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Book Reviews

How To Start a Home Based Writing Business

How To Start a Home-Based Writing Business, by Lucy V. Parker and published by Globe Pequot Press, is an excellent reference and educational book for the writer who is seeking to take their career to the next level: Starting their own writing business from their home office.
The book highlights ten areas writers should consider before starting their own business. The chapters involved included:

1) Getting Started as a Home-Based Writer

2) What Will You Do and For Whom?

3)Where the Work Is: Key Writing Products and Clients

4) Making Your Business Legal

5) Office Space and Equipment

6) Computers, Online Services and Another Look at Start-Up Costs

7) Marketing Your Services

8) Selling Your Services

9) How to Charge and How to Collect

10) Tips for Managing Your Business (and Yourself) and Writing Your Business Plan
At the end of each chapter the author takes the writer through success worksheets designed to help them map out their business, including weeding out strengths and weaknesses.
There are also a few forms such as Job Control Form, Estimating Form, Follow-Up Sheets and Prospect Information Forms. All of these forms are designed to help the beginning and even professional entrepreneur stay focused and organized.
In the back of the book, there is a bibliography categorizing books on business, books on writing business plans, books on time management, organization and career planning, books on the business of writing, media guides, periodicals for professional writers, audio visual resources, software for businesses and databases for marketing and manuscript tracking.
Following the bibliography, a source directory offers information on websites for entrepreneurs, websites for writers, job websites, freelancing websites, online courses on writing and career guidance.
The resource websites lists sites devoted to retail, reference, organization for home-based entrepreneurs and organizations for professional writers.
If you’re a writer looking to start your own home-based writing business, I recommended this book. It will teach you everything you need to know. I have used the information provided by Lucy to start my own freelance writing and desktop publishing business.
You can find How To Start a Home-Based Writing Business at online stores such as Amazon.com as well as in your local bookstore.

Book Reviews

Making Money Freelance Writing

The Writer’s Digest Handbook of Making Money Freelance Writing, from the editors of Writer’s Digest magazine, offers insight for writers seeking to turn to a freelance writing career.
For those starting out in the business, or those looking for inspiration from other freelance writers, this book offers information from various authors on how to keep the money flowing in; how to call an editor; guide to copyright, work for hire situations; the art of negotiation; how to make time for writing; beating taxes; work expenses and so on.
There are three sections in the book covering the above aspects and many more: Section 1- Conducting the Freelance Business, lists twenty-two articles on how to bring in the money, tips for the beginning freelancer, setting your rates, billing your clients, tax tips, making a full-time impression even though you are a part-time writer, and many more.
When I started my freelance career, the most important article to me in this section was, “Four Tips for Beginning Freelancers”, by Liza Galin Asher.
In her article, Liza reveals some good tips for new freelancers to keep them on the right path. The first tip, Writing is a business, she talks about how freelancers are actually like salespeople only their ideas are their “products”. This really is key to remember because if a freelancer doesn’t work selling their written work, their talent and creativity will not be printed and thus, will go unnoticed. The more experience the freelancer gets in selling their work as well as writing it, they will become more proficient and will not have to focus so much on selling their work.
Think small and Local. Here Liza urges the freelancer to remember their goal is to get published and to jump to writing articles for big time magazines like Vanity Fair, or Vogue. Freelancers should start out writing for newspapers, trade newspapers and magazines in their neighborhood. It is good to start small and work your way up.
Liza says the best way to get the most out of what you write is to keep re-selling the articles you have already written. Once you sell and article, go back to it and re-write it with a new angle and submit it elsewhere. An article is never retired so long as you can keep putting a new spin on it each time your write, or add important information that has recently become available. Also keep in mind to resubmit rejected articles to other publications. Just because one place didn’t find a need for your work, doesn’t mean someone else will reject you.
Lastly, Liza reminds novice freelancers that just because you sold your first piece, doesn’t mean it is time to quite your job. The freelance writing life is uncertain and there are many lulls from when you make your first sale until the next time you make a sale. She does mention that if your salary from freelancing makes at least fifty percent of your regular job’s salary, then you would probably be safe in quitting your real job.
Section 2 – Freelance Opportunities, lists fifteen articles on: the market for writers, expenses, work for hire, ghostwriting, using pictures with work, as well as a few others.
One good article from this sections is Dennis E. Hensley’s “Simple Steps to Multiple Marketing”. Here Dennis, lists the various levels of smallest local publishers to the largest circulation periodicals as well as their pay ranges.
He also talks about the four requirements freelancers must have in order to sell their work to more than one editor. Freelancers should make sure their previous work doesn’t overlap too much with the reprint readers market’s audience. He states how he did this by selling a piece to Detroit Free Press and then selling the same piece to The Fort Wayne News-Sentinel as people in Indian didn’t receive the Detroit Free Press.
When you are selling the same piece of writing to a different editor than you did before, be sure to send in different photos than you sent in last time with the submission. This will offer a new visual perspective to readers who may have already read the article somewhere else. Yet, if you don’t have new photos, it is best to send in the same photos you used before with the manuscript than to send in no photos at all.
When you are writing for a new publication, freelancers should re-write their article in the style of their target market. Freelancer should study any back issues they can get in order to determine the correct tone and slant to use when re-working their piece.
Adding news items relevant to your readers is also a good idea.
Hensley urges writers to remember to sell only their one time rights as selling all rights, removes the author’s say in how their work is used. The author also will not be able to use that work elsewhere.
Lastly, Hensley talks about seven ways for freelancers to get multiple sales from their work.
Section 3 – The Freelancer’s Lifestyle, has eleven articles covering the topics of: making time to write, home office, handling distractions and interruptions, quitting your day job and so on.
The most important issue I find among people who like to write is finding the time to do so. Robyn Carr’s article “How to Make Time to Write” approaches this obstacle. She talks about how some people don’t sit down to write because of the lack of time. They don’t want to start writing in fear that they may not have time to continue the following day. Other reasons include being too exhausted at the end of days work to think straight and many writers fear they will be interrupted when they do sit down and begin scratching pen to paper, or typing on their computers.
As well as their being many reasons not to write, Robyn also talks about different kinds of writers such as all-or-nothing writer, scheduled writer, catch-as-can writer, and the super writer. No matter what kind of writer you are, you probably have a busy schedule that either includes a little time for writing, or none at all. Robyn suggests rearranging your schedule to fit writing time when it will not be of an inconvenience to your spouse, your boss, etc. For example, you can write a bit before going into work, on your lunch break, or before bed. If rearranging your schedule doesn’t work, try taking time from something else you are doing, but may not be enjoying as much.
Though writing is important, Robyn makes sure her readers understand that writing is not more important than the job that brings in steady cash flow; it’s not more important than you marriage or your children. It’s all about balance and finding what works for you and your family.
There are many more great articles in Making Money Freelance Writing, that will be helpful for the novice freelancer. The information is invaluable in educating any freelancer as well as keeping them on the right track. I highly recommend reading this book if you are a freelancer in search of insightful articles from other authors in your field who have been where you are and understand the situations you may be facing.

Book Reviews

The Writer’s Complete Fantasy Reference

The Writer’s Complete Fantasy Reference, by the editors of Writer’s Digest Books is just one of the many resourceful books writers can purchase to help them plan and write the fantasy aspects of their novels.

Out of the books I have read for writers, this is so far the most complete reference for fantasy writers, covering the topics of: traditional fantasy cultures, world cultures, magic, witchcraft and pagan paths, commerce, trade and law in contemporary fantasy, fantasy races, creatures of myth and legend, dress and costume, arms, armor and armies, as well as the anatomy of a castle. Here is a more in-depth look at what the book covers:

In Chapter 1 – Traditional Fantasy Cultures, Michael J. Varhola, talks about feudalism, manorialism, Christianity, the social order, ecclesiastic titles, knighthood, political entities, peripheral cultures and terms.

In Chapter 2 – World Cultures, Michael ventures to the worlds of Africa, Asia, Mesoamerica, Other Mesoamerican cultures, North America, Oceania as well as South America. There are many intriguing pictures from these different cultures throughout this section.
In Chapter 3 – Magic, Allen Maurer and Renne Wright touch on the history of magic, principles of magic, what magic does, ritual and ceremonial magic, secret societies, divination, and building your own magical worlds.

In Chapter 4 – Witchcraft and Pagan Paths, Allen and Renne cover the topics of how to recognize a witch, classical witchcraft, gothic witchcraft, family or traditional witchcraft, new-pagan witchcraft, new age neo-pagans, language of witchcraft, dictionary of terms from witchcraft and magic.

In Chapter 5 – Commerce, Trade and Law in Contemporary Fantasy, Sherrilyn Kenyon delves into commerce, punishments and trade and barter systems.

In Chapter 6 – Fantasy Races, Andrew P. Miller and Daniel Clark bring to us the races of dwarves, elves, fairies, giants, goblins, orcs, half-lings, hybrids, merfolk, trolls, minor races, non-western races, created races as well was individualization and characterization.

In Chapter 7 – Creatures of Myth and Legend, Miller and Clark give us an alphabetical listing of such creatures such as banshee, hydra, golem, gorgons, Cyclopes, dragons and so on.
Sherrilyn Kenyon returns with Chapter 8 – Dress and Costume. Here she discusses clothing materials, colors, women’s clothing, men’s clothing, shoes, children’s clothing, clergy and chastity belts.

Michael J. Varhola returns with chapters nine and ten. In Chapter 9 – Arms, Armor and Armies, he talks about arms, armor, armies and beasts of war. In Chapter 10 – Anatomy of a Castle, he talks about castles and other fortifications, castle life and the siege.

In this book, there is everything a fantasy writer needs to know to create rich detail in their stories and characters. This book will make a great addition to any writers book shelf and will prove invaluable in the years to come.

Book Reviews

Formatting and Submitting Your Manuscript

Formatting and Submitting Your Manuscript, by Chuck Sambuchino and the Editors of Writer’s Digest Books, is an invaluable reference tool for writers who are starting out in their career and are lost when it comes to the specifics of how their manuscript should look when they go to submit the work to an agent, publisher, or editor.

Most novice writers think they can format their work any way they want and they will be taken seriously and their work accepted. This is not true. There are certain “submission guidelines” that must be followed in order to be taken seriously in their career. If writers don’t follow these guidelines for each agent, publisher, or editor they contact, their work or correspondence will more than likely be tossed away in the slush pile, or rejected all together.
Formatting and Submitting Your Manuscript is a “general” guide of information to help you, the writer, format hard-copy and electronic query and cover letters to agents, editors, and/or publishers. You will also learn how to format both fiction and nonfiction material such as short stories, screenplays, TV scripts, plays, picture books, as well as articles, novels, poetry and greeting cards.
This book is a useful, universal tool when you prepare your work for submissions. However, it is good to keep in mind that whatever magazine, newspaper, publishers, editor or agent you plan on sending your work to, they may have their own set of guidelines. It is best to check their website if they have one, or write and ask for their submission guidelines. Print-on-Demand publishers also have their own set of guidelines to follow when formatting material for publication.
Formatting and Submitting Your Manuscript is a great start for you to learn the basics of formatting your work and even find helpful tips on how to submit your finished projects.
You can buy this wonderful guide online at Amazon.com and other online sellers. You will be able to buy a copy of the book at your local book store, or they can order a copy for you.
I guarantee you will not be disappointed.

Book Reviews

Building Believable Characters

The Writer’s Digest Sourcebook for Building Believable Characters, by Marc McCutcheon is one of the many useful resource books put out by Writer’s Digest Books.

There are many building blocks for writers when it comes to crafting the foundation for stories. Creating characters is one of the most crucial elements writers must develop. Without characters, there is no story. However, many writers are uncertain about how to go about creating characters and bring them to life on the page.

Building Believable Characters offers great advice from other writers as well as a character questionnaire. The questionnaire is in-depth and asks the writer to fill in such information on their character such as name, weight, height, age, body type, physical characteristics, race, religion, gestures, skills, occupation and so much more.

After the questionnaire, there is a chapter titled Character Thesaurus. Under this chapter there are subsequent sections touching on: Face and Body such as complexions, skin types, blemishes, eye type, shape and color, noses, hair, facial hair, body types and so on.

Personality/Identity covers personality traits, bad habits and vices, psychological/psychiatric problems, diseases, disorders, afflictions, hobbies and sports, along with a few others.

Facial expressions, body and vocal language includes anger, anxiety, fear, shock, pain, suspicion, guilt, arrogance, disgust, nausea, happiness, love, grief, drunkenness, laughs, etc.

Dress involves clothing such as dresses, skirts, pants, shirts, coats, undergarments, shoes and boots, hats, sweaters, glasses, fashion styles and others.

Dialects and Foreign Speech runs through Southern (US) Accent Pronunciation Guide, British Expressions and Pronunciations, French and Spanish vocabulary, as well as Italian, German and Russian vocabulary.

Given Names and Surnames from Around the World pulls together names from English, Scottish, Irish, French, Berman, Jewish, Dutch, Spanish, Greek, Italian, Scandinavian, Russian, Arabic, Japanese and Chinese.

The last section covers character homes such as adobes, log homes, bungalow, Cape Cod, Greek Revival, Georgian among many others.

I personally have used Building Believable Characters to create characters from my own novels and short stories. The result was having vivid characters whom I knew more intimately than I thought possible. My characters were alive on the pages and therefore generated more emotion from my readers as they followed my characters’ lives throughout the book.

Marc McCutcheon has an excellent book here and I recommend it for novice writers uncertain of where to begin with building their characters, as well as for professionals looking to juice up their characters.