Review: Grammarly Free: You Get What You Pay For

Unfortunately, it feels more or less like a second stock spell checker at times. It does catch more typos and grammar mistakes than Microsoft Office’s built-in spell checker, but it isn’t anything earth-shattering.

Advertisements

One of my clients has been singing the praises of Grammarly‘s free app for months, but unfortunately my laptop at the time was almost old enough to drive a car. I attempted to install it anyways, only to watch my computer freeze and stutter through even the most mundane task.

Obviously, this was less than ideal, and not something I could entirely blame on the company. After all, it was made with modern systems in mind, and my laptop was telling me that my computer is so old that Windows Vista was no longer going to receive updates from, well, essentially anyone.

Fast forward a few months and I was able to pick up a newer laptop. Despite the initial bugs that are inherent in Windows 10 (and they are many) I finally got it up and running and decided to give Grammarly another go.

After a few weeks of having it installed, I’ve come to the conclusion that it is very, very, very….okay.

It isn’t that it’s a bad app by any stretch. It was a cinch to install, and it performs exactly as they advertised. Both of these are great, and refreshing in a time when most apps simply purchase 5 star reviews to make up for not producing a final product.

Unfortunately, it feels more or less like a second stock spell checker at times. It does catch more typos and grammar mistakes than Microsoft Office’s built-in spell checker, but it isn’t anything earth-shattering.

I’ve used other Word-based apps before, and they all, more or less, perform about the same. I would assume Microsoft wants Office to be fully compatible with apps, especially as they push their computer experience to be more like their phone experience. However, there is a reason that I am not using a smartphone, and that is because I’m not really interested in playing Candy Crush on my computer.

As a result, adding on this app makes the load time take forever for just opening Word. I don’t know the mechanics of it, but I can only assume there’s something in the background that is trying to link Office to Grammarly’s server, and that back user communication usually has hiccups.

It’s nice having Gramarly off to the side of the ribbon; being a free app, I fully expected having something glaring at me the entire time I’m typing. The small notification on top of the icon is a nice touch, albeit it’s a bit odd; rather than displaying a true number of errors, it vaguely reads “1+”, “2+”, etc. What I don’t like about the notification system is that it’s so tiny that it sort of looks like a white blur on a red smudge.

So what causes the “+” amount of errors? That is where they get you. Spelling and grammar issues are, for the most part, included in their scans. However, if you want the full functionality, you must pay for premium. And while that may not sound like a good enough incentive, they have a better one – by ominously telling you that, without the premium version, several errors have been left untouched. To further add urgency to this sales pitch, errors can be “advanced” or “critical”, both of which simply redirect to where you buy it.

My last complaint is actually an included feature, and that is, while Grammarly is active, you are unable to use CRTL+Z, or the shortcut for the “Undo” function. While this in and of itself isn’t a deal breaker, it’s odd to me that an app to help you edit yourself wouldn’t allow you to undo changes during the editing process. Editing gets messy fast, and sometimes you go a little nuts with the deletes and changes.

Considering that not all of their suggestions are winners makes it harder to justify paying for premium. In fact, just like with the stock Microsoft checker, you may find yourself actively ignoring more suggestions than better developing your skills.

Overall, it’s a neat little tool that works better than Clippy would in helping you sound like a sane person who knows what they’re talking about. Unfortunately, it doesn’t feel like it was designed with writing in mind so much as trying to help reduce the risk of you sending out an embarrassing email mistake to your entire company.

In short, it’s a free spelling and grammar checker that works slightly better than the stock Microsoft free spell checker, but slow performance and odd design choices mar it. Finally, holding your mistakes ransom is a tactic that I always despise, and although a grammar mistake isn’t the end of the world, I still don’t love having unknown issues lorded over my head.

 

What are your thoughts on Grammarly? Do you know of any better tools to use instead? Drop a comment and I’ll check it out!

Freelance Isn’t Free.

This all brings us to the underlying message: you cannot expect top tier work from a native English speaker and pay them the same low wage you would if you were to outsource. Freelance marketplaces with workers from Pakistan, India, and other poorer countries have rock-bottom pricing.

From Merriam-Webster:

Free (\ˈfrē\):

: not costing or charging anything

Lance (\ˈlan(t)s\):

:  a steel-tipped spear carried by mounted knights or light cavalry

…okay, so maybe it doesn’t do the whole artsy Tarantino thing, but you get the picture. Ask any freelancer what their biggest pet peeve is, and they will more than likely all respond with clients wanting you to work for free.

This in and of itself is not altogether shocking; people with money and in a position of some degree of authority, i.e. some form of manager, is going to price shop. If they spend too much, they get yelled out by their superiors for going over budget.

The other factor at play is turnaround; most people who hire freelance workers seem to wait until the 11th hour, needing their project completed yesterday.

One of the few ways I have managed to carve a niche for myself is being able to meet tight deadlines. Not to sound haughty, but on more than one occasions I have been able to exceed expectations by providing at least a rough draft within a 24 hour window. Time is money, and when you can save them time, they perceive you as being of a higher value over other freelance options.

Unfortunately, short windows are becoming standard. Okay, not so bad, right? Just hunker down and bang out projects. No big deal; not a huge change from any other Monday morning.

Until you consider what they are willing to pay, and that becomes the bane of your professional existence. Case in point, a main client of mine who I partner with on a frequent basis had to turn down a job recently that would have included me, and it had to do with the perfect storm of what would have led us to hating life.

A company inquired about using us to craft entire packets of copy. Each order would be in bulk, nearing the 5,000 word mark. This would steady work, too; the company was growing and was actively seeking solid workers.

Sounds good so far. The best jobs are big jobs; yes, it usually requires me to work two weeks solid without a day off, but then you get downtime afterwards and a decent paycheck at the end.

Another requirement was native English speakers, which believe it or not, is a strong selling point for anyone looking to enter into freelance employment. The reason for this is everyone east of the UK claims to be fluent in conversational English, only to have an entire article written using Google Translate.

So what’s the deal? We have the skills, the have the work. Should be a done deal. But whenever things seem too good to be true, they always are. The company was netting $300 for these website packages. The writers, as can be assumed, would be getting fairly compensated, right?

One of the hardest things for me to communicate to potential clients is payment. Everyone wants me to charge by the page, but that simply does not work. A single page that is written in size 12 Times New Roman font and double spaced will have fewer words than a single space, font 11 Calibri page.

Simply put, I cannot compare apples to oranges on your project when you want me to complete it by the page. This is especially true if your instructions read “You’re the creative one; I’ll let you decide what’s best.

Another problem is that the Average Joe can’t picture how long a certain number of words is going to be. That is fair, and I get it. For reference, when I’m working on content pages for service trades, home pages generally take 1,000 words, and that gives a rundown of available services, their summaries, short histories about the company, and what sets them apart. You would actually be surprised just how hefty a 1,000 word home page is.

Back to the new client. As they receive $300 for doing little more than getting a new assignment into the To Do Stack, their writers are paid less than one cent per word. Multiply that times the amount of words, which I believe was around the 4,750 mark, and it is literally pennies on the dollar.

Now, it may seem like it’s still a good idea, but that amount would be for labor only. The amount of research that a freelance writer such as myself has to do can be borderline overwhelming at times. To go from knowing next to nothing about, say, poured concrete, and then to create a series of pages that sounds like I’ve been installing it for 20 years, takes a certain degree of Google skills and pure, and tapping into my natural B.S. creating glands.

Depending on how specific of a niche the job is, I may spend hours just researching a topic. This is time that can’t really be billed, either; freelance work is often for the completed project, and I can only really charge by the word.

Another client that recently had to be shot down was someone looking for a package that would essentially require advanced SEO techniques; the kind that one would hone via an advanced marketing degree. Again, the offer was for peanuts, and the niche was too specific. It was more adult-themed in nature; this isn’t immediately a deal breaker, but as is the case with many things in life, attitude is everything.

Another red flag is when they come off having read an article about master-level SEO and now think that this is what they should be shopping for. Once they were asking for Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) Marketing, I was out. Not only do I not know how to do this, but 1) this isn’t even proven to be effective and 2) this dips into David Blaine’s territory of misdirection. Basically, it’s using words that most people like to trick them into being super into what you’re putting down.

I am always happy to offer a free revisions for free. After all, without developing the ability to read people’s minds, there is going to be some room for adjustment. However, it was obvious that they had a specific idea in mind. Whenever this happens, nothing produced by my side is going to be completely satisfactory.

Picture it like this; rather than having a physical model or picture of a home, you merely tell the blueprint guy what you’re looking for. They may get close, but it will never be the true dream home that you had envisioned, and it’s because two different people are trying to imagine an abstract concept.

This all brings us to the underlying message: you cannot expect top-tier work from a native English speaker and pay them the same low wage you would if you were to outsource. Freelance marketplaces with workers from Pakistan, India, and other poorer countries have rock-bottom pricing, and then still charge a cut from the worker; unfortunately, due to technological and language barriers, most of the work then has to be paid to be corrected by a true English speaker.

Because they have the knowledge of the English language, they will be charging more, and you have not only paid for the same project twice, but now you have wound up paying more than had you simply gone with them in the first place.

If your project is so complex that it requires advanced metrics and techniques, you may be better off finding a salaried marketing manager to take the reins. The average freelance worker is only going to offer copy and copy-related services.

Finally, if your project is important, don’t cheap out. I’m not saying that you have to spend a fortune; just don’t expect someone to work for free. I charge $0.05 per word; that’s five bucks for 100 words, which is probably somewhere in the ballpark of two to three paragraphs for a website. With that, I include a free revision, two if I’m completely off base.

That also includes the time that I have to spend researching the topic, editing my own work (which is surprisingly difficult because we are all blind to many of our mistakes), and ensuring that it is returned within your specified deadline window.

Even at that price, and what it entails, most would look to drop that number down. Some even argue that larger projects should come with a bulk discount; while that would make sense in the manufacturing word, giving me more work to complete faster should not be billed less as it puts me on the expressway to losing the rest of my mind.

Freelance is a great gig, and if you haven’t contracted out some of your tasks to a freelance laborer, I would highly recommend it. To contact me to discuss your project, use the field below or visit me at my website or Facebook page.

 

 

Write with a Green Thumb: Cultivate Your Story

Like growing a houseplant, writing a story isn’t difficult per se, but it does require dedication, continuing education, and giving it the best growing conditions possible. And while some days you may find yourself simply wishing it would grow itself, it can also instill a ton of pride seeing it growing from just a seed (an idea) to a mature plant (or finished book). It’s also easy to draw landscaping parallels between the two ideas. And since once upon a time I used to do a little landscaping myself, it’s easy to apply similar principals.

I have been known, on occasion, to dabble with growing a houseplant. And now that I’m between growing anything (I plan to again soon, with all of that free time I have) I see certain parallels between making sure something grows and blossoms, and crafting a story.

Just a couple of nights ago I found out that a former coworker of mine, Kimmy Pagnotta, is self publishing her own comic book. Which is incredible! And it also got me thinking about my own struggles with my story, The Autumn Mage.

Like growing a houseplant, writing a story isn’t difficult per se, but it does require dedication, continuing education, and giving it the best growing conditions possible. And while some days you may find yourself simply wishing it would grow itself, it can also instill a ton of pride seeing it growing from just a seed (an idea) to a mature plant (or finished book). It’s also easy to draw landscaping parallels between the two ideas. And since once upon a time I used to do a little landscaping myself, it’s easy to apply similar principals.

Trim the Dead Growth

This one is always intimidating at first, because anyone who starts a new project has that feeling that whatever they write is perfect. It’s not. Whether you’re on your second draft or your 20th, if something isn’t advancing the story, it’s gotta go.

But it’s my favorite part of the story!

While I’m sure your creative genius is without rival, cut it. You can always recycle an idea later, but if it doesn’t help the story, it hurts it. When a plant has a dead limb, you have to hack it off with a nice, clean trim. Doing so allows new growth to take place, as well as reallocates resources allowing the plant to grow healthier. Same rule of (green) thumb applies here.

Prune the Overgrowth

This is similar to the first tip in both regards. With landscaping, trimming is more cutting off the bigger stuff that has to go, which in writing may be whole subplots, paragraphs, scenes, even characters. Pruning, on the other hand, is more of a pinpointed removal of smaller problems.

Pruning is done to plants to help aid its overall shape, like with bushes and shrubs, and to allow better growth with trees and the like. When too much growth is allowed to take place, branches and leaves can start blocking out the sun, which leads to a vicious cycle of the healthier overgrowth on top stealing away food from the rest of the plant. By cutting it away it allows the tree as a whole to grow better.

In the same vein, if your have unnecessary portions of a story, it’s only going to bore readers. It may be well written, but it only takes away from the meat and potatoes of the story. No matter how well you crafted it, taking it out will lead to a healthier body.

 Feed the Roots

Many amateur gardeners think that growing a plant is literally a Just Add Water! scenario. Unfortunately, like any living thing, that’s not enough. Sunlight acts as plant food, but more often than not they need a little help with fertilizer or other added nourishment.

Doing this feeds the roots, not the plant directly. Feeding the roots allows it to distribute the vitamins throughout the body, strengthening it as a whole. This is akin to having someone else edit your story. They’ll show you where you can improve, what works, and what doesn’t.

Find Your Own Way

When you go online for tips on a subject, you’ll always find a message board where Expert 1 is arguing with Expert 2. The Internet is great for sharing information, but sometimes people confuse opinions for facts. While a little bit of the right advice goes a long way, you should also find techniques that work best for you.

 

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help

Everyone starts somewhere, and everyone needs a little extra help or mentoring. Whether it be the employee working the garden center or a club or group online, it’s always a good idea to find something with helpful tips.

I am always available with writing and editing services! And if you’re working on a project and you’d like to feature it, just ask!

If you have any other writing (or gardening) tips to share, sound off in the comments below! I love hearing what works for others in their creative process.

What am I even doing with my life?

Alright, I know I’ve been sort of quiet. I’ve been hard working on two things: doing freelance work, which chews up most of my time, and also, doing a complete rewrite of the Autumn Mage.

Alright, I know I’ve been sort of quiet. I’ve been hard working on two things: doing freelance work, which chews up most of my time, and also, doing a complete rewrite of the Autumn Mage.

I received it back from my editor, and, as a first-time writer, it needs extensive work. Which I am doing slowly but surely. Today I just finished rewriting chapter 8.

By “rewriting”, do I mean just going Track Changes -> Accept All? No. I mean a full and complete rewrite. Top to bottom. It’s tedious, but it’s already way better than the draft I posted on here.

I’m making tweaks to characters, dialogue, and even some of the story. One of the biggest criticisms was I have a hard time conveying my thoughts to the reader, and I couldn’t agree more. I’m also giving too much detail on frivolous areas, and not enough where it counts.

I know this is taking a long time, and I appreciate the kind words and support I’ve already received, and I’m aiming to make this as great as I possibly can. Thanks for everyone’s continued patience!

If you haven’t checked out my fantasy WIP yet, the (very) rough draft can be found here. That is the inexperienced, pre-edited copy. The one I’m putting through a wood chipper and completely reworking.

And in the meantime, if you’d like to schedule me for all of your business, academic, and creative writing and editing needs, you can visit my website and shoot me an email at chris@writenowfl.com.

 

The Needs of the Few: Using the Pareto Principle

So a few weeks ago, I was jam-packing my schedule, which is preferred considering I’m a freelance writer and editor. I would rather have too much work than twiddling my thumbs. However, I went almost three weeks solid without a break. I was burning myself out and wasn’t necessarily getting any further ahead.

It wasn’t just work, either. I was taking a look at my day and just kept muttering about how there wasn’t enough time. Something had to change.

So a few weeks ago, I was jam-packing my schedule, which is preferred considering I’m a freelance writer and editor. I would rather have too much work than twiddling my thumbs. However, I went almost three weeks solid without a break. I was burning myself out and wasn’t necessarily getting any further ahead.

It wasn’t just work, either. I was taking a look at my day and just kept muttering about how there wasn’t enough time. Something had to change.

I picked up one gig summarizing books, and one of which brought up the Pareto Principle. It’s been around for several hundred years, but it goes mostly unnoticed by most people. What the Pareto Principle states is, in general, 20% of whatever you put effort in to gives you 80% of your results. This isn’t a hard rule, but I bet if you take a look at some things in your life, you can see the Pareto Principle at work.

It sounds weird, but it seems to be everywhere. If you go and and get a Big Mac, that’s the majority of your daily calorie intake from one sandwich. You probably get most of your daily caffeine from your morning coffee. Your smartphone probably hogs most of your daily attention.

If you have clients, like I do, chances are that about 80% of your income comes from around 20% of your clients. Your repeat customers are the ones doing most of the hiring. That means only 20%, roughly, is coming in from all your other efforts. By finding the areas that you excel in, and the customers that keep coming back, you can really maximize your potential.

In order to apply this, I’m taking less time at the gym. I gut my cardio time from 30 minutes with a 5 minute cool down to 20 minutes with a 4 minute cool down. I also started doing fewer repetitions with more weight. This way, I’ve cut my time at the gym from an hour-hour and a half to about 40 minutes. I’m still working up a sweat and I’m getting more time back to my day.

It also helps you take a look at leisure time. I love playing video games. However, I would rather play for an hour than stay up all night playing. The joy and fun that I get tends to wear off, but by limiting my play time I can still get some goofing off time and enjoy it.

I’m also focusing on repeat customers more than before. I still actively pursue new leads, but I understand now where my focus needs to be. Studies have shown that companies spend more money pursuing new leads than if they spend money retaining old ones.

I’ve also tried my best to reign in my work hours. I’m writing for me and my Work in Progress for the first hour before I do work. I was trying to do it after I had finished working on my client’s projects for the day, and it was leading to fewer amount of time spent on writing and generally just being shoddy at it.

So in short, saving time and working smarter is going to make you a much happier camper. A great way to save time is by letting a freelancer take on your writing and editing projects. I am available to schedule your needs today! Visit Write Now to contact me for your academic, creative, or business writing needs.

Be Phenomenal: 5 Things Pokemon GO Taught Me About Freelance Writing

It’s okay if something you write is bare bones. People think that all writing has to mimic Jane Austen or Charles Dickens. In fact, I’ve read numerous articles stating that reader’s attention spans are so bad, traditional publishing doesn’t love taking anything over 80,000 words anymore. So less is more, BUT you have to be captivating. In Soviet Russia, Pokemon captures YOU!

So, unless you have absolutely no access to the Internet and no contact with any other living being, you’ve no doubt seen Pokemon GO blow up. Nintendo’s adorable pocket monsters have once again captivated the world, and I, for one, welcome our new cute overlords.

For the handful of people who don’t know, Pokemon GO is a new smartphone AR game that superimposes Pokemon onto real life Google Maps. Using the game’s classic Pokeballs with non-traditional game play has lured millions of rabid trainers outside, socialization, and actually making people healthier. Is Pokemon GO going to be a fad? Abso-freaking-lutely. Don’t get me wrong; the game is a lot of fun. But something that comes in this fast often leaves just as quickly.

That said, inspiration can strike anywhere and from anything, and this week throwing imaginary balls at cartoon rodents actually taught me something about being a freelance writer and editor. In fact, it taught me 5 somethings:

 

Lack of Story Doesn’t Mean Lack of Quality

The Pokemon franchise has historically had very little story or plot. It’s always been “Hey, kid? Wanna Pikachu?” The game quickly gives you a rundown of the basics and then sends you on your merry way. Whether you finish the game or not is up to you. Whether you complete your Pokedex is up to you. The game really doesn’t care. They already have your money.

The app has even less of a story. You have one single human character who tells you what is happening (sort of) and then the rest of the time is spent frantically spending your monthly cell data chasing after Pokemon. But just because there isn’t a story doesn’t mean it doesn’t enthrall people.

It’s okay if something you write is bare bones. People think that all writing has to mimic Jane Austen or Charles Dickens. In fact, I’ve read numerous articles stating that reader’s attention spans are so bad, traditional publishing doesn’t love taking anything over 80,000 words anymore. So less is more, BUT you have to be captivating. In Soviet Russia, Pokemon captures YOU!

People Will Freelance Anything

I love what I do. I get to work from home, and I use God-given skills to help people, and in exchange I earn a little money. But some days I look at myself in the mirror and go “Is this my life? Proofreading final exam essays for college kids? Is this a thing?”

I know other freelancers have similar thoughts. And you know what? This week I was officially able to stop being hard on myself for my career choice. You know why? Because out of the Google and Facebook machines came numerous articles of Uber drivers and Craigslist ads of people offering to drive you around town and/or use your device or login credentials to assist you in catching Pokemon.

That is people use really real money to pay people to help them play a smartphone game that has no ending. It became abundantly clear that people will hire a freelancer to do absolutely anything.

Play to People’s Nostalgia

Every time I see a “only 90’s kids will remember!” post I want to punch someone. And yet, there’s a reason these stupid posts keep blowing up my newsfeeds: people love nostalgia. This is not a new concept. Hollywood has been forcing unnecessary reboots for years hoping people will be nostalgic enough to spend $10-$20 on a crappy movie because it involves the name of a beloved childhood franchise. And no matter how bad these movies are, they just keep making more because people can’t refuse nostalgia.

Pokemon GO does this. Every kid who had a Gameboy has dreamed of catching Pokemon in real life, and until scientists decide to find a way to electrify mice, this is as good as it gets. Grown adults are gleefully running around capturing Pokemon because it makes them feel like a kid again.

Am I telling you to rip off an existing franchise? Absolutely not. I can guarantee Michael Bay will not be happy about you doing a better job than he ever could with a fraction of the budget. What I am saying is take a moment to reflect on why you keep going back to certain childhood franchises. What makes you love them eternally, and what can you apply from that to your own work?

Find the Right Business Partner

Augmented Realty has been around for years, and it just never seemed to quite take off. Which is ironic, considering how AR-heavy futuristic movies and video games are. Unlike Virtual Realty where the user takes on a peripheral to enter a virtual world, Augmented Realty does the opposite, bringing the virtual to life in our world. The developer of Pokemon Go, Niantic, was originally a startup owned by Google. Google released them into the wild, and Niantic developed the popular AR game Ingress. Chances are you haven’t heard of Ingress, but it’s their predecessor multiplayer AR game sending people running around real towns to collect and interact with other players.

So why is Pokemon GO so much more popular? Besides nostalgia, Niantic teamed back up with Google and video game powerhouse Nintendo. Together the three companies have created an immersive AR experience, and chances are we’re going to see a lot more AR apps pop back up. Sometimes when you can’t pull something off yourself, you just need to find the right partners in crime.

Make Sure Your Product is Market-Ready Before Launch

Dear sweet Lord is Pokemon GO riddled with technical problems. Server crashes. Hours upon hours in which you cannot play. App crashes. GPS not working right. Pokemon not showing up anywhere.

I have never heard of another game on any system that has been so flawed that still has such a positive fan base. Any other game would have been ripped to shreds. They’re lucky people are so crazy for Pokemon because otherwise this would be their Titanic.

You have to make sure, whatever you are selling, is ready to be purchased. If reviews start rolling in that your product is only halfway finished, you’re going to be labeled a scam artist and laughed off from Amazon.

Your story might be good, but I can guarantee it isn’t Pokemon-level good. If your story has typos or plot holes or other mistakes, people are not going to be happy that they spent money on your product.

That’s why I offer a full range of freelance writing services including editing, rewriting, ghostwriting, and content writing. From professional needs to creative writing solutions, you can hire me for any need. Visit Write Now today to schedule me!

Happy hunting, all you Pokemon Masters!

Make Your Readers Give a Damn: 7 Steps to Winning Over Your Readers

I’ve recently found myself in talks to do so affiliate editing, which means I don’t get any money upfront, but I do get 8% on the back end when the book sells. Kind of sucks in the short term because bills don’t wait for book sales, but I actually love the idea. And as you know I’m frothing at the mouth to do more editing lately.

It’s not a sure thing, but they seem pretty pleased with my style. They sent me the first two chapters of a story just to see if I was interested and I was so thrilled I just tore into it. I was excited at the premise of a story; a gritty female ex-cop-turned-bounty hunter taking on the corrupt police force she used to work for. However, it was less Gerard Butler blockbuster and more Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.

I’ve recently found myself in talks to do some affiliate editing, which means I don’t get any money upfront, but I do get 8% on the back end when the book sells. Kind of sucks in the short term because bills don’t wait for book sales, but I actually love the idea. And as you know I’m frothing at the mouth to do more editing lately.

It’s not a sure thing, but they seem pretty pleased with my style. They sent me the first two chapters of a story just to see if I was interested and I was so thrilled I just tore into it. I was excited at the premise of a story; a gritty female ex-cop-turned-bounty hunter taking on the corrupt police force she used to work for. However, it was less Gerard Butler blockbuster and more Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.

Do I mean that 1) it revolved around the officer’s bodily fluids? or 2) that Judy Blume’s classic coming-of-age book is way more action packed than you originally thought? No to both. Here’s what I mean.

All new authors are going to struggle with the basics. Lord knows I still do. New authors also flounder around on the page trying to find their footing. Fine. Yes, this is part of the process. But what shattered my very soul was the way in which the story was presented. There was no conflict, and the whole thing read like a journal entry.

The main protagonist was revealed to be female, but like ten pages later. Note: I have zero problems with female protagonists. In fact, I’m currently working on a story with two female protagonists. My issue here is it took forever to know who I was reading about. My second problem was the sheer amount of details given about everyone’s past. And finally third, after diving through the first two chapters NOTHING HAPPENED.

I tore it to shreds. Absolutely took a metaphorical machete to it and then sent it through a metaphorical wood chipper. I wanted a literal one but I want to keep my laptop. After finishing up I sat back and thought how many more of these are out there? Is my stuff like this? I thought hard about what was the one core problem with the story and it finally hit me: I just didn’t care about any aspect of it.

Maybe that’s the problem with your writing. You may have completely finished the story and it’s done to what you believe to be the best of your ability, but the reader just shrugs off all 80,000 words. Your audience needs to care. You have to light a fire under your reader. They need to stay glued to the page and that isn’t going to happen if you fill them with apathy. Here’s seven tips to make them care about your story.

 

The Narrator’s Burden

Whether your narrator is an omniscient third party or the main character themselves, the narrator has the misfortune of knowing more or less everything. Because of this the temptation becomes the narrator sharing this god-like wisdom with everyone. Don’t. I don’t need to know what the character did ten years ago. I need to know what is happening now. I don’t need names for the gas station clerk who is never going to make another appearance. I don’t need to know what brand of the shirt a background character that was only barely mentioned is wearing. Flesh out the world, but make sure to do it the same way you see the real world. Do you try to remember the names of cashiers when you know you’ll be back at that store? Do you ask strangers about their past? Do you try to figure out who the old woman feeding ducks is wearing? No. You don’t, and neither should your readers.

The Devil’s in the Details

I didn’t even know who I was reading about until much later in the first chapter. This was disorienting to me. It was like being shoved into a dark room where a lit flashlight was lying on the ground at the back wall. I knew I would eventually be able to see what was going on, but I felt lost for a while. And then when I did finally find out who my protagonist was I was hit with ALL the details. Reveal them slowly. I don’t need a full list of a character’s stats when I meet them. Peel the onion layers back one at a time, don’t just cram it all into my face. Otherwise it comes off like a trading card.

Encyclopedias Aren’t Chapters

This was not the first time I’ve seen a piece of writing where I had paragraphs upon paragraphs and pages upon pages of information that I neither wanted nor needed nor cared about. Yes, information is necessary. You are painting a picture without paints. You have to get inside the reader’s head and show them an entire universe with only text. I get it. But there is such a thing as too much.

One thing I’ve recommended to someone struggling with not cutting enough detail was this: create a set of notes about background information for you characters. Make those notes just for you. The reader never sees them; they never know that the main character’s best friend’s cat died in 3rd grade. But as long as they see how protective she is over her current pet they’ll know something’s up. Hint at the details. Show why the characters are what they are. But don’t cram 10,000 words into a backstory about a character we aren’t even going to see again.

Build the Tension

I have a feeling that later on in the story there was some tension/conflict. But there was none in what I was handed. Books can pretty much be split up into two different types of chapters: dialogue/exposition heavy chapters and action heavy chapters. Both are necessary. If you have a book of all dialogue or all exposition it’s going to read like a Jane Austen novel. Which was entertaining like 300 years ago but not to our smartphone-addicted audiences of today. Likewise, if you have only action you have a book adaptation of a Michael Bay film. You need to find the right balance, or else your book is going to be boring. And boring books don’t have readers.

Where’s the Action?

This story I read was about a bounty hunter fighting corrupted police. In two entire chapters not a single bounty was hunted. If you hand me a book as a friend and say “Oh hey this is a real cool book about a bounty hunter” I’m expecting COPS-level action. I’m expecting Boba Fett-level antics. I want scumbags busted. And I was left pleading for action. Which is the story of my life, but that’s a whole other ordeal.

Barbie is a Toy, Not a Character

Yes, I am aware that after all these years she does have her own films, cartoons, games, etc. What I mean here is that Barbie has represented the “perfect”/”ideal” woman, for better or for worse. Do I necessarily agree with them? No. But that’s what she is. And this is what I mean but not having a Barbie character: your character cannot be perfect. None of your characters can be perfect. If you insist on making one perfect then they need to be imperfectly perfect.

In order for characters to be realistic they have to be like real people. They need to have flaws, even your protagonist. They need to have flawed morals or philosophies. They need to royally screw up. They can’t be anywhere near close to perfect. When characters are perfect no one cares because nothing bad can happen, thus all conflict and tension gets sucked out the window.

Split Personalities are a No Go

Unless your character is supposed to have multiple personalities, this needs to be avoided. In this particular story the protagonist was this gritty hardened female who had tired of corruption and who felt a strong sense of justice. And other times, usually with dialogue, she was a preteen. Not literally, of course, but the way she spoke and carried herself. You can’t have a character not commit to one character. It doesn’t work having them try to straddle the line like this. Can you have an immature character? Sure. But they have to be believable. A woman in her mid-to-late 20s, especially a law enforcement officer, is not going to speak like a 6th grader.

Writing is difficult; it’s an art that you have to perfect. And this is tough, especially when you’re just starting out. That’s why I offer my writing and editing services. I can assist in the creation process, edit your finished story, and more. For more information or to book your project with me visit Write Now today!

What is an Editor?

As I’m trying to build up my client list for my freelance business Write Now I’m coming across a lot of confusion in regards to what editing is. At first it catches me off guard; what do you mean you don’t know what an editor is? But the more I think about it, the more I understand. So today I want to clear up some confusion.

The snarky answer is an editor edits. But the term “editor” is thrown around a lot and encompasses several different areas of editing. There’s audio editing. Sound editing (which is different from “audio editing”). Film editing. Journalistic editors. But with story/book/manuscript editing, that’s a whole different animal.

As I’m trying to build up my client list for my freelance business Write Now I’m coming across a lot of confusion in regards to what editing is. At first it catches me off guard; what do you mean you don’t know what an editor is? But the more I think about it, the more I understand. So today I want to clear up some confusion.

The snarky answer is an editor edits. But the term “editor” is thrown around a lot and encompasses several different areas of editing. There’s audio editing. Sound editing (which is different from “audio editing”). Film editing. Journalistic editors.  But with story/book/manuscript editing, that’s a whole different animal.

In short, all of these types of editing have similarities. They all take an original work, fiction or non, and help make it better. They remove the parts the audience doesn’t need. They improve the flow of the story, or reword it (scene or text or track list), and they make the project as a whole stronger. And just like with film or music or sound or even news articles an editor take an author’s story and makes it better.

This always puts the first-time writers into a weird situation. They either think that an editor isn’t necessary because, hey, I’m such a good writer and this book is going to be amazing! I don’t need anyone to edit for me! Or they think that they don’t need to do any editing at all, and that it’s 100% the editor’s job to do so.

First off, you do need to put your work through at least two rounds of your own editing. This does two things: finds the “dumb” mistakes (missing words, missing periods, misspellings, etc.) and allows you to see what mistakes you as a writer consistently make which helps you be more aware of them in the future.

A lot of new writers feel that writers write and editors edit. Shipping off an unedited copy of your work to an editor is going to do two things: enrage them and have them charge you more for the additional amount of work they need to do. The expectation of a good editor is that you’ve already, at minimum, proofread your piece. If they are handed a project that is nigh unreadable they are going to drop you.

So what specifically does an editor do? That’s really up to what you need and their skills. There’s three sort of “main” types of editing, although different kinds exist as well. There’s developmental editing, where the editor advises on how the story/book should be changed, often with rewrites. Line editing, which is what most people think of with editing, which is proofreading and fixing grammar, mechanical, and spelling errors. And finally copyediting reviews the project for incorrect information, consistency with word choice and hyphens, etc., and also makes sure that your characters and story are consistent chapter to chapter (did the main character have red hair in chapter 4 but now in chapter 10 has blonde hair that we never saw her dye?).

Editing is a huge undertaking and is often intimidating for the writer. You’ve poured your blood, sweat, and tears (so many tears) into your story and now you’re shipping it off to an editor like it’s summer camp. That’s why when choosing an editor you need to make sure that they respect you as a writer and that they will treat your project as if it were their own.

As a writer myself I understand how important your story is to you. And when I edit, I edit as if it were my own writing. I take your story seriously and make sure it becomes as strong as possible. I am currently accepting submissions for editing stories and manuscripts. For more information please visit my site Write Now. I offer prompt quality service you can trust!

The Honor and Privilege: Proofreading for Lori Lesko

So this week I was contacted by a very near and dear friend, as well as a fellow writer (one who has way more experience, panache, talent, and is arguably better looking) miss Lori Lesko.

So this week I was contacted by a very near and dear friend, as well as a fellow writer (one who has way more experience, panache, talent, and is arguably better looking) miss Lori Lesko. Not only is she a wonderful author and a U2  (the band, but she may also enjoy the airplane; I’m not real sure) enthusiast, she is a wonderful person and if you aren’t already reading her books or following her on Twitter, that needs to change right now.  You gon learn today.

Ms. Lesko (you know, I never bothered asking if it’s ‘Mrs.’, which just goes to show the kind of friend I am) sent me a short piece to proof to assist her in scoring a scholarship for a dream opportunity of going to a Paris writing retreat. This is huge for me because 1) more practice proofing and editing stories which I’ve been craving and 2) it gives me a chance to help a friend cross something off of a bucket list.

I could not be more excited for her and I’m incredibly proud and I can’t wait to dive in. Which I’m doing as soon as I hit “post” on this.

Once again, I cannot say enough about her stories. I’m still catching up myself on her catalog but so far my favorite has been the psychological thriller The Therapist. It’s a lot of fun to read with some great rising action that keeps you glued. Also, if you love it as much as I do you’ll be happy to know she’s working on a new thriller and it sounds like she’s having a lot of fun with it.

Best of luck Lori! Hopefully I’m able to help you out and fingers crossed I do you proud.

If you want to send me a Tweet you can talk my ear off up to 140 characters @CWojcek.

The Highs and Lows of Writing for Others: 7 Steps to Getting Over Losing Clients

Two weeks ago I was on top of the world. I was getting a lot of interest for my freelancing services and I scored two clients who wanted me to work with them long-term. This is it, I thought. This is the first steps to me making it. Things were great; they loved the first few projects I did for them. They were excited.

And then all of sudden they did a complete 180.

Two weeks ago I was on top of the world. I was getting a lot of interest for my freelancing services and I scored two clients who wanted me to work with them long-term. This is it, I thought. This is the first steps to me making it. Things were great; they loved the first few projects I did for them. They were excited.

And then all of sudden they did a complete 180. Without warning they now hated that week’s submissions. As their hired writer a lot of this does fall on me and I accept that. However, a lot of it had to do with them not expressing their needs explicitly enough. And that’s fine; every client has the potential for not working out. But it did send me into a tailspin.

I’m not a good writer after all. I can’t do this. I’m going to have to go get a job at Wal-Mart.

Some people are able to shrug off rejection and immediately move on with their life. As I’ve discussed before, I have anxiety and depression. If you’ve never lived with it, the long and short of it is you already assume everyone hates you and so when you experience rejection of any kind it cuts deep.

So I’ve been floundering ever since. I’ve done a few small jobs here and there but nearly what I’ve needed to in order to earn what I need to be. That said, I have not given up hope. In fact, it’s given me a little perspective and made me realize that I went into this a little Spongebob-esque and I needed to be more realistic about it to begin with. That’s where I had the following realizations:

 

Don’t Get Down About It

This is easier said than done, especially with the whole mental illness thing. Was I down about it? Very much so. I saw my dream job slipping through my fingers. I panicked. I thought this is the end. But then I finally dusted myself off and got right back to it. I also spent time working on my own personal projects that I had been neglecting, as well as some house keeping for my online profiles. When something damages your house, you have to pick up the mess.

Learn Tips on How to Change

The biggest problem with the current generation is that we’ve taught everyone that nothing is ever their fault. This is a huge issue; it’s only breeding narcissists and it makes people feel that they can do no wrong. Do yourself a favor; reflect and accept the mistakes that you personally made. It will help you grow as a writer and as a person.

Don’t be Afraid – Change Big

I realized the direction I was trying to go in may not have been the best for me anyways. I am a good writer, and I don’t mean that in a boastful way. I have natural writing skills and I enjoy doing it. But I’m leaning towards trying to move away from trying to join the billions of other freelancers in trying to crank out articles and posts for others and move towards more editing. It’s not that I dislike doing articles, but everyone seems to have an opinion on how they should and should not read. That, and the market is fairly saturated.

When things go south take it as an opportunity to reevaluate what you are doing and why.

Stay Open Minded

Your knee jerk reaction is that they are wrong and you are blameless and they’re just being dumb/petty/etc. Keep an open mind: do they have a point? Could you have done things better? Read some articles and try to learn one or two new things. It doesn’t have to apply 100% to you but as long as you pick up something new along the way it wasn’t a wasted trip.

Practice the New Thing

Write a few practice pieces using the new techniques. If nothing else you get some additional writing time and potential new samples to show to new clients. It’s a win-win and it gives you some practice time under your belt. As writers it’s easy to get into a rut of only writing or editing or whatever a certain way day in and day out. Try something new. Me personally, I would love to learn how to write poetry. That is something I’m going to research and practice for myself if and when I get some downtime. It will only help you grow as a writer.

Clients Aren’t Honest the First Time

Clients are in the same boat as you, just in a different seat. You’re desperate for work, and they need someone to complete their project. At first everything is going to be honeymoon phase with them: all of your samples look wonderful, they think you’re going to be a great fit, you’re so good. And then after the first piece everything changes. You are now no longer viewed as a partner or as someone whose services are being used; you are now being used as something more akin to an employee. Don’t let them see you that way. You are your own boss. You do work for them, but in the same way a plumber works for you when your sink breaks. Keep that line drawn firmly in the sand.

No Two Clients are the Same

The two clients in question had complete opposite complaints. I had one who said I wasn’t writing boldly or aggressively enough (too academically was the final point) and the other said I was writing too aggressively and talking down to the audience (“that didactic tone that rubs people the wrong way” is what they had said). No two clients are going to be the same. This was fully on me; I was fighting off a sinus infection and was simply trying to get through my work as quickly as possible that week. And it royally bit me in the butt. Your clients don’t care who your other clients are, and they shouldn’t. Each one should be treated as if they are your only one. However, if they don’t meet you halfway and ensure that you know what they want, you’re both being set up for failure.

Clearly I’m looking to take on new clients.  For a full list of my services and pricing please visit Write Now to schedule me for your projects!