When a writer decides to negotiate the tricky path to publication on their own, it can often be a long lonely haul; unlike that of a staff reporter or journalist, for instance, where their writing is often done in a room full of other writers and editors.
The life of a freelance writer, working on their own, usually from a home office, kitchen table, garden shed, bedroom desk, whatever; no matter what type of writing they are undertaking, is not necessarily going to always be an easy one. To begin with, it takes a lot of self-discipline to get established and start earning enough to pay the bills.
So where do we start?
Henri’s Cellar by Amelie Rose
Being a good organiser and having incredible self-discipline are two things all freelance writers would do well to cultivate within themselves. Unless, of course, they are fortunate enough to have on hand, close by, another individual committed enough to stand over them occasionally and crack the whip, check schedules are being adhered to, and research is not neglected.
When I say Freelance Writer, I am talking about any individual who has opted to write from the standpoint of not being on someone’s payroll. Whatever they write, be it books, articles, reports, copy etc, they are totally in charge of what they write, when they write, where, and for how long.
Particularly in a freelance situation, where there is no boss or editor demanding copy be handed in…immediately, if not sooner, the writer’s biggest enemy is procrastination; that shadowy evil, hiding in every nook and cranny of a writer’s mind, ready to pounce at the first hint of frustration, writing block, tiredness, and worst of all, in the wake of what we all fear – the rejection letter – or rejection email as is increasingly the case in today’s digital world.
Procrastination can eat away at those precious writing hours and stall even the best, most positive and cleverest writers. What’s wrong with the odd half hour or so checking personal emails, responding to interesting and/or nonsensical tweets, checking in on who’s saying what on Linkedin and Facebook, or having coffee with a friend who has just popped in because you work from home and that means you are always free with time on your hands. It’s true – that’s how most people see it.
But wait – have you ever tried adding up all those odd half hours that sometimes run into complete hours? Do it one day – the amount of non-productive downtime will probably shock you.
And when you have indulged in a little harmless time out, or whatever it is that has stopped you doing the thing you have swapped your previous job for, do you make it up in the evening?
Instead of turning on the telly and relaxing with your favourite must-watch sitcom, quiz, or crime show, do you head back to your PC or laptop and make up for the wasted time? Or not.
The Difficult Bits
Because a freelance writer is, in effect, responsible for their own destiny, there are things they need to do to ensure their work days are productive and relevant, so that what they write does actually end up bringing in the remuneration necessary to their survival, enabling them to pay the bills, the mortgage, with enough left over to eat and live.
Every industry has aspects its practitioners dislike and writing is no exception. But in the end it is these mundane things that, added to the enjoyment you get from the actual writing, will help you build your profile and increase your following and eventually start the inward flow of cash as opposed to a constant, singularly outward flow.
So what are these awful things that must be done?
I’m assuming that you already know, because you wouldn’t be doing this job if you didn’t realise how necessary the side jobs are to the final result. But if you are brand new to the industry you will be doing a lot of reading on the subject, which is why you will be reading this article.
Just remember, being a writer is not simply a matter of doing the one thing we love and nothing else – there are supporting factors that also need to be tended to.
The Magazine Article
Consider that you have written an article about pet grooming.
First you need to make sure it is of publishable quality so, when it is completed, you check and recheck it and, when it is bright and shining and all the checks and rewriting have been done and you are satisfied it’s as good as you are going to get it, you then need to figure out where to send it.
Hopefully you will already have a good idea of this as you probably wrote it with a certain publication in mind, such as the monthly pet lover’s magazine you subscribe to, Me and My Pet.
Assuming you have never written for them before, you now need to write a cover letter introducing yourself and explaining briefly about the article and why you feel qualified to write it.
As with all writing, homework is essential. Some magazine editors prefer a simple outline of the article rather than the whole thing on your first approach, so be sure to read their submission guidelines first – and FOLLOW THEM TO THE LETTER if you want your piece to have its best chance.
The Debut Novel
Perhaps you are writing a book. You are a great reader and have thought often that you could write something just as good some of the books you have read. So why not give it a try. Great.
But hang on, you had this fantastic idea for a story and you started to write and, for a while, all went well. But after the first couple of chapters you came to a full stop. You ran out of steam, the ideas stopped flowing.
No wonder you feel boxed in. What has actually happened is that you have written yourself into a corner.
So how do I get out of it and back to my wonderful story?
Reality needs to step in here.
Think – if you were told to drive a hundred miles to a particular address that you had never been to before and all you knew was that it was somewhere north of where you were at that moment, and you had no map, no electronic tracking device, no navigator. What would you do?
Wouldn’t it be much easier if you had a map?
And that is where the synopsis comes in. It is the map to your story.
It is also essential when submitting a book to a publisher or an agent. It tells them in brief what the story is about, from beginning to end.
It can be anything from one to 10 pages – some prefer short and succinct, others like a bit more body but they will tell you this in their guidelines.
Without this map to your story you will inevitably (there are always exceptions) come to a road block from which it will be difficult to proceed so there is one answer here – take some time out and write the synopsis.
The subject of becoming a writer is a huge one and many avenues can be visited and side roads turned down. One thing we can always be sure of as writers, is that we will never not have anything more to learn and that some of our best lessons learned are gleaned from others’ experiences.
Every time I listen to a writer, or read what they have to say about the craft of writing, I learn something new. No matter how small or seemingly insignificant it may seem, it helps to form another stepping stone along my own writer’s pathway. I hope this will be the same for you.
Next week I shall be adding an introduction to my new novel, Henri’s Cellar, now available on www.amazon.com as a kindle download and soon to be in paperback and audio.