Blog Archives

The Future of Dianna’s Writing Den

2013 has been an eventful year for me, and I’ve entered a new stage of my life. I’ve grown immensely as a writer and a person, and this blog must grow with me. This year I’ve actually committed to freelance writing, and I’ve made quite a bit of progress on the Ten Commandments ebook I’ll release when I reach 400 followers. I’m also going to technically graduate high school, but I’ll talk more about that in another post.

Over the next couple of months, this blog will enter a new stage of its life, too. It’s going to become a more professional showcase of my work, but it’s also going to become more community focused. By the end of the year I hope to release an ebook designed to help writers finish their first draft.

To accomplish all of this, I’m going to switch to a self hosted site. I will also be renaming this blog and purchasing a new domain name. I’d like this domain name to be more community focused, with regular contributors, because this blog isn’t just about me. It’s about you guys, too.

I will be keeping this domain name for about a year, and all posts from the new blog will be cross posted here, so you’ll have plenty of time to follow me in making the switch. I will probably make a new schedule, though I haven’t set that in stone yet.

Over the next week I’ll be hammering out the exact details of these changes, but before I finalize everything, I’d like to know what you think. What do you think would make a good name for the new version of this blog? What would you like to see happen in the next stage of this blog?

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4 Ways to Make Money as a Young Writer

by Andrew Zimmerman
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When little kids say what they want to be when they grow up, visions of star athletes, astronauts and pop singers usually flood their heads. Aspiring writers appreciate the imagination of these dreams, but they don’t want to dunk, sing or become an astronaut to live out their dreams. All they need is a pen and paper (or keyboard and computer). If they weren’t professionals, most writers would express their thoughts on paper, whether in a journal, blog or website. Luckily, writers have many avenues to make money doing what they love. Before you apply for a business credit card to support yourself, review these promising opportunities in professional writing.

Trying to make money writing feels as difficult as making it to the NBA, flying to the moon, or composing a hit song, but the reward is the chance to satisfy your curious spirit daily.

Freelance — The Tried and True Model

Few businesses need a fresh copy continuously. When they do need a writer to draft a website introduction, statement of purpose or any other piece of content, they’re reluctant to hire a full-time writer. That’s where freelancers enter. These writing vagabonds jump from job to job describing and depicting topics as needed. Young writers need not look far for their first freelance opportunities. Freeswitch.com is one of many forums that connect freelance writers with paying customers. Young writers unable to earn paying jobs can write for free to build their portfolios. Published clips are the key to a paying writing career.

Blogs — A Long, Rewarding Path

I know. I know. Everyone has a blog. Not everyone has the discipline, writing chops and stamina to maintain a blog that turns a profit. It may not put money in your pocket right away, but over time, blogs can become lucrative properties. Examples include Daringfireball.net, a tech blog, Incomediary.com, a financial advice blog and Caradvice.co.au, an auto blog. The common thread? A niche topic. General interest blogs are a dime a dozen. Tailored-specific blogs attract loyal followers. Visit Adwords.com to learn how you can turn traffic into income.

Even if, your blog doesn’t turn a profit, it can still benefit your writing career. A blog raises your profile as a writer and boosts your portfolio for freelance gigs. Who knows? Maybe you’ll be one of the lucky few who is able to blog professionally.

SEO Writing — The New Frontier

While print media are going the way of the buffalo, a new trend demand for content has emerged. Unique copy is a powerful tool to boost keyword rankings on Google and other search engines. Businesses are willing to pay top dollar to get on the front page of Google, so new writing jobs have emerged. A search for "SEO (search engine optimization) writer" on Simplyhired.com returns more than 2,000 positions nationwide. You may not be writing the next great American novel, but you'll earn a paycheck improving your craft.

Self-Publishing–Why Not You?

Writers need an independent attitude to stand out. Self-publishing provides total independence and removes costly middleman. Ebooks level the playing field for aspiring authors. Writers used to need distribution companies, and mass-production printers to publish. Now, authors can write, format, distribute and advertise their own work for little or no cost. Amazon offers direct publishers to Kindle devices for free. The Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy was originally self-published, according to Cnet.com. Self-publishing software removes the roadblocks that have kept you from following your dream.

If you’re feeling discouraged to make money as a writer, take heart. The industry may be changing, but the demand for quality writers isn’t going away anytime soon.

Photo by Flickr user rmarshall

Please note that Andrew Zimmerman is a guest and I haven’t used any of the sites he mentioned, so I don’t know how good they are.

Travel Writing From Home

by Jordan Clary

Travel writing might conjure up images of exotic resorts, luxury cruises or riding across sand dunes on a camel, and while, travel writing can, indeed, open up some of amazing experiences, it’s not necessary to travel far or even travel at all to write and sell articles. You can start with your own city, neighborhood or even backyard to find ideas for travel stories.

Every place is a destination for someone and you are the best expert on your area. Learn to look at your own town with new eyes. What might a visitor like to do? What are the local products? Are there any specialized niches you can fit into?

Most of the ‘rules’ for travel writing are the same as for anything else. A well-written, compelling story will always have a chance of finding a home. Readers want to smell, taste and feel a place through your eyes.

But there are a few things specific to travel writing, and one of the main ones, is learn how to use a camera. Unless you’re lucky enough to only get gigs with big glossies like Condė Nast Traveler, and most of us aren’t, you’ll want to learn how to take decent photos to sell with your articles. It’s too bad, in a way, because the two are different skills, and some photographers feel slighted by all the amateur photographers selling pics with their pieces, but that’s the reality of the market. Most places will want photos and article as a package deal.

And, who knows, maybe you’ll find you have a knack for photography. Since words have always been my medium, I was actually opposed to learning to use a camera. I felt it separated me from the experience and if I concentrated on writing a description, it would be so much richer. But to my surprise, photography doesn’t separate me. It helps me see things from a different perspective. I’m much more aware of light and shadows than I ever was before learning to take photos.

Seeking to place your articles in well-known travel magazines is probably not the best approach. Those markets are saturated with submissions and highly competitive. However, many magazines, including trade magazines, would be open to a travel article if it was within their scope.

As an example, take your own backyard. Look around. What types of plants grow? Do you know what the native plants in your area are? Many botanical societies have their own publications, and while most of them concentrate on the plants in their own locale, a carefully crafted travel piece introducing a new area from a botanical point of view might be welcome.

For several years, until it went out of print, I freelanced for Colored Stone, a trade magazine dedicated to colored gemstones. I was living in China at the time and broke into it first with a query letter, and then with an article about China’s South Sea pearls. I developed a niche writing travel articles about gemstones, including ruby mines in Vietnam, blue zircon in Cambodia, and smokey quartz in Mongolia. The pay wasn’t bad, although it pretty much just covered my traveling expenses, but they were among the most fun and interesting pieces I’ve ever done.

A thorough look at your community will surely lead you to ideas for trade magazines. Is there a railroad museum in your town? There are many magazines dedicated to model trains. Even magazines that don’t lend themselves immediately to travel ideas based on their trade might welcome an article. In this case, you’ll want to point out the advantages of travel to relax and de-stress. Doctors, businesspeople, lawyers, teachers all like to take trips.

So if you are interested in breaking into travel writing, start with what’s familiar, and you’ll soon find yourself with enough ideas to keep you busy for a lifetime.

Jordan Clary is a freelance writer living in northern California. You can find out more about her at her website and by checking out her blog, Cloud and Mountain.

Summer Goals 2012–Building a Writing Career


I decided to interrupt my series of prompts and markets by talking about creating writing goals for the summer. It’s important to set goals for yourself as a writer, both short term and long term–and to revise them regularly. The turning of the seasons is usually a good marker for when you should revise your goals.

Summer also brings with it vacations for many people–particularly students and teachers–and it’s important for writers to utilize that time in the best way possible. So today I’d like to walk you through my summer goals through 2012–and to explain how each of them will contribute to my long-term writing career.

My main goal: to build a name for myself and start getting regular assignments from as many paid publications as possible.

This is my main goal–the one that all the other goals will build up to. Note that I’m focusing on paid publications. Why? There are a number of reasons. Paid publications are usually more exclusive and often considered to be more prestigious. More importantly, I’m trying to make a career out of this–preferably by the time I’m out of high school. I’m confident that I can do that, with a nest egg for when I’m done and ready to move out on my own, but not if I spend a lot of energy writing for free. This blog and my novels are currently non-paying work–they’re things I’m passionate about, and I’m fine with that, but I can’t stretch myself too thin.

My secondary goals aren’t any less important than my main goal–they are the building blocks through which I will build my main goal, a reputation in the writing world and regular, paid work. There are five main things I want to do this summer.

1. Expand my knowledge base. I’ve been taking a light week since school just ended, but once my brain’s relaxed again I’ll be back to the books. This summer I hope to read in variety–books about different cultures that exist on earth, fiction based here and elsewhere, books about ancient religions, whatever I can get my hands on. I want to be a continuous student, learning from life as I go. The best part about what I’ll be studying this summer is that it’s all books I’ve chosen–not something forced upon me by a teacher.

How will expanding my knowledge base help my writing career? The more I know, the more I can write freelance articles about. I’m already familiar with a few markets for most of these topics. Not only that, but I draw much of my inspiration from other cultures around the world in my fiction. As I learn about them, it will give my writing new depth.

2. Write and submit one non-fiction article every week. I actually did that last week–and coincidentally, it got accepted. I got the check last night. So I’m pretty confident that if I write an article every week and submit it to a suitable market, a few of them will get published. I’ve spent the last couple of days brainstorming and I already have lots of ideas–articles about writing, articles about blogging, travel articles, and more–so I’m pretty sure I’ll meet this one. All I have to do is make sure I put aside the time to write, edit and submit one article per week.

This goal helps build my career in so many ways. It enforces a regular writing, editing and submission schedule. It helps me build an income from my passion. It helps me gain confidence in myself and my writing skills. Hopefully it’ll convince a couple editors to call me back for other pieces. And it’s reasonable for someone just breaking into the industry–and trying to balance non-fiction and fiction.

3. Apply to one writing job every day. It’s important not to spend too many hours looking for steady work when I could be writing and submitting articles, but I am hoping to find steady part-time work in my field. Whether that takes the form of a biweekly contribution to a magazine or website, or a job writing a blog post per day, isn’t the important part. The important part is that it’s steady, and something I can continue into next school year, when I won’t have much time to write articles on spec or look for new work.

The goal of applying to one job per day keeps me competitive and in the market, but doesn’t usually have me spending hours on job sites. On a bad day, I’ll spend two or three hours looking around. On a good day, I’ll find two or three in the first place I check–usually Craigslist, where I recently found a social media job–and apply to all of them. I don’t apply to just any writing job: I have to be both qualified and interested, or it won’t gel long term. If I manage to do this, it should lead to at least one writing job by the end of the summer, particularly if I manage to get most of the articles from number two published.

4. Edit my damn novel. This is my primary fiction goal. I’m hoping to have this book ready for submission by the end of this year. I’ve already started on it and I’m taking my time with it, trying to get it all right. After I edit a chapter on the computer, I print it up and edit it on paper. When I go to edit the next chapter, I put in the changes I made on paper to the chapter before it first.

While all this stuff about freelancing will allow me to build a career off writing quickly, probably even right out of high school, novel writing is my first love. I’ve been working on Moonshadow’s Guardian, my summer project, on and off for six years now–and someday soon, I will see it out the door. It’ll probably be a lot longer until I can live off novel writing than it will be until I can live off freelance writing–but all those hours of labour will be worth it someday.

5. Get a couple more short stories out on the market. This summer I want to write more short fiction and put it out on the market. Not a lot more, since I find short fiction draining–and none of my stories already on market have found homes yet–but I’ve just got to keep trying.

Since I haven’t actually made money from any of my short fiction yet, this isn’t a big priority on my list, but it is important. I have one story that’s going through edits right now and I’m hoping to write two or three more this summer and get them out into the world. Hopefully, these stories will at some point bring me income. If not, they’re valuable writing practice–and if I really can’t get them into any markets, I’ll edit them one last time and offer them to my readers for free, because for me fiction isn’t about money, it’s about passion.

What do I want the end result to look like? By September I’d like to have at least two hundred dollars in my savings account and two steady streams of income. Right now I’m sitting on $50 of savings and one steady stream of minimal income. That’s fine–right now I care more about stability than the amount, and I’m proud to say I’m a quarter of the way to my goal. I’m aiming low because I don’t care about money–and because money is dependant on the acceptance of my work by other people, whereas I control how much I put out and what I do with it.

Each person’s goals should look different… which brings me to the last part of this blog post, some tips to help you create your own list of goals:

  • Pick a larger goal–like gaining a consistent stream of income from your writing–and make all your smaller goals ones that will build up to it. This way, at the end of the season, you’ll be able to assess if you’ve reached a new place in your writing career.
  • Before you add something to your list, ask yourself three questions: how will this build towards my final goal for the season? How will it help me in the long run? Is it something I can reasonably accomplish in the amount of time I have to dedicate to it–or is it going to make me burn out early? Your seasonal goals should always be within reach, to build towards your dreams. Before you know it, those will be in reach too.
  • Don’t make your list too long. Commit to only the projects you have time for. I have five projects or goals because it’s summer, and I can focus on my writing full time while I wait to return to school. You might only have time for one or two big projects. Admit that and focus on the things you think will be most helpful for reaching your main goal. Over committing will just make you feel guilty because you can’t accomplish everything you dreamed up in the time you have.
  • Last but not least, write your goals down. Put them somewhere where you can see them. Share them with other people if you can–on your blog if you already have one. In fact, share them with me…

Surprise! I’ve got a challenge for you for the week: draft a list of goals for the summer. If you have a blog, post them on your blog and post a link in the comments–and next week, I’ll write up a post listing all of your goals for the summer. Let’s make this a productive summer together.