Tag Archives: writing tips

Sam Searches – III. The First Chapter

Advice for writing the first chapter

This search is a little different from the others. Less about a particular topic that might be useful to your writing, I figured I’d compile some resources on writing that dreaded first chapter.

Every author, every story, is different. These are more like “guidelines” than rules, but they should help you better explore the beginning of your work.

If you have more resources to add, please comment below! Thanks for reading and sharing.

srm

What to Do

What to Avoid

Other

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Character Depth– What Really Works?

I’ve seen it hundreds of times over the course of my many years writing:

Character building in the form of “Interview Sheets” or “Character Charts.”

You know the drill; you have this wonderful little application for you as the narrator or you as your character to fill out for an in-depth study of history, quirks, personality, thought process, appearance, and more.

But my question always ends up being: How much does this help? I’ve tried it and found that I end up just wasting time on trying to flesh out characters who would rather add skin to bone in their own time.  Of course, these character “cheat sheets” are only supposed to provide an outline, some inspiration, but I’ve yet to find any.

For me, my characters become rounder as I write. I’ve yet to have any sort of problem with this style and have often found it preferable to the reader. If your character is narrating in the first person POV, why would she comment on her long golden-brown hair in the first five pages of the novel? I know when I tell a story, what I was wearing or how my hair looked become totally unnecessary details in the telling. If an omniscient is telling the story, why would the narrator need to convey your character’s happiest memory if it will never have any impact on the story at hand?

In this way, writing for myself is easier because my characters unveil themselves slowly– and as a reader, I appreciate the same.

I will go out of my way to find fitting names for each character. Oftentimes, they denote something in personality, history, or main objective, even if the correlation is a small one. I like to create pathways (something tangible I can reference later) from one character to the next and their impact on the story. I will give them age ranges, base descriptions, and occasionally will outline certain personality aspects. Beyond that, it all comes out in-text.

In that case, though, what else can be done to help make a character more “real?”

More importantly: What do YOU do to help make your characters more real?

I’d love to hear some input. Especially if you have a really rockin’ alternative to the character chart.

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It’s Not Easy Being Free(lance)

I’ve been officially employed by two fantastic freelance sites for two days now.

All around, just for writing a handful of blog posts and other content, I’ve pocketed $24 with more on the way. Already I’m seeing this as something that qualifies as a viable option for work-from-home employment while I continue writing and revising my novel, though I’ll wait to quit my day-job until I’m a little more financially secure: just in case.

$24 may not seem like enough of a motivating factor to justify leaving a full-time job to work from home, but somewhere between this moment an six months from now, that’s precisely what I’ll be doing.

BlogMutt and Textbroker both offer creative and professional content for a multitude of clients covering a wide range of subjects. In two days, I’ve become a flash-expert on grassroots software, baggage locks, color trademarks, the prices of medical imaging diagnostic tests, and the best ways for insurance brokers to create and maintain customer loyalty. Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined that I would be doing research to compile professional blog posts covering any of these interests, much less such a spectrum over so short a time. But here I am, batting five-for-five.

Inevitably, rejections are on their way. But here are a few tips I’d offer anyone else looking to make a little extra cash this way:

Do your research.

Freelance writing doesn’t entail the kind of “creativity” I imagined. It’s a different animal all together. You must be able to work with very little information to essentially build something out of nothing, all while maintaining the illusion that you are a well-trained professional in that field. This is not sunshine and daisy work, this can oftentimes be a school research project on steroids. So, if you don’t know what you’re doing but you still want the assignment, be ready to dedicate yourself to some intensive reading and data collection. If you aren’t capable of doing so, expect more rejections than acceptances. The companies hiring content writers are often in a very specific field– and if you can’t do it, someone else will.

Quality, not quantity.

Though some seem very adept at pulling all sorts of money from the nooks and crannies of Internet writing, it may take a while for you to get into the swing of things. So don’t rush. If the site you choose has the option for a little networking (forums, a Twitter account, a blog, etc.,) utilize it! Take tips and tricks from seasoned writers, read your reasons for rejection carefully, and apply all of the advice you see to your next piece. Cranking out one solid assignment will do much better for your confidence and your wallet than spilling word-vomit all over your clients in hopes that one chunk of it will be bearable. And when you find your niche, stick with it for a while! Or at least keep it as a reliable stand-by.

Don’t be afraid of a challenge.

On the other hand, you can’t be too terrified of tackling something new. You might just surprise yourself at your innate understanding, or at the very least you’ll be broadening your horizons in many new realms. On some sites, you may be able to find more work simply being skillful at digging into subjects which intimidate your competitors.

As I continue to trudge through this process, I’ll post periodically with tips for my fellow writers out there.

If you’re looking to have any writing done for yourself or your company, or if you have any questions, please feel free to leave a comment here, or find me on Twitter @srmeisinger. For now, I’ve gotta get back to the grind I so dearly want to put behind me.

Counting down the days.

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