Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Looking for Creative Writing Success? Show Up!

Freelance Writing Success By Showing Up
By Angela Booth

Woody Allen summarizes the best-ever advice for writing, and for living, with his famous quote: "Eighty percent of success is showing up." In your freelance writing career, you show up by writing every day, as well as by contacting writing markets and by offering your work for sale.

If you've been procrastinating about writing, or are avoiding marketing your work, try my two-pronged "show up" technique, and you will be amazed at the results. I teach this technique to my writing students. It works. Students who are unpublished, brand-new writers have often sold their first piece of writing within a couple of weeks once they start showing up.

Show up by writing, every day

Showing up by writing is vital for any freelance writer. If you're a novelist, you'll need to write 100,000 words for an average novel, so 500 words a day of writing which is in its final form is the bare minimum you need to write each day. If you're writing nonfiction articles, 500 words a day is also the minimum - you can't build a profitable career on fewer words.

If you're a new writer, you'll need to build your writing muscles before you can write a couple of thousand words a day. What's vital is that you write every day, to build those writing muscles.

Some writers find it restrictive to focus on daily word counts, and if this is you, opt for an hour of writing each day instead. This doesn't have to be a block of a single hour. You can write for 20 minutes in the morning, 20 minutes at lunch time, and 20 minutes in the evening, as long as you show up by writing every day.

Show up in the writing marketplace

Freelance writers sell their words, so this means that your words need to be out in the marketplace. Your primary "showing up" tools in the writing marketplace are your portfolio, and your bio.

Your portfolio contains examples of your work. If you're a new writer, you won't have any examples of work you've sold. There's an easy way around this: craft some writing samples of the kinds of writing that you want to sell - magazine articles, advertising, several chapters of a book, or a Web site.

Your bio is also a vital sales tool. It introduces you to people who can buy your work. Many new writers, and also some experienced ones, have a lot of trouble with crafting a bio. Here's an easy way to write your first bio: think: Who, What, How, When, Where and Why. When you use the "5Ws + an H" system, it gives you a handle on the process.

Let's see how this works in practice when you're writing a bio. "Who: Linda H. Writer; What: writes fiction and nonfiction; How: full-time writer; When: for five years; Where: business and technology magazines; Why: marketing degree, enjoys writing, developed full-time career."

Using this bare-bones outline, you can quickly write bios of various lengths: 25 words, 50 words, 100 words, and 250 words. Your 50-word bio is the one that you'll use most often. You'll send it out with every query that you write. Use the 25-word version as your email signature file.

Once your portfolio and bio are ready, you can show up for markets in minutes, as soon as you spot a possible new market for your work.

For example, you might be browsing the Web, when you spot a new magazine that's debuting in a few months. Just shoot off a quick note to the editor introducing yourself with your bio with a link to your online portfolio, and ask what opportunities there are for freelancers with the magazine. Or, you may be sitting in the dentist's waiting room, and you spot a new magazine. Shoot off an email enquiry to the editor as soon as you get home, even before the Novocain wears off.

So there you have it: how to show up for your freelance writing career. Try it. Just show up: you'll succeed when you do.

Angela Booth is a veteran freelance writer and copywriter. She also teaches writing. Visit her blogs - Angela Booth's Writing Blog at and Fab Freelance Writing at for daily writing inspiration and motivation. Subscribe to the Fab Freelance Writing Ezine at to receive "Write And Sell Your Writing: The Power-Write Report" free. It's 21 pages packed with information to help you to develop a six-figure writing career.

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