10 Ways to Fund Your Creative Writing Projects

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Managing a writing career is tough. It’s even tougher when you’re worried about money and how you’ll pay bills every month. Not everyone who begins a writing project or business will have the financial wherewithal to support themselves – at least not at first. Most writers, including yours truly, have had to find ways to support themselves while keeping alive their creative passion.

Below are 10 possible avenues that you can pursue to fund your writing career or a specific project. Granted, it might mean less free time to work on your masterpiece, but it will also give you some peace of mind, knowing that you can make ends meet.

  1. Personal savings. If you’ve been in the work force awhile, or were lucky enough to have had a previous career that offered a savings plan, such as a 401K, those funds can act as a cushion for when you’re transitioning to your writing lifestyle. Experts suggest having at least six months of savings in case of emergencies, and with the current economic climate, I’d recommend more than that. Things always cost more than you think. Be sure to budget yourself and refrain from overspending on non-essential items. That will stretch out your savings even further.
  2. Part-time jobs. There is such a thing as scaling back on your schedule to allow more time to do what you love. As with your personal savings, budgeting will be key to success because you won’t have as much of an income to live off of. But at least a part-time gig will give you some cash flow to cover basic expenses while freeing up valuable time in your schedule for writing.
  3. Freelance and contract gigs. Most writers I know choose this option because it gives them the freedom to set their own schedule. On the other hand, you may spend more time marketing yourself and searching for well-paying assignments than actually working on your own writing projects. Many clients don’t pay enough to cover your basic expenses, so you have to pile on lots of small assignments for any reasonable income, which can cut into your personal writing projects. You’re better off with three or four steady gigs that pay well rather than 10 or 12 that pay pennies.
  4. Temporary assignments. Temping can provide some stability and a somewhat steady income whenever you need it. But the days when temp agencies automatically offered assignments is long gone. These days you need to apply for assignments as if they were regular full-time jobs, which means you may be competing for work against other candidates. On the positive side, you can choose to work a few days at a time or longer assignments that last more than a year.  You can opt for part-time or full-time assignments too. Even with its somewhat inconsistent nature, temp work can provide financial support when you need it.
  5. Internships. If you’re starting out with little or no experience, internships can help you gain valuable real-world experience that looks good on your resume and helps you build a portfolio of samples that you can show to future clients and employers. Some internships pay, others do not. But you gain in real-world experience while on the job. Find internships on job sites like Indeed or Internships.com.
  6. Grants and fellowships. If you don’t mind working for the experience and earning living expenses while you do so, then grants and fellowships may be right for you. Grants are an outlay of cash that doesn’t have to be paid back. They may require a certain expertise or writing focus such as writing about social justice issues or being of Native American descent. Read the grant application requirements carefully.

    Fellowships are usually offered through a university and allow you to earn money while you contribute in some way to the writing department. You may be required to teach classes, manage the writing lab and attend workshops in exchange for a stipend. Fellowships give you a chance to work on a specific project and get feedback on your work from fellow students in the program and instructors. Some fellowships can be done at a distance while others require in-person sessions. Study the application carefully to make sure you understand the requirements. To find grants and fellowships near you and to learn more about them, check out Profellow.com.
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  7. Home equity. Tapping into your home’s equity can be a practical choice, especially if you’ve lived in your home long enough to earn significant amount of equity. If you’re uncomfortable tapping in your home’s equity, author and artist Cassandra Gaisford suggests another option. Instead, ask the bank for a mortgage holiday of two or three months. Then use the savings to finance a business startup or live off of it while you focus on your writing project.
  8. Crowdfunding. If you have a specific project you’re working on, try setting up a crowd funding page on one of the crowdfunding platforms. Some have categories for publishing and other creative projects. Crowdfunding can help you test your book idea with potential readers and gain financial support from them if they like your idea, especially if you plan to self-publish. Check out Indiegogo, Kickstarter and Unbound.
  9. Sponsorships. Is there a local business you support that could help you in return? Perhaps a coffee house you frequent where you’ve been drafting your novel? Or some other place that knows of your efforts to get published? Ask them to sponsor your work-in-progress. Even a small amount of cash can help you defray publishing expenses. In return, off something that can help them, such as offering a free banner ad for their business on your website or plug their business via social media.
  10. Seek investors. Don’t be shy about asking friends and family members for their financial support, which can help you get the project or business off the ground. Just be sure to put all expectations and financial requirements in writing so all parties know what’s at stake. Be clear about what your needs are and whether and when you’ll be able to pay them back.

Starting a writing project can be both exciting and daunting. There’s no cost to you to begin your writing project, just a steady supply of paper and pens will suffice. But when you’re ready to publish the manuscript, produce a play or design a website, that’s when costs can become apparent. Still, if you plan your time well and stick to a budget, you can make your writing dream a reality.

12 Tips to Survive – and Thrive – National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo)

Logo courtesy of NaNoWriMo

This article is reposted from October 2020.

Have you always wanted to write a novel but wasn’t sure how to start writing it? Maybe you’ve had a story idea swirling inside your brain for the past decade and just never made the time to write it. With November right around the corner, here’s your chance.

National Novel Writing Month is an annual creative writing challenge that takes place every November in which participants aim to write 50,000 words in 30 days toward a completed novel. The event is hosted NaNoWriMo, a nonprofit organization that encourages writing fluency and education for all ages. According to its website, the NaNoWriMo group believes in “the transformational power of creativity.”

Participation in this annual event has escalated from a mere 21 people in 1999 to 306,230 in 2017, according to the Novel Factory. You don’t have to sign up on their website to participate. You can do this in the comfort of your home, which is what I plan to do. While the goal is 50,000 words for the entire month, that is only the goal. If you can only achieve 30,000 words – or 1,000 words a day – that’s fine too. This is a personal challenge to motivate writers to write every day and work toward a larger goal.

Whether this is the first time you take part in the event or the tenth, here are some helpful tips for surviving this 30-day writing challenge. You can find other helpful tips here too.

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Outline and research your story ahead of time. Since you’ll be spending your November days writing, you’ll need to know what you’ll be writing about. Plan ahead. Plot your outline in advance. The Novel Factory has some awesome free downloadable tools to help you plan your story.

The same goes for research. If you’re writing historical fiction, do your research ahead of time. If you get to a place in your story where you need to do more research, make a note of what you need to do and come back to that place during the revision phase. Don’t get distracted by the desire to look up something or you will never get back to your writing.

Plan your schedule. With a hefty 50,000 word goal, you’ll need to plan how you will achieve it. That’s roughly 1,667 words a day with no days off, or 2,000 words a day with one day off each week. Those daily word goals can be daunting. So it’s important to plan how much you’ll be able to write. It might mean getting up an hour early each day to write, or doing mini sessions throughout the day. Remember, you don’t have to write in one huge chunk of time.

Try something new. Many writers use NaNoWriMo to experiment with their writing. It might be re-writing a current work-in-progress from an alternate point of view, or trying their hand at writing a different genre – science fiction when they normally write psychological suspense. This approach can be applied to your writing schedule too. For example, try getting up an hour earlier in the morning to start writing rather than waiting until the evening when you may be too tired.

Participate in live write-ins. If you’re looking to stay motivated throughout the month, check out a live write-in in your area. If you sign up at the NaNoWriMo website, you’ll be given locations of write-ins near you. With the pandemic, I imagine there might be virtual write-ins too. 

Work with a writing buddy. When you participate with a friend, you can motivate each other and help you through the rough spots. If you’re both competitive, set up your own contest to see who can write more words each day. Try putting a giant thermometer on your wall. As you complete your daily word count, fill in the thermometer with red to see your progress. Then compare your progress with that of your friend’s.

Be prepared to put some activities on the backburner. That may mean less time hanging out on social media, less time watching Netflix or Hulu or shutting off the TV. It could also mean spending less time socializing with your friends and fewer Zoom meetings. You’ll have to decide what you can live without for the short term while you work on your masterpiece.

Silence your inner critic/editor. As you write, turn off the internal critic who tells you that your work isn’t good. It’s easy to get sidetracked by negative thoughts. First drafts usually aren’t very good, so relax and just tell your story without judgment and self-criticism. The whole point of NaNoWriMo is to challenge yourself to write your story. There will always be time for editing later.

Avoid going back to the beginning. If you are ever tempted to read what you’ve already written or rewrite it, don’t. You may decide that your work is terrible and give up. Or you may want to start editing it, which only wastes time. If necessary, read the last page or two that you wrote to remember where you left off, but otherwise, keep a forward focus.

Find your writing rhythm. You may find one week into NaNoWriMo that you’ve hit your stride. That’s great news. If you get to the end of your 2,000 word goal and you still feel motivated to keep going, then by all means, keep writing. That’s one way to build up your word count early on in the challenge so if you feel a bit sluggish by the end of the month, you can slow down without harming your end goal.

Reward yourself when you reach milestones. When you get to the 5,000 word mark, for example, treat yourself to your favorite snack or watch a favorite movie. Set another reward at 10,000 words, 20,000 words and so on. Occasional rewards serve as great motivational tools to keep you writing.

Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t meet your writing goals. So you only wrote 30,000 words. Congratulate yourself for your accomplishment. That’s better than not writing at all. Remember the purpose of this event is to challenge yourself to make quick, steady progress.

Make time for exercise and fresh air. All work and no play can stifle your creativity. Make sure you get outside if the weather is nice, and go for a walk or a bike ride. It’ll help clear the cobwebs from your brain and you can return to your desk with a fresh perspective.

Most important, have fun with NaNoWriMo. Yes, there will be plenty of hard work involved, but stay positive. Look at how much you will learn and grow as a writer. No matter how many words you eventually put down on the page, you can be proud of your accomplishment as you see your story develop.

For more great tips to survive NaNoWriMo, check out this article from Reedsy.

How to produce webinars: A guide for writers and bloggers

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Webinars have been around for several decades, but it’s only seen a huge resurgence in popularity since the start of the pandemic in 2020. According to On24 Webinar Benchmark Report 2021, webinars grew by 162% and attendance grew to more than 60 million people last year.

Needless to say there are ample opportunities for writers, bloggers and marketers to join the ranks of webinar producers. What makes it more enticing is the fact that most webinar platforms are fairly affordable and easy to use.

Granted, producing webinars isn’t for everyone. It takes someone with tremendous courage to sit in front of their computer screen and talk into a microphone. But for those who have the will and the curiosity to engage with their audience, show their expertise and/or promote a book or product, well, then this might be one more tool to add to your marketing mix.

How do you get started producing webinars? What do you need to know? Most important, what key decisions do you need to make? Because you’re not going to be able to jump right in without thinking about certain aspects. Such as:

What is your goal for the webinar program? Why do you want to produce your own webinars? Is it to promote a new book or a product? Discuss a unique idea or process you’ve created? Or build an audience for your blog or business?

Who is your audience? Consider who your audience is, their age, location, level of expertise, etc. Are they seniors interested in compiling family histories for a memoir, or a group of aspiring bloggers? Knowing who your audience is and what their interests are can help you determine the topics you’ll present.

Also consider the size of your audience. Are you content doing a webinar for 20 people, or would you like to push the limit to several hundred? Keep in mind that roughly 45-50% of those who register for your live events may actually show up.

What topics will you present? This will depend on your goals and your audience’s educational interests. Consider what your audience wants to know. What types of questions do they typically ask? When you see the same questions being asked over and over again, that’s usually a clue what might be a meaningful topic.

How many webinars do you plan to do? Don’t count on doing just one. Think ongoing series. Think long term. Perhaps you can do a series geared toward a targeted audience, such unpublished nonfiction authors, or a series about a subtopic, like a focus on common side hustles. Also consider how you can repurpose the webinar content into other formats, such as podcast episodes or a white paper.

Where do you want to host the webinars? Do you want to show it exclusively on Zoom, or do you want to broaden your reach by showing it live across different channels, such as YouTube, Facebook Live and LinkedIn? Some webinar platforms will allow you to share simultaneously across multiple platforms and record it for later posting.

Research the different platforms. Sites like GotoWebinar, Webinar Jam and Webinar Ninja are a few that are easy to use, according to The Book Designer blog. Or check out sites like Webinarsoftware.org  or Capterra for reviews of the best software platforms.

If you’re looking for free and cheap options, there’s always Zoom. With a personal Zoom account, you can reach up to 100 participants for up to 40 minutes. Or try Google Meet.

What you decide to use will depend on how you plan to host the event and what your specific marketing needs are. For example, you might want to capture leads from the registrants. Experts suggest making sure you have systems in place for following up on leads. Otherwise, doing webinars would be pointless.

Make sure to promote the events. Email campaigns and social media may be the best ways to invite people to attend your webinar. Individual host sites will also promote the events to their platform users. Check the webinar platform to see if they send out calendar reminders or if you have to set them up yourself.

Do a run-through of your program. It is recommended to do several run-throughs of your presentation. That can help you find the rough spots so you can fix them before you go live. It also helps to arrive early to test the equipment and sound. You don’t want to have to deal with technical issues at the start of the event.

Allow time at the end for a Q&A. By the end of the session, which should not run longer than 60 minutes, people will likely have questions. Allow time to answer them, say 10 minutes or so. Be sure to thank people for participating, and be sure to include ways to contact you or follow you on social media.

Don’t use a script. Know your subject inside and out. If necessary, create an agenda for the program that you can follow and a few note cards to remind you of your key points. But go as unscripted as possible, otherwise your presentation will seem stiff and formal. You want to appear natural and conversational.

Measure your results. After the webinar has been posted, follow up with registrants. Send them a survey to get feedback on the program, and ask for suggestions for future events. Also check to see what your conversion rate is. How many people who had signed up for the event actually listened in? You might want to offer a free download for replay later, especially for those who could not attend at the last minute.

For more tips about doing webinars, check out this article on Smart Blogger.

While producing webinars isn’t for everyone, once you have systems and strategy in place, they can help showcase your expertise in a unique and engaging way.

How to Instill a Love of Creative Writing in Kids

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I’m not a parent or a teacher, but I care about kids and education, especially when it comes to writing and reading – the pillars of lifelong learning. If you can read and write well – and more important, if you enjoy doing them – I believe you’re set for life.

Even if you don’t have kids of your own, you can still encourage a love of the written word in others. For starters, become an avid reader and writer yourself. When other people see you engrossed in a book, it might make them curious about what you’re reading and why. Even better, that book in your hand can make an interesting conversation starter.

But there are a surprising number of ways you can instill a love of reading and writing in kids – and kids at heart. Below are a few of them.

1. Fill your life with stories. Read to your child every day. If they’re in middle school, for example, choose a title that is slightly above their reading ability or take turns reading pages from a book of their choice. While waiting in the doctor’s office or in the park, tell your child stories. When they hear stories from you, they’ll learn to be storytellers too.

2. Subscribe to kids’ writing magazines. When that magazine arrives in your mailbox every month, it provides numerous stories that kids can look forward to enjoying, whether they read it themselves or you read it to them. It can entice them to become better writers too, says book editor John Fox. Some accept submissions from children. Imagine seeing your kid’s work published in a national magazine. There are numerous publications to choose from depending on the age group. Try Highlights, which I grew up reading. Or Humpty Dumpty, Jack and Jill or Cricket media.

3. Take your children to see plays. When they see a play, they’re seeing storytelling in action. It makes the characters come alive, and the live action can interest your child in creating their own stories and put on plays at home.

4. Bring them to the library or bookstore. When they see you browsing the shelves, you’re setting an example. This is another way to demonstrate your own love of reading. When you shop for yourself, be to shop for them. Browse the children’s section and see what they gravitate toward. The library or bookstore may also have readings from children’s authors too.

5. Set up a designated space for writing. I encourage writers to have their own writing space separate from other areas of the home. People just need that space to create without disruptions from the TV or other family members. If possible, set up a designated space for writing for your child. It could be a corner of their bedroom, a corner of your home office, or the attic. The important thing is that it’s quiet so they can think, dream and play with words.

6. Provide a variety of writing tools when they write. The Measured Mom suggests providing a variety of writing tools that kids can play with to engage their imagination. Try crayons, markers, chalk, colored pencils, ink pens or even charcoal or paint. As they write a story, they can draw pictures or write the words down in different colors. It can make a perceived boring activity like writing seem more fun.

7. Have them start their own journal. Either purchase one or better yet, create their own journal. Get some lined paper, staple one side to create a booklet. Add a blank cover sheet that they can design and color to their heart’s content. Creating their own journal instills a pride of ownership.

8. Use props to inspire writing. Sadie Phillips at Teachwire.net suggests providing props to inspire a child’s writing habit. It could be a shoe, a photograph, or a piece of jewelry you wear. Ask them to write a story about that prop. Where did it come from? Does it have a voice to speak, or ears to hear? It’s one more technique to prompt your child’s creativity.

9. Provide writing prompts. Just as writing prompts can be helpful in jump starting ideas for adult writers, kids can benefit from writing prompts too. Try a fill in the blank, like “Sandy the Clown baked a cake for the school bake sale. What kind of cake did she bake?” Prompts can stir their imagination in different ways.

10, Visit the neighborhood. Phillips suggests taking your child on short trips in the area. It could be the post office, the park, a candy shop, or a pet supply store. When you get home, suggest they write about their trip. What did they see, hear, smell, and touch that they remember. Writing it all down commits the visit to their memory.

11. Engage with authors and storytellers.
Phillips suggests connecting with favorite authors and storytellers via social media. Follow their Facebook pages, or those of your child’s favorite authors. Ask them questions about their writing, and share their answers with your child. Create a dialogue so you and your child can learn about the writing process.

12. Praise children’s writing the right way. Editor John Fox suggests giving your kids encouragement when they finish writing a story. When they show you their work, don’t be vague and give general feedback. Don’t just tell them, “I like your story.” That’s not enough to encourage them to keep writing. Instead, you might say, “I like the way you described the red car,” or “What happened to the evil witch at the end?” When you ask questions about the child’s story, they become curious about the story too.

As you glance over these suggestions, you’ll notice that they’re not quite different than those for adult writers. After all, it’s just as important for adult writers to engage with other storytellers, use writing prompts, visit unusual places, set up a designated writing space and write with different writing tools. To truly inspire the children in our lives to be creative writers, we need to share our best creative habits.

Rediscovering the Local Library for Lifelong Learning

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It’s been a busy week and I haven’t had time to write a fresh post. So in light of my focus on education and training, here’s a repost of a story I did back in 2016. Enjoy. I’ll be back next week with a fresh new post and a new writing prompt. As always, thanks for reading. RL

Have you visited your local library lately? When was the last time you did?

It had been a long time since I visited a library, but a few weeks ago I decided to go to the one in my neighborhood to escape the heat. Once inside the glass doors, I was quickly reminded how much I loved the hushed atmosphere. People spoke is low voices amidst the rustling of newspapers and the hum of laptops as people worked. I love that low-level noise, just enough to know that other people are around, but not loud enough to interfere with a person’s studying or reading activity.

As I wander the aisles, I imagine myself getting smarter just being there in the presence of so many books. I feel like my body absorbs their creative energy, the ideas, the discussions, and the desire for learning. No wonder there is a hushed reverence as soon as I walk through its doors. Knowledge is at work among those who visit.

In an era where Google rules the Internet, local public libraries have been a mainstay in many communities. New research by Pew Research Center finds that libraries still play a vital role in our local communities. Where would we be without these places of learning? Like print books, they’re not going away any time soon. And that’s great news for self-described lifelong learners like me.

But like many people, I tend to forget that the library is there, ready to welcome readers and students of all ages and education levels to browse its shelves and delve into subjects to expand their understanding of the world. Most Americans believe that libraries do a good job of providing a safe place to hang out, according to a study by the Pew Research Center. Consider these additional statistics:

* 77 percent say public libraries provide them with the resources they need.

* 58 percent of respondents believe libraries help open up educational opportunities for people of all ages.

* 49 percent think libraries contribute “a lot” to their communities in terms of helping spark creativity among young people.

* 47 percent said libraries provide a trusted place for people to learn about new technologies.

We may occasionally forget that the library exists, but thank goodness they still play a vital role in our communities. While most people may prefer to use the Internet initially for learning new things, it’s nice to know that libraries are still a viable place for reading, research and studying.

How Writers Can Create Their Own Self-Study Course

Photo courtesy of The Regal Writer.

This is part of my series on training and education for writers.

Several months ago, I wrote about MFA programs and how to tell if they’re right for you. This week, I’m focusing on self-study options.

An MFA is not for everyone, and some experts believe that it does not guarantee that you’ll be published. What it does do is provide an intensive training opportunity to learn everything about the writing craft. You’ve got a built-in network of fellow writers who are going through the same program and you learn from each other.

Self-study offers its own advantages. Students have more control over the content and direction of their training. You control what you study, when and for how long.

Whatever your preference – MFA or self-study – will depend on your studying style.

If you prefer to immerse yourself in a structured program where you learn everything about the craft of writing in a concentrated period of time, then an MFA is probably best for you.

However, if you don’t have the money or the time to concentrate on an intensive program like an MFA, self-study is the better option. In this route, you can pick up knowledge as you go along by taking workshops and classes on your own time and on your own schedule and reading every blog, magazine article and book about some aspect of writing.

For those who like aspects of both, you might appreciate the hybrid model. The hybrid is a do-it-yourself program that combines the independent learning of self-study with the intensive focus of the MFA. Whereas the typical self-study route can be haphazard in its approach, the hybrid is focused on mastering areas of competence in a given time, usually about a year.

Author James Scott Bell calls these areas of competence “critical success factors” or CSFs. Bell has identified seven CSFs that he recommends writers should master: plot, structure, characters, scene, dialogue, voice and meaning (theme).

(Personally, I would add three more to this list: pacing, setting and revision. However, in a hybrid self-learning model, I suppose you can create as many or as few CSFs as you want. It’s your self-study program.)

Bell’s idea is based on the work and writings of Benjamin Franklin. In his autobiography, Franklin described his desire to master 13 moral virtues. He tracked his progress using a chart with the seven days of the week. He focused on improving one moral virtue each week. Writers, Bell says, can use a similar checklist for each of the CSFs he described.  

By concentrating on one CSF over seven weeks, Bell believes you will have covered all seven within one year with three weeks to spare. Of course, if you add others to your list, that time frame will be extended. Count on spending eight weeks – comparable to a college semester – learning about one CSF. By the end of one year or longer, you will have completed your own self-study program.

Bell also offers suggested readings for each CSF. You can find them on his website. Other helpful resources can be found on DIY MFA and Writer’s Digest magazine.

Of course, there are no formal hybrid educational models offered for writers. So you may have to create your own self-study course, says writing coach Ann Kroeker. “In this way, any of us can identify an area to improve in and find instruction pertaining to that exact skill or technique.”

Kroeker adds that this self-study approach isn’t limited to fiction writers, but to poets, essayists and non-fiction writers too.

It’s an interesting concept, and one I wished I had come upon when I embarked on my writing career. No matter how far along you are in your development, you can always test out Bell’s self-study concept.

Self-study tips

If you decide to go the self-study route to learn more about the writing craft, here are a few tips to get the most out of the experience, according to the Learning Agency Lab.

  1. Set goals for yourself. Decide what you want to learn and the measurements for mastering them.
  2. Schedule your self-study time. Self-study takes time, perhaps not as much as a formal MFA, but time that you could be doing other things. With busy schedules, you’ll need to set aside time each day for self-study, whether that’s reading, taking a class or completing writing exercises.
  3. Make sure you complete the exercises you learn in workshops or in the texts you read. This gives you valuable practice on technique. You may not use them all after the training ends, but some will likely stick.
  4. Don’t be shy about marking up articles and books. You’ll likely find key points you want to remember, so grab that marker and highlight it. Better yet, use a post-it note to mark the page so you can refer to it easily later.
  5. Celebrate milestones. For each CSF you master after seven or eight weeks, do something special to mark the occasion.
  6. Apply your skills. As you gain experience with each CSF, look for ways to expand your skills. For example, once you’ve mastered character, begin to apply those lessons to your own writing. Look at your own characters to see if they measure up.
  7. Find a study buddy. (This is my personal suggestion, btw.) Self-study, especially about writing, means you’re working on your own. By finding a study buddy, you can go through the self-study process together.
  8. Reflect on your learning. When you’ve completed each phase, reflect on what you’ve learned. Is there more you need to learn?

Writers are lifelong learners. No matter where you are in your development as a writer, there are always resources to help you improve your craft.

The Best Fall Education Conferences for Creative Writers, Freelancers and Content Marketers

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With the turn of the calendar to September and cooler weather approaching, my thoughts often shift to school at this time of year. Continuous learning is the name of the game for many professional writers and content marketers. Even attending one conference or training course each year can help you stay abreast of the latest trends in your industry.

As part of this education theme, over the next few weeks, I’ll be covering different ways to boost your education. Last week, I shared tips about how to build your vocabulary. In case you missed it, you can find it here.

This week, I’m sharing a list of upcoming conferences taking place this fall. The early bird registration may have passed on some of these events, but all the same, they may be worth exploring.

Some events are higher in costs than others, mainly because they’re in-person. But even if you walk away from the event learning one or two new things you didn’t know before, it’s worth your while. And because we’re still experiencing a pandemic, most of these conferences are being presented virtually, which means you can attend a conference in New York City without leaving your home in Texas.

So whether you want to publish a novel, begin a freelance writing business, or learn about content marketing, there are plenty of conferences to get you going.

Editor’s note: Most conferences occur in the spring and summer, so look for an updated schedule in January.

Writers’ Conferences

Genre-LA Creative Writers Conference
Los Angeles
October 1-3, 2021   (hybrid/virtual/in-person event)

Women Writing the West Conference
October 7-9, 2021 (virtual)

2021 Online Agent Fest
Midwest Writers Workshop
October 13-16, 2021

Gotham Writers Conference (virtual)
October 15-17, 2021

Writer’s Digest Novel Writing Conference
Pasadena, California
October 21-24, 2021  (in person)

National Black Book Festival
October 21-23, 2021 (virtual)

F. Scott Fitzgerald Literary Festival
October 30, 2021 (virtual)

Genre Writing Conferences

Fall in Love New England Where Authors Meet Readers
Boxborough, Massachusetts
October 15-16, 2021

World Fantasy Convention 2021
Montreal, Quebec Canada
November 4-7, 2021

New England Crime Bake Mystery Conference
Boston, MA (in person)
November 12-14, 2021

DisCon World Science Fiction Convention
Washington, DC (in person)
December 15-19, 2021

Freelance Writing

Society of American Travel Writers Convention
Milwaukee, Wisconsin
October 3-7, 2021

FreeCon, Freelancers Conference (virtual) (Registration opens Sept. 15)
November 1-2, 2021

Medical Writing and Communications Conference
American Medical Writers Association
October 27-30, 2021 (virtual)

Content Marketing

Content Marketing World Conference & Expo
Cleveland, Ohio and virtual
September 28 – October 1, 2021

CopyCon Copywriting Conference
International Festival of Copywriting
October 8, 2021 (virtual)

Marketing Profs B2B Forum (virtual)
October 13-14, 2021LavaCon Content Strategy Conference
October 24-27, 2021 (virtual)

Digital Summit Chicago (in person)
Chicago, Illinois
October 27-28, 2021

As writers, freelancers and content professionals, these events not only keep you updated on the latest trends and practices in your niche, it gives you a chance to network with your peers, perhaps meet agents and editors who can help your career.

What about you? Do you attend conferences or workshops in your area? What is your favorite part about attending them?.

Nine Easy Ways to Expand Your Vocabulary

CAM00674This is a repost from a couple of years ago. The content is as pertinent today as it was then. Enjoy!

Whether you are a budding writer or a working professional in a non-communications role, your ability to communicate depends on an expansive vocabulary. As children and young adults, we learn new words at a fairly high rate. By the time kids reach age six, they know close to 13,000 words, according to Scholastic.com. Most native English-speaking adults have mastered 20,000 to 35,000 words, according to TestYourVocab.com. Sadly, vocabulary growth tends to slow down for most adults by the time they reach mid life.

When it comes to reading and writing, learning new words and broadening our scope of language and understanding can only serve to make our story telling skills even better. With each new word we learn, it’s only natural that we want to implement it right way into our everyday conversation, to display our newfound knowledge.

Whether you want to become a better writer or just want to impress your friends with your growing lexicon of language, here are a few easy tricks to expand your vocabulary.

1. Read, read, read. This is obvious. The more you read, the more you will absorb the writer’s meaning through language. And the more diverse your reading materials – from historical fiction novels and celebrity memoirs to newspapers and medical journals – the more expansive your vocabulary will become.

2. Play games and puzzles. Crosswords and other word puzzles are not only fun, but they help build your understanding of words. A site like TestYourVocab.com offers several self-tests and exercises to help you determine how expansive your vocabulary is.

3. Keep a dictionary and thesaurus at your side. These valuable tomes are your best friends whenever you read or write. When you come across an unfamiliar word when you read, take a moment to look up its meaning. When you write, you tend to use the same words over and over. Try looking up a word you commonly use to see if there’s another word you can use instead.

4. Read the dictionary. Yes, you read that right. Read the dictionary front to back as if you were reading a novel. A grade-school classmate of mine did that in seventh grade. While other kids in the class were throwing spit balls, my classmate sat quietly at his desk studying the dictionary. It did not surprise me to learn several years later that he earned a perfect high score on his ACT test.

Take a page or two a day and study each word on the page. Note how many of them are unfamiliar to you. Little by little, your vocabulary will grow.

5. Take a class on a topic unfamiliar to you. If you don’t have the time or patience to read a text book, taking a class might be the next best thing to help you build your vocabulary. For example, when I took a personal training certification class a few years ago, I was exposed to terms and phrases related to exercise physiology, nutrition and physical fitness, not part of my everyday language, but it did give me some additional exposure to words I never would have learned otherwise. If medical science isn’t your forte, try other topics, such as gardening, carpentry or cooking.

6. Keep a vocabulary log. Each time you come across a word that is unfamiliar to you, write it down in a journal. In the space next to it, look up the word in a dictionary and write down the definition. The practice of writing it down will help commit the information to your memory.

7. Talk to people. Every now and then, it helps to take your nose out of a book, laptop or iPhone and look around you. The next time you visit a coffee shop, strike up a conversation with people in line or sitting at a table by themselves. Listen to the way they speak. What words do they use? This practice is helpful for creating dialogue in your fiction writing.

8. Visit sites like Vocabulary.com, a free online learning platform that helps students, teachers and communicators build their vocabulary. The site offers online games and exercises as well as tools to help you build vocabulary lists. There are other online platforms and apps available for the same purpose. No matter which you decide to choose, they are designed to help you build your vocabulary in fun, interesting ways.

9. Start writing, and keep writing. The more you write, the better you become at writing and the more words you will learn to use along the way.

When you engage in any one, two or three of these techniques on a regular basis, you’ll see your vocabulary grow exponentially in a short matter of time.

15 Easy Ways to Refresh Your Website

person using macbook
Photo by Burst on Pexels.com

This is a repost of an article originally published in early 2019, but the information is just as pertinent today. Enjoy!
Remember to check out this week’s writing prompt.

With apologies to the queen of decluttering, Marie Kondo, “Does your blog or website make you happy?” Does it excite you to read it or post to it? Or does it feel stale and uninspiring?

Maybe it’s time to declutter your website?

It can be easy to overlook your website or blog once it’s up and running. But like anything else, it can quickly turn boring. And if it’s boring to you, imagine how your readers feel about it. If you don’t feel excited about your own site, you’ll put in less effort to maintain it properly. Once you lose interest in it, your readers will too..

I’m always looking at ways to freshen up my website. I’ve tinkered with it here and there — with mixed results.  Here are a few ideas that can help give your blog a new lease on life.

1. Update your bio. When was the last time you reviewed your About Me page on your website? Does it still give readers a realistic view of who you are? If it’s a bit thin, add a few more details about your experience, either as a writer and blogger or as someone with specialized knowledge and expertise. Have you published any pertinent articles, taken an exotic vacation recently, or completed relevant education that would add to your credibility? Add that information to your bio.

Your professional development doesn’t stand still, so neither should your professional profile on your site. With every new life experience, education course, or job change, review and update your bio. In fact, I recommend reviewing your bio at least once or twice a year, just as you would your resume.

2. Update the Resources page. A helpful tool for your readers is a list of resources related to your blog topic. A separate page with resources can include links to other websites and blogs you follow, organizations you support, publications, and downloadable materials that may benefit your readers. Double check the links at least one or twice a year to make sure they are still active. If you don’t already have a resources page, consider adding one to your site. When you share resources on your site, it positions you as an expert just as if you had created those resources yourself.

3. Update site images. Be honest with yourself. When was the last time you updated images on your website or blog? If you’ve had the same images since the day the site went live and that was more than three or four years ago, consider replacing with new photos. Either take your own photos (make sure they’re high quality) or use one of the free image sites like Pixabay or Flickr. Be sure to give credit to the source of any photo you use that isn’t your own.

4. Change the layout. If you’re bored with your site, maybe it’s the layout that needs updating. If you’ve used the same layout on your site since day one, consider changing it up. What I like about WordPress is the numerous themes they offer, and new ones are being added all the time. Maybe you still like the theme but use a slightly different layout, like two-column instead of one-column. Test out different themes and layouts to see which ones look best. You may find after testing them that you like what you have. That’s okay. At least you made an educated and informed decision.

5. Update your color scheme.
Maybe the color scheme has gotten stale, or it no longer appeals to your sense of artistic integrity. Maybe it comes across too somber when what you really want is something more cheerful, or conversely, maybe it comes across as juvenile or immature when you want your readers to see you as mature and professional. You want a color scheme to reflect your site’s topic and appeal to your readers at the same time. If your color scheme isn’t working for you, test out new combinations. A new color scheme can breathe new life into a tired-looking site.

6. Add video. Video has become the hot new trend in website content. Video has a sticky quality because it encourages visitors to linger longer on your site. Video is especially valuable for teaching purposes. Think demonstration of yoga poses, how to use carpentry tools, or cook a meal.

7. Interview experts. If you’re tired of writing the same types of stories or you run out of ideas, consider doing interviews. To start, stick with a few brief questions. Seek out people who have expertise in your selected topic. For example, if you write about outdoor adventures, consider interviewing a biking enthusiast who just completed a 100-mile trek, or the leader of an adventure travel group. Five easy questions can make an easy-to-write post into an interesting-to-read story.

8. Write a book or movie review. Read any good books lately? See any great films? Book and movie reviews are another way to add strong relevant content to your site. They’re also helpful for stirring up discussion and debate, which helps you engage with your readers.

9. Conduct surveys and post the results. Want to know what your readers think about a particular topic? Just ask them. Set up a survey on a site like Survey Monkey, then link to the survey from your blog or website. Once you compile the results, be sure to share them with your readers. For example, a movie fan website might do a survey about the Academy Award nominations. Surveys are a great way to generate more interactivity with your readers.

10. Invite guest posts. If you’re connected to other bloggers or experts, consider inviting them to write a guest post for your blog. This approach is especially helpful if you plan to be out of town for vacation and won’t have time to contribute articles to your blog. It’s also helpful if you simply run out of creative ideas. Having guest posts can expand your audience to include the guest blogger’s readers as well as your own.

11. Write how-to articles. We live in a continuous learning society, and readers are always looking for easier ways to get things done in an easy-to-read format. How-to articles are a great way to showcase your expertise, especially if you can clearly explain complex subjects.

12. Add downloadable materials. Consider posting freebie content, such as a podcast, a white paper or a chapter from an upcoming book you’ve written. These items can whet readers’ appetite for more material you create.

13. Include client testimonials. Do you work with clients? If they’re pleased with the results from your work, ask them for a testimonial that you can post to your website.

14. Add social media links. Invite readers to follow you on social media to keep the engagement going off site.

15. Share your portfolio.  Have you written for other blogs? Have you been published anywhere else? Or are you an artist with pieces you’d like to sell or show off to visitors? Set up a portfolio to showcase your work. Especially for writers and other creatives, this is a great way to show what you can do for potential clients or employers.

A site that looks and feels stale won’t inspire confidence in you or your readers. Any one or a combination of these ideas can make your site more interesting and reader-friendly.

Tips and Strategies for Guest Blogging

One of my personal goals at the start of 2021 was to write and publish guest posts on other sites. I figured it was one more way to share my expertise with others and show my writing talent. It also adds to my portfolio that I can show to potential clients. I’ve done enough research on the topic that I’m willing to share what I’ve learned so far.

In content marketing circles, guest blogging is the act of contributing content to another website or blog. A guest post often includes your byline, and the site editor might describe you as a “Contributor” or “guest author.” In addition to gaining a wider audience for your writing, there are numerous other advantages to guest blogging.

* It helps you promote your expertise on a given topic.
* It can help you grow your personal brand or your company’s brand if you work for someone else.
* It can help you expand your audience for your blog
* It can help drive referral traffic.
* It can help you build relationships with other bloggers and online publications, leading to business partnerships or job leads.
* It can help you increase members to your email subscription list

With so many benefits, it’s hard to believe that so many writers don’t take advantage of this outlet. However, it takes time to see your efforts pay off. You have to work at it, and you have to plan ahead what you want to write about and who you want to write for. Most important, you have to know your ‘why” – why do you want to be a guest blogger.

Set goals for your guest posting campaign

Many content marketing experts will tell you that a successful guest blogging campaign begins with a goal. What do you want to achieve with your guest post? Do you want to promote your expertise as a thought leader? Do you want to expand your audience for your blog or website? Do you want to build relationships with other bloggers or organizations?

Once you’ve determined your goal for guest posting, you can begin to brainstorm story ideas that will tie into your goals.

Brainstorm niche topics and article ideas

Say your goal is to be seen as an expert in career issues, but your blog is about office management and productivity based on your experience as an office manager. Maybe you’ve written a few career-related articles for your blog, but you’d like to share your expertise beyond your own audience. Start by making a list of career topics you’d like to write about. Make sure these topics aren’t already covered in your own blog, otherwise they may be rejected. Many sites want stories that you haven’t written and published anywhere else, including your own site. Once you compile your list of topic ideas, set them aside. These are the stories that you’ll pitch later.

Research potential sites

Once you have your list of story ideas, you’ll need to find a home for them. It helps if you are already following sites that you want to write for. If you haven’t done this already, start following them on social media or subscribe to their newsletter, if they have one. This way you can track what they are publishing.

You can also do a simple Google search.  Enter keywords such as “write for us,” “become a contributor,” and “guest articles.” See what comes up. Be prepared, however. There are numerous articles on the subject of finding guest blogging opportunities. Make sure to focus on your niche.

Once you’ve noted the site you want to pitch to, you’ll have more homework to do. Check out each of the sites on your list to see if your proposed topics have already been published – and if so, when. The editor might be more open to your pitch if the similar story on their site is older than a year or two.

Also note how often they post outside submissions. Do they post contributing articles once every few months or several each month? It’s up to you to decide if the site is worth pitching to.

Review editorial guidelines carefully.

Find the editorial guidelines on your targeted site and review them carefully. Many editors have specific instructions. Make sure you follow their submission guidelines or your pitch will be rejected.  

Some sites offer small compensation for your writing. Others offer non-monetary rewards, such as your bio and byline and links back to your own blog and social media accounts.

When your pitch is accepted….

If your story idea is accepted, congratulate yourself. It might be a good idea to have the article already written, or most of it. Based on the editor’s feedback, you might need to make some changes. Make sure your article is polished and well-researched. Remember that a new audience will be reading it and hopefully, becoming part of your own readership.

Make sure to promote the post and the publisher

Perhaps the most important step is to promote your guest post. Share it via all your social media channels and on your site. But don’t let the post-publishing promotion end there, writes Ann Gynn, editor of the Content Marketing Institute blog. You can develop a stronger relationship with the posting partner (the site that published your article) by taking additional steps. Monitor any comments that are posted and be sure to answer each of them, even those that are critical of your content. No need to engage in an online debate with your critic. A simple, “Thank you for reading,” or “Thank you for sharing your thoughts,” will suffice.

A month or so later, check in with the publisher. Share any success stories you had as a result of your guest post. Inquire about opportunities for subsequent posts. See if they’re willing to put you on a regular posting schedule.

Track the results

Content marketing experts suggest tracking results of your guest blogging campaign. There are tools you can use to help you do that. According to the Alexa blog, it’s helpful to track things like:

* Number of new website visitors
* Number of social shares
* Referral traffic
* Number of comments
* Number of new leads
* Number of brand mentions or links
And more…

Tracking these statistics helps you gain insight into which sites helped you achieve your goals and sites that didn’t perform as well. (Editor’s note: Alexa is a monitoring service that tracks that kind of information.)

Want more information?

This is just a cursory overview to get you thinking about the possibilities of guest blogging for your writing practice. There are plenty of resources available about guest blogging. To learn more, check out these articles:

Hubspot: Everything You Need to Know about Guest Blogging
Optin Monster: The Ultimate Guide to an Effective Guest Blogging Strategy in 2021
Neil Patel: Guide to Guest Blogging
Content Marketing Institute: A Step-by-Step Guide to Guest Blogging
Alexa: Guest Posting: A Step-by-Step by for Getting Started

Interested in having me write a guest post to your blog? Contact me at theregalwriter@gmail.com.