Saturday, November 8, 2008

NaNoWriMo Survival Tip

I had kind of a break-through the other night. As part of my type-A, goal oriented personality, I like to hurry up and get to the end of whatever I'm working on. This usually means glossing over important bits, leaving interesting details out of scenes that would make them richer, and so forth--see my "lessons learned" series of posts in my archive for more on that.

So, when I start a new novel, I sit here and think, "Wow, there is so much I have to write! It's so intimidating! I don't know if I can do it! How am I going to write such-and-such scene?" I also think, "Hurry up and get there! Get it done!"

The other night, I was feeling overwhelmed at all I needed to get into this book, plus all the stuff I need to come up with to fill it out to meet the needed word count (oh, and make it an interesting story, of course). I sat here, not knowing where to begin, because there was too much to do. I finally decided that I knew what scene needed to happen next, so I might as well write it. So I did, and there was my word count for the night. The next day, the same thing happened. I lamented the great task before me, decided to write just the next scene, and boom! Another 1000 words done.

That's when I realized: you don't have to write or even think about your whole book all at once. Sure, it's great to have an outline (I do a loose one in my head; other people do very detailed and formal outlines) so you know generally where you're headed, but you can work at it one scene at a time, and no matter if the scenes are long or short, they'll add up and eventually you'll have a book. Naturally, you want to make sure each scene is relevant to the story and somehow moving it forward!

When you sit down today to work on your novel, if you're feeling unfocused or bored or overwhelmed or don't know what to write about, just think about what scene is next in your story and write it. Often, that's enough to get me in the writing mode and I keep going, but not always. If you can't stay focused after that, take a small break and come back and write just the next scene.

If that's not working for you, try this: one of the motivational speakers for NaNoWriMo last year (sorry, I can't remember which one) said when she gets stuck, she makes herself sit down and write just ten words. That ten words usually turns into a bit more, and often inspires her to write a whole lot more. You just need to get your fingers typing, and often your brain gets in gear! The more you sit around thinking, "I don't know what to write," the more time you're wasting. Just start typing...anything. Do a character sketch, if nothing else, just to get your brain in the creative mode.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Off to a great start!

I started writing at midnight last night and got 2105 words in, then did a bit more tonight and am at 3003. A great start! I am very happy with how Bubba to the Rescue is going so far! If you are NaNoing, please comment and tell me how you're doing!

Friday, October 31, 2008

Do you NaNo?

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is nearly upon us! As I write this, I'm at my region's kick-off party with about 30 other people. Quite impressive, especially considering there are many more in the area who couldn't make it!

What the heck is NaNoWriMo, you ask? Great question! During the month of November every year, thousands of people simultaneously (well, sort of) embark on the task of writing an entire 50,000 word (or more) novel within the month. It's designed to inspire you and get you writing, to let the juices flow and just write.

So many people who want to write a novel never even start, and others start but never finished. It's easy to get bogged down, trying to make it perfect the first time, but that is a mistake! No novel is perfect the first go. Rather than worry about it, "embrace the suck" as a fellow NaNoer put it (sorry for not crediting you but I forget who it was): just write and get the damned thing down on, word processor and worry about fixing it later. Edit it in December, or in the case of my NaNo from last year, leave it on your hard drive for a couple of years until you're ready to face it again.

Last year was my first year. I learned about it sometime around November 5th or so, so I got a late start, yet I finished my 63k novel several days early...and that's not including the 3800 words I took out because they were too much of a diversion (I'm saving them for a sequel or short story). I'm not saying that to brag, but to tell you, you can do it! Even if you don't read this post until the 8th, you can do it...I'm here for you! There are all kinds of support groups...check (you'll want to sign up, anyway) and there's a forum for it on Sorry for no hyperlinks tonight, I just don't have the mental capacity for them!

29 minutes to go...wheee!!!!!!

Monday, October 27, 2008

How to get started freelancing, part six: how to write a query letter

At long last, I have gotten around to telling you how to write a query letter! Thank you for your patience. As I mentioned in my last post, the point of the query letter is basically to get the editor to give you a chance and read your piece. It is not hard to write a query letter, once you know how. Once you get it down, you can make kind of a template for yourself to write future ones. Just make sure you tailor it as much as possible to each recipient--editors like to feel special.

Here is a sample of a query letter I wrote that resulted in the editor requesting the article on spec. I'm removing any names so I don't like like too much of a doofus if he has a google alert. With my luck, he'll find it anyway and I'll still look like a doofus. What can I say...I'm a doofus, but I write pretty well so you should forgive me!

Here is an example of a query letter I sent recently. The editor bought the article, but I'm sure there's always room for improvement if anyone has a critique. In any case, I wanted to get a sample out here for those of you who don't know how to write one. I put some notes in brackets.

Hello Mr. [Editor's last name], [formal address to the correct person]

In the highly exacting sport of dressage, there are few riders who earn the elite honor of a USDF Gold Medal. Only a very small number of these riders earned their Gold Medal on an Arabian horse, and Patience Prine-Carr recently joined the ranks with multi-national champion OKW Entrigue +++//. [this is the hook]

Although this is a very impressive honor, few people in the Arabian horse industry truly understand just how rare and special the award is, if they have even heard of it. I would like to write an article that will educate your readers on what it takes to train a horse and rider to the Grand Prix level of dressage, and show that Arabian horses can do it! I expect the article to total between 1,000 and 1,500 words, and I can supply pictures and quotes from Patience. [why the need for this article and what I plan to do. anything you can add here to show why their magazine is the perfect fit would be good.]

I have been published in [magazine], [another magazine] and have a monthly feature in [yet another magazine]. I would be honored to be a part of [the magazine I'm querying] as well. I have writing samples available. [I can write, I swear! I can prove it! Some magazine submission guidelines will ask you to go ahead and send samples.]

If you would be interested in running this piece, my contact information is below. I look forward to hearing from you.

Jennifer Walker
[other contact info]

Saturday, October 25, 2008

How to get started freelancing, part five

All right, today we get into the good stuff: magazine work. This is where the real money is for most freelance writers. Most magazines pay anywhere from $.10 to $1 per word, which adds up pretty quick, especially on 1000+ word features. Many do not pay by the word but pay a set fee for different types of articles (300 word blurbs vs. 1500 word features, etc.), but it averages out to a great rate per word. There are magazines that do not pay, and they are generally easier to get into, which is a good way to get your first publishing credit.

Of course, the more the magazine pays, the more competition you have and the pickier you are. Your work needs to be very, very good--no errors, good structure, sources cited. Some national mags will not even consider you unless you have national credits to your name already. Lower paying mags have lower standards and are a good way to cut your teeth and get some experience.

Generally the way magazines work is, you send a query letter explaining what kind of article you want to write, why it's a good fit for their magazine and why you're qualified to write it. You may or may not include writing samples, depending on the submission guidelines. The magazine then decides whether they want to have you write the article "on spec" (speculation), and you write it and send it. If they like it, they buy it. You can also just go ahead and write the article and send it with your query, but you risk spending time writing articles that don't sell when you go this route--of course, you could keep shopping them around until you find a buyer, or stick it on Associated Content (see my post about online content sites).

Probably the most important piece of advice I can give you about writing for magazines is to find their website and locate their submission guidelines. Read them very carefully, and then read them again. Follow their instructions on how to submit to them to the letter, and then double check to make sure you did it right! This business is so competitive that many editors will not bother with writers who do not follow directions. Some magazines receive 100s of queries each day, so you want to stand out for good reasons, not bad!

Tomorrow I'll tell you how to write a query letter. If you have any questions about anything I've talked about, please ask and I'll do my best to answer!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

How to get started freelancing, part four

Today's subject: online bidding sites

Although online content sites are a good way to cut your teeth and get yourself in the writing mode, they pay very little. If you want to make a real career out of writing, you can do much better through other means of making money.

Bidding sites are a great way to find work. Someone who needs work done will post their job on the site, a bunch of people will place a "bid" on it, and the buyer will decide which service provider is best for the job. Some of these jobs are very low paying, aimed at workers in India and other places with a low cost of living. However, not everyone wants to hire the cheapest writer--they want the best writer they can get for their budget. This is often a person whose first language is English.

The two bidding sites I use are oDesk and Elance. I prefer oDesk at this point, because it costs me nothing. I get 20 bids per week, and the cost of the service is added on to my fee when the buyer is billed (in other words, if I bid $40, the buyer pays $44). Elance gives you only 3 "connects" per month for free, and high-paying jobs cost more than one connect. You can purchase more connects so you can bid on more jobs, and then Elance adds a service fee to your bid as well. I know I warned you yesterday about sites that charge money to get work, but this is different--you can see the available jobs before you pay anything, and there are so many jobs that it's worth it.

When you sign up for these sites, fill out your profile as completely as possible. Your first couple of jobs may need to be low-paying ones so you can build a reputation--buyers will give you feedback so future buyers will have more confidence in you. When you apply for jobs, write a cover letter that tells them why you're the person for the job--your experience, your knowledge of the work they need done, etc.

You can find all kinds of jobs on online bidding sites. Eventually, you may move away from using these services, but they are a good way to get started. Each time you finish a job, be sure to ask for more work. This has worked well for me with several jobs.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

How to get started freelancing, part three

OK, you've learned how to write and you've practiced and feel comfortable doing it. The next step is to start selling what you write! There are different ways to go about this, so I'm going to break it up over a few posts. Today I'm going to focus on online content sites.

Online content sites are websites that are like big article warehouses. They pay you a pittance for putting your article on their site, and they earn money from the ad revenue. These sites include Associated Content (they pay a small up-front payment plus $1.50 per 1000 page view residuals), Helium (they only pay residuals on some mysterious formula related to the subject, page views and where you're ranked), Demand Studios (they pay $15 up front for article ideas they suggest and they just changed how much they pay for subjects you suggest so I don't know. No residuals), and Suite 101 (they pay a revenue share of the ad income, which is pretty good). There are others, like Textbroker, Triond and eHow, but I have only used the ones above.

There are other places to earn online; you just have to keep your eye out. is a place where you can write letters for people, and you get paid $10 for every letter you sell. I've sold a few there.

The big thing to look out for is that if they charge you money to sign up and get work, it's probably a scam. Many places that charge a subscription fee just to view job listings have very few listings, and what is there gets snapped up quickly. These places are likely to then bombard you with spam or sell your information to add insult to injury.

The forums at Associated Content and Accentuate Writers have some job listings you might find helpful.

Posts to look forward to: SEO work, bidding sites, magazine work, how to write a query letter

Monday, October 20, 2008

How to get started freelancing, part two

Now that you've decided you know how to write, the next step is pretty simple: start writing! Any successful writer will tell you that writers write, and if you want to be a writer, you need to write a lot. Writing a lot gives you practice so you get better, both at the mechanics of it and at coming up with ideas, feeling comfortable with doing it, and so on. Plus, if you're not writing anything, what will you sell?

Where to get ideas? All around you. Every interaction with every person you come across, every place you go, every television show or news broadcast can be a source of inspiration. In my case, I have a niche: horses. Having a niche helps me to narrow down my choices of what to write about, but I also dance (another niche), eat, don't have to confine yourself to a niche, but you might find it helpful to capitalize on one if you can.

Tomorrow I'll start talking about where to sell your writing.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

How to get started freelancing, part one

Although I have only been freelancing for a short time, I like to think I'm doing pretty well, and I'm very humbled to say that I have had several people tell me I've inspired them! It's really an amazing feeling to have people look up to me and ask me for advice for something this new to me. However, I must be doing something right, so I might as well embrace it!

I get a lot of requests for advice on how to get started freelancing, so I thought I'd do a mini series with my advice on how to do it. There are many different approaches and opinions, so I can only tell you what worked for me and the lessons I've learned. Some of them I've already shared, but I'll be a bit more pointed for the next few posts.

How to get started freelancing, part one: Learn How to Write

I can't stress this enough. I've harped on it before, and I'm going to harp on it again now. If you just want to write for your own enjoyment, it doesn't really matter how well you write--you should just write and get your thoughts on paper and enjoy it. However, if you want people to pay you for your work, you need to give them a product worth paying for. You probably wouldn't pay good money for an amateurish painting and put it on your wall, would you? The writing world is very competitive, and a publisher who has to choose between a poorly written piece and 100 well written ones is not going to go with the poor one just because "it's only fair" (or whatever other justification you can come up with).

Learn how to write. Get some textbooks, manuals or tutorials, read books, take a class. Get the basics down: spelling, grammar, punctuation, logical organization of the work. Read a lot of the type of thing you want to write--whether it's articles about horses, short stories or news items. Get a feel for how they are written and come up with your own style. Figure out what your weak points are and work on them.

Writing is a craft, not a task like flipping burgers. You must learn it well and hone it if you want to be successful.

Now that I've admonished you sufficiently, I'll start talking about how to get work tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Do you have a nose for news?

So, I recently started writing for (see today's piece at with more likely to follow). I think I mentioned this in a previous post--I sent a letter of introduction to them to offer my services, and they gave me a shot.

This is a departure for me, because is a news site, focusing on horse health. I've done a little on horse health before and it's a subject I enjoy writing about, but I've never really done news before. I have to sniff out my own stories and write them in a journalistic style, packing as much info into 300 words as possible. It's actually quite a rush! The hardest part is getting a feel for what news is, vs. a feature, and finding the stories. Once I find the topic and get the research done (using only reliable sources), the writing is actually pretty easy. I'm looking forward to learning a lot about this style of work and writing more for them--the editor, Erin Ryder, is extraordinarily helpful and patient. Thanks, Erin!

Don't be afraid to expand your writing horizons. The more flexible you are in the type of assignments you take on, the more money you can make. Different people have different ways of approaching a new type of assignment. Some people will tell you to act like your an expert whether you are one or not and learn fast so you can do a good job. While I agree with the last part of that sentence, I have a hard time not being completely truthful. I was honest with and told them I have little experience with news but am willing to learn and do the best I can, and they took a chance on me. I did the same with LEG when I applied to write press releases for them--I told them I'd only written a couple before and gave samples, and they hired me. I think as long as you show you can write, most places will be willing to give you a shot. Just make sure you learn fast and incorporate every suggestion they give you!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Time to Brainstorm!

How often do you brainstorm story ideas? I only do it when someone tells me to, which is silly. However, it is a fantastic exercise! I do best when someone says "give me titles/ideas for such-and such topics." This has happened twice now, and I came up with so many ideas! However, not all of them were fits for the magazine that requested them. So, what to do with these leftover ideas? Forget them. Toss them out. They're useless, right? Wrong! Why not take the ideas that magazine rejected and sell them somewhere else? Surely someone will want them.

I put my new-found tactic to the test yesterday. I pitched some ideas to one place, but that place only wants news and a lot of them were really features. So, I sent them to another magazine I work for regularly and asked if they want them. I haven't heard back yet, but I have tons more places to send them if this one doesn't want them.

One more sign I'm growing as a writer!

Friday, October 10, 2008


Today I got a special package in the mail. The Ultimate Horse Lover, the very first book to contain my name! Looks like a great read. I'm on page 161. They changed the title to "We're Just Here to Look," but I forgive them.

I don't know if I'll ever get over that cool feeling of seeing something in print with "by Jennifer Walker" at the top of it (er, or at the end, as the case may be). Maybe I'll get all jaded eventually, but I still have to look for every issue of every magazine and dig through the table of contents until I find it.

Of course, there will be more books with my name in them! For example, the Accentuate Writers Short Story Contest Anthology will contain at least two of my works and will be out early next year. And, I'm still sending out queries for Bubba Goes National.

To infinity, and beyond!

Monday, October 6, 2008

The Ultimate Horse Lover is now available!

My humorous true story, "We're Just Going to Look" can be read in The Ultimate Horse Lover, now available from HCI books. Purchase it and their other books at: HCI Books New Releases

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Don't be shy!

I've mentioned before how valuable networking can be for getting work. Last week I was at Arabian Sport Horse Nationals. When my coach and I were breaking down, two ladies came over to talk to her (she's a very prominent figure in the sport). They mentioned something about having a bunch of stories and photos, and they just need to decide which ones to do, so it became evident they were from a magazine. I asked them which one, and they named one of the major Arabian Horse magazines. I happened to have some of my business cards with me, so I pulled them out and introduced myself and offered my services. They promised to check out my website and gave me their card so I could send them some samples and said they hadn't picked a writer yet and it was a definite plus I had been there. If this works out, I'll have an in with them, which is major!

I also sent a letter of introduction to Their news editor asked me to send her some pitches, which I did, she selected one and I wrote it. You can read it here. It never hurts to put yourself out there, but it sure can help!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Writing is an emotional roller coaster

Writing is so emotional. When you write fiction, your characters go through a wide range of emotions and feelings, and I, for one, ride right along with them. I cried while writing certain parts of Bubba Goes National, and every time I do an edit or rewrite of it, I cry at the same places.

Even non-fiction has its challenges. You get a compliment from an editor or reader on a piece and you soar sky high. Nothing can touch you! You have arrived! Then, an editor rejects your pitch, or *gasp* asks for edits on the article you worked so hard on. Rejection. Depression sets in. Why can't every pitch be accepted and every piece I write perfect? I know, I one is perfect and you can't get what you want every single time. But...I WANT to be perfect. I want them to gush over my perfect article. I want them to happily accept every article idea I pitch them.

Do you go through this in your writing? Or, has it become like any other job for you--you write, you submit, it's accepted or not and you go on? Do you ever get over that slight feeling offense that they asked for edits, even though you recognize that their suggestions made the piece oh-so-much better?

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

I'm on facebook

Apparently, anyone who's anyone is on facebook, so if I want to be anyone, I have to join. So, I did. Visit my profile--I think that's the right address! I don't have a lot of time for social networking sites so I don't spend a lot of time on them, but at least I have my profile and a couple links up there.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Suite 101

I recently applied for and was accepted at Suite 101. I understand not everyone gets accepted on their first attempt, so I was very happy! The editor suggested one quick and easy (and logical and helpful) edit on my first article, and now I have two on my profile.

Suite 101 is a revenue sharing site. They post Google Adsense ads (like I have here on my blogs) and share a portion of the revenue from those ads with the writer. I've made about 30 cents so far...woo! I know people who have 50 articles or more who manage to earn $50 and up each month in residual income. I'm going to try to keep adding to my profile there so I can build up to that. I love residual income!

Friday, September 5, 2008

Associated Content review time

Well, I haven't written anything for Associated Content in a while, but I submitted a review for a shampoo and conditioner I tried recently thanks to a free sample from Walmart. Did you know Walmart will send free samples right to your door? Try it--it's fun! Anyway, I submitted this product review on August 27th and they reviewed it and made an offer today--a week and two days. They've been worse, so I'll be thankful!

Monday, September 1, 2008

July/August winners announced!

The winners of the Accentuate Writers contest for this month have been announced. Check it out!

Congratulations to everyone who made the finals, and especially the winners! It takes a lot of courage to enter these contests, and you can really learn a lot from them. I highly encourage everyone to enter! I'm frantically trying to think of an idea for next month's contest so I can get a shot at that $300!

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Demand Studios review time is shortening

It looks like Demand Studios is getting on the ball. Today I had an article approved that I wrote on 8/25 or 8/26. It seemed to be taking a week or more for them to review articles for a while but in the past three days I have had six articles reviewed. They are also very quick to approve suggested assignments--usually within a couple of hours. While I don't agree with everything Demand Studios does as far as editing goes, I have to say they are trying hard to make their writers happy. They just started a Demand Studios blog, so this may be a good step toward improved communication and Demand Studios-writer relationships.

Friday, August 29, 2008

The Power of Networking

Although I've only been in this business a fairly short time, I cannot underestimate the importance of networking. I cannot tell you how many jobs I have gotten and how much advice, story ideas and education I've gotten through networking--it's invaluable. I got my first publisher because of networking, and although I had to back out of it, I wouldn't have gotten there in the first place without knowing someone there. I have heard several stories of authors getting published because they were in the right place at the right time. There is so much competition out there, sometimes just knowing the right person is what you need to get your foot in the door.

There are many different ways to network. The old school way is to join writers' guilds and associations and attend meetings and conventions. A more modern way is to meet people over the internet. I belong to several writing-focused discussion boards (and horse-focused ones) and an email list of equine journalists. This is how I met my mentors and obtained a large amount of work, either by helping them with their workload or following their advice to try sites like oDesk.

I highly recommend you meet and talk to as many writers as you can. Tell everyone you know that you are a writer and try to work in the type of writing you do in conversations--you never know when some work might come your way because of it.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

September/October Short Story Contest Announced at Accentuate

Well, as expected, my joke short story entry did not make the finals in the August/September Accentuate Writers short story contest. There were some great entries and everyone who made it should be proud! Michy said she'll post my story on her blog at some point, so I will point to it when she does. It is based on inside jokes at the writing forum, but non forum dwellers will find it funny, too! Heck, why not join the forum so you get the full effect? It's fun, it's free, and there is a lot of good information on the forum.

The September/October short story contest promises to really step up the competition! The announcment was posted last night, and first prize will be $300!! Second will be $150 and third will be $75. Plus, you get published in the short story contest anthology. What do you have to lose? OK, so you might not win...but you will have accomplished something by writing a story and entering it, and chances are good you will receive some valuable feedback on it to improve for next time.

Off to think of a story idea...

Sunday, August 24, 2008

How much to charge?

The question of how much to charge for your work plagues every new freelancer. Most, like me, tend to underprice themselves, afraid if they charge too much no one will buy. Further, they don't believe they're worth as much as they could get. It's really hard to break out of that! What I'm doing is I set my hourly rate at $25 per hour. I try to figure out how much time I'll spend researching and writing the piece and guess at a price from there. It's really pretty unscientific. I almost always underestimate how much time something will take...and then, I forget about the whole rewrite thing. While some pieces are just fine the first time I write them, others require rewrites. These are usually minor things; often the editor thought of something I should add after they read the first draft, or they give me some information I didn't have before. It's rarely earth shattering, but it is practically inevitable and I need to remember to build it into my time. I also need to consider the time I sit and stare at my computer, creating the piece in my head before I actually write. It is a process I will probably need to continually readjust.

Are you directing your destiny, or is it directing you?

This woman Greg and I used to work with once said that everything I touch turns to gold. She said it's like I have a charmed life, because I'm always accomplishing things and getting things. Some, more religious than I, might say I am blessed by God or something.

I prefer not to think of it that way. That would indicate some forces outside of myself are responsible for the good things that come to me. In fact, I work very hard to make them happen. I talk to the right people, learn what I need to learn, follow the advice I am given and put in the long hours to get it done. When I decided I wanted a horse, I made sacrifices to afford her. When I decided I wanted to become a writer, I did what I needed to do to make it happen.

Am I blessed? OK, I guess I have to admit that I am blessed in that I have talents, and I am very thankful for that blessing. I am able to learn things quickly and there are a number of things I can do well, and I am lucky in that I am able to make money doing them. However, I could just as easily have decided not to do anything with them and work at McDonald's where no one expects anything of me. However, I chose to capitalize on my talents and put them to their best use.

I have met people in my life who are victims. Everything is going wrong in their life, and they let it drag them down. They wear their problems on their sleeve, display them for the world, and wallow in pity--self- or otherwise. I see other people who have terminal illnesses and all kinds of problems. However, they are bright, positive people who make the best of what life has dealt them.

Why is the second group happy when the first group isn't? It's all about their outlook on life. If you continually see the negative side of life and whine about what you don't have, how can you be happy? If you are religious, one of the Ten Commandments is "Thou Shalt Not Covet". Why is that? When all you do is covet what other people have and you don't, you will not be happy. Instead, enjoy what you have and figure out how to get what you want.

Put your energies toward positive things. If your positive energy and hard work pays off, good things will come to you. However, whether you get what you want or not, why be miserable?

Monday, August 18, 2008

Questions people ask when I tell them I'm freelancing, cont.

Part four in the series:

Will you write me an article on X so I can see a sample of what you will do? I'm not going to pay you for it or use it, I swear!

I fell for this once. I wrote some beautiful ad copy for a potential buyer and they didn't take it. now I use it as a sample, but otherwise it's useless. I wasted my time. Would you ask a store to give you $50 of product so you can make sure the quality is good? I have plenty of writing samples to show my quality of work. I will work with you to make sure you are happy with the end product. Don't ask me to work for free!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Questions people ask when I tell them I'm freelancing, cont.

Part three in the series:

Do you want to help me with [fill in whatever unpleasant chore here] to give you something to do during the day?

No, I don't want to [fill in unpleasant chore]. I have a job. It's called "writing". Now that I'm self employed, I work many hours every day. Like 12. Is it worth it? Yes. I love spending all day doing what I love to do, where I want to do it! However, right now this job I love does not leave much time for anything else. When I do take time off to do something else, it will be something I want to do, not your chores. Unless I really, really like you. And I'm probably getting something out of it!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Questions people ask when I tell them I'm freelancing, cont.

Part two in my series of silly questions people ask me.

2. You can make money doing that?

I'm not sure where this question comes from. When people plunk down several dollars to buy one of those glossy magazines full of articles and pretty pictures, do they not realize that someone is paying the people writing those articles and taking those pictures? What about the books you pay $10 or more for? The author gets some of that. There are many, many people who make a living writing. The last time someone asked me "you can make money at that?" I answered, "No. We eat dirt and live under a bridge." Not only is it a stupid question, it's actually kind of rude. Why would I quit my job to do something that won't make me any money?

Questions people ask when I tell them I'm freelancing

Every time I tell someone I quit my job to become a freelance writer, I get asked the same questions. I'll discuss each of them, one at a time.

1. What do you write?

There are a variety of ways a freelance writer can get paid. You can make easy, steady money writing for article warehouses like Associated Content or Demand Studios. There are also a variety of revenue share sites like Suite 101, Triond, paid blogging sites, etc. These do not pay a lot of money, but there are people who make a living just writing for them.

A more professional and lucrative way to make money freelancing is writing articles for print or web and writing web content. There are many different tasks that fall loosely within these categories. Press releases, letters, sales material, translation, transcription, rewriting name it. If you can string words together with good grammar in a way that makes people want to read what you wrote, you can make money doing it. If you decide you want to be a freelance writer, it's your choice what you want to do!

I do a combination of the above. I do magazine articles, online articles, website content and article warehouses.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Ten things I love about my new job

This is my second week of working my new job as a freelance writer. Here are ten things I like about it, in no particular order:

1. No commute
2. Wearing (or not) whatever I feel like (or not) to work
3. I can take a nap or a bath or a gardening break whenever I want
4. I am in control of my income. If I need to make more money, I write more. If I want some time off and can afford to take it, I can.
5. My co-worker won't rat me out to my boss if I annoy or offend him.
6. I can have Take your Pet to Work Day any time I want.
7. I can work wherever I want.
8. I can take care of appointments and errands during the week when everyone else is at work.
9. I spend all day doing what I want to do, not what someone else is telling me I have to do.
10. I can blog at work any time I want.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Give my hubby some clicky love?

Loyal readers, my husband, Greg Walker is trying to get the whole writing business thing off the ground. He has written a few articles on Associated Content and is just 48 views away from actually receiving a payout! Will you do me a personal favor and read a few of his articles? I just went and read them all again, but I can only give him so many. He has an engaging writing style--quite entertaining to read! Greg's Associated Content page

Thank you!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

What's your goal?

I've set various goals and challenges for myself over the years, and it always motivates me to get work done. I am goal oriented, so it really helps me to have something to work toward! On Michy's forum, LaurieM started the August Challenge, but we all set our own goals. I set a goal for myself of 100 articles and 20 queries for the month of August.

The first goal should not be hard--I already have 21 for the month. The second is a little harder, because I am usually so busy trying to earn money, I don't stop to write queries. However, I must! This is the way to break into higher paying markets and get higher paying projects. So, I only have 2 in for the month, but I have about 24 days left to get the other 18 in.

Do you set goals for your work? What are they? If you don't, consider trying it!

Monday, August 4, 2008

Today's epiphany

Today I figured out something very cool and exciting. I am writing a long article for a magazine that requested it. I realized that the same topic can easily be reworked for a different magazine with a different subject matter but the same idea...and then I thought of several more places where I can do the same thing! I could even break it up into a series. I'm starting to figure out the system!!!

Friday, August 1, 2008

I'm FREE!!!!

Today was my last day at the day job I've worked for over eleven years (most of my adult life). It was at once sad and exhilarating! It's such a big change that I'm kind of in shock. I'll miss the routine and my co-workers immensely, but I won't miss a lot of the work and BS that went with it. I am very happy to be leaving on my own terms to do what I want to do! It is the end of an era and the beginning of a new one, and changes of this magnitude are always hard and scary...even if the change is for the better and you know that. I know I am going to be successful--I'm determined!

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Helium Marketplace article purchased

I finally sold an article on Helium Marketplace: How the stature of the horse creates opportunity and obstacles: Movement. The money for this was quite good, almost enough to make up for the several articles that were not purchased. I hope to try again with this publisher, and maybe they'll like my work enough to ask me specifically to write more for them. Maybe not, but there's always hope! I don't know how much more I'll do for MP unless the titles are really intriguing, easy or well paying. It's a lot of work to just earn pennies if they aren't purchased.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Helium is another article warehouse of sorts. The way it works is, there are hundreds of article titles on the site, and you write an article that falls under one of those titles (you can also suggest your own, but you don't earn the page view bonus unless there are more than three articles in the title). You and other writers at Helium rate the articles, so the best ones rise to the top. You earn a few pennies for page views, and every once in a while someone will come along and buy your article. There are also contests you can participate in for cash prizes and debates that help to stimulate your creativity.

The best part of Helium is the Marketplace. Publishers contract with Helium to purchase articles written by Helium authors. The publisher posts the articles they want, along with guidelines and the price. Helium writers write the articles and rate them, and the publisher reads the top few and chooses one. Those that aren't chosen are transitioned to the Helium website to earn pennies. The great part about this is that the article prices range from $16 to $200 (that I've seen). The drawback is that you might be writing the article for nothing. I've done a couple that really didn't translate well to the regular site, so they were a waste of time. I haven't sold any there yet, although I have four submitted to a new online horse magazine, so I hope at least one sells!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Where are you saving?

I learned a harsh lesson tonight. Well, it's one I already taught myself, but managed to forget and apparently needed a reminder. I sent an article to the editor at a magazine I write monthly features for last night, and today she wrote back and asked if a page was missing, because it only had 288 words! I had somehow sent an old version. After over an hour of searching every possible spot on my computer, the correct version is GONE. I had to rewrite it...thankfully, 288 words of it were there and I remembered everything I'd written so it didn't take as long the second time. Still, it sucked. I could have written another article during that time.


1. Double check where you are saving your file, especially if you downloaded it from an email (I'd worked on it at work, then saved it in a draft in my gmail so I could access it at home). These often go to a temp folder that is hard to find. I have done this before and found the files, but not this time.

2. Double check your attachments and make sure you are sending the right version of the right file!

The joys of

I generally keep my resume upated on Recently, I updated it to show that I am available for freelance writing work, so I guess it sort of revived it, because a lot of people are looking at it. At least twice per week, I get an email that says something to the effect of "I have reviewed your resume and feel you have some of the experience or qualities we are looking for." The email then goes on to say they are hiring sales representatives, either for a mortgage company, a financial advisor firm, real estate or insurance.

Apparently it wasn't clear by the objectives listed on my resume what I was looking for, so I added a line that said "I am not interested in any sort of sales position." Yet, I still get these emails. Obviously, you did NOT review my resume, because you would have seen that I am not interested in your sales position. It's really nice of you to make the offer, but I am not leaving my well-paying day job to take an entry-level sales position--I'm leaving it to be a freelance writer. Very different objective. Sending these emails is a waste of your time and mine, so why do you do it? Take the few seconds to actually read the email to see if it's even a match before you send the email.


Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Associated Content review time

Associated Content has been behind on reviews ever since the $5000 call for content contest. I submitted one on July 1st and one on July 2nd and received offers on them yesterday. Today I received offers on articles submitted on July 4th and 5th, so maybe they're starting to catch up!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Get the basics right!

I don't know if I've talked about this before, but if I did, it bears repeating! Many writers never learn the basics of writing. Their spelling and grammar are bad and they have no idea of how a story/article/book/whatever is supposed to be structured. If you want people to pay you for your writing, you have to give them good quality for their money. Do whatever it takes to get the writing basics: take a class, buy a book and study, whatever works for you. Nail your spelling and grammar, and your writing will automatically improve. Of course, you sometimes need to just write and let it flow...but if you have studied your grammar and spelling, they will be innate and you won't have to think about them while your creative juices flow. Until then, go ahead and write, but be prepared to go back through the work later and correct it.

My grammar is not always perfect, but I have several resources I refer to when I'm unsure of something. Of course, boo-boos will still slip through, but the majority of my work is clean, and that goes a long way.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Thank you for helping me reach my goal!

A couple of weeks ago, I asked for some pity clicks on my Associated Content articles so I could meet my goal of earning $5 in page view bonus this month. We did it! With 4 cents to spare at $5.04. This month, I would like to reach $10. Can I do it? I am adding some new articles, all of which are in queue at the moment. They are mini dance lessons, so check them out when they post! You can subscribe to my profile and receive an email every time I post an article by clicking on the "subscribe" button on my Associated Content profile--there is a link on the right-hand side of this blog.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

1st Place!

I am excited to announce that my story The Fire was the first place winner in the June Accentuate Writers Forum contest! I will be receiving my $50 in prize money tomorrow. Yippee! Even better than the prize money is the fact that my stories will appear in an anthology of all of the contest winners, produced by Accentuate Services (Michy may need to correct me on which entity is actually producing it, but it's too darn late for me to think about it) and due to come out next February. I will have copies available for sale, or I'm sure you will be able to buy them through outlets Michy will announce. I am becoming increasingly incoherent, so here's the announcement!

These contests are a great way to stretch your skills as a writer and get some feedback while you're at it...with the possibility of winning some money and a publishing contract! I highly recommend them.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

OMG...I'm a finalist!

Michy just announced the finalists in the June contest, and I am one of them! Yippee! The winners will be announced next will I sleep until then??

Michy's announcement on her blog

Michy announced the new short story contest!

Michelle L. Devon has done it again...and this time, first prize is $100! What are you waiting for? Get on over to Accentuate Writers Forum and sign up for the short story contest. The theme is "Winds of Change". I'm furiously trying to think of what to write about. We have until August 20th!

Friday, July 4, 2008


ODesk is an online bidding site for freelancers. They have jobs in a number of different categories from technical to voice-overs to writing and editing jobs. I have secured and completed one job through them so far and it was quite satisfactory. I have also made contact with a couple of people who may hire me for future projects. It is free to join and use as a freelancer--the buyer of your services pays a fee to oDesk. Like any online bidding site, many of the buyers are pretty cheap and you have to compete with people who will work for $3/hour, but there are some buyers who are more interested in quality and are willing to pay more for a native English speaker with good writing skills.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Accentuate Short Story Contest Entry

I started on my story at 3:00 this afternoon, and I just uploaded it to the contest thread! It took a loooong time, but I think it's worth it--I think this could be a book. Maybe this will be my nano project this year! Anyway, stop by and read it, and the others while you're at it. Oh, and sign up for Michy's forum! It's a great place. :)

Short Story Contest Thread

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Would you all mind helping me reach my goal?

I'd like to make $5 for the month at AC (woo, big goal, huh?). Anyway, I need 585 views by Monday night to make it happen. Mind sending a few my way? I'd really appreciate it!

My AC page

Writing non-linearly

Something I need to work on is writing non-linearly. I'm a very A to Z kind of gal--I like to start at the beginning and work my way through the end. Since the beginning is often the hardest part, I will stall and stall getting started on a piece because I don't know how to start it. I will play games, blog, surf the internet, get a snack...anything that will distract me from writing this thing. What a silly waste of time!

When I can wrench myself away from this desire to start at the beginning, I manage to be much more productive. I break the piece into sections and write the parts where I already know what I want to say. This helps me to set the direction for the piece and get my fingers working. Often, after writing the body, the opening and conclusion come very naturally.

OK, now I need to take my own advice and quit stalling and write this article!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Second book review posted

My second book review, for "Still Life With Elephant" is posted on Michy's Review Blog. Please stop over and take a look! While you're there, look through the other books she's reviewed or read the author interviews.

Demand Studios

Demand Studios is not a new market by any means, but it's new to me. I'm lukewarm about it, because it's only $15/article and you lose your rights. However, writing an article for them doesn't preclude me from reworking it and submitting it elsewhere! So, I decided to sign up last week and they accepted me. They also accepted the seven topics I suggested. I finished the last one tonight and they've accepted three so far. They are very low effort, because so far I've only suggested topics I can write about off the top of my head. I can do two in an hour, earning a decent hourly wage. I recommend giving it a shot, but only as a temporary gig--keep working on getting better paying work!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Book review posted

My review of Size 12 is not Fat was posted on Michy's Book Review Blog. Check it out!

Michy provides a free service to authors, reviewing their books and posting interviews with them. This costs the author nothing but the book. Check it out, and maybe you'll discover an exciting new author...or get some promotion for your own book!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Get Organized

Today I'm going to talk about a lesson I learned about freelancing. When you have a number of assignments that all need to be done at once, organize them to determine in which order you should do them. Are any of them due before the others? Are any of them more imporant than the others? Here's the lesson I learned: Do any of them require interviews or other research you need to conduct at specific times, like during the typical work day? If an article can be researched completely on the internet, books, or other research that can be done any time, you might want to put those last for when you're up all night the night before your deadline trying to finish. If you need to conduct interviews, do those first! It often takes time to find subjects and connect with them, so give yourself plenty of time.

I have this insane desire to do things from top to bottom, beginning to end. I have a list of articles I need to do, and instead of picking the ones that need interviews to do first, I insisted on doing them top to bottom. Now, my deadline isn't until next Tuesday...but I need to interview doctors. Doctors are busy people. Sometimes they take time off work, like Friday or Monday. Will I get to any in time? I guess we'll find out. I sent emails to five of them in hopes two will get back to me. I'll start making phone calls either tomorrow or Monday...of course, the hard part here is that I need to call them when they're at work...which is when I'm at my day job. Wish me luck.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Don't Get in a Hurry!

Being a goal-oriented kind of gal, I like to skip over the details and get to the good stuff when I'm writing. I've talked about this manifesting by telling vs showing and other problems. Another way this comes out is by skipping ahead.

If I have Leslie eating breakfast, and then she goes to the barn, I'll talk about breakfast and then suddenly she's on the way to the barn. In other words, I missed getting her into the car. In my mind, I'm skipping unneeded details. For the reader, though, this can be confusing, disruptive, and/or choppy. Although I don't need to have her walk out to the car, open the door, get in, and put on her seat belt, I do need to make some sort of transition. For example, her father can say it's time to go and they go. It only needs to be a sentence or two to smooth it out.

The closer I get to the end of the book or story, the more likely I am to get in a hurry and rush. I can see the goalpost in the distance, and I want to sprint to get there! It's hard to slow down and and get in all the necessary details!

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Done with the first round of rewrites!

Tonight I finished my first round of rewrites on Bubba Goes last! I started in February and had to put it away a few times, but it's done at last. Greg made a pass through it and fixed my boneheaded silly mistakes, and now it's off to Michy to edit when she has time. I sure hope she finds less to fix this time!

I have some more lessons learned to discuss, so stay tuned and I'll post them over the next couple of days. I'll also keep you updated with Michy's progress! What a relief to finally finish this step. Writing and publishing a book is such a horridly lengthy process! It's a huge leap for goal-oriented, complete each task quickly, Jennifer. It takes forever to just WRITE the thing, then you have to revise it umpteen billion times, then the query process is forever to get someone to accept you, then more waiting and revising and finally when you're old and grey your book is finally available for sale. How can anyone bear it? Yet, bear it we do, and some of us over and over again. It's a sickness! And it's the life I've chosen to live.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

June Short Story Contest on Accentuate Writers

The June short story contest has been posted here. The theme is "Summer Heat," how appropriate! There are cash prizes and a chance to be published in a short story anthology and professional editing, so I highly encourage you to participate!

I haven't decided what to write about yet, which is fair I suppose since I just read about it an hour or so ago. I do have a short story I wrote a while back that I could add some heat to to make it fit the theme, but I'd like to write something especially for the contest if I can. I always struggle with ideas...once I have an idea I can generally flesh it out, but that first step is a doozy!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Two for two...second place again!

My story The Assignment won second place in the Accentuate Writers Forum short story contest! If you're a member, you can read it in the Critiques and Feedback thread! Here's the announcement:

Monday, May 12, 2008

I'm a finalist!

My short story, "The Assignment" is one of six finalists in the Accentuate Short Story Contest! If you are a member of the forum, you can view it in the critiques and feedback thread. I'm very excited! We should find out the winners in the next week or so.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Why are some people so nasty?

You have read how I've gone on and on singing Michy's (Michelle L. Devon) praises. It may even appear a little silly, like I have some kind of girl crush on her, but she has just helped me so much, out of the goodness of her heart, that it's ridiculous. I'm beyond grateful. Most people who know her know she is one of the kindest, most generous people you will ever meet.

However, there is a small faction of people who, for some unexplained reason, have some kind of personal issue with her. One such person, who blogs as "Amy Lynn", has somehow concocted this vast conspiracy between Associated Content and Michy, claiming Michy's some kind of AC pet, getting all kinds of special treatment, etc. Amy Lynn is saying some horribly vicious things about Michy and calling her horrible names, all because of this supposed conspiracy.

Amy Lynn is really just ridiculous. If Michy gets higher offers on her content at AC, it's because she's a high performer--her page view average is over 2000, and if you take out her poetry it's almost double. Why wouldn't she get higher offers? Beyond that, with all the free advice she gives on the AC forums, how can you hold that against her?

Amy accuses Michy of "prostituting" herself on the internet. Amy, let me give you a little life lesson. Adults have to have jobs to pay their bills. Some adults have their own businesses, offering services for hire. Michy runs Accentuate Services. In order to get customers, you do something called "promotion" or "advertising". This is not to be confused with "prostitution". Does McDonald's prostitute itself?

Amy Lynn, get a life. Stop attacking someone who spends more time helping others than anyone I know, just because you don't understand how Associated Content works.

Michelle L. Devon, keep on doing what you're doing. You know how many of us love you, so please keep reminding yourself of that!

Jennifer Walker Writing Services

Until I get my website up and running, this is just a reminder that I offer writing and editing services. Send me an email at to ask about articles, ghostwriting, editing, or website content.

New blog

I have started a new blog to track my progress toward quitting my job! Check it out:

Friday, May 9, 2008

The Value of a Professional Editing Service

I have posted about how Michelle L. Devon, owner of Accentuate Services, is working with me on the developmental editing of my book, Bubba Goes National. Through the process, I am learning a lot about fiction writing that I never knew I didn’t know! After making the rewrites she suggested, I feel better armed to write my next book, knowing I won’t make the same mistakes again. In addition, I have a more saleable and engaging book as a result of these rewrites. I thought I'd give Michelle and Accentuate a little plug today.

Accentuate Services offers a wide range of services, including proofreading and editing, e-book services, publishing preparation, critiques and reviews, writing services and administrative services. When you visit her website, visit the Accentuate Writers Forum to network with other writers, enter contests, and get some good advice.

Michelle L. Devon has written four published books, with contracts in place for more, as well as many articles in print and on the web. She runs a number of blogs, including one for proofreading and editing tips and one where she providers book reviews and interviews of authors.

Thanks Michelle, for all your help!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

I won second place!!

In my first writing contest ever (I think?), I won a prize! In Michy's 6-Word Story contest on the Accentuate Writers Forum, my entry "Mother sighs with baby's first cry" tied for second place. First place was rightfully won (and by a mile, I'm thinking) by Jean Riva with "Husband and dog for sale. Cheap!"

Woo hoo! Click here to read the thread.

Thanks for running this contest, Michy! This month's contest is a short story contest, with the theme "April Showers." I'm trying to come up with an idea so I can enter!

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Where do you want to be when you die?

I heard some very sad news today. A man at my company, who works in another department, died of a heart attack at work yesterday. Apparently he said, "oh no," then fell to the floor and was gone. I didn't know him personally, but he was supposedly a very nice man and a good worker. I also hear he doted on his wife. I believe he was somewhere in his 50's.

This got me to thinking. I find it very sad to die at work...especially at a job like answering phone calls or processing transactions at a mutual fund company. If I died riding my horse or writing a novel, I think I'd look down from Heaven and be satisfied...but what if I died today? I like my job well enough, but it's not one I'd want to do for the rest of my life. Jai's death yesterday reminded me to keep pushing on to work toward my goal of writing full time, so I can get a chance to enjoy my life before it's over.

Farewell, Jai. I don't know where your next journey leads, but I hope your soul is happy there.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Can you write a whole story in six words?

The Accentuate Writers Forum ran a six-word story contest! The point is to tell a story with six words. Six words that set the scene so thoroughly, you know what has happened...although you might not know all of the back story that led up to it. For example: "For sale: baby shoes. Never worn." --Hemingway. It's an incredibly poignant story, although it leaves room for your mind to fill in exactly what happened.

Stop by the Accentuate Writers Forum and read the answers, then vote for your favorite! If you're not a member, feel free to join, or there are instructions on the thread to vote by other means. Vote here.

Friday, March 28, 2008

What? Associated Content writers are amateurs??

Before I get to the point of this post, I'll give you some background. If you're already familiar with Associated Content, skip the next paragraph.

So, it's not much of a secret that I write for Associated Content. If you're not familiar with the site, it's a place that will publish anyone, and I do mean, anyone. You can submit articles in hopes of getting an up-front payment offer, and they'll offer you a small payment ranging from $3-$20, but usually in the $4-$6 range unless you're really good and well established with a high performance record. On top of the up-front payment, you get $1.50 for every 1000 page views the article gets. If AC turns down your article for payment (which they do quite a bit if it's abysmally written, offers nothing new to the site, and some other reasons), you can post the article anyway and just get the page view bonus.

AC calls themselves The People's Media Company, because anyone can get published there. It's not an accomplishment to be particularly proud of, but I do make a little bit of money there, get some practice writing, get some exposure, and meet new people. You can see links to my latest articles a little way down on the right side of this page.

Anway...recently, the Washington Post published an article about the online content sites Helium and Associated Content. Read the article here. Some writers on the AC forum got all up in arms about it, highly offended because the article called the writers at AC amateurs. It wasn't even done in a derisive manner, but these writers were all upset. A couple of them wrote articles about how hard they work as AC writers, etc. I have some things I'd like to say about it:

1. Most of the AC writers ARE amateurs. There are some professionals there, like Michelle L. Devon and some others, but let's face it...the site is designed with amateurs in mind. They pay you $5/ professional is that??

2. Much of the writing on AC is crap. Serious crap. Many of the articles are just blog posts that someone decided to try to get paid for. The pieces are poorly constructed, contain little useful information, and some of the writing is downright painful to read. Not to say there aren't some great articles there...there really are. There is a lot of great information on the site. But there is tons and tons of crap.

3. Brian Bergstein wasn't being derisive, he was basically pointing out how AC gives amateurs a place to get paid for their writing. I don't know how I'd define a professional writer exactly, but churning out $5 articles all day does not put you on a par with the likes of authors who publish books and articles in print magazines. I'm sorry to break it to you, but the standards are vastly different.

4. I noticed the people who weren't particularly offended by the article were the better writers, and it was mostly the poorer ones who were complaining. Instead of whining about it, spend your time honing your craft. By that, I don't mean to write more crappy articles. I mean, take an English or creative writing class, or read some articles or blogs by established writers about how to write well, improve your grammar, etc. There is loads of information out there for you...use it.

I also see whining from people who are new writers who think they should be getting paid more (or at all) for their work. Would you expect to be paid for a dance performance your first week of lessons? No--writing is a skill that needs to be developed and matured. Work on it...get good at it, THEN look for ways to get paid.

Am I an expert? No. Do I put myself on the same level as famous authors, or Michy, or anyone else? No. However, I'm working on it by learning all I can and taking what pay I can get. I also work a day job that involves writing perfect reports, so I get a lot of practice.

I don't want to discourage anyone from writing. I think anyone who wants to write should. However, you need to be realistic about what your skill level is, and always look for ways to improve and grow.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Almost done rewriting

I can see the light at the end of the tunnel: I only have 4 or 5 chapters left of Bubba Goes National to rewrite. I was pleasantly surprised to open "The Championships" and find that there were actually very few notes! Michy had said she could see my writing mature while she progressed through the book (most probably because it took two years to write), so maybe these last few chapters won't be so bad, after all! I'm pleased to say that I found a few things I decided to change just because, without her prompting. I realized there wasn't very much dialogue in this chapter, so I took some of the narrative and made it into conversation between the characters. See, Michelle L. Devon of Accentuate Services? I CAN be taught! But, you knew that, didn't you?

Thanks to Michelle's developmental editing notes (and my hard work--gotta give myself some kudos here), I have added 12,000 words to Bubba without changing the story. I have only enhanced it, making it so much better. I can't imagine publishing it the way it was before! Just a few more chapters, and this baby's done. Hang in there, Jennifer...

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

What do my characters know?

One thing Michy's been trying to drum into my naturally blonde head is that you want to describe the scene through your character's eyes. Experience it as they do, feel it like they do. I didn't quite have a handle on this until today.

We were having a discussion on the Accentuate Writers Forum about POV, and when the author is allowed to intrude. Michy mentioned how in third person limited, you need to show the scene through your character.

Melanie made the following post, and at first I thought she had a really good point:

'...I still don't understand why it is wrong to write something like:

"The candle flickered and shards of light flashed across the hall. John shivered, his pulse pounding in his ears. Something scratched and shifted at the end of the hall."

when the whole story is from the POV of the character. Instead of...

"John saw the candle flicker and cast shards of light across the hall. He shivered, his pulse pounding in his ears. He heard something scratch and shift at the end of the hall."

I think that just sounds awful.'

She's right. The second way DID sound awful, and what was wrong with the first way, anyway? Looked pretty good to me, but then I remembered Michy's endless comments about "let's experience this through Leslie's eyes..." etc, etc. How can we experience this through John's eyes? I played around with it for a while, and this is what I came up with:

"The candle flickered and shards of light flashed across the hall, creating shadows that played tricks on John's eyes. He shivered, and through the pulse pounding in his ears he thought he heard something scratching and shifting at the end of the hall."

Once I did this and compared it to the original, I could see the difference. Melanie's sounded good, but (sorry, Melanie) now I realize that it seems a little disjointed...some scary stuff is happening, and also John seems to be worked up about something. In my rewrite, John is experiencing and reacting to the things that are going on in the hall. Hopefully, this speaks more to the reader and draws them in on an emotional level.

What a lightbulb moment that was for me to finally understand! When Michy said, "You've got it!" I just about did a back flip. She can be taught!

Monday, March 10, 2008

Intruder alert! Intruder alert!

Author intrusion? What the heck is author intrusion? I'd never heard of it before Michy accused me of using it.

"You're wrong," I said, "I've never intruded on an author in my entire life."

"*sigh*" she said. intrusion basically means that the author has inserted her voice/thoughts/opinion into the story. For example, in Bubba Goes National (yes, I must use the whole name in every post. Gotta boost my Google rating), I have Leslie looking at a horse she'd just groomed. I said, "He was beautiful." Well, this was my opinion, not Leslie's. There are a couple of ways to handle this. I can either say, "Leslie thought he was beautiful," or, what might actually be better, have Leslie think, "He's beautiful!"

The author intrusion distracts the reader from the characters' thoughts and perceptions and interrupts the "movie" that should be playing in the reader's head. Therefore, keep the heck out of your story!

Hopefully I explained that correctly. If not, I'm sure Michelle L. Devon (Michy), picky perfectionist princess that she is, will correct me via the comment feature!

Have I mentioned Michy? Check out her blogs by clicking on her name when she comments.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

The Accentuate Writers Forum Submission Challenge

I have issued a challenge on my favorite forum, Accentuate Writers. I hope my writing readers will join me there and take up the challenge, too!

All right, y'all, let's kick it into gear! We're all here to be writers, right? Let's get our work out there! I hereby offer a challenge. Are you up to the task?

1. You must set your goal of how much and how often you will submit, and post on the thread at Accentuate Writers to report. You can list everything you submitted or just one or two, it's up to you. Say as much about the piece as you like, whether it's the title or just a brief description, and what market you submitted to--again, as much detail as you think is appropriate. You don't have to write a book about it, just tell us what you did.

2. If you haven't already, start a spreadsheet to keep track of what you submitted, where, how (email/snail mail/website sub form, etc), when, and what the result was. This is for your personal use, not the forum.

3. Post when you get an acceptance or rejection so we can celebrate with you!

Who's with me?

My submission goals: submit one Associated Content article and one "real" piece to a "real" market per week.

I have already submitted my AC article, and as soon as I'm done with this blog post I'll send "We're Just Going to Look," part of my humorous Trials of a Horse Crazy Thirty-something series, to Arabian Horse World. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Phew! Done with Budget Horsekeeping

No pearls of wisdom tonight, just an announcement! I am so pleased to say that I have finished Budget Horsekeeping. It only took me about 6 weeks to complete since it's small--somewhere between 60 and 80 pages once the illustrations are added. I really enjoyed writing it--writing non-fiction about a subject I'm familiar with is much easier than fiction, where you have to worry about stuff like emotion and dialogue and showing vs. telling! I'm still working through Michy's notes on Bubba and hope to finish soon. I'm going to be able to breathe again for a while!

Monday, March 3, 2008

Say What? (Dialogue)

Being the straight-forward, get-right-to-the-point kind of gal that I am, I like to say what's going on (telling, of course) and get on to the next part of the story. I'm goal-oriented to a fault! So, as a result, I tend to forget to include dialogue! Instead of telling the reader what's happening, I should let the story come out through the dialogue. This will make the story and characters much richer. Of course, like many things, you can overdo it, too. If you have long, drawn-out speeches where the characters are relating every detail of the story, that's just as bad as having no dialogue at all.

Then there's the whole new set of problems that come with having dialogue.

  • How to make it sound natural? Picture the characters in your head, having the conversation. Is it something they'd say? Is it the way normal people talk? Is the timing right with the action going on around them?
  • Don't forget to make it clear who's saying what (without being annoying).
  • many different ways are there to say "said"?

Examine the dialogue in your story. Is there too much? Not enough? Is it just right?

Sunday, March 2, 2008

*Sigh* But Telling's Easier!

I spend a lot of tmie on writer's forums. Too much time, really, but I digress. When I'm wandering through the various threads, I see a lot of people saying, "Show, don't tell!" I think they sometimes take it overboard--too much detailed description in a book gets tedious. While I do want some idea of what people and scenes look like, I also like to have room to let my imagination fill in the blanks while the book gets on with the story.

This is where I get to today's lesson that I'm learning from Michy's commentary on Bubba Goes National. "Showing" doesn't necessarily mean pages of boring description. Quite the opposite! Just choosing your words differently can make a huge difference. For example, "Leslie was happy" is telling. It isn't bad, per se, it does get the point across. However, "Leslie's eyes sparkled and she felt like her heart would burst from her chest" is just a little longer but "shows" the emotion so much better. Instead of describing a scene, I can explore it through my characters: what they see, what they say, and what they think. The whole story is much more enriching. Of course, showing requires a little more thought, effort, and keystrokes! Writing was much easier when I could just say "Leslie was happy" and get on with it.

Can you find a "telling" passage in your story and rewrite it as "showing"?

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Emotion? What emotion?

Every writer has their weakness, and as I mentioned yesterday, every writer gets edited. As I work through the edits on Bubba Goes National, I'm learning some things about my writing and my weaknesses. By fixing these areas, I'm learning how to avoid those mistakes in the future and make my writing that much better.

I am a goal-oriented person. As such, I tend to be direct and get right to the point. If I had my way, books would be about 40,000 words long. Why don't I just write short stories, you ask? I don't know...just don't wanna, I guess. Anyway, because I tend to be so cut-and-dry, my habit is to list off the events that are happening, and that's where most of my problems stem from.

The problem I'll focus on today is emotion. Every once in a while I'll have a character smile, laugh, or cry...but I tend to cut it short or even forget to talk about it. Something horrible happens to poor Leslie, and I skip right over how she feels about it! I guess in my mind it's implied...but that doesn't get the reader involved! I need to slow the story down a little and catch the reactions and emotional responses to make the reader cry and laugh right along with the characters. I feel like I'm getting a handle on it!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The power of feedback

What do you mean, my writing isn't perfect? I like it just the way it is! That is...until I rewrite it and see how much better it is!

In my day job, I write reports, memos, and presentations for my company's executives and board of directors. It's a high-profile job, and everything I send out must be perfect. Pressure? Sure, but honestly it's not too hard to be successful, thanks to my feedback process.

No one can write the perfect anything the first time, and no matter how good we are at editing our own work, there is nothing like having a second, fresh pair of eyes look at your work. They may see a mistake you didn't catch, or they may point out a plot hole you'd missed, or they might find places where you just need more detail. In any case, having someone edit your work is usually highly helpful and rarely a waste of time...depending on your attitude.

At my job, we say, "Red is the color of love!" If someone hands me a report that I wrote with red pen all over it, it's because they love me enough to put time and effort into finding ways to make it better. The longer I'm in the job (almost two years now), the less red pen I see, because I've learned so much about writing these types of things.

The same goes for my fiction and articles. My sense of self preservation wants to launch a campaign to fend off attack every time someone reads my work and offers criticism. After all, I wrote it just the way I'd pictured it. However, after I follow the very excellent advice I've been given and rewrite or revise the piece, I'm always happier in the end.

I've come across many people who were very defensive when they asked for feedback on their writing and didn't like what they got. They argued, they tried to explain what they were trying to accomplish with the piece, they accused the critic of being jealous or just plain mean. What is the point of this? What did you learn? If you have to explain what you were trying to accomplish, you didn't accomplish it.

Keep in mind that your critics are just offering their opinion...but it's the opinion of a reader. Readers are your audience! If you're writing for yourself just because you like to, that's fine, but don't put it out there and expect everyone to like it...and certainly don't ask for critiques. Of course, many people who read your work will disagree with each other about what they do or don't like. You'll have to pick and choose which feedback to use, and how to use it in such a way as to preserve your vision and voice. When you get defensive and refuse to consider feedback you're given, you're not only missing an've wasted your critic's time.

PS...thank you to Michelle L Devon, editor extraordinaire!

Friday, February 15, 2008

Aaaaah, procrastination, once again you are my friend

I am the queen of procrastination. There is something about me that is fundamentally opposed to doing things early. I pay my bills at the last minute, I put off assignments. I even thought of doing this blog entry three days ago and am just now getting to it.

I know a lot of people say this, but it's really true for me. When I was in college the first time, I had to write an essay every week for English 1A, a night class. I'd get home from work around 4:00, write my essay (having decided what to write about on the way home), print it out, and get to school approximately on time. No proofreading, no rewrites. My scores? Regularly in the 90's. My teacher was flabbergasted when he asked me (in front of the class) how I wrote my essays and I told him.

Now, when I get an idea or an assignment to write an article, I can't just sit down and write...even when the research is done. I have to let it stew for a while. I'll try--I'll sit here, fingers on keys, trying to decide how to start, but nothing comes. Eventually, I'll just decide that it's time and out it all comes. I guess my subconscious is working away at it while I'm worrying about other things!

It's happened again. I had two articles to write for Horseman's News. I did the research, but then I put them off and put them off while the info swam around in my head, stewing. The buzzer went off about a week ago, and I sat down to write. I actually was done a day or two early, with the exception of some last-minute info I wasn't able to get until today. I was feeling a little stressed, with these due, an article I want to write about Equine Affaire, The Mommy's Survival Guide, a book I'm beta reading and another I'm editing, and, of course, Budget Horsekeeping.

It's a great relief to have these two things off my plate, although there will be more to replace them. The Mommy's Guide is in Beth's hands until she has time to give me feedback and more material, so all I really have to do right now is finish Budget Horsekeeping (by March 1st...that deadline once seemed so far away) and write the piece on Equine Affaire. Oh, also need to start thinking about some promotional articles for the efforts to raise prize money for Arabian Sporthorse Nationals! It's a very exciting, never-ending cycle!

I'm on vacation this week and will dedicate my time to writing projects, setting up future writing projects, and playing with horsies. Yay!

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Mommy's Survival Guide Part One: First draft complete!

Last night I completed the first draft of the Mommy's Survival Guide to Autism Part One and sent it off to Beth to review and add her feedback. With so many things on my plate right now, it felt so good to complete one thing, even if it's only the first draft! I'm really looking forward to completing this book and getting it out there to help some parents.

I knew very little about autism before I started this book. Like many people I think, when I thought of autism, I thought of a kid sitting in the corner, catatonic, until he decided to get up and play Mozart or something. I never knew how wide the spectrum of symptons and severity of this disease is. It's been positively fascinating learning more about Jake, and I've heard from other parents as well. There are so many common themes, yet so many differences. I really admire my wonderful friend Beth, who raises her autistic son all alone while her husband is overseas in the military. You go, girl!

Thursday, January 31, 2008

What's new in Walker's Writing World?

Apparently alliteration. Other than that, I have quite a bit going on, so I thought I'd give a little update on everything I'm doing. Moving forward, I'll post status changes as they happen to keep all of my fans (are you both reading?) in the loop.

Bubba Goes National, my current crowning achievement: awaiting its turn with my publisher's editor devine and my hero, Michy Devon.

Budget Horsekeeping: working on chapter four. Only one more to go, then the appendices with resources and glossary.

Mommy's Survival Guide to Autism: Our plan is to post each chapter as its own e-book. The first chapter, dealing with emotions, reactions, and what needs to happen right after diagnosis, is approaching completion. Don't forget to visit my good friend Beth Sandland's blog for updates on Jake's Place.

Flying Leaps: On the shelf for now until I have more time for it. Entered the first page in Nathan Bransford's Surprisingly Essential First Page Challenge, and have received some positive and some constructive feedback that gives me much to think about and opportunity to grow. See post below.

Untitled Romance: Also on the shelf until I have time to get to it. About 5k words.

Sequel to Flying Leaps: Also shelved for now, about 4k words.

Other writing projects:

- Writing articles for "California Counties" department of Horseman's News, as well as covering some horse shows. Look for my first piece for them, about Los Angeles County, in the February 2008 edition.

- Writeups for the SHN Payback program, see my writeup for OKW Entrigue, this week's stallion of the week.

- I recently entered into an agreement with The Sandland Group to write web content. Very excited about this!

- The Unfortunate Morning (short story): submited to The Pedestal, denied. Resubmitted to Modern Fiction Magazine.

- Plans for several promotional articles about arabian horses, particularly about dressage.

- Had sushi tonight. MMMMMMM Mikuni's in Fair Oaks, CA. No, I don't plan to give ongoing updates on dinner, but I'm on a sushi high so thought I'd share. Don't you just love the way you feel after eating sushi?

Sayonara...more updates to come as my various works make their way through the publishing process. Thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Nathan Bransford's Surprisingly Essential First Page Challenge

I entered the following in Nathan's contest ( and am posting it here for critique. I have a thick skin, so have at it! I greatly appreciate your feedback so that I can be the best writer possible. I'll have to take this down eventually when I start shopping it, but I'll leave it up for a while, at least!

Flying Leaps (Chick Lit, 63k words)

Kathryn sat on the bed and cried. She cried for the end of an era and the beginning of the unknown. She cried for the daughter who was on her way to her new life, a life where she didn’t need her mother to take care of her anymore. She cried for her own life, which would now be empty without a daughter to take care of. She cried because she was out of both Kleenex and donuts.

On the floor, a beagle lay sleeping, seemingly unconcerned as to the noise going on above her. She had been an active participant in the proceedings at first, howling along and sharing in the donuts, but soon became bored (about the time that the donuts ran out) and fell asleep. “Thanks for the support, Maggie,” Kathryn sobbed. Another reason to cry: unsympathetic beagles.

It was only that morning that Jessica had skipped down the aisle in her cap and gown and collected her high school diploma. Already eighteen, she had been anxious to move out of the house and out from under her mother’s thumb for months. She had been making arrangements and packing for weeks, having saved money from her part-time job to get an apartment with her friends. Kathryn had forbidden her to move out until she graduated from high school, and Jessica complied for not one minute longer than she had to. As soon as the graduation ceremony was over and the obligatory family hugs and kisses and graduation presents were exchanged, she got in her ancient Toyota and hit the road.

Kathryn knew, intellectually, that Jessica was just across town and she could visit her any time. Any time, that is, that Jessica would actually be home, rather than out working, taking college classes, or doing God-knows-what with her friends. Still, the house felt so empty without her. Grant was out playing golf, having little sympathy for Kathryn’s distress. What good was he, anyway?

The phone rang and she ignored it. How could anyone expect her to talk on the phone when she was in this state? It was a crisis, and you just can’t talk on the phone when you’re in the middle of a crisis. Ring, ring, ring. All the ringing was starting to get distracting and she was having a hard time concentrating on her grief. Ring, ring, ring. Why wasn’t the answering machine picking up? Ring, ring, ring. “Oh for Christ’s sake!” She picked up the phone. “Hello?” she answered in her best trying-not-to-sound-like-she’s-crying voice.

“Are you done yet?”

She sniffed. “Done with what?”

“Crying. Are you done crying? I want to go out for coffee, but I’m not going to do it if you’re just going to drip snot all over your latte. It’s embarrassing.” It was Fran, Kathryn’s life-long best friend.