Thursday, July 31, 2014

Are you a writing success story?

Badge of success? (public domain photo)
What determines writing success anyway? Is it the high monetary reward? Maybe it's the amount of time you've been writing? How about those badges and trophies? Is that what makes you a writer worth reading? Nah, in my book, all that has nothing to do with being a successful writer. Maybe I'm self centered or maybe I'm wise, you decide. Still what I think makes me a writing success is my love of writing and just having fun doing it.

Your love of writing can bring you acclaim.

If what you're seeking is fame and fortune, I have nothing against you. Just remember that if you are doing it solely for the money, it shows. When your writing is nothing but a dull chore filled with abiding by the rules, perfect grammar and endless spell checking, it may look good on the surface but it will have no soul, no spark, no human factor. You have to put a little of you in there in order to be a successful writer.

I have read many critically acclaimed volumes.

Some weren't worth the paper they were written on, simply because they had no human factor behind them. They were dull and lifeless, despite having generated great fortunes for those who wrote them. I've also read many books by relatively unknown authors that left me begging for more. These people did not have vast fortunes. They did, however, have more talent in their little pinkies than most of those famous folks.

You can have both.

You can be famous and talented. Absolutely. It happens all the time. In fact, most of the time popular authors are popular due to their talent. I'm just saying that awards and money and people buying up your books doesn't always indicate that you are a successful and talented writer. So, if you're a struggling artist type of writer, don't be so down on yourself. It likely has nothing to do with talent or a lack thereof. 

On the other hand...

You may never be famous so try to be happy with loving what you do, regardless of your popularity. Now that's success!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Online writing blunders – Spreading yourself too thin

Multitasking (public domain photo)
We've all heard experienced online writers advise against “putting all your eggs in one basket.” It's so true. Still, you don't need a hundred baskets to hatch your writing eggs. You just need a few sturdy ones. Are you spreading yourself too thin? How many clients, websites, blogs and books are floating around in your head? How many social networks do you belong to? All that clutter can create an atmosphere that impairs the quality of your writing.

Do you multitask well?

If not, taking on too many clients can have a devastating impact on your writing and your mental health. Let's face it, the brain is your best writing tool. When you're a single focus writer, forcing yourself to multitask is a bad idea. Your strength lies in your ability to focus intently on the task at hand. Respect that fact. It will show in your writing.

Multitasking writers aren't super-human.

Proud of the fact that you can handle multiple assignments at once? Flying high in the world of online writing? Congratulations! Just don't be so quick to add more. Being selective is an important tool for multitasking writers too. In fact, it may be even more important when you're used to going at top speed.

Don't speed through the stops.

Every train has to stop to refuel. Don't be ashamed to pull the cord when necessary. Clients count on you to handle a large and varied workload. That's admirable. Just remember, overworked writers are no different than any other overworked employee. They make more mistakes, catch fewer of them and are generally unpleasant to be around.

Blow your horn gently.

Some writers have the ability to do 50 things at once. They have no problem telling everyone about it. Their claims may very well be true. Still, it doesn't make them very endearing, does it? Plus, you have to wonder about the quality of their work. Picture a piece of bubblegum stretched to the max. It's so full of holes, using it is impossible. You won't get a good bubble out of it no matter how hard you blow.

Be choosy.

There's a fine line between having enough clients and having too many. Choosing a few quality clients or venues to write for:

*Narrows your focus.
*Cuts down on internal distractions.
*Allows full concentration
*Increases quality.

This article was previously published by this author on Yahoo!

Handling interruptions in your writing day

Hemingway at work (public domain photo)
Working at home is not all peaches and cream. Online article writers often find their loved ones constant interruptions a hindrance to getting their work done. In fact, it's hard to get people to see online writing as a "real" job. They often think that because you are home all day, you are the logical one to run all the errands, clean the home and whatever else needs doing. Not only that, the constant interruptions and requests can severely sabotage your train of thought.
The frustration of mental interruptions

For an online article writer, 99% of the job is mental work. So, when a loved one asks to use the computer for "just a quick sec", or run an errand for them, it can put you off track for an entire day. Online article writing is just like any other job. If you don't keep at it, you don't make any money. So, how do you go about handling interruptions without insulting friends and family? I find the best approach is to make your position clear in the first place.

Talk about it

Your friends and family may not realize there is an issue unless you tell them. Sit your loved ones down for a friendly and positively toned chat. Talk to them about your struggles as an online writer. Explain to them that this is just like any other job. You have deadlines to meet, quotas to fill and goals to strive for.

Writing involves a lot of thought, research and planning. It isn't as easy as most people think. Sure, you can skip the dress code, but, ultimately, the work still needs to be done. In fact, the average full time online article writer puts in well over ten hours a day, between writing, research and essential networking. It's a tough job. Constant interruptions can make it even tougher.

Post your hours

You don't have to literally post your hours on the door. It might help, though. The point is to let people know when you are available and when you are working. With children, this is difficult. They have to come first. One way to conquer this is to schedule their day around your writing. In other words, give them something to do, then write. Repeat as needed.

With adults, just letting them know your hours of operation can help. Tell everyone your schedule in advance. Let them know not to interrupt except for emergencies. Just like with a "real" job, online article writing should have a set schedule.

Make appointments/Set dates

In order to make loved ones realize they're important to you, you may have to plan your time together in advance. Making an appointment to take your adult daughter to lunch a week from now may seem silly, but it works. Plus, it's much better than making her feel excluded, or less valuable to you than your writing.

Working at home can be difficult with all the constant interruptions. You don't want to isolate friends and family either. Making your needs clear and keeping a set schedule can help on both sides of the equation.

This post was previously published by this author on Yahoo!

Meeting deadlines easily

Turning in assignment (public domain photo)
Some of you may be saying, "Meeting deadlines easily? She must not have my schedule!" Actually, I do have a very busy writing schedule. I'm just really good at managing my time, or what little there is left of it. I have adopted some techniques for meeting deadlines easily or writing more quickly that I feel may be beneficial to other online writers. These work at home strategies will have your clients and editors smiling and offering you more assignments.
Give yourself a break.

When meeting deadlines, the last thing on your mind is taking a break. Still, typing until your fingers bleed is no way to earn a living. Most online article writers find they work better with a clear head. So, if you find yourself banging that head on the keyboard, go ahead and take a break, however short. Meeting deadlines will come more easily for those who treat themselves with respect.

Jump start outlining

When you first accept an online article writing assignment, make the outline immediately. Find your sources. List them at the end of the outline. Write out your subheadings. Under them, write your main points. Put the due date and who you are writing it for at the top of the outline. This way, you don't have to shuffle through paperwork to find it later. Save it all to your word program. Then when you are ready to write the article, it will be finished in a matter of minutes.

Refuse dead-lined assignments you can't meet

If you know you don't have time to properly write and research a subject, don't accept it. Why stress yourself out and turn in late or badly done material? It's just not worth it. It can ruin your reputation as an online article writer.

Write ahead

Remember to write your assignments two days ahead of their due date whenever possible. You can even trick yourself into meeting deadlines easily. Put an earlier due date on your outline. Chances are, you won't have time to look up the actual date due. Your editor will be impressed with your promptness.

Load it up but spread it out.

It's OK to accept a ton of assignments. That's how you make money as on online article writer. Load up on assignments but do yourself one small favor. In order to make deadlines easier, spread your assignments out. Try not to accept assignments that are all due on the same day. When that's unavoidable, write some of them in advance to make it easier on yourself. Scrambling to meet a deadline should no longer be an issue if you follow these work at home strategies.

This article was previously published by this author on Yahoo!

Take deadlines seriously

Deadlines are detrimental (public domain)
Whether in work or in life you should always keep your promises. If you're an online article writer, take your deadlines seriously. Realize there is a reason for the deadline. People are waiting for you. You're clogging up the works. It's not fair to complain about delays in payment or other issues if you're not even getting your work done on time. What are you waiting for? Get typing.
Don't bite off more than you can chew.

This saying is certainly applicable to online article writing. Just because you have knowledge about all the assignments, doesn't mean you should claim them. Pay close attention to the deadline of each assignment. Do you have time to get them all done? Will it be your best work? If not, don't even claim them.

Stick to familiar subject matter.

You know what you write best. What is the subject matter of your assignment? Is it right up your writing alley or destined to be a gutter ball? Keeping deadlines is easier when something is within your area of expertise. If the subject matter is way over your head or out in left field somewhere, it might be best not to accept it. That is, unless you're feeling up to a challenge. After all, there's certainly nothing wrong with expanding your horizons.

Don't clog up the works.

When you're given an assignment, be sure you complete it in a timely manner. Maybe your content manager has a deadline of their own to meet. Maybe your online article writing assignment is part of a series they were called on to assemble. When your article is late, it puts everyone else behind as well. Surely, you have more respect for your fellow writers than that.

Show further consideration and respect.

If you want to earn respect as an online article writer, you must make a sincere effort to meet deadlines. Doing so will earn the approval of your clients, editors and content managers. That means you'll be topmost in their minds when the next assignments come up. In other words, assignments are given to those who honor their commitments and promises.

There's more to it.

Of course, there is more to meeting deadlines than having your work in on time. It has to be quality work. It also has to be what the content manager requested. It's OK to narrow your topic or take a new angle. Just don't change the article so much, it isn't what was requested anymore. As an online article writer you must remember that meeting deadlines means producing a quality article, on time and meeting the specifications of the assignment.

This article was previously published on Yahoo! by this author.

How to make news articles evergreen

A good story never really dies. (public domain photo)
News stories are good for page view spikes. Evergreen content gives you steady page views. While these things are true, there's a way online article writers can have the best of both worlds. By learning how to make news stories evergreen, we can have both the timely news spikes and the evergreen content stability. This will keep overall page views on a permanent upward climb.
Chose carefully

You can't do this with every news article. Some news or current events lend themselves well to this technique, while others are better left alone. Practice is the best teacher. Still, considering each news article as a possible evergreen article is a good idea. To decide if a news story can become evergreen, think of the ways it can be done. If your article can be manipulated in one of these ways, it's a possibility.
Subject matter

Most online article writers realize that subject matter is key when it comes to the web. There are certain things that never really go out of search style. When a story comes up concerning a high search value person or subject, use one of the techniques outlined below to turn your news story into an evergreen article. It may seem complicated. It's really quite simple once you get the hang of it.

Be an authority

Be the "go to guy" of online article writers on a given subject. People are more likely to search your queue for related information, the next time a similar article is in the news. Make a niche for yourself. Become famous for a certain type of story. That way, people will seek you out to see your take when a story breaks and after the thrill ride is over.

Use a secondary subject in the title

One very sure way to make online news articles evergreen is to use a secondary subject. Provide extra information that will continue to be searched in the future. For example, if something happened to a tiger at the zoo, you might use that as the main part of your title, then add something that might be a permanent search. Like this, "Tiger Mauls Trainer at Denver Zoo - Can Zoo Life Lead to Animal Aggression?" You will get a spike in page views for the main subject, as well as stable page views from the secondary subject.


The more you elaborate on a news story, the more search-able information it contains. Be sure you are using a lot of additional information in your news articles. Online article writers already know using related words helps the search value of their content. What they may not realize is, related information can do the same thing. You can easily turn a news story evergreen using elaboration, or one of the other techniques. Why not enjoy the page views for as long as you can? It just makes good sense.

This post was previously published on Yahoo! by this author.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Article writing inspiration through plumbing truck captivity

Writer's notebook (public domain photo)
Help, I'm being held prisoner in a plumbing truck! My life partner is a plumber and I'm an article writer. This may seem a strange combination. Let me tell you why a plumbing truck can be an inspirational place for article ideas. My partner is on call 24/7. That means that when we're going out to eat, to a movie, or even just for a scenic drive, his phone will go off. It's a customer with a flooded house or backed up drain. He has to take that call. Therefore I am held captive in the plumbing truck until he's finished.
Plumbing tools can be inspiring

I've actually written an article about plumbing supplies. That's not the type of tools I'm referring to. Every plumber carries certain equipment on board his truck that's also conducive to writing. That equipment is a pen and a yellow legal pad. The inspiration that comes from physically putting pen to paper is incredible. Writing an article on the computer is not the same tactile experience as chicken scratching ideas on paper in a plumbing truck.

Caffeine is the other mother of invention

Sitting in a plumbing truck waiting for my partner to finish a job gets really boring. Good thing I usually bring a couple bottles of tea. The caffeine jump starts my imagination. That handy yellow pad and pen gets picked up and used furiously. Pretty soon the article ideas start to flow. They don't stop until the plumber emerges from the house covered in, well, you don't want to know. Let's just say plumbers carry wet wipes and extra clothes.


What else is there to do in a plumbing truck while waiting for your partner to clean a drain, fix pipes, or whatever he happens to be doing? Captivity can be article inspiration in itself. Why? Well, there are no distractions. No housework to be done, because I'm not at home. Going to the restroom is not an option, though I wish it was. Hey, that was a lot of tea! Truth is, there is nothing to do but think. This makes for some interesting article writing.

Passersby can inspire articles

Well there is one thing to do in the plumbing truck, that may seem a bit nosy. People watching can contribute to article inspiration. A lot of my parenting articles have come from watching people with their kids while waiting in the plumbing truck. Or, sometimes there are people who don't know what to wear or are doing something unusual or questionable. There's always something to learn just by observing others.

Surroundings can inspire

Quite often, my partner's plumbing calls will take us to the outskirts of town. As you know, Denver's Rocky Mountains have been inspiration for many writers and artists. Sitting in a plumbing truck waiting for my partner to jet out a sewer is not very exciting. The scenery more than makes up for it at times. It doesn't have to be the inspiration of the mountains. It could be a sunset, a view of the great plains or any number of things. By the time my partner gets back to the plumbing truck, I usually have a couple pages of article ideas.

Discomfort is a mixed inspiration.

Isn't it odd that the discomfort of sitting in a plumbing truck for hours can actually be an article writing inspiration? I already mentioned my need for a restroom. There are other things that come up as well. At times it's hot, other times, it's chilly. Legs get cramped, feet are constricted, and the plumber is chatting up the customer. It's OK. Inspiration often comes from trying to keep my mind off my discomfort. An article concerning pain relief once came while cramped up in the plumbing truck waiting for my partner to finish his job.

This article was previously published by this author on Yahoo!

Readability in online article writing

Write simply for readability (public domain photo)
Readability in online article writing is often overlooked. Writers are sometimes tempted to use their word power to impress readers. The average online reader doesn't care how many big words article writers know. They want the answer to the question that prompted them to browse the web. They want that answer in plain, readable language.
Many online writers try to impress fellow writers.

They spend hours writing clever titles and twists. Readability is the last thing on their minds. It should be the first. The majority of page views do not come from your fellow writers. Impress the average people searching for information on the web. They are an internet article writer's best customers.

Online article writers may think they are paid per click.

Internet article writers are not paid for clicks. All the ads posted on an article must load prior to the reader closing the page. In certain instances, people must click on those ads for the writer to be paid. What this means is that an article needs enough readability to keep the attention of the average web surfer while the ads load.

You might think that writing longer articles would get more page views.

Actually the opposite is true. More pages means a lower readability factor and a longer load time. More pages means less chance that the ads will load before the reader is done. Remember web readers are looking for quick easy information. One page gives ultimate readability.

Part of readability is creating well formatted material.

Small uniform paragraphs give the reader breaks between points to absorb the information presented. The best written article presented in one long paragraph with no breaks can cause the reader to become so overwhelmed they close the page to look for something more readable. That was a run on sentence.

Run on sentences are just like run on paragraphs.

They need to be read several times to be understood. Online readers come to web articles for brief, factual information. Simple language and proper sentence structure help them absorb material quickly. People today have busy lives. They have no time for translations. Readability is key.

Remember the internet is international.

People from all over the world read online articles. Some of these people speak little or no English. Clever phrases or references to great works of literature are wasted words. Stick with plain words, easily translated in any language. Words of Anglo Saxon origin work best for readability. Use basic words with few modifiers.

A search-able, brief, clear title will bring readers to an online article.

Content that follows the same example will keep them there. Even fellow online article writers appreciate readability. Article writers do extensive research. They must sometimes read ten or more articles to verify facts. Simple and concise is the best policy when writing articles for all types of readers.

Note: It's also vital to place important information in sub-titles and to the left of the margin for easy scanning. Online readers do more scanning than reading.

This article was previously published, non-exclusively by this author on Yahoo! Voices

Online writing in 8 hours a day

You could be off at 4! (public domain photo)
What? First I tell you to take weekends off. Now, I'm telling you to only work 8 hours a day. Am I crazy? Not at all. I am a firm believer in not spending your entire life tucked away behind a keyboard. Yes, you will have to work very hard. Yes, you will work a full 6-8 hour day. However, you do not have to be pounding out articles and networking 24/7 to make a living as an online writer.

I bet you're still thinking about that 6 hour day.

Of course you are. When I first started doing this, I did it the hard way. Most of the writers that I know still do. Every day I wrote and networked until my fingers cramped up so bad that I had to stop. I really thought I had to work long hours to make up for my lack of experience. You know how they say you have to write, write, write before you make a success of yourself? Well, it's simply not true. What you really have to do is learn to manage your time.

I work hard at writing for 6-8 hours a day.

I take weekends off. I don't waste a lot of time on Facebook and other social networks while I'm writing. I do that stuff on breaks or when I'm done if I want to. However, I mostly take offline, active breaks to keep my blood circulating. I do take a lunch break and not in front of the computer screen. So, don't let anyone tell you that you have to work 24/7 to make it as a writer. If you focus on your writing and related tasks, rather than silly computer games and funny memes, you can have a 6-8 hour work day and weekends off too.

Stop helping people while you're working.

Or at least stop actively helping them. When someone interrupts your work day to ask for help, tell them you're at work. If it's a writer friend, point them in the direction of an applicable instructional article by you or someone else who you know gives good advice. It's just way too easy to spend hours helping someone else with their writing. It feels good, doesn't it? You like helping people, right? So, why not help yourself instead by teaching them to help themselves? You'll both be better off. They won't have to depend on you so much. You can get your work done and get off early to enjoy your life.

Dividing up your 6-8 hour day.

Every writer does things differently. Some like to pound out the work in that 6-8 hours and be free the rest of the day. Some like to do 2 hour stretches, broken up by breaks or other responsibilities. Me, I usually do the 2 hours at a time thing. I take a half hour break in between each 2 hour writing session. I start writing at around 8 in the morning. This means that I'm done at 5:30 every day, even when I work 8 hours. On days when I can get the work done in 6 hours, I'm done at 3:00. It may sound impossible, I assure you, it's not.

How do you want to remember your life?

Many wise people have mentioned that upon reaching the end of their life, nobody looks back and regrets that they did not spend enough time working. No. You regret the time you did not spend with your loved ones or attaining your non-work related goals. You cherish the memories of the times when you did do those things. Life is for living, even when writing is your chosen career. Writing should be a part of your life, not the whole burrito.

(I know. It's supposed to be an enchilada but I'm vegan. I don't eat cheese.)

Online writing with weekends off

Why aren't you on the beach? (public domain photo)
Is it possible to take weekends off as an online writer? Well, if it wasn't, I wouldn't be writing for a living. After all, one of the main reasons I quit my day job and started working for myself was to set my own hours. If I can't at least do that, what's the point? It's not like I'm making millions yet, so there has to be some kind of incentive to keep tapping away on this keyboard.

Why do I insist on weekends off?

I worked many, many years in dry cleaning store management and retail. I feel like I paid my dues where working holidays, weekends and overtime are concerned. Plus, I have a partner who's a plumber. He only gets every other weekend off. Plus, he works long hours the rest of the time when he's on call. So, on the weekends when he works, I ride with him and on the weekends when he doesn't, well, we actually get to nourish our relationship by spending time together. But enough about me.

Why every writer needs weekends off.

Writing may not seem physically demanding. It is.

Sitting at the computer for long hours can cause a lot of health issues, back pain, neck pain, carpal tunnel and more. I've had Lupus and Rheumatoid for most of my life. However, the symptoms worsen greatly the more sitting I do. Sitting at a desk too long can cause my symptoms to flare badly enough to put me in the hospital. I'm not OK with that. I have to keep moving. You may not have a chronic illness now, but sitting for long periods is still a very well known cause of inflammation, circulation problems and other related health issues. The human body is not designed for desk jobs. It's that simple.

Writing is mentally demanding too.

Out of all the jobs you could choose, writing likely involves the most brain work. That's because, unlike some other desk jobs that become methodical and robotic, you absolutely cannot write without thinking. Like most writers, I often require more than a few minutes to get my brain out of overdrive and into non-work mode. Having weekends off allows me the time I need to transition into the relaxation I also need.

Ideas come from life experience.

Boring, boring, boring. You are a boring writer if all you do is write. Sure, you learn a lot about writing. Writing is not all there is to life. Neither is the internet. I know so many writers who are absolutely killing any chance they have of actually living their lives by being actively logged in at all times. Oh, they know tons about writing. They'd better, since that's all they ever do. Many are technology wizards too. However, they have zero life experience to jazz up their writing with. Their content is accurate and factual, but dry as burnt toast crumbs in a prairie dust storm.

What about the missed pay and assignments?

What missed pay? I've been doing this for 7 years. I have never yet been turned down for an assignment because I wouldn't write on the weekend. It's simply a matter of focusing on the work at hand to get it done before the weekend. In fact, if you're a blogger or online writer, it's entirely possible to work ahead to the point where you can actually take a vacation without missing any pay or assignments.

So, go ahead. Take your weekends off, your needed sick days and even an occasional vacation. After all, that is why you work for yourself, isn't it?

About online writing simplified

Have you ever gone online to learn how to improve your writing? Ya, me neither. What a waste of time. Just kidding. There's a ton of great advice out there. Not taking advantage of it would be foolish. Too bad the average person can't understand most of it.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not against higher learning. I just have no use for complex, technological terms. I'm clever as crap, you guys. I'm just not a techie. I don't even want to be. In fact, most people are not techies. Heck, a large majority of writers are not techies.

Funny thing, they're much more into writing.


Some people who write online have no desire to get involved in technology, unless they have to.

They're too busy writing.

I'm one of those people.

I write for those people.

I write for ordinary people who could care less about technical terms and those god-awful 4 syllable “means the same as the little words” words people seem to think are necessary to prove you can turn a phrase, capture your reader's attention or make yourself seem like you know what you're doing.

Mark Twain is my hero.

He was who he was. He didn't put on airs. He wrote like he spoke. You didn't need a dictionary by your side to read his works. Plus, he told it like it really was.

That's exactly what I want to do in this blog.

Online Writing Simplified is for people who want great advice about writing online, minus the fancy language. And when there is techie crap involved, I promise you will understand it. It's for people whose main purpose in life is not only to write, but to write so others know exactly what they're trying to say. No translation required.

Are you one of those people? If so, hop in, let's go for a ride.