Tag Archives: editorial

Today’s Writing Tip: Assumptions

sig2010As a writer, it’s important not to make assumptions about what your reader knows.

Yesteryear, if you were writing in North America, you could probably talk about catechism and the Eucharist and people would understand that you were referring to Catholicism. Maybe they wouldn’t know all the specifics, but they had probably heard the terms. Not today in our multicultural society. Today if you talk about the Trinity, you may want to spell that out.

Likewise for many other terms that we use every day. We know what they mean and so do our friends, but be careful not to fall into the trap of thinking that everyone else knows what you’re talking about. This is especially true of technical writers or people who use acronyms. Often one additional sentence serves as an adequate explanation.

Reread your material to make sure that it’s clear and people know what you are referencing. If you’re making a joke and saying, “Call me, maybe?” a certain audience will know that you are referring to a pop song by Carly Rae Jepsen and others won’t. There is a time to spell this out and a time to let people read between the lines. Just don’t leave your readers confused.

Sigrid Macdonald is the author of three books, including Be Your Own Editor, and two erotic short stories, which she wrote under the pen name Tiffanie Good. Silver Publishing just released “The Pink Triangle,” a tale of friendship, lust, and betrayal. You can view her story here: http://tinyurl.com/6v65rgr

Lightning Strikes for Fiction Writers

Freelance-Zone.com is pleased to welcome our newest regular contributor, Diane Holmes of Pitch University. She has some valuable insights for fiction writers and we’re happy to give fiction some more love on FZ by way of her work. She has already submitted several entries in a series on fiction, but now she joins us with a new ongoing column–please join us in a hearty welcome for Diane as she kicks off  Fiction-Zone:  Leaps in Fiction Mastery.

fiction writing adviceFiction is not a career where there is an entry-level position.  There is no internship. No junior associate.  No level 1 or part-time helper.  And certainly no training wheels.

You enter the career of fiction writing only after you’ve reached the skill and mastery of the published authors who have been writing for years.  To get a slot in a publisher’s schedule or win the hearts of readers, you have to be at least as good at the writers they already work with and read.  Those writers have already have built audiences and delighted fans.  You have to be *that* good.

Yes, I see your hand raised, yes you in the back row.  You want to know, “How do I get there? How to I go from newbie writer to master craftsman?  Or, more importantly, how do I go from “I’m really good but can’t sell,” to “I’m running with the Big Dogs.”  And over there…. Ah, speak up. You want to know “How do I know my novel is ready for me to self-publish?  How do I know it’s good enough to send to an agent?”

Usually you’re taught something step-by-step, but sometimes, magic happens, and you make a leap in understanding, flying over 10 or 20 steps in a single instant.   It’s like a flash of story inspiration, but for your craft of writing skills.  I call this Making the Leap.

Let’s do that.  Let’s make leaps together.

I’ll talk with some of my favorite writers, explore the missing pieces, and answer your questions in ways that catch you off guard.

There are 1,000 websites and blogs devoted to the craft of fiction.  (I’m I’m pretty sure I love them all.) But none of those sites are focused on the magic of Leap Making.

So, this is my challenge to you:  think of your writing friends, the one whose brains seems to catch fire when the explore craft, the one who light up when they learn something new. Lure them here with cookies and lattes. There’s something amazing that happens when like-minded writers come together, poised on the brink of learning.

Yes, Leap Mojo.

(Oh, this *so* deserves to be on a t-shirt.)

It’s a lightning strike for your writer’s brain.

Diane Holmes
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I am a huge fan of my brand new Dish Network cable service, as it seems to be giving me infinite material for blog posts. Even as I write this, I’m watching a fascinating segment on Anderson Cooper 360 about how blog posts factor in to the race for the White House. According to the segment called The Truth About Sarah Palin, one blogger posted some joke quotes allegedly from Sarah Palin about “Satan lizards” in reference to dinosaurs. Somebody (I missed who) scooped up the quotes in the political frenzy over the Palin/McCain ticket, but failed to properly attribute the quotes or pay attention to the fact that they were completely fabricated.

The Aderson Cooper segment is attention getting all by itself; the site mentioned in the clip, FactCheck.org, is just as intriguing. This site calls both Obama and McCain on fact stretching, and watching the campaign is much more interesting with a daily reference back to FactCheck.org after listening to both sides. No matter who you plan on voting for, watching the candidates get their facts handed back to them with the editor’s red pencil treatment is quite amusing.

What does any of this have to do with freelance writing? Continue reading FactCheck.Org

Top Ten Freelance Writing Blunders

Top Ten Freelance Writing Blunders in No Particular Order:

10. Failing to get the editor’s actual name for your query. “To whom it may concern” is the mark of a rank noob. Even if you ARE a rank noob, don’t do this. EVER.

9. Failing to spell check all e-mails to potential paying sources. ‘Nuff said.

8. Not reading the instructions. Do the guidelines say NO ATTACHMENTS? What makes you think YOU’RE the exception? Editors HATE people who don’t follow the directions, and they round file accordingly. Me? I don’t even give them a CHANCE. Does that make me a jackass? YES. But I am the one behind the desk.

7.  Talking money up front. DO NOT discuss payment in a QUERY letter. Let the editor tell YOU how much they are willing to pay. To do otherwise sounds presumptuous. If you get all the way through the query stage and have started to write the piece and haven’t heard about payment, THEN find a tactful way to raise the subject.

6. Do not query before breakfast, before coffee or after beer.

5. Failure to follow up. Never send a query and let it disappear into the ether. Always follow up, even if it is just to say you’ve found another market and you are sending a courtesy letter. This will stick out in someone’s mind–courtesy is always appreciated by editors.

4.  Sending unrelated resume items. Editors do NOT care that you were the president of your college cheerleading club or the head of the basket weaving department. If it is relevant to your pitch, include it. If not, dump it.

3. Admitting you have few clips or credits. Why bother to send a query at all? Why not just write a rejection letter to yourself in the name of the publication instead? You’ll save time. If you want to catch the editor’s eye, don’t waste time talking about what you HAVEN’T DONE. Tell them what you CAN do.

2. Sending a query without your contact information. Always include more than an e-mail address. Send the full monty INCLUDING relevant links to your work where possible. Make yourself very easy to find.

1. Being anything but polite, accomodating and willing to bend over backwards a new editor. If they want it in five days, give it to them in three. If they want 100 words, give them EXACTLY 100 words. If they want a sidebar about hot air ballons sailing into the rings of Saturn…you get the idea. Editors expect new freelancers to be willing to go the distance. Oh, and you have to find a way of doing this that does not seem like excessive kissing up, too.

Sarah Skerrett on Personal Branding

Yes, we should be at the end of our technical problems today (with a little luck) and Sarah will be posting under her own login soon. In the meantime, check out her take on personal branding…she indirectly raises an issue I’ll have a go at in my own editorial next week–the value of using content sites such as Associated Content to raise your Google clout, as opposed to the dubious practice using it to build a list of writing credits. I got the idea after following the link Sara provides in the article, so cheers to both her and Tina Samules for inspiring more content on FZ! In the meantime, check out Sarah Skerrett on Personal Branding. Once again, welcome aboard, Sarah…

The most challenging personal aspect of securing freelance projects is tooting your own horn. There is a fine line between honest self-promotion with the intention of highlighting your credentials and sounding like a pompous, know-it-all jerk who can do anything. There is also a fine line between taking a long shot on a project because you think you have the aptitude and knowledge to complete it successfully and wasting a client’s time because you think you can “quickly acquire” technical terminology needed for an HVAC manual for a heating and air company. Continue reading Sarah Skerrett on Personal Branding

We Are Watching!

People really should be careful how act in public. Of how they treat people. Of what they say to others. We are watching. The writers all over the world need to tell a story, and if people aren’t careful–it just might wind up being theirs. There is nothing that a writer loves more than to have material dropped in their lap with little effort. Many writers I know get their ideas for stories or characters by eavesdropping on other people’s conversations in line, at the store and during lunch.

Just the other day, I overheard a woman talking to her son as he tried to eat lunch. “You could have caught that fly ball, you know,” she snarled. His eyes drifted out the window, as if trying to escape to the street outside. “Hey,” she snapped, tugging soundly at his arm, “are you listening to me mister?” She was caught in the act and didn’t even know that someone else was watching this ugly scene.

And now you are reading about her. Just like that.

Continue reading We Are Watching!