Tuesday, December 13, 2016

What is 'it'?

A book critique I had done by a published author almost turned my writing world upside down. I expected she would love my book. But she tore it apart. I let it simmer for some time before returning to it. 

When I returned to the manuscript, I took her criticism and re-wrote almost the entire book. Then I went ahead an published it on my own deciding not to get another critique or hire a professional editor. 

Most eBooks I sell cost little more than a Starbucks Grande. Why would I invest $500 or so in something where I may earn back $100? 

Writers give a lot of free time up because they have something to say and love writing. Simple as that. And a worker deserves her wages. Selling any book is a risk, and one I'm taking regularly. 

Now, one thing I did learn from the critique was the use of the word "it." She kept circling it and asking "what is it?" Any normal human should understand, I thought. For instance, in this phrase, "If the shoe fits, wear it." 

But now I stop and pause on the word it and plug in what I'm talking about in most cases. Next time you're writing and using the word it make sure a reader who jumps in will know what it is. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

A Tool Called Natural Reader

I may have offered these ideas before. Just now, I re-loaded a nifty program I had on my last laptop. It's called "Natural Reader." Get it here

It's just another way to proofread your documents. Choose the voice you'd like to read your document, upload your document and hear it read. 

I've used this program for editing. It allows me to rest my eyes at times. It allows me to walk around the room, stand, or follow along with it. If it reads well, I'm set. If it does't read well, I'm sure to catch the needed changes.  

There are times I rush to publish or send in my submissions without leaving a block of time. More often than not, leaving a block of time between writing and editing is better. Leaving my writing over night, over a few days, or even over months or years allows me to return to my writing with fresh eyes. 

There is always room for improvement in writing, but we can't just keep editing and expect to make a sale. Still, I want to put out my best work and that often requires several go-throughs. Natural Reader is one more tool I often use. 

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Late Night Writing and Other Matters

It's late at night. I was about to head for bed, but I felt the need to update this blog. 

Late nights are nothing new to me. It seems to be the way I'm wired. I write well late at night maybe because by then there aren't competing thoughts of I should do this or that. Working from home, I can't help but feel compelled to balance writing time with housework that I see all around me. If I was out at an office instead, I wouldn't face the constant reminder of things to be done. 

Not only do I tend the home, but my dog can be pretty bossy demanding walks as often as possible. She doesn't understand, "Momma's got to sit and write today." 

My dog is a good fitness coach, but everything I do for her is time-consuming too. My writing is often traded off for dog walks, shampoos, and feedings. 

By day's end, it seems natural to push aside all the other responsibilities and finally focus on writing. The husband is in bed, and the dog sleeps at my feet. 


But the above isn't what I was going to share just now. Here's what I wanted to write about dreary-eyed as I am:

Recently, I was in a meeting where a woman said she felt suspicious of people who have some sad story to tell, solve it, write a book about it, become a speaker, and make millions of dollars. 

I wanted to slap her. Why? Because most writers don't make millions of dollars. What a myth so many believe.

The person this woman was referring to who had solved her problem and written a book wasn't a high-profile individual with a broad platform. Today, publishers will rarely take on an average person. They want writers with credentials. They want to know the writer will bring in book buyers and do successful marketing themselves. 


The idea that an average woman who's written a book will make millions is delusional. Most writers put in more unpaid time than they will ever make back. Publishing on Kindlle is free, but Kindle takes a cut of the sales. Personally, I make only about $3 to $4 per book. It makes it hard to justify all the time I put into writing.

Self-publishing hard copies is very problematic because it's difficult to sell hard copies especially when shipping costs need to be factored in. Shipping across borders is even more problematic as there may be exchange rates and duty payments. I know a few women with garages full of unsold self-published print books. And these are books they paid out-of-pocket to have produced. Some will see a financial loss. 

I pondered this friend's statement and reflected on it as the web content and eBook writer I am. I decided the purpose of writing for most writers is to share our story with a hope to encourage or inspire someone. We may hope to hit it big financially, and that's not unheard of, but we write because we have something to say. And more of us write because we love writing. 

The woman seemed to mock the idea of the woman writer's sad story. But most good stories have a crisis and turning point in them. Even self-help books point to problems and provide solutions. Hallmark movies always have a crisis and turning point. (I know there are more official terms, but I can't think of them just now.)  

Sad stories are part of telling a story. I'm not sure what the woman was so skeptical of unless she sensed impure motives by the woman speaker she'd listened to who had a book for sale. Maybe she wasn't impressed with her story. That's okay. She doesn't have to buy the book. 

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

A Writer's Life Needs Balance

(reprint of article from 2011)

As I mentioned, writing is something I must do.  I'm writing all the time.  When I'm out and about, I'm gathering information from what I'm doing and often thinking, "How could I write an article on this?"  Or, while working in the garden, around the house, or walking the dog, I find myself writing in my mind.  When I read something online, I want to write my own version, or summarize it, or go off in a new direction from an idea sparked. 

Author Judith Couchman has a quote in her book Designing a Woman's Life, "Many competent women have a difficult time distinguishing between passion and workaholism."  She points out that a passion feeds you while addictiveness devours you. A passion brings out a fuller, happier person while, addiction leads to discontentment and isolation.  She also hints that our passion can interfere with our spirituality when we put it ahead of God and nurture of our spiritual being.

When you become a writer, it's hard to shut the thoughts off when they seem to be flowing from fingertip to screen so well.   I've known dinners to burn because of spending time writing in between cooking.

I've spent way to many nights writing into the wee hours of the morning.  It's hard to say goodbye to imaginary characters or audience for the night.  It's hard to resist sitting at the computer upon rising to do more writing.  

When you become a freelance writer working from home, you need to get the work out or you'll have no income.  The more you write, the more you will sell and the more income you'll make.  It's easy, then, to become tied to your computer.

When you write at home, it's easy to become isolated.  And, as with any passion, it's easy to one day hate your passion for it's inability to give back and meet your other needs.  In other words, made an addiction, it can rob and cheat you.

So the remedy?  Writers must force themselves to build balance into their lives.  They must say no the the computer keyboard.  They must go and visit with their family members.  They must get fresh air and exercise.  They must be more than their writing if they want a balanced life.

How is your balance?


Thursday, August 18, 2016

Gift Shops, Magazines and Writing


I just returned from a short trip that included a stop at a gift shop. There's something that may never change, and that is my love for visiting gift shops.  I'm a self-confessed gift-shop junkie 

One area of the gift shop I'm always drawn to is the magazine racks.  There is a magazine for almost every subject!  Yes, of course we can read all types of information on the Internet, but one thing magazines do is provide gorgeous glossy pictures.  I'm a visual learner and artist, and pictures draw me in.  They are where I find most of my ideas for decorating.  They show me on-trend decor.  They teach how to complete a craft.  Pictures show great depictions of cities and tourist destinations, allowing me to imagine them better than printed descriptions ever could.


It is still tedious querying to write for a magazine.  I don't know how many magazines are purchasing work by freelance writers. I've sold to many online magazines. My articles can be picked up through content provider Constant-Content.  

Articles can be purchased there by anyone:  website managers, magazines, newspapers, bloggers. My articles can be purchased under my pen name Joy R. Calderwood at http://www.constant-content.com/

I provide the article, you provide the gorgeous glossy photo!  A writer's marriage made in heaven.

Of course with all the web content available, magazine purchases have taken a dip.  You might have noticed the resulting compensating price increase.  (I paid almost $20 for a magazine for my daughter).  Freelancers, photographers and printing companies still need to earn money to stay viable too. If you purchase from one, plan to pay fair market value.

No matter what's on the web, there will always be a place for magazines in gift shops.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

How to Become a Freelance Writer

In the past week I've been asked twice about how a person gets into freelance writing. Through the years I've had at least four others ask me through Facebook, and a few in person.

This is the kind of question I love and hate. I love the instant connect writer-to-writer. I hate that answering this type of thing is time-consuming, non-paying, and generally like welcoming competition into my sphere.

It reminds me of a lot of life coaching inquiries I had after becoming a certified life coach. Most coaches offer 20 minute sessions no charge, but I also got a number of email inquiries. After a while I realized it is my right to refuse to answer people who are more-or-less snooping about the career and have no intention of working with me.

Some freelancers and life coaches make a lot of money. Others of us don't. My first word of caution to those asking is to say if they need the income, packing up their day job to become a freelance writer is the wrong choice.

Other than that, would-be freelance writers need to write regularly and they need to dig.  All freelancers dig for work. We all dig for research. We all dig for new clients. The internet is our playing field.

No one will hand work to you. You will have to keep developing, take risks, learn to accept rejection and criticism, and be humble enough to be corrected on improper grammar.

I still don't have it all down perfectly. I know I hyphenate at times I shouldn't. I've taken courses and have guidebooks, but when writing, like a quick blog, who cares? I don't. This is how I practice, vent, and develop.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Just Write, Maybe Take a Course

When I hear of someone who likes to write or ponders becoming a writer, my advice is "just write."  Write regularly.  Write in a journal, write a blog, write into a computer document.

What do you write?  Most times, writing daily is a good way of purging the brain.  It's like venting on paper.  You write your feelings, inspiring thoughts, reinforcing affirmations, about your day, or about a topic of interest.

You don't have to have a result in mind when you write; not like at school where you write because you have to to get a mark.  It really doesn't matter what you write each day.  No one will be marking it!

An amazing thing occurs when you go back and read your notes.  Your notes may inspire you. They might become the basis for a blog or article.  They ground you.  They tell you how far you've come.

Compiled, your writing may become a good eBook one day.  All writing is valuable--either as a personal release or when used to help another person.

Another amazing thing is you get better at your craft if you develop it over time. I've been going back and editing old articles and sometimes I just shake my head. Some of them are lousy-looking now.


If you get to the point where you want to submit work, you will read submission guidelines. You might also read samples of work.  If the submission guidelines are thorough, you'll pick up tips of what not to do.  If you submit to an organization that screens the work, feedback from an editor may be helpful.

Courses have value that isn't necessarily obvious.  I took a copyediting course thinking I might grow the simple editing/proofreading business I had.  I learned that the editors in that organization edit to the "letter of the law."  They reference all types of "official" rule books that ongoingly change their rules.  To be an editor of that caliber takes far more commitment than I'm interested in.

But what was interesting was how the course helped me improve my writing. Through the lessons I learned things I'd never known.  I also used a critique coach.  I picked up a few things from her, although some other things she commented on were maddening.  In all these situations, I've learned to take away the good and dispose of the bad.  No writer needs to feel discouraged.  A lot of writing is subjective anyhow.  There are new ways of writing that old school writers may not embrace and pick you apart on in a critique.  Be wary, and test your gut reaction.  If God has called you to write something, do it.

Sometimes harsh critiques can force you to make harsh changes to your manuscript that are needed in a good way. Sometimes they push you to write as an effort to prove yourself.  Sometimes the critiques give you the impetus to move forward in spite of what you've been told.

Personally, I think there are too many wet blankets out there.  We are in an era of innovation.  Writers usually have a strong need to express themselves, like I am doing in this post.  If I worried about all my punctuation and proper phrasing all the time, I'd get no where.

So find expression.  Forget about perfectionism.  If your piece is to be bought, it will be bought.  If someone thinks it stinks, fine.  Let them have their opinion. Just do your best work, have fun, and go for it! 

Finding Words for Your Story

I usually write non-fiction. In non-fiction, especially articles for web content, we need to write concisely. That means, we don'...