Finding Focus as a Freelance Writer

Being a freelance writer is awesome – you get to pick when you want to work, do what you want to do, and go where you want to go. As I’ve said before, you drive the bus – or ride the mule!

Being a freelance writer is horrible – work never comes when you need it the most, almost always hits when you’ve planned to take time to travel, and because the paths are endless (fiction, non-fiction, travel, children’s, anthology, blog, e-book…) it can be hard to get traction to get moving. Sometimes, the mule gets a little stubborn and slow.

I don’t set goals or make resolutions in the New Year anymore because they always seem to start off big and fizzle out fast. This year I’m not making plans. Instead, I’m simply digging in to a steep learning curve to get this blog on track.

Hiking Northern Spain. (Photo: M. Kopp)

That doesn’t mean I’m not working on a e-book, still writing children’s non-fiction, and penning travel pieces – I am – but it does mean I’m focusing spare time on becoming a better blogger.

Let’s face it, I suck at consistency when it comes to non-paying projects. My aim is to make this blog a passive income machine. Pay it forward. Possible? Apparently. Over the next few months, I’ll post occasional updates on my progress.

First Steps – or how to get that bus moving again! I am starting slow and learning to walk before I run. Step one: sign up for a little education on the topic. I chose “From Blog to Business” by Wonderlass Allison Marshall. Part of her package is support and additional training opportunities, like a productivity party. Trust me, it’s not fun and games. It is all about sweat equity and it comes with a 25-page workbook. I’ve just finished p. 2 – Celebrate.

Celebrate – it’s time to write down your accomplishments over the past year. I was hesitant at first because it didn’t feel like I had a productive year in 2016. Well, colour me happy! I was pleasantly surprised when I took the time to look back at what I’d accomplished.

Deep thoughts. (Photo: M. Kopp)

Work

  • wrote 9 work-for-hire children’s non-fiction books
  • penned 9 articles for paying markets
  • taught 2 travel writing courses
  • submitted a post to new paying blog market
  • wrote a book review for a paying market

Training

Travel

  • long weekend ski trips to Panorama and Assiniboine, BC and Waterton Lakes National Park, AB
  • multiple day trip skis and hikes
  • 6-day mule trip into the canyon of Sierra de la San Francisco, Baja MX
  • month-long hiking trip Northern Spain and Morocco
  • 6-day canoe trip on Bowron Lake Circuit, BC

A little slice of paddling heaven! (Photo: M. Kopp)

And More Travel!

  • 12-day trip to Vancouver Island for family and backpacking
  • 6-day backpack across the Chilkoot Trail in Alaska and the Yukon
  • 6-day trip to Northern BC to spend time with a girlfriend
  • 5-day road trip to Tofino with my daughter
  • 11-day bike/hike trip to southern Nevada and Utah

Write down your accomplishments last year – go ahead, give it a try. Your accomplishments can be related to writing or work or fitness or travel or whatever it is that you do. The act of writing it down not only feels good, it gives you a clearer picture of what actually happened and it gives you “the motivation to keep moving forward.

Keep moving forward! (Photo: M.Kopp)

Bring it on 2017!

Write Smart, Write Now!

Wisdom is not a product of schooling but of the lifelong attempt to acquire it.”
– Albert Einstein

In my spare time, I’m always looking for ways to improve my freelance career. The path wanders and it includes everything from searching for new markets, to learning to be a better blogger, to brushing up on my writing skills.

Be a Better Writer is a new site for me. It’s geared toward fiction and I write non-fiction, but one of the posts caught my eye. I had to take a closer look. “Tight Writing Gets Published” is a perfect primer (or refresher) for self-editing – no matter if you are penning a novel or drafting a travel article or editing a children’s book. Get rid of those things, somethings, and somehows. Use strong verbs and resist adverbs. Cut the excess and your writing will improve.

In the words of Elmore Leonard, “try to leave out the parts that people skip.”

What sites would you recommend for improving your writing?

 

 

50! Kid’s Books Under This Author’s Name

By: Megan Kopp

I finally sat down this week to update my list of published books and – surprise, surprise! – I’ve hit 50 titles bearing my byline. True, six are still in various stages of the publication process, and I’m awaiting author copies on a few more, but they should all be out in 2015.

A few of my books! (Credit: M. Kopp)

A few of my books! (Credit: M. Kopp)

Now here’s a not-so-secret secret: these books are all non-fiction, work-for-hire (WFH). What this means is that a publisher comes to me with a series or a topic and I write the book. The idea belongs to the publisher, but I still get a byline as the author.

Pros of WFH

  • Editors approach you with an idea
  • Guaranteed income
  • Format established
  • Artwork (pictures, maps, illustrations) is completed by the publisher

Cons of WFH

  • You don’t own the copyright
  • You don’t have any control over artwork
  • You must follow a set format
  • The editor has the final say on content

After 50 books, it’s safe to say that WFH works for me. That being said, I plan to take a walk (or dogsled ride – hint!) on the wild side and write my first, completely author-driven children’s book this year. Stay tuned!

Resources for Writing Children’s Non-Fiction and WFH
Evelyn Christensen’s Educational Markets for Children’s Writers (website)
2015 Children’s Writer’s and Illustrator’s Market (book)
Children’s Writer’s E-News (email newsletter)
NFforKids
(Yahoo group)

What writing project(s) are you working on in 2015?

Twitter and the Writer

Tweet, tweet, tweet!

Tweet, tweet, tweet!

As a freelance writer, I enjoy Twitter. It’s a valuable marketing tool, a place to find inspiration and a vehicle for getting outside of my head and into those of other writers.

A good start is the Twitter Guide for Writers & Illustrators. Whether you are a tweeting fool or tweetless, Debbie Ridpath Ohi’s (@inkyelbows) guide is priceless. Wondering how Twitter can possibly help writers? Read this. Ready to start, but don’t know where? Answer’s here. Wondering how to make your Twitter feed more interesting? Look here.

The Ultimate Guide to Twitter for Writers is one long post – I mean, really long. Although it’s not quite as easy to use as Ohi’s Q & A format, it’s still full of stellar info. Learn how to customize your header, use gearshifts, or perfect your writing hashtags. Frances Caballo (@CaballoFrances) writes even more on the topic at her own site, Social Media for Writers.

Carol Tice (@TiceWrites) offers 15 tips for writers to get noticed on Twitter at Make a Living Writing. Personally, I think #7 “Stop constantly marketing yourself” is critical. Create a dialogue that isn’t self-absorbed and people will want to keep the conversation going.

As a writer, do you find value in Twitter?

Writing Old School

It felt clunky and awkward. Words fell onto the blank page only to disappear in fury of eraser bits and dust. Writing without a laptop or iPad was surprisingly difficult. I couldn’t edit as easily, I couldn’t grab a word and move it up in a sentence. I couldn’t make it work… at first. And then the scratching of the lead against fine wood fibres began pulling me back into the art of writing old school.

Mosquito Creek Hostel provided the perfect writer's retreat. (Photo: M. Kopp)

Mosquito Creek Hostel provided the perfect writer’s retreat. (Photo: M. Kopp)

Spending a long weekend away from the distraction of internet a mere keyboard click away forced this writer to focus on getting the ideas down, rather than editing or breaking the flow to deal with the business aspects of being a freelance writer. Long after the lights of the hostel dorm dimmed, my headlight shone brightly on the notebook tucked firmly in a little corner of my bunk. The blue pencil flew across the page as thoughts and impressions and ideas poured from mind to page.

Productive? Definitely.

Do again? Absolutely.

When was the last time you took a break from writing with a computer?

 

Headlines and other Hacks for Freelance Writers: Where to Find Great Information From a Couple of Pros

I took an hour this morning to listen to Linda Formichelli and Carol Tice talk about writing good headlines. It was a free audio webinar. What I like about these two professional freelance writers is that they share insight garnered from years of experience. Sometimes – like today – it’s free. In my mind, that’s good karma. It inspired me to pay back by sharing their websites. Both are full of great information for new and established freelancers.

Linda’s site, The Renegade Writer, offers writing tips and hacks for “living and loving the freelance life – on your own terms.” Popular posts include “7 Proven Tips for Getting Into the ‘Write’ Mood”, “Why You’re Worth More Than a Penny Per Word” and “Are You Missing Out On This Vital Freelance Writing Skill? (And No, It’s Not Marketing!)” Awesome headlines that say what the post is about without giving away the answers, by the way!

Make a Living Writing, dishes up “practical help for hungry writers.” Carol writes posts about things you can do to grow your freelance writing income and how to find freelance writing jobs on Twitter. I, for one, am hoping that she’ll post a 2015 version of “140 Websites That Pay Writers in 2014.”

Go ahead, look at their sites, filter their sage advice and start making this the best year of your freelance writing career.

P.S. You can also follow these ladies on Twitter (@LFormichelli / @TiceWrites) and find updates on their latest posts.

P.P.S If you found this article useful, let me know by adding a comment. Or if you have a writing question, drop me a line and I’ll answer it in another Tuesday post.

Seasonal Inspiration

Let’s face it, freelance writers often have to toot their own horns and beat their own drums. November and December are notoriously quiet months, work wise, but I sold a travel story to a new to me market this past week. I don’t have a horn and can’t keep a beat, but this a cappella version of Little Drummer Boy from Pentatonix should do the trick! It inspired me to celebrate this writer’s quiet season.

Seems this is turning into a month of Christmas v-inspiration!

What inspires you to write?

Maintaining Freelance Writing Focus

Travel is good for the soul, but hard on a freelancer’s focus. Take my recent trip to Turkey.  I came home inspired and bursting with stories to share. Reality hit when I had to sit down and decide if I wanted to try and find homes for these ideas in traditional markets (newspapers and magazines), or take a financial hit and send them to online markets, or put them up on my own blogs.

So many options for the same journey! (Photo: M.Kopp)

So many options for the same journey! (Photo: M.Kopp)

In the meantime, I’m now back in the office with two children’s book deadlines breathing down my neck. Most of the work has been done, but they need to be wrapped up, pronto! Travel stories and ideas – back burner.

A few days later… deadlines met. Where was I? Marketing travel stories, right. Before I can go there, I need to carefully sort through my ideas. Which ones have enough substance to be a magazine or newspaper article? Which slants are time-sensitive and better suited to online markets? And which story ideas are leftover for my blogs? Do I have sufficient, distinctly different, good quality photos to support each idea?

Off to market
Traditional markets – I’ll start there and try to get paid for my prose. It’s going to take time to find the right market, draft a strong query, and wait for a response, but as a freelance writer who makes a career from words, it’s worth the effort. Query #1 sent.

At the same time, I have lots of story ideas running around in my head. I think I’ll send one off to an online market I’ve worked with before. It helps keep me motivated by seeing something published with my byline. As with print, I need to find the right market, draft a strong query, and wait for the response – but online markets have a faster turnaround.

Query #2 sent. Response back in less than a day. The editor kindly passed on the idea… sigh. She’s going to be travelling back to the same area one day soon and doesn’t want to have similar material already up on the website. Fair enough, but now I’ve got to find another market for the idea.

Focus, focus, focus
Searching for potential markets – whether online or print – is an entertaining challenge. Unfortunately, it can also be a huge time suck as I find myself getting pulled off-track again and again and before I know it I’m reading blogs about Turkish food rather than finding a market for my own ideas.

Turkish mezes - a tasteful delight!

Turkish mezes – choices, choices! (Photo: M.Kopp)

Four more children’s books… again most of the work complete… deadlines approaching… It is hard to stay focused at times. Maybe I should give up travel writing altogether. Or maybe the time has come to stop writing children’s non-fiction and focus solely on travel writing. My problem is that I love both genres.

Perhaps it as simple as just getting to work. Send off another online market query, work on the kid’s books some more and then send off another query. Keep moving forward, stay committed to getting things done rather than stressing about it all being hard on my freelance focus. Take one step at a time and accomplish something concrete every day. That’s the ticket.

Query #3… sent. I’ll let you know how it goes!

Find your path and follow it through. (Photo: M.Kopp)

Find your path and follow it through. (Photo: M.Kopp)

How do you stay focused when you have multiple writing projects and story ideas buzzing around your brain?

New Kid’s Books

Between travel, hiking and writing kid’s books, there’s been little time for updating blogs. But I’m sure that will all change now that fall is here. Well…

Maybe it will change once hiking is done for the season… or after a trip to Turkey… or just before the snow flies and ski season is upon us… or…

Okay, maybe I’ll just share what I can when I can. These treasures poured out of the big box that arrived in the mail today – proof positive that I do work hard when not out on another adventure!

New books