Category Archives: Writing

Seek Inspiration from Writers Who Have Succeeded Before You

Possibly one of the most inspirational author success stories of this century is that of JK Rowling. I write in a different genre than she does. I have a different audience altogether. But it is her human story that fascinates me most, so I go in search of great articles about her such as this one: JK Rowling gives advice to aspiring young writers in challenging situations. I seek her knowledge and advice from afar when I need it. (Thank God for the Internet! What did we ever do before we had this valuable tool at our disposal?)

This woman not only understands the unique challenges that writers everywhere face, but she has also experienced her share of adversity that most everyone can relate to on some level. Poverty. Divorce. Single parenting. The loss of a loved one. She found the way to continue writing through all of it.

That’s what I want you to take away from today’s email: she found the way to continue writing through all of it. And look at where she is now!

Nobody is saying it’s going to be easy all the time. There is work to be done if you want to finish writing your book and see it published at long last.

But I’m telling you it’s possible. That’s all you need to know for now. The rest will follow. The answers—and the way—will fall into place if you really want this and are prepared to work for it through everything life throws at you during the process. Have faith.

Now get back to your writing! That’s an order! 😉

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Unique Writing Advice from Margaret Atwood

I came across some writing tips by Margaret Atwood on BrainPickings.org the other day titled “Margaret Atwood’s 10 Rules of Writing.” Her advice for writing while on an airplane is quite interesting … and a sign of our times, I suppose. It made me laugh.

Presumably, most of us “write” with a keyboard now, not a pencil. But she makes a good point about backing up your work with a memory stick if you’re a digital writer. Great advice! There’s nothing worse than spending several hours writing anything only to lose the data because your computer crashes.

But listen. You should definitely read Margaret’s advice. The BrainPickings blog has included some great tips from her that we haven’t covered on this blog so far. This is one of the reasons why I recommend reading other people’s work, other people’s advice, et cetera. We can all learn from each other.

On that note, this content first appeared on BrainPickings.org and is being reshared here for your enjoyment:

Margaret Atwood’s 10 Rules of Writing

  1. Take a pencil to write with on aeroplanes. Pens leak. But if the pencil breaks, you can’t sharpen it on the plane, because you can’t take knives with you. Therefore: take two pencils.
  2. If both pencils break, you can do a rough sharpening job with a nail file of the metal or glass type.
  3. Take something to write on. Paper is good. In a pinch, pieces of wood or your arm will do.
  4. If you’re using a computer, always safeguard new text with a ­memory stick.
  5. Do back exercises. Pain is distracting.
  6. Hold the reader’s attention. (This is likely to work better if you can hold your own.) But you don’t know who the reader is, so it’s like shooting fish with a slingshot in the dark. What ­fascinates A will bore the pants off B.
  7. You most likely need a thesaurus, a rudimentary grammar book, and a grip on reality. This latter means: there’s no free lunch. Writing is work. It’s also gambling. You don’t get a pension plan. Other people can help you a bit, but ­essentially you’re on your own. ­Nobody is making you do this: you chose it, so don’t whine.
  8. You can never read your own book with the innocent anticipation that comes with that first delicious page of a new book, because you wrote the thing. You’ve been backstage. You’ve seen how the rabbits were smuggled into the hat. Therefore ask a reading friend or two to look at it before you give it to anyone in the publishing business. This friend should not be someone with whom you have a ­romantic relationship, unless you want to break up.
  9. Don’t sit down in the middle of the woods. If you’re lost in the plot or blocked, retrace your steps to where you went wrong. Then take the other road. And/or change the person. Change the tense. Change the opening page.
  10. Prayer might work. Or reading ­something else. Or a constant visual­ization of the holy grail that is the finished, published version of your resplendent book.

How to Structure Your Book Outline

How do you write a book? One page at a time. Then again, some days it’s one paragraph at a time, isn’t it? I can relate!

But where do you even begin writing all those pages? That’s the real question. The task can seem daunting at the beginning.

Well, here’s a guideline you may find helpful. It’s a matter of starting out with a simple outline in point form and building it from there. I’ll use a non-fiction “how to publish a book” template as an example outline only because there are usually more points in a non-fiction Table of Contents than there will be in a fictional novel.

First and foremost, I divide my book into sections:

Section One: The Types of Book Publishers

Section Two: Understanding Copyright

Section Three: Book Sales and Marketing

Section Four: The Publishing Process

Section Five: Today’s Book Printing and Non-Printing Options

Now that I know there will be five sections to my book, I want to fill those in further within my outline. What will I be talking about within each section? It’s now time to write the titles of each chapter in between the above outline points:

Section One: The Types of Book Publishers

– Ten Questions to Ask Yourself Before Publishing Your Book

– Traditional (Trade) Publishing

– Vanity Publishing (Book Production and Formatting for Self-Published “Indie” Authors)

– Supported Self-Publishing (A.K.A. Assisted Self-Publishing, Hybrid Publishing)

Section Two: Understanding Copyright

– An Elementary Introduction to International Copyright

– Copyright Simplified: Understanding Publishing Contracts

Section Three: Book Sales and Marketing

– Traditional Sales Techniques

– Contemporary Online Sales Techniques

Section Four: The Publishing Process

– How to Write a Book

– How to Submit Your Manuscript to a Publisher

– ISBNs and Barcodes

– Publishing Agreements

– Professional Editing

– Professional Graphic Design

– Fact Checking and Indexing

– Professional Proofreading

– Book Reviews

– Distribution

Section Five: Today’s Book Printing and Non-Printing Options

– Ebooks

– Print-on-Demand (POD)

– Digital Printing

– Offset Printing

There you have it. You have your book’s rough outline now. It’s as simple as that. Some sections and chapters will be heavier than others, and that’s okay. You may also want to fill in more points for each individual chapter as you go along. That’s fine, too.

Once you’ve done that, you can now set up your writing schedule and deadlines for completion of the book based on this outline. Guesstimate how much time you think each individual list point will take you to write. One hour, two hours? There’s no right or wrong answer. It’s up to you. You’re simply trying to figure out roughly how long it’s going to take to finish this book so you can plan for it.

I recommend setting a goal for yourself to write at least one hour per day, six hours per week, every single week to completion of every point on your outline. This is a totally achievable goal that will help you stay on track because it gives you a flexible but consistent writing schedule to follow each week. Everyone can set aside one hour per day—even the busiest of people—if they really want to. And this schedule even gives you one day off every week!

As you write, the points on your outline may change a wee bit. You may think of additional chapters to add in, and that’s fine. My only caution to you is DON’T EDIT YOURSELF EVERY SINGLE TIME YOU SIT DOWN TO WRITE. You can waste hours upon hours by fixating on one sentence or paragraph, trying to edit it over and over again, rather than just moving on and writing the next one. Don’t do it. That’s when you’ll get stuck in a loop, unable to move forward. The idea here is to write something new every day so that you can move forward and finish the book—not edit it to perfection. There’s no such thing as perfection.

“If I waited for perfection I would never write a word.”
~Margaret Atwood

Let another editor polish your book for you once you’ve finished writing it. Take your own editor’s hat off. Put it away. In fact, shove it into the far back corner of your closet, close that door, and LOCK IT! The only hat you need to be wearing is that of the writer. Are you ready to complete your own outline now?

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As a user of this website, you are authorized only to view, copy, print, and distribute the documents on this website so long as: one (1) the document is used for informational purposes only; and two (2) any copy of the document (or portion thereof) includes the following copyright notice: Copyright © 2018 Polished Publishing Group (PPG). All rights reserved.

[Fast and Easy Blog Posts] Winning Tactics for Online Marketing

Unless you’re a full-time online marketer, you probably don’t have several hours every day to dedicate to promoting your book(s). That’s why you need some winning online marketing tactics that shouldn’t take you much time to complete. The truth is, it only takes one hour per day, six days per week, to start seeing some real traction with your book sales and marketing efforts. Consult this list for some additional great ideas to get yourself started.

Recycle an Old Blog Post or Online Article on Social Media

Looking for the time to write a new blog post or online article but just can’t find it? Why not share one of your old ones on LinkedIn, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook? One thing is for sure: most people won’t recall it from before; and, even if they do, they’ll most likely be enticed to read it again. Don’t view recycling old blog posts as the lazy man’s form of content marketing since it has some significant benefits. 

  • Here are some of my old ezine articles that I continue to share via social media to this day. 
  • And, of course, I often re-share content from this blog with others if I’m stuck for time on a particular day.

Write Captivating Blog Headlines

Your headline can either make or break your content. There are fantastic tools on the Internet, and in my various books, that can help you come up with interesting headline ideas instead of recycling the overused ones. And remember! Make sure your headlines contain your top keyword for optimum SEO success!

Make Sure Your Top Keyword Repeats Within Your Post

Make sure your top keyword (in this case “blog”) also repeats at least twice for every 100 words of content that you write. This is a great way to ping a search engine’s algorithm to index your blog post that day. Some people, such as Penny Sansevieri,  also recommend writing 500 words minimum (whether you’re writing a book description or a blog post):

While it may seem like you want something short and sweet (so many people don’t like long book descriptions, right?) this is where the algorithm either kicks in, or doesn’t, based on the word count.

You must have at least 500 words in your book description. Why? Because too little content won’t register well (if at all) with Amazon and Google won’t pick it up, either…
Another note about your primary keyword: it should appear 2 to 5 times for every 100 words in your book description. So, no keyword stuffing, certainly, but using the keywords in a way that will help ping Amazon’s algorithm and also get you some attention in Google, as well.

I highly recommend reading the rest of her post titled “Keys to Understanding Amazon’s Algorithms.” It’s informative.

Write a One-Minute Blog Post

For the days when you need to post something on your blog but don’t have time to write 500 words, how about a one-minute blog post? Yes, it is very much possible to write a one-minute blog post. Obviously, the post will not be content rich but it can be one of the easiest ways to engage your subscribers, followers, and fans on a particular day … once in a while only. How about browsing current events related to your industry, writing a short opinion-post about it, and asking for feedback from your readers in return? It’s much like opening up a forum conversation. There’s your one-minute blog post.

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As a user of this website, you are authorized only to view, copy, print, and distribute the documents on this website so long as: one (1) the document is used for informational purposes only; and two (2) any copy of the document (or portion thereof) includes the following copyright notice: Copyright © 2018 Polished Publishing Group (PPG). All rights reserved.

Change Your Thinking on What Constitutes a Useful Non-Fiction Book … and Watch Your Business Soar!

How long does a book have to be in order to be considered a legitimate book by readers? 30,000 words? 60,000 words? 90,000 words? Even more? How many chapters long should it be? Five, 10, 15, or more? Which old wives’ tale have you heard that has you filling your manuscript with a bunch of extra (not necessarily useful) information just to meet someone else’s theoretical and unsubstantiated recipe for success?

Leave the Fluff Out. Period.

Throw away any pre-conceived notions you may have about what constitutes a useful book—particularly when it comes to word count. I’m here to tell you that it’s more important to focus on the quality of your content than the quantity of words you’ve written. There is absolutely no need to add a bunch of unnecessary fluff into a non-fiction book just to get it to a certain word count. Basing a book’s value and saleability on word count is old-fashioned thinking. With non-fiction books of any kind, your number one priority is to understand your readers’ question/problem, and then answer/resolve it for them as clearly and easily as possible. That’s it, that’s all.

Cutting Edge Online Selling Techniques to Grow Your Business

There is a form of online book sales and marketing known as “rapid release” publishing that many of today’s most successful independent authors are using to sell literally thousands of books every year. Some of these indie authors are earning six-figure incomes from their ebook sales alone. In my research, I’ve found that non-fiction authors are among the perfect candidates for this form of self-publishing. Why? Because of your diverse demographics (e.g., seniors, adults, teenagers, children, males, females, et cetera) and the varied subject matter you can cover within your respective industries. Here are just a few examples:

Caterers can recommend different types of foods (e.g., canapés, fruit appetizers, vegetable appetizers, hors d’oeuvres, kebabs, deep fried appetizers, et cetera) for all types of events (e.g., weddings, bar mitzvahs, corporate functions, children’s parties, theatre events, et cetera).

Health and fitness entrepreneurs can write endless non-fiction copy about different muscle groups, exercises, food groups, diets, et cetera.

Interior decorators can make recommendations about floor plans, lighting, artwork, framing, Regency, Georgian, et cetera.

Hairdressing professionals can cover long hair, short styles, curls, braids, updos, colours, et cetera.

Online and distance educators can repurpose weeks and weeks of lesson plans for the do-it-yourselfers of the world who prefer the more solitary learning environment of an ebook or audiobook lesson to a social classroom setting.

Automotive service technicians can advise readers on vehicle maintenance and repair for all kinds of different makes and models, various automotive parts and how they work, et cetera.

The list goes on and on. The possibilities are endless for business owners who wish to publish non-fiction books to expand their businesses.

How to Write for the “Rapid Release” Publishing Process

Does a book have to be 60,000 words and 10 chapters long in order to constitute a useful book? Or could each chapter be a mini ebook in its own right—part of a “mini series” of individual topics that allow readers to choose which topic they wish to read and buy that one alone on any given day? 

Let’s say you want to complete one mini ebook within a three-week time period. If you’re already running a business full-time, that means you probably only have two or three hours of writing time available per day during the weekdays; but if you’re truly dedicated to this “rapid release” publishing process, then you’ll take at least another six hours per day on the weekends, if not more. That gives you a conservative 81 writing hours in total.

3 hours X 5 days X 3 weeks = 45 weekday hours
6 hours X 2 days X 3 weeks = 36 weekend hours
45 + 36 = 81 writing hours

Commit yourself to this schedule. You’ll be amazed by what you can accomplish once you make a firm decision to write for this many hours each week.

Now break it down by hour. How many words can you write in one hour? 100 words per hour will result in an 8,100-word mini ebook at the end of three weeks. 300 words per hour will result in a 24,300-word ebook. 500 words per hour will result in a 40,500-word ebook at the end of three weeks. Don’t get too hung up on the word count because, as I said earlier, quality is more important to your readers than quantity is. I added this mathematical exercise here simply to demonstrate what you can accomplish in a short amount of time. When you break it down like this for yourself, it suddenly appears more achievable, doesn’t it? And when your goal appears more achievable to you, you’ll be more apt to stick with it and see it through to the end.

How About a Picture Book?

Children aren’t the only ones who can enjoy a picture book. Picture books containing “how-to” illustrations or graphics throughout (e.g., exercise routines, hair styling techniques, before and after automotive repair examples, et cetera) can be very helpful to adult learners. Let’s say your goal is to create a 20-page picture book, within three weeks, that contains only one or two sentences per page. Well, including the cover, that will be 21 pages to complete—equivalent to one page per day over a three-week period. Totally doable, especially when it’s your passion!

It’s time to change your thinking on what constitutes a useful non-fiction book, because the way the world reads is changing, and the way books are written and published is changing along with it.

Want to learn more about “rapid release” publishing and how it works? Click here.

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Where Do I Even Begin Writing My Book?

As you sit down to write your book, you may be thinking, “Where do I even begin?” Well, there’s no right or wrong way to begin. For me, every one of my books was a little bit different. They all came to me in their own unique ways.

Sometimes, I’ll receive just a simple concept in my mind. I write it down, set it aside, and then I wait until the next thought comes along to further strengthen that vision. As each new thought arrives, I do the same until there’s enough substance to begin piecing together the first concrete outline of the whole book into point form. Basically, when this is the way a book comes to me, I know I must be patient with it. Let it grow at its own rate. It will come together eventually. It always does.

Other times, I’ll receive the end of a book first. The final chapter will already be a crystal-clear vision in and of itself, so then all I have to do is go back to the beginning and write to that end. Fill in the blanks.

My first fictional novel, A Letter to My Son, took me around ten years to complete. In hindsight, the majority of that time was spent procrastinating rather than writing due to fear of the unknown. I didn’t see that clear path ahead of me. I didn’t know how to get published and wasn’t all that sure it would ever happen, so I felt no strong sense of urgency to finish the book. Then, one year, I experienced a life-changing event that had me questioning myself and my life purpose. It was the catalyst that motivated me to finish my book once and for all—to find a way to publish it—to keep that promise to myself. Once I found that resolve, all the information and resources I needed to publish the book found me. And I did it! (Smiling.) What a proud moment!

Each book that followed came a little easier simply because I knew the process ahead of me. Isn’t that the way life is? The first time you try anything is always the hardest. But, if you push through that initial fear and prove to yourself that it’s possible, it does get easier. Needless to say, my second book, A Letter to My Daughter, took me only two months to write. My third book, 11:11, took me around six months. I’ve also since released three more non-fiction guides to help writers and authors navigate the business aspects of book publishing, sales, and marketing. I’ve produced an ebook series to help online marketers earn passive income from ebooks: Book Publishing Shortcuts for Online Marketers. And I’ve produce another ebook series titled T-Shaped Marketing for Authors that teaches all kinds of online marketing techniques authors can use to boost their ranking on eCommerce sites like Amazon and Kobo.

When I was younger, writing was more a pastime than a career aspiration, so I only wrote when the mood hit me. After my first book was published, and I became a little more serious about things, I found a structure that seems to work very well for me to this day. Lately, with the help of this structure, I’ve been publishing a new book once every four to six weeks. It’s possible!

I hope learning this little bit of information about my personal journey as a writer will inspire you to finish writing (and eventually publish!) your own book. You can also find many more sources of inspiration and education on this blog to help you achieve your goals, whatever they may be. Good luck!

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As a user of this website, you are authorized only to view, copy, print, and distribute the documents on this website so long as: one (1) the document is used for informational purposes only; and two (2) any copy of the document (or portion thereof) includes the following copyright notice: Copyright © 2018 Polished Publishing Group (PPG). All rights reserved.

Effective Copywriting and Top of Mind Awareness (TOMA)

This content first appeared on Warrior Forum and has been republished here with permission from the author.

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Writing really effective, eye-catching copy to promote a product or service is important. When it comes to online marketing, that copy also needs to cleverly incorporate the item’s highest ranking keywords for the purpose of search engine optimization (SEO).

But there’s more to it than that, and this is where things like blogging, social media marketing, and pay-per-click (PPC) advertising come in handy. If you want to reach all your current and prospective customers, then you must achieve top of mind awareness (TOMA) with all of them by constantly staying in front of them.

Some people think of their target market as a fixed segment of the public that share similar characteristics (e.g. my customers are adult males and females between the ages of 25 to 45 who enjoy … blah blah blah, you fill in the blank). But your customers aren’t static like that. Think of them more as a fluid stream of people who are flowing in and out of your market all the time. If you want to stay top of mind with them then you need to stay in front of them all the time so that, when they’re in the market to buy whatever it is you’re selling, they’ll recall you ahead of your competitors. This will increase your chances of a sale.

Here’s an analogy for you. Think of a shopping mall. Think of all the types of stores in that shopping mall: shoe stores, clothing stores, furniture stores, et cetera. Most everyone has a need to buy shoes, clothing, and furniture at one time or another, right? But you may not be in the market for it right this minute today. You may not need it until next month or next year. And who are you most likely to buy from when the time comes and you’re in the market to buy? You’ll buy from the most trusted brand in your mind–a trust that was built up over time with regular and consistent copywriting that was shared over and over again through blogging, social media, PPC, and whatever other means.

Why don’t you fill in the blank and name “whatever other means” people can use to achieve top of mind awareness with their clients. What are some other great vehicles we can use to stay front and center with our target markets? Leave a comment below.

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As a user of this website, you are authorized only to view, copy, print, and distribute the documents on this website so long as: one (1) the document is used for informational purposes only; and two (2) any copy of the document (or portion thereof) includes the following copyright notice: Copyright © 2018 Polished Publishing Group (PPG). All rights reserved.

[The Art of Copywriting] Creating Something New Out of Something Old

Kim Staflund: founder and publisher at Polished Publishing Group (PPG) and author of the PPG Publisher’s Blog

This content first appeared on Digital Point Forum and has been republished here with permission from the author.

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Whether you’re writing copy for your own company or freelancing for a variety of clients, chances are you’re going to be writing about topics that have been written about hundreds of times before. The best copywriters will have mastered the art of creating something new out of something old. But everyone struggles with this sometimes.

I have one possibly unique idea for the rookie copywriters who have come to this forum looking for guidance on how to best tackle a writing job. But I also invite all the pros to please add your advice into the comments below. We can all help each other. We can all learn from each other.

Okay, now for my somewhat peculiar idea…

Come up with a title for your topic that includes the words “3 Tips” or “4 Ideas” or something like that so you have a goal as to how many tips or ideas you’re going to cover in your marketing piece. Now pull out your dictionary (must be a physical dictionary), close your eyes, open it up to a random page, put your finger on a random spot on that page, then open your eyes and find the random word that you will use for your first tip/idea. Do this for as many tips/ideas as you have decided to write about so you have the same amount of random words to work with. 

Now write to those words. Figure out a way to make them fit into your topic matter in a new and creative way. You can do it. You may surprise yourself.

Again, the idea is to NOT flip through to try to find “relevant” words you’re familiar with but to stick with that first random word, get creative with it, and figure out a new way to make it relevant to your topic. Since there hasn’t been much activity on this thread, I thought I’d better provide an example of what I’m talking about.

Let’s say the topic I have to write about is “How to Improve Your Blog’s SEO Using Social Media Marketing” but I want to try something new rather than just re-writing the standard type of article for this topic. So, I choose a random word to get my creative juices flowing. For the purpose of this post, I used an online random word generator (https://www.slideshare.net/secret/BCkZEP1DQHPyuS) rather than a dictionary so I could prove to you my word choice was random. It wouldn’t let me choose only one word. It had to be two or more. The words are “wizard” and “horses.” Here is the article that resulted from those two words:

How to Improve Your Blog’s SEO Using Social Media Marketing, Wizards, and Horses

Anyone with a blog knows the primary reason why blogging is so important is search engine optimization (SEO), which means to improve (optimize) one’s standing in the organic search results on search engines like Google. You might have a fairly high search engine ranking for one or two of your primary keywords, such as your business and personal name. Blogging can help to improve your ranking for many more including some keywords you may not have considered before that will open you up to a whole new audience.

Who are you blogging for? What target market are you trying to reach? Adults or children? Male or female? What sorts of information are these individuals looking for online, other than your typical keywords, that you could intercept to bring them over to your blog?

For example, a blog that provides help, tips, and support regarding adoption can piggyback on a really prominent, instantly recognizable keyword anywhere in the world such as “Marilyn Monroe” to attract an even larger audience. Maybe the title of that particular blog entry could be: Why Marilyn Monroe Became One of the Most Successful Orphans in North America.

What about if you’re writing a blog for children and their parents about Internet safety? Do these children love Disney? Perhaps The Wizard of Oz? Horses and ponies? Start blogging about these things to attract additional subscribers: There’s No Place Like Home: Internet Safety Tips from The Wizard Oz and Not All Horses are Your Friend: Beware The Online Trojan Horse. Adding cartoon graphics of these images to your blog will make each post even more attractive.

Now your blog entries are written. Where do you share them? That’s easy. Find out which social media sites your target market is using the most and share those blog entries there. Facebook and Twitter are safe bets for your adult readers. But what about the children? Why not try out these: Safe Chat Rooms and Social Sites for Kids.

The more creative your blog, the more readers it will appeal to. Step outside the norm. Think outside the box. That’s how to improve your blog’s SEO using social media marketing, wizards, and horses … and maybe even movie stars! ​

How is that? Make sense? By choosing those two random words, I came up with a unique idea for this blog post that I may not have thought of before. Now you try!

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As a user of this website, you are authorized only to view, copy, print, and distribute the documents on this website so long as: one (1) the document is used for informational purposes only; and two (2) any copy of the document (or portion thereof) includes the following copyright notice: Copyright © 2018 Polished Publishing Group (PPG). All rights reserved.

Time-management, Productivity, and Efficiency for Busy Professionals

Jennifer D. Foster, freelance writer, editor, and owner of Planet Word

I think almost all of us are aiming for balance in our professional and personal lives.

I’m not a certified expert on time-management, motivation, or productivity. And I don’t have all the answers. But I’m a fairly successful freelance editor and writer, who’s happy to share the strategies and best practices I use in order to keep my clients happy, juggle multiple editorial jobs, and keep sane in the process.

I’ll give you a brief synopsis of how I got to where I am professionally and what I do, to give you some overall context, then I’ll talk about specifics.

I’m a freelance writer, editor, and mentor, with 20 years’ experience, 14 of those as a freelancer. As the sole proprietor of my business, Planet Word, I wear many hats and tackle many projects. I work on everything from adult and children’s fiction and non-fiction, consumer and trade magazines, web content, newsletters, and ads to style guides, curatorial material, press releases, annual reports, and book reviews. My clients and projects are vast and varied—just how I like it!

My first degree is an honours double major in sociology and mass communications from York University in Toronto. For my second degree, I went to journalism school at Ryerson University, also in Toronto.

After graduating from Ryerson, I got a two-month internship at Chatelaine magazine, while Rona Maynard was editor-in-chief. I wrote a few articles, did some fact-checking, and sat in on editorial meetings, but I wasn’t hired, as there were no staff jobs available. It was a fantastic view into the editorial world, and I wanted more!

I then worked for about three years as assistant editor at Homemakers magazine, under the leadership of Sally Armstrong. She was an inspirational boss and gave me my own section to edit after less than a year there, and after two years there, she sent me on a feature-writing assignment to the Philippines.

After Homemakers, I headed to the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) as writer and editor in the Marketing and Communications department. That was a dream job, where I got to utilize both my editing and my writing skills. On particularly intense or trying days, I’d leave my desk to wander in the galleries, remembering why I was working there in the first place! After 2.5 years, I went on maternity leave and never looked back. When my son, who’s now 14, was six months old, I felt I was going brain dead as a stay-at-home mom and decided to launch Planet Word. I had no idea what I was doing as a new business owner, but I told all of my friends, family, and business contacts that I was available for freelance writing and editing.

Fast-forward to now, where sometimes I’m juggling up to half a dozen client projects at a time, with overlapping deadlines. This is very stressful and extremely demanding, but I find the following strategies help me get through even the most intense work periods.

Know Yourself and Your Work Style

My main tip is to know yourself and your work style and embrace them both wholeheartedly.
I know that I like lots of natural light, myriad lists, an uncluttered work space, lots of herbal teas and salty snacks, great variety in my projects and that I thrive under work pressure. Be your own best friend and work with yourself and your quirks—not against them. Don’t compare yourself to others and how they work: one magic formula does not fit all, and I believe everyone’s a work in progress, so be kind to yourself.

Woody Allen said 80 per cent of success is showing up. I couldn’t agree more, so that’s why I make an effort every work day, which is often seven days a week, to wake early, eat a decent breakfast, get dressed (yes, no pyjamas or sweats for me!), and be at my computer for 9 am. I treat my freelancing for what it is—a successful business and a professional undertaking. Call me crazy, but I feel very unmotivated and unprofessional sitting at my desk in pyjamas. Getting dressed and being at my desk for 9 am gets me into the right frame of mind to work.

Carpe Diem

I’m high energy, detail-oriented, and work well under lots of pressure. I think that’s how I came out of the womb! But I’m always open to trying new strategies, and I know that I have room for ongoing improvement. My theory is carpe diem. Treat each job as a privilege. And take each day as a gift and run with it. Which brings me to another tip: don’t procrastinate! I know—we all do it. But try and jump into a project right away. As a freelancer, I never know what’s coming down the pipe and when, so I need to tackle each project as soon as possible.

Speaking of trying something new, I wanted to share a time-management method that I discovered last year, while I was writing a feature on beating writer’s block for Novel & Short Story Writer’s Market. It’s called the Pomodoro Technique. In a nutshell, this is how it works:

Step one: Pick your task.

Step two: Set a timer (traditionally, it’s for 25 minutes).

Step three: Work on that sole task until your timer rings.

Step four: Put a checkmark on a piece of paper after the timer rings.

Step five: If you have fewer than four checkmarks, take a short break (typically, it’s for three to five minutes) and then go back to step two.

Step six: After you have a total of four pomodoros, take a longer break (typically, it’s for 15 to 30 minutes). Reset your checkmark count back to zero and then return to the first step.

The main premise is to work in 25-minute blocks of time (called “pomodoro sessions”), followed by breaks. Each pomodoro session requires your full attention on a single task and then you take a break. The supposed results are improved productivity, burnout elimination, work-life balance and distraction-management.

Maybe some of you may have already tried it, and maybe it works for you. I tried it a few times, but I realized I’m more of a head-down, just-get-the-job-done kind of gal, so the timer going off was, ironically, a major distraction for me, and I found this method more irritating than anything, so I ditched it!

Make Lists

I’ll confess that I’m a list junkie. I make lists for almost everything, whether it’s business or personal, and I get a thrill crossing things off the list. My husband’s now doing it, after years of initially thinking I was crazy! He was always amazed at how much I’d get done in a day, and I told him it’s partly because I thrive on using lists. Now he’s a convert, and sometimes we jokingly fight over who will get to cross completed tasks off the chore list! Crossing jobs off a list gives me a great sense of purpose and accomplishment, and it motivates me to see lines through completed projects and tasks. I used lists with all my in-house jobs, and I’ve continued that method with freelancing.

It may shock you to know, however, that I work with a hard copy calendar and pen-and-paper lists—call me a dinosaur, but I love to get and stay organized on paper. I spend so much of my day on a screen that it’s a welcome change to actually use my hand to write, though my handwriting is atrocious! I have a work calendar that gives me a month at a glance, as I’m one of those people who needs to see the big picture, as well as the details. I write down when projects are due, and that way I can see where the bottlenecks are/could be, and that helps me know right away if I can take on any more work. I also use lots of highlighters and different coloured pens, so projects and deadlines stand out.

I make a list for the upcoming work week, usually on Sunday night, so I know what is due when and to whom for the upcoming week. That’s a smaller version, if you will, of the bigger picture. If my workload is light for that week, then I put on my marketing hat, contacting clients I haven’t heard from in a while, reminding them I’m available for work, or contacting potential clients (and yes, I have a list of potential clients!). Before going to bed, I add to the list, cross off tasks completed or move them to a newly created list. I also have an organized plan for each work day and that keeps me on track and motivated. Maybe there are apps or programs to do this, but hard copies work for me.

I also find creating editorial checklists helpful, depending on the size of the project. If it’s only a few pages, then I don’t create one. But if it’s a major project, like copy editing a 300-page cookbook, I develop a checklist in addition to the style guide I’m using. They are often a simple Word doc or sometimes I write out my checklist. I usually use the checklist at the beginning and at the end of my project, to ensure I’ve been thorough.

Get Through Every Email

Another time-management and motivation strategy I use is making it a priority to get through all of my emails before the end of each day. It’s a quirk of mine, and I realize it sounds freakishly anal and maybe impossible, but, again, this a strategy that works for me. I find it soul-crushing to open up my email in the morning, only to find a long stream of neglected emails/clients. Sometimes that just means a quick and professional acknowledgment of the email, stating that I’ll respond in more detail the next day or very soon.

Regular Breaks, Exercise, and Self Rewards

Another tip: I make time each day for regular breaks and exercise. They are essential for my sanity and my productivity. I do weekly hatha yoga, and I have an ex-racer greyhound who needs multiple daily walks. Exercise helps me manage stress and allows me to brainstorm or work through an issue I may be having with something I’m writing or editing. Bestselling author Gretchen Rubin says that doing 10 jumping jacks will boost your mood and increase your energy. I haven’t tried that yet, but maybe I should! Even when I was an in-house editor at Homemakers and especially at the AGO, I took time for regular breaks. As I mentioned, on particularly stressful days, I’d wander in the galleries, enjoying my favourite Emily Carrs and Tom Thomsons. I have very fond memories of the Yoko Ono, William Wegman and Hermitage exhibitions because I was able to enjoy the art during a weekday morning, often avoiding all the ugly weekend and afternoon crowds. For me, breaks are a form of escapism and regeneration, a chance to lose the work chains and give my brain time to recharge and think freely, which really aids in efficiency and motivation.

I’m also a big believer in self-rewards. I will say to myself that after I get X number of pages edited or y number of pages written, I will treat myself to, for example, wandering in some of my favourite neighbourhood shops or cafes, watching a BBC show, or to some pleasure reading.

Also, I take advantage of any downtime or lulls in work. Freelancing is feast or famine, so I use downtime to re-energize, strategize, and sometimes make more lists! I visit arts and antique markets, visit with friends or family, or think of potential new clients or story ideas. I also meet with fellow editors and writers to commiserate, often sharing work tips and strategies.

Just Say “No!”

Another tactic I use is just saying “No!” No to a client, no to a volunteer opportunity, and even no to myself for doing any more work that day. My theory is, it’s better to pass on a project than to take it on and do a less-than-spectacular job and ruin your precious reputation. Clients appreciate the honesty, which keeps your integrity as an editor intact. Almost every client I’ve ever said no to has come back another time with another job or another part of the job I originally declined. I recently had to turn down a copy editing project for a main client because of prior work commitments, but I was approached by that client again several weeks later to proofread the same project. Fortunately, I was able to say yes then.

I also don’t have a problem with making some nights a “get-your-own-meal” or “cereal night” at our house. My husband likes to cook, but he gets home from work around 7 pm. He is very understanding and so is our teenaged son. They’re used to this occurrence and know that sometimes a decent weekday meal isn’t going to happen, because “Mom’s on deadline again!”

Switch to Something New

Another way for me to meet deadlines and stay motivated is to work on multiple projects in one day or just switch to a different project altogether. As I mentioned, I wrote a feature last year for Novel & Short Story Writer’s Market on beating writer’s block, and many of the writers, editors, publishers, and writing instructors I interviewed do this. If my mind is wandering or if I need a break, I put aside that project and start on another. For example, if I just can’t look at that annual report pdf one more time, I’ll try writing a page for my YA novel, start working on my next book review for Canadian Children’s Book News, or research or brainstorm potential authors for the next season of Rowers Readers Series, for which I’m the administrative director. Sometimes that’s all I need to feel motivated to finish or return to the first project.

Positive Energy, Kind People

My final strategy is, surround yourself with positive, kind people. I express regular gratitude to those people in my life, as I know success is never a solo venture. It may sound cliché, but having family and friends who are supportive and respectful of you and your work will do wonders for your self-esteem and your peace of mind, which in turn has a favourable effect on your productivity, motivation and efficiency.

*****

Jennifer D. Foster is a Toronto, Canada-based freelance writer, editor, and mentor. She’s been in the writing and editing business for two decades, and her company is Planet Word. Jennifer’s clients are from the book and custom publishing, magazine, and marketing and communications fields and include The Globe and Mail, Art Gallery of Ontario, D. F. Plett Historical Research Foundation, McMichael Canadian Art Collection, Canadian Children’s Book News, Dundurn Press, Ontario Dental Association, and Firefly Books. When she’s not busy spilling ink for her first novel, walking her greyhound, Aquaman, or reading, Jennifer enjoys travelling, antiquing, gardening, camping and yoga. She’s a long-time mentor to novice editors via Editors Canada and novice writers via the Professional Writers Association of Canada. Jennifer is chair of Editors Toronto and administrative director of the Rowers Reading Series. Find her online at lifeonplanetword.wordpress.com.

Introduction to Writing

Alberta Sequeira

Welcome to your world of writing. It all begins with a thought for a great story. The next step is to start writing your first sentence.  You don’t need to spend every spare moment at the computer. A half hour a day will bring your story together. Pushing aside your desire to write will never fill your dream of having that special book published.

Publishing your work can happen if you persevere and keep your confidence. Famous writers had to start where you are now. In the beginning, don’t worry about making every sentence flow together or panic because they make no sense. There will be numerous times going back to recheck your grammar, punctuation, and spelling. You may find it necessary to reword sentences. Those corrections should be in the last stages.

A computer is a gift and a best friend to a writer. Its function keys allow you to cut, paste, copy, delete or add a page from the internet to your manuscript. Remember, most mistakes can be fixed.

One important fact that I suggest is to SAVE your material with each paragraph or page that you finish. If you take a break, if there’s a storm, SAVE your work on a CD before shutting everything down. You’d be surprised how many hours of work can be lost. If it’s gone, you will learn what frustration is all about when you try to remember what you finished writing; you know, those perfect thoughts! 

When done for the day, SAVE your work on a CD. Make it a habit that you write your fresh, new, daily entries at the start of each day in your manuscript in the computer and SAVE the day’s work on the CD. It is easy to get mixed up if you start one day writing on the CD and saving the work the computer and then the next day starting on the computer and saving on the CD because you will over-riding pages of entries with your finished work. I made this horrible mistake with my first book for months forgetting which location I started my writing last, where it was saved, and I had deleted important information. Remember, work on the computer, Save on the CD at the end of the dayMake this a routine practice. 

Keep a pencil and a pad of paper in the living room, kitchen, and bedroom. Some of the best material seems to come during the wee hours of the night or morning. Have one special location to store your notes. Type them daily into your document. It saves paperwork from piling up or your notes getting lost. 

© Alberta Sequeira

www.albertasequeira.org

Email: alberta.sequeira@gmail.com

Bio:

Alberta Sequeira is from North Dartmouth, Massachusetts and is a four-time award winning Author, speaker, and an Awareness Coach on Alcohol and Drug Abuse.

Her memoirs are:  A Spiritual Renewal: A Journey to Medugorje, Someone Stop This Merry-Go-RoundAn Alcoholic Family in Crisis, and its sequel Please, God, Not Two; This Killer Called Alcoholism, and her Narrative Non-Fiction book What is and isn’t Working for the Alcoholics and Addicts; In Their Own.

Ms. Sequeira is an educational instructor for three workshops: Bring Your Manuscript to PublicationHow to Self-Publish Your Own Book with Create Space and Writing Memoirs.  All three classes were made into handbooks.  

She is a co-founder to Authors Without Borders (www.awb6.com) and a director, producer and co-host to the NBTV-95 Cable Show out of New Bedford, MA.  

She is in the process of working on her first fictional story, The Rusty Years.