Writers Deserve Respect

open-book-1378562978VkiWhen I recently lost both my primary clients due to financial issues, I did what I really did not want to do: began searching the job boards for listings. Yes, I knew these were not the best paying gigs, but I needed something to tide me over. I needed something quickly and couldn’t just sit back and do nothing while I rebuilt my database of active clients. I found a few very good paying ones, but didn’t have any luck with those–I had signed up with one in May and still haven’t received any offers (apparently the same is true of many writers according to their forum), and the other one actually turned me down for two categories in which I have extensive experience, so I gave up on that possibility.

Reviewing some of my newsletters brought some possibilities, but one possibility called HireWriters.com was a complete joke. I filled out the information, sent in the sample, the entire works, and when I got their response they had me listed as “Beginner.” Really, I thought? I’m not trying to brag, but if you go to my website and read my bio, you will see I have been writing full-time for the past eight years! That means I am in no way a “beginner.” As if that isn’t insulting enough, they thought I was going to write for $1.18 for 500 words I think the job posting said. Do you know what you going to get for $1.18? If you’re really lucky, you might get 50 words (if I’m in a good mood), but in all likelihood you’ll get a maximum of 25.

I’m not quite sure I can begin to understand the line of thinking of these job boards–a/k/a content mills. What makes them think writers have all the time in the world to write for such horrid rates? I’d have to write for 24 hours straight without any sleep in order to make enough money to help with the household bills, and my last two clients paid me way more than that–10 articles a week gave me enough to buy groceries, pay the electric bill, pay a credit account I have AND have money left over to help my two daughters who are struggling financially. Now am busy networking and trying to get back into the swing of writing on a regular basis again.

It’s very disheartening when you get so little respect as a writer, and there are so many people who think you will work for a pittance. I had another response that offered a penny a word! I can’t remember the last time I worked for that measly amount–I have one occasional client remaining who pays me .02 a word but that’s only because he is a long-standing client and never asks for more than rewrites thus no research involved.

I have to admit through all this I am beginning to learn how to recognize scammers and those who truly have no respect for a writer’s time. It is for this reason I invested some cash into setting up a new website, one that is inexpensive but not free. Perhaps this step will put me in touch with some clients who have respect for my time and writing skills. Yes, I will brag about my writing ability because if I don’t have faith in myself, who will? The effort we take to write and write well is important, and we cannot let anyone take advantage of that.

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Revisions: the Key to Success

This blog is a guest post by fellow writer, Mark Hopkins.

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During the spring of 2010 I submitted a short story to a local academic literary journal for release in a publication that coming fall. The editor thought the story was “excellent,” but he insisted that some revisions were necessary. Naturally, I didn’t object.

The most unexpected yet flattering offer he made, however, was that he would be willing to meet me for discussions on how to revise the piece. This is very unusual for an editor to do, especially when it comes to writers they don’t even know. The story must have left quite an impression on him.

In any case, we met at a Java Hut nearby two days later. We dissected and analyzed that story backwards and forwards. I agreed with much of what he had said but disagreed on other minor points. No impasse developed between us; he and I got along great.

“So, this is a matter of when and not if?” I asked, and he concurred. Of course, I knew that, but I wanted to confirm it anyway. He even said if I refused to make certain changes, he would work with me. That told me he was determined to publish the piece.

The revisions took me several hours throughout a week’s time to do, which I expected because revisions are always time-consuming when they involve story changes and/or rewrites. That said, I enjoyed the work, and I must say the story turned out better in some ways. That was a real learning experience for me.

Revisions for Every Writer in Every Context

The above account should serve as reassurance for those submitting manuscripts (and many writers now are doing that on a regular basis) that imperfection does not necessarily lead to rejection. It does show, however, that revisions are both inescapable and very important in the writing process.

This reality pertains to everyone who writes—middle, high school and college students as well as hobbyists and professional writers like journalists—and it refers to all kinds of writing: research articles, books, novels, short stories, essays and even simple “what-I-did-last-summer” kinds of presentations. No student or writer should ever underestimate the importance of revising his or her work– the right choice can literally make the difference between failure and success.

With that in mind I put before you a brief but challenging exercise. Below are a couple of text samples that require proofreading and revisions. This will hone your self-editing skills for your future writing and be a fun activity. Use not only the knowledge and tools you gained in school and from others but also your instincts. If something does not seem right, chances are it is not.

Sample 1:

Bagleys trip too the story for some mllk was going to be a simple one. Little did he know that when he left home, that trip would change his entire life.

Little did he no that when he got too the store, he never saw the gun the man had pointing at the clerk. After getting his milk, he walked rite into it. Bagley was quickly taken hostage with the gun pointed at his head. He sweated up a storm as he was forced into the truck waiting outside. Bagly thought he would never sea his family again.

” Whadda ya gonna do with me?” he asked wit a tremor in his voice.

“Shaddup!” the guy snapped, “or I’m gonna end it fer sure.”

Sample 2:

The Titannic sailed on April 11, 1912 from Southampton Engeland wit 2200 people on board. The captain was too retire soon, an he looked forward to his last trip at see. Little did he know upon sailing that it would be his last trip in more ways then one.

At 11 pm Sunday 16th after five days at sea, the titannic colided with an iceburg, puncturing a series of holes and popping rivets from her hull. The forward compartments we’re flooding really very quickly.

The captain went too the wirless room and instructed the operators to send out morse code in an attempt to contact other ships for help. No one was close—the titannic was doomed

In a matter of two an a half hours the titannic gradually sunk. breaking in too an falling to the ocean floor. Fifteen hundred people died that night, many of them children

The world will not forget the loss it was such a tradegy that changed the way men sail. Their are now lifboats for all so that all on board can bee saved.

Final Thoughts and Other Considerations

The two samples above are different types of writing: the first is a piece of fiction, the second a research account. As an editor, you must use a different approach for each one. The obvious grammatical and spelling errors require attention, but both samples have other deeper considerations as well.

Explore other possibilities. What other means can improve the above samples? Are you able to use metaphors or additional foreshadows? Are there any redundancies? Are you able to condense the text without affecting clarity? In which ways can you effectively use vocabulary to enhance the color and dynamic of each piece? Are elaborations necessary? If this is the case, how, where and why should you do so?

Please keep in mind these pieces, or excerpts, are more in the nature of drafts, so a lot of applied work, both obvious and subtle, can improve them.

Go ahead, try it, and feel free to share your thoughts. Remember: all insight is helpful.

NOTE: Please do not construe the *obvious* errors in these samples as condescending. Many younger readers will find the grammatical and spelling issues a challenge. There are deeper issues that will appeal to older students and professionals alike. Thanks.

Do Authors Need Editors?

ImageI blogged about a similar topic a few years ago, and it appears some things never change. There are still many authors–and even those claiming to be editors–who insist hiring a professional editor is an unnecessary and frivolous expense. It amazes me these very people are making these statements in writer’s groups that consist of new writers who may have a great story to tell but don’t have the least idea how to put it together. Apparently there are still many people who think editors are no more than high-priced proofreaders!

One of the biggest complaints I see is the cost factor. Yes, editors can be expensive–I’m a copy editor in addition to be a writer, so I understand the concerns. However, if you want to make money from writing, you have to be willing to invest some money. For any business to succeed it is important to make an investment. What’s the old saying? “You have to invest money to make money.” That is true of not just retail business and other commercial enterprises but writing as well. If you want to make money, you have to be willing to invest some money into that venture. It may mean waiting a little longer to publish, but you will have a product that looks professional and has a better chance of selling.

What is the problem? Why do so many people have this line of thinking? It appears there are many who want to rush into things because they think they are going to immediately make money, and this just isn’t going to happen. I have writer friends who have been waiting for two or three years to see royalties from their work, and these are people who actually invested money in professional editors. In fact, many of them even hired professional designers and are still having trouble.

Another with this line of thinking in today’s market is the difficulty new authors have gaining the attention of traditional publishers. Apparently in today’s market agents and publishers want manuscripts that are almost clean; some are even asking for the name of the editor the author used. Do you want to be left standing in the rain in order to save a little bit of money? If you lack cash, there are ways you can afford an editor such as bartering services with someone who has editing experience. You don’t want to ask your next door neighbor who has never edited in his or her life, however; that defeats the entire purpose.

The other thing that is important here is not all editors charge thousands of dollars. There are actually some of us who have reasonable rates because we understand the situation other writers are facing in the current marketplace. Personally I usually charge about $2 a page for copy editing, and I tell anyone who is interested we can work it out so they can pay in installments as long as the full price is paid before I release the book. Do not make the mistake of thinking you can effectively self-edit your own work and save money on editing because the truth is there are only perhaps about one percent of authors who can do that. We are too close to our work, so what we will see is what we meant to write rather than what we actually wrote.

Look at your writing as a business, and you will not think of second-guessing your work. Understand that even the “greats” hire editors or are published by a traditional publisher who provides editing. It’s important to remember traditional publishers do not do the in-depth editing they once did, and anyone who tells you otherwise needs to document that (I’ve heard from hundreds and maybe thousands of published authors with whom I have come into contact that some publishers do nothing more than proofreading). You need an editor for more than typos and grammar corrections. There are things such as continuity, fact checking, changes in POV without transition, making sure the plot is strong, checking for a believable storyline and strong characterization. The average author cannot accomplish these tasks with a self-edit alone.

Romance Writers are Not Serious Writers? Really, Now???????

Romantic CoupleIn a discussion currently going on in LinkedIn I had the misfortune to read a post from another writer who is of the misconception that romance writers are not serious writers! Really? This person (whose name I will be good enough to omit) is also of the opinion that romance writers are not quality writers. Really? Mind you, I love romance and it is my writing genre of choice, and yes, I am a serious writer, and who is this person to judge the writing abilities of those who  choose romance, probably the highest selling genre available.

Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with those who choose not to read romance: after all, I don’t like science fiction or horror. I’ve said many times when the subject of Stephen King came up in discussions that while I don’t like WHAT he writes, I will not say he isn’t a good writer. Having never read his work, how would I know that anyway? He must be doing something right though, to make the amount of money he does and continue being on the NYT Best Seller’s List. My complaint is not with people who don’t like romance but who attempt to degrade it into a lower style of writing.

Do you prefer literary fiction? There is nothing wrong with this type of fiction, either–if one can even put a definition on it in the 21st century. What used to be called “literary fiction” may no longer exist, and even love stories from centuries gone by may not exist as they once did. For instance, Romeo & Juliet would not be called a romance in today’s market because it ends with a tragedy instead of Happy Ever After or even Happy for Now, especially elements in today’s romance genre.

Where does this leave those of us who enjoy reading and writing romance? We should be free to do both as we feel the mood. It is not up to other writers to say we are not serious writers and do not write well but the buying public. They are the most important elements, after all. If you can’t present a good plot along with a great romance you won’t retain readers. What should you do with naysayers? Do as I do and don’t pay attention to them or tell them to read the statistics and then get back to working on that wonderful romance novel.