Occasionally, even the best freelance writer will run dry. Clients seem scarcer than good TV shows, and no matter how many projects you apply for, you don’t get the job. It’s times like these that can make anyone who needs a steady paycheck prone to panic. So what is a writer in need of work to do?
This is the time of year I hate living in my beloved South. The heat and humidity is daunting to say the least. I become a whiner of the worst kind and want to hibernate in the nice cool confines of air conditioning. Yet, there is a part of me that needs the fresh air, the sunlight, the sounds of the birds floating in the open windows. So, I am at battle. I rise early on most mornings when the world is only beginning to stir and the sun isn’t streaking through the gathering of trees we have behind our house. I open the windows to the gray blanket of light. Dayclean is what the Geechee call it. The space between the shadows of night and the first rays of sun. I love this time of day so much I used this saying at the beginning of my second novel, The Storycatcher. A novel, now, I often want to shove to the side, forget about entirely. Why, you ask, would an author want to forget one of her published works?
The Writer Within
A Solid Foundation is Essential: Article One
In this fourth series, we will begin our journey into the actual “writing” process, allowing our writers within to take the wheel and spearhead that trip to the finished manuscript. In “What Kind of Writer Are You?” we met our personal creative souls and established a relationship with them. “Embolden Your Writer With a Plan” gave them direction. Then we looked at providing them with the proper tools in “Give Your Writer Resources.” If you’ve followed the steps at the end of each column, you have done everything possible to prepare your writer within for the road ahead…now it’s his/her time to begin working! In “A Solid Foundation Is Essential” we will look at why a rock-steady base is so important, discuss in general possible footprints on which to build stories, and end with the example of “how-to-write-an-essay” as an illustration of one possible foundation.
Give Your Writer Resources: Article Ten
We have accumulated quite a number of resources! Visualize sitting in your workspace and assessing your stockpile. I’ll use my office as a guide, but let’s refer to it in the third person “Janice,” my writer within because it has been designed for her working style.
Janice’s workspace is a “U” shape. Her computer sits in the center of the setup with two long areas where she can spread out her writing to either side. Shelves line the wall above her computer, and the area between the desktop and shelves is a bulletin board.
On the lower two shelves Janice has placed her writing reference books, some resources useful to all writers, others specific to what she writes:
A Storyteller Recently a book club that read only academic nonfiction of the best quality read Ghost On Black Mountain as their monthly book. This was their attempt to step into a new genre. Boy, I was already in trouble. My books have ghosts and the main characters are mountain people from Appalachia. Folklore abounds….
You’ve given the matter a great deal of thought. You’re tired of the blaring alarm clock, the daily struggle in the asphalt jungle, and the coffee shop knowing what to make as soon as you walk in. Struggling to stay awake during the day and fall asleep at night, your stomach twisting into knots during every weekly meeting. You’re no rat, and you want out of the race. You want to use your skills on your own terms, more or less. You want to become a freelance writer.
Give Your Writer Resources: Article Nine
The term “first readers” is exactly what it implies: the first individuals who read your story when you feel it is absolutely perfect and has arrived at the ready-to-submit stage. I firmly believe no writer can effectively proofread his/her own finished piece. At least, I cannot; I am too familiar with the story and proof it the way I want it to read. These first readers will change from story to story as you understand what it is exactly you need to look for in a first reader. If each person is carefully selected, this particular reader will enhance your writing because he/she may contribute something you didn’t know you needed or solve a problem you had no idea how to correct. While these readers may not know the individual reasons they were chosen, you will have them look for a specific “exactness” in your finished manuscript. I didn’t learn this until after I had presented several stories for a first reading.
Established freelance writers are, at times, skilled and fortunate enough to be able to pick and choose from prospective new clients. While this is flattering and ensures a steady supply of possible projects, it also means that you have to decide what’s best for your needs. This is where it can be a triumph or a disaster depending on the choices you make.
Give Your Writer Resources: Article Eight
Writing classes instruct writers on particular topics. These topics can be as broad as “So You Want to Write a Book? What a Novel Idea!” (the actual name of a course I took at Emory University through its continuing education program), or as specific as “How to develop Characters through the Use of Dialog.” Classes may address other issues: “Finding an Agent,” “Promote Yourself through Facebook,” or “How to Write a Query Letter.” Writing classes usually begin and end on a certain date, last a definite period of time, and have a syllabus that addresses a new aspect of the topic at each session. Writing workshops are similar in that they, too, address general and specific topics related to writing, but as a rule they meet in a concentrated time block. Critique groups differ from writing classes and workshops. A critique group is an interactive session where writers read and discuss each other’s work. As with writing classes, I’ve had good and bad experiences. If used correctly, a critique group can strengthen your writing.