My first time trying NaNoWriMo last year was a complete failure.
For those of you who don't know, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month, and it is held every November. The idea is that you write a 50,000-word novel in the space of one month. An ambitious, yet exciting, prospect, to be sure!
So last November I tried it for the first time. My grand total for the month was a dismal 1,100 words. Ouch.
But then I happened to discover, midway through June this summer, that there is something called Camp NaNoWriMo which takes place every April and July. During the Camp version of NaNoWriMo, you get to choose the length of your book, and you also have the opportunity to write anything. It can be fiction or nonfiction, novel or story, screenplay or poetry... you get to choose. And I thought to myself, this is a little more up my alley. So I signed up for July's Camp NaNo.
Since I had failed so spectacularly back in November, I decided to keep things simple. Several people have asked me, since I started freelancing full-time, about whether I'm planning to write a book. I kept laughing the idea off, but when I realized there was a Camp NaNoWriMo, and was thinking about what to write about, I realized that there is so much I have learned about over the past few months which would be really helpful for new freelancers or business owners. And how better to convey that than in an e-book?
So that's how I found myself, in the week leading up to July's Camp NaNoWriMo, planning out a 15,000-word e-book on the business of writing and editing.
As it happened, for the first week of July, business slowed down. So I figured that it was the perfect time to get some writing done!
I wrote more than 5,000 words the first day, I was just so excited about Camp NaNo. For the next week or so, I wrote between 500 and 3,000 words each day (which actually didn't take up too much of my day), and I completed the second draft of the book in its entirety by day 10 at 17,112 words. I surpassed my original 15,000-word goal in one-third of the time I had expected!
The stars aligned perfectly, too: just around the same time as I completed the second draft and passed it on to Mr Science for a first review / edit, business picked up again. How very convenient.
My first-ever experience with Camp NaNoWriMo has taught me the following:
- Timing is crucial to creativity. If it hadn't been for a slow time in my business, I doubt I would have written the book quite so quickly. When you have your own business or you're a freelancer, it's a good idea to have a plan for the slow times so that you can at least still be productive even if you don't have a ton of work coming in. Writing a book on your industry is kind of perfect for that!
- Sometimes you need to broaden the rules. The original rules of the regular NaNoWriMo (a 50,000-word novel in 30 days) was a little too overwhelming and restricting for me. Being able to choose my own, much more manageable word count, and a genre which appealed to me, made this Camp version of NaNoWriMo go that much more smoothly.
- Having a daily goal can make a huge difference. I loved being able to see my little graph go up every day. Knowing that I was being held accountable by my profile on the Camp NaNo website was excellent motivation for me to keep working and keep writing to reach (and surpass!) my goals.
- Being practical about what you can really do is very important. Let's be honest: a 50,000-word novel in one month isn't very realistic for me. However, a 17,000-word book on business was exactly what I wanted to write about this month, so it was perfect! Knowing that I needed to write about 500 words / day made the project much less daunting, and I think that was a big part of the reason for how I was able to complete the book within the first 10 days.
- Plan and strategize to set yourself up for success. Before July even began, I mapped out my book. I wrote down some broad ideas I had for it, and the voice, tone, and style I wanted to go for, and I even wrote out the various chapters I wanted to write and some appendices to attach at the end of the book. When July started, all I had to do was write. Knowing exactly what I would be writing made it so much easier and more manageable for me to successfully complete.
I hope to spend the next six months or so writing a few more books on the subject of freelancing and owning your own writing / editing business during any down-time that comes up, and then publishing them at the same time next spring. Hopefully all goes well! But this July's Camp NaNoWriMo has certainly been a wonderful inspiration for me to share my knowledge with others and write practical resources and books on the subject. I'm excited to see the direction it takes.
Have you participated in NaNoWriMo or Camp NaNoWriMo? Have you written a book (print or e version) before? What have been your experiences? Is it something you haven't done yet but would like to do someday? Share in the comments section below!
Writers, or content creators, might be just the thing you need to enhance your business and to best market your business to your target audiences. Here's the background you need on why hiring a professional writer could be one of your best decisions.
Why does writing matter?
Just like with editing, having high-quality writing can make or break your business. High-quality writing is important for the following reasons:
- It provides your business (and therefore your products / services) with additional credibility.
- It shows how fantastic you and your business are, and speaks to and with your target audiences.
- It tells the story of your business - without being cheesy, bland, or generic.
- It illustrates that you are a professional and that you offer high-quality products / services.
- It balances scientific facts with anecdotal evidence and personal experience.
- It is personalized to your target audiences.
- It engages your readers and customers and leaves them wanting more.
What does a writer / content creator do?
A professional writer (also known as a content creator) can help to market and promote your business in all of the right ways. Here's what you can expect a writer to do when you hire them:
- Research and review your business, products / services, industry, and target audience to ensure a thorough understanding of who you are, what you do, what your industry is all about, and who your audience is and how to best engage them.
- Create, write, and put together relevant, engaging content for your business.
- Edit (and sometimes publish, in the case of blogs, for example) the content they have written.
- Identify and make good use of relevant and appropriate headlines, key words, and images.
- Advise and make recommendations on best promoting and marketing your content and using it as a tool for your business.
- Adapt writing style, tone, voice, format, and content based on your business, target audience, and medium.
- Ensure all writing is clear and concise, and has been proofread.
As you can see, there's a lot more that a writer does beyond *just* write for your business. Depending on the needs of your business, they could do everything from minimal research and writing of the piece, to a full-scale research, write, edit, and publish of the piece. It all depends on what you want and need! When you hire a professional writer, they can help to identify your needs and advise how they can best fit into your business team as well.
Why does high-quality writing matter to you? What do you look for in a professional writer? What have been your experiences with hiring writers for your business? Share in the comments section below!
Most of my friends and acquaintances have jobs where they work 9 - 5 on weekdays. Because of that, I get questions all the time about what it's like to be a freelancer. Since I adore my freelance life (and my dear friends!), I'm always happy to give them a glimpse into what the freelance life is all about! And today I'm going to share that with you, too. Here are some of the most common questions I receive about the freelance lifestyle, plus my responses.
The Freelance Life: Q & A
Q1: Do you wear pajamas or sweatpants all day long?
A1: Definitely not. I like pretty things, and I enjoy getting dressed up! On the weekend I'll usually work in my comfy clothes, but every other day of the week, I get dressed. It puts me in a good place for being productive and getting lots of work done.
Q2: Is it scary not knowing when the next paycheck is coming?
A2: Of course! Luckily, I love planning ahead and I also adore budgeting, so I pay very close attention to my finances and to my workload. I generally have several backup plans in case projects fall through or in case of slow times. But as scary as it is, it is so much more relaxing and enjoyable to not know when your next paycheck is coming and loving your work, compared to knowing when your next paycheck is coming and being unhappy in your job. I'll take freelancing any day!
Q3: Do you stick to a regular schedule?
A3: These days, my "weekend" is generally Friday and Saturday. Most days of the week, I wake up, exercise, spend the first hour of my day responding to emails and updating all of my social media accounts, then work for clients throughout the morning and the afternoon, and spend the evening doing administrative work for my business. I deal with household tasks and personal errands on Friday and Saturday, although I always work for at least a few hours on those days, too.
Q4: But you have, like, TONS of free time, right?
A4: Haha! No. Much of my work requires fast turnaround time, which means that I have to organize my time very wisely to make room for urgent jobs. And when I don't have work, that means that I'm not making an income, which means I can't pay my mortgage - so I spend most of my "free" time networking, marketing, and searching for more work.
Q5: What exactly do you DO all day?
A5: I sit in coffee shops with fancy, overpriced coffee, tapping on my computer as though I'm incredibly important but actually looking up shoe sales online.
KIDDING. Ninety-five percent of the time I work from home, and I spend my day working on projects for clients (editing, writing, and managing social media) and managing my business (dealing with administrative tasks and marketing my business). The actual work itself is split fairly evenly between writing and editing work (which might include everything from editing professional documents to writing articles and web copy to transcribing to editing manuscripts... a little bit of everything!).
At this stage in my career, since I'm still relatively new to the full-time freelance life, I also spend a fair amount of time networking and connecting with new and prospective clients. Since *I* am my brand, I probably spend around 50 hours each week on work items and business-related activities combined (and I work six or seven days each week).
Q6: Don't you miss being around people?
A6: As a matter of fact, I'm an introvert (I know, right? An editor / writer who's an introvert - so original). I love being around other people, but it drains me pretty quickly. At my previous job, I really liked everyone I worked with but I never had any energy to have a social life! Now that I work by myself all day, I have that much more energy for socializing. And besides that, Mr Science spends about 75% of his time working from home while he is doing his Masters degree, so I actually do have company throughout the day.
Q7: Do you get distracted by personal stuff all the time when you're supposed to be working?
A7: For me, I *am* my brand. And that means that a lot of my personal life runs parallel to my work life! But in all honesty, I actually get more distracted by my work life than my personal life. I dislike running personal errands with a passion (I actually put off renewing my passport for MONTHS, even though it only took about 30 minutes in total to get new photographs, fill out the form, and stand in line to hand in the form. How embarrassing). If there's one thing I've learned from the freelance life, it's that I would so much rather do work than deal with menial personal tasks!
Q8: Freelance editors charge a lot of money! Why is it so expensive?
A8: This question is answered perfectly by Small Blue Dog Publishing (you can read two articles on the subject: Why are book editors so expensive?? and The other reason book editors are SO expensive). In a nutshell, these articles explain how long it takes to edit a piece (about 1,000 words / hour) and how many other things are included in the fee (such as the computer, professional development, memberships, business development, etc.).
Depending on the project, my editing rates are around 5 cents / word or $50 / hour. As you can see when looking at standard and national rates, listed on websites such as the Professional Writers Association of Canada and Freelance Industry Report and Media, Entertainment, and Arts Alliance, my rates are pretty average (and actually quite low considering that I specialize in rush jobs). Editing rates can seem like a lot, but hiring an editor is well worth it!
What types of questions do you get with your line of work? Do you have any other questions about being a freelancer? What do you like best about your job? Share in the comments section below!
So you have written a manuscript, copy for your website, children's book, promotional or professional material, newsletter, or just about any other document you can think of - and someone tells you that you should get it edited. But why? Why does editing matter, and what does an editor do?
Why does editing matter?
Editing can make a huge difference to your work! By getting your materials professionally edited, you will be able to ensure that:
- Your writing is cleaner and more concise, without losing the voice and tone of the piece.
- Your writing is free from typos, inconsistencies, and errors in grammar or sentence structure (which not only frees you from embarrassment, but also makes your work that much more credible!).
- Your writing is clear and appealing to your target audience.
- You are able to convey your message efficiently and effectively.
- There is nothing lacking in or missing from your document.
- Your final product is of the highest quality.
What does an editor do?
A professional editor can look at your writing from the basics of proofreading to entire developmental and structural editing, depending on the type of document and your needs. Here is what an editor is generally doing when they are at work:
- Reviewing for (and fixing!) typos and spelling / grammar mistakes.
- Comparing your work with relevant style guides and adhering to them.
- Checking for consistency in the content of your writing.
- Providing comments and recommendations on your word choice, the style and voice of your writing, and best practices for appealing to and engaging with readers.
- Formatting your work where necessary to ensure it flows as smoothly as possible.
- Critiquing and offering a reader perspective on the document before it goes public.
- Rewriting ambiguous or convoluted sections.
- Researching and fact-checking as needed.
- Identifying gaps or areas where more content is needed.
- Ensuring that all work is publisher-ready!
Why does editing matter to you? How has editing helped clean up your work? What are you looking for in an editor? Share in the comments section below!
I currently have four of my own blogs that I write: Living Healthy in the Real World, Living Rhetorically in the Real World, Living Fashionably in the Real World, and Health Writer Eats. I started each new blog because I realized that the blogs I already had didn't provide me with the opportunity to write about other topics I was interested in, but I also didn't want to stop writing about the topic(s) I was already focused on. That's how I came to have four blogs to manage.
It might seem a little crazy to have four blogs, but if you really want to have more than "just" one (and one is obviously a huge amount of work on its own!), here are some useful tips and tricks for how to manage and write multiple blogs:
Use a blog editorial calendar to sort your ideas and plan ahead.
This is so important! I keep my blog editorial calendar in an Excel document, with a different sheet for each month. It includes publishing dates, topics / titles, main points for the content, and other details. It's a wonderful way to keep track of all of my ideas and schedule them for appropriate times. It also enables me to have good ideas for topics to write about for when my creativity is low (and when you are managing multiple blogs, you will experience times when you can't seem to think of any new ideas. They will pass! But for those times, it's nice to have a store of ideas in place).
Theoretically, you should be able to write blog posts ahead of time and schedule them to publish at a later date - for example, when you get too busy with other things to write blog posts, or when you fall ill (*cough* me last week *cough*). If you don't plan ahead (*cough* me *cough*) and actually write the blog posts ahead of time, then you won't be able to reap one of the best parts about having a blog editorial calendar. I'm working on getting better at that. You should too! But if you do miss publishing on schedule, just reschedule the idea to be written and published at a later date.
Determine a reasonable frequency for publishing blog posts.
This is something you need to be very realistic about. For myself, I generally *plan* to publish two blog posts per week for each of my blogs. This doesn't happen. Other things will inevitably come up and those two posts per week will fall by the wayside (and suddenly three weeks have passed since your last blog post! Oops).
So instead, I am transitioning toward the goal of publishing one blog post per week on Living Healthy, Living Rhetorically, and Living Fashionably. Health Writer Eats sort of maintains itself, since it's primary a food diary blog, so there isn't much involved with writing the content for it. That's what I think will work for me - depending on the type of blogs you have and the other things you have going on in your life, and how much time and energy you want to devote to your blogs, you might be able to publish more or less blog posts. Be prepared, however, that it's highly unlikely that you will be able to publish with the same frequency when you have multiple blogs compared to when you had one blog.
Write about topics that you are interested in or know a lot about.
One of the reasons for why I am able to manage four different blogs is because, as I mentioned above, one of my blogs (Health Writer Eats) is really just a list of everything that I ate in a day. It is very easy to maintain.
In addition, my other blogs all feature things that I am both interested in and also know a decent amount about: I'm a Certified Holistic Nutritionist and have worked in the health and food security industry for a number of years; I have a Bachelor of Arts degree in Rhetoric, Writing, and Communications and I enjoy learning and sharing about topics on communication, language, and social media; and I love trying new looks and mixing high-quality items with budget-friendly ones when it comes to fashion and accessories. Done!
If you don't write about a topic that you are interested in, you are going to burn out and stop blogging altogether. If you don't know much about the topic, you will feel overwhelmed from writing multiple blogs and having to constantly seek knowledge, and you are going to again burn out and stop blogging altogether. Ideally, you want to write about things that you both have a passion for and are knowledgeable about.
Create an overarching blog plan for personal use.
This should include information on your blogs as a whole, as well as pieces for each individual blog. What are your blogs all about? What do you hope to gain by having multiple blogs? Why do you need more than one? What makes each one different and unique? How do you intend to see them grow and evolve over time? What will you do to ensure you reach your goals with your blogs? How will you maintain all of them? How much do you have to give your blogs in terms of resources, ideas, and time? Think about all of these things. Once you have strong answers for each of these questions, you will be that much further ahead in managing and writing multiple blogs!
Use consistent branding.
All of my blogs fit under the "living in the real world" philosophy and use the same sort of voice, style, and format. They just cover different topics.
If you use consistent branding with your blogs, you will be able to see that much better how they all interact and come together organically. It will also help your vision for your blogs to become a reality when they are all working towards the same sorts of goals. In addition, consistent branding is helpful for readers to be able to understand who you are and what your blogs are all about that much more easily.
What would you add to this list? Have you tried writing more than one blog? Is it something you can ever see yourself doing? What challenges (and successes!) have you experienced in blogging? Share in the comments section below!
"He'll never catch up!" the Sicilian cried. "Inconceivable!"
"You keep using that word!" the Spaniard snapped. "I don't think it means what you think it does."
That line from Inigo Montoya in William Goldman's The Princess Bride has become quite famous over the years. And no wonder: most of us, at some point or another, have experienced the irritation or frustration of hearing someone else use a word in an incorrect context - and also have had the embarrassment of using a word incorrectly ourselves!
One of the biggest troubles with words (as well as one of the most exciting things about words) is how frequently we use words without *really* knowing what it means. Think about it. Take a word, any word. Preferably one that you use in everyday conversation. Can you define it? Not just find a synonym for it - but really truly define it? Probably not. I know that I usually can't.
Mr Science has an excellent vocabulary. He likes to use big words in sentences, but often when he does, we both have to pause for a moment: we both know that he used the word in the right context, but can't quite pinpoint what exactly the word means. So, of course, we open up a dictionary (or, more often, use an online dictionary. Thank you, smart phones), and learn what the word means. It's fun!
When I was younger and writing novels with every spare moment I had, I used to do this all the time: I would use big words that I didn't actually know what the definitions were. I got into rather a bad habit with using words that I didn't know the definition of. In fact, it wasn't until university that I began to look in dictionaries when I wasn't sure about the definition. One of my professors had assigned reading for all of us students, and at the next class, he asked us if we knew what a word meant that was in the book. We all shook our heads. He just stared at us and said, "And... none of you thought to look it up?"
I think he was more disappointed than anything else, that a bunch of Rhetoric majors hadn't taken the time to look words up in the dictionary (which, admittedly, is rather sad). Since then, I always look words up in dictionaries. It's a satisfying and enlightening process! Even better is the fun that comes with guessing a definition, and then looking it up to see who was closest (yes, that is an actual game my family used to play around the dinner table. And it is awesome).
The other side of the coin here is using words incorrectly (as with our lovely quote from The Princess Bride). The mother dear and I were just discussing today about the word "peruse." In our society, it tends to be used as a word to describe someone glancing through something, or flipping through something quickly. In fact, it means the exact opposite: "peruse" means to look at something in great detail. Somehow this word has been misused time and time again until we don't even know that we are using it incorrectly! Sadly, there are many words like this out there. But by looking words up in the dictionary when we cannot definitively define them (heehee), we can both educate ourselves and deal with this trouble with words!