Saturday, June 30, 2007

Squidoo Exerts Its Evil Influence

I've been resisting the urge to join Squidoo for ages now. Unfortunately, I have finally become convinced that it's a useful way to orgainize my articles even if it doesn't make me (or my chosen charity) any money at all. That's what hooked me, actually - that I can designate a charity to benefit from anything I do over there. It made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

So far I've only made two lenses - one for my music articles and one for my articles about urban sprawl. I am going to do at least two more. One will be for my articles on parenting and family and the other a catch-all for various subjects.

I'm considering a fifth for book reviews, if only because I read so much, but I don't think the format there lends itself to a running commentary like a blog. I think that, with something like 110 articles out there starving for attention, I needed a way to find them and a way to point folks to similar information.

Obviously, these are a work in progress. I am looking at them as being relatively static, more reference material than active pages. I'm also looking at them as prospective referral pages for future clients, where they can see how I write and how familiar I am with a subject. The lenses will be my online portfolios, tailored to the sorts of jobs for which I am writing queries.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Grammar for All and Article Writing Tips

I can admit to being a total grammar geek. In an attempt to persuade you to become one as well, I offer the following gem. The page about conjunctions in the Guide to Writing and Grammar fascinated me for half an hour. It’s clearly written and offers great examples.

They also have a fantastic article on writing introductory paragraphs. While it is directed at students writing essays and papers, the advice applies perfectly to writing articles. I plan to spend a fair amount of time digging around their pages, so don’t be surprised if they pop up again.

I also came across, an ESL site that is about to turn 10 years old. They had information by the bucket-load, but I got a kick out of the term Uncountable Nouns.

I finally got my behind out of an article slump and submitted two to Helium yesterday. The benefit of doing so there is that I get them up instantly. The drawback is that I get paid squat for them. My highest-paying article to date there (of the now-77 published) has earned $1.49.

Then again, one of the articles I posted yesterday was for a Marketplace topic on buying 80’s music. The hook is that it may get picked (from the existing 3, although I don’t know what the time-line may be) to get published and I’ll get paid $16 for it. That would put me over $30 through Helium. I need the writing exercise to get back in payable shape after my maundering on here, so I’ll probably tuck a few more in there when I find topics that interest me.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Somewhat Off-Topic Rant: Unions and Writers

I’m going to run a bit of an off-topic rant today so if you came here to read about improving your writing you may want to scroll down to the next post. I promise that this will be a one-time subject for me.

I was perusing some freelance writing job sites when I came across a reference to the National Writers’ Union. I thought this was interesting so I clicked over to check it out. The NWU appears to be part of the AFL-CIO. The paragraph that made me really start looking at the site with a skeptical eye was at top center. It reads as follows:

“The National Writers Union is the trade union for freelance and contract writers: journalists, book authors, business and technical writers, web content providers, and poets. With the combined strength of nearly 2,000 members in 16 chapters nationwide, and with the support of the United Automobile Workers (UAW), the Union works to defend the rights and improve the economic and working conditions of all writers.”

My immediate reaction was, "What, they're going to come do my dishes?" Then I pictured the terrible writer sweatshops that you hear about in rural...nowhere. Then I took it seriously.

After having heard the stories of the UAW’s unwillingness to make reasonable concessions in the face of the US’s failing auto industry because they’ve never done it before, I can’t help but fear for the fate of the members of this union.

The site offers what I find to be typical scare tactics like their post about “The Imperiled Future of Copyright” and “Writer Alerts” about various publishers. These are supplemented by an offer of “Grievance Assistance”.

Dues are based on your annual income but start at $120 ($135 in installments) for up to $5,000 in income. I suppose if you are making $150,000 a year doing freelance work, the $340 annual dues ($355 if you pay in two installments) make some sense. They would be a way to safeguard your work by providing something with which to threaten clients who don’t pay or someone who steals your work.

The reason this whole deal concerns me is that their stated aim is to solicit writing jobs for their members by mail followed up by phone calls, to groups including to other unions and members of the US Congress. To me, this smacks of using strong-arm tactics to get people to use the services of their members at whatever rate they set. You can’t see the rates unless you join, however. I fear that people pay the dues to fall under their umbrella of protection and enjoy the inflated pay rates.

I don’t have any proof of this, as I’m not about to shell out $120 for a blog post, but it certainly fits in with the mafia-like activities of local unions. For all of the bluster you hear about protecting the needs and rights of workers, most of the results are brought about by intimidation and benefit the union as much as, if not more than, the individual worker in question.

I apologize for the rant, but the whole web site struck me as distasteful and extortionate. I’m sure there are wonderful, honest, productive people who are members of this union. I also suspect that I’ll get some nasty hate mail over this. Rabid defense by union supporters is also something I’ve seen locally.

If the set-up is for you, enjoy! I would never begrudge someone that choice. If you think I'm all wet, drop me a comment and let me know. If it’s not for you, well, at least you know about it.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Freelance Writing Jobs Galore

For those of you who are ready for full-time commitments, check out’s job listings. I don’t know how I have managed to miss them in my dozens of searches. You have to register to view job details but there are about 1,500 active listings there right now. 90% or more of them are full-time, at least in the first few pages. The impressive part is that you find names like McGraw Hill, Random House, The Wall Street Journal, and Scholastic on it. Talk about resume-builders!

If you’re not quite looking for the big-time yet, has a lengthy list at the end of a quippy blog page. This led me to and their list of online writing jobs. Again, most of these are for people who are able to commit some serious time and effort. There was a fantastic string from the same company, but they all required a bachelor’s degree in mass communication or some other writing-related field. My degree isn’t applicable, unfortunately.

If you’re a techy, wander over to Klariti’s list of 99 on-going tech writing freelance jobs. Most of them appear to be print or ezines. I am still not sure what the focus of the site was intended to be. There are a few interesting things available if you dig around.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Learning About Online Journalism

My first foray into first-person journalism is officially published at Associated Content. I don’t expect squat for page views, but am experiencing an inordinate amount of glee from seeing it.

With the idea in mind of continuing this exploration, I discovered the Online Journalism Review and a “wiki” entitled How to Report a News Story Online. The article includes a little section on finding story ideas, but is concluded by a somewhat garbled, first-draft section at the end.

The upshot seems to be one with which I agree: pay attention to the world around you and write about what you find interesting. The odds are good that others will, too.

The piece also makes an excellent point about not looking only for information that supports your point of view on a topic. If you’re going to be a journalist, you have to be even-handed. Writing about why you’re right is an opinion piece, not an article.

Writing about the points on both sides makes you look fair and open-minded (whether you are or not!) That’s a good way to start establishing trust with your readers. It’s can be difficult to do on a subject about which you feel deeply but it’s a good way to learn whether you’ve been mistaken about a particular topic. Doing impartial research educates you so that you can educate your readers.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

A Bit of Encouragement and Ethics

Well, of course AC didn't want to pay me for a piece of very, very local interest. I put it up for free, anyway although it's stuck in processing, whatever that means. I'm still entertained by the whole thing.

As I was wandering about this morning, I did run across the Well-Fed Writer, a.k.a. Peter Bowerman. He had some encouraging stories and motivation in the June issue of his newsletter. You can subscribe or just pop in and read the latest issue.

There was some reference to cold calls, which is not something I would have thought a successful and resourceful freelancer would need to do. Definitely not in these days of craigslist and elance! I believe his focus is more on large, continuing clients than on taking smaller, one-off jobs.

It's something to consider. When does your 2-year writing gig turn into being an employee? How do you keep your autonomy? As a freelancer, these are important questions. I'd hate to be so excited about landing a big contract that I forget to cover the basics. My focus will need to be producing quality work and making decisions about jobs and content that are good for both the client and for me.

What's the point of quitting my day job if I turn around and take on two or three bosses with no benefits? Although I think it would be a lot of fun to write copy for Coca-Cola and Pepsi on alternating days.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

legbamel: Live and on the Scene

I made my first foray into the “exciting” world of journalism yesterday. There was a minor event nearby. I found out about it, attended with a camera, took a picture, wrote a brief article, and submitted the package to Associated Content. For all that it was a 10-minute, nigh-unpublicized event, I was thrilled to be there as a reporter. Unofficially, of course. I was undercover as a mere interested bystander.

The problem came when I went to write the article. I had a little hook, a good quote from one of the participants, and nothing else. It took me more time researching on the web to get some background than the entire process of discovering and attending the event. I assume that this is a standard issue for journalists – that the events themselves are brief and not particularly interesting unless you are willing to explain why they happened and what they mean (if anything).

What particularly entertained me about the thing was that there was only one “real” reporter there. She was from a local television station and had her trusty camera operator with her. I see her around the area a lot and figure she must have the downtown, human interest beat. I could pretend that, as the only “print” journalist there, I was scooping the local paper. Heh, sometimes a little self-delusion is just what you need.

I'll have to see if AC will print the thing, though. It is strictly of local interest and obviously not much of that. If only sending it in to the local paper would not completely blow my secret identity on-line. Because of my job, I don't publish under my real name. I seriously doubt the paper is going to publish me under my pseudonym!

Of course, if it does get published, I'll link to it here.

Friday, June 22, 2007

ConstantContent and an HTML Tutorial

I found some interesting freelance site feedback in the forums at constantcontent. I’ve been considering submitting my non-exclusive articles from Associated Content there as well, since they’re already written.

[Completely self-promotional side note - my newest article, Is Urban Sprawl Making You Fat?, finally got published last night.]

I am hesitant because I hear that they reject articles for errors in spelling and grammar. I also have read that their rejections are none-too-gentle. Even though I’m confident in my abilities, I fear a typo sneaking in and spoiling my chances. Taking tentative steps forward right now means not taking chances with my fragile writer’s ego. Then again, how am I ever going to thicken my skin if I don’t take a few hits?

I’ve started so many new projects lately that I don’t think this is something I want to take on right now. I am going to keep it on my mental back burner, however. Once I commit, I can write an article and, with editing to fit the various audiences, submit it to at least three places for pay. Constantcontent’s standards are so tight because they are aiming for “professional” writers. That makes me think that getting published through them would be a good career move. I’m just not quite ready to be told that I’m not quite ready!

In the meantime, I’ll keep reading their blog. It’s filled with fantastic writing and stylistic information. My response to the grammatical puzzle? I would change “The jobs employers said they had difficulty finding applicants for, in rank order, were service, skilled positions, laborers, sales, and health related positions.” to “In the order of their rank, the jobs for which employers had difficulty finding applicants were service, skilled positions, laborers, sales, and health-related positions.” Too bad I’d have to be logged in to post it on their blog.

I followed the link to their partner, Page Resource, and found a great set of HTML tutorials as well. If you’re already familiar with these tags and tricks, there is also an advanced set.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

You Learn Something New...I Follow, Now

My learning experience for the day was about nofollow here on Blogger. I had no idea that it was a default setting. I’d seen plenty of posts about turning it off on your Wordpress account but I hadn’t come across any reference to Blogger accounts until yesterday. Of course, I immediately went and turned the thing off. I am completely in sympathy with the dofollow community.

Instructions for turning off the nofollow on your own blogger account can be found at Tips 4 Blogspot. I also joined what’s known as the “D-list” over at Bumpzee. I can only guess that the “D” is for “Do Follow.” That's what it would mean if it were my idea, anyway.

After I spent far more time than necessary wandering around over there, I finally caved and checked out the Amazon Associates program. I’m still iffy on it but I thought I’d give it a try. If I’m going to blather on about grammar and writing and marketing, maybe we can all find useful resources together from the links. If we can’t, well, at least I didn’t pay anything to be a part of the program.

As not one bit of this is actually about improving your writing, I’ll throw in a link to Steven Barnes’s free 9-week writing course. He’s got a lot of other good information and motivation at his site,, as well, but this one really caught my eye. Now I’ll have to take it and let you know what I think afterwards.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Article-Writing and Freelance Tips

For all three of those people who don’t read copyblogger, you’ve missed a fantastic article on the 10-second rule. It’s an excellent guide to writing content that catches readers, which is what will sell your work.

It brings up some critical points for article-writing. Breaking your 1,000-word piece into bite-sized chunks for easy consumption not only helps readers follow your argument, it helps you to organize your thoughts and ensure that your points get made. Sub-headers let people who are already familiar with the subject skip over explanatory paragraphs and get straight to the “What Next” or “What’s New” sections.

It's also a good argument for why SEO writing is so good for the web. If you've got the key words and phrases sprinkled liberally throughout, it helps to point readers to the sentences that are directly about that subject. If they're going to skim anyway, at least let them come away with some useful information and perhaps convince them that your article has enough meat to warrant a full read. And if they read that article, perhaps they will be convinced to come back for more.

Good formatting and good keywording compliment good content and good writing. If you can get all four of these working together, you will have a kick-butt piece. It's a question of balance. So much web writing pays far too much attention to the first two elements at the cost of the others. I, on the other hand, rarely pay any attention at all to keywording. Yes, I try to mention the topic in some variation frequently, but I don't pay enough attention to how I do it. This is a good reminder to me of why I should devote energy to improving that part of my writing.

Once you’ve got the strategy firmly in mind, check out Sharon Hurley Hall’s article at Garden and Hearth (although I normally read her at Get Paid to Write) about freelance markets for beginners. Donating your skills to a local paper won’t pay the bills. It is a great way to get your name in print and build your portfolio.

For a lot of incredibly useful information, try reading her articles at Inspired Author. There's a great article there on deciding how much to charge for jobs that really helped me to put the question into perspective. Unfortunately, most of the links on the free promotion course don't work. I'll check back and post here if I find them fixed. I'm quite curious to take it.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Journalism Jobs and Writing Inspiration

Chris Bibey over at had a useful mini-review of the other day. I thought I’d check it out and see if I wanted to add it to my sidebar list of places to look for freelance jobs. There wasn’t a link in the above post, but if you want to look into it yourself, it’s right where you’d expect it.

The jobs that I looked at were out of my league, at least for the time being. I don’t have the experience or the time necessary. There are, however, a lot of jobs there. It’s motivating to think that someday I could apply for one, if I can ever get myself started. I don't think it quite fits into the sidebar list, though. Maybe in a few years.

In the mean time, I’ll keep writing and build up the expertise I'll need. That reminds me - I finally got an offer on my latest urban sprawl article at Associated Content. Of course I’ll post a link as soon as it’s live.

I’ve been having trouble coming up with good articles over the past month or so. I went looking for some help and found advice and tips all over the web. If you need some inspiration and guidance, take a look at Roy Jacobsen at Writing, Clear and Simple. He had some great advice on finding inspiration for articles and blog content. I need to start using some of these tricks. I tend to start writing in my head when I’m sitting at a stop light or standing in line at the bank. Maybe I should try remembering that my mp3 player and my cell phone have voice recorders!

Ai - I forgot to mention that I am submitting my blog to Blogging Fusion. It's yet another blog listing, but it provides a lot of information so that you can really specify what you blog is about. Hopefully that means that I can then find more blogs to read!

Monday, June 18, 2007

More Food for Thought and Free Learning

I wandered across a fun site today called The 11 Rules of Writing. While I can’t say that they are the only 11 rules, they are definitely excellent rules of thumb.

Number 11, “Omit extra words,” is one that writers struggle with constantly. It goes along with my recent post about keeping it short. I tend to pack as much into each sentence as possible and then create dependent clauses hanging from completely independent (and often parenthetical) thoughts. Knocking out all of the decoration keeps the focus on your point. Flowery phrases are a joy to create but, unless you're looking to be the next James Joyce, they are a waste of space on your page and a waste of your readers' time. Keep them for brain warm-ups like writing exercises. That way you can get them out of your system without inflicting them on innocent passersby.

Back to the subject: Rule number 6 is my food for thought today – using a colon versus a comma for dialogue in a sentence. I hadn’t thought of doing it that way, but it makes a lot of sense after reading the examples. All of the pages about the rules are quick reads, like grammar flash cards. There is also a list of other writing resources including Strunk’s ubiquitous Elements of Style.

Unfortunately, I can’t link to specific pages in the 11 Rules site because they are all in a frame with the same web address. You’ll have to poke around for yourself. There’s even a discussion forum for questions, although it looks pretty quiet.

I followed the lovely breadcrumb trail from there to the ESL handouts at the Purdue Online Writing Lab. There is an amazing array of topics there, all of which can be useful to writers. The handouts are accompanied by exercises and quizzes, too. These help to carve those crazy rules into your resistant brain.

I’m so glad to have discovered that many ESL sites are devoted to the oddities of English grammar that trouble nearly everyone attempting to compose in this complicated language. I'm getting an excellent review, as well.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

You Learn Something New Every Day - Phrasal Verbs

Having been a student of English and Latin my whole life, it's always fun to discover something new. For instance, I'd never heard of phrasal verbs until today. But in my perusal of ESL pages in search of excellent tips, I ran across this page at Of course, I use them, but I never really considered that they were a grammatical construct with rules. Thus, this page is my food for thought today.

You may notice that I've started a blog roll in the ol' sidebar. I've been meaning to do so for a while, and I finally got a start on it. I intend to list only blogs that I visit on a regular basis and that relate to writing, promoting, or freelancing.

If you've visited before, you probably notice a lot of changes. Look for a few more. I am working on getting some sort of header image that says, “Legbamel can help you write better and earn money!” Shockingly enough, I've not found something that really says that to me. I downloaded GIMP for my freshly-wiped laptop today, so I'm excited to start playing with some of the ideas I've got. The focus on designing "brand me" has been taking time away from blogging and writing but it's all fodder. I intend to write some articles for Associated Content on being a beginner trying to develop branding for myself for free and from scratch.

Branding 's an important facet of getting people to remember you and to come back to you for more. Most articles I find on it refer to relatively expensive software or businesses to do it for you. My plan is to spend nothing but time on it and in 5 years to be ready to go full-time. I may not be setting the freelance or blogging world on fire, but I'm sticking to the plan. Actually, I've made about $150. Maybe once I get my image settled (and change my avatars in 27 different place) I can get back to writing and earning. Until then, at least I am compiling all of the resources here so that I can find them again!

Friday, June 15, 2007

Brevity is the soul of...this post.

For those of us (notice I include myself in that pronoun) who need a reminder to stop blabbing and get to the point, Copyblogger has this post about keeping it short. Many of us are so enamored of our own “voice” that we forget to cut out the blather and stick to what other people want to know.

It’s especially important to remember this when you’re writing something to sell. Your customer doesn’t care how nimble your vocabulary may be, they care if what you’ve written is worth reading. If you’re writing copy, they care if it’s going to sell their product. Skip the hype and the hyperbole (like that) and stick to the facts.

The point is to keep the focus off of how clever you are and on the subject. It’s easy to lose sight of that when you’re alone at your keyboard with only the sound of your own thoughts. That makes such posts good periodic reminders.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Blog Carnivals, Pay-Per-Post, and a Free Course

Ah, the blog carnival. By a hundred other names, they still make me cringe! I cannot imagine filling this page with a list of links to blogs with which I am unfamiliar in an attempt to get my technorati authority up. It just feels too much like cheating. I’d rather get links by posting content that people have actually read and liked well enough to volunteer them.

That said, I did find quite a few good things on this particular list. It’s worth a perusal and even tempted me to add myself. I stood strong, though, for you. Okay, for my own integrity. The thought of an instant, reliable blog roll is great. Unfortunately, you cannot guarantee the quality of the blogs listed without checking them all yourself. Who has that kind of time?

Now that I’ve bashed one method of promoting your blog, I’ll turn to defending one way of making money from your blog. In the interests of disclosure, since I haven’t mentioned it for a while, I do sponsored posts. Well, I’ve done two. While neither of these were exactly on-topic, nor were they subjects that I felt were out of place on this blog. They were also honest assessments of the services reviewed. I am not above getting paid to look at sites, but I won’t stoop to saying nice things about them if I don’t believe what I write. Happily, Blogsvertise doesn’t require that I say nice things to get paid. That’s why I chose them! That isn't a referral link, by the way, as they don't offer a referral system - you sign up, you accept a job and write it, you get paid, you keep your money.

As a bonus for reading all of the way to the end of this ramble, here’s a 16-session free writing course developed by Melissa Fry at Gateway Community and Technical College in Kentucky.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Resources: Promote Your Blog, Blog for Someone Else

In my ‘net travels today, I found another set of places to submit your site. Some of these overlap with each other, but they are search engines rather dedicated blog or feed services. Variety is the spice and all that. Actually, I spent more time than I should have at today reading articles about promotion and optimization in their web design section. I even added meta tags to my page! My poor template is going to burst into flames if I don’t leave it alone for a couple of days.

And again, I found that Deborah Ng is providing a hugely useful set of links. This time, it’s a post about how to find blogging jobs. She also has daily and weekly updated listings. I was surprised at the number and variety of requests.

I didn't realize that there were so many people looking for someone to blog for them. I suppose I enjoy doing it myself so much that it didn’t occur to me that businesses might not have staff to dedicate to blogging, much less happen to have someone that enjoys and is good at it. Then again, I spend nearly all of my on-line time at sites where everyone writes. Not only do I hang out at blogcatalog and technorati but I write for and post at Associated Content. These sites are places where people talk about writing and making money doing it. It's easy to forget that many people either can't or don't want to spend time crafting well-written, informative pieces and then putting them out for (theoretically) all the world to see.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

An Unexplored Goldmine for Grammar Tips

Sometimes, it helps to get another take on a subject. I wandered by Lisa Q’s site for learning English as a second language (ESL) on-line. It’s just starting out, but the first few posts seem to indicate good things coming. The language is clear and the examples concrete. It looks like there are a couple of layout problems, specifically the overlapping posts which make the headlines difficult to read. I’ll be keeping an eye on this one.

I hadn’t thought of using ESL sites as resources for grammar and syntax explanations but this one makes me wonder why not. It seems so obvious, now that I think of it. Where else would you look for understandable explanations of bizarre grammar rules? I will find and post more good ones.

Does the World Need a Megaglobe?

I’ve been told about another new search engine/pay-per-click program - Megaglobe. It’s set to launch July 2nd. Using their search engine results in credits to your advertising accounts, which are used to pay for ads on their results.

I was favorably surprised by their search results. I did a search for “human c02 production” (without the quotes) and ended up with RealClimate’s argument that people are bad for the earth as the first result and this counter-argument from znet a few results down the page. These are both quality links with a ton of (incidentally fascinating) information each. There is no way, however, to tell if these sites are advertisers with Megaglobe. If they are, I’d say it speaks well to the caliber of their advertisements.

As a bonus, you can submit your site to their search engine. Of course, the first thing I when I got there was submit this site. I also submitted Associated Content in its entirety. You can never have too many results, right?

I didn’t see anything indicated on the Megaglobe site about whether the average joe (like you and me) can trade in credits for cash instead of advertising through them at some point. I sent them an e-mail and will edit this entry when I get a response.

UPDATE: I got the response that same night, which was pretty quick for folks who are busy gearing up for a launch in three weeks. In essence, they told me that the search rewards are credits with the site, period. If you're looking for a new place to advertise, then this would be of a lot more interest to you than if you're looking to make some money, although I suppose you could advertise your blog or affiliate sites.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Writelife and Me on MySpace, and Facebook

Wandering around at mybloglog, I came across Bill at Writelife and his post about whether social networks outgrow themselves. I started to comment there thus:

“I was rather hoping that you’d have a convincing argument for starting with these bloated sites. I have never even visited Facebook or MySpace because I hear so much about the millions of different uses for them. I want something targeted, or at least that I can easily point at what I want and say, ‘Go.’ While it’s fabulous that literally millions of people are out there at any given moment, most of them don’t care what I have to say. That’s fair enough, because I don’t much care about their respective dogs and relationships.”

The I realized that I’d rather post my reaction here. The rest of my thoughts on the matter go something like this:

I sink enough time into writing and blogging and networking as it is. Am I missing traffic on these sites? Yeah, probably. Is it from people who are likely to be “repeat offenders”? Nope. While I love the idea of really getting my name out there and having people read not only my blog but my Associated Content articles as well, I only have so much time and energy to invest in making that happen.

I don’t write about things that every third person cares about, and that’s okay with me. I love writing about them. I’d rather put my resources towards doing well what I love. I get enough chaff as it is. (You should see some of the things that come up when you click “Next Blog” at the top of the screen!)

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Article Writing Tips and An Apology to Blogflux

As I often struggle with actually sitting down and writing an article, this post at Writing Help about The 30-Minute Article really struck my fancy. It actually inspired a new take on a article that I've been futzing around with for over a week. I may well actually finish the silly thing. I'd been so focused on outlining the problem that I forgot to offer the solution! I may never be a 30-minute article writer, but I can focus on what I'm trying to do rather than playing with language until I've forgotten my own point. That ought to eliminate frustration and increase writing speed.

As promised, I've been researching and have very little encouraging to say about them. There is a basic, free membership and you can bid on jobs. I've had people tell me that they were members long ago before there was an “upgrade” available and that they made great contacts with whom they now deal directly. That's fantastic, but the bulk of the information I encountered from recent users was that there is not much work awarded and that the rates were generally low. If you're interested in the site, I'd stick with the free membership and only bid for a few projects. Someone must be making money there, but it doesn't sound like it's worth investing much time. Note: unless you search with quotes around the name of the site (“”) you'll get the self-proclaimed guru for everything from snowshoeing to hang gliding.

One more note: My opinion pendulum has swung back the other way on Blogflux. Why? Because I finally started using some of their tools. For interacting with other bloggers I give them a D. But for useful things and toys? An A- at least. The two things that have really surprised me there are the Pinger that pings all over the place with one click. I had never even heard of Icerocket until I signed up there, and now I pop up there without ever having visited!

The other tool I like is the e-mail scrambler. I'd long been reluctant to add an e-mail address to this blog because I had heard so many horror stories about bots scraping addresses and overwhelming amounts of spam. No sooner did I open a new e-mail account than I noticed this tool. Now I've got a handy-dandy “Contact Me” spot that is doubly safe! As a plus, the stat map is a really cool toy. Blogflux, please consider this my official apology. I misjudged you. Then again, I was mislead by the “Top Sites” tag you provided to me. Let's just shake and forget the whole thing.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Copywriting Tune-ups and Reading Ease

Eric Rosen over at Copywriting Tune-ups had a fantastic example of writing a great press release. Not only does he re-work a serviceable one into an exciting piece, but he goes through his reasoning point by point and is crystal clear about it. Maybe that’s why the name of his company is Clear Crisp Communications!

Rosen re-posted the entry to his other blog, Copywriting Makeovers. While his entries are necessary long, there are nuggets of gold in each makeover. If you don’t have the time or desire to read the whole explanation, look for the section titled “Copywriting Tune-up” in each entry. Just following those tips can really make a difference in your writing.

These blogs are also a great reminder to check your reading ease and the passive sentences when you’re editing. You can easily check these in MS Word simply by running a spelling and grammar check. If you don't have the tool with your word processor, you can use the one at (of all places) Dave Child's I Love Jack Daniels. Who knew that this was a serious site for techy business? It's definitely worth a browse.

I got so involved reading these and thinking about them that I have yet to develop my entry about I will post that either late today or tomorrow.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Encouragement and Another Breadcrumb Trail

I wandered over to, lured by the headline Write Pitches that Turn into Assignments. That turned out to be quite the interesting set of articles on writing in general.

In looking about, I then found this encouraging article by Loolwa Khazzoom about being a full-time freelance writer and a parent. It isn’t a “lightning strike” story about a yappy blog being discovered by mainstream media. It’s about building your career, slowly and carefully.

A couple of clicks down the breadcrumb trail I found her web site, with an impressive array of magazine covers and newspaper logos. It is sites like this that can really get a beginner motivated – or at least playing the “what if” game. It’s important to consider how you can fit freelancing into your life at the start of your career.

For me, my children are too young and my full-time job too financially crucial to our lives to chuck it all and “Just Do It”. But I do have time to research, write, and edit the occasional article. The question is whether I can commit to a deadline. Promising to deliver and failing to do so because your youngest threw up on the dog and the couch in the middle of writing it will not impress your client. Nor is it likely to get you more work through positive word-of-mouth or feedback. Staying up until 3 in the morning after a full work week is hardly conducive to good finished copy, either.

While sometimes I feel like a coward or a procrastinator, the fact is that I am not in a position to do serious freelance work. It’s better for me and better for the name of freelancers everywhere that I remember these points when I’m tempted to sign up for places like (more on them tomorrow) and elance. It seems like a lot of folks are so excited by the idea of being a freelance writer that they leap into it with both feet and end up over their heads pretty quickly. I’d rather wade in slowly and feel my way.

Some days, though, that feels more like rationalizing than reasoning. Those are the days when I’ve been sucked into perusing craigslist and reading too many blogs.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

NewsU - On-line Courses, Some Free

In case any of you don’t check the discussion boards as Associated Content (or don’t write there) I wanted to draw attention to the link to NewsU. They have free courses for registered users on a lovely pile of journalism and writing topics. I registered today and immediately ran across two courses I will likely go through this weekend when I can focus.

I’m excited to find another resource, especially one that keeps a syllabus of the courses you have taken. I can’t help but think that taking these courses (and having proof) would be a boon to your resume when writing proposals for freelance jobs. Even simply adding a sentence like, “I have taken a course in headline writing from Jane Smith and one on copyediting and proofreading with Bob Jones,” can add a bit of cachet to your curriculum vitae.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Inklings and Contractions

I have been checking out Walter Burek's Inklings for about a week now. He almost invariably has something intelligent and helpful to say, and has a link or two to share as well. I can't help but think he's got a book of good writing quotes at home, becuase he comes up with some excellent and relevant ones for his weekly post. Then there was this post on editing your own writing that laid down some specific and realistic rules for evaluating your work.

This brings me back to somthing I was posting on a disucssion board the other day. The question was about using contractions (of which I'm a proponent) but my response was about tone. To me, purposely removing them where you naturally wrote them can make your writing stilted instead of authoritative. Also, spelling out the "not" inherent in many contractions tends to emphasize it, since it is so often neglected. Unless you're writing a technical manual or other instructions (where you want to ensure that people do not do something when they ought not to do it) you can feel free to sprinkle the contractions about naturally. That's it for today!

Saturday, June 2, 2007

A Day Without A Computer

For those who doubt the saying "You don't know what you've got 'til it's gone", try having complete hardware failure and being without a computer for a full day. This is my apology for not being anywhere to be found yesterday and my explanation for why I don't have much in the way of links today.

I wanted to check on Blog Flux (on which I've cooled, as apparently I missed the part where you only get the cool stats if you pay them and there is no networking set-up over there) and I knew I had a new article published at Associated Content. That one is about fighting urban sprawl with mixed-use development. I was excited to see it up as it's part of a series I'm doing.

I also ran across and I really wanted to get some feedback on whether anyone I "know" has used it and how it works. The link points to the page for searching projects, and I found a fair number of freelance writing jobs both under the Article/News category and the web content categories. It also appears that they pay by escrow, which tends to mean that you can feel more confident that you'll actually get paid for your work! I'll look into this and post more later.