All posts by Joe Wallace

Multitasking – Does It Help or Hinder Writing?

I used to play music when I wrote letters, short stories, and articles. Then when I became an editor, and started proofreading or evaluating manuscripts, I continued this practice. Big mistake. When it comes to editing, I definitely need to focus on one thing at a time.

Now I turn off the TV, ignore incoming text messages, and close my Facebook page in my browser; the only windows I leave open are and a search engine if it’s related to what I’m researching.

Some people feel more creative writing with music playing in the background, and aren’t distracted by answering the occasional text or e-mail. That’s fine, but know yourself and try it both ways. If you’ve been accustomed to doing three or four things at one time while you write, try eliminating them all and just write.

Conversely, if you sit in total silence, experiment with playing something soothing, stimulating, or edgy and see if it improves your story. But definitely downplay your distractions when you’re proofreading your work.

Sigrid Macdonald is an editor and the author of three books, including Be Your Own Editor. You can find her at .

Construction Nearly Complete!

We’re entering the final stages of our behind-the-scenes work on We return to our regular posts come Monday, though there may be a few bumps in the road between here and there or beyond, depending on how everything goes. We’ll be back very soon! Is Under Construction!

You may notice some downtime or slow loading times in the next few days as we migrate to a new server and improve our site. Once the transition is complete we’ll be back on a regular posting schedule and you’ll experience faster site load times and better performance overall. Thanks very much for your patience while we upgrade, and thank you for reading!

The staff

Freelancing, Working From Home, Yahoo

Joe-Wallace-Vinyl-Collector-and-authorby Joe Wallace

In recent years it seemed like everyone was going freelance, working from home, doing the thirty-second commute. But in more recent times it looks like the rubber band, so to speak, of freelancing is snapping back the other way. Consider the latest news about Yahoo and its new CEO’s policy bringing in work-from-home staff back into the office. Is this a trend you can watch spreading to other companies who suddenly decide that working in your jammies is bad for productivity?

Not yet. But keep watching those headlines and you might see plenty of “me too” stories about others, inspired by Yahoo, who want to yank their employees back into the land of the cubicles.

This is good news, and bad news for freelancers. The good news is that the reality check has finally arrived. It’s not, as many websites want us all to believe, EASY to be a freelancer or work-from-home guru. It takes discipline, dedication, and the ability to resist all of your regular time-waster distractions you indulge in when you’re not sitting in front of the computer. It also requires more transparency and accountability to make things work properly.

Some just don’t have what it takes, some are total overacheivers. But it’s not EASY, whatever the outcome.

The good news is that these kinds of reality checks are GREAT for our freelance businesses–those who continue to thrive as freelancers have an additional–and totally subjective–air of achievement. We still succeed where Yahoo “failed”. We are trustworthy enough to remain in our jammies, keep turning things in on time and on target. We rule.

But with that it’s realistic to expect a higher standard. If you can do what Yahoo wouldn’t dream of letting you do (now), working from home, it’s likely that expectations will increase. After all, there MUST be a reason why Yahoo’s CEO is so bent on yanking employees back under the glare of the florescent bulbs, right? RIGHT? Don’t be surprised if the bar gets raised in the wake of all this…even if it’s just a little bit.

But the pros need not worry–we’re used to this sort of thing. Occupational hazards include a wee bit of jealousy that we’re still wearing what we went to bed in when we deliver that product. It’s only right to expect to be scrutinized a bit closer when things like the Yahoo story pop up. The mantra? It all goes back to Gloria Gaynor; “I Will Survive”.

Today’s Writing Tip: Critiquing Someone Else’s Work

sig2010At some point in our writing careers, we may join a writers’ group or be asked to provide constructive criticism to a fellow writer. This is not always as easy as it seems. Some people have thick skin and when they say that they want us to be bold and to deconstruct their work, they mean it.

Other people may be very sensitive. Some may want a thorough evaluation and others may only want a brief report akin to a book review. What to do?

First, be tactful. Telling someone that the characters in their novel sound like robots is potentially hurtful. Make an honest list of what you think about the material and then go back and revise it as carefully as possible, taking your friend’s feelings into account.

Second, be honest. It won’t help anyone to tell them that their book is on its way to being an Amazon bestseller if it’s an inferior and poorly-written piece of work. Third, be helpful and individualize your response. For example, if you think the whole book should be rewritten from start to finish but you know perfectly well that the writer has neither the ability nor the intention to do so, don’t provide that kind of feedback. It won’t be useful.

Make sure that whatever you say is kind and specific so that the writer knows how to implement changes. Instead of saying, “That scene in part two didn’t work for me at all,” tell the author why and if at all possible, suggest a way to improve it.

Last, talk about the writing instead of the writer so that the person doesn’t feel attacked. In the end, your writer friends will love you for your diplomacy and will benefit by your carefully chosen advice.

Sigrid Macdonald is the author of three books and a manuscript editor. You can find her at