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A Writing Secret: Writing for Profit May 21, 2016

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In writing critique groups, I often find that newer writers write more for pleasure than profit. They enjoy writing and want to share that enjoyment with others. Instead of seeking true critiques in a critique group, they’re often just seeking encouragement. I try to keep that in mind when responding to their work.

I need to because I write from a different mindset. I write for profit. The greatest pleasure I get from writing comes from seeing my work in print, even after having had more than 100 stories and articles and 4 books published. I may have once written solely for pleasure, but I don’t remember such a time. Even in elementary school, I wrote intending to get published. My first sale came in junior high, when my hometown newspaper paid me to cowrite a column about happenings at my school.

 I do find pleasure in the act of writing. Finding the perfect phrase to express an idea or emotion I’ve struggled to convey to my reader—or, even better, making my reader laugh—is an undeniable pleasure. But if I can’t sell my writing to respectable publishers, readership will likely be limited and the struggle to communicate to readers proves fruitless.

Writing for profit is work, especially when it comes to fiction. After having spent hours toiling away at finding the right words, I want to be paid for them. This is a much different mindset than that of the person writing solely for pleasure. And here’s a secret . . . More often than not, writing for profit is where most writers who have written for any amount of time end up. It’s seldom long before new writers enjoying the work of others want to improve their own work. They begin to take a more critical look at what they’ve written and see the flaws. This is painful but can lead to the deeper pleasure of writing . . . knowing their work is well done and stands a chance at being appreciated by many.

Educational Testing Market January 18, 2016

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A paying market that fiction and nonfiction writers might not think of is the educational testing market. Test makers often include a few paragraphs of text in their tests, and students read the text and answer questions based on it. This text can be fiction, nonfiction, or even poetry.

test imageI recently submitted a few poems and narratives to the Center for Education Testing and Evaluation at the University of Kansas (through its Web site at https://cete.submittable.com/submit). The center rejected my work, but since I submitted the work online, the process cost me nothing. Had the center accepted my work, I would have been paid $250 per piece. As any poet can tell you, $250 is good pay for a poem.

If you’re considering submitting work to a testing company, I’d recommend making sure your work has information in it that is educational and lends itself to the easy development of test questions.

It’s a God Thing July 12, 2015

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Since childhood, I’ve felt that my purpose in life is to write. I believe God has called me and continues to call me to write. That doesn’t mean writing always comes easily to me or that I never procrastinate.

Just this last weekend I had a few hours to write and, instead, decided to go for a walk. I told myself that I needed exercise and that walking is far better for a person (me, specifically!) than sitting in a chair.

I told myself that I needed inspiration and that since I mainly write for children, maybe I would see something at the park or in the neighborhood that would inspire me.

So I went on about a mile walk. I didn’t see a single child in the park or in the neighborhood.

I was about a block from home when I spied chalk marks on a driveway ahead.

Evidence of children! I homed in on the chalk marks, hoping to use them as a window to their maker’s world, a glimpse of what occupies children’s thoughts. But as I approached the driveway, I saw there were only two words on the driveway:

      Write something!

OK, God, I got the message. I went home and started a short story.

Still Selling June 17, 2014

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In my last post, I noted that I haven’t been writing much since taking on full-time work as a proofreader/copy editor and that I’ve had some strange sales that have led me to believe God is nudging me to get back to writing. Well, I have another strange sale to add to the list.  One of my fiction stories was recently published in a magazine, and I can’t even remember when I submitted it. It must have been four or five years ago. The story was one I had already sold to two magazines so I must have submitted it to this magazine to sell reprint rights. Anyway, a copy of the magazine with my story in it arrived in the mail, along with payment. I didn’t even know the publisher had accepted it.

Many publishers no longer respond to a submission if they aren’t interested, so if I haven’t heard from them in three months, I usually figure my submission was rejected. Some publishers say they’ll hold on to submissions for future consideration, but in my experience, that usually means up to a year wait. I’ve never had anyone hold on to a submission for four or five years.

I’m not complaining, and I can take a clue. I spent last weekend writing a short story, finished it, and sent it off to an e-zine that pays. I typically submit only to traditional magazines, so it will be interesting to see what happens with the e-zine.

I think I’ll write next weekend too. 🙂

 

Checking the Spam Box March 9, 2014

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I hadn’t checked the spam box on my e-mail account in years (I deleted spam mail, unseen, by pressing the trash icon), but the other day, I peeked into my spam box. I had two e-mails: one from an agent and one from an editor.

Eleven years ago, I had submitted a two-novel proposal to the agent. Now, she was cleaning her office and came across my submission. She must have looked into the current status of the novels (A Shadow in the Dark and Living It Up to Live It Down) because she congratulated me on their publication. She asked if my address on the return envelope was still current and if I wanted my proposal back. I had moved but I gave her my current address. My submission from years ago came back with handwritten comments in the margins. Overall, these comments were positive. One or two suggested further plot developments. This is helpful information to me, even though it came too late for these novels.

The second piece of mail in my spam box, from a magazine editor, requested me to resubmit a short story to her magazine even though someone on the staff had rejected it more than a year ago. I knew the magazine editor’s name and e-mail address was legitimate, so I resent the short story. A few days later, I received a paying contract.

Both incidents strike me as strange. I can’t believe many agents are contacting writers years later to return submissions or that editors are tracking them down to request manuscripts they’ve already rejected. Because I’m a believer in God and I haven’t been writing or submitting much in the past few years while working full-time, I see both incidents as encouragement from him that he believes in my writing.

I’m also left wondering how many other legitimate pieces of mail I may have deleted from my spam box, resulting in the loss of a sale or valuable contact. I’ve started skimming over my spam messages.

Change in Author Visits February 22, 2014

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I’ve been working at an accounting firm as a full-time copy editor/proofreader for about a year and find myself too busy to devote much time to my writing career. Now that tax season has hit, I’m working overtime and some Saturdays. I’ve decided to cut back on school talks and, as indicated on my new “Appearances” page, will consider taking part in Q-and-A panels and informal classroom discussions only. Even these I will need to be choosy about because I have limited vacation days as a new employee.

This situation is not unusual. Most writers need to work another job to support a writing career and they struggle to find time to write. I feel fortunate because my daytime job is one that comes easy to me and keeps my grammatical skills sharp. As always, I write when I can.

 

Changes in Journalism October 27, 2013

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The field of journalism has changed dramatically in the past few decades, and jobs in print journalism, copy editing, and proofreading have dwindled. My alma mater, the University of Iowa, keeps me posted about new developments in the UI School of Journalism. I’ve been surprised to see the types of jobs journalism graduates are now anticipating getting with their degrees. Two newer degree tracks are fundraising and recruitment.  Companies are hiring journalism graduates to write the letters used in fundraising and recruitment and to make phone calls to potential donors. This points up to me, once again, the importance of being flexible when attempting to make a living writing. Change is a constant in this business.

New Market for Writers of Children’s Books April 19, 2013

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Last August I blogged about writing markets for child authors. After I’d compiled a list on my blog, the editor of the e-zine Knowonder! contacted me to let me know it also publishes children’s writing (as well as children’s stories written by adults). I was unfamiliar with the e-zine but saw it paid, so I submitted a few stories online. Knowonder! recently purchased a Christmas story from me.

The editor has since let me know that Knowonder! is now accepting chapter books for ages 7 to 9. If you’re interested, you can find guidelines and submit at knowonder.submittable.com/submit

From what I’ve submitted to this publisher, I gather the editors are seeking stories more like traditional fairy tales, with an element of magic or fantasy. They ask for “imaginative, exciting, action-filled” stories. They don’t appear to be seeking run-of-the-mill contemporary stories with everyday situations set in ordinary settings.

Writing Slowly March 4, 2013

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While working with beginning writers over the past year, I’ve seen several make the same mistake. They rush to be published. Their efforts to hurry the process may actually lengthen the time it takes them to reach paid publication. If you’re a beginning writer, consider going slowly now to go fast later.

Read good books in the genre you’re interested in writing in. Books written in the past five years are better indicators of what editors are willing to purchase than books considered to be classics.

Bone up on grammar. Many editors refuse to spend time cleaning up messes of lazy writers.

Read books about the publishing process itself and how to get published. Again, the latest books will be the most helpful in this.

Attend writing conferences if you can. These can be expensive so you may want to hold off until you have a writing project near completion, but if you can afford to go before then, you can receive a lot of good instruction at conferences. Conferences can jumpstart a writing career. The experience is sort of like learning a foreign language through full immersion in another culture rather than through a textbook.

Consider taking a class. Even if you live in a remote area, you can find plenty of online classes.

Join a critique group. If you’re fortunate enough to have critique partners who have been paid for their writing and been successfully published, pay special attention to their comments. They’ve been where you’re at and they’ve found success.

Better Google Searches for Writers February 2, 2013

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Hands down, the Internet beats the old days when writers had to go to the library to research a topic. Now anyone can retrieve information with a few computer clicks. I frequently use Google in my searches and have discovered the following ways to improve results:

  • Use the asterisk (*) as a wild card with the words you’re searching. For example, if you wanted to search for me on the Web but couldn’t remember my last name but knew I was a children’s author, you could type Ronica * children’s author and related sites would pop up, providing my last name.
  • Use the minus sign before words you want to exclude from the search. Using a similar example, if you searched solely on my first name, Ronica, and a bunch of “Ronica Smith” sites showed up, you could eliminate Ronica Smith from your search by typing Ronica -Smith.
  • Put quotation marks around a word or two (such as “Ronica Stromberg”) to pull up sites only with the word (or words) as quoted.
  • To find the word you’re searching for on a Web site that came up, hit Control-F (Command-F on a Mac) and enter the word you’re searching for again. This will highlight the word you’re searching for. I’ve found this useful when a Web site has page after page of text but no clear indication where the word or phrase I’m searching for may be.
  • To restrict search results to a specific URL, add site: in front of the URL. For example, dognapper site:nytimes.com would pull articles printed about dognappers at The New York Times domain.
  • To find sites similar to one you’re using, type related: before the URL of the site (as in related:nytimes.com).
  • Use two periods between numeric ranges to find information about a range. For example, if you wanted to find information about gasoline prices between 1970 and 1980, you could type gasoline prices 1970 . . 1980. Writers of historical novels may find this particularly useful for research.
  • To use Google as a dictionary and look up the definition of a word, type define: immediately followed by the word.
  • To find the current weather in a town (in case you are about to set off on a book talk or other trip), type weather in followed by the town’s name.
  • To convert currency or measurements, use search formats such as 50 pesos in US dollars or 100 kilometers in miles.
  • To find the title of a song that lyrics come from, type some of the more distinct lyrics followed by :lyric. For example, when I type want to be a paperback writer:lyric, several sites appear, letting me know this line of lyrics comes from the Beatles’ “Paperback Writer” song.
  • To get alerted about breaking news on a topic, go to http://www.google.com/alerts and enter the topic and your e-mail address. Google will then e-mail you the next time news on the topic appears on the Internet. I know a lot of authors type their name or key words from their works into this site to track online publicity and, also, to check whether their writing is being plagiarized.

Instead of doing a general search of the whole Internet, I may have only a specific area I want to search. The following are my favorites.

blogs     http://www.google.com/blogsearch

books     http://books.google.com/

finance     http://www.google.com/finance  This search of the latest financial news may be of particular interest to business and financial writers.

images     http://images.google.com  This site can be misleading. When I searched on “F. Scott Fitzgerald,” the name of one of my favorite authors, photos of him–and a bunch of other people–cropped up. Had I not already known what F. Scott Fitzgerald looked like, the site wouldn’t have helped much.

news     http://news.google.com/

patents     http://www.google.com/?tbm=pts

scholarly works   http://scholar.google.com/

videos     http://www.google.com/videohp