Freelancing Again

After a few years of being out of the freelance hustle, I’ve decided to start looking for writing gigs.

I’m not looking to do it full time again; been there, done that, and I’m glad I have the experience. But I want something part-time because–honestly–I’d much rather hustling for part-time gigs I can do from my couch rather than… well, rather than drive to work during rush hour (traffic can be a bitch in Charlotte).

So I’ve been digging out my clips, which entails a fair bit of Googling “Sarah Stone” and “Publication.” And… I wrote more pieces than I remember writing. I really should’ve compiled a list with links as they were published. Or maybe I did but it was lost when I got a new computer. Either way, I’m going to rectify that with help from Excel and Mountain Dew.

Finding freelance work isn’t the easiest thing in the world, and the biggest hurdle is going to be getting that first gig because my most recent clips are from 2016. (Though a couple pieces written back then were just published early last year.) Once I get the first one in the bag, I’ll feel better.

Like I’ve still got it. Which I do. I just need to show that after a couple of years away, I can still meet deadlines and write killer copy.

Have you ever freelanced? Do you have any go-to websites for finding gigs?

Freelance Chronicles: Five Red Flags When Looking for Jobs

I’ve been searching for freelance writing jobs for the past few months, and I’ve come across a fair number of job postings that made me think twice about the job. But there have also been times where I was emailing the job poster before I realized that they had skimped on details in the ad. Sometimes the red flags are in the email communications themselves.

Here are five red flags that I watch out for when I’m looking for freelance opportunities.

  1. No Pay/Experience Building/Start-up: A substantial number of advertisements look for writers who are willing to write for free. The poster will say something along the lines of “this is a great opportunity to build your portfolio” or “we can’t pay right now but plan on it when we’re making profits in a few months.” Be careful if you decide to respond to these ads. Start ups may fail, and my articles may disappear along with the website. If I decide to write for free, I thoroughly investigate the poster and website. I look for a reputable organization connected to the website along with a solid track record. Those sites are much more likely to be around for a while.
  2. Book Reviews for Self-Published Books: Authors tend to promote their books on social media, through contests, and on websites specially designed to distribute advanced reader copies (ARCs). A book for review on Craigslist might be a great book, but I research it before Isend an email to the poster/writer. If they post a picture of the book jacket, I read the summary on the back. If there’s not picture, I check to see if it’s on Amazon or another online retail site. I read the first couple pages if they’re available. Obvious spelling and grammatical mistakes are red flags. While I don’t shy away from giving critical reviews, I’m cautious with books that are marketed so informally.
  3. Unreasonable Requests: Along the lines of the last one, I always read through posts looking for manuscript editors or proofreaders a few times before I make a decision. I’ve noticed that these writers seem to not have critique groups or anyone else to provide feedback on their work. They also look for a large amount of work to be done in either a short period of time and/or for not enough money to cover the work. This also happens with publishers looking for a writer to create a substantial piece of work, over 20 pages, for less than $100. I tend to avoid these like the plague because the payment won’t be worth the headache.
  4. Misrepresentation: This doesn’t often appear in the ad itself, but misrepresentation becomes pretty apparent when I start emailing the poster. I recently emailed a woman about her post looking for writers of teen fiction, and I clicked on the link in her signature that took me into her website. A bit of investigation showed me that the app fell into the new adult/erotica genre rather than teen/YA that I’d been led to believe from the posting. The poster may be not be familiar with the terms typically used in the publishing world. That’s a bit of a problem for me because it shows their lack of research. I’d rather not be involved with someone who doesn’t understand the genre.
  5. Not Answering Questions: If I’m interested in the post and looking for clarification before I say yes to the job, I have no problem asking questions. It’s easier to ask questions up front than to be blindsided by those peculiarities once I’m committed. A poster should be more than willing to answer questions. It shows them that I’m interested in the job. But when a poster completely ignores my questions, I become pretty concerned. If they’re not willing to answer questions now, I’m not sure that they’ll be willing to answer questions that pop up down the road. That can be a major problem. I’d rather withdraw then instead of getting myself into that kind of circumstance.

Even if there are no red flags in the post or in the emails, the job may still not work out. I know that I’ve done everything I could at that point to make sure it seemed okay. And I’ll probably notice new red flags to watch for next time. The experience isn’t a complete waste so long as I learn from my mistakes.

Are there any red flags that you watch out for?

Ten Gifts under $10 for Writers

Less than a week from Christmas, a few of us are still scrambling to pick-up last minute gifts in time for the holiday. Since writers tend to be a pretty difficult group to buy for (because they have more than enough pens and notebooks), here are ten gifts under $10 sure to please the writer in your life.

1. Novelist at Work Warning Sign: $8.99 from Amazon.com
Because every writer should have a warning sign posted for bystanders. They need to know what they’re getting into when they spend time with their writer friends.

2. Travel-Size Library Collection Candle: $8.00 from Paddywax.com
These diminutive candles produce scents reminiscent of classic writers such as Jane Austen and Edgar Allen Poe. Not only do they smell great, but they may also help with getting a writer’s muse into the working mood.

Mental Notes Sticky Note 100 Sheets3. Mental Notes  Sticky Notes: $3.00 from BarnesandNoble.com
Muses like to spring ideas on writers at the most inopportune times. And those ideas stick around until the writer puts pen to paper. These sticky notes provide a fun way for writer’s to make those notes.

Team Oxford Comma Magnet4. Team Oxford Comma Magnet: $3.29 from CafePress.com
Writers are divided over the use of the Oxford comma. This magnet lets them have a fun way to show where they stand. It’s the difference between eating bacon, eggs, and toast for breakfast and telling eggs and toast that you ate bacon for breakfast.

5. Shakespearean Insult Gum: $5.84 from Amazon.com
Shakespearean insults are widely considered unique and mildly hysterical. Writers will get a kick out of this neat way to show off their passion for literature. Plus it puts a distinguished twist on writer’s keeping gum at their desk.

Ray Bradbury quote - Write only what you love - black Scrabble tile6. Scrabble Tile Pendant with Quote: $9.95 from Etsy.com
Quotes often inspire writers, especially when they’re from other writers. These pendants are unique, and there is a variety of quotes available. Paired with a chain or on a key ring, a pendant would be a treasured piece of jewelry.

The Mini Bonsai Kit7. The Mini Bonsai Kit: $6.95 from BarnesandNoble.com
No matter how prolific the writer,  procrastination will always visit their keyboard. This Mini Bonsai Kit allows the writer to be productive even if they’re avoiding their writing. And they can feel better about procrastinating because at least they’re not spending the whole time on Facebook or Twitter.

Clue Game 2013 Edition8. Clue 2013 Board Game: $9.99 from Hasbro.com
Mystery writers in particular will enjoy this updated version of the classic Clue board game, though all writers will enjoy solving the case. There is nothing like a evening off from writing and playing detective. Plus, the story may inspire the muse to start working.

Self-Therapy Large Pad 60 Sheets9. Self-Therapy Large Pad: $6.95 from BarnesandNoble.com
Most writers will admit that writing takes a toll on a person, not only the long hours but also the stress of publishing. So it’s natural for writers, their friends, and families to question their sanity. So this inexpensive self-therapy will buy time until they have to speak to a therapist about spending too much time with fictional characters.

10. Aqua Notes: $7.99 from Amazon.com
Unfortunately, spilled drinks have destroyed countless ideas that could have easily become the next great American novel. Aqua Notes will give those ideas a chance of survival in case of spilled coffee. Plus there is the option of writing in the shower.

Are you getting yourself or the writer in your life anything unusual for Christmas?

Social Media for Writers: Twitter

An online presence is vital for writers, especially when the long term goal is to connect with readers. So I knew that getting on the web was something that I had to do when I decided to call myself a writer. And the toughest social media I’ve encountered so far is Twitter.

I’m speaking specifically about what to do with Twitter. The signup process is easy and completely painless. It took me less than ten minutes to be a registered user. The interface itself is also pretty self-explanatory.

But I have a hard time figuring out what to tweet.

What am I–as a writer–supposed to be tweeting? The first option is to talk about my writing. Maybe post word counts for my current project or post short writing prompts. The problem with that is that I don’t have enough of a following or the right followers for that to work. Besides, it felt too self-serving to put those on my Twitter page. Like I was bragging when I hadn’t yet published a book.

So I followed a couple dozen writers whose work I admire to see what they tweet. The majority of them–unfortunately–aren’t very active. I might see one or two tweets from them every few weeks. In some cases, I’ve never seen a single tweet on my feed.

A few tweet multiple times a day, interacting with their fans. Occasionally, they talk about how their writing goes. More often they include tidbits about their lives. It makes them three-dimensional people rather than just the person pictured in the back of the book.

All of their tweets have given me some good ideas about what to post on my feed. Sure I don’t have to go completely Twitter-crazy yet because I don’t have much of an audience. That’ll change eventually. But for now, I post pictures of my dogs, Christmas decorations, and neat shots I take on my phone. I also tweet about the goings-on in my life. Mainly puppy escapades. But that’s just because they’re nuts.

Do you have social media accounts you use as a writer? What do you post on it?

Have a Twitter account? Check me out @SEStone519.

Prologue or Not?–Part 1

Prologue (noun): a preliminary discourse; a preface or introductory part of a discourse, poem, or novel. ~Dictionary.com

Prologues are a hot topic when it comes to fiction. Writer’s Digest has published dozens of articles within its pages, and publishers receive thousands of manuscripts daily that include prologues. Agents have even admitted to skipping over a prologue, right to Chapter 1.

The trouble with prologues is that they’re often a challenge to write well.

In a Q & A from WritersDigest.com posted in 2008, the then managing editor of Writer’s Digest magazine stated that “A prologue is used when material that you want to include in the opening is out of time sequence with the rest of the story.” The prologue should be relevant to the story but occur at a different time from when the story takes place. So if the story is about a middle-aged man hunting a monster that’s begun destroying his hometown, the prologue will show that he had a bad experience with the monster under his bed when he was very young.

A prologue shouldn’t be used to unload back-story onto the reader ahead of Chapter 1, but that unfortunately happens all too often. I’ve been guilty of this myself more than I’d like to admit. Over time, I learned to cut that out in revision. But it still hurts to take out that background information.

The problem with putting back-story in the prologue is that the reader doesn’t yet know the protagonist or have any reason to care about him or her. Why should it matter to me as a reader if a character was heartbroken after his father sold his prized ’76 Mustang? Unless the car serves some purpose later in the story or foreshadows something, the reader doesn’t need to know about it. If the writer wants to show that the protagonist is sensitive through that incident, the scene would be better placed later in the story.

I’ve noticed in my own writing that I put all of the back-story at the beginning because I’m still learning about my characters. And those pages help me flesh them out. Once the story finally hits its stride, I eliminate that background from the beginning. The reader doesn’t need to know everything that I need to know right away. I should have an idea where the story is going to go. The reader is just along for the ride.

What are your opinions of prologues? Do you use them? Have you read books where they worked?

Next Wednesday I’ll look at the use of dreams in the prologue.