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!

Teaching Kids about Writing

Head down, office door closed, the last couple weeks of September and into October have been full of work. With seven books to wrap up, two magazine articles to write and travel queries to send out, there hasn’t been a lot of spare time.

Okay, maybe a little spare time… but not a lot!

So when I received a request for a school program late last week, I had to turn it down.

Not!

I jumped at the chance to talk writing while soaking up the positive energy that comes from a roomful of kids. It didn’t matter that taking another afternoon out of the office meant working late that night, those two hours were full of excitement and interest – and I think the kids enjoyed it, too 😉

Spending an afternoon with these keen kids wasn’t a chore, it was a privilege. Pushing my ability to multi-task when my plate was already full showed me that I was capable of more than I thought. In the words of Nelson Mandela: “There is no passion to be found playing small–in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.”

3 Tips for School Presentations:

  1. Start strong with a hook. I began telling the kids how I wanted to write a novel full of adventure and drama when I first started writing. The problem was that I wasn’t any good at writing fiction. I pulled out a copy of my first Reader’s Digest article and read a paragraph of Marianne trapped on a ledge, yelling into the wind at her rescuers in the distance, and watching the lights disappear. I wasn’t good at writing fiction, but I was skilled at writing non-fiction. They were hooked!
  2. Circulate. I always make sure that there are several hands-on activities for the kids to do. Instead of twiddling my thumbs at the front of the room, I wander through the groups, offering suggestions and answering questions. The kids enjoy the one-on-one time.
  3. Break it up. Be sure to build in bathroom and stretch breaks. Everyone will be happier and better able to focus.

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?

 

 

New books, new books!

Love coming home from a travel adventure to find hardcover proof that I do have a job! Four new children’s non-fiction books arrived from Crabtree while I took 10 days to decompress and dip into a little of Cuba’s charming culture.

The first two books explore the world of writing. “How to Write Science Fiction” reviews the elements of science fiction and guides young readers with step-by-step instructions on how to compose their own, out-of-this-world science fiction stories. “How to Write Drama” follows a similar pattern.

Two new books in the Text Styles series from Capstone. (Credit: M. Kopp)

Two new books in the Text Styles series from Crabtree. (Credit: M. Kopp)

Be the change you wish to see in the world.” Many people credit Ghandi with this saying and it is the cornerstone for Crabtree’s new series. My two books, “Be the Change for the Environment” and “Be the Change in your Community” offer a blueprint for young readers to follow and become active citizens. Can’t wait to present them to a local school!

Caring for Earth is everyone's job. (Credit: M. Kopp)

Caring for Earth is everyone’s job.    (Credit: M. Kopp)

Helping others helps you. (Credit: M. Kopp)

Helping others helps you. (Credit: M. Kopp)

What do you use as a yardstick for measuring your “success” as a freelance writer? Leave a comment below!

Motivation for a natural escape

In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.”

— John Muir

It’s true, being outside is good for mind. When I walk, I think. About everything and anything. Walking allows time for reflection. Movement, sights, sounds, smells, thoughts – they all combine to clear the head.

Perhaps more importantly, walking is good for the body. As a writer, I sit – a lot. New research shows that we all need to move more. Looks like I’ll have to walk more than once a day – aw, shucks!

In love with the outdoors. (Credit: M. Kopp)

In love with the outdoors. (Credit: M. Kopp)

What do you get out of walking in nature?

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?