Matthew Stibbe: Freelance Journalism

Matthew Stibbe, over at the Bad Language Blog has posted a great essay explaining a few realities of the freelance writing world. I recommend reading the entire thing, but here's a favorite quote.

Most business professionals shouldn’t have a problem with this, but don’t be fooled into thinking that a freelance writer lives in a mound of creative chaos and thrives on late nights, whiskey and hand rolled cigarettes. Prussian efficiency is required to make the work of a freelancer pay.


Web 2.0 for Writers

Have you seen Go2Web2.0? It's an entire listing of high quality online sites, each featuring the stereo typical funky names, slick designs and handy buttons. Among this list (which includes more than 800 internet based products and companies) are some powerful online tools for writers. Here are just a few:

Calenders, like HipCal and 30Boxes

To Do Lists, like Nozbe and Vitalist

Online Word Processors, like Writely

Online Storage, like Box and FileLabs

This massive list is a collection of some of the coolest powertools on the web. I strongly suggest checking it out.


Writer's Glossary: Interview

Interview (N)

A meeting or conversation in which a writer or reporter asks questions of one or more persons from whom material is sought for a newspaper story, television broadcast, etc.

The report of such a conversation or meeting. Source: http://dictionary.reference.com

Interview (V)

To give or conduct an interview: to interview to fill job openings.

Source: http://dictionary.reference.com

Interviewee (N)

A person who is interviewed.

Source: http://dictionary.reference.com

Interviewer (N)

A person who interviews. Source: http://dictionary.reference.com


Writing Quote: Natalie Goldberg

"Kill the idea of the lone, suffering artist.

We suffer anyway as human beings.

Don't make it any harder on yourself."

- Natalie Goldberg

From: Writing Down the Bones


Huge deals on Amazon

Looking to save a ton of money on office supplies? Electronics? Magazine subscriptions? If you know how to look, you can find some incredible deals on the things you need every day.

60% off Office Products

This includes things like ink cartridges, binders, office chairs, lamps and a whole slew of other items.

85% off Electronics

Cheap USB Flash drives, computer cables, software, keyboards and plenty of other electronic essentials.

75% off Camera and Photo

Cameras, scanners, memory cards, projectors, film, lenses, replacement batteries and more.

Here's a whole massive list of links to huge discounts:


Allison Winn Scotch gives some advice

Allison Winn Scotch has recently witten some great posts about freelance writing, touching on important aspects that we all deal with.

Learning to Let Go - When do you cut bait on a great article idea?

Blogging for Money - Does blogging ever really pay the bills?

A Total Noob Asks How To Break In - We all asked ourselves this question at some point.


Writer's Glossary: Masthead

Masthead (N)

A masthead is a list, usually found on the editorial page of a newspaper or magazine, of the members of the newspaper's editorial board. If no editorial board exists, the masthead will often feature a list of top news staff members. Some mastheads also include information such as the publication's founding date, slogan, logo and contact information.

Online publications often have what could be considered mastheads on the "about us" or "contact us" pages. However, some online publications still call such pages its "masthead," probably a homage to the newspaper industry.

Source: Wikipedia

1. (Also called flag.) A statement printed in all issues of a newspaper, magazine, or the like, usually on the editorial page, giving the publication's name, the names of the owner and staff, etc.

2. (Also called nameplate.) A line of type on the front page of a newspaper or the cover of a periodical giving the name of the publication.

Source: Dictionary.com


Writing Quote: Jenna Glatzer

“Write what you know” is a very good starting point. But that’s all it is. It’s a place for you to go to get your feet wet, and a place to come back to when the tide gets too high. But it’s not a place to stay for very long.

Quote found at Absolute Write.


Steve Jobs Thinks Out Loud

Steve Jobs has recently posted "Thoughts on Music", an 1,800 odd word discourse on music, DRM technology and the music industry. It raises some interesting and perplexing points about intellectual property and copyright. Here's one quote:

Why would the big four music companies agree to let Apple and others distribute their music without using DRM systems to protect it? The simplest answer is because DRMs haven’t worked, and may never work, to halt music piracy. Though the big four music companies require that all their music sold online be protected with DRMs, these same music companies continue to sell billions of CDs a year which contain completely unprotected music. That’s right! No DRM system was ever developed for the CD, so all the music distributed on CDs can be easily uploaded to the Internet, then (illegally) downloaded and played on any computer or player.

Now I'm just thinking out loud here, but it seems to me that DRM is a waste of time and money. However, as a writer, I value my copyright. I create and sell content, and I'm just one of many in a very large industry.

However, the publishing industry differs from the music industry in one major way: most media revolves around advertising. Magazines and Newspapers make almost all of their money in advertising revenue. Subscription prices often don't even cover publication costs completely. Television is the same way - when was the last time you paid to watch ABC? Even cable, which requires a paid subscription, is otherwise free. Like in publishing, your subscription isn't where the money is - it's the advertisements that pay everyone's salaries.

The problem with the music industry is that they dodn't sell advertising. They don't even sell music. They sell plastic. That's what they've sold since the days of the LP, that's what they sold with 8-tracks and cassette tapes and CDs. By putting music into these formats, they can sell you 25 cents worth of plastic for $20. It's worked well for them, but now they're having trouble.

These days, information (whether it's words, images or audio) is so easily transferred and copied that the old model of "selling plastic" is meaningless.

I think that the various media industries need to rethink a few things. What are they selling? In some cases, media is it's own product. In most cases, media adds value to the real product. Unfortunately, selling plastic just won't cut it any more.

But what does this mean for content producers?

Writers on: Writer's Block

I recently had the chance to sit down with some big names in the writing world, and get their thoughts about writer's block, which I'd just recently posted about. (Okay, so I've never met them, and these quotes were found online. They're still great.)

Try a Different Approach

"Try drawing or painting a scene you're working on. Often this will help free up you imagination." – Kevin Henkes

Break It Down Into Smaller Pieces

“If writing a book is impossible, write a chapter. If writing a chapter is impossible, write a page. If writing a page is impossible, write a paragraph. If writing a paragraph is impossible, write a sentence. If writing a sentence is impossible, write a word and teach yourself everything there is to know about that word and then write another, connected word and see where the connection leads.” – Richard Rhodes

Write Through It

“Stopping a piece of work just because it's hard, either emotionally or imaginatively, is a bad idea. Sometimes you have to go on when you don't feel like it, and sometimes you're doing good work when it feels like all you're managing is to shovel $#!* from a sitting position.” – Stephen King

Abandon Perfectionism

“Too many of us wait to do the perfect thing; with the result we do nothing.” – William Feather, publisher

“Don't get it right, get it written.” – James Thurber


Moleskine and Mead

I think the Rolling Stones may have said it best - "You don't always get what you want." Nowhere is this more true than in the penny-pinching world of freelance writing. The ideal may be great, but it's just not always realistic. So, with all the regularity of ... uh, something irregular... here's a look at the Ideal and the Real.

This week: Notebooks

Ideal -

Delicious Moleskine goodness.
$9.95 for 192 pages,
3 ½” x 5 ½”, single subject
You know you've drooled over them before. The moleskine is no mere notebook - it's a gift from the stationary store of the gods. Fetishized by scribblers the world over, the moleskine may be the most hyped notebook ever.
With a psuedo-historic pedigree that includes literary greats like Ernest Hemingway and Bruce Chatwin (not to mention the other legends, like Van Gogh, Matisse, and others), it's only natural that writers love them. They're sleek, stylish and all sorts of other snappy sounding s-words. Some might even say snuggly.

Real -

Spiral Bound Mead junkiness.
$4.07 for 180 pages,
8” x 10 ½”, 5-subject
When you get right down to it, the basic Mead notebook gives you a similar number of sheets, twice the page area, and just as much usability as the Moleskine.
Sure, it lacks the grandiose backstory. It has no such pretensions - it's the book used by middle school students. There's nothing grandiose about middle-school.
That said, it gets the job done. Writing is mostly just the application of pen to paper, and the humble spiral bound delivers where it needs to; namely, it provides paper.
The Bottom Line
Yeah, we'd all like the cool stuff, but it's just not always affordable. Thankfully, there are other options that are much more friendly to the wallet. My vote? Go with Mead, or a similar product.

Writing Quote: Steven Pressfield

“The essence of professionalism is the focus upon the work and its demands, while we are doing it, to the exclusion of all else.”


“There’s no mystery to turning pro. It’s a decision brought about by an act of will. We make up our mind to view ourselves as pros and we do it. Simple as that.”

- Steven Pressfield

The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles

Picked these up here: http://crawdaddycove.com/2006/12/18/the-war-of-art-turning-pro/


Writer's Glossary - Query

Query, Query Letter (N)

(1) a one page letter to an editor pitching a proposed non-fiction article.
(2) a pitch to a director for a screenplay.
(3) a letter to an editor for a novel usually accompanied with a synopsis and sample chapters.

Source: www.writefromhome.com

A query letter "pitches" an article or book idea to an editor to see if that editor might be interested in purchasing the proposed or completed manuscript.

Source: www.thescriptorium.net

An inquiry from a writer to an editor of a magazine, newspaper, etc., regarding the acceptability of or interest in an idea for an article, news story, or the like: usually presented in the form of a letter that outlines or describes the projected piece.

Source: dictionary.reference.com

Query (V)

The act of writing and submitting a query letter.

Source: Brian Westover

The Writer's Glossary

Vocabulary. Nonmenclature. Terminology. Jargon.

Every profession and craft seems to develop its own unique collection of words. To the insider, these words are useful, even essential. They save time by allowing an entire concept to be conceyed in one simple word. They provide a sense of community with other insiders. They show editors that you understand the industry and how it works. When you know the words, it's easy to talk the talk.

To the rookies, the outsiders trying to break into the business, it's jibberish.

Therein lies the problem with any form of jargon. Because it presents language that is understandable only in the proper context, it simultaneously unifies those who are in the know, while also alienating those who are not. Because it lets writers become "us", everyone else is just "them".

To those of us trying to enter the professional writing world, it's frustrating. So often we are shown encouragement and support by those professionals who have gone before. They go out of their way to answer questions and to point out where we can improve. They're great, and the positive influence of these folks can't be underestimated nor left unthanked. There's just one small problem. They're speaking another language.

So, in an effort to help both myself and other writers, I'm putting together a glossary of writing terms. At least once per week, I'll post a word and definition.


5 Ways to Beat Writer's Block

Writer's Block - that frozen up, blank minded state, very similar to a sneeze that won't quite sneeze, in which a writer cannot write. It's real, and we all deal with it sometimes. So, to help my fellow writers get the words flowing again, here are five ways to prime the pump and get back to work.
1. Say 'Bollocks' to the Block!
Honestly, don't even call it writer's block. Don't obsess over it, just get back to work. Most 'Block' is a self-fulfilling prophecy. You hit a rough patch and you call it writer's block. In the process, you give a shape and a name to something that otherwise might not even be a problem.
2. Take a short break
And I do mean short - try ten minutes, or fifteen. Do something different, whether it's munching on a healthy snack, jogging to the mailbox, dancing like a crazy person to the first song you get on the radio, whatever. Make this a complete break from your routine, not a part of it. The routine is just that - routine. While order and routine are great for dry productivity, they're anathema to creativity. Creativity doesn't require constant chaos, but it does require a sense of freedom and flexibility.
3. Stop trying to write
This doesn't mean that you decide "Hmmm, the words aren't flowing - let's go to Disneyland!" Instead, shift your focus to another writing-related task. Try brainstorming for a few minutes. Look up a new market online. Straighten up your desk. Set aside the blank page for a moment, but keep working. If you can't be productive, be constructive.
4. Review and Jot
Review your notes, and while doing so, jot down anything that comes to mind, even if it's just single words. Doodle in the margins. Sketch diagrams that relate to the topic. Write down any questions that pop up. The idea is to get your synapses firing again in relation to your work.
5. Write Through
Lurking in the shadows of Writer's Block, there is often an unrealistic expectation. Maybe it's the desire to write something brilliant, when mediocre is all you can manage at the moment. Maybe it's an unrealistic deadline (self imposed or otherwise). Maybe you've got some unrelated idea that's been gnawing at the back of your mind for three days, but you won't listen to it, because you're trying to focus. Whatever it is, write it. Don't even consider this a draft, that'll come later. Just write whatever's on your mind.