Monday, October 26, 2015

On Becoming... A Freelance Writer For MTV by Jocelyn Rish

I recently started writing about YA books for the MTV News website, and Michelle kindly invited me to talk about the experience at IWSG, which is perfect because my insecurities almost kept me from getting the freelancing gig.

When I first saw the listing, it sounded so awesome, but that tiny voice in my head immediately convinced me to forget about it. It reminded me I had no experience as a freelancer. I didn’t know enough about YA books to put myself out there as an expert. They’d never hire me anyway so why bother.

And stupid me listened to that voice and decided not to apply.

But for the next two days, I couldn’t stop thinking about the job: ideas for my application, ideas for articles, picturing myself with a byline on the MTV website.

But as I’d get pumped up about it, that tiny, nasty voice would intrude again, and I’d let insecurity and doubt take over and shove the idea to the back of my mind.

But the itch for the job refused to completely go away.

So I finally said, “Screw you, tiny voice! I don’t have anything to lose by trying!”

If you’d like to read more about the application process and even see the gif-tastic application that landed me the job, click here.
I couldn’t believe it when I got the email telling me I was hired. I was so thrilled I even teared up a little.

But of course those excited feelings only lasted a little while before doubt crept back into my brain. Oh no, I had fooled them into hiring me. Now I was going to be a complete disaster and embarrass myself. And not just on a small scale, but on a HUGE platform with tons of people reading.

It didn’t help allay my fears that my editor didn’t like any of my first fourteen pitches.

The way it works is that I come up with ideas for articles and send my editor a potential title and a sentence or two describing what the article would be about. If he likes the pitch, he gives me a due date. Unfortunately, I wasn’t getting anything approved and became convinced the whole thing was a mistake and that I should quit.

But I shared my fears with a group of awesome friends, and they helped calm me down. Together we went through past articles on the MTV website, and they helped me brainstorm new ideas. I picked four of them, fleshed them out, and sent them to my editor, and he approved three of them. Whoohoo - I finally had my first stories to write!

And once again, the elation only lasted a short time before the paralyzing fear of actually writing a story for MTV hit with a vengeance. But I was also determined to do a good job, so I ignored those fears and got to work.

My first story was about Nancy Drew, and even though I had read a ton of the books when I was young, I didn’t remember a lot about them. So I got to googling. I found out all kinds of stuff I never knew about Nancy and her legacy, which was a cool bonus.

Once I wrote the article, I started looking for gifs. I’d never done much with gifs before, but they are a big part of MTV articles, so I’ve been learning a lot on the fly. But the gif hunt (or making my own gifs) has turned out to be a lot of fun – pretty much my favorite part of putting these articles together.

I was so nervous when I emailed my first article to my editor - I even felt a tad nauseous as I pressed Send. But he loved it and said it was a lot of fun. Whew! And then once it was published on the site, it did well and got a lot of shares. Double whew!

With a successful article under my belt, I had a lot of confidence going into the next ones. That nagging, doubting voice still rears its head occasionally when pitches get rejected or the writing feels boring and flat, but I press forward anyway. That’s the key for me: I can’t stop the voice of insecurity, but I can try to prove it wrong. And because I eventually managed to dismiss what the voice had to say about applying for the job, I’m having a ton of fun writing these articles, and it’s a complete thrill seeing my name on the MTV website and knowing so many people are reading my words.

Here are two of my articles if you’re interested:
13 Reasons Nancy Drew Is A Kick-Ass 85-Year-Old Teen
The Brooding YA Bad Boy Of Your Dreams Finally Opens Up

I haven’t been doing this long enough to feel qualified to give advice, but I will say if you decide to freelance, make sure you’re organized. I have a spreadsheet where I track article deadlines, when I turn them in, whether I’ve included them in a timesheet, and when I get paid for them. Otherwise, I’d be a complete mess.

I had never considered freelancing before this opportunity came along, but I know there are a ton of resources out there for finding freelance jobs. So if you think you’d be interested in freelancing, GO FOR IT! Don’t let that tiny voice that likes to be so negative talk you out of it.

You have nothing to lose by trying, and you might end up with a very cool job!

Monday, October 19, 2015

Lists of Markets Open to Writers and Hot Writing Topics

There are probably a million opportunities out there for writers. How do we find them though? Is there a site that lists anthology and short story options? Where do you go if you want to write articles for magazines and websites? What is a trending and a hot topic right now?

On the Writing Tips page, we have many resources if you are looking for freelance work. Here are those resources and many more:

Jobs Pro Blogger - Freelance blogging and writing opportunities.

Duotrope - Thousands of markets for fiction, poetry, and more.

Blogging Pro - Copywriting and freelance jobs.

The Market List - Markets for genre writers.

Media Bistro - Freelancers, book writers, copywriters, and more.

Write1Sub1 - A good selection of lists and resources, plus more!

Sarah Allen - List of paying gigs, submissions, and contests for writers.

Be a Freelance Blogger - Downloadable list of sites that pay $50 or more for blog posts.

Journalism Jobs - Job listings for media, radio, magazines, and more.

Funds For Writers - Tips, contests, markets, and more.

Freelance Writing Organization Intl. - Thousands of freelance and job listings.

Wikipedia - Large list of magazines, broken down by topic, language, and more.

Online Newspapers - List of online magazines and more.

New Pages - List of alternative magazines.

Now that you know where to look, what are some of the trending topics? And not just for articles or short stories–what are some of the hot ideas for blogs and even books? Here are a few more sites to help you:

Freelance Writing - top ten lists for any subject. This blog is a plethora of updated lists and information!

The Adventurous Writer - 11 types of articles for magazines. Great place to launch your creative juices.

Tuts+ - Guide to writing for magazines–15 steps for freelancers.

Start Blogging Online - 101 blog post ideas.

Fizzle - 81 blog topic ideas.

Successful Blogging - 51 Steps to Launching (Or Relaunching) a Hot Blog

Penny C. Sansevieri had an article at the Huffington Post for novel writers - How to Create Best-selling Book Ideas

Who's ready to write? The markets are open. You are now free to move around the writing world.

Monday, October 12, 2015

One Stop For Writers – A Powerhouse Online Library!

Angela Ackerman shares a little about how this site got started and what it has to offer:

One Stop For Writers is a collaboration between the authors of The Emotion Thesaurus, Angela Ackerman & Becca Puglisi, and Lee Powell, the creator of Scrivener for Windows. This unique site is a powerhouse online library filled with tools to supply writers with inspiration, education, and powerful description resources which will elevate their writing and save them time.

If you’re familiar with the Descriptive Thesaurus Collections at Writers Helping Writers as well as the Emotion, Positive Trait, and Negative Trait books you will have a good idea of the type of description help you’ll find at One Stop. Along with these expanded and enhanced collections the site has many worksheets, research templates and even an idea generator unlike anything else you’ve seen.

Angela, Becca and Lee built this site because they know crafting a strong story is hard work, and it requires a lot of juggling to research descriptive detail and characterization and then find time to get those words down on the page. It’s their hope that the One Stop library will help writers find what they need faster so more of their time is spent actually writing.

From the creators of The Emotion Thesaurus comes a brand new writing tool - One Stop For Writers

If there's one thing all writers agree on, it's that writing is TOUGH. The road to publication twists and dips as we learn the craft, hone our abilities, create stories we're passionate about, fight discouragement, educate ourselves about the industry...and then start the process all over again as we realize there's room to improve. But you know what? If you are like me, you wouldn't have it any other way.

Finding a good writing book, a helpful blog, a mentor or critique partner to share the journey with...these things are gems along the writing path.

And guess what? Maybe there's another resource waiting just up the road called One Stop For Writers.

One Stop For Writers is not writing software, but rather a powerful online library that contains tools, unique description collections, helpful tutorials and much more, brought to you by Angela Ackerman & Becca Puglisi, the authors of The Emotion Thesaurus, and Lee Powell, the creator of Scrivener for Windows.

They have a lot of promotional stuff going on for the launch and you can view some of the discounts and giveaways HERE.

There’s also a video that explains how it all works HERE.

This is an awesome new site – think it will help you on your writing journey?

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Insecure Writer's Support Group and Anthology Contest!

It’s time for another group posting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! Time to release our fears to the world – or offer encouragement to those who are feeling neurotic. If you’d like to join us, click on the tab above and sign up. We post the first Wednesday of every month. I encourage everyone to visit at least a dozen new blogs and leave a comment. Your words might be the encouragement someone needs.

Our awesome co-hosts today are TB Markinson, Tamara Narayan, Shannon Lawrence, Stephanie Faris, and Eva E. Solar!

Don’t forget the IWSG Anthology Contest is open until November 1! The theme is Alternate History/Parallel Universe and any member of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group is encouraged to enter – blogging (must post for the IWSG at least once in September or October) or Facebook member (must be a member as of today.)
Winners will be published in a royalty-paying anthology next year.

So, what are you waiting for? Enter your short story today!

Monday, October 5, 2015

The Weight Of Your Words

In fiction, when it comes to word choice, writers must be specific. 

Each word has to earn its place.

There’s no room for words that don’t pull their weight.

The trick is to choose words and phrases carefully, ones that are able to paint vivid pictures.

 Don’t depend on adjectives and adverbs to do the describing. Rather use strong nouns and verbs.

Look at the following:
Peter dragged his protesting body from one classroom to the next. Each lesson mocked him. He felt trapped in the middle of a never-ending nightmare as the day stretched before him. Mrs Smith, his eighth grade teacher, was concerned about his lack of focus. All the children, especially Tom, teased Peter. Tom was popular. Everybody liked him. He was the cool kid, the rich kid, the one who wore the latest footgear. Peter sighed. He wished that he owned a proper pair of shoes.

Let’s concentrate on the last sentence of the above paragraph. 

He wished that he owned a proper pair of shoes. Does it reveal much about Peter? No. It’s neutral. Almost bland. It tells me that his existing pair of shoes are probably in poor condition. I’m sure a boy of his age has a specific shoe style in mind. This would depend on the context and direction in which the story is moving.

He wished that he owned a pair of sneakers. Aha. Why sneakers? Does Peter want sneakers for show? Maybe to outrun the bullies who always chase him? I have insight into Peter’s character.

He wished that he owned a pair of boots. Maybe he has a deep and dark desire to hurt Tom? Is he an outdoor kind of boy? Maybe boots signify strength and valour? Maybe boots remind him of soldiers in the army? His father/brother may have been killed in the line of duty?

 Choosing precise nouns makes it unnecessary to add layers of descriptive adjectives to lengthen your sentences.

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Use strong verbs to elevate the action.  A strong verb creates a mood or an image simply by its sound or connotations.

Look at the following:
Jessie smiled. Does it reveal much about her? No. Lots of people smile. What makes Jessie different from everyone else who is smiling in your story? Smile is a colourless verb and needs to be replaced by one that is vibrant.

Jessie simpered. A boy she likes has complimented her on a new haircut? 

Jessie beamed. She’s over-the-moon about something or the other. Maybe proud of an achievement or the unexpected invitation! 

Jessie smirked. She can just imagine the expression on her arch-rival’s face when she rocks up at the shindig with the most popular boy at school...

Writing is stronger when writers use strong nouns and strong verbs.

Strong nouns and verbs have several qualities:
1. They are precise.
2. Rather than being commonly used, they are less commonly used.
3. They are paintbrushes creating visual and visceral images.

Adverbs and adjectives carelessly used just tell instead of show. Be aware of them and make sure they are doing a job, rather than puffing up your sentences with little more than air.

Mark Twain cautions us on using adjectives: "As to the adjective, when in doubt, strike it out.”

Remember, the right words can make your writing vivid and memorable.