writing that will showcase your skills, whether you’re getting paid for it or not. As someone who has been part of the hiring process for a number of writers, I can tell you that we like to see a variety of pieces, but prefer when at least one is tailored to our industry.

So if you can’t find paid or volunteer work, or what you have done isn’t necessarily relevant or appropriate for the jobs you are applying for, you need to start creating content specifically for your portfolio. That means writing for the sole purpose of having pieces to show potential employers.

Based on what I would want to see, potential topics include:

  • Tech content related to new products, services, news, and more. Pick something that you want to know more about so that at least you are learning something new while writing.
  • Real estate content about landlords, renters, the housing market, DIY projects, selling and buying tips, and first-time buyer and credit information. This is stuff you’re going to have to know at some point anyway, why not start now?
  • Small business and entrepreneurship posts about startups, employment, marketing, and anything in between. You’re basically doing that now if you are trying to start a freelance career, so write about your personal experiences.
  • Industry news and changes related to the places you are hoping to be hired at. Don’t be so specific that you can only use one piece per application, make your content general enough that you can show it to a variety of employers.
  • Writing and editing advice and tips. Show off your skills by working your way towards becoming an influencer in the industry. You can cover things like the technical aspects or talk more about creating a company voice and language.
  • Digital marketing trends. Generally, employers hiring writers now want them to know about SEO and other content-based technicalities. Write about how SEO works, how to use it best, and why it is important.

Aside from writing about these topics, make sure that you showcase your abilities in being a versatile writer. Switch up the type of posts that you are making by writing in a variety of ways, such as:

  • List posts
  • Case studies
  • How-tos
  • Short-form posts
  • Whitepapers
  • Sales focused content
  • SEO heavy pieces

And make sure that you follow best online writing practices with your content, whether you are sending it as a digital attachment or printing it out. That means that you need to make sure that you:

  • Have titles and headers.
  • Break up big chunks of content.
  • Follow best linking practices (specifically regarding anchor text).
  • Use bullet lists.
  • Avoid multiple fonts and overusing bold and italics.
  • Cite sources.
  • Never, ever plagiarize.

Although you aren’t going to be able to say that you wrote this content for a popular website or other online publication, your desire to showcase your skills shows both initiative and determination.

It also shows that, regardless of your lack of experience in the industry, you are fully capable of creating quality content, and that you really do know what you are doing.

Just make sure that you edit carefully and that your samples really are well done. To get an idea of what your dream employer wants in terms of content, spend some time looking around their blog to get a feel for their style and tone before you apply. That will help you to figure out which pieces are best to send them.

And don’t forget to switch up your style between pieces. It’s nice to see versatile writers who can go from sleek, enticing copy, to informational guides, to casual blog posts.

Once you feel that you have enough content, create a digital or printed portfolio, and show recruiters and hiring managers that you have what it takes.

Do you have a portfolio? Do you find it hard to get work as a writer?

I’m on Facebook if you want more.

Stop Publishing Typos

 

book-731199_1920If I had a nickel for every time I heard a self-published author excuse their typos due to being unable to afford a professional editor, I would have at least $5.00 by now.

While a manuscript with one or two errors is passable, there’s no reason to send something out into the world that a grade school English teacher would cringe at. Seriously, enough with the half-finished manuscripts, people.

Not being able to afford an editor is no excuse to send a hack-job of a manuscript out into the world—doing so can have even bigger repercussions than just firing up the self-proclaimed grammar Nazis of the online world. Publishing content with multiple errors and mistakes hurts your personal brand and will almost definitely affect your success as a writer.

How? Think of it this way—you, as a writer, are like a business. Your words are what you use to market yourself, from your back cover copy to your query emails. Just like a business, you need to be aware of how you present yourself to the public, whether it’s just a small group of other authors, or you are self-publishing through Amazon. If you present yourself as an author who publishes half-finished content, that is exactly how you will be seen. Just as if a business were to sell damaged products at a discount. Sure, people would buy them, but that business would

If you present yourself as an author who publishes half-finished content, that is exactly how you will be seen.

You need to think of your readers as your potential employers, because in a way, that’s exactly what they are. You’d probably never intentionally submit a resume with a mistake in it, so why on earth would you do so with your story?

I can hear you asking how you are supposed to send out error-free content when you can’t afford to pay $75/hour for an editor. Start by doing the following:

  • Once your story is written, turn off your spell check and read through it on your own.You will see more errors when you aren’t being distracted by irrelevant suggestions from Word.
  • Use Grammarly. The free version is good enough to get you through the basics, and it is much more intelligent than your average word processor’s editor. I use the premium version at work and the free version at home.
  • Find someone to trade drafts with. There are other writers out there just like you, I promise. Find one you like and ask them to review your draft.
  • Refuse to settle for “good enough”. If you want to be recognized for your work on a bigger scale than your local writing group, put in the extra time. Self-editing sucks. We all know it. But do it anyway. Do it once, then do it again.
  • Take your time. Stop trying to pump out books as fast as you can. Write. Edit. Rewrite. Edit. Keep going until it’s better than you thought it could be. Then start to think about publishing. Quality, not quantity.

There are too many e-books out there that, unfortunately, aren’t worth the money that they are being sold for. If you want a strong personal brand as an author, and you want to sell more than 25 copies, you’re going to have to start thinking bigger than just a good idea. Do your best to produce something worth putting out there, and then do even better. The tips discussed can help you to make your manuscript more than just a beginning and an end.

A story is much more than its telling.

What do you think, are typos OK in  published stories? Are you focused on quality or quantity?

Find me on Facebook for the good stuff.

What Exactly is Poor Writing?

What Exactly is Poor Writing?Any of you who have editing experience can back me up when I say that it is a very tiring process, especially when the piece you are reviewing is poorly written. And while the perceived quality of writing is subjective, there are a few key indicators that it isn’t just you, that the writing itself is the problem.

Poor writing doesn’t necessarily mean bad spelling and questionable grammar. It can refer to the structure and style as well. When reviewing your work, or that of others, be sure to pay attention to the following things to see if the piece just doesn’t mesh with your preferred style, or if it really does need to be reworked.

Beginnings. Whether it’s a blog post, a short story, or a paragraph of copy, every piece of writing needs to have an opening line at the very least, if not an entire paragraph or even page. How that beginning is crafted can tell you a lot about someone’s writing skills. Weak beginnings cause readers to lose interest immediately, and they act as one of the most important parts of content.

Transitions. Transitions are when you go from one thought to another. They are what leads the reader from the end of one idea to the beginning of another smoothly so that there is a consistent flow to the writing. Poorly written transitions are jarring and they throw the reader out of the content, causing confusion and backtracking.

Syntax. Syntax is a tricky little beast. It’s more of an ingrained skill than one that you can pick up from studying. It’s the proper structure of sentences and words within them, and while it can sometimes be difficult to tell if someone is using proper syntax, there’s no denying when it is being misused. Poor syntax is confusing, jarring, and hard to read. I relate it to trying to swim through molasses.

Vocabulary. Repetition, lack of variety, and a penchant for either over-complicated or under-complicated word choices are all indications that the content isn’t ready for publication. While every writer has a style (that’s how Rowling was found out when she wrote The Casual Vacancy“), refusing to add a little spice to your content by means of a new word once in awhile can give off a feeling of laziness and amateurism.

Reading level. Reading level doesn’t just mean whether your content should be rated R or not. It means what grade level would be able to read the piece without difficulty. If the content is for a YA audience, then the language should match that. Just as there would be a difference between a blog post and an article for a scholarly journal. If the reading level doesn’t suit the audience, they will either lose interest because the content is too simple, or they will become frustrated because it is too hard to understand.

Punctuation. Surprisingly, punctuation can have a slot all of its own. When you see content that is written like this: “the wind HOWLED!! they couldn’t decide whether: to run or to stay in the cave?”, you know it’s not ready. Poor use of punctuation is a good way to see that the writer doesn’t have a grasp on the basics and that they need to do some more learning before they send anything else to someone for review.

Conclusions. Just like beginnings, there are conclusions to everything. Emails, lines of copy, short stories, research papers, and books. They all have endings, and while endings are never the same, and can be crafted from many different styles, how they are written can leave a reader feeling like they wasted their time.


Any one of these on its own can be a small issue that just needs some polishing, but when you combine a few of them into a single writing sample, it’s fairly easy to see that whatever you are reviewing requires some heavy edits.

The good news is that all of these things can be fixed with healthy doses of reading and writing. Often, I find that the best advice to give when handing back poor writing is to tell the writer to read more. Read pieces similar to what you are trying to create and pay attention to how they handled problem areas.

If you have issues with transitions, look at how other writers navigate through them. Pick up tricks and tools from other content before you take to the keyboard again so that you will already know how to fix your bad habits when they rear their heads.

What’s one of your worst writing habits? How did you fix it? Do you find that reading helps to make better writers?

Find me on Facebook for the good stuff.

How Math Makes Rejection Suck Less

paper-794329_1920Most writers submit something to a publisher at one point or another. Whether it’s flash fiction, a short story, or a fully-written book, we all split open our chests and bare our fragile, sensitive souls to complete strangers at some point during our journey.

And it sucks. No matter if your piece is accepted or not, the waiting, the wondering, and that moment you see an email in your inbox with the publisher’s name in it all make you want to puke when you think about it. The process of getting published is, if we’re being honest, pretty awful.

And that’s just on its own, leaving out the fact that everyone gets rejections, no matter how good their writing is. If you submit anything to anyone, there is a ridiculously high chance that you are going to receive, at one point or another, an email that inevitably starts with, “Unfortunately…”. And even for seasoned writers with hearts of stone, reading that word can make you doubt everything about yourself and your skill.

But it doesn’t end there. Often, even after you have waited months to hear whether or not your work was accepted, when they decline, they won’t offer any feedback as to why. How can you improve without knowing where you went wrong? How can you submit to them again if you don’t understand exactly why your story wasn’t a fit?

As you can see, it’s all one big awful experience that induces crippling anxiety, grows self-doubt, and chips away at your self-confidence.

But, in all its awful glory, there still lies a glimmer of hope. The faintest sparkle in the darkness when you finally get a letter that says your story was accepted. And that’s what makes it all worth it, right?

And who ever said finding the right publisher for your story was going to be easy? When you think about it, there are a limited number of quality publishers out there for your genre and type of story. Most of them accept international submissions. So you are competing with a very large pool of content from writers with varying degrees of experience. What are your chances of being published?

Let’s talk about that for a moment, and I’ll use a bit of simple (I promise) math to make my point.


 

In marketing, we determine the success or failure of an initiative by examining the conversion rate. For example, if we create a new landing page and the purpose is to get people to sign up for a newsletter, the conversion rate is determined by examining how many people come to the page versus how many sign up for the newsletter.

Say 100 people visit the page, and only 10 sign up (the other 90 visitors leave the page without taking any action). That would be a 10% conversion rate. Sounds pretty low, right? No! A 10% conversion rate is an indication of a highly successful landing page.

So, a 10% conversion rate is good in marketing, but what does that have to do with submitting stories? Everything.

If we scale it down, and apply it to a realistic submission process, we can say that to get a high conversion rate of 10% when sending in stories to publishers, we would have to get 1 acceptance for every 9 rejections. 9. NINE. Nine people saying, “Unfortunately, your story was not a fit…”. That’s a whole lot of rejections.

But that means it isn’t totally unrealistic to think that, even after getting 2 or 3 (or 8) rejections, you should keep going. Hell, even a 5% conversion rate is high, and that would mean that you would have to get rejected 19 times before getting published. And that’s only for one story.

So don’t stop. Don’t give up after you hear “No” once, twice, or even thrice. Make a list of publishers that you think are a fit for your piece before you even start sending out your work. Find at least 10, and work your way through it. Push for that 10%, because if you don’t, you might miss out on your chance.


 

One of the only things in the world that really has a 100% conversion rate is life to death, and it’s far to short to waste your time feeling bad because not all of your stories get accepted the first time, every time.

How many times would you submit a story before giving up? What rejection advice do you have for other writers?

Find me on Facebook for the good stuff.

The Right Way to Write

diary-968592_1920There seems to be a “right” way to do just about everything. But the thing with writing is that there really isn’t one, except to write. Sure, there is a right way to spell words, and a right way to use punctuation, but even those have loose and malleable rules.

Though it makes absolutely no sense to impose writing rules on anyone, people like to do it anyway; don’t use adverbs, never use the word “very”, always write every day, and so on and so forth until you are ready to rip your hair out and become a mime instead.

The beauty, and also the art, of writing lie in its complete and utter individuality. Every famous writer (for the most part) has created a masterpiece because they forged their own path, and did what worked for them. They discovered their own unique process and stayed true to it.

Do you think every single one of them wrote every single day? No. Do you think that all of them wrote their books in a year or less? No. Do you think that none of them ever used an adverb? Doubtful. Yet we, as writers, hear these things all the time, and they are supposedly meant to be helpful.

Really, all they do is place us in a box and seal it with packing tape. If we all followed the same rules all of the time, our writing would be terribly similar. No one ever became a famous writer after writing the exact same manuscript as someone else. They did well because they broke free of the mold.

If you want to write well, you need to find your style. And in your style you need to find your voice and your tone. And of all of the difficulties that writing brings with it, I would say that this is the biggest obstacle that most writers face. It’s the difference between writing like everybody, and writing like yourself, which can go a lot deeper than just a story.

Your style is what draws people to your content. I didn’t enjoy GoT because it was just like Harry Potter. I liked it because it was different. I liked it because I didn’t need to ask whether it was by a different author.

As another example, I’m not a big fan of poetry, but sometimes the style of a poem will hook me and it won’t let go (Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night by Dylan Thomas).

Writing rules, whether created by famous authors and editors, or by fellow bloggers, are, unfortunately, often useless. The only writing rules that you should follow are your own, and you should never avoid writing in your preferred style because someone else told you it was wrong.

Once you find your voice, which can take a lot of effort, mind you, embrace it. The best writing comes when you are inspired, and sometimes nothing can inspire you more than your own mind. If you don’t feel comfortable listening to it, then how can you ever expect to make something of quality?


 

Just as you are your own person, you should be your own writer. Let yourself show in your work and you’ll find it comes much more easily than trying to follow all of the contradictory and suffocating rules that are floating around.

Have you found your style yet, or are you still testing the waters? What writing advice would you give to other writers?

I’ll be on Facebook until next time.

Writers: Making Yourself Marketable

tie-690084_1280There are two kinds of writers: those who only want to write a book, and those who only want to write.

The first kind only want to write on the side while working a different full-time job. The second kind wants writing to be their full-time job. I am of the second type, and lucky for us, the popularity of the internet has opened many new opportunities for us.

But, as the job postings seem to prove, the simple skill of writing is often not enough for you to get the interview. More and more, employers want candidates to have skills above and beyond one profession, and it can be a steep hill to climb.

However, there are a few skills that can help you to stand out amidst the competition that don’t take a whole new degree to learn. If you are seeking an online writing position, try to add the following to your resume in order to boost your marketability:

SEO. Search engine optimization is something that any business producing online content will want. In a few words, it is writing in a way that uses keywords and long-tail search phrases to get organic traffic from search engines. This basically means that employers want you to write in a way that will help their content to get picked up by Google.

It is way less intimidating than it sounds, and employers value keyword research and SEO writing highly. Do some research, learn about the tools that are out there, and familiarize yourself with them. It’ll do you a world of good.

Social Media Management. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other social platforms are a norm for almost any company. Many businesses will want to hire a writer who can not only write posts for social media, but schedule, plan, and maintain them as well.

It’s really quite easy to manage a business page, so to get a feel for it, try setting one up for yourself and play around with it to learn the ropes.

Copywriting and Long-Form. Sure, you can write long-form content, like guides and whitepapers, but can you write copy? Copy is essential for ads, social media posts, emails, and more. It’s also not as easy as it sounds. Copywriting can, in some ways, be more complicated than long-form because you are limited in what you can say. It’s sort of like comparing what you can write in a Facebook post to what you can fit in a tweet.

The same goes for the opposite; if you can only write copy, start learning how to produce longer pieces like articles, blogs, and the like.

Although, in my opinion, it isn’t enough to just do a little research in order to learn how to copywrite or write a whitepaper, doing some reading or taking a course can only help you to beef up your qualifications.

Online Writing. Writing for print and writing for websites are two different beasts altogether. While it is appropriate to have long chunks of writing in print, you want online content to be easy to scan and sort through.

Learn the ins and outs of writing for an online audience, and showcase your skills in your samples. This can help a potential employer to see that you’re ready to publish content to their audience.

Editing. Although most people think that writing and editing go hand-in-hand, they actually don’t. If you are a good writer, but you are a little foggy on when you should use an em dash or what a style guide is, you have some room to grow.

In businesses where you are not the only writer, you will likely be expected to edit your co-workers’ content, which means that you need to know how to spell, punctuate, and organize a sentence.

Brush up on your skills and edit a few pieces as a volunteer to use in your portfolio.


If you invest time in yourself, you are more likely to get noticed. In a job market that is saturated with educated hopefuls, you need to stand out.

By adding a few extra skills to your resume in your down time, you can up your chances of getting noticed, and you might even get a higher compensation offer.

What kind of writer are you? What skills do you have on your resume other than writing?

I’ll be on Facebook until next time.

 

Editing Like A Boss

How to Edit Like a BossEditors are expensive. It’s a painful truth for writers who are trying to get their work to a publisher while working a less enjoyable job in the meantime to pay the bills. That’s why so many writers choose to exchange their work with others in similar situations. I mean, if you can write, you can edit, no? No. But you can provide a decent service if you make an effort.

So, as an editor, I want to share some tips about how to edit a piece of someone else’s fiction without coming off like a loathsome toad.

Tip One: Learn how to use Track Changes in Microsoft Word. This one little function will help your edits to look professional, and any suggestions or changes you make are much easier to implement this way. You’ll be doing a world of good for both yourself and the writer.

Another tip with Track Changes is to take advantage of both the inline editing feature as well as comments. Fix errors and so on inline, and leave suggestions or encouragement in the comments.

Tip Two: Red doesn’t have to mean “bad”. Not all of the red markup that an author sees needs to be negative. Make note of specifically strong passages or unexpected cliffhangers. Tell them where the dialogue is working and where they described something perfectly. This helps to show the writer that you paid attention to the whole story instead of only focusing on what wasn’t working.

Tip Three: Only provide helpful insight. If you don’t have a suggestion as to how something could be fixed, or you can’t quite figure out what is working, leave it. You are there to be helpful, not to provide useless feedback. If something is really rubbing you the wrong way, but you can’t figure out why, mark it and come back to it later. But don’t hand it over until you can explain what isn’t working and why. How is a writer supposed to fix an issue if the reader can’t tell them what is wrong?

Tip Four: Pick your battles. This is not your story, it belongs to someone else. Take your personal opinion out of the mix and substitute a good helping of understanding. If you prefer serial commas and the author doesn’t, don’t feel like you need to explain why they are superior or start putting them in every list of three or more items.

However, if you feel very strongly that a character would not react a certain way, that’s an example of when you can feel free to make a note of it.

Tip Five: Make a style sheet and ask the author style questions before you start. If you don’t know what a style sheet is, you should probably do a little research.

Essentially, it’s a document where you keep a list of proper spellings, grammar and punctuation choices, and writing rules specific to the manuscript you are reviewing. Before you make one, ask the author how to spell all of the character names correctly, if they prefer to spell out numbers, and so on.

Watching for these things will help you to edit not only the story and the bare minimum when it comes to errors, but more technical issues that would get picked out by editors and publishers.

Tip Six: Before handing over the manuscript with all of your edits, write a letter about your thoughts in general. Start with a paragraph or two that includes what you enjoyed the most about the manuscript. This could include things like: dialogue, descriptions, character interactions, setting, etc.

Use another paragraph to briefly list the most common high-level things that you picked out that could use work, like common misspellings, poor syntax, or poor transitions between chapters.

Tip Seven: Be open to scheduling a conversation about your edits. It can be hard to want to dedicate more of your time, for free, to going over edits, so limit it to a one or two hour conversation with the writer. This should be after they have had a chance to review your suggestions and write up a list of questions about any of your thoughts.

In this meeting (in-person, over the phone, online, wherever) reiterate what they did well and offer to look over any changes they have made based on your suggestions. Be kind and courteous, while still holding your ground about anything that you felt strongly about.


 

Never forget that the work isn’t your own, and that even though you have made suggestions, you shouldn’t assume that any or all of them will be incorporated into the final version.

The most important part of editing like a boss is knowing how to balance both criticism and encouragement in a way that is helpful, clear, and consistent. Take time to review your edits, to ensure that they make sense and provide value before sending anything away, and be open to discussing what you had to say. When in doubt, think about how you would feel if the tables were turned.

Do you exchange work with other writers? Have you come away satisfied, or feeling like it wasn’t worth it?

I’ll be on Facebook until next time.

Writing is a Profession

pencils-762555_1920After spending the last six months reviewing resumes and leafing through writing samples, I have come to question whether the majority of the people who responded to our job posting actually know what a writer is. In fact, I have often wondered if the majority of those who claim to be “writers” truly understand the craft at a professional level.

Let us first consider this: if someone who took a first aid course say, 10-20 years ago, and who casually kept up-to-date on medical news via Google, claimed to be a medical expert, or even a doctor, would you allow them to perform surgery on you? Would you hire them to work at a hospital? Probably not, unless you are presented with the opportunity after a zombie apocalypse and your only other choice is someone who once worked at a Band-Aid factory.

Or, if you were looking to build a house, would you hire an actual carpenter, or would you enlist your neighbour from next door who has a penchant for making birdhouses? Again, the only time this would be a good fit is if he or she were your only choice, as in you survived the zombies and are now responsible for rebuilding human civilization.

But for some reason, people think differently about writing. Perhaps it’s because everyone is technically able to do it. That small difference, the ability to type a word or hold a pen, seems to make a ridiculous number of people feel as if they deserve to be paid for writing, when in reality, they most definitely should not.

Now, that may sound harsh, but writing is a profession just like any other, and those who excel at it deserve to be recognized for the time and skill they put in. We go to school, we spend hours learning how to navigate grammatical turmoil, we learn how to influence emotion through content, and we pay for the privilege to do so. We deserve to be treated just as any other professional would be, after all of the blood, sweat, and tears we put in.

Is it so much to ask that those who have no professional training in writing, who have never even written for an internship or client before, refrain from applying for jobs where their main responsibility will be to write?

As a PSA, I beg of you, don’t contribute to the avalanche of resumes that get sent in for writing positions if you don’t have samples. If you don’t have any professional experience whatsoever. If you have never been to school for writing, editing, or publishing in any capacity.

Please, if you only write for fun, and you don’t know the difference between “their” and “there”, or “it’s” and “its”, don’t bother submitting a resume for a writing position. I don’t even mean this to be unkind or unjust. Certainly, there are many who have natural talent, or who are self-taught, and that’s wonderful. Get a couple of good samples made, either through a blog of your own, clients, or an internship, and I will gladly review your content.

But if, at the end of the day, writing didn’t cross your mind once, or you didn’t stop to correct a text message before hitting send, and you are only mildly interested in the technicalities of the craft, don’t bother applying. I will look at your resume briefly and then toss it into the already brimming “no” pile.

Writing is a profession. It deserves to be treated as such. The people who take time to learn it, to bend it to their wills, deserve to compete with each other. Respect the craft and you’ll become a respected writer.

Do you find that there are a lot of “writers” out there? Do you consider yourself to be a casual writer, or a professional? Do you think there is a difference between an author and a writer?

I’ll be on Facebook until next time.

The Wordsmith and The Raven

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171 years ago today, The Raven, by Edgar Allan Poe was first published. The perceptive among you have most likely already come to the conclusion that the name of this blog is in tribute to that poem; quoth the raven, quoth the wordsmith.

This has always been one of my favorite pieces from Poe. The rhythm is pure perfection with the words fitting snugly together without any jagged edges or awkward pauses. Even if you aren’t a fan of the meaning, you can appreciate the pure artistry that went into crafting this masterpiece.

The first line, “Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,” is the writing equivalent of a master-crafted sword. The rhyme and rhythm lend themselves to an effortless pace, letting the reader recite the prose the way it should be without having to try. It makes even the most stilted and awkward reader sound like a bard of old.

And it’s all because Poe pieced the words together in such a way that they read beautifully no matter how you say them. I can’t even imagine how long it took to write the entire poem, since there are so many lines like it within the full work. The vocabulary it would take to write something like this is baffling alone, especially seeing as it was made during a time when you couldn’t just Google “what rhymes with Lenore”.

As a writing exercise, as well as a small tribute to the man who sparked my penchant for prose, I decided to challenge myself to rewrite a small part of the poem:

Once upon an “edits day” dreary, while I right-clicked, weak and weary,
Over many a dull and lifeless lines of Calibri; page 90 of 324—
   While I backspaced, nearly crying, suddenly there came a sighing,
As of a laptop gently dying, dying without a save, I’m sure.
“It will recover,” I muttered, “feeling anxious to the core—
          I think I remember it has before.”

   Then this soft and distant voice reminded me I’ll have no choice,
But to edit it all again if it doesn’t back-up or restore,
   “Quiet, self!” I did decree, “Surely it’s just a myth,
you’re computer skills certainly aren’t that poor!
Tell me I’ll learn this time for sure?!”
         Quoth the Wordsmith, “It’s your not ‘you’re’.”

I thought this would take a few minutes, but it took me nearly an hour. If you’re a fan of Poe, I encourage you to join me in celebrating The Raven‘s publishing anniversary by leaving a few lines of your own.

Here’s to Poe, and all those who inspire us. May your words live forever!

I’ll be on Facebook until next time.