Steal Like Oscar Wilde: Improve Your Writing and Online Presence

Are the best writers’ thieves? According to history, the answer is yes. Oscar Wilde stole from everyone. It’s speculated (some believe) that William Shakespeare didn’t write his plays, but rather Francis Bacon, Christopher Marlowe or Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford did. Some historians believe that Thomas Jefferson plagiarized the Declaration of Independence by stealing from John Locke. That’s John Locke, aka The Father of Liberalism, not John Locke from Lost. Good show, by the way. Anyway … I digress.

It’s illegal to violate copyright laws or claim a work of fiction or non-fiction as your own. But it’s not illegal to observe and learn from other writers and adapt whatever it is they do for your own work. After all, you’ll want to put your own ‘spin’ on anything you publish. Otherwise, it will be bogus and inauthentic.

Fiction

1. Vampires, werewolves, hybrids, witches, warlocks, outcast/loner, headhunters, magical lands, fairies, far-away lands, etc. can be found in many books. Change the names, time, setting, and tweak the plot, and you basically have the same book.

2. Mysteries are no different. Whether it’s a retired cop or rookie detective, a mystery’s a mystery. The case will be solved and it will be closed … or will it? Trilogies happen.

3. Horror is no different. Slashing, thrashing and bashing can occur throughout the pages of a book or graphic novel. Whether it’s a guy with a chainsaw or some out-of-this-world creature, the horror of it all will continue.

Tip: The best horror books don’t contain a lot of blood and guts. They build suspense and ‘suck’ you into the story. They keep you on your toes and make you want to turn the page to find out how it ends.

4. Historical novels contain the same basis of the story … history. You can’t go back and change the War of 1812 to the War of 1814. However, you can change the character names, plot, scenes, dialogue, etc.

Non-fiction

1. Have you ever been down the self-help aisle of a bookstore? Pick up a couple of books and compare them. They probably contain the same information but are packaged and written differently because people are different. An author who resonates with your friends may not resonate with you.

2. Do you know how many baby name books can be purchased online or in a bookstore? A lot. Pick up any book and you’ll find the meaning for the most popular baby names. Again, the packaging and verbiage are different but the origin of Emma is still Old French and Old German.The meaning is still entire or universal.

Let’s face it; you may think your idea is original, but the reality is another writer probably already wrote a book or screenplay using ‘your’ idea or is in the process of writing something along the same line as you. It’s the same situation with blogs and articles. It’s not a big deal because readers know what they like and will choose to ‘follow’ authors and writers who appeal to them. The key is to observe and learn from the ‘best writers’ and take what they’re doing and apply it to your own writing career. History has shown us that this happens time and time again.

Amandah

 

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What Writing Advice Would You Give to Your Younger Self?

Since 2012 is fast approaching, I’ve been thinking about my career as a writer thus far. I’ve been writing professionally for three years; however, I’ve been interested in writing since elementary school. In fact, my mom found my kindergarten picture, and lo and behold, the backdrop is a large bookcase filled with books. My hands are resting on an open book. On top of the open book is a quill and ink bottle. If that wasn’t the universe giving me a ‘hint’ as to what my career could be I don’t know what is.

Here’s the writing advice I would have given to my younger self:

1. Write because you love to, not because it’s a good career choice.

2. Write what you know but also write what you don’t. Venture into unfamiliar writing waters now and again.

3. Take the pressure off of having all of the ‘mechanics’ worked out. Just write!

4. Write every day, even if it’s for one hour.

5. Outlines are your friend — use them wisely.

6. Keep an ‘idea’ book in case you need inspiration or want to try something new.

7. Take part in writing prompts because they’re fun, a good way to enhance your writing skills and meet other writers.

8. Don’t be afraid of criticism. Professional criticism can make all of the difference in your writing career. The operative word is professional.

9. Ignore family and friends who say, “Writing won’t pay the bills. How will you support yourself?” They won’t understand your dream and that’s alright — they don’t have to.

10. Go for it! Take a risk; otherwise, you’ll always wonder ‘what if’ and that’s a terrible way to live.

Amandah

What writing advice would you have given to your younger self?

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Creative, Freelance and Ghost Writer Reflects on 2011 — Part II

Ah yes, 2011 will be coming to an end in a few weeks. Personally, I can’t wait to get out of this year. Most of the people I spoke with this past year have said that 2011 was not a great yea r. Even online, folks have said that 2011 was one hell of a year. For me, it was about self-reflecting on what I want out of life which includes what I want for my creative, freelance and ghost writing career. Here’s Part II of my reflections of 2011.

Amandah’s Reflections of 2011

1. Released the pressure off of me to earn a huge salary from my writing. I’m a single gal and solely responsible for earning a living and supporting me and my writing. Alas, I don’t have a trust fund worth $100 million. Bummer! As I wrote in my blog post What Advice Do You Wish You Received before Becoming a Freelance Writer?, I wish I could have spoken with a ‘seasoned’ freelance writer to learn the ‘tricks of the trade’ before I began. Then again, I wouldn’t have my experiences to pass onto to aspiring freelance writers.

In 2012, I’ll continue to seek full-time employment in creative fields, coaching/consulting, education, and real estate. I love real estate and don’t care what anyone says … it’s still a lucrative field.

2. I love story telling! I believe I’m a natural storyteller; I’ve been told I’m a natural storyteller. I love telling stories and creating different worlds and scenes. I love developing characters and often find myself drawn into their world. Sometimes this is good and sometimes it’s not so good. Getting wrapped up in the details can take me away from the big picture of a story.

I’m drawn to screenwriting because it’s straightforward and to the point. Basically, “He said; She said; He said; She said.” I also enjoy seeing a story brought to life through CGI, costumes, outstanding performances by actors and actresses, the music score, etc. When you see a movie on the big or little screen, it’s amazing to think it was created from a 90-120 page screenplay.

I do like writing YA, fiction and short stories but sometimes I get wrapped up in the details. As said above, I lose sight of the big picture. I’ll work on this in 2012. Perhaps, I’ll take more writing classes and workshops. I’d love to attend a writer’s conference.

3. Encouraging my nephew to write. I’ve encouraged my nephew to pursue writing. He was supposed to start a blog but is still thinking about his topic. Also, he’s disappointed that he hasn’t heard from a credit union about an article he submitted on how teens can earn and save money. I told him to contact the credit union; I don’t think he did. Hey! I can only do so much. I know he’s disappointed because his article was well written. I’m hoping this experience doesn’t discourage him from writing.

4. I need to sell my ideas. Do you know how many ideas I have written down? I have too many to focus on at once. I really need to ‘sell’ my ideas. I’ll check into that in 2012.

5. I need to enjoy writing more and remember ‘why’ I love to write. This coincides with Point #6 — releasing the pressure to earn a huge income from my writing. I need to relax and get back to the joy of writing. I lost this for a while, but I believe it’s coming back to me. It’s one of the reasons why I started Daily Family Antics. This blog is funny, blatantly honest, not depressing, and a lot of fun to write. No pressure!

Amandah

How was your 2011? What will 2012 be like for you? Share

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Creative, Freelance and Ghost Writer Reflects on 2011 — Part I

Ah yes, 2011 will be coming to an end in a few weeks. Personally, I can’t wait to get out of this year. Most of the people I spoke with this past year have said that 2011 was not a great yea r. Even online, folks have said that 2011 was one hell of a year. For me, it was about self-reflecting on what I want out of life which includes what I want for my creative, freelance and ghost writing career. Here’s Part I of my reflections of 2011.

Amandah’s Reflections of 2011

1. Set a goal to reach 1,200 followers on Twitter. I’m almost there; I have 1,199 diverse followers such as writers who write for the Huffington Post, CNN, and other outlets. I’m also connected with various publishers, producers, directors, production companies, screenwriters, social media consultants/companies, and media companies.

2. Start another blog where I can stretch my writing and not worry about it. I love comedy, especially TV comedies such as The Middle and Modern Family. I recently began Daily Family Antics because “there’s always something going on every day in my home.” It’s been a ‘hit’ with readers. My mom finds it entertaining so I know I’m on the ‘right’ path. Yes, I know mom’s can be biased; however, my mom is not one of those moms. I appreciate her honesty and she has a good ‘eye’ for stories and details.

Another reason for the blog is I plan to use it as a basis for a half-hour TV comedy. I’m still in the developing stages, but I plan to work on the plot, characters, treatment, logline, etc.  in 2012.

3. Writing for HalogenTV. This production company focuses on providing folks with information they can use to be the change they want to see in the world. It’s a great website, and I’m hoping I could expand my role with them in one form or another.

4. I didn’t move. I was hoping to move by October 31 but that didn’t happen. This made a little sad because I need to be in my ‘own’ sacred space. On the bright side, I have a lot of ideas thanks to my ‘family’s antics’ and more life experiences.

5. Querying and pitching. I was thrilled to receive a response to a query I sent out for a well known magazine. I also pitched my teleplay. But, I need to do more querying and pitching and stick to my schedule in 2012.

Part II will be posted tomorrow. This blog post would have been close to 1,000 words if I posted everything at once! That’s a bit much for a blog post. That’s just s my opinion.

Amandah

How was your 2011? What will 2012 be like for you? Share

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What Advice Do You Wish You Received before Becoming a Freelance Writer?

Like many freelance writers, I jumped in the deep end of professional writing with my eyes wide open. I didn’t have anyone to coach or guide me through the sometimes murky waters of freelance writing. I admit that it would have been nice to have had some ‘solid’ advice about freelance writing before I embarked on this journey. It would have been nice if a ‘seasoned’ freelance writer would have given me solid information about the business of writing. Oh well! Sometimes, it helps to learn as you go and learn from your mistakes.

Here’s the advice I wished I would have received before becoming a freelance writer:

1. Freelance writing is a business. It’s up to you, the freelance writer, to run your business. No one else will do it for you. Unless, of course, you hire outside help so you can work in your business not on it.

It’s important to know who your target market is. Also, it may be easier to write for a ‘niche’ market than trying to be everything to all businesses. It’s important to be comfortable with sales and marketing. If you can’t sell you and your writing services, who will?

A freelance writer needs to know how to create quotes, proposals, and invoices. Lucky for me, I have an accounting background and creating these types of forms wasn’t difficult for me. But what do if you don’t know how to do this? You could do a Google search or find forms on the internet and ‘tweak’ them.

2. Learn about web design and HTML coding. Tweaking your WordPress theme may or may not be easy. If you can’t afford to hire a professional web designer, learn about web design and coding or barter with a web designer. For example, in exchange for a clean and professional website, you could write blog posts and articles for the web designer.

3. Choose your domain name wisely. Is it better to use your name or a business name? What are the pros and cons? It’s possible that you could choose a domain name only to outgrow it. Before you setup your freelance writing website, conduct a ‘domain name’ brainstorming session and choose the name that’s right for you. Bounce names off of close, supportive family and friends. It’s better to do this then purchase a domain name that you really don’t like.

4. Learn how to write and submit query letters the first time. Let’s face it; there’s a lot of advice online about writing and submitting query letters. Who’s right? Who’s wrong? Is there a right or wrong answer about writing and submitting query letters? It would have been nice to have been mentored by an experienced freelance writer who wrote and sent   query letters throughout the years. Fumbling in the dark doesn’t help.

5. How do you set freelance writing rates? This is another area where it’s completely gray. When you’re a new freelance writer, how do you know what to charge? What’s the ‘magic’ formula? Is there a magic formula? Most ‘seasoned’ freelance writers say there isn’t a ‘standard’ when it comes to setting rates. Personally, I think they forget what it’s like to be a newbie. New freelance writers could use guidance and solid answers when it comes to setting rates. It would cut down on the frustration of it all.

6. Where to find the right clients? This would have been extremely helpful. How did ‘seasoned’ freelance writers find their clients when they started out? How do they find their clients? Did they go through the yellow pages? Would a newbie go through Yelp? Did a ‘seasoned’ freelance writer drive through their local business park and write down the business names? What’s the 411 on this?

7. How to stick with freelance writing when you’re not earning what you expected to earn or don’t have a solid support system? What happens when you quit your job because you thought you could immediately earn the same amount of income or even more each month from freelance writing? What happens when you ‘jump into’ freelance writing without having a backup income? Are the ‘gurus’ who say, “You can earn a living doing what you love” wrong? Are they selling ‘pipe dreams? Are they doing a disservice to people? Ugh!

What happens when you don’t have the support of family and friends? How do you persevere and press forward? Connect with local writers through Meetup.com, the library or local bookstores. Sometimes, it helps to meet face-to-face with others who are experiencing the same situation as you. Of course, you can connect with other writers through forums along with Facebook, LinkedIn and other social media websites. Just remember — you’re not alone. There are other writers who probably feel the same as you do. All you have to do is meet them. Before you know it, you’ll have cultivated a network of writers and friends.

Amandah

What advice do you wish you were given before you became a freelance writer? Share

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Amandah Blackwell’s Don’ts and Do’s for Attending Writer’s Conferences

In a couple of weeks, we’re about to bid farewell to 2011 and welcome 2012. For authors and writers, this translates to sorting through the enormous amount of writer’s conferences and choosing a few to attend during the New Year. Before you pack your bags and fly or drive to your destination, read the don’ts and do’s of attending writer’s conferences.

The Don’ts

1. Don’t sit at table with grumpy look on your face. All of us know that writers are ‘supposed to be’ solitary people however, when you’re at a conference, you may want to loosen up.

2. Don’t insult other authors and writers. This is bad business acumen and downright unacceptable. There’s room for all writers.

3. Don’t monopolize editors and publishers. You’re not the only one at the book or writer’s conference. Give your 30-second elevator speech and ask to schedule time with editors, literary agents, and publishers during classes and workshops.

4. Don’t dress sloppy. Like it or not, your appearance is just as important as your manuscript. Iron your clothes and or pack wrinkle-free clothing.

5. Don’t forget to bring your iPad and or laptop.

6. Don’t forget to bring marketing materials such as business cards, postcards, flyers, etc.

7. Don’t forget to participate in classes and workshops. You’re not in elementary or high school anymore. It’s alright to raise your hand. If you give the wrong answer, you’ll survive.

The Do’s

1. You’ve probably heard the phrase “Dress for success” a million times but there is truth to it. If you dress professionally, you’ll feel like a million dollars. Before you attend a writer’s conference purchase new clothes and get your haircut, styled and colored. When you look better, you feel better.

2. Do get over your shyness. You may want to get to the ‘root’ of your shyness and dissolve it. Life’s too short to be afraid to speak up and speak your mind. Walk up to someone you don’t know and say, “Hi! My name is (fill in the blank). It’s nice to meet you. What do you think of the writer’s conference?” It may take you a couple of times but once you do this, you’ll be able to speak to anyone, including your fans.

3. Do send hand written ‘Thank You’ notes to editors, literary agents, and publishers. Remember to ask for a business card.

4. Do network as much as you can. If you want to collaborate with another writer, conferences are the best places to find the ‘right’ writing partner.

5. Do bring paper and pen along with a recorder (if permissible). You never know, there could be a power outage and you may not have time to charge your laptop.

6. Do learn all you can about the publishing process. The more you know the better you’ll become at writing and sending query letters and understanding what agents and publishers want.

7. Do prepare a list of questions. When it’s time for the panel discussion, be prepared to ask your questions. Do your homework and learn all you can about the conference, panel, etc. Know before you go!

Amandah

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To Get More Clients, Sometimes Less is More

This post is from the Success for Solopreneurs Newsletter and is used with  permission from:

Katy Tafoya is teacher and a coach who finds joy in helping women claim their passion and expertise. She guides solopreneurs to make their lives and their businesses juicier, more fulfilling and more successful. She also leads the Val Gal quarterly networking dinners which are always open to the public and in the greater San Fernando Valley. If you’re ready to identify, claim and leverage your expertise and live your passion you can sign up for a a F.R.E.E. subscription to her weekly ezine at SuccessForSolpreneurs.com.

“We are all experts in our own little niches.” ~ Alex Trebek 

Let me guess…you can help everyone and everyone is your client.

And yet with ALL those people that you can work with, you’re still not getting as many clients as you’d like or making the money you know you could be making.

Sound familiar? Sound frustrating?

So the question is…what are we going to do about it?

When my clients come to me complaining about their lack of income and clients, I’d say that many times it’s because they haven’t narrowed down their niche. Other times it’s because they don’t really know what they do for their clients, but that’s just the other side of the “niche” coin – and they go hand in hand (and we’ll talk more about that another day).

What exactly is a niche?

Now that’s the million dollar question. You see, your niche is a combination of the people you work with (your ideal client), the problems you can help them solve, and how you (and your unique perspective and experience) can help them gain something they really want (more money, more time, more balance, better health, new love, etc) with your special techniques, tools or systems.

Now look closely at what I just wrote and you’ll notice there no where does it even begin to imply that you can work with EVERYONE to help solve ALL their problems. You can’t. And you and I both know deep down, that you wouldn’t want to, even if you could.

What you really need to do is figure out what you’re actually in the business of doing.

Are you an organizer who helps people transfer all their past records into organized digital files? Are you a massage therapist that helps pregnant women feel relaxed and de-stressed throughout her pregnancy? Are you a therapist that works with families of substance abusers? Are you a nutritionist that teaches working moms of school-age children how to shop for and create healthy and tasty meals for her over-committed family in under 30 minutes a day? Are you a freelance writer who focuses on technical writing for health care facilities? (I added this one … Rebecca)

Figure out what you do and get specific.

Once you know what you DO (and you can clearly communicate that when you’re out and about networking and interacting), people will recognize themselves in the problems that you say you can help them with and the end result you they can gain. And when people recognize themselves in the problem, and know that you offer up a solution, they want to work with you…it’s as if you KNOW what they’re going through (and I’m guessing that you do since you’re the expert here).

And of course, this all supports YOU as the expert. When you’re known within your circles as the expert, the solver of X problem, the bringer of my Y, you become very sought after. Not only do people want to work with you and get your help, but they’re also willing to pay good money to get their problems solved and to obtain that coveted result.

And notice again, you’re not becoming the Jill of all trades. You’re not the solver of all things. You are the EXPERT who can help a specific group of people, solve a very specific problem…and achieve very specific RESULTS.

A word of advice…ask from help from an outside source to help you work through this. Ask your friend to tell you what they think you do. Ask them to ask you questions that you, as the expert know the answers to. The goal here is to get out of the box you’ve put yourself in and think differently. And yes, that typically takes an extra pair of eyes and a healthy brainstorm.

And don’t be surprised if your niche turns into something you never thought of before. There’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, that’s the good stuff. That’s what gets you excited to work every day and what thrills your clients because they can finally get the help they’ve been craving.

ACTION PLAN: What’s the first step you’re going to take to start working on fine-tuning and maybe even redefining your niche?

WANT TO SEE MORE ARTICLES LIKE THIS ONE? See Katy’s blog at SuccessforSolopreneurs.com/blog

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