J.K. Rowling, Stephanie Meyer, John Grisham, and Stephen King. What do these writers have in common? Their first novels were rejected at least a dozen times (in King’s case, dozens), before being published. Imagine what we would have missed out on if those writers took to heart the negative feedback they received in the form of rejection letters or unanswered queries. Negative feedback stinks. But far worse than negative feedback is toxic feedback, the kind of commentary that makes any writer want to curl up in the corner and wallow or worse yet, stop writing all together.
Experienced writing workshop leader and author Joni B. Cole knows a lot about this kind of feedback. So much, in fact, that she decided to write a book about it. In Toxic Feedback, Cole addresses not only the problem of toxic feedback, but also proper responses to it. If you’ve ever suffered from a severe case of “It’s all wrong”-itis—I’m looking at you, fiction/creative nonfiction writers—take note: this is definitely your go-to book. Toxic Feedback is a light-hearted, engaging look at the best (and worst) ways to process feedback, and how to, a-hem, go about dishing it out in a polite manner.
What’s the ultimate freelance assignment? You know, the one all writers dream of?
Probably getting paid to vacation—and then write about it.
But travel-writing veteran Tim Leffel says that getting there is anything but a holiday. In his aptly titled Travel Writing 2.0, Leffel takes readers on a journey through the hard realities of what it takes to be a successful travel writer in today’s competitive new media landscape. With some exceptions, it’s not much different than what it takes to be a successful, non-traveling freelance writer.
If you are trying to get the hang of social media but are tired of all the same old information, check out Chris Brogan for some enlightenment. Well known as a social media guru, Brogan gives advice on his site in a “best of” section that hits some pretty good highlights. Learn “50 Ways To Take Your Blog To The Next Level” or read “Framing Your Social Media Efforts”.
Social media has pretty much become a must for the writer, so if you have yet to dip your toe in the pool, there is no time like the present. Brogan also offers advice for those who have been around a while and are looking to maximize their presence on the web.
Today we are lucky enough to have with us Tim Leffel, an experienced travel writer and editor. Tim has just put out a new book that may be of interest to Freelance-Zone readers who want to know more about travel writing, and he also offers some good advice here…enjoy! – Catherine
1. Can you tell readers about your writing journey and how you came to be involved with travel writing?
I worked at RCA Records for seven years in marketing and did a lot of writing there as a part of my job. When my now-wife and I started preparing to go backpacking around the world long-term, the obvious money-making paths for me seemed to be teaching English and travel writing. So I did both. The stories I got published were just a trickle at first, but over time I got more assignments and eventually I was able to dispatch stories and hotel reviews from five different continents. I worked part-time for many, many years before I made the leap to this being a full-time job. For me, things really started to take off when I put out a book that sold well and started a blog to go with it.
2. You have a new book coming out soon…would you share a bit about that with Freelance-Zone readers?
It’s hitting the virtual shelves now, so you can get it at the usual online shops, at Booklocker.com, and soon at the Apple iBookstore. It’s called Travel Writing 2.0: Earning money from your travels in the new media landscape. This is the first guide I know of to address how to actually earn money at this in this time of transition between print and digital media. Besides my own hard-won advice, the book has lots of nuggets from 52 other travel writers and a group of editors and publishers.
3. In your opinion, what are the biggest mistakes writers make when it comes to travel writing?
Trying to publish broad stories about places instead of spending time finding unique angles that have not been covered before. Sure, you read plenty of ho-hum destination stories in magazines that follow a similar script, but what editors really want from new freelancers are unique angles, especially ones that can fit onto a page or less in the print world. The same concept applies to blogging as well: if what you’re writing is not noticeably different from everything else out there, why do readers need you? We’re already drowning in average prose from average writers.
The other big mistake is not having the long-term vision and persistence required to succeed at what is a very competitive field. It can take years to get established as a travel writer, whether on the old print path or a new digital one, so choose opportunities based on what it will do for you long-term, not how big that single check may or may not be.
4. Would you share a career highlight with us?
I can’t pick one because the highlights are two-fold. First, I’ve taken some mind-blowing, amazing trips that either paid for themselves from articles sold or were covered by someone else paying the expenses and to me that’s the real payoff of this job. Writing assignments have taken me to the Galapagos, Peru, Panama, Iceland, Botswana, Hungary, Nepal—and plenty more places. Winning a Grand Prize from the North American Travel Journalists Association was nice. Selling Italian rights to The World’s Cheapest Destinations was pretty cool. But probably the greatest highlight was being able to reach the point where I could pay the bills and support my family as a writer/editor/blogger. I’m proud that I’ve accomplished this mostly because of websites and blogs I’ve created myself from scratch, not from pleading with rotating gatekeepers over and over.
5. What is the best piece of writing advice you have ever received?
One of my high school English teachers told me not to use 20 words when 10 will say it just as well—or better. What’s made me a good writer, more than anything I think, is being good at brutal self-editing.
You may have noticed that BigDif is one of our sponsors over here at Freelance-Zone. Part of our committment to readers is that we provide you with more information about those who advertise on our site so that you can decide for yourself if the product or service is something that might be beneficial to you.
Today we have with us Tom Watson–head of BigDif. He’s going to share some of the types of books that they publish over at their company so that you can get a feel for if this might be a good route for you to go if you are a budding chidren’s book author…or if you know someone who is…
One of the things I really like about what we’re trying to do at this newfangled publishing company is give authors a chance to publish stories that traditional publishers just would be too wary to give a shot. We make the books available digitally in our on-line e-reader. And they can be printed at home. We have about 40 books available now and each one stands on its own in different ways. Here are some of my personal favorites:
Stick Dog Wants a Hamburger is one of our favorite books. It’s written and illustrated by Melissa Phillips. It’s longer form, probably 6,000 or 7,000 words, has a clever voice and here’s what I like the best: The author-illustrator makes a real point of telling the reader she can’t draw. The whole idea that she’s up-front about it is funny the way she pulls it off. Stick Dog’s name comes from the drawing. You know, like how kids – and adults – draw stick people? She draws stick dogs and writes about them.
First, a confession: I tried the Franklin-Covey/7 Habits routine numerous times in my corporate days, and failed miserably. So, I wanted to bring Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity to Freelance-Zoners’ collective attention. To me, it is a far better solution for the creative freelancer and the sometimes-squirrelly creative brain that we need to harness on a daily basis—and it is rock-solid when it comes to preventing things from falling through the cracks.
I saw it recommended in the Wall Street Journal a few months back, and it truly changed my way of thinking about organization (no small feat at the age of 42). With the caveat that the best organizational system is the system that you actually use, I think it represents a much better approach than the aforementioned Franklin-Covey route. Here are a few of the reasons author David Allen’s philosophy works for me:
He dispenses with the guilt-and-humiliation slant that plagues Franklin-Covey (i.e., forcing you transcribe into the next day what you didn’t do today).
You don’t waste any time giving things a priority number or letter.
He provides easy-to-employ steps that you can start using right away, and you don’t have to do everything at once. The startup procedure requires a good chunk of dedicated time, but it’s worth it.
For list-based folks like me and Mike O’Mary (who wrote “Feeling Listless” earlier this week), he offers an improved method for organizing your to-dos. And you can customize it to your needs, rather than being boxed into a single way of getting things done.
He makes no distinction between business stuff and personal stuff, which always seemed silly to me.
Your mileage may vary, but it’s the best $16 I’ve spent all year. Have you read/implemented Getting Things Done, or are you using an organizational system already that you love? Please share your thoughts with Freelance-Zone readers in the comments below!
When he’s not working on paying gigs for his editorial services company, Boomvang Creative, contributing blogger Jake Poinier can also be found dispensing freelance advice at DoctorFreelance.com.
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