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6 Pros and Cons of Being a Writer

You might be asking what are the pros and cons of being a writer. Well, I could think of six answers. However, each answer has a good side as well as its downside.

1. Low overhead cost

Pro: Nowadays, you need a working computer and a reliable Internet connection to work as a writer. But long ago, William Shakespeare just used a quill and paper. That’s how low-cost writing as an occupation could be.

Con: A fabulous equipment like a computer, a printer, and a router may give you a little bit of a head start but it will not guarantee success in your writing business.

2. Anybody can write

Pro: Anybody can write, or could set himself up as a writer, no matter what your education or professional background is. Just look how many bloggers out there and check out their background. Some of them didn’t even finish college but can write well.

Con: Too many competition. You may have the award, the recognition from peers, etc. but the person beside you might also be another writer who is much better than you (and you don’t even know).

Anyone who says he wants to be a writer and isn’t writing, doesn’t.Ernest Hemingway

3. You can make money writing

Pro: I’ve mentioned in another blog, you can turn your writing into cash. Depending on what kind of writing you do, or whom you’re writing for, writing pays a lot. You can charge per word, per page, or per project, depending on what you’ve agreed upon with your client.

Con: Sadly, there’s no minimum wage for writers. Although there are some writers who earn a lot, some writers still struggle and receive low pay. That’s why many people still think that writing is not a real occupation or a good source of income.

RELATED ARTICLE: 7 Ways to Turn Your Writing Into Cash

4. Anybody can start at any time

Pro: The late Sidney Sheldon published his first novel past his age 50 although he had been a screenplay writer before that. Other writers started their writing career late, too. I am also a late bloomer, I started writing professionally in my 30’s.

Con: Distractions, discouragements, and chores may get in the way while you’re in the mood for writing. Well, all writers agree that the hardest part of writing is the beginning. Therefore, you could not just start writing any time.

5. You have the basic materials

Pro: Actually, you are the basic material. Your talent, knowledge, skills, and experiences can provide the basic materials you need for writing. Write first of what you know about.

Con: Sometimes, your material is not enough. You need to seek out and research more. Writing is hard work.

RELATED ARTICLE: Apps I Use in Freelance Writing (And They’re Free)

6. You write alone

Pro: Writing is a good career choice for introverts who are shy to interact with people but have something more to say to the world. Most writers are introvert, come to think of it. You can lock yourself inside your room and write.  (I love this part.)

Con: However, no man is an island. You need to socialize, interview, and network from time to time. In the end, you have to deal with editors and publishers, too.

So there you have it, six pros and cons of being a writer. Let me know your thoughts or if you have something to add on this one. And if you like to read more about freelance writing, productivity, or creative writing, please do subscribe to my quarterly newsletter and join the tribe.

Debunking Remote Work Myths & Misconceptions (Plus its Pros & Cons)

After almost 7 years, I left the BPO industry in 2012 to try my luck in remote work. Working from home at that time was starting to gain ground.

Who wouldn’t love to work from home? With the kind of traffic in Metro Manila, the long commute under the tropical weather is already a challenge. My commute from our house in Fairview to Cainta and back took 3 hours from my day. My commute to and from Makati took 4 hours. That was around 2006 to 2012. Imagine if I’m still working in Metro Manila today.

Good news: President Rodrigo Duterte signed into law the Telecommuting Act or Republic Act 1165 last 20 December 2018. This law provides private companies to allow their employees to work in an alternative place with the use of telecommunications and/or computer technologies. In short, working from home is now legally accepted as a work arrangement in the Philippines.

Other perks of working from home are having no specific dress code and having flexible working hours. As long as I have a working computer, a PayPal or bank account, and a good Internet connection, I’m fine.

If Those are the Pros, What are the Cons?

One of the main downsides of working from home is the interruption from family members, relatives, and friends. Because they know that I’m at home, they can call on me any time. The flexible schedule and the comfortable dress code are also partially to blame. People around me know that I’m working, but they can’t help to call me to eat, or to ask something, or any other trivial interruptions. But it’s fine with me because it gives a random change from the routine.

Having a specific work schedule and a home office space couldn’t solve the problem especially if the remote worker himself allows it.

Another disadvantage that I could think of is the way remote work is getting the bad reputation it doesn’t deserve. There are myths and misconceptions from people who had bad experiences with remote workers and from people who are weary to try.

Related Article: A Reality Check on Freelancing

Debunking the Myths & Misconceptions

“How do you know people aren’t slacking off?”

People got used to seeing people at their desk working. So for managers who don’t see much of the remote workers, they start to wonder. Trust issues start to set in. But if managers and remote workers know what they are responsible for and when the deadline is, and how to work accordingly, then slacking shouldn’t be an issue.

Installing a monitoring tool may solve the problem of slacking

When I started working from home in 2012, I was required to install in my computer a monitoring tool. Aside from recording how many hours I’ve worked in a day, it also takes a screenshot of my computer every 10 minutes.

But there is a monitoring tool that I’ve used that only detects keyboard and mouse activities. So when I work offline, like writing on a pad paper instead of typing, my “productivity rate” is reduced. It sounds unfair, right?

Also, other remote workers I’ve encountered think these monitoring tools are stressful. Aside from proving their presence online while working on creative tasks, it also breeds mistrust. That’s the reason why other remote workers prefer to choose home-based work that doesn’t include monitoring tools.

Working in the comfort of my home doesn’t mean I’m available 24/7

There are online jobs that require me to follow the client’s time zone. So if my client is from the U.S., I have to work at night following his office hours. But there were times that even if I already logged off, I would be receiving emails or calls while I’m asleep.

Also, other people don’t realize that not all emails or questions on chat are urgent. There is a big difference between what is critical (urgent), important, interruption, and trivial.

Remote work counters the work culture

Managers think that because remote workers are away from the office, they don’t know what’s happening in the office or can’t personally attend meetings.  But technology made it possible for remote work as it is today. Video conferencing bridges that gap and there are also collaborating tools that could be utilized yet still nurture a work culture.

I’ve experienced attending a Town Hall meeting where all of us, including the boss, were on Skype. I could see their faces, their work spaces, their kids, and other things about them.  It was a happy virtual hanging-out.

Also, you can create a chat group for “watercooler discussions” where you can joke around and be yourself with other members of the remote team.

I chose to work from the comfort of my home. I am not required to commute, hence I do not consume energy, deplete natural resources, pollute the environment, and create congestion in the city.anonymous

How to Make It Work

Remote work is a game-changer in labor and management. Although not all companies are open to the idea of having their employees work from home, this set-up could work on some industries.

It should start from the top

Upper management should start the initiative to set-up their own remote work program. They should be the first to set the objectives on why they should offer remote work to their employees before rolling it out to their middle management teams. Now that this is a law, private companies should be implementing their own policies by now.

Establish ground rules

Setting up a program like remote work requires having its own implementing rules and regulations. Everything from how things are done from recruitment to resignation should be laid out on paper. It’s much different from the traditional office work. I should know, I’ve written an employee’s handbook for a remote team once. It should include clear guidelines on communication — when and when not to use email, chat, or any other digital tools.

Use the right digital tools

There are many collaboration and communication tools available for remote work. Every company prefers one tool from the other. That’s why I’ve encountered and used many of them — Basecamp, Highrise, Trello, Asana, Time Doctor, Google Drive, Slack, HipChat, Skype, Zoom, etc.

With so many applications, one should realize the impact of time. If the issue is time-sensitive, then use chat or call. If it could wait for a day or two, use email or a collaborative tool.  Again, not everything online is urgent and important.

RELATED ARTICLE: The Top 52 Productivity Tools, Apps and Software Programs of 2019

Empathy

Since we don’t see each other face-to-face while sending emails or chatting, we express ourselves in emoticons or emojis. There were instances in my remote work life when chat conversations were misinterpreted. What seemed to be a constructive criticism was perceived by someone as an argument.

If ever this happens to you, it is better to do a one-on-call call via Skype and settle the differences before anything goes wrong. Remember that on the other end of the line is another human being with feelings.

Transparency

Being employed in the BPO industry taught me to practice transparency. Remote work requires transparency — lots of it. Unlike in the office where everything needs to be in black and white, remote work is paperless and digital. But with the right tools, remote work can be transparent and beneficial to both managers and remote workers.

Simply Embrace Remote Work

With the challenges of long commutes and work-related stress, labor is now slowly shifting to remote work. It is shaping the future of employment. Companies might want to look into the possibility of offering remote work to its employees.

Let me know your thoughts on remote work. And if you like to read more about freelance writing, productivity, or creative writing, please do subscribe to my quarterly newsletter and join the tribe.

Make The Time To Write

Writing is a juggling act. A writer juggles his job, family, friends, recreation, and writing. Some writers grow weary of the constant juggling act and give up writing. Others like me struggle to keep going.

How do you find time to write?” has been a common question to writers or among writers. The answer depends on each one of us. Some writers write during their free time while others have a fixed schedule. Some of the well-known authors started writing their novels while having a job of their own. Other famous writers had the luxury of spending their whole day writing.

If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. – Stephen King

For Stephen King, constant reading keeps the writing going. Even professional writers have their own ways of delaying their writing tasks. Arranging their bookshelves, doing some art & crafts, binge-watching are some of them. But in the end, once they find the impetus to write, they do write on their desk.

The secret is forcing yourself to write everyday, either measured by page count or by word count. The important thing is showing up on your desk and write. But when delays turn from a few minutes into a few weeks, or even months, that becomes a big problem.

One of the reasons why “writers” don’t write is they don’t love writing. They like referring themselves as “writers” but they hate the hard work that goes with it.

But there are other writers who would hit the typical writer’s block. They struggle daily on how to go through with it, and then have a breakthrough moment and leap back to work.

Like any other writer, I experience writer’s block. I spend my time on other activities other than writing. And when I realize that I have deadlines to beat, I decide to make things work in my favor. So I devise a plan: make a schedule and make it work.

Fifteen years ago, I was still single then and starting my career as a freelance writer. I wrote from 9 am to 6 pm and made a schedule that had become my daily routine. It made me more focused and productive.

But everything changed when I gave birth. Taking care of a baby became a handful that I don’t have the time to write. Then an employment in the corporate jungle came along. I wrote reports not novels for the next seven years. Until I decided to return to writing in 2012 and started working from home.

Finding time to write is forcing myself to write everyday. I have to write something be it a chapter of a novel or a blog. It’s like showing up for work on my desk.

Always remember that it’s how frequent you write each week and not how many hours a day you spend in writing. Spending three times a week, 2 hours per day writing is much better than writing 4 hours a day on Saturdays and Sundays. I guess, this has something to do with the momentum. Try not to lose the momentum when there’s a story running in your head.

There are 3 P’s we gain from this kind of scheduled writing:

Planning

This is the most difficult part of writing. This is the stage where you set up everything from settings to characters to plot. By having a consistent writing schedule, you have the time between writing sessions to think about what you’re going to write next.

Pressure

Having a consistent writing schedule puts a pressure on you not not to write. Even if you’re able to write a single paragraph, you’ll be back tomorrow to write again, no matter what. Compare it if you’re just going to write once or twice a week. That one paragraph will probably stay as one paragraph in the next two weeks because you stopped somehow. And that will get you in serious trouble.

Practice

They say that practice makes perfect. It’s the repetition that trains the mental muscles and extract creative juices. You will notice that your writing improves with time.

But since people are different, one method doesn’t fit all. There are two ways of making a writing schedule. Both are effective so you can choose which one works best for you.

Gridlock Method

This is a rigid schedule of writing that you must adhere religiously. Using a grid, fill in every hour that you have commitments or activities. Then look at the empty blocks and try filling the blocks where you are absolutely positive you can write. Be realistic and don’t overbook yourself. Three to five times a week for two hours a day is fine. If you can’t find reasonable number of hours for writing in a week, examine your priorities. Once you have workable schedule, stick to it. Let other members of the family know that you have to follow a schedule and you’re serious about it.

Spare Change Method

This involves establishing goals for each day and week. Your goal is not putting in a certain amount of time, rather, producing a specific number of pages each day or week. Decide if you are going to adhere to a daily or a weekly goal. Take a calendar and write down a daily goal or at the end of the week, write the page number you expect to achieve on that day. Don’t worry if you’re uncertain, or if it keeps on changing as you write. The point is to establish a goal and work towards it.

True, writing is a juggling act. But the main hurdle in becoming a successful writer is finishing a writing project — be it a novel or a short story. Making a schedule and finding time to write will help you do that.

Writing: What It Is and The Reasons Why

 

The dictionary defines writing as a way you use words to express your ideas or opinions on paper. It is the most popular and prevalent method of creating connections among people. It also serves as the flexible foundation for almost every type of communications media. Print, video, audio, speech, and interactive online media all begin with writing.

But why write in this age and time when everything is digital? The attention span of our younger generation becomes limited as the years go by. And there are many communication media attempting to grab their attention. So why write?

Benjamin Franklin might have influenced it when he said “If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are dead, either write something worth reading or do things worth writing.” Who doesn’t want to be remembered after death? It’s natural for us humans to make a mark on this world. Not for the sake of money, but for the sheer desire to make a name for ourselves. Call that egoism, if you like.

Writing has become a tool that can encourage, or make people move. In its altruistic sense, we write because we want to change the world or create a new fictitious universe. We try to find meaning in this world in the hope of understanding our existence and our purpose in life. But because writing is neutral, its purposes and results depend on the intentions of the writer and the audience.

I write for the same reason I breathe — because if I didn’t, I would die.Isaac Asimov

Generally, people see writing as a hobby. But some writers claim it as their profession. Others see writing as a form of therapy. Whatever reasons each writer has, the main purposes of writing are to inform, to entertain, and to motivate.

It connects people across time, space and culture. It keeps records of past events, form opinions, and shape the future. This makes us learn from yesterday, gain knowledge about today, and design for tomorrow.

How about you, what is your main reason to write?

Freelancing: A Reality Check

People say that freelancing and working at home is the perfect set-up because you earn an income without experiencing traffic and restrictive dress code.

Yeah, right. That’s what I’ve thought of before I went freelance. So I set up my home office and got to be with my daughter, one of the reasons why I left a stable job where I got paid well but had not much time to see her grow up.

However, working at home has its own pitfalls. I repeat: working at home has its own pitfalls.

If you knew what it was really like, you may actually feel lucky to follow a Bundy clock. And don’t feel too guilty for being a working mom which makes you think that you’ll be a better parent just because you’re at home.

Read this first for a good reality check just so you won’t quit your job without knowing what you’re getting into — or feel bad that you can’t.

If You Think You’ll Be Able to Escape Office Politics, You’re Wrong

Most people shift to freelancing to escape office politics. What they don’t know is all work involves politics and freelancers must play the game much better than anyone else. With so many freelancing job sites and freelancers online, the more you have to convince clients to hire you rather than your competitor.

It’s more than just being sociable. Freelancers don’t just expand their network, they nurture the relationships.

Imagine if a disgruntled client spread the word that you’re difficult to work with, people will know you, yes, but they will not call you. That’s the power of social networking you must not underestimate.

And remember this, the Labor Code provides regular employees security of tenure. They can’t be fired from their job just because the boss doesn’t like them. Clients, on the other hand, can fire you at an instant or will just stop taking your calls without telling you why.

RELATED ARTICLE: Debunking Remote Work Myths & Misconceptions (Plus its Pros & Cons)

Meet Your New Boss

Everyone has experienced a crazy boss who sets impossible deadlines and expects you to meet them whatever the cost. Most of us have been sick and tired of working overtime and spending vacations where the cell phone never stops ringing.

Working from home won’t change that. Theoretically, you can watch DVDs, HBO reruns, Netflix, or YouTube videos all day long but at the end of the day, you’ll realize that you won’t be able to afford to pay the electric bill and internet subscriptions. Slack off and you lose projects, especially there are hundreds of hungry freelancers who can do your job twice as cheap, twice as fast.

You cannot afford to make mistakes, either. If you’re a regular employee you can mess up and won’t pay for it — the company does. But for freelancers, standards are much higher. You’re only as good as your last project, and no tantrums of a tyrannical boss can match the silent threat of a pile of unpaid bills.

So, even if you’re self-employed, you’re not the real boss. Its name is Necessity and it comes in different forms.

What Work-Life Balance Are You Talking About?

The good news in working from home: you’ll always be with your kids. The bad news: you’ll always be with your kids. Do I need to repeat that?

In a regular job, you can focus on your deadlines, leave the office with a free conscience then shift into Mommy mode when you get home.

However, when freelancing or working from home, there’s a blurry line that separates office work from household chores. I still do some errands, cook food, clean the house, wash the dishes, etc. and although I spent the whole day with my daughter, I fail to check on her homework or school project sometimes. So where’s the balance?

RELATED ARTICLE: Stop Attracting Bad Clients

Bringing the Office Structure Home

So to make my home office work, I actually had to mimic the corporate set-up. I have a desk complete with a computer and printer, a good internet connection, and set specific blocks of time for myself and my family.

The ‘flexi-time’ lay in synchronizing my schedule with my family’s. I usually start at 6 am after my daughter leaves for school (or 9 pm if I have to follow US time zones) and ends at 6 pm or 7 pm, with chores spread in between and set specific goals like “finish 50% of the daily task by 12 noon.”

Which Part of ‘Stressed’ Don’t They Understand?

However, a home office space can’t hold back relatives, friends, or house help who don’t seriously believe that you’re working. There would be times that someone would come in to interrupt you. Just let everyone in your home know and should respect your home office set up. This goes beyond the ‘do not disturb’ sign. Ask them to answer and screen calls for you. if you will.

You might have been chuckling while reading this. Probably you could relate or you know someone who had this kind of experience. So before making a leap of faith into freelancing, better think twice.

RELATED ARTICLE: How the Internet Made My Freelance Writing Career

Let me know if you’re already decided to start freelancing or working from home or tell me what you think of this article. Let me know, too, if I have missed anything. I’d appreciate your feedback. And if you like to read more about freelancing, working from home, productivity, or creative writing, please do subscribe to my quarterly newsletter and join the tribe.

6 Reasons Why You Should Have a Website

One of the characteristics of being a freelance writer is the freedom to write for anyone. Having one’s byline on different websites fills your heart with a sense of accomplishment. However, when it comes to getting new clients, this method spreads your brand thin. They see you all over the place without a permanent identity.

At this age and time, when Google is not just a noun but also a verb, it pays to have a website. Yes, even freelance writers and independent authors need an online presence.

Here are the reasons why:

1. A website makes you look professional and stand out.

A freelance writer or an independent author should be like an entrepreneur (and I always call it “author-preneur”). Having a website is like opening your business’ front door. Freelance writers may not have a physical office building but a web page serves as a writer’s virtual office space.

Let’s face it, you cannot expect everybody to take your freelance writing business seriously if you don’t have an office or a website.

Another issue about having a website is the domain name. Although any freelance writer or author could set up a website for free, the domain name will be like yourname.website.com. Not only is it long, it also gives an impression that you have not invested enough on your brand.

If you want your website to be more professional, invest on a domain name like yourname.com. (or .net, .org, .co, etc.) Paying for a domain name lasts for a year or even more and make sure you pay the dues annually so others may not get it once it becomes available in the domain name market.

And since your name becomes the domain name of your website, somehow it automatically becomes the brand. It now gives you and your freelance writing business a face, something that will differentiate you from the others.

2. It also serves as a portfolio.

Having a website is a perfect opportunity to showcase your body of work. It represents you and your work. With a well-written About page, readers will get to know you better.

Also, blogs integrated into a website can serve as writing samples. So there’s no need for you to provide written samples when clients request for it. Encourage web traffic by having them visit your website instead.

Also, remember that a blog is different from a website. Blogs cannot stand as a website. Blogs are dynamic and keep on changing once updated. There are clients who want to see a static page that sums up your works. They don’t have time to read your blogs one by one just to know you.

3. Your online presence serves as your marketing tool.

Even established authors need to market their own books. They don’t rely on their publishers to do the marketing. So they use their website as a marketing tool to reach a wide-range of audience. Also, people tend to remember the title and the author but not the publisher, so the tendency is to Google the title or the author. How could a prospective reader find you if you don’t have a website?

Websites allow you to sell your books, give it away for free, or announce a promotion. With different e-commerce features, having these can be programmed into your website. Or you could just link them back to another website like Amazon if you don’t know how to set-up a web store .

Create a website that expresses something about who you are that won’t fit into the template available to you on a social networking site.Jaron Lanier

4. A website serves as your permanent place where people can find you online.

Consider your website as your home where you can entertain your visitors and readers. It is also a good way for potential readers and agents to find you. You can turn a casual web visitor to a loyal fan with your website. Write blog posts that attract readers like reviews, interesting facts about your books, etc. Don’t rely on the power of social media. Yes, social media are also good platforms, but you have no control over the social networking site. So it is better to gain social media following through your blogs and website.

5. A website shows your personality.

A downside of having your own website is having the time to maintain it like adding a new blog, updating the calendar, etc. Don’t leave your website unattended. Update it regularly.

If you don’t invest time and effort in building your online presence, how do you expect your clients to value your work as a writer? How can you demand a high rate for writing when they don’t see you practice what you do? Having a decent online presence and a decent following may get you better rates for your work.

6. Websites are easy to set up these days.

Basically, a writer’s web page has three important elements: About, Contact, and the blog. You can easily set up one with WordPress, a blog site that I stumbled upon back in 2012. With so many themes to choose from, designing one comes easy. I set up this site in a day or two (choosing the theme, customizing it, adding the necessary plug-ins, constructing the menu, etc.).

As I’ve mentioned before, investing on a website will pay off. Let your social networking accounts boost your online presence, and your potential readers and clients will find you settled and ready. But before I go, I would like to thank 3w Corner for hosting this site.

For those here in the Philippines, go and check out Technomancer, a web design and development company that also hosts and provides customized business solutions, and IT business process outsourcing for small and medium enterprises.

Let me know what you think about this article or if I missed anything here. I’d appreciate your feedback. And if you are interested in freelancing, productivity, work from home, and creative writing, please do subscribe to my quarterly newsletter and join the tribe.

How Much is Fair in Fair Use?

Before I get into my topic on fair use and copyright, let me tell you a story.

Just before my second trimester in a school I was in, a department head told me that I’ll be teaching a new subject. I thought I heard him right so I said, “Oh, copy writing. Okay, I’m in.” Weeks later, I realized that the new subject I was about to teach was “Copyright Laws“.

Anyway, I taught Copyright Laws and Multimedia Arts Ethics for a trimester and it was a good learning experience for both me and my students. We tackled fair use which is today’s topic.

It is okay to quote a few lines from a novel just as long as you are within the context of fair use. But before we discuss fair use, let’s start with the basics of copyright.

THE BASICS

Copyright laws were created to promote the progress of arts and sciences. These laws protect the original works of inventors, authors, artists, and other “creatives”. These also covers the exclusive rights to copy, to adapt, to display or perform, and to control the first sale of their works to the public.

Once a person fixes an original expression of an idea in a tangible form, that person can claim copyright in the work but with certain limitations.

SO, WHAT ARE THE LIMITATIONS?

Copyright only protects the form of expression but not the ideas. Therefore, an idea like a love story of a cat and a dog may have different forms of expression. One author may express it in a short story. Another creative may express it in a song. And another artist may express it in a comic book. So you cannot just say, “Hey, someone stole my idea!” unless you have put that idea on a tangible format.

The copyright owner controls public but not private displays or performances. Therefore, anything you use at a personal level like singing in the bathroom, or sharing a book to your child does not constitute copyright infringement. But if you perform or display it publicly for financial income purposes, then you have to ask permission to use the copyrighted material first.

This is where the YouTube reaction videos get strikes due to copyright infringement. As you all know, anyone with a YouTube account can earn as soon as you hit more than ten thousand subscribers. A person can earn money from YouTube depending on the number of subscribers, clicked ads, etc. And most YouTube accounts I see online bask in the popularity of reaction videos — reacting to TV shows or performances — without realizing that they’re violating a few principles of fair use and copyright.

The copyright owner controls the first sale but not the subsequent sales of each copy of the work. Writers need to understand this part. Selling your work to a publisher already gives that publisher the right to sell and gain income from the sale of your work. Unless specified in the sales contract, you may or may not receive anything else.

Copyright usually lasts for 50 years, and once the 50 years has lapsed, the work becomes a public domain. But not all works past the 50 years mark are public domain. Heirs of authors or other creatives might have taken over the copyright of the author’s works. So check it out first.

The copyright owner’s rights are limited by the “fair use” doctrine.

WHAT IS FAIR USE?

The fair use of copyrighted works includes reproduction in copies, mostly in part, for purposes of criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, or research, and is not an infringement of copyright.

Reaction videos on YouTube are usually covered under this fair use doctrine, although this situation is tricky as I’ve mentioned earlier because part of reaction videos is displaying a copyrighted material for financial income.

Fair use is always going to be a gray area, and it should be. We need to allow for things we can’t see yet.Robin Gross

FACTORS TO BE CONSIDERED IN FAIR USE

  • Purpose and character. If the purpose of copying the work in part is for non-commercial research, for educational purposes, for critique, and for news reporting, then the act is considered fair use. Most reaction videos on YouTube will cite this as fair use.
  • Nature of the copyrighted work. Non-fiction works like science and history may receive less protection than fictional works because facts need not be copyrighted. For fiction, quoting for the purpose of book review is generally fair provided the amount taken is reasonable.
  • The amount and substance of the portion used in relation to the work as a whole. Take into consideration the quality and the quantity of the words taken from the work. If the “heart” or the main essence of the work or its full context was taken, this is not fair use even if the number of words copied are few.
  • The effect on the market. The degree of fair use now depends on the impact of the new use on the original work. If the use is minimal and for a valid purpose, then the author of the original work may consider it fair. But with today’s social media, it’s easy to know the impact. People who are active on the Internet can easily tag a work as “plagiarized” if they know something about the original work.

It’s easy to say that your work is “inspired from” another. But it’s difficult if you’re accused of plagiarism.

PUTTING FAIR USE TO WORK

  • Always remember that ideas, themes, and facts are not copyrighted. However, events in a fictional work should not be taken as facts.
  • And if getting a permission to quote is something practical on your part, better get it from the author.
  • Play safe by quoting as little as possible. It is safe to quote up to 10 percent of the work or less.
  • Do not quote or use the “heart” of the original work or its full context.
  • Refrain from substituting the original words and pass it as something new. Be careful in re-wording or paraphrasing texts from your research. Always check your work with a plagiarism checker after writing and before submission.
  • As much as possible, keep the borrowed portion insignificant or undetectable.

THE POOR MAN’S COPYRIGHT

This is a simple procedure to prove that you own a piece of original work. All you have to do is mail your manuscript to yourself. The date and time stamp on when it was sent and received serves as the copyright date. However, this process may not be accepted in other countries. I suggest that you file your copyright to proper government agencies in your area.

SONGS ARE TRICKY

Unlike novels, quoting a line of a song can be tricky especially if you want to use it in your novel. To be on the safe side, ask around or consult a lawyer who specializes in intellectual property or copyright laws. If you can’t afford to pay for the rights, your next best bet is to compose a song.

Banned Books and Martial Law

Banned Books & Martial Law

This year, the world celebrates Banned Books Week from 22 to 28 September. It is an annual event every last week of September that celebrates the freedom to read. It brings the whole book community, librarians, booksellers, publishers, teachers, writers, and readers together in shared support of this freedom.

Banned Books

There are books that are unorthodox, controversial, or even ahead of its time. History has shown us how books have influenced leaders and intellectuals. Every era in history and every government have its own set of banned books that some are even relevant or still banned today. Reviewing the course of history, banned books follow the pattern of censorship. And if we look deeper, it stems from fear — fear of educating and empowering the readers to choose or decide.

Martial Law

It was also in September 1972 that Martial Law was declared in the Philippines. That era was marked with censorship, accusations of subversion, curfew, military discipline, and unexplained disappearances.

I’ve heard of these banned books while I was growing up. In fact, they said once caught with these banned reading materials was tantamount to being accused of subversion.

Until now, there is an increase in book censorship complaints around the world. The complaints range from the books’ controversial moral views to the book’s portrayal of sex.

Recent Book Ban

Recently, a school in the United States has banned the Harry Potter books because the magic spells written on the book are true and can summon evil spirits.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was published in 1999 and since then the book series has gained popularity among young and old readers alike. It became a best-selling children’s literature. The series also became a successful movie franchise and has a Broadway play spin-off.

I like the Harry Potter books, I owned five of them. But why ban them only now? Sure, there were those who challenged the book series back in the late ’90s and early 2000’s because of its wizardry or witchcraft. But banning them then only fired up the curiosity and publicity of the series.

Banned Books I’ve Read

I myself have read some of the known banned books. Most of them were banned during their heydays and are now accepted and circulating. Here is a list of banned books I’ve read:

Jose Rizal’s Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo

Jose Rizal was 29 when he published Noli Me Tangere, a novel written in Spanish that depicts the social life of Filipinos during that time. El Filibusterismo, a much darker novel, is more aggressive it its depiction of the call for change.

Both novels have symbolized the oppression, the double standards of society, the inequalities, and the desire for changes. These books were banned by the Spanish authorities including the Catholic church because it was, for them, were blasphemous and seditious.

Nowadays, these books are read in high school as part of the curriculum. Once you read and analyze the books, it still show the symbolism Rizal used in portraying the cancer of our society which is still prevalent today.

Celso Al. Carunungan’s Satanas sa Lupa (“Satan on Earth”)

The book has a subtitle, “Nobelang Pangkasalukuyan” (“A Present-day Novel”) and was published in 1970. Written in Filipino, the story depicts the character change of a good citizen turned corrupt congressman and his family’s lives.

This novel was banned because it portrayed a First Lady who desired to run for Vice-President. In the early ’70s, it was rumored that Imelda Marcos plans to run as Vice-President of the Philippines. When Martial Law was declared, Carunungan was one of those writers arrested, detained, and accused of subversion.

After the 1986 EDSA Revolution, the remaining copies of the book were released to the market. I was able to get hold of one because it became a required reading in our Philippine Literature class. Then someone borrowed it and never returned.

Lualhati Bautista’s Dekada ’70

A short novel if you’re going to base it from its size but it is a good story of a family in the midst of the Martial Law era. Fictional but it portrays the need for social equality and justice. A movie version came in the 2000s but I prefer the book to understand why it was banned.

Aside from Dekada ’70, Bautista also wrote Gapo and Bata, Bata, Paano Ka Ginawa? These three books were challenged to be banned from the public but were critically-acclaimed for its writing.

I knew I have these three books with me somewhere in my bookshelves.

Carmen Navarro Pedrosa’s The Untold Story of Imelda Marcos

Published in 1969, it was subsequently banned during Martial Law for obvious reasons. The ban was an outright censorship because no one would like to be exposed of his/her dark secrets.

I’ve read this book during the ’90s when I had the chance to borrow a copy from someone who was pro-Imelda Marcos.

David A. Yallop’s In God’s Name: An Investigation into the Murder of Pope John Paul I

If my memory serves me right, this book was banned by the Catholic Church here in the Philippines. Published in 1984, it is about the death of Pope John Paul I which details death by poison, some involvement of an Italian mafia, and Opus Dei.

But a few months after the death of Jaime Cardinal Sin, the Archbishop of Manila, I saw a copy of this book, at the bottom-most shelf, in a well-known bookstore in Makati. I bought the book because I knew it was a rare find. Unfortunately, the book was borrowed and never returned.

Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code

Published in 2003, this book was banned in some countries after Catholic leaders considered it offensive or blasphemous. Other scholars have written books that refute some of the claims mentioned in the book, although the book is just a work of fiction.

Nikos Kazantzakis’ “The Last Temptation of Christ”

I was a student at the University of Santo Tomas when I heard that the film was banned by the Catholic Church in 1988. The film was based on the book of the same title first published in 1955. I may not be able to read the novel but I have a copy of the film.

It was banned because of its portrayal of Jesus Christ — being married to Mary Magdalene, then to Mary, sister of Lazarus, and having children with the latter — which the church considered blasphemous.

Arthur Schnitzler’s Dance of Love

This is the original translation of the German play which was banned in the United States for 50 years. The play portrays the psychology of sex and depicts different relationships — which begins with the prostitute and the soldier and ends with the count and the prostitute.

D. H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover

The book was published in 1928 and was banned for its obscenity. It was written in the late ’20s when depicting sex on books was still a taboo. Considered a literary classic for its poetic depiction of eroticism.

George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four

Published in 1949 but banned in the Soviet Union in 1950 because Stalin thought that the satire was based on his leadership. The concept of Big Brother and government control is somehow relevant these days that this book is worth reading again.

As a writer, the right to read also encompasses the right to choose. Having books that were banned or challenged doesn’t mean you’re a subversive or a filibuster. Reading books that bring out suppressed issues open the public’s minds. Let not censorship keep us in the dark.

earn by writing

7 Ways to Turn Your Writing Into Cash

Want to earn cash just writing?

Yes, you can earn cash from an old poem in your notebook. You can be paid by posting a comment on social media. Instead of writing fanfiction on some fanfic site, why not turn your writing to earn cash?

Many of us love writing but can’t imagine turning this talent into a source of additional income, or worse, are afraid to try.

Thanks to the Internet, writing as a job has become much easier. Here are just some of the ways other writers like me earn cash.

BY BLOGGING

hands typing on a laptop

Some blogs earn revenue through advertisements. There are many companies that shell out money for pay-per-click (PPC) advertisements out there because they want their ads to be seen. If your blog caters or is related to their market, search engines may decide to place the ads in your blog. You’ll earn from the clicks of web visitors or from the number of impressions the ad made on your blog site.

Another way blogging can earn income is through affiliate marketing. Some websites offer affiliate marketing links when you subscribe to them. Just place those links strategically in one of your blogs and allow your readers to click on the link. If they purchase the product using the link you provided, you’ll get a percentage of income depending on the website’s terms and conditions for affiliates.

Another way I earned cash by writing was providing a link back to someone’s website. Recently, a reputable website asked me to add their link to my blog article for a fee.

However, for a blog to become a good source of income, you have to establish yourself as a blogger. Write regularly and be noticed. Who knows? Your blog site or brand can get lucky that you’ll stick to blogging as a career.

BY WRITING AS A LAY JOURNALIST

Some online newspapers and magazines rely on contributors to fill their pages. Research what kind of news and features they are interested in and pitch your idea to the editor. If you’re lucky, they’ll ask you to write for a regular column.

Sometime in 2003, I wrote to the editor-in-chief of a new tabloid newspaper and pitched my idea. After a week, my idea became my daily column which ran for a year until I gave birth to my daughter.

Not everyone can make a first-rate living as a writer, but a writer who is serious and responsible about his work, and life, will probably find a way to earn a decent living, if he or she writes well.Bernard Malamud

BY FREELANCING

There are many freelancing sites online like UpWork (the merged oDesk and Elance), OnlineJobs PH, Outsourcely, etc. Their sites have more than thousands of writing jobs available ranging from creative writing to academic writing, from copywriting to social media posting, from ghostwriting to SEO, etc. Just select which writing jobs suit you best and apply. my remote work office

Recently, I received an email from Rhick Ano and he proposed another freelancing site called Airtasker. It is an Australian-based site with a wide selection of freelance jobs: from simple to complicated tasks —home cleaning, handyman jobs, admin work, photography, graphic design or even web development. I haven’t tried this yet but their site seems reputable and sound.

There are many online job sites that you can choose from. I’m already subscribed to many of those. Just remember, when applying or bidding for a writing job, use the law of averages: the more you apply, the more likely you’ll be interviewed sooner and get the job. Also, be realistic with your bids with regards to the number of hours you’ll commit and deadline.

Since I started freelancing in 2012, I got more freelancing jobs via the defunct oDesk. However, the highest paying writing jobs I got came from PeoplePerHour and OnlineJobs PH. I don’t use these online job platforms that much today because I’m gaining traction from this website. For the past few months, the jobs I get are from referrals and email inquiries.

BY SELF-PUBLISHING

With the advent of print on demand publications and e-book distribution sites, self-publishing is now easy.

I never thought that publishing my novel in Free-eBooks.net would get a foreign publisher interested in translating it. I will be earning from the translation rights plus royalties IF it pushed through.

There are other online e-book publishing sites that I’ve tried and one of them is Dreame.com. Early last year, they offered me both exclusive and non-exclusive contracts for my novels.

You can even convert your blogs into e-books and earn from self-publishing them. And I’m planning to do this soon.

Buy my e-book on Amazon

BY JOINING CONTESTS

Winning in writing contests could produce two things: a cash prize and bragging rights. Be alert on available contests that you could possibly join. Look into websites like Writer’s Digest, Poets & Writers, and others for contests they organize or sponsor. Just follow their rules and submission guidelines to the letter.

The screenplay writing contest I joined in 1999 launched my writing career in 2000. And in 2013, I entered my first English e-book in a contest. I may  not have won, but I got good praise from one of the judges.

BY ANSWERING SURVEYS

Philip Horton from OnlineMoneyPage pointed out to me that there’s another way to earn from writing: answering online surveys. Market research has evolved to include online surveys into their methods.

Maybe, the days of the focus group discussions — where marketing companies pay those who attend by trying out their products and commenting on it — are already numbered.

Online surveys will only take a few minutes of your time and you’ll earn a few dollars from it. That is, if you like answering online surveys most of the time.

I have answered a few surveys myself but I haven’t experienced being paid for doing so.

If you’re interested in answering surveys and other ways to earn cash, visit OnlineMoneyPage and Philip will help you.

BY WRITING A REVIEW

Writing a product or book review can be fun. Not only will you enjoy the product or reading the book, you get the chance to earn from it.

I got to know a few sites that offer monetary tokens in exchange for a product review. I’ve written a few last year.

Also, I’ve been invited by publishers to review a few of their books. The book itself was the actual payment but there are sites that pay once you’ve reached a status. If you would like me to do a book review, just shoot an email through my Contact page.

Although recently, paid reviews are getting a bad reputation. So be careful in selecting review sites to write for.

I myself write my own reviews on books, films, etc. Visit my other blog named Star Stack to view my reviews.

Visit Star Stack

Here you have seven ways of earning cash by simply writing.This requires patience and hard work. You cannot just sit back and relax; opportunities do not come that way. Be willing to put your time and effort in getting your byline out there. Once submitted and while waiting for the paycheck to come, write and earn cash again.

Let me know what you think about this blog or if I missed anything. I’d appreciate your feedback. If you’re interested to get more information about freelancing, productivity, work from home, and creative writing, please do subscribe to my quarterly newsletter.

 

bullet journal

Different Journal Writing Methods I Use

I’m not going to differentiate a journal from a diary here . For me, they are the same. It is not that I ignore their difference, it is just that I embrace their similarities and meld them into what I do most: writing.

In this blog, I’m sharing with you my own journal writing experience and methods that you can get inspiration from. 

My Journal Writing Journey 

Circa 1980. Writing on a diary fascinated me in grade school that I literally made one for myself. I used the “Dear Diary” format and started to write how my day was back then. By the middle of February, I stopped writing because I felt bored of writing the same daily routine. Events in our family were too few spread over a year. Since then, I don’t write diaries. So if you’re one of those who can’t continue a year-long journal writing, you’re not alone. I’ve been there, too.

But I had another notebook that contained jokes I copied from Reader’s Digest and other sources. That was the beginning of my “collections” (This term is also mentioned in the Bullet Journal which I’ll tell later). In high school, I had separate notebooks for song lyrics and quotable quotes.

Circa 1987. I started using a small diary, so small that it can fit into my pocket. In there, I wrote down my assignments, scheduled tests, tasks, and events. This became my re-introduction to diaries.  

journal filler with tabs
journal fillers with tabs which I still have

As the years passed, I was already working then, the small diary became bigger and transformed into a journal and organizer. It came to a point that I bought a small binder and customized the fillers and tabs to satisfy my needs. 

And when I became a writer, aside from the journal-organizer, I have separate notebooks for writing ideas, a personal diary, and a clearbook where I keep my goals, calendars, etc. My practice of journal writing continued.

“I always say, keep a diary and someday it will keep you.” — Mae West

The Bullet Journal

Fast forward to circa 2013-2015. I can’t really pinpoint the month and year but I am definitely sure it was during the early months or years of the Bullet Journal . It was from Tim Ferris’ newsletter that I got this information. I watched the introductory video and I liked how the Bullet Journal method works.

In fact, I used the Bullet Journal’s tagline “The Analog Method for the Digital Age” as my title the first time I created one for myself. However, as other creatives do, I made some iterations to suit my methods and style.

current Bullet Journal
a blank page from my current Bullet Journal

I use a small square to indicate a task (the BuJo, as the Bullet Journal’s nickname, uses a dot instead), a circle for an event, a hyphen for notes, a greater than mark (>) for sub-item, and a few other symbols more. I ditched the index because I felt that I don’t need it.

At one time, I even applied the Kanban method in one of the pages of my Bullet Journal. Imagine a Bullet Journal with a Trello board. Those neon sticky notes and colored ballpens nailed it.

Bullet Journal prototype
my Bullet Journal prototype

Fast forward to 2019. As I was watching YouTube videos, I stumbled upon vloggers who showcase their own Bullet Journal. Most of them went way too far from the original concept because of the creative liberties they’ve incorporated. It became more of showcasing their calligraphy skills rather than the Bullet Journal itself. A few offer ideas on how to track habits and writing projects which I find useful since I’m a writer who has issues on staying on track.

However, as I am thinking of how the Bullet Journal will work for me this time, I created one from scratch. I folded a few letter-size bond papers, bound them with a thread using the Kettle Stitch method, used an old Kraft folder as cover, and wrote using colored ballpens and pencil. I called it a prototype because I’m willing to do lots of iterations as I go along.

clearbook
my clearbook journal and organizer

I spent some time on Canva and MS Publisher designing specific pages for my Bullet Journal. The one I designed on Canva measures half a letter-size bond paper which I intend to use as a hand-carry journal once printed and bound. The one I designed on MS Publisher measures letter size which I intend to use on my clearbook. The clearbook journal stays on my desk as it is a combination of a journal and a personal life workbook and organizer.

Aside from that, I still have separate notebooks for writing ideas, book project plans, notes from all over (readings, blogs, webinars, lectures, etc.), and my daily pages. Once I have a book project ongoing, I have another separate notebook for that particular novel where I write my thoughts, outlines, and draft.

Why Analog?

But why do I still keep a notebook when everything now is digital?

I have an Evernote app on my computer but not on my cellphone. Although I have “notebooks” and “notes” on Evernote, I seldom open it unlike my Bullet Journal.

journal writing on Evernote
a page from my Evernote

I also have the classic version of Penzu, an online diary, where I also write down my thoughts and drafts whenever I feel like typing rather than writing by hand.

But there is something in writing by hand that I don’t get with typing on a computer or typing with my fingers on a touchscreen phone. One of them is tapping the subconscious.

Whenever I do free writing, I’ve noticed that either I made a misspelling when I thought I did not. Or I have written something out of the blue or something off-track. I might have transported myself into the zone. These incidences are proof that I touched the subconscious and allowed it to kick in.

Why Write on a Journal?

There are reasons why I prefer writing on a journal or diary. Below are three reasons that I could think of:

Penzu classic
my classic Penzu online diary

Catharsis

For one, writing my thoughts and emotions on paper is cathartic in itself. There are things that I can’t express with words that I’d rather write on paper. It’s more private and I’d better keep it that way.

Declutter

Writing on my journal also serves as my way of decluttering my mind. Listing down reminders and things to do clears my mind. Although it may seem to be overwhelming after looking at the long list of brain dump, the process helps me to see the bigger picture and sort out these things in order of priority.

Mental Gymnastics

Also, I consider my journal writing as my mental and word exercise. As a writer, I need to polish my grammar and vocabulary as well as my writing style and tone. And the only way I could do this is through my journal.

Exercise on Mindfulness

Journal writing also helps me to be mindful of what I’m doing in the “here and now”. And while I put my goals and future plans on my journal, it is still the “here and now” what matters most. This way, I am mindful to do things that are aligned to my goals and future plans. 

Methods of Journal Writing

Back in the ’90s, I got hold of an old book entitled, “The New Diary: How to Use a Journal for Self-Guidance and Expanded Creativity” by Tristine Rainer. Its foreword was written by the famous diarist Anaïs Nin. This book provided me insights on how to use a journal. At this point, I started to remove the difference between a diary and journal and instead, use the term interchangeably as if they’re one and the same. 

The book shows different methods to use in journal writing and I’m here to share with you what I remembered. But before I do, let me mention one rule: Write fast, write everything, accept whatever comes.

Cathartic Writing

This aims for emotional release. Those pent up anger, fears, and guilt can be diminished once written down on paper. My journals are private and rarely do other people read my entries. And if ever they do, they have a hard time deciphering my cursive handwriting. Therefore, I can write cuss words instead of hiding them through symbols and characters (you know, those f*#$@%!).

Stream of Consciousness

I always mention the term “freewrite”. This is what stream of consciousness writing means. I may do any of these two:

The first is what I call, “timed freewrite”. I set a timer for 15 to 30 minutes and begin writing whatever comes into my mind, literally. So when I get distracted, I’ll write “I got distracted by…” and continue writing until the time is up. 

The second one is what I call “prompted freewrite”. I use this method whenever I don’t know how to start or what to write about. I rely on a writing prompt to push me into writing. One of the easiest writing prompt that I use is, “Right now, I’m doing…” and I just have to continue the sentence. If the “timed freewrite’s” limit is 30 minutes, I give myself one to three pages on this freewrite.

Descriptive Writing

Describing the situations, the people, the places, and the circumstances in our lives are what journals are mostly about. 

Show and tell. That’s what writers do with their writing. This method exercises the way I describe everything. It allows me to be observant of the things most people take for granted or ignore.

Reflective Writing

Journal writing is also a way of thinking about my own life in a mature, open way. It is a way of taking stock, a way of introspection, evaluation, and deep thinking. This method makes journal writing serious yet an eye-opener. 

I have a page that focuses on my own SWOT analysis. SWOT stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Every year, I evaluate myself using the SWOT method.

Dialogues

Writing in dialogues can be cathartic. But what makes it different from cathartic writing is that you focus on the verbal exchange between me and someone or something. It’s like arguing with someone about an issue but in writing. Also, it is an exercise of writing dialogues for stories. 

Lists

The Bullet Journal encourages rapid logging. This is the easiest way of writing on a journal. Listing down my thoughts, my needs, my tasks, and other worries of daily living helps in decluttering the mind and organizing my life. 

Portraits

As the name implies, portraits can be a drawing of or descriptive text about a person, place, or event. This is much intimate than the usual descriptive writing because the subject is up close and personal. 

You don’t need to be artistic to create portraits on your journal. I usually doodle and make my drawings small, and use colored ballpens so I allow myself to make mistakes and not feel guilty or critical about it.

The Unsent Letter

Aside from writing in the “Dear Diary” format, sending an unsent letter to someone — whether living or dead, or whether fictional or factual — helps sort out the emotions and thoughts I have. It is writing a long letter intended to that person if ever I’ll send one. 

Maps of Consciousness

Considered as the drawing equivalent of stream of consciousness writing, this method is good for brainstorming and dream interpretation. Mapping out thoughts in circles connected with lines also help in decluttering my mind.

map of consciousness
dream interpretation using the map of consciousness method

Altered Point of View

This method is another way of writing down thoughts on paper. Instead of using the pronoun “I”, I write on the third person by using “she” and “her”. This way, my mind will not censor itself especially when the writing is striking close to home and my inner critic starts to edit some things out.

Guided Imagery

This method is basically writing out a daydream. Yes, writing down my daydreams is a better way to preserve the memory. Years from now, I could be laughing about what these daydreams were.

Or better yet, this is a good practice to apply the principles of Law of Attraction by writing down the things I imagine what I want to be.

I hope that by reading this, you’ll get inspired to start (or continue) your own journal (or diary) writing and make it a daily habit. Write on!

Let me know what you think about this blog, or if I missed anything. I’d appreciate your feedback. If you’re interested for more information on creative writing, creativity, productivity, freelancing, and remote work, subscribe to my quarterly newsletter. I’ll be happy to have you around.

Idea Is Not Just a 4-Letter Word

Have you ever thought how authors come up with their ideas for their novels?

You may have browsed writing books and magazines and have been told that an idea comes from an endless list of sources. But how do authors come up with a novel from an idea?

In this article, let us see how it works by spelling idea itself.

I – IOTA OF TRUTH

Always remember, for every idea, absurd or otherwise, there is an iota of truth behind it.

Take for example the idea of Superman. Clark Kent may be an alien who grew up on Earth, but there is a scientific truth behind clairvoyance, intuition, and other extrasensory human powers that were magnified in the Superman story.

They say that truth is relative, so what may be truth for you may not be an acceptable truth to others. Do not fret. You do not need to please everybody with your writing. Just believe that your idea has somehow an iota of truth in it.

So have that idea ready and let’s move on to…

D – DEVELOPMENT

Of course, we have entertained so many ideas in mind that we do not know which to choose. They say that there are only eight stories in the world. If that’s the case, then try the mix-and-match method and see if an idea or a mixture of two or more ideas work.

The Bestseller by Lila Ramsey plus The ABC Murders by Agatha Christie plus the nursery rhyme Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star produced a story about a mad serial killer who wants his victim to guess who will be his next kill.

If you look at stories, books, and movies, you would notice that most of them combined an idea or two from some old stories, books, and movies, too.

So now that you have developed an embryo, let’s try to…

E – EXPERIMENT

How are you going to express the idea?

The format — be it prose or poetry, novel or screenplay, full-length or short feature, — depends on your choice. Experiment on how you would present the idea. Some stories are better on film, some on print, and some made well in both.

Trust your gut feel when experimenting. Not only on the format but also on the way it is presented. Would you go linear — beginning, middle, end? Or would you go a la Quentin Tarantino style — middle, end, beginning, middle? Would you present it in the first person point of view or the third person point of view? Do not be afraid to experiment.

And now we go to the…

A – APPLICATION

At last, you have decided on what you plan to do with the idea. The last step is to apply the idea by writing. Once you see the words appear on paper, you will see and feel how the ideas take shape into a good yarn of a story. Write everything down at first. Revisions and editing would come later.

Be a sculptor by starting with a large chunk of wood and slowly carve out the unnecessary parts to form the best literary art — your novel.

Start writing something and the ideas will come. You have to turn the faucet on before the water starts to flow.Louis L’Amour

So if you have a story idea that you would like to write, go ahead. If you think there’s a truth in it, and you can develop it, don’t be afraid to experiment and express it in writing. Good luck!

retrogaming

I’m a Retrogaming Mom

I’m retrogaming.

I admit, I’m from Generation X whose gaming life is what you would say old-school. I’ve seen games evolved from the small hand-held Nintendo Game & Watch to today’s PlayStation 4. So I’ve played a few games from and in between.

Retrogaming or classic gaming is a term to describe playing old video games in these contemporary times.

Game & Watch

I was in Grade 6 then when I first encountered the Nintendo Game & Watch. It was a small, hand-held gaming console that doubles as an alarm clock. It required 2 small button-size batteries and had a small LCD screen at the center. There were one or two buttons on each side of the screen, depending on the game. It only contained one game per unit but you have choices of Game A and B. Game A is much easier than Game B.

The first games I played on the Game & Watch were Fire, Helmet, Manhole, Popeye, Chef, and Octopus — all of them had one button on each side of the screen for left and right. Mickey Mouse and Egg were the same, but these were the first Game & Watch units I saw that used two buttons on each side of the screen for up and down, left and right.

I got my own Nintendo Game & Watch when an aunt gave me Snoopy Tennis as a gift. It was newly-released then. The lavander unit was so cool. It also had two buttons on the right side to move up and down, but one button on the left to hit the ball.

The games were pretty much easy, just go left or right, up or down to move. You have 3 lives until game is over. But what was cool back then was when you reach the score of 200 (some at 250 or 300), 500, and 750 (some at 800), you earn 1 life as a bonus. When you reach the score of 999 it goes back to 0.

Then Donkey Kong came with two screens, a cross-shaped button — up, down, left, and right — on the left side, and one button on the right. This might have been the precursor of the Nintendo DS which came many years later.

Arcade Games

It was also during the ’80s when I saw Pac-Man, Space Invaders, Lode Runner, and Crazy Climber.  These were classic arcade games that you could play in carnivals or malls. There was even a song called “Pac-Man Fever”.

However, during that time, miniature versions of these arcade games were also available. I had the chance to play a miniature version Crazy Climber at home because my cousin had his own unit. It was a table top unit that resembled an arcade gaming machine and it required four size C batteries.

Family Computer

However, when I went to college, I didn’t have the time to play computer games. I was focused on my studies that when the games evolved to the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) a.k.a. Family Computer, I became ignorant of games like Super Mario, Battle City, Contra Wars, etc.

When I graduated from college, I visited my cousins one day and saw them playing on the NES. One of them, a six-year old boy, offered his joystick and asked me to play Super Mario.  I told him that I don’t know the game because I haven’t played on NES. Guess what? A six-year old boy taught a then 21 year old college graduate how to play Super Mario on NES.

Game Boy

It was during the mid-’90s when the Nintendo Game Boy came out. I was already working then and I decided to buy myself a Game Boy. I bought a unit, the transparent one, together with a game cartridge pack that had 32 games in it. It included those classic games like Super Mario, Klax, Lode Runner, Battle City, etc. I was also able to play Donkey Kong Land, Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins, and Wario Land: Super Mario Land 3 in this platform.

Computer Games

It was also during the ’90s when computer games became popular. These games were either installed or required a disk to run. I remember playing Chessmaster 2000 using two 5.25-inch floppy disks — one for booting and one for playing and saving the game.

Then some games came in CD-ROM and I played SkyRoads, Terminal Velocity, Klotski, Bubble BobbleWolfenstein, and Where in the World is Carmen San Diego? That was also the time when Microsoft have included games like Solitaire and Minesweeper in their Microsoft Office package.

Play Station

I admit, I haven’t played a game using Play Station. When I met Voltaire, I’ve learned that he also play video games like the Final Fantasy franchise. One day, on a date, we went to a mall and tried playing on a Play Station for me to experience it. So we played Angel Wings, a racing game. Out of 5 games, I won 3. Beginner’s luck? Don’t remind him of that, he’ll get pissed off.

Emulators

It was also Voltaire who introduced me to emulators. With emulators, we could play video games that we weren’t able to play before. Games like Final Fantasy 4 to 6, Chrono Trigger, Secrets of Mana, Dr. Mario, Pokemon (Yellow, Red, and Blue), Bomberman, Duke NukemGalaga, Advance Wars, etc.

He also installed in our old computer War Craft 1 and 2, Age of Empires, and Diablo II for me to play.

Unfinished Games

Sadly, there are games that I haven’t finished playing because I got busy with work and motherhood. I haven’t finished War Craft 3 when DOTA became famous. And I’m not into MMORPG, I prefer playing alone on my own pace. Thus, I haven’t tried playing Ragnarok, Counter Strike, DOTA, DOTA 2, and League of Legends. Although I have Left for Dead 2 installed in my old computer, I only played it once or twice but never finished the whole game. Also, I tried playing Crystal Saga online, but I stopped at level 25.  Still, I have other games I want to play like Final Fantasy 7 and 8 and will probably play them using emulators.

Now, I have Plants vs. Zombies, and Bookworm installed in my laptop aside from the games included in my Windows 7. These games provide downtime at the end of a busy day.

Recently, someone asked me to write a game review. I used to write game reviews a few years ago. How fun is it to write something you love doing!

How about you, what games have you played? Are you also into retrogaming?