Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Writing About What One Knows

This afternoon I read an e-mail on one of my lists from a budding writer of children's books. She mentioned that she had always heard that one should write about what one knows. I've always heard that, too, but is the idea a good one?

It depends.

For some people, it's probably not a bad idea, especially if one is just getting started. But personally, I feel it's limited and limiting. My first book was about Nigeria. Frankly, I didn't know much about Nigeria when I started. By the time I finished, I knew enough about the country that I do fairly well when Nigeria turns up as a subject on Jeopardy. If I had turned down the assignment because I didn't know anything about Nigeria, I'd likely never had the opportunity to become an author.

Perhaps it's different when it comes to fiction. I've only written a small amount of fiction, and I must admit that it dealt with a subject I'm familiar with--weight issues. I've just started a novel for tweens (female), and again something I'm very well versed in--knitting--plays a part in the storyline.

Does that mean I can only write fiction about things I know? Sheez, I hope not. And what about people who write science fiction or horror stories? Is it necessary to be an alien (or at least abducted by one) or to have encountered a ghost or vampire to write about them?

As I said before, writing about what you know may be a good idea for beginning writers. But for the author who wants to spread her wings--and who is willing to do some research--throw out the rule. Fly little bird fly!!!

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Some things to keep in mind

I recently posted an ad on an online group looking to hire authors for a 16-book series. Of course I received responses for many more than I needed, but I was able to hire those I needed.

For the same series, I posted ads on two online groups looking for an editorial proofer. Again I was deluged with responses, which was fine. But, I could not believe the errors I found in the e-mail and even on the resumes. People, people, if you're applying for such a position, check, check, and check again before hitting that send button. Needless to say that those applications with errors were tossed.

Two other things came to my attention during this process. First, please put your name (or at least your initials) in the resume file name. Many just put dates or what kind of resume it is (proof, edit, etc.). This means the reviewer has to rename the file in order to aid in access. Though we're not talking about hours of work, it's time that the individual could spend doing other things.

Also, be professional in the e-mail. I know that might sound petty, but many of the e-mail applications were quite chatty rather than professional. You never know if the e-mail is going to be forwarded to someone else. Also, some people hesitate to hire individuals they know. It can be an awkward situation, especially if things do not go well. As the person doing the hiring, I need to know that the individual will take the position seriously and will not take advantage of a personal relationship.

Just things to keep in mind.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Cats and Freelancing

I belong to several freelance editing and writing lists. I must admit that I am amazed at the number of freelancers who work with a cat by their side. And, I must admit that I fall into that category as well.

I have seven cats: Herman, Eddie, Clarence, Marlin, Purrl, Phoebe, and Norman. Another cat, my darling Lily, died almost a year ago. At the time, I had a full-time in-house job, but I also freelanced a great deal. Lily loved to sit behind my laptop and nap while I worked. After she died, Clarence took over, relishing in the heat being thrown out by the laptop.

When my laptop crashed a month or so ago and I had to get a new one, Clarence decided that it wasn't nearly as warm behind my new computer, so he found a new place to snooze while I worked. Then it was Marlin's turn to keep me close company. He wasn't happy sleeping behind the computer--or anywhere else on the desk for that matter. No, Marlin likes to sleep across my arms. I can still type, but forget trying to write or read a note on paper beside the computer. Apparently I've made him move often enough that he's not quite so inclined to assume the position as he had been.

Then there's Purrl. Purrl was given to me by my vet after her parents brought her in for spaying then refused to come and get her. She's always been quite fond of me, but content to spend her days sleeping on my bed. Of late she's become a lot more outgoing--including out going to my desk. Right now, as I write this and then go on to work on a book about the death penalty, Purrl is snoozing on my notes. She's jumped on my desk for a pet or two, but this is the first time that she's taken a stand--or a laydown anyway--on my desk.

So what is the attraction between cats and freelance publishing careers? Beats me. But there's certainly nothing wrong with it. Except, of course, when their big butts are on my notes. But I'll get over it. Who knows, maybe Purrl is telling me I need a break.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Now I Know

I've often read that writing is a solitary profession. That's fine with me; I'm not very sociable when you get right down to it. I do well quite on my own, thank you.

But this week, I have learned another reason why writing is a solitary profession--project managers who drive you insane. I'm working on a series of books for whom a designer is serving as a project manager. He has determined how many words are to be covered in a chapter based on his ability to get cheap photos. This means that some important material gets briefly mentioned while other chapters may turn into basically a chronology because he can get photos of concerts, appearances, whatever. He's done nothing but complain about what I have or have not included in my books--not how they were written, just whether the text as submitted fits his design.

Yesterday, the guy drove me to tears with his complaints--mostly unjustified. If I had been with people, I would probably have scared them I was so hurt--and angry. Fortunately, I won't have to deal with him anymore. The person with whom I am contracted is going to deal with him. At least she realizes she's not paying me enough to put up with his garbage.

There is some solace in knowing that I am not the only author incurring his abuse. That doesn't make what he's doing right, it just helps me to realize that it might not be personal.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Why Me? But not in a bad way

I've finished the book about the Boston Tea Party (well, I still have a couple of revisions to make)! Yee Haw! The publisher offered me contracts for two more books, one about the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and one about the Death Penalty. I took them, of course. My former boss offered me contracts to write books in her popular rock, poker, and tobacco and smoking series. I took them, but boy do I wish I could give back the poker ones! I'm also editing all of the books in those series.

Editing. I love editing. I never really knew how much I loved editing until I started getting offers for writing. I like writing, but would rather not do so much of it. At least the Boston Tea Party publisher offers me interesting subjects. They are so good to work for.

When I contact publishing companies and packagers about freelance opportunities, I almost always ask for editing assignments. Lately, all I'm getting are writing offers. I guess I'm not complaining. I know there are several freelancers practically begging for business; I've been there. There's one whose difficulty baffles me. She has written far more books than I have, but she can't seem to get any assignments. To be honest, she's probably a better writer than I am.

I guess there's something to be said for being in the right place at the right time--and for networking, especially for networking. A member of an e-mail list recommended me to the publisher, who offered me the Tea Party contract, then contracts to fact-check three books, and the two new writing contracts. Yea networking.