blogging · discipline · General Writing · Uncategorized · writing

Pro Bono with Benefits

A friend once said he refused to write for free. He was not making any money writing yet, but was working on novel and hoped to land an agent or a  publisher with a big advance and contract. I don’t know if this ever came to pass, but I do believe that his expectations were unrealistic.

I can understand wanting to get paid for your work and taking the steps to make that happen, but there we all need to start somewhere.   Consider this scenario.

You want to make money writing and have read up on how to find writing jobs, so you start looking through some of those fabulous job boards on the internet.  Some projects sound like they are right up you alley so you read what the clients wan: experience and clips of previously published work.

You don’t have any clips because you have not landed your first writing job yet. In fact, you don’t even have a blog because you refuse to write for free.

What do you do?

Read on, because I have some ideas.

Look in Your Own Backyard

Santa Rosa, California has one of the largest writers clubs in California (Redwood Writers Club, a branch of the California Writers Club) where the volunteer opportunities are endless.  If you want to copy edit, join the public relations team. If you want to write articles about writing, there’s the newsletter. Our club has editors, novelists, non-fiction writers, short story writers, and the club publishes anthologies where club members are chosen by blind submissions. Being in this club for fifteen years has helped my writing skills grow by leaps and bounds, plus I am surrounded by others in the writing business!

If you are not interested in joining a writers club, how about looking through local publications such a newspapers, magazines or newsletters and offering your writing services for free.  If you are interested in learning copywriting, why not call some local ad agencies and ask if you can shadow some of their copywriters and help with some projects.  Sometimes pro bono work can turn into paying gigs.

Start Spreading the News

What is the one thing that makes a great book sell like wildfire?

Word of mouth.  One person reads a book, loves it and tells someone else, who tells someone else, until all that talking puts the book on the New York Times Bestseller List.

Well, it’s similar when launching a new career. If you tell people what you are doing, then they might know of someone who can use your services.  It might be a free gig at first, but it’s important to remember that these freebies will definitely lead to experience and possibly paying jobs down the road.

Do Some Pitching

My number one rule is that if someone has given me a lead on a publication and I write in the required genre, then I never to let that lead go unexplored.  A friend asked me to write an article pro bono for a legal publication, which I did, and she also gave me a lead to a larger professional publication. I have queried this magazine with an article idea and I am waiting to hear back.  The glass is always half full here because even if a pitch is turned down I have gained experience in putting myself out there.

You can also do some cold pitching. This means finding publications that publish the type of material you write and formulate a query letter with your article idea.  A query letter is addressed to the editor, with the first paragraph containing information on who gave you the lead and why you want to write for the magazine.  Be clear and concise in your pitch and always close with a line about looking forward to working with the editor.

Create a Website with a Blog

Starting a blog is one of the best ways to showcase your writing skills. It’s always a good idea to write about a subject you are passionate about, whether it be animals, health, or moon dancing.  For example, I love animals and am an avid health nut, but the only places I write about these things are on my personal Facebook page. On the other hand, I have been involved in our local writing community for years and write in the law office all day, and I can write about writing until the cows come marching home. Why? Because I love to write.

So, figure out what you love to write about and create that blog, make a schedule to write at least once a week, and share make sure to share your writing on your social media.

Now that you have some ideas about how to build up you portfolio, it’s time to start putting yourself out there! You CAN do this!






End of Year Musings

Today I was amazed to discover a new follower of The Write Life, since this blog had been stagnant since April. In fact, I seldom blogged this year, and did not write as much creatively as I usually have in the past, because I often forgot the important concept of BIC.

What is that, you ask?

Butt in chair.

In order to get anything written, I have to pull out the chair, sit down, and write. It doesn’t matter if I use a spiral notebook and pen, a typewriter, or word processor on a computer. My job is to construct words into sentences and paragraphs to create scenes for a short story or novel.  

I have to set time aside, or simply decide on a whim that writing is more important than anything else I might want to do at that moment. It’s not difficult to set aside time after work to go into my home office, close the door, and write.

In September of this year, I went to Ireland for 14 days with my cousin, Tammy. We stayed in bed and breakfasts most of the time and used public transportation and our feet to get around. We started in Dublin and traveled the coast to Dingle, Galway, Bundoran, and Belfast. After this, she spent a week alone on the Antrim Coast, and I rode the bus back to Dublin to catch a plane home. Our trip was amazing! I spent quality time with Tammy, lived the Irish culture for two weeks, and returned to the United States with plenty of new material for writing.

This last year I also rejoined my old critique group, which has been a godsend. I have been, and still am, motivated to work on my novel. I enjoy reading my writing cohort’s work, as well as sharing my perceptions of both the positive and the negatives of their work. Their feedback on my writing is invaluable, and they all have something special to offer in support of my work.  Some of the writers are published, but all of them are excellent critique partners.

Thanksgiving was fun, Halloween was spooky, and Christmas was joyous. The only things missing from the holiday season were the Dicken’s Fair in San Francisco and the Christmas Salon for the Redwood Writer’s Club, but we could not fit either in this year due to other commitments.

Now, we are days away from 2015 and a fresh start, as it happens every year. What are my New Year’s resolutions?

None. Absolutely none, because I don’t believe in making resolutions because I never follow through.

Okay, there is one, but it’s not a plan, but a reality: I will set aside that time to write, and I will write.

I. Will. Write.

What about you?  What are your plans for 2015?

Happy New Year, all!


Grandma’s Coffee Grinder

Krups, who I often called K, was my best friend for twenty some-odd years. From the day we met, we were inseparable. The whir of her bladed heart made me smile as she ground aromatic java beans.  Some evenings when I’d call on her for some much needed Hazelnut or caramel decaf, she would happily comply. K didn’t just hand me perfect coffee, but she made sure my flax seed and almonds were finely chopped just the way I liked them.

Then, one day a few months ago, K died. No warning, no goodbye, she just didn’t wake up one morning. With tears in my eyes, I broke the news to Don.  In an effort to soothe me, he suggested we ask his friend Cuisinart in the fill K’s  now vacant spot.

“I can’t,” I said, wiping my eyes. “It’s too soon.”  

The truth was, I had found K dead less than ten minutes earlier and needed time to grieve.

As I wallowed in grief, Don came up with another suggestion.  “Hey, what about your grandmother’s old coffee grinder?

“Huh?”  I said, not sure what he was talking about.  

Then, my gaze fell on the old crank coffee mill—Goodwood, or G.W. for short—that had been living on the countertop for several years. G.W. had never moved or made a sound, and he certainly never complained about all the attention K got.  

That same morning after I laid K to rest in the recycling bin—I knew she wanted her parts donated—I put the test.  I loaded his portal with fresh coffee beans and cranked the handle, around and around, smiling as he revealed his deep bass voice.  He worked hard to produce a good java.  However, because  he was older and a bit cranky, it took him awhile to get the job done. 

Now, as I sip a cup of café mocha borne from G. W.’s hard work, I smile as I realize he has proven to be a wonderful friend. Over time, his joints have loosened a bit and he is a bit more spry, always eager to grind my beans to perfection. Too bad him and K never noticed each other when she was alive. They would have made perfect companions.  

Goodbye 2013 and Hello 2014!

Even though I believe in reviewing the previous 12 months on the eve of the New Year, I am not big on making resolutions. If there is anything I have learned is that putting off until tomorrow what I can do today leads to nothing but premeditated resentment. Why? Because all I do is put off, put off, and then put off until the end of the year comes and that project remains undone. What do I then do? I beat myself up.

Lately I have experienced that premeditated resentment when it comes to my writing. I have spent too much time saying I would write that story tomorrow when the plot is clear in my head, or finish the umpteenth draft of my query letter for my novel when I know I can get it prefect. That’s plain silliness because these type of resolutions are not based on planning, which is healthy, but on fear that the product of my creative outlet is not, or will not be, good enough. The only way to combat that type of fear is to write the story and get it submitted now and to revise that query and get it out to agents now.

NOW is the operative word.

When I was a kid and would come up with excuses not to do homework or chores, my sweet little mother used to say, “there’s no time like the present” and her infamous “don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today.” Of course, back then I thought those words wee adult nerd-speak, but today they are golden nuggets in my memory. Believe me, there will be no more New Years resolutions for me.

So, in 2014 I plan to…..

Just kidding.

Happy New Year everyone!


Dry Spell

I don’t have writer’s block, I just have been living a dry spell. I can write if I want to because I have plenty of words inside, but I just haven’t been sitting my butt in the chair enough. The bottom line is I have been finding other things to do instead of writing.

Occasionally I have been line editing my novel and I’m almost done, but I’m stalling. Thinking the novel was ready I sent it out on query several times, but then decided that I’d missed too many errors with sentence structure, missing words, and other silly typos. It’s definitely time to finish the editing and get it out to agents again.

I still have some short stories out there on submission, but two have been rejected. Ideally, I need to keep submitting my stories to different markets until they are accepted or there is nowhere else to send them.

I love writing but I have not been making the time for it.  The only way to do anything is just to do it and not make excuses. Time to start writing again.


It’s Been Awhile

I have not blogged in over two months. Good intentions to write entries once a week have been waylaid by everyday life. In other words, I have been busy over the last few months.

I’ve been busy with life, but also busy with writing.

I have been working on my short stories and submitting them to magazines.  Some encouraging rejections have landed in my inbox, but no acceptances. I’m encouraged enough by the positive feedback in my rejections to keep submitting.

One short story market asks for a query prior to sending them your short story. I’m stumped with this guideline, except to say a query for a short story must be more compact than a query for a novel. I will give it as try, as I think my story would fit perfectly in this magazine.

I have finished editing my novel and it is with a beta reader right now.  I’m interested in hearing about what works and what does not.  At this juncture, I am blind to my writing in my novel.  I will soon start the re-query process and continue working on novel number two.

This is all for now. Happy writing all!


Research and Imagination

Besides putting the final edits to my novel, I have been writing a short story about a sixteen year old homeless girl and her younger brother surviving in current culture. Amidst all the troubles of these kids living in homeless camps, there are moments of peace and joy. I think I have a good story in the making.

Since I have never been homeless, I have engaged in some local introspection, if you will, of how I might add flavor to my story.

For example, in a neighborhood where I park for work, a box of books has been left on the sidewalk. Everyday I have seen fewer books in the box, as if people have been helping themselves to their favorite read. What if my characters were to come across this free mini-library and find books that can take them to worlds away from the hardships and possible horrors awaiting them on the street?

Another example is a walk I took during my lunch break at work the other day. In the city where I live, there are long paved trails, double decker at some locations, running alongside a flowing creek protected by lush canopies of trees and brush. As I enjoyed the scenery, I began to wonder about the many places that a homeless girl and her brother could camp unseen.

My point is that research is all around you. You don’t have to stick to the old adage write what you know, you just need to turn your imagination on and research enough to fill in the details. Most of all, remember to write honestly and from your heart.

Happy writing all.