22 Apr 2009

Six Writers Who Accidentally Crapped Out Masterpieces

The original article is on Cracked.com, so don't expect any deep literary analysis but rather an amusing stroll through half a dozen accidental masterpieces.

6. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thomson

I suspect "cracked out" would be more appropriate in this case, as Fear and Loathing erupted onto the public as the incoherent ramblings of a bored Thomson recording all the things that didn't happen at the motorbike race he was supposed to be covering.

5. Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

This surreal tale of twisted logic spun into a children's book would have remained a family heirloom had Carroll not been badgered into publishing it. Yes, Carroll is a strange character in his own right but in an age when suffering from epilepsy was liable to lead to a stretch in bedlam it was better to be weird and free.

4. Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

Burgess himself considered it one of his weakest works, writing that it was, "... knocked off for money in three weeks, it became known as the raw material for a film which seemed to glorify sex and violence. The film made it easy for readers of the book to misunderstand what it was about, and the misunderstanding will pursue me till I die." I know, success is hard to take when all your other books get trashed.

3. Franz Kafka

Literary genius doesn't always come with a bloated ego and in Kafka's case any sense of self-worth had been erased as an extension of his insurance day-job. Luckily, his executor ignored Kafka's wishes to have everything burnt and promptly published it all. Kafka wrote for himself, something to bear in mind when screaming at the world for some success.

2. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Mary Shelley was just 19 when she penned this now classic gothic horror story, trumping her more illustrious literati friends Byron and Shelley. All a product of being holed up in the Alps with no satellite TV and with two guys who couldn't keep their pens out of the ink-well.

1. William Shakespeare

He did it for the money, the adulation and having a neat lifestyle at a time when most jobs would either be the death of you or would get you in someone else's line of fire. He didn't even bother publishing his plays as that meant other theatre companies could copy them. Shakespeare wrote popular plays as otherwise an empty theatre would mean getting a real job. Sometimes, the fear of poverty can be a creative spur.


So is there anything we can learn from this? One thing that has gone unnoticed is how fast all of these works were written. When you know what you need to write, just do it - and do it quickly! Revising your revisions is a recipe for a patched quilt, not a bestselling novel.

The other mantra that is often chanted is "think about your readers". Frankly, apart from Shakespeare, who wrote plays and therefore needed an audience, the best writers write for themselves. The readership is an abstraction consisting of solitary individuals - your readership is one person, one at a time. Write for yourself - if you can't stomach it then chances are that nobody else will. Actually, even when you think you've written a masterpiece chances are that it isn't. The point, however, is that unless you write for yourself, the chances of it being above mediocre are vanishingly small.

21 Apr 2009

Kurt Vonnegut, Miss Snark and the Search for Your Unique Style

This blog is largely about trying to earn some money writing. It is therefore rare that I discuss writing styles and the mechanics of writing. However, sometimes I do come across interesting articles and don't feel this is going too far astray sharing some of them.

As I recently wrote in The Statusphere for Writers and Journalists, a writer's voice is one's brand - we have little else to offer save for words that move to action. But does that voice sound like your own, or has it been fabricated in a vain attempt to succour success? As Kurt Vonnegut says, there are styles that demand the eradication of the writer - the literary equivalent of a government form. If that is your metier then the style of clarity and brevity is your zenith. In Vonnegut: How To Write With Style, the author stresses that whatever voice you choose to adopt clarity and brevity are not so much matters of style as of good hygiene. Rambling should be preserved for country walks.

To find a subject you care about, and to sound like yourself, are recurring themes. Aping another writer's style is not going to reproduce their success. What can be successful is to transpose a style from one genre to another. The literary geek or the barrow-boy market analyst both work because of the seemingly counter-intuitive juxtaposition of style and content. Find your own voice... then do a bit of oral hygiene before inflicting it upon your readers.

Talking of hygiene, pity the literary agents who have to read through what nobody else will ever read because it is just too awful! Miss Snark is a literary agent with a blog. Actually, the blog has been silent for a long time but has been kept online as it has a wealth of advice for writers, especially novelists. Her Crapometer is particularly revealing in how she judges the first page of a novel. Here both style and content are crucial. There is no point trying to sound like an author who has already been published. Also, the imagination is an infinitely fertile plane and although there is nothing new under the sun you can cast new shadows. The novel as novelty has to be taken seriously if you're going to get an agent to read more than the first few pages.

I don't think that creating one's own style is all that difficult. I think what is difficult is putting an end to the thought that copying someone else's will duplicate their success. In a world full of noise being unique is the first step to being heard.

20 Apr 2009

The Statusphere for Writers and Journalists

When Walt Mossberg was asked, "are newspapers worth saving?" the WSJ journalist replied,"It’s the wrong question to ask. The real question we should ask is if whether or not we can save good journalism.” He continued, “Think about it. Of the hundreds, thousands, of newspapers around the country, there are really only a few that matter. Good journalism and journalists, on the other hand, are worth saving.”

Seems like yet another traditional profession is going through a tech-tonic shift caused by the internet. When distribution costs are minimal and income streams at the mercy of advertising revenues, what does the future hold for journalists? To be fair, there have always been freelance journalists and perhaps their numbers will just increase. What the successful ones are embracing - and what their publishers should also be concentrating upon - is the growth in social media.

This all sounds like more hype for social networking, blogging and community building, but these movements are not going to go away any time soon. As publishers experiment with social media tools they are at the same time locked into their traditional way of thinking as they also test out micro-charging systems and other payment methods. After all, consumers are there to consume, not to just interact then flutter away to the next social buzz.

But journalists and their publishers are now up against bloggers and blogging networks that have had to survive and thrive under the new rules. Marketing people love to talk about brands, but in the case of written content I'd rather call it a voice. Columnists who have personality, insights and engage with their public across the social media networks are creating their own voice. If they were to move to a different site I'd bet many users would follow them. The dedication is to another human voice, not to the corporate brand they may be flying under.

However, all of this means extra work for the writer who wants to succeed. Your personal voice, or brand, has to be created through your own energies and dedication. As in so many other areas, the freedom to freelance comes with an obligation to do all those other tasks that were the responsibility of the publishers, such as marketing, advertising and distribution.

The Statusphere is another of these ugly hybrid words designed to conjure up this new world of fast-moving social interactions. In contrast to the blogosphere, the statusphere is the sum of interactions and contacts that can form across multiple social media websites. However, in all the hype it is easy to forget that this statusphere has no memory - the interactions are ephemeral and what remains are the connections formed. For this reason alone I very much doubt the death of blogs or websites as repositories of histories.

However, one thing that the statusphere is changing is the direction of information flow. Once it was quite simply from publishers to readers, with a trickle of feedback. Now, any article that has the good fortune to spread virally has also spread out of control of the original author. This is good for voice recognition but has already become unwieldy keeping track of one's own influence as so much discussion can happen off-site, or off-blog. It is common to see discussion on a social bookmarking site being far more active than at the site of the original article. People read what they read where they read it and comment where they are - there is no protocol to go back and comment on the source.

Keeping track of all this is surely the task of automated scripts - that do not yet exist and are sorely needed. If all of this gives you a sense of statusfear then just concentrate on your most successful social arenas and let the rest of the network take the strain and bring to you those well-deserved new readers. As this blog is for general writers rather than specifically for journalists, how does all this affect you?

If you are earning from freelance contract work, then perhaps very little. If, however, you are writing for third party websites such as revenue sharing networks then you already have some help in distribution and marketing. But to really spread your own voice you will need to manage this statusphere in the best way you can. The bookmarking and interactions are all your responsibility. The bookmarking is rarely done automatically, although some have added semi-automatic scripts to speed up the process for you. Experiment with spreading your wings and just clip those websites that are not pulling in new readers. At the same time don't forget to engage with those that do show genuine interest or the network will flow elsewhere. Decide where "home" is, set the wheels in motion and let the network do the work.

19 Apr 2009

Paid Bloggers Wanted at Dyalogues

Dyalogues is looking for bloggers interested in engaging in public, two-way conversations (in the form of reviews, like Siskel & Ebert, and debates) on technology, politics, or arts & entertainment. It is like blogging back and forth, but having the resulting conversation published in an attractive, easy-to-read format.

We are looking for bloggers who:

* like expressing their viewpoint in an honest, engaging way (about politics, movies, books, technology and gadgets, etc.)

* can invite a friend or fellow blogger to participate with them (they will be paid too!)

* can provide feedback to us

Each completed, approved dyalogue earns each participant $5 (so $10 in total). So you can invite a friend who writes well, too, and they will earn $5, too. Because you have a lot of freedom to choose your topics, you can have a lot of fun talking about the sorts of things you'd discuss anyway.

Here are some samples (to get a feel for the format):
Review > Books: http://www.dyalogues.com/sample/on-beauty-by-zadie-smith.html
Debate > Politics: http://www.dyalogues.com/sample/should-illegal-immigrants-be-granted-driver-s-licenses.html

You can participate in a number of dyalogues concurrently, and with different people, if you like.

Note that Dyalogues has passed its private alpha stage and is now in private beta in preparation for a public beta launch. This is why - for the moment - it is best to request membership in pairs so that you are guaranteed a debating partner.

For contact details please click here.

18 Apr 2009

Freelance Writing Jobs at Textbroker

Textbroker is a mediator between writers and content clients. Anybody living in America can register as an author at Textbroker. There are only few exceptions to this which can be looked up in our Terms of Service.

After a short application text you will receive your first quality classification. You can then directly view and accept client orders (OpenOrders). Often there are more than hundreds of orders to choose from.
Also, there is the possibility of you specifically being requested by a client. This order type is called a "DirectOrder". DirectOrders are usually assigned when a client is pleased with an author's previous work, or if an author stands out because of his excellent profile.

Payment is made by Paypal once a minimum of $10 is earnt and a payout request is made. As they use Paypal rather than sending cheques it seems odd they insist on US residency, but there you go!

For everybody else in the world the site has one useful page which is how much money they pay writers. Their sliding scale goes from $3.50 up to $25 for a 500 word article.

This is a similar service to Elance, but if you're just starting out and find Elance complicated then Textbroker can help build your portfolio of work before launching towards more lucrative contracts.

14 Apr 2009

Articles Wanted on Breast Augmentation Surgery

Title: Breast augmentation surgery
Description:I am looking for three articles, one on breast augmentation
asurgery in general, one on the two types of implants (silicone vs
saline)and the safety of the implants, and finally an article about the
different incisional patterns that can be used, namely periareolar,
inframamary, or transaxillary. The purpose of the articles is to be put
on a plastic surgeon's web site and be informative
Amount of articles:3
Price per article:$10-20
Length of article:150

Go to Constant Content for full details and to submit your article.

Reviews of Forex Software Wanted

Title: Reviews of forex software
Description:I need honest reviews of forex software written in the first
person. One article per software, needs to be a fairly well known
software.
Amount of articles:5
Price per article:$10-20
Length of article:500
Subjects:signal software
charting software
trading software

Go to Constant Content for full details and to submit articles.

8 Apr 2009

Make Money Writing News Articles at AllVoices

AllVoices bills itself as "The first open media site where anyone can report from anywhere." It is thus essentially a citizen journalism website, so the focus is on news rather than general articles. Joining is free and there is an incentive program based on page views. However, they currently pay only by cheque. So if you don't live in the USA and don't have a US Dollar account you'll have to think seriously if the bank fees to process a dollar cheque are really worth the effort. If you do live in the USA then this could be a profitable string to your bow.

Go to AllVoices.

7 Apr 2009

Network Blogging Survival Tips

I find the obsession with “top 10” lists slightly puerile; there may only be six or seven really worthwhile points dragged out into a neat decad. Anyway, you can read the full “10 Network Blogging Survival Tips” at Problogger. Here I have tried to distil the essentials.

= Don't be put off by the seemingly low base rate. The remuneration package is likely similar to a sales job with basic plus bonuses. The better you perform, the more you will earn.

= Don't blog on a topic you don't care about! This is self-evident – you will get bored and fed-up and it will show in your writing. This is not the same as starting to blog on something you know nothing about. If you're interested in the topic then being a newbie can be positive as you will have a refreshing view on the subject.

= Be a team player. You're working for a network, and by definition a network has more than one person. As in many industries, you may be competing with other bloggers for eyeball counts and subscribers but the whole network sinks or swims together. Do your share of the rowing, whether it be participating on forums, training sessions or special events.

= Hit that quota! If you're having fun, your blog is growing and there are no real life issues then this shouldn't be too hard to do. But if you have multiple blogs, or something happens that means you are physically unable to be online, then be prepared. Make friends, invite guest bloggers, share your success and you will be able to call on cover if you need it. Expect the unexpected.

Erm... that's it, I think!

Good luck.

6 Apr 2009

BlogHer - The Community for Women Who Blog

On Writing Online is primarily about making an income writing online - or at least some income! I don't want to branch out too far on this as there are plenty of ways of writing without making a penny. However, here is a website where there is potential but no guarantees.

I say this because although BlogHer is a blog network for women, their page requesting new bloggers seems to be frozen in a state of 'wait and see'. However, there seem to be new bloggers joining so this may just be a ploy to see who really really wants to join the network. Actually joining the site is open to anybody but getting some money is an altogether different thing.

To get a flavour of BlogHer here is a bit of their vision statement.

At BlogHer, we're working together to deliver on the same mission we wrote at a kitchen table in 2005: To create opportunities for women who blog to pursue exposure, education, community, and economic empowerment.

Working together, BlogHer's members are building a unique community for women online:

* A do-ocracy where BlogHer doesn't serve women online, but rather creates opportunities for all women online to help ourselves and work together to voice and achieve our individual goals - professional, technical, social and personal.

* A robust BlogHer community hub equipped with the tools we need to deliver on our mission, branching out beyond a single blog to create a true community resource and meeting place.

That's visionary enough for now! And, before anybody asks: men can join too!

5 Apr 2009

Articles Wanted on Dating Websites, Advice and Tips

Title:Urgent Article Request
Description:We urgently require 500 word + articles using the following
keyword phrases: -

fresh new dating sites
dating profile tricks
how to be a sugardaddy
rich women looking for men
newest dating sites
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newest dating site
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Amount of articles:As shown
Price per article:$10-20
Length of article:500 words

To see full details and to submit articles click here.

4 Apr 2009

Articles Wanted on Pregnancy and Baby Development Calendars

Two articles needed, as described below.

Title:Pregnancy Calendar
Description:I am looking for content for a weekly pregnancy calendar (from
conception to week 42). For each week there should be around 100-200 words
on how the baby is growing and another 100-200 words on what the mother
may be feeling and/or how her body is changing and/or how her life is
changing.
Amount of articles:1
Price per article:$250+
Length of article:9,000 - 15,000
Subjects:Pregnancy, foetus development

Title:Baby Development Calendar
Description:I am looking for content for a weekly/monthly baby development
calendar (from newborn to age 3).
- From newborn to age 1: weekly entries (so 52 entries)
- From age 1 to 3: monthly entries (so 24 in total)
Each entry should have about 100 words on the stage of development of the
baby.
Amount of articles:1
Price per article:$250+
Length of article:7500
Subjects:Baby development

Both articles have been requested by the same publisher. To see full details then login to Constant Content.

3 Apr 2009

New Age and Holistic Health Articles Wanted

Title:New Age/Holistic Articles

Description:I need articles related to subjects in the field of New Age
health, holistic health, alternative medicine, and general wellness. FULL
RIGHTS articles only!
Amount of articles:10-20
Price per article:$20-30
Length of article:at least 500 words
Subjects:Anti-Aging, Women's Health
(holistic approach), Meditation, Yoga, Zen gardens, herbs, vitamins, feng
shui, and just about anything New Age or holistic-based will be
considered. Date requested:2009-03-31 18:57:14 Other notes:I will ONLY be
purchasing Full Rights articles. These must be unique and original and
never used anywhere else.

For full details click here.