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                      W R I T I N G   W O R L D

A World of Writing Information - For Writers Around the World


Issue 8:01          4,852 subscribers    January 3, 2008

SPECIAL NOTICE: Please DO NOT REPLY to this e-mail; any messages
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The Editor's Desk
NEWS from the World of Writing
THE INQUIRING WRITER:  Indebted to Moira, by Dawn Copeman
FEATURE: What's Your Writing IQ? by Marie E. Cecchini
The Write Sites -- Online Resources for Writers
FEATURE: Commercial Corner: Building Your Portfolio, Part II of II,
by Mandy Hougland.
THE WRITING DESK: Can I become a writer? by Moira Allen
WHAT'S NEW at Writing World
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The Author's Bookshelf

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                        FROM THE EDITOR'S DESK

A new year, a new start

I know the New Year is now three days old, but let me begin by
wishing you all a Happy and Productive New Writing Year!  May you
achieve all you wish to achieve and may you find the time to write.

Now I know some people don't like January.  My father, for one,
thinks of it as a long, dark, dreary month. Personally, I've always
had a soft spot for January.  I like the start of the brand new
year and I love using it as a time to assess where I'm going and
what I want to achieve with my writing. 

As Moira wrote in her last editorial, the end of a year (or the
beginning of one) is the perfect time to assess our writing and to
see if it is going in the direction we would like. Now is the
perfect time to review your writing goals (you do have some don't
you?) and to set your goals for the New Year. 

If you have not yet written a set of goals for your writing, then I
would strongly recommend you do so.  For guidance on how to set
about writing a set of goals or a writer's business plan, check out
these articles:

Planning Your Writing Career, by Dawn Copeman

Building a Writer's Business Plan, by Moira Allen

If you did write a plan last year, now is the perfect time to
review it. Look back over what you did and did not achieve and
re-evaluate your goals and your plans.  If you didn't achieve any
particular goal ask yourself why? Did you allow enough time for it?
Did you work on this goal when you could? Do you need to give
yourself more time to achieve some tasks? Do you need to build in
time for improving your craft? Go through your goals one-by-one,
giving yourself praise for the things you did achieve and looking
at what you need to do in order to achieve the things you didn't
manage to achieve last year. 

So, as we will all be busy either making or reviewing plans, I will
keep this editorial short. Although I must admit there is another
reason for the short editorial. Whilst our American cousins usually
start back to work on the 26th December, here in Britain most of us
tend to take the week between Christmas and New Year off and only
start heading back to work, well, today!  

So right now, I'm off to pour myself a cup of coffee and try and
get my head back into working mode.  After that I will assess and
draw up my writing plan for 2008, some of which will involve some
changes to the newsletter - but more on that next time, as I'll
want your input too.

                       -- Dawn Copeman, Newsletter Editor

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PITCH AGENTS AND EDITORS at Pennwriters Conference May 16-18 in
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Third Prize $100 plus copies.  Submit an unpublished novella in
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2008. Visit 
www.linguisticdepravity.com for complete guidelines.


2007 was a record year for malware, (viruses, worms etc) with an
estimated 370,000 pieces of malware created. That figure is a 60%
increase on 2006 and researchers from McAfee predict that the
upwards trend will continue and that 550,000 pieces of malware will
have been created by the end of 2008. Now seems a good time to make
sure your computer is secure! For more information visit:

Google has announced it is establishing its own internet
encyclopedia with content generated by users who wish to be
identified as experts in their field and who will, perhaps, be able
to earn cash for their knowledge.  Unlike rival Wikipedia, experts
at googlepedia or "knol" as Google call it; can receive cash from
Google advertisements. At present, contributions are by invitation
only, but Google is hoping to soon be able to accept all
contributions.  For more information visit:

The number of UK adults reading a newspaper on a daily basis has
fallen from 26.7 million in 1992 to 21.7 million in 2007 according
to research commissioned by the House of Lords.  The National
Readership Survey found that only 45% of adults read one or more
national newspaper on a daily basis, compared with 59% in 1992.
Some papers, however, have increased their readership over this
period.  The Times has increased its readership by 69% and the
Daily Mail by 18%. The House of Lords commissioned the research as
part of its study into media ownership.  More information about the
study can be found at: http://tinyurl.com/2lvyfn

Three British newspapers: The Sun, The Daily Mail and The Telegraph
received a record number of unique visitors in November according
to the latest report from the Audit Bureau of Circulations
Electronic (ABCE).The Telegraph saw an increase of 100% in unique
users to its online content.  Last month they received over 12
million users for the first time.  The Daily Mail has seen an
increase in 6.5% in unique users to over 14 million a month and The
Sun increased its unique visitors by 26.5% to just over 11.6
million. For more information visit:

With no resolution in sight to the writers' strike in the United
States, the effects are beginning to be felt by the viewing public
and may influence the way in which television in the US is
produced.  The Writer's Guild of America is claiming that this is
just an attempt by the television industry to undermine the union's
resolve for better pay and conditions, but others inside the
industry say that change is imminent, if not overdue. Some channels
are talking of importing more content and others are discussing
removing the 'pilot' from the commissioning process. For more
information visit: http://tinyurl.com/2ob4pr

We received this call for help. "I'm working on a project compiling
short essays/stories from teenagers.  The essay topic is: 'What
helped me most in my life and what helped me the least.'  Also,
based on their experience of what helped and didn't, what was the
outcome when they grew up? 

"We will be paying $100 for any essay used in the book. 

"Can you help me?  The intention is for other adolescents/teenagers
to see that there are others that have gone through what they've
gone through and how they succeeded.

Thank you for your amazing help!" 

Eve Willner (eve"at"evewillner.com)

Merlyn's Pen, publisher of teens' writing since 1985, is offering
teenage writers a one-week literary sailing adventure, "Down to the
Sea with Paper and Pen," aboard a tall ship.  Students will receive
daily writing instruction from professional writing teachers,
successful novelists, and Merlyn's Pen editor-in-chief Jim Stahl,
all while learning to sail.  This program runs from June 22 - 28,
2008, and is available to students ages 13 - 17.   More information
about Merlyn's Pen and "Down to the Sea with Paper and Pen" can be
found online at www.merlynspen.org.


FREELANCING FOR NEWSPAPERS: New book by veteran journalist Sue
Fagalde Lick shows you how to break into this lucrative and little
explored freelance market. Discover how to find markets, develop
and pitch ideas, and much more. Perfect for classes or individual
study. Quill Driver Books [http://www.quilldriverbooks.com],

FREE report: Book Promotion: One Size Does NOT Fit All. Includes a
"workbook feature" designed to help you create your marketing plan.

 by Dawn Copeman (editorial"at"writing-world.com)

Last month when Moira announced she was leaving the newsletter to
concentrate on other things, I asked how Writing-World, or more
specifically, Moira Allen, has influenced your writing career. I
wanted to know if she'd written an article that had saved you from
making a mistake, or helped you take your writing in a new
direction. As I stated last month, she has been and continues to be
very influential in my writing life and from the responses I've
received, she seems to have been influencing a lot of you too,
people like this unknown sender who wrote: "I'm indebted to Moira
because she's done the most important service anyone can do for a
writer: she's stopped me from walking away."

The anonymous writer continued: "Thank you Moira for putting out
this newsletter. As a former Inkspot follower I was so pleased when
you took this on. I look forward to it every month - sometimes just
for your cozy editorial on your own life/writing adventures. Good
luck in your own writing. And if you ever feel like giving up, let
the rest of us know, we'll hold your hand!"

Pearl Harris also feels very indebted to Moira.  She wrote: "There
is no doubt that Moira Allen has been the single most inspirational
person in my writing career, although I have never had the honour
of meeting her in person.  
"When Moira was looking for freelance writers for her
TimeTravel-Britain.com website, I submitted a couple of travel
articles." (Editor's Note: This is where I also first got to know

"To my surprise and delight I got very positive feedback from
Moira, almost instantaneously.  Not only did she accept my
articles, but gave me most flattering critiques - and published
them without any alterations!
"My writing career had hit a kind of slump and this encouragement
and belief that my writing was not all that bad, in fact it was
admired by Ms. Allen herself, gave me a tremendous boost and
inspired me to continue writing.  It led to further success in my
freelance travel writing career.
"I dubbed Moira 'Super Editor' as I had never been treated by any
Editor like this in all of my 25 years of freelancing: instant
acceptance or rejection and instant payment, even prior to
publication.  I felt as if I were in a writer's paradise!   
"I am in the process of trying to find publishers for my travel
memoir and Moira has been extremely encouraging and has given me
practical advice all along the way.  Any question I have for her is
answered almost instantly.  In addition, her very informative and
practical articles on manuscript preparation, the publication
process etc. have been invaluable to me.
"Moira, I wish you all the success you deserve.  You have
unselfishly helped many writers and now it is time to follow your
own dreams.  I will keep watching your progress and know that you
will achieve whatever you set out to do.

"I only wish there were more than one "Super Editor" out there!"
Andrea Pflaumer is another writer who is indebted to Moira.  She
wrote: "I took Moira's on-line "writing for Magazines" course. I
had already gotten a couple of small things published in a local
monthly magazine. However, her intelligent, concise, and most of
all supportive advice gave me the courage to continue. The best
thing she said to me was 'you're already there - start putting your
queries out there - you're good enough to be published. I too am a
late bloomer like many of the people you wrote about in this latest
issue (first published piece at 54 - five years ago). So Moira -
thank you enormously. I am passing the favor forward by encouraging
others (many late bloomers) to look at the courses on the website
and pick up the banner - and the pen." 

Moira, you have inspired us all.  We wish you all the very best
with your now full-time writing career. 

Speaking of which, on a whimsical note, if you had the chance for a
writing break; a time to just sit back and write, where would it be
and what would you write?  Do you long for just a day to get an
article finished?  Or would you have a month in a log-cabin
somewhere to get to grips with a novel?  Or would your dream be
like Moira's, to just have the time to concentrate on your writing
everyday?  Email me with the subject heading: "Writing dreams" to

Until next time, 



Dawn Copeman is a freelance writer based in England. She is the
author of over 100 articles and is the newsletter editor of Writing
World and editor of Newbie Writers, http://www.newbie-writers.com,
a site for new and aspiring writers.  Dawn is also a copywriter as
well as a contributing editor and columnist at
http://www.timetravel-britain.com. Visit her website at

Copyright (c) 2008 by Dawn Copeman


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What's Your Writing IQ?

                                      by Marie E Cecchini

When was the last time you measured your writing IQ? And by IQ, I
don't mean your Intelligence Quotient; I mean your Interest
Quotient. As a writer, this is a very important part of yourself to
keep tabs on - mainly because your interests can increase your
income. As a fifteen year veteran of the writing world, I have
published five books and too many articles to count, on a wide
variety of subjects. But, my very favorite pieces to write have
always been shorter ones that pertain to things I am most
interested it. Publishers and editors call these short pieces

Webster defines "filler" as "material used to fill extra space in a
column or on a page of a newspaper or magazine." Fillers can be
written for children or adults, and topics for them run the gamut
from parenting, health, and weight loss, to redecorating your room,
dealing with finance concerns, working with technology, and
managing stress. And, as I previously mentioned, they are short
articles. Also on the plus side - editorial need for fillers is

You don't have to have a degree to be qualified to write fillers,
though some topics may require a little research. For the most
part, fillers allow you to share knowledge you already have on a
specific topic, which can be anything you're interested in or
experiences you have had. The bottom line is - fillers can
substantially add to your writing income. 

What kinds of articles qualify as fillers?

Basically, there are five types of fillers.

1.  Projects - These can be adult or children's craft projects,
decorating ideas for teens and adults, science experiments for
children, simple woodworking projects to make or how to refinish
items you already have, and even easy gardening ideas. What editors
are looking for will depend on the type of magazine they publish.

2.  Quizzes - These are very popular with many publications because
they are very popular with their readers. In a quiz you basically
get your message across without lecturing. The best quizzes make
readers think or laugh.

3.  Recipes - The current focus on health, obesity, and staying
young has brought about a surge in the need for recipes that are
easy to make, healthy, fun to eat, and full of flavor. If you think
your recipes fill this bill, you may just have another marketing

4.  Games and Puzzles - Magazines for kids and adults alike make use
of games and puzzles. What you need here are some new and different
ideas, something really unique, either in content or presentation.
When considering giving this area a try, it is very important to
pay attention to the magazine's demographic.

5.   Profiles - This topic is consistently on the needs list of
children's editors, and for good reason. Editors and publishers
alike, realize the need for "heroes" in the lives of both young
children and teens. This type of article may profile a local
youngster who has done something remarkable in the field of sports
or charity, for instance. Magazines in general also look for short
profiles of local experts who can share their experiences in an
unusual field. Makes for interesting reading.

What kind of filler-writer might you be?

Read the following descriptions to find out what category best fits
you. You may find more than one "fit" for yourself.  

You may be a closet project writer if...

1.  People describe you as creative, and they know your favorite
gift is a project kit.
2.  You love browsing the craft aisles in stores, even though you
know you already have a half-dozen half done projects waiting at
3.  You use a "hands-on" approach with anything you tackle.
4.  You love to watch how-to shows, and harbor a collection of craft
5.  You do your best thinking and problem-solving when you are
working on something with your hands - even something totally
unrelated to what's on your mind.
6.  Your favorite part of the writing process is the hands-on
testing of ideas to see if they actually work according to what
you've envisioned.
7.  You feel readers appreciate being able to read something that's
written in a clear, logical manner, and that they should be able to
come away from any reading with something they can actually use,
either intangible, as in an idea, concept or approach, or tangible,
as in something they can wear, give as a gift, or use to decorate
their homes.

You may be a closet quiz writer if...

1.  People describe you as humorous or funny, and they know your
passion for things that make you laugh, like humorous cards and tee
2.  You love to read women's magazines, especially those containing
quizzes, which you always take, regardless of the subject.
3.  You prefer using humor when trying to make a point because
people are less likely to take a swing at you.
4.  You love to watch shows and read books or articles that invite
you to look inside yourself, as you discover what category is your
best "fit". 
5.  You tend to not take yourself too seriously, and feel that,
generally, if you keep yourself moving in a forward direction, most
problems will take care of themselves.
6.  You write to surprise, delight, and enlighten readers. Your
desire is to encourage them to take a break from the drama in their
lives and to help them see the brighter side of life. You love to
make them laugh.

You may be a closet recipe writer if...

1.  People know you are health-conscious about what you eat - and
you do love to eat.
2.  You love to collect and read all kinds of cookbooks. You also
have an extensive collection of unusual kitchen gadgets, which you
have either purchased on your own or received as gifts.
3.  You enjoy cooking with your kids, husband, or a friend. You love
creating your own recipes, sometimes combining small parts of
several existing ones to make a dish that is entirely your own.
4.  You do your best thinking when you are cooking or baking. This
is how you problem-solve and deal with life's minor frustrations.
5.  You love to watch cooking shows or televised trade shows that
display all the latest in kitchen appliances and gadgets.
6.  Your favorite part of the writing process is the testing of new
ideas to see if they actually work "hands-on" as well as they do in
your mind. You love showing readers that any task, no matter how
difficult, can be broken down into clear, concise, yet simple,
steps. You feel gratified, knowing that by sharing a model of
efficiency, you can help readers develop a new "taste" for life.

You may be a closet game and puzzle writer if...

1.  Your approach to life tends to be analytical, which sometimes
results in "eye-rolls" from your kids, and deep sighs of
resignation from your peers. People know they can always please you
with the gift of a new book of puzzles.
2.  You keep a stack of puzzle books and a pen (no pencil for you)
next to your favorite chair in the family room, and also (sigh) in
the bathroom. You love to play logic games.
3.  Your idea of fun is doing the NY Times crossword puzzle.
4.  You love the challenge of a game show or mystery novel.
5.  Your approach to problem-solving involves observing patterns and
analyzing how things relate to each other.
6.  You write to make people think. You enjoy the conception of
surprise endings that give readers that "Aha!" moment. You imagine
them shaking their heads and wondering how they could ever have
thought otherwise.

You may be a closet profile writer if...

1.  People generally label you a "social butterfly", because you
will strike up a conversation with anyone, from a store clerk to
the mall custodian.
2.  You have a lot of friends and you love to talk.
3.  You feel you probably would have made a good reference librarian
because you love to connect people with questions with experts with
4.  If you won Oprah's "dream" contest, your dream would be to meet
and talk with someone you admire.
5.  You scour newspapers and magazines for articles about real
people. It makes you feel warm all over to read about how they are
making a difference in our world or how they have overcome a
seemingly insurmountable obstacle.
6.  You problem-solve by talking with others, naturally. You live by
the old adage "two heads are better than one", and always consider
other opinions and points of view.
7.  Your favorite part of the writing process is the learning. You
love reading research material and interviewing experts on almost
any topic. You think of it not only as a chance to learn, but also
as an opportunity to meet new people.

So, how did you do? Where do you think you fit in? If more than
half the characteristics in any one category describe you,
definitely consider marketing a few short pieces. It will probably
be a nice change of pace for you and you just may find yourself
specializing in a new "niche". Your IQ just might help you earn a
few (quite a few) extra bucks. 


Copyright (c) 2008 by Marie E Cecchini. 
Marie E Cecchini is the author of five books. She writes
informational articles for writers, parents, teachers, and
children. She also writes children's poetry and designs children's
craft projects.

For more information on broadening your freelance writing career


WORLDWIDE FREELANCE WRITER - You can download a free list of
writing markets if you subscribe this week. Discover almost 2,000
writing markets from USA, Canada, UK, Europe, Australasia.

CAN'T GET PUBLISHED? Be a Well-Fed Self-Publisher and make a
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of the profits.  Here's the step-by-step blueprint used to create a
full-time living from ONE book!  By the award-winning author of The
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Greater Detroit Romance Writers of America
There are loads of interesting articles here on the craft of
writing romance, getting published, and more.

The Friends Medallion
"I am the Chair for 'The Friends Medallion', an award that
celebrates the theme of friendship in children's literature. 
Authors, publishers, agents and illustrators are invited to
nominate a children's book published in 2007 that has friendship as
a central theme.  There are no fees involved. I'd appreciate you
posting this notice for your members. For more information, please
visit our website: http://www.friendsmedallion.org."

Advanced Fiction Writing
A newsletter by Randy Ingermanson covering various aspects of
fiction plotting and marketing; definitely an interesting read.  In
PDF format. 

Writing Bliss.com
A site offering free and fee-based writing courses via email.

This site is an excellent, free way of improving your grammar.  It
contains advice on grammar as well as many interactive exercises
for you to try.  http://grammar.ccc.commnet.edu/grammar/

This is a must-visit research source! This site not only offers
access to a wide range of encyclopedias and dictionaries, but also
enables you to search through thousands of newspapers and
periodicals, find quotations and even ask other people. 


submission guidelines/leads for poetry, short prose, and book
projects. You'll receive your FREE report TODAY via email
NEWSFLASH. Visit http://www.writersrelief.com or call toll-free
(866) 405-3003.  Absolutely no subscription or purchase necessary.
We'll share our know-how with you. In our 14th Year!


Commercial Corner: Building Your Portfolio: Part II of II

                                     by Mandy Hougland
In my last column, (which can be found at
http://www.writing-world.com/tech/portfolio.shtml) I reviewed
several ways in which a writer might display his or her work. If
you'll remember, there are two primary options - a hardcopy
portfolio stored in a binder, or an electronic version, which can
be stored on a website or CD. 

I also explained the importance of maintaining such a showcase. 
Having a well organized collection of work samples shows the
variety of documents you can produce. It also proves that you have
the ability to take on complex subject matter on a variety of
topics.  A professional portfolio can give you the competitive edge
you need to land top notch assignments.

In this column, I'll help you decide which pieces of work to
include in your portfolio. And, if you haven't had your first
paying assignment yet, I'll help you discover ways to generate
material for your portfolio that will help you get that first paid


First, let's talk about what kind of material to present in your
portfolio. If you don't have any work samples yet, bear with me.
I'll get to that.

Your portfolio should include at least three examples of each type
of writing service you offer. If ad copy is part of your
repertoire, display ads you've written for different businesses or
different product lines. 

If you write press releases, include copies on un-related subjects.
One might be about an upcoming charity event, while the other two
are about a new business opening and a holiday parade in your town.
My portfolio contains press releases about a new writer's group
that was forming, the opening of a new bridal shop, and an upcoming
business conference.

If you write resumes, use three from completely different fields -
a librarian, a real estate agent and an executive CEO, for example.
In my own, I also showcase people at different career levels. One
resume in my binder is for an administrative assistant with a great
deal of data entry experience. Another is for a cosmetologist, and
still another is for a retail professional.

This diversity shows your clients that you can successfully process
and translate information that's otherwise foreign to you. Even if
you specialize - say, you write only for engineering firms - you
can still include a variety of the same sort of document. One might
be a brochure on bridge designs, and another could cover highway
projects or surveying services.  

Be certain everything is well organized. This makes it easy for you
to find samples to include in future job proposals. It also makes
it easy for clients as they browse through your work. Depending on
your style, you might want to organize based on assignment type
(i.e. brochures, sales letters, flyers, advertorials), or by
subject (i.e. charity, education, community, etc.). 

My portfolio is organized by the writing services I 
provide: Ad Copy, Advertorials, Brochures, Newsletters, Press
Releases, Proposals, Public Service Announcements, Resumes, Sales
Copy and Technical Writing. I find that this method works well as
I'm looking for examples of prior experience when I'm drawing up a
proposal for a new writing job. 

If you can get your hands on a few letters of recommendation, put
those in your portfolio too.  Have a current resume on hand, as
well. I find that most proposals I respond to request this. 


So what if you don't yet have any real work with which to build a

You have two options. One is to develop some practice material. If
you have a copy of Microsoft Publisher installed on your computer,
open it up and pick a few new projects to design.  Maybe you have a
brochure or flyer lying around the house you can re-create for
practice. Though you can't actually list a client, you're still
displaying your talent.  And potential clients are going to want to
see what you can do.

Look through your pile of junk mail for advertising postcards,
sales letters and special offer coupons. (In fact, it's a good idea
to start collecting these items in a "swipe file". When you're
fresh out of creative design ideas, use this for inspiration). Is
there anything lying around that you could use as fodder for

Write a few opinion pieces and submit them to your local newspaper.
Do you have a pet cause or great persuasive argument to share? Why
not write a letter to the editor? This will display your ability to
write clean copy with a clear, concise thought pattern. 

Perhaps you could design marketing materials for your own business.
I once created postcard mailers targeted to staffing agencies in an
effort to bring in some new resume business. The act of marketing
your own business gives you samples to include in your portfolio. 

If Publisher isn't available to you, you'll need to get your hands
on another product - something more sophisticated than Notepad or
Paint, but nothing as technical as Adobe Photoshop or Quark. Though
they can be a bit cumbersome, you can usually use PowerPoint or
Word and get results that are equally as good as what specialized
and costly design programs turn out.

You can also download a variety of shareware or freeware programs
for document design. Browse the options on Best Software 4 Download
.html) or Google "shareware" + "document design". 

Option two is to engage in a little volunteer work to quickly build
a portfolio. Does your church need a newsletter? Can you make a
flyer for your next club meeting? Perhaps a local charity could use
a brochure. Does a friend need a resume? What about your local PTA?
Maybe the local animal shelter needs data sheets for an adoption
drive. Is a neighbor in need of verbiage for a new babysitting or
lawn care business?  

I volunteer on the marketing committee for a local Women's
Conference in my area. It's an annual event, and provides a wealth
of opportunities to showcase my writing abilities. Early on, I
wrote the mass marketing email to attract conference attendees.
Later, I wrote another to help bolster ticket sales. I also
designed and provided copy for the brochure, press release and
public service announcement. You can bet that each one of these
documents wound up in my portfolio.

The bottom line is, if you seek, you will find an abundance of
opportunities for practicing the craft and developing an impressive
portfolio. Keep your ear to the ground and good luck getting your
portfolio off to a good start!


Copyright (c) 2008 by Mandy Hougland 

Mandy Hougland is a freelance writer living in the Northwest
Arkansas metro. She has published more than 150 articles for local,
regional and national publications. Some of these include "River
Hills Traveler", "Byline Magazine", "Connecting Northwest
Arkansas", and "Women in the Outdoors". She also handles commercial
writing assignments such as marketing materials and copywriting
projects for companies small and large. Visit her website at:

For more information on commercial and technical writing visit:


five-step process for creating flawless written text. Write It
Right: The Ground Rules for Self-Editing Like The Pros shows you
how! $17.95 + s/h.


                                 By Moira Allen 

Q: Can I possibly become a writer or am I just fooling myself?

I have always had a very creative mind, which is usually wandering
all over the map. I can hear the smallest bit of information and I
can spin it into an amazing yarn, in my own mind. If I think it, I
can see it, in my mind, just as real as if I were holding it. My
problem is very simple though, I have never been trained in basic
writing and I can't type with anymore than three to four fingers.
Can this enormous deficit be overcome? 

About ten years ago I sat down and within two weeks of evening
writing, I wrote my first novel. After completing it, I read it,
loaded it into a folder and stowed it away in my sock drawer, where
it remains to this day. 

Technique, sentence structure, and punctuation, as you can see by
this letter, are not my strengths but the ideas just keep coming
continuously. What would your advice be to someone like myself? Is
this true potential, a gift or just pure over-indulgence of an
overactive imagination?    

A:  I'll distill this down to the answer to the question you ask in
the next-to-last paragraph -- "What would your advice be to someone
like myself?"

The answer is simple -- if you want to write, and you're not sure
of the level of your skills at this point, you need to seek out
opportunities to expand those skills and get feedback.  It sounds
to me as if you're trying to figure everything out in a vacuum. 
With all the opportunities on the Internet, there is no need (and
indeed, no excuse) for that.

The Internet offers a wealth of online classes, at very reasonable
costs, most of which can be done entirely by e-mail.  If you want
to have your writing evaluated by a professional instructor, this
is the place to start.  E-mail classes often offer excellent
one-on-one interaction, so that you can get feedback on ongoing
class assignments.

Second, the Internet offers a huge array of writers' groups and
critique groups.  Join one, or several.  Get to know other writers.
Receive their support and encouragement, and also the nudges that
will help you go beyond wishing and into doing.  Join some critique
groups.  See what others are writing, and put out your own work for
feedback.  You'll find some groups listed at

Online groups, in my experience, tend to be better than "real
world" groups, because you don't have to deal with the problems of
one or two personalities "taking over" in a weekly or monthly
meeting. You'll still get personalities, but e-mail gives everyone
the same voice.  They're a great place to share your concerns and
ask questions.

Finally, of course, if you truly want to write, write.  Write
stories and send them out.  Study the markets.  Find out where you
fit in. Expect rejection.  Expect to be frustrated.  Be willing to
put up with that until you've honed your craft enough to succeed. 
That's what we all have to go through -- what separates the
hopeless romantic from the hopeful romantic.  Get your work out of
the sock drawer and into the "active" file.  Then you'll be able to
answer your own questions!

Q: Do I need a degree to get a writing job?

I am attending classes at a community college.  I noticed that a
lot of the places that I've tried to work at as a writer request
that I have a Bachelor's degree.  I feel that my writing is pretty
good.  Why do I have to have a degree to prove that?  My goal is to
be a commercial freelance writer.  The most that I have to work
with are poems and short stories.  What should I do?  I don't even
know how I would approach a company with no proof of me knowing how
to write ads.  Do you have any ideas of how I could get started
with something like commercial writing?  

Lots of companies still ask for a Bachelor's degree simply because
it is very difficult to measure a writer's "experience" -- and this
provides a quick and easy measure.  I believe that another clue to
such ads is that such companies are looking for relatively young
employees (often fresh out of college) who are willing to take
entry-level jobs at relatively low salaries.  For example, a
company that is advertising for an employee with a Bachelor's
degree is probably not looking for someone with 20 years experience
in the field (that person would want a higher salary).

Unfortunately, while your writing may indeed be very good, you
haven't proven yourself yet -- and "proof" is what companies seek
when hiring employees.  The proof needn't always be a degree, but
you do need to show some evidence of experience -- clips, samples,
job history, credentials, etc.  This is just the way it goes in any
job field, not just writing.

As you are attending classes now, look for some courses that would
directly relate to your business-writing goals, such as business
communications, advertising, copywriting, etc.  You can often find
this type of course in "adult education" programs as well. You
might also find similar courses online.

Look for opportunities where you can gain hands-on experience that
will give you the clips and credentials you need.  For example, you
might want to contact a company about interning for the summer.
Internships rarely pay much (if anything), but they do give you the
job skills and credentials you need to go on to seek full-time
employment.  Your college career center might be able to find you
some intern openings in the field you're looking at.

Finally, all I can recommend is patience.  You will get there in
time -- but it will take time.  Often there are no shortcuts; you
must patiently build the credentials and experience that are
expected in the field.  Otherwise, you're trying to compete with
folks who have that experience -- and in such a competition,
experience will almost always win.  (The exceptions will only be
those jobs that are desperately seeking inexperienced people to
work for very low salaries.)


Copyright (c) 2008 by Moira Allen

Moira Allen, publisher of Writing-World.com, has published more
than 350 articles and columns and seven books, including How to
Write for Magazines, Starting Your Career as a Freelance Writer,
The Writer's Guide to Queries, Pitches and Proposals, and
Writing.com: Creative Internet Strategies to Advance Your Writing
Career. Allen has served as columnist and contributing editor for
The Writer and has written for Writer's Digest, Byline, and various
other writing publications. In addition to Writing-World.com, Allen
hosts the travel website TimeTravel-Britain.com and The Pet Loss
Support Page. She can be contacted at editors"at"writing-world.com.

For more information on starting out visit:



Writing-World.com will now be updated quarterly. Here is a sample
of some of the articles we have added to our archive of over 600
articles and columns.  Remember, if there is something writing
related that you need to know, you can find the answer at

Writing for Young Readers, "Happily Ever After", by Eugie Foster

Avoiding Comma Confusion, by Moira Allen

Building a Writer's Business Plan, by Moira Allen

And particularly useful during the current economic climate: 

Recession Proof Your Writing Business, by Patricia Fry, 


Fundamentals of Fiction, by Marg Gilks. 8 weeks, $150; enroll at
any time! http://www.writing-world.com/classes/fiction.shtml



This section lists contests that charge no entry fees. 
Unless otherwise indicated, competitions are open to all adult 
DEADLINE: January 19, 2008
GENRE: Short Stories
DETAILS: The story must be between 10,000 and 30,000 words in
length. We are a fantasy e-zine please do not submit sci-fi stories.
PRIZE: $250, $200 and publication
URL: http://www.newfantasywriters.com/
EMAIL:  cathy"at"newfantasywriters.com  

DEADLINE: January 30, 2008
GENRE: Poetry
DETAILS: Book 1 - 3 poems, each 30 lines or less.  
PRIZE: $350 
URL:  http://www.friendsofacadia.org/
EMAIL: editor"at"friendsofacadia.org

DEADLINE: January 31, 2008
GENRE: Short Stories
DETAILS: 2000 words max. Entries can be on any subject, but must
feature either an AKC-registerable breed or a breed listed in the
Miscellaneous class. Find out more about dog breeds at:
PRIZE: $750, $500,$250.
URL:  http://www.akc.org/pubs/fictioncontest/ 

DEADLINE: January 31, 2008
GENRE:  Short Stories/Nonfiction/Poetry
DETAILS:  Contributors are encouraged to write as many articles as
they want. Articles can be about anything beauty related,
including: beauty secret, icon, tips and tricks. Min 200 words. USA
& Canada only.
PRIZE:  Grand Prize $1,000.  All 10 finalists will receive beauty
URL: http://myitthings.com/contest/7/body

-- ------------------
DEADLINE: February 15, 2008
GENRE: Short Stories/Nonfiction 
DETAILS:  Unpublished, short stories 3,000 words or less, must be
set inside of waffle house.
PRIZE: Publication in anthology. 
URL: http://www.wafflestories.com
EMAIL:  wafflestories"at"gmail.com

DEADLINE: February 28, 2008
GENRE: Poetry
DETAILS: Poems limited to 1,000 words on any subject. Because of
overwhelming interest in our small contest, limit yourself to
entering your best unpublished poem. Multiple entries will not be
PRIZE: $100, $50, $25
URL: http://www.dylandays.com/writers.htm

AUTHOR'S BOOKSHELF: Books by Our Readers


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Writing World is a publication of Writing-World.com

Website Editor: MOIRA ALLEN (editors"at"writing-world.com)

Newsletter Editor: DAWN COPEMAN (editorial"at"writing-world.com)

Copyright 2008 Dawn Copeman
Individual articles copyrighted by their authors.
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