Dollars versus Dreams: When Writers get Hung Up on “Measuring Success”

Dreams have no shape, they are whispers on the wind that tickle your senses and tease your mind. Full of possibilities, dreams are so easy because they don’t speak to the work required to achieve them. They’re ghosts and mirages that are just out of reach, easier to grasp because they seem to come from that part of you that creates. That part of you that still believes fairies are real and the boogeyman does exist. It’s not quite the same well that you draw your creativity from but close enough.

Your family and friends know “you” and the roles you play; they can’t get inside your head but they know you for who you are right now, right this minute. Your bank account knows your financial situation, because the dollars and cents add up telling you whether or not you’re really “making it” as a writer. Only you know how your dollars match your dreams; the two are not mutually exclusive because you understand that money is a means to an end.

But you’re stubborn, and you have a dream of selling lots of books and earning beaucoup dollars. Have you planned to get their with your long-term goals?

Long-term goals are two parts planning, a healthy dose of discipline, a sprinkling of wishes and a lot of flexibility. But those longer-term goals don’t come without achieving the balance between responsibility and creativity: you have to think outside the box and sometimes, you have to forget what money you have to do it.
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Sample Phrases to Politely Turn Down New Projects

Yesterday, I had talked about when (and why) you should consider turning down new projects. Today I’d like to give you some sample messaging around this topic and point out why it’s a good idea to come up with a strategy to turn down work. Regardless of your reasoning why you want to turn down work, it’s often a good idea to communicate something back for several reasons ranging from professionalism to preventing email miscommunication.

Smart Victorian Lady’s Polite RefusalThe tendency to turn down projects is to say something generic like, “I’m booked working on other projects.” If you have a blog, online journal, or socially network on MySpace, LinkedIn, Facebook, etc. and you put yourself out there saying that you’re looking for work, make sure that your public profile matches what you’re telling people who want to hire you. This may seem like a no-brainer, but please: do not make the mistake of begging people for work and then turning someone down because you don’t want to work for them. The “I’m-too-busy” excuse really makes you look bad–especially when the person you turned down reads what you’re up to. Of course, there is the flip side when you are “that” busy. When that happens, be clear and be honest; there is no guarantee that the other person on the other end of the computer won’t misinterpret what you’re saying, but there is really very little you can do about that.

Here are a few samples of how you can politely turn down “new” work for different reasons ranging from time constraints to concerns about whether or not the publisher will pay:
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When you Should Just Say “No” to New Projects

Like most writers, I have a day job and a long, laundry list of responsibilities. For us, the core responsibilities of our day job come before freelancing–no question about it. We may also have families, pets, and personal obligations to manage. Now? Add freelancing on top of that and you’ve got yourself a pretty full calendar.

By now you should know, realistically, what you can and cannot write, and how long it takes you to complete your word count.

Please note: If you don’t know how to estimate your word count, there are many articles you can read like D.L. Snell’s The Wordkins Diet, obtaining a rough word count from your file size, this forum post about estimating word count based on your handwriting and my article about estimating word count.

Now comes the fun part. Knowing what you’re capable of, I find it essential to “life plan” or that is, set up both longer-term and shorter-term goals for yourself. Next, you’ll want to set up your free time like a project to see what you can and cannot fit in.

Saying “No” to new projects can be tricky because on the one hand, you don’t want to turn down an opportunity but on the other, you want to make sure that publisher keeps you in mind again. Freelancers often make the mistake of committing to projects they can’t reasonably complete within the timeline that they’ve been given. Maybe they don’t know the topic or game they’re working on; maybe they’re more familiar with writing fantasy than sports. Or maybe they’ve overcommitted, taking on more work than they can finish.
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Content Editing versus Copy Editing

Yesterday, I talked about the difference between revisions and editing and about what an editor’s role is. Today I’m going to go a little bit more in depth, and show you how content editing differs from copy editing.

When someone edits for content, they are trying to communicate what they envision your audience to be and what story you are trying to tell. When someone edits for grammar, word usage or punctuation, they are using copy editing skills to ensure that your project or story is readable. There are several different naming conventions that might apply for the role of editor (proofreading, content editor, text editor, line editor) but, for the sake of simplicity, I’m utilizing “content” and “copy” here.

Many experienced content editors will talk to you about your work in general without ever pulling up the specific words you write in front of you. Why? Good content editors trust that a writer will do their job to massage the voice according to the overall goal of the piece.

Sometimes, it’s not the words put down on the page that an editor has a challenge with but the strategy behind the words. In that case, consistency is key to ensuring predictable submissions: that is both the responsibility of the content editor to communicate their needs, and the writer to deliver them through the words they choose.
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Editing 101: What Does an Editor Do?

Editing 101Congratulations! You’ve just finished your project or story. Now what?

Well, you’re probably going to want to read through it again, and make changes before you make your final submission.

The tendency for inexperienced authors is to either give their writing a “once-over” before they submit it or send a copy to their friend, parent, or boyfriend to look it over. These writers will often believe that they’ve taken on the role of an editor to polish their work, but have they?

Let’s look at this from a different aspect. You are writing an article for a newspaper and let’s say you have some experience doing so. You’re working within tight deadlines, and to make sure you’re fitting within the style guidelines for your article you revise some text. Is this editing?

Semantically, “revisions” and “editing” may seem the same, but they’re really not. When a writer re-reads his (or her) work to make changes: that may qualify as a “revision.” An editor’s role is often multi-layered and the professional ones often wear many hats–regardless of the industry the editor is working in.

An Editor’s Role

What does an editor do? Well, many editors look at the work from a 10,000 foot view once it’s submitted, to ensure that the content fits the goal of the publication. Let’s look at an example of how this might work. Say you’ve been hired by a non-profit agency to write a grant proposal. Once your work has been submitted, an editor will read it over to ensure that it meshes with the business’ expectations of what a proposal should look like, and whether or not it best represents their agency. In this way, a professional editor is required to understand the market not from an individual “project” perspective, but from an aggregate view of those projects.
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