Tag Archives: freelance writing advice

This Is a Sort of Writing Tip

sig2010Lately I’ve been seeing the phrases “kind of” and “sort of” in print, and hearing them far too often on podcasts and radio. When is it appropriate to use these terms and when should we leave them at home?

If you have a task at work that is slightly difficult, you can say that it is kind of a pain. What you don’t want to say is this: “I have a sort of project that needs to be finished by Friday.”

The first sentence has “kind of” modifying the word pain, which makes sense. The second sentence has the adjective modifying the word project, which doesn’t make any sense, because we’re not going to have a “sort of” project. We either have a project or we don’t!

Here’s another one. “It’s kind of important for me to show up at the party.” That sentence is fine. If I change it to this, it’s grammatically incorrect: “It’s important for me to kind of be at the party.”

You either show up or you don’t. Kind of and sort of are filler words akin to “like…” (I was, like, so busy.) They seem to be the modern equivalent of saying “um” or “ah,” but you don’t want to discard them altogether, because there are a number of instances where they are the best words of choice.

Sigrid Macdonald is a book coach, a manuscript editor, and the author of three books including Be Your Own Editor. BYOE is available on Amazon in soft cover (http://tinyurl.com/3xkoths) and on Kindle (http://tinyurl.com/3y3nuzb). Or get 20% off the regular price by writing directly to the author.

Finding Inspiration in Weird Places

By Amanda Smyth Connor

I am what they (I) call a mockingbird writer, meaning I tend to write in the style that I have most recently been exposed to.


Case in Point #1: Last week, I re-read “Bossypants” by Tina Fey…for the third time.  I think it gets funnier every time I read it.

After brief episodes of reading, I would go back to my writing assignments to find that I was writing in shorter, more staccato sentences and more often than not I would make some lame attempt at a Liz Lemon-style self-deprecating joke.

Case in Point #2: I finished Bossypants and moved on to a Stephen King classic, “It.” Things took a decidedly darker turn in my writing projects, to which my editor simply wrote back to me:  “WTF?”

I find writing inspiration in odd places, but most notably from the style of book I’m reading at any given time. It’s a gift and a curse. [My editor assures me that it’s a curse. ]

Have you experienced this mockingbird style of writing? Where do you find your best writing inspiration?

Amanda Smyth Connor is a social media manager for a major publishing company and has managed online communities and content development for many start-up and Fortune 500 companies.  She has been a professional editor for more years than she can remember.

Today’s Writing Tip: Convince and Persuade

sig2010The words convince and persuade may sound so similar that we think they’re interchangeable, but they’re not. They are not exact synonyms, despite what dictionary.com says!

According to The Chicago Manual of Style, persuade is related to actions and often takes the verb “to” before it. If I want to go to a drama movie, but you only like comedies, I have to persuade you to go with me.

Convince is related to ideas. Let’s say that you don’t know who to support in the federal election, so you watch the debates. You come away convinced that none of the contenders represents you. Note that convince is not preceded by the verb “to.”

Check out more grammar and writing tips in my book Be Your Own Editor.

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

The Zen of Writing From The Road

Freelance travel writingby Joe Wallace

A week ago today, I set out on the road to blog and write a tour diary about indie record stores between Chicago, Illinois and San Antonio, Texas. One thing that I’ve learned about writing from the road is that no matter how well you plan, how carefully you coordinate, there is always an unknown out there that will skew all your plans.

Earlier in my writing career, when I wrote for radio and television, I’d go on assignment to Grand Forks Air Force Base to do stories on missile silos or to the U.S.S. Constellation to write and shoot video on air craft carrier life.

In every case, the unexpected forced me to deviate from the internal script I had in my head and improvise around some cancellation, problem or bad circumstance.

Learning the zen of that sort of flexibility wasn’t easy for me until I realized that I could write all my on-location problems into my stories and reports and make them assets instead of liabilities.

That skill works well no matter what kind of writing I’ve done–whether it’s web copy, scripts for public service announcements, or the latest draft of the book I’m writing about bizarre vinyl records. Embracing the chaos wasn’t something I learned overnight, but now that I know, I’ve used it practically as a personal writing cliche for many years.

Nowadays, instead of trying to be an expert on something, I’ll write my ignorance of a topic into the narrative and let myself–and the reader–discover new things rather than try to sound like I know something I don’t. When a writing assignment gets confusing or frustrating, I let the reader share my misery until it all gets worked out in the end.

Or doesn’t. Some writing assignments are like that, and I have no problem at all these days bringing the reader with me to whatever dead end or happy ending I discovered while tracking down the story.

Joe Wallace is the founding maniac behind Turntabling.net, a blog for people who love vinyl records. He is hard at work on two book projects at once, including WTF Records: The Turntabling Guide To Weird and Wonderful Vinyl. He has up to now avoided working with agents, but is making noises that an agent might just be a good idea after all. You can contact him for a variety of reasons at jwallace (at) turntabling (dot) net.

A Little Thank You Card Goes a Long Way

By Amanda Smyth Connorthank-you-and-Follow-up

The holidays are upon us again and I’ve only just recovered from last year. I’ll be taking a different approach to the holidays this year as I continue my journey toward ORGANIZATIONAL NIRVANA!

I’ve started my Christmas shopping early, I booked my travel back in August and we’ve already alerted the in-laws as to which days and times we will be visiting (from 3:00 to 3:04pm on Tuesday.)

What I absolutely cannot forget to do this year is to send thank you cards to all of the clients who hired me. Whether they were completely awesome and fed my positive energy or sucked out my will to live, they still hired me and paid me, and for that I am thankful.

For starters, I’ll be sending a card to each of my new clients that includes a personalized message. For my regular/favorite clients I try to send a little more, like cookies for the editorial team or coffee and bagels for the crew. It’s a nice little “thank you” that won’t cost you an arm and a leg and it keeps your name fresh in their minds.  Remember, it’s not bribery if they’ve already paid you.

What do you do to thank your clients?

Happy Almost Holidays.

Amanda Smyth Connor is a social media manager for a major publishing company, owns her own wedding planning business, and has managed online communities and content development for many start-up and Fortune 500 companies.  She has been a professional editor for more years than she can remember.

Free Your Mind – Write for Fun

By Amanda Smyth Connor

The author as a young zombie. Find your inspiration!
The author as a young zombie. Find your inspiration!

When was the last time you wrote for fun? Seriously. When was the last time you put pen to paper/fingers to keyboard to write prose or a free-wheeling blog post or a dirty limerick just for fun?

You can’t work your fingers to the bone every day and not have any fun, you have to flex your creative muscles every once in awhile. In fact, don’t just flex them, let them rock some 5″ heels and encourage them to cut loose to some early Madonna! You’ve got to break out of the doldrums of writing once in awhile, for your own sanity.

Do you remember why you got into writing in the first place? Was it a love of poetry or was it a favorite author who inspired you? Was there a high school or college class that awakened your writing senses? Keep your writing fresh and exciting by writing in different formats as a “writing vacation.”

I invested in one of those small, silly “spark idea” books, whereby random ideas and images are listed with the expectation that you will be inspired by these snippets enough to write something wonderfully creative. My only issue with these ideas is that they are too vanilla to inspire any great creativity within my tilted mind. So instead, I offer you some “spark ideas” of my own.

1. Describe your version of how the zombie apocalypse will come to be and the role that you will play in said apocalypse.

2. Write a haiku about the last time you stepped in dog poop.

3. What’s the worst smell you have ever smelled? Describe using colorful analogies.

4. What’s your opinion of the “suggested serving size” of a standard package of Oreos?

5. What’s your favorite “bad 80’s song”? Let’s explore the song title.  Hint: Start with “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go.”

6. Write a dirty limerick that incorporates the phrase “aluminum siding.”

7. Famous Quotes: “Who is your daddy and what does he do?” -Arnold Schwarzenegger.

What “spark ideas” get your juices flowing when you’ve hit a wall?

Amanda Smyth Connor is a social media manager for a major publishing company, owns her own wedding planning business, and has managed online communities and content development for many start-up and Fortune 500 companies.  She has been a professional editor for more years than she can remember.