Tag Archives: writers

Writers – Time For A Spring Cleaning

by Catherine L. Tully

Spring is in the air and regardless of whether you have a million projects going or are in-between jobs, it’s time for a spring cleaning!

I advocate doing a quarterly “spring clean” in your office area so that you are able to stay organized and have minimal issues with efficiency. What does this type of re-vamp consist of? Here’s my checklist for the bare minimum you need to stay on top of things in your writing life:

  • Organize those e-mails you have been avoiding dealing with or keeping in your inbox to get to at “a later date”.
  • De-frag your hard drive (PCs).
  • Back up your computer.
  • Organize any paperwork. Toss, file, mail and address. Then, get it off your desk.
  • Catch up on bookkeeping.
  • Reach out to editors that you haven’t been in touch with for a while and touch base.
  • Clean your computer screen and blow out your keyboard with canned air.
  • Replace office supplies as needed.
  • Check printer ink.
  • Update your web presence (LinkedIn, website, etc.)

This is just a basic checklist–be sure and add anything you need to take care of to it. If you can set aside a day or two each season to take care of these things, you’ll likely be a lot more organized–and a lot less aggravated!

Do you have anything to add to the list?

Spot Check Your Writing

by Catherine L. Tully

Freelance-Zone Editor, Catherine L. Tully
Freelance-Zone Editor, Catherine L. Tully

Just finish a draft and want to check your writing? Here are some top tips for making sure everything is in tip-top shape!

  • Spell check. Sound basic? It is. Even so, as an editor I’ve gotten documents from people – writers who should know better – with simple errors I have to fix because they didn’t run a spell check. And as an editor, it really is annoying. Take that step.
  • Read aloud. This is another great way to catch mistakes. I’ve found things by doing this that I missed after reading something three times over.
  • Get another opinion. If you have a writer (or editor) friend you can run the piece by, it’s good practice to do so. Perhaps you can swap articles/chapters/posts on a regular basis to keep that workload even.
  • Walk away. Taking some time out to clear your head is a good thing. After a break, go back to your writing and re-read. Your fresh perspective will help.
  • Look it up. Not sure about how to word that sentence? Does something look off grammatically? Don’t just lament it and try to figure it out on your own…look it up. Every writer should have a copy of Strunk & White’s Elements of Style somewhere nearby. Seriously.

Got any tips to share? Leave one here in the comments section below!

Writing The Rough Draft

by Catherine L. Tully

Freelance-Zone Editor, Catherine L. Tully
Freelance-Zone Editor, Catherine L. Tully

I’m going to encourage you today to write from your gut and just go with it.

Writing a rough draft should be a kind of mental dump of your research, your personality and, most likely, your clichés. Getting everything out of your brain as quickly as possible is something I think works very well for most people. I’m going to take you through my general process in hopes that something here clicks for you…

First there is research.

I do a lot of surfing on the web–first getting overall concepts, then fact gathering. The concepts I don’t write down, the facts I often do, along with a link to the site I found it on in case I wind up using one and need to give some kind of attribution. I spend a while doing this, then – and this is really significant for me – I take a total break. I go and do something completely unrelated and let the things I just learned simmer in my subconscious.

This portion of the rough draft-writing process keeps me from plagiarizing. All the things I have learned kind of melt together and become a tangle of ideas that I can then sort through to create an outline in my head for the piece I’m going to write.

Next step? Pen to paper–or in my case–fingers to keyboard.

I sit down and write the entire rough draft in one go. I don’t care if it stinks. I don’t care if there are clichés everywhere. I just get it done. You can always (and, I would argue, should always) go back  and polish later. Just get it out. There’s no big secret here, but there is definitely a predictable process that works–at least for me.

If you struggle with writing a rough draft, try some of these ideas and see if they work for you. If you have suggestions to add, please do leave them in the comments section below–I’d love for you to share them!

Back From Chicon 7 In Chicago Illinois

Worldcon Chicon 7 Chicagoby Joe Wallace

I am a book nerd, it is true. I do have quite a background of sci-fi nerdiness too, so it was only logical that I’d attend Chicon 7 and cover it from a writer/producers/freelancer perspective. I didn’t go to the show thinking I’d find a ton of material for freelancers who specialize in non-fiction writing, but surprisingly enough, I did uncover quite a few resources and seminars non-fiction writers can get useful takeaways from.

Chicon/Worldcon, for those of you who aren’t familiar, is a science fiction convention that is held in a different major city every year. From Helsinki to San Antonio, there are cities the world over vying to host this show that features some of the legends of science fiction. This year’s luminaries included Ben Bova, George R.R. Martin (most recently famous for Game of Thrones now that it’s hit a cable audience) and Joe Haldeman. Neil Gaiman was there to accept a Hugo award for his work on Doctor Who, so you get the idea of how large this convention gets…

I discovered plenty of seminars and panel discussions aimed at working writers, artists, and other creatives; some of the most enlightening sessions covered raising money on Kickstarter, e-publishing, and social media. For a convention that would seem to appeal more to a consumer of books rather than a writer of them, this show offered plenty for the pro or would-be pros in our midst.

If you have never attended a genre-specific convention such as Worldcon (science fiction), HorrorHound Weekend (horror, naturally) or a related program, you might just be missing out on some interesting perspective on the craft and networking opportunities.

I attended Worldcon (AKA Chicon 7) looking for things to write about for Freelance-Zone.com but soon discovered some interesting opportunities as a filmmaker and script writer seeing as how there was an ongoing film festival featuring some high-concept sci-fi material, new projects by up-and-coming hopefuls, and Chicago indie filmmakers trying to make their mark on the scene. There was a whole lot of writing and filming talk going on–very inspirational.

So it was a show full of surprises. Yes, the standard sci-fi convention features were all there including people in costume, raucous after-con parties, and a dealer’s room crammed full of t-shirts and books. But there were plenty of hidden treasures to discover too–freelancers should give serious thought to finding a convention to attend and getting some new angles on their work they might not have thought of before.

Conventions are great networking tools for obvious business reasons, but they also get you out and about among people you wouldn’t otherwise meet–that’s the value of these events for me; the chance to look at what I do in a different way, through different filters, and thinking of new angles for future development.

–Joe Wallace

Writers – Log It!

by Catherine L. Tully

Freelance-Zone Editor, Catherine L. Tully
Freelance-Zone Editor, Catherine L. Tully

Ever wonder how much time you spend sitting in a given day? Or how many hours you actually work? Take a page from dieters everywhere and start a work log…

Like a food log, a work log is a tool you can use to learn more about your work habits. After keeping track of your hours for a couple of weeks, you will begin to see patterns emerge, which can in turn help you to figure out your most productive work schedule. It will also give you a “big picture” of how many hours (on average) you are working per day/per week. This can help you see (approximately) how much you are making per hour as well.

A work log doesn’t have to be fancy. All you need is a pen and paper – or a calendar of sorts. Simply log in when you start working and log out when you stop – along with the times. (I would recommend rounding up or down to the half-hour mark for ease.) At the end of the day, total the hours. Same goes for the end of the week.

When you have the info, you can then calculate your hourly rate. Then, ask yourself if you are using your time wisely…

It’s a very simple way to estimate a pay rate–but it works!