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Where/how do you track ideas?

We come up with plenty of great ideas, but when it comes time to pitch to an editor, those fragments seem to vanish into thin air.

Or, if you’re like me, you hit on an idea and say “I should pitch this to,” but the core of the idea is lost before you have time to develop it.

ideasThe solution?

Write them down, no matter how small the idea seems, and when you get time, start to query the markets where you think you could sell a piece on the topic. As you formulate the query, your idea will take shape if there is any substance to it. If not, the process of starting the query may help you find another idea.

Whether you write ideas on paper, or do a voice reminder in your phone, you could be putting those ideas to work. You can use a small notebook, an online tool like the popular, or a sticky-note on your dashboard.

In querying editors at magazines,

1. Start by reading their submission guidelines, often listed under the “About” or “Contact” tab of their site.

2. Read through their features and articles online to see if your idea has been covered recently

3. Note their preferred formatting for headlines, bullet points, graphics, links, and style.

I often find better response to a query if I write more than just a brief pitch. If I include enough material to get the editor to keep reading, chances are good that I’ll either get a reason for the rejection, or “Please send the article.” That’s the part I like best about querying!

If it gets rejected, choose a market on your second tier list, tweak the query a bit further, and try again. The #1 reason for rejection is pitching an idea to the wrong market.  You can save yourself lots of wasted time by making sure you follow the three steps above, so your queries look as close as possible to what the editor wants to see.

Besides going through this exercise and spending quality time with your work, you’ve now saved your original idea, and can add some research or rewrite to turn it into a profitable essay or guest blog post, and make some money on it.

So, don’t sweat the query process, but do sweat the details. Get everything right, from the editor’s name, to the focused, tight pitch, and you might make a sale or two off of your idea. So track those fragments, stay curious, and use your imagination. It may lead to a quick sale.

How do you track and manage your ideas? Leave a comment with your best strategy.

Good writing!

BIO: Helen Gallagher shares her advice and ideas on small business and technology at Her blogs and books are accessible through She is a member of ASJA, Small Publishers Artists & Writers Network, and several great Chicago-area writing groups.

Today’s Writing Tip Is about Creating Conflict

Recently, I wrote a book review on Fifty Shades of Grey, the new runaway bestseller about Anastasia Steele, a naïve young woman who falls for Christian Grey, a man who can only derive pleasure from a dominant/submissive relationship. Christian is perfect in every respect except sexually; he is damaged and can only be aroused by inflicting pain. This is not exactly our dream man, but readers love the book. Why? Aside from some very steamy sex scenes, Anastasia is confused, bewildered, and ambivalent about her relationship with Christian. This creates good reading.

It makes her a three-dimensional character and provides suspense; we don’t know if she will stay with Christian. It makes her sympathetic. We feel for her dilemma. She’s crazy about him, but he’s just plain old crazy (unless you’re a fan of sadomasochism).

Thus, in real life we may prefer partners who are relatively drama free, but this would make for very boring literature. When you are developing your characters, make sure they have enough conflict, both internally, within themselves, and externally with other people.

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:

Write… no excuses

With only 26 letters in the English alphabet, why are there days when we just can’t get the words out?

The poet, Mary Oliver, says: “The voice is working in us all the time. You have to be there when you have promised.”

The work of a writer requires true dedication to the art and craft of what we do. That sense of commitment is what sustains us when we are battling deadlines or slogging through long manuscripts. We’re in this for the long haul and it can get tiresome.

What to do?
1. First, honor your commitment. One way or another you’ve got to get the words out, meet the deadline, and turn in good work.

2. Change your focus. When I recently felt I could not edit a manuscript for one more minute, I switched to indexing which felt like play-time. It was so easy to handle a clerical task just for a while. And the sense of accomplishment made it easier to drag myself back to page 183, knowing I was at least half-way done with the editing.

3. Trick yourself. Use a timer, break your task into small manageable goals, or raid the candy jar. Just break the cycle for a minute or two and get back to work.

4. Exercise. WebMD notes that exercise is the best remedy for fatigue.
“It’s now been shown in many studies that once you actually start moving around — even just getting up off the couch and walking around the room — the more you will want to move, and, ultimately, the more energy you will feel,” says Robert E. Thayer, PhD, a psychology professor at California State University, Long Beach, and author of the book Calm Energy: How People Regulate Mood With Food.

bikeIn a study published in the journal Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics in 2008, University of Georgia researchers found that inactive folks who normally complained of fatigue could increase energy by 20% while decreasing fatigue by as much as 65% by simply participating in regular, low-intensity exercise.

Thayer says that many Americans, particularly “achievement-oriented Type A people” have “tense energy” — an effective state that allows you to get lots of work done, but that can quickly move into tense-tiredness, a negative state often associated with depression.

On the other hand, what he calls “calm energy” is a combination of a high physical and mental energy level, paired with low physical tension. It is this state, he says, that offers more long-lasting energy. And, he says, it can be achieved with the right kind of exercise.

“What summarizes the relationship best is moderate exercise — like a 10- or 15-minute walk — has the primary effect of increased energy, while very intense exercise — like working out at the gym, 45 minutes of treadmill — has the primary effect of at least temporarily reducing energy, because you come away tired,” he says.

BIO: Helen Gallagher blogs at to share her thoughts on small business and technology. She writes and speaks on publishing. Her blogs and books are accessible through Helen is a member of ASJA, Small Publishers Artists & Writers Network, and several great Chicago-area writing groups.

Finding Freelance Writing and Editing Gigs Using Craigslist

Joe Wallace Turntabling Rare Recordsby Joe Wallace

Years ago, I was a bit of an evangelist for Craigslist–it seemed like a very good tool for freelance writers and editors to use in the never ending quest to find freelance jobs. Then the spammers, the con artists, and the annoying minimal-pay-for-maximum-output types showed up and I started ridiculing Craigslist as a means to find a decent freelance job.

But there’s one thing I’ve noticed about the Writing/Editing section of Craigslist, which I do periodically check upon to see what’s out there…there’s one constant in that section that serious freelancers of a certain career path should pay close attention to; the presence of legit ads for trade magazine work.

Over the years, from the salad days of low-spam, high quality job posts to the darkest hours of the scam/spam swamp that Craigslist fell victim to for a while, the trade magazine job ads have been steady, reliable, and consistent. You can find all sorts of decent trade mag jobs out there, from telecommute editing gigs to full-time in house writing and research work.

I’ve seen medical trades, regional business mags, chambers-of-commerce publications and many others there…and the best part is, since many trade magazines are regional in nature, or tend to gravitate toward ads in specific markets, there seems to be less competition for some of these gigs. Freelancers, take note–your regional trade mags could be a boon for you if you know where to look. I wrote pieces for several trades a few years back on an ongoing basis–my relationships with the editors was always pleasant, the direction clear, and the pay decent enough depending on the publication budgets.

Many writers and editors use the trade mags as a secret weapon in their arsenal of income choices, if you haven’t browsed the Craigslist classifieds section for Writing/Editing lately, have another look specifically for trade mags. You might be surprised at what you find.

Joe Wallace writes about vinyl records, pop culture, personal finance, and much more. He’s currently tweaking, editing, and photographing for his book WTF Records: The Guide To Weird and Wonderful Vinyl. He’s available for gigs and consultation on a limited basis. Contact him:

Talk Tech-y To Me

By Amanda Smyth Connor1stGen-iPad-HomeScreen

January 19th brought a wave of excitement as Apple announced their latest and greatest technology. Not only will they be selling iTextbooks (at $15 a pop) but they will be offering iBooks Author, a new self-publishing app that essentially allows authors to upload PDF’s, edit, complete layout and upload to the iBookstore.

This is clearly not the first self-publishing platform to emerge and it won’t be the last, but as an editor, I find myself a traitor to the cause for selfish reasons and not-so-selfish reasons.

Obvious questions arise that Apple has yet to address. How will they approve these new iBooks? Will they offer editing services? What requirements are there for content, layout, etc? What kind of reimbursement can writers expect from offering their books in this fashion and will Apple offer various packages that would include marketing or promotion?

Furthermore, will this lead to an increase or a decline in the quality of self-published books? I like to think that by enabling authors with better tools and resources, the quality will increase, but you have to wonder –  if the increase in the volume of new self-published uploads increases, will quality remain top priority, or will these self-published books look as messy as my Freelance-Zone posts? I shudder to think.

What are your thoughts on this buzz story?

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.

Happy New Year!

Freelance Holiday 2010May 2012 bring you closer to your writing goals and dreams! We look forward to serving you in the coming year and hope we can continue supporting all writers in their journey–no matter where they are in their career…

If there is anything you would like to see covered on in the New Year, please feel free to leave us a comment below and we’ll see if we can work it into the editorial calendar.

Thanks for reading!

– The Staff at