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Where Do Ideas Come From?

One of the overused questions asked of writers is where do their ideas come from. It may be too trivial, too basic, but too important not to be ignored.

Writers, like other artists, maximize the use of their five senses and translate them into their art. Writers, like other artists, are keen observers. So keen that they know what color is on top of the traffic light, how many tines are there in a fork, or what is inscribed at the bottom of a paper bill — simple, everyday objects that seem too obvious for ordinary people to take notice of. Aside from the use of the senses, here are other sources of ideas:

Newspapers

The old-fashioned broadsheet or tabloid is still a good source of story ideas. Scan the news and even the other parts of the newspaper like the classified ads, you’ll get an idea or two to jump start a story or an article. An article about a female college student/prostitute who killed her “sugar daddy” gave me an idea of a scene I wrote a few months back.

Magazines

The glossy magazines feature different kinds of stories, so varied that some of these magazines became specialized or focused into a particular niche. Scan the stories, even the fillers, you’ll get some catchy phrases and intriguing ideas to add into your writing. For example, an article I read about freelance writing inspired me to write my opinion on it. Also, catchy phrases become titles of a future article or novel.

Books

Reading not only hones your vocabulary skills, but also inspire you to write your next story. Reading a not-so-familiar book many years ago triggered me to write my novel, Number One Fan.

Biographies

Lives of other people show us how was it living in their own time. We get to see not just a character but also a lifestyle different from ours. Somehow their lives inspire us to write a story for others to learn from.

Stories and legends

There are some stories that keep on burning because they don’t die and people remember or mention them repeatedly. Folklore, fables, and even urban legends could be an inspiration of your next novel.

Dreams

Believe it or not, dreams could also be a good source of story ideas. My husband’s dream became my inspiration of a comics manuscript I’m planning to write.

Songs

I used to write down nice phrases that came from songs. The lyrics of Randy Crawford’s “People Alone” inspired me to write I’m Greg, Short For Gregarious.

Ask “What if?”

 Asking this question somehow challenges you to provide possible answers and in the process creates a possible story.

 Overheard remarks

Eavesdropping for the sake of getting ideas? Why not? I write these overheard remarks and make them patterns for dialogues.

Once I got an idea, I put them down on writing. As a writer, I should not rely on memory because there are times memories fail. A writer is a journalist and therefore should have a handy notebook and pen to jot down these ideas that burst abruptly.

Now, it is your turn. Go get yourself a notebook for the sole purpose of jotting down ideas. The size and thickness should suit your need and desire. I suggest that you put tabs to separate different sources or categories. Make it a habit to write it down and don’t let it escape your memory. Happy idea hunting!

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.

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.

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.

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.

Meet Your New Boss

Everyone had 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 working at 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?

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. But if you’re already decided, I welcome you aboard.

RELATED ARTICLE: 7 Ways to Turn Your Writing Into Cash

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 it is 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. A website 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 keeps 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. A website 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 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 website 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.

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.

earn cash 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 a fan fiction on some fan fic 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 that 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 PHOutsourcely, 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.

Since I started freelancing in 2012, I got more jobs freelancing jobs via the defunct oDesk. However, the highest paying writing jobs I got came from PeoplePerHour and OnlineJobs PH.

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.

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. Earlier this 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 a 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 token 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 contact me 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, film, 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.

 

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!

quote on plot and suspense

7 Ways of Suspense

Readers should keep turning the pages and will not put the book down. That’s what novelists have to create: novels that are natural page-turners that critics will rave.

Writing a novel requires constant forward movement to get the readers excited to move on the next page. In order to sustain that forward movement, writers need to create suspense. But in order to make a novel suspenseful, we have to use strategies that inspire curiosity. If curiosity can kill a cat, these tips could be worth practicing.

1. Keep secrets

Secrets make us wonder who, what, and why? Hiding something within the chapters can solicit intrigue. If the secret is fairly minor, you may withhold it for the time required to turn the page. But if it’s intriguing though, you can hide it for several chapters, taking advantage of the forward movement created by the readers’ curiosity. This way, you can keep the wonder flowing by occasionally referring back to the mystery. If you introduce a secret in a prominent position, make sure the question the readers will form inside their head is thematically relevant. The question should not be a mere device to prod readers forward. Remember, we want to manipulate the readers without making them feel manipulated.

2. Make plans

A character’s plans are future-oriented and inherently suspenseful. When you force your character to announce what he wants, you guide the readers’ attention to his motives and how he plans to achieve it. Readers will keep asking if the character will succeed or not.

3. Announce arrivals

New characters create complications. When you introduce them at the chapter’s end, you give the character a big entrance, followed by a detailed introduction on the next chapter. This indicates his importance and contributes to the forward movement of the story.

4. Schedule departures

Just as arrivals predict change, so do departures. When something leaves or ends, life changes, too. Emphasizing ends and conclusions compels us to think about the possible consequences in the following chapters. Often, some stories start with something leaving, closure, or ending. Not only because it introduces a change in the character’s life, but also because it opens an opportunity for conflict.

Plots may be simple or complex, but suspense, and climactic progress from one incident to another, are essential.H.P. Lovecraft

5. Reverse expectations

When characters fail to behave as we expect, they surprise us and the readers, too. Having said that there are only a few basic stories to tell, we begin to expect possible endings as well. Plot twists are great, but when you reverse expectations, take care to maintain credibility.

6. Ask a question

Usually these questions are implied, but they don’t have to be in your story. You as the narrator should pose a powerful question by phrasing it as an interrogative statement. Readers don’t have the answer yet but you are forcing them to respond inquisitively.

7. Introduce a new problem

Creating fiction requires giving characters goals and flinging obstacles at them. New problems stimulate forward movement. You want readers to take heed, to anticipate the conflict this problem is bound to cause. One of my mentors told us in our scriptwriting workshop to push the character in one corner until he or she couldn’t do anything but to fight back.

There you have it, seven ways to keep your novel suspenseful. But take note, there will be times that you need to slow down, too. Vary your movements. Good books require both fast pace and slow moments.

 

quote on grammar

Common Grammar & Writing Mistakes Even College Graduates (and Authors) Commit

As a writer, I’ve been keen in observing correct spelling and usage of the English language, or even Filipino for that matter. Not only it shows how educated a person is, but also how someone respects the language or dialect.

However, even educated men and women, those who have earned college degrees commit mistakes on spelling and grammar. For some it could be an honest mistake, but for the others, it could be annoying, especially if done repeatedly.

I see three usual reasons why people commit these mistakes:

  1. Homophones;
  2. Getting confused with contractions; and
  3. Reliance on auto-correct tools

Homophones

Homophones are words that have the same pronunciation but different spellings and meanings. It’s easy to commit mistakes with homophones because we say the words as it is more often than writing it down.

I was reading an e-book recently and found some misspellings in it. I thought it was just be a case of typographical error. But when I saw the misspelled word more than twice, I felt uneasy. I began to think that the author failed to consult an editor for her e-book and published it online immediately.

For one, I do have respect for authors who diligently check their grammar and have editors to check it again before publishing. But then again, the e-book I was reading came from a free e-book site where most authors are amateurs in the publishing business.

For another, this is a good case of getting confused with homophones and other grammar rules. Here are some common homophones that confuse many.

 Lose and Loose

“Lose” is a verb that means to fail, to suffer, to be deprived of.

“Loose” is an adjective that means too comfortable, not restrained.

  • I think I need to lose weight. This pair of pants used to be loose on me before. (I need to shed a few pounds because the pants don’t fit me anymore.)

Advice and Advise

Both terms are related in giving a comment or suggestion. “Advice” with the “c” is a noun. It is the actual comment or suggestion.

Advise” with the “s” is a verb. It is the act of giving a comment or suggestion.

  • Please advise me on what to do; I need your advice(Remember: c is for the noun; s is for the verb.)

Breath and Breathe

Actually, they don’t sound the same. It just happens that this pair is also confusing to some.

“Breath” (pronounced as \’breth\) is a noun that means the air that we inhale and exhale.

“Breathe” (pronounced as  \’brēt͟h\) is a verb that means the act of ingesting air.

  • I couldn’t breathe because I could smell your bad breath.

Complement and Compliment

“Complement” is a noun that means to complete or make perfect.

“Compliment” is also a noun but it means an expression of admiration or recognition. But when used with “of” as in “compliments of” it introduces a donor of a free gift.

  • That belt looks great, it complements with your outfit. (The belt completes the look.)
  • “You look gorgeous,” the man said. “Thank you,” the woman answered, “I’ll take that as a compliment.” (There was an expression of admiration there.)
  • We had a wonderful time at the resort, all compliments of Mrs. Lim. (Mrs. Lim gave a free stay at the resort.)

Ensure and Insure (plus two more)

The homophones in this set are “ensure” and “insure”. But I’m going to add “assure” and “secure” because they almost mean almost the same thing. They all make a thing or a person sure or certain. They could even be interchangeable to some extent but the distinction lies on how we use it in context.

“Assure” denotes removal of a doubt from a person’s mind.

“Ensure” denotes a virtual guarantee.

“Insure” implies necessary measures beforehand.

“Secure” implies action to guard against attack or loss.

  • I assure you that nothing will go wrong with this plan.
  • The government ensures all its employees of benefits.
  • The dancer had insured both her legs and feet for two million dollars.
  • The military has secured the place against future terrorist attacks.

Grammar is the difference between feeling your nuts and feeling you’re nuts.anonymous

People Get Confused with Contractions

Contractions shorten spoken forms of word groups by omitting internal letters or sounds. They are formed from words that appear together in sequence such as “you are” and “do not”. Languages (not only English) have a number of contractions that use an apostrophe (‘) to show an omission of a letter, usually a vowel. These contractions are common in speech and informal writing.

Knowing how to differentiate these contractions and the words they’re often mistaken for, it will be easy for you to remember and not to commit the same mistakes again.

Your and You’re

I typed “thanks” to a friend via chat and he replied “your welcome” when it should have been “you’re”.

“Your” is a possessive adjective that is usually found before a noun or a pronoun to denote that something belongs to you.

On the other hand, “You’re” is a contraction of “you are” and that’s all, there’s no other use for it.

  • Thank you for your patronage. (It means your act of support is appreciated. So “your” is used as a possessive adjective.) 
  • You’re the matron of honor. (The speaker is recognizing who you are, thus “you’re” is used.)

There, Their, and They’re

Another common mistake is to interchange these three.

To distinguish, “There” is an adverb that indicates location or what we commonly call “adverb of place”. It has two uses: (1) to denote a place and (2) to indicate that something exists.

“Their” is a possessive adjective that usually precedes a noun or a pronoun and indicates possession or ownership. “Our” can replace “their” in the sentence. Try replacing “their” with “our” and if it still makes sense, then you are using “their” correctly.

“They’re” is a contraction of “they are” and again, there’s no other use for it.

  • I left my bag over there. (The speaker indicates a certain location.)
  • There is something missing in my bag. (The speaker indicates that a thing that exists is missing.)
  • The guards will have to check their belongings. (“Their” is used to indicate possession of more than one person. )
  • They’re after me. (The speaker is referring to more than one person coming after him/her. The expanded form is “They are”.)

It’s and Its

Another common mistake is to interchange these two, and the reason is obvious: it’s confusing.

To distinguish, “It’s” is a contraction of “it is” or “it has”. There is no other use for it.

“Its” is a possessive pronoun that shows ownership.

  • It’s been too hot for a week and now, it’s starting to rain.  (The first means “it has” and the second means “it is”. The sentence doesn’t show any possession or ownership so use the apostrophe.)
  • The wolf chases its prey through the woods(You can’t say “The wolf chases “it is” or “it has” prey…” so you don’t need an apostrophe. Think about it, the “prey” belongs to the “wolf”.)

There are other confusing words and phrases to mention which I will discuss next time. Also, I’ll have another article about auto-correct soon. If you have other suggestions, let me know.

8 basic plots

Did You Know That There Are Only 8 Basic Stories in the World?

I’ve mentioned this before, I attended a screenplay writing workshop in 1999. A few months or a year after, I bought a book Teach Yourself Screenwriting by Raymond G. Frensham. Unfortunately, someone borrowed the book and never returned it to me.

Anyway, I remember the first part of that book. It mentioned about the eight basic stories. Frensham said that there are only eight stories in the world in which other plots — be it film, TV, books, and even games — were based upon.

When I first read about it, I said, “What?!” And then, I thought it made sense because I kept on seeing films and TV shows that have similar plot lines.

In this book, Frensham listed down the eight stories as follows:

ACHILLES

One of the stories in Greek mythology, the plot depicts Achilles as a strong hero but with a flaw which is also the cause of his own downfall. Thus, the phrase “Achilles’ heel” connotes a weak spot. This only proves that nobody’s perfect and almighty. There will always be something that could go wrong which leads to a failure or even death. Examples of this story include Superman (the kryptonite), Samson and Delilah (when his hair was cut), and the Titanic (they said it was unsinkable).

CANDIDE

The character is based on Voltaire’s 1759 novella, Candide, ou l’Optimisme.  The plot depicts Candide as a good and innocent hero that could never be put down. His optimism kept him rising up despite the challenges around him. Examples of this plot include Forrest Gump, Indiana Jones, James Bond, and Mr. Bean.

CINDERELLA

Who doesn’t know the Cinderella story? Based on an old folk tale, the plot depicts a persecuted heroine and the typical rags-to-riches or dream-come-true story. The protagonist started as someone common, unrecognized, and unfortunate, finds true happiness, fulfillment, or reward in the end after many ups and downs. Examples of this kind of plot include Pretty Woman and Rocky.

CIRCE

In Greek mythology, Circe is an enchantress who uses her knowledge of potions and her magic to transform her enemies into animals. The plot depicts a cunning character who seduces a naive character into a trap as a form of revenge. This type of plot could either show the chase, the innocent and the victim, the spider and the fly, or the hunter and the hunted scenarios. Examples of this plot include Othello and Dangerous Liaisons.

FAUST

Faust is the protagonist of a classic German tale who made a pact with the devil in exchange of unlimited knowledge and worldly pleasures. The plot depicts a theme of the debt that must be paid when fate finally catches up with the protagonist. Examples of this kind of plot include The Devil’s Advocate and Bedazzled.

ORPHEUS

Orpheus is a poet and musician in Greek myths and legends. When his wife Eurydice died, he grieved and went to the underworld. His music softened the hearts of Hades and Persephone that his wish was granted with one condition: Orpheus and Eurydice should walk back to the upper world with Orpheus going ahead of Eurydice. He should not look back until both of them reach the upper world. However, when Orpheus reached the surface he looked back and saw Eurydice fade away. The plot depicts a protagonist who has everything and everything is taken away at an instant forever. Examples of this story include Dr. Zhivago and Rain Man.

ROMEO AND JULIET

Based on Shakespeare’s play of the same title, the plot depicts the tragic love story. It follows a formula: boy meets girl, both belong from opposing sides, boy loses girl, then boy finds girl again. Examples of this plot include West Side Story and When Harry Met Sally.

TRISTAN

Based on an Arthurian story, the plot depicts the typical love triangle. Tristan was one of the Knights of the Round Table and was assigned to fetch Isolde whom was about to marry Mark, the King of  Cornwall. Examples of this kind of plot include Fatal Attraction, The Graduate, and The Wedding Planner.

In 2004, a book from Christopher Booker entitled The Seven Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories discussed nine archetypal plots, but only approves of the first seven. However, three of those nine are considered genres (comedy, tragedy, and mystery) and not plots.

I believe that it is good for writers to be familiar with these basic stories. A good mix and match would do the trick in coming up with a new story to tell because come to think of it, even if these were already told, there are still unique ways on how to tell them.

Do you agree with this list?