Blog Tour: My Writing Process

Photo: Scottchan, freedigitalphotos.net

Photo: Scottchan, freedigitalphotos.net

I was tagged by the fantastic Northern Virginia writer Amanda Miska to participate in this blog tour and I’m tagging Hawaii freelance writer Brandi-Ann Uyemura and Wiesbaden, Germany-based Melissa Gillam Shaw of Marrying The Army. We’re going beyond coast-to-coast now. Enjoy!

What am I working on?

Some really fun stuff. I recently wrote a piece on wellness tourism for Virginia Living magazine during which I got to try a cosmetic acupuncture session. I also just submitted my first story for Dog Fancy on dogs who accompany their owners to unusual job sites (think: Parliament, Congress, the cockpit of a plane). Let’s see … I have a story on plastic surgery trends coming out soon for Northern Virginia magazine (hint: the backside is back) and I just finished writing the eighth annual edition of Green Hawaii: a 32-Page Guide to Living a Greener Life for Hawaii Home + Remodeling magazine. Oh, and my latest story for Farm Life magazine, on the trend toward small hay farming, is out now, too. I got to get up-close and personal with a few gorgeous horses for that one.

Truth be told, I’ve got a bit of deadline whiplash right about now, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I love totally immersing myself in my work.

Next up? Hmmmm … I’m in the beginning stages of proposing a style book with a potential co-writer — drafting the proposal this week, actually — and I just signed on to review an awesome new version of one of my favorite small-business software programs. I can’t tell you which one yet. The launch is a huge secret, so stay tuned to this blog for details.

Deep breath …

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

That’s a great question. Honestly, it’s one I’m still trying to figure out. My cadence is pretty direct and my humor can be dry at times. I love Ernest Hemingway’s minimalist style, so my goal this year is to try to become more concise. I tend to write long and detailed copy, so the endeavor is paradoxically tough for me. I also tend to lean more toward the formal than the casual in tone, so I’m working on loosening up a little bit. Not too much, though. I don’t want to lose my voice. Look to your right. See the collar I’m wearing in my “About” photo? My writing is like that collar: colorful, but still comparatively buttoned up.

Why do I write what I do?

I’ve been a lifestyle magazine addict since college. I’ve always loved solution-oriented and how-to content geared toward foodies, runners, moms, investors, small-business owners and style seekers. Lifestyle magazines are aspirational and I embrace that thought wholeheartedly. But they must also inform and tell the truth. Therein lies my goal: to make content that is always beautiful, true, unique and lasting.

How does my writing process work?

I’m very methodical. As soon as I receive a new project, I create a timeline in my listing-software program that includes both internal and external deadlines. I research sources for two to three days and create a source list from that research. Then, I begin contacting my sources and setting up interviews. The actual interviews follow, then transcription, outlining and finally, writing. The writing part actually takes the least amount of time (about a day). I like to work in at least three days, five if i’m lucky, for revisions before turning my work over ot my client. It doesn’t always work out that way, but I’m trying to improve. You can read more about my writing process here.

A note about process: A lot of people think the job of a freelance writer is a romantic one that involves furiously scripting large amounts of amazing prose whenever inspiration strikes (meals, sleep, kids, pets, spouses and obligations be damned!). Many believe this type of inspired work is perfect from the get-go. But the reality is, even the ever-imaginative Roald Dahl was regimented in his process (read about that here). I don’t wait for inspiration to write (I’d never make a living!) but when it does strike randomly, I make sure I have something on hand to record it with and a place to store it for later use. I’m terrified of losing the ideas that pop into my head, and that’s how I keep my phobia in check.

If I could impart just one bit of process advice to would-be freelancers, it would be this: Don’t be so hard on yourself if inspirational lightning bolts don’t strike daily. Treat your freelance writing career as a business. Schedule in time to write and do it, whether you feel like it or not. Trust me, the words will come.

The 7 Best Blogs for Writers

BlogsforWriters

The blogosphere is brimming with insightful, useful info. But it’s also home to a lot of noise. And there’s little time to spend searching for worthwhile additions to your blogroll.

I think that’s why I’m often asked which writing blogs I read loyally. In truth, I’m not sure why I haven’t posted my picks here sooner. So without further wordage, and in no particular order, here are my seven absolute favorites:

1. The Renegade Writer

Oh how I  love Linda Formichelli. Her advice on freelance writing is laser sharp. (Think: how to write query letters that will land gigs and how to maintain fruitful and lasting relationships with your editorial contacts.) I also love her quick-and-tidy daily email, “Morning Motivation for Writers.” It’s pretty much required reading for me over that first cup of coffee. When you sign up for her mailing list, you also get a free e-book in which real editors of established glossy magazines dish (anonymously) on their worst writer pet peeves. Trust me; I was glued to that e-book, and you will be, too.

2. Copyblogger

Copyblogger’s main product is training. The company focuses on how to help writers and small-business owners develop online marketing strategies that work. Not your focus? That’s OK. This is still a blog worth keeping on your list. Industry leaders regularly post on how to write well, how to gain traction with social media and how to manage your day-to-day freelance life. Check out one of my all-time favorite posts: “8 Strange Rituals of Productive Writers”.

3. Ragan.com

This is more of a Web site for all-things-communication than an actual blog. But the company behind it updates its main feed every single day, so it still presents a blog-like daily dose of something new.  I love the short, sweet pieces on everything from “troublesome verb pairs” to the AP Stylebook’s latest updates. You’ll also find advice tailored to PR pros, executive communicators and even speechwriters. And if those topics don’t catch your eye, how about “5 PR Lessons from Katy Perry Songs?”

4. Brainpickings

Creator Maria Popova has made reading, and writing about it, her life’s work. And her passion for that pursuit is unmistakeable. Brainpickings features dense, chewy articles on books Popova loves and the people who create them. Popova’s ability to provide context for literary works, both past and present, is one of her standout strengths. If you’re looking for a book recommendation, a musing on life through literary eyes or a commentary on one of the world’s great writers, look no further than Brainpickings. It’s like the best college literature class ever, but way better.

5. Write to Done

Put simply, this is a blog dedicated to the pursuit of writing better. Editor Mary Jaksch and her team of guest bloggers explore topics such as creating story structure, transitioning from idea to execution, refining characters, plot conflicts and more. And in case you need more ideas, Write to Done also researches, rates and recommends other writing blogs through its “Top 10 Blogs for Writers” annual list.

6. Make a Living Writing

Realistically speaking, freelance writing “rates” are often determined by clients’ budgets, not by what the writer charges. Thus, it’s tough, especially in the beginning, to earn a decent wage from freelance assignments. If you get caught writing for content mills, it’s even more difficult to get out of the low-wage cycle. With posts like “How I made 6 Figures as a Freelance Writer in 2011,” award-winning blog author Carol Tice shows readers how to create and maintain lasting and lucrative freelance careers. I have to admit, I’ve just recently discovered this gem of a blog. And I can’t wait to read more.

7. Jeff Goins, Writer

Author Jeff Goins writes books about writing and the inward and outward journey toward establishing one’s most fulfilling career. He also writes with compassion and empathy about the personal and professional challenges and triumphs that come with deciding to become a full-time writer. I love the honest and encouraging tone his posts take. I’ve never met Jeff but I can’t help thinking he must be the world’s nicest guy. My favorite item of late is a series Jeff created dedicated to the idea of slowing life down and embracing the quality, not quantity of activities one performs daily. Find that here.

I’d love to hear from you. Are you a loyal follower of these blogs, too? What other writing blogs do you recommend? Leave them some love in the comments section, and have a fantastic weekend!

“No tears in the writer …

“No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader.”
― Robert Frost

Need some creative encouragement today?

Look no further than the late Bob Ross.

Friday Inspiration

“If you want to achieve excellence, you can get there today. As of this second, quit doing less-than-excellent work.” – Thomas J. Watson

Photo courtesy of: mxruben, morguefile.com

Find more quotes like this one on this cool site. 

Friday Inspiration

“Creativity is more than just being different. Anybody can plan weird; that’s easy. What’s hard is to be as simple as Bach. Making the simple, awesomely simple, that’s creativity. – Charles Mingus

Photo courtesy of: winnond, freedigitalphotos.com

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