Monday, April 16, 2012

Delirium by Lauren Oliver | Review

So I sat down and started reading "Delirium" by Lauren Oliver a few days ago. Desperate for something to replace "The Hunger Games" I thought I would give it a shot. It definitely had some pros, but also a few cons that left me sort of reading it because I had to more than I actually wanted to.

The Story Line
Girl living in a Dystopian society where love was considered a disease that could destroy the world. At a specific age there was a procedure done to remove the ability to love from these teenager's heads and the main character goes on an epic struggle to find out love is a good thing and escape from this oppressed way of living.

...typical sorta.

I give Oliver props for having "love" as a disease, but it was quite cliche to me. You knew from the second you read that it was about love the girl would obviously be falling in love. I found myself kind of annoyed through the whole book and kept reading, but the cliches were endless.

That being said, I give Oliver props for having a book that was extremely well-written. Her descriptions were beautiful, dialogue was engaging and though the plot was so-so, I wasn't disappointed. The next book is "Pandemonium", which I will most likely read.

Scale of 1-10?

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Validity: Draft #2 Under Heavy Revision

More editing was done today. I took chunks from the middle, beginning, end all at random and started reconstructing an entirely new draft. I'm about almost 20k words into it and up to Chapter Seven. This will easily be 90,000 words if not longer. It is a trilogy though, so I dont want to drag out the story to the point where someone is like "Whats the point of Book #2?" 

It is flowing much better. I don't find myself staring at this thing going "what am I going to do here?" Instead I have a clear picture. It's like a train on the tracks, only this train is a 400mph bullet train that is whizzing through each station.

I plan on having this done by the end of the month and then it will be edited, fluffed where needed and May 1st I plan to send it out to agencies and a few publishers. 

The only hint I can give so far is it is a Dystopian. Before you go all "Oooh Hunger Games" on me, listen here: 
Dystopians have been around far much longer than Hunger Games. I'm talking since the days of Orson W. They are essentially sci-fi's, though some people don't realize this much. Fahrenheit 451...yeah that was a Dystopian.

From my vast knowledge of reading Sci-Fi and Dystopian-based novels, I'm pleased that this one is turning out to be quite unique. Funny thing is I cannot decide on the ending I would prefer to use. Sure I can go cliche, which I'm afraid a publisher would want or I can totally throw it for a loop. That has yet to be decided.  I think I will let the story flow the way it flows and the ending I will come to decide when I reach Part III of the book. Until's as just as much of a mystery to me as it is to you.

"Validity": First Draft Done...Now Where?

My first draft is complete. 

Actually, it has been complete for the past two days. I stare at this pile of papers and think "Nice", but then I shiver with fear thinking about how I have to go through it all and spruce it up for Draft #2. Part of me is in fear, the other in awe, the other just downright brain dead. Churning out a novel in five days really takes something out of your brain -- or perhaps my brain fell out. Not really sure there.

I have read through and know there are some inconsistencies that will need fluffing and repair. As I read it I decided there was one part of the plot I wanted to change out entirely, which means about 20,000 words will be replaced. 

Some would say that is because I didn't outline. Nah...It's because I am a writer. Our minds, our creativities, everything that drives behind that novel production changes with the wind, the time and the temperature outside. 

This is my first novel. I want to wow, inspire and scare those who read it all at once. Is it fine as it is? Honestly yes. I just don't feel this is how I want to debut into the novel writing world. I'm a perfectionist for sure, but a realist too. I want my first novel to come out of the gates grabbing, biting and smacking those in the similar industry down to the dust. I want to run for the finish line and say "Yes! I did it!" and now I won with the best foot I put forward -- not just the OK version.

So that being said, I sit here with a stack of papers staring at them and highlighting portions that will transfer over into the revamped version and crossing out anything useless for the new plot idea. It will be interesting for sure, but the idea I have brewing within my mind is one that I think will take my idea that much further.

What is the idea? Hmmm...can't say. Unfortunately with the rise in Dystopian novels it seems as though I might get lost in the flood; therefore, I'm making something a little more outrageous. I'm also taking a risk by breaking some novel-writing do's and dont's, but hey...if you want to go big, you can't exactly follow someone's pristine template. 

For now, my book, who I have taken and cultivated under my wing like a child has been named "Validity". Will that change? Probably so. 

More updates to come on my first novel soon.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Do I Need a Plot for My Novel?

Oh the plot. If there isn't one bigger thing to knock a writer off their feet, it is that stupid plot. You sit, you ponder and you think "Gosh I have a great idea!", but yet there is no real plot. Writers will spend weeks, months or even over a year plotting, outlining, characterization planning -- the list is honestly endless. I have seen writers with pages upon pages of notes (honestly, they could make a novel from that). Where do they get though? They put so much thought into it that now they have every step of their novel put together. That seems great right? Just fill in the blanks and you are done!

It's not that simple. A plot is important, yes, but planning each and every detail and outlining to the T almost suffocates your plot. You are stuck to follow this rigid guideline, this Dystopian-ruled way of life for your novel. You cannot move away, you cannot let creativity reign, you are destined to only write what you have plotted and outlined. 

I am a firm believer that if you are going to write a novel that is creative, witty and well...readable, you need to skip the over-planning. You are digging yourself a hole essentially. Writing a novel should come with ease. As you write and go on into your novel the plot will thicken and sometimes even present itself naturally (happens for me). Creativity, after all, is what drove you to write the darn thing to begin with. 

Not everyone can fly by the seat of their pants and write. I understand this. These type of people need structure, need that planning and that is okay -- AS LONG AS THEY FINISH IT. I have author friends who have dozens of book ideas they spent over a year planning out to perfection, but they never wrote it. They blame it on a "plot hiccup" or "plot error", but in reality, the problem is is that the idea is suffocated. The idea no longer inspires the author because he or she just spent a year of their life planning it down to the grain.

The current novel I am working on, I wrote all 300+ pages in five days. Yes, five days. Did I plan? Plot? Outline? Create character bios? 


I sat down on Easter Sunday and started writing. The ideas flowed into the page, the words spilled out and the deeper I dove into my novel, the more that freely came out. At first I had NO CLUE how my story would end what-so-ever, but as I wrote the ideas kept coming, plots and twists developed themselves and suddenly the ending came to me while in the shower. Five days....that's all it took for my first draft.

Now yes, I will have a lot more work on the second draft than those meticulous planners, but how many planners drop down a novel in five days? Hmmm..I would have to say none. Most spent over five days planning it all out most likely. 

So, do you need a plot or an outline for planning your novel? 

The answer in my opinion is no, but that being said, some people need that rigid way of working to keep on task and hey, that is okay too. What matters is not how you go to the end, but that you GOT TO THE END. 

Saturday, March 31, 2012 | A Review from a Real Freelancer


If you do a general Google search for online accounting programs for freelancer, is one of the results you will get. Advertised as “painless billing” and offering a variety of packages as well as a free trial, FreshBooks is quite the interest of many freelancers – I being one of them. at First Glance
FreshBooks is 100% online. You sign-up, create an account and get on with your business. You will have your own log-in page and can even create a logo and customize your invoices. At first, you will receive a 30 day free trial with FreshBooks. From there you will have to select from their packages that include $19.95, $29.95 and $39.95 per month. Now here is the issue for most freelancers. If you are a full-time freelance writer, you have multiple clients you need to juggle. In order to organize and actually use all of your client slots, you HAVE TO use the $39.95 per month feature. Though some can get away with the $29.95 per month, it is quite difficult.

Though the 30-day free trial is great, once it is up you are directed to a screen that FORCES you into upgrading. They do not even show you the free option – which does have. I had to actually call customer service to get them to put my account at “free” status. Apparently they don’t like offering out the free version. Projects has a project feature that allows you to enter projects, track status and even bill them out – all great. But for a person who also runs a copywriting company, the projects are very difficult. My writers found that the instructions were jumbled, even when you put clear paragraph spacing in between each instruction. Furthermore, they didn’t have a way to check off if a project was “pending”, “in review” or even “completed”, which doesn’t work well for me. My Microsoft Access spreadsheet can at least do that. iPhone Application
iPhone and Blackberry users can get access to their FreshBooks by downloading an app, but it costs money to actually use the one that allows you to see all of your clients. $14.95 for the iPhone. So now I am paying $14.95 on top of my $39.95 per month for one billing program? Ouch. versus QuickBooks Online
I have had other freelancers ask me which is better? Though I used for a good solid six months, I went back to QuickBooks Online. QuickBooks may not have a project feature, but in all honesty with the lack of features on FreshBooks part for that, my Access spreadsheet is just fine. Furthermore, the Basic QuickBooks Online costs $12.95 per month and I can have as many clients as I want or need. Furthermore, QuickBooks has an iPhone application that is FREE. No monthly charges to access my books online via my phone. The reporting features of QuickBooks, especially for tax time, are much better than You can also track your checking account for your freelance business with QuickBooks – something doesn’t offer.

So my opinion? If you are a full-time freelance writer, your best option is QuickBooks online versus  You have most of the FreshBooks features with QuickBooks for less money, more accessibility and better features overall.

Sorry FreshBooks.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Are You on Schedule?

Freelancing means you are your own boss, on your own schedule and doing what you what when you want it. The issue, however, is too many freelancers take this very concept a little too literally. They miss deadlines, do things last minute and procrastinate to the point where they are working 12 hour days or even 18 hour days to make sure stuff gets done. Why? Because they are not on a schedule.

The Schedule Factor
A schedule is extremely important for a freelancer. Whether you do graphic designing, writing or editing, you need to have a daily schedule and organization so you know what needs to be done and you work on it bit by bit just like you would in a real office with a boss breathing down your neck. Sure you are your own boss, but if you are not productive, then you might as well go back and work for the man at this point -- because you aren't making money efficiently your way.

How to Create a Freelance at Home Schedule
If you are freelancing from home, you need a schedule. The good news is, this doesn't have to be 8am-5pm Monday through Friday. You can do whatever works for you, but also keep in mind you have clients.

Step One: Make a list of your clients and their normal operation hours. While some work typical office hours, others may be in a different country. Make notes of who may overlap your "awake" hours. It is important to have working hours when your clients do so that you can contact them with questions, issues, etc.

Step Two: Write down your assignments or projects. If you do not have a list of what you are doing and when it is due, you already have a severe organization issue. Sticky notes, by the way, do not count for organization. You should be using a spreadsheet or Access document. I will provide a template in a follow-up post for you all to use.

Step Three: Ask yourself when you want to work. What do you have going on that may effect your schedule? For example, I have a three year old and a husband with a weird work schedule. Therefore, certain days of the week I can work more than others. Chunk together time where you can get solid work in and note times where it is "iffy" as to what can be accomplished.

You should have a schedule for each day of the week you are working and that schedule should include when you start, when you have time to contact clients, when you will be working straight and when you will take a lunch -- just like a real job. If you want a three hour lunch break, schedule it in. That's what is great about this, but the bottom line is, you need to schedule it in.

Step Four: Write it down and print it out! Once you have your schedule, type it up and print it out. This should be next to your workspace as a reminder. Try out your new schedule for a week or so and make adjustments where necessary. The good news about being your own boss is you have that luxury.

A schedule when you are working from home as a freelance writer is extremely important. This ensures you stay on task and don't miss out on working on a job to go shopping (or golfing...). The bottom line in freelancing from home is TIME IS MONEY. Your time is now money. No one is paying you hourly and you are in charge. You need to get work done and get it done efficiently and within a timely manner in order to make it worth your while.

Do I Really Need a Schedule?
Some people hate the idea of a schedule. In my experience these are also the freelancers from home that never make any money -- just saying. But if you are really questioning whether or not you need a schedule, ask yourself this:

  • Do you work on a project with equal chunks of time each day so that it is not rushed nor pushed to a 12 hour day last minute?
  • Do you find yourself working longer some days to catch up?
  • Do you find that you are frequently late or turning in poor quality work?
If you even answer "yes" to one of those, you need a schedule. 

You will be surprised at just how more efficient you are at freelancing from home with a schedule and how much more money you make just by creating a schedule.

A Real Freelancers Schedule
People are always asking me what my schedule is. Since I run a copywriting business and write for clients myself, mine is quite hectic and days are filled with a lot to do. The great thing, however, is I rarely work a 40 hour week and still make $4,000 per month (profit). Why? Because I'm organized.

Monday: 10am-2pm
Tuesday: 7am-4pm
Wednesday: 7am-2pm
Thursday: 7am-4pm
Friday: 7am-1pm
Saturday/Sunday: Off (unless I want to work extra)
*I do a working lunch. Meaning I eat while working.

I work around a three year old, a pregnancy, family/friends and a husband who is a firefighter. I still take care of the house, do the shopping, spend time with my son, write my own blogs for fun and relax. But during those work hours I'm all business. I work, work, work. The rest of the time is my time, while that time is work time.

Your Schedule Can Change and It Should
Life changes, things happen and your schedule is not the same every day. When my son was first born I had hour long chunks of work time, but still made it happen. Even if you work one hour in the morning, two mid-day and three at night several days per  week on a scheduled basis, you are more efficient. Create a schedule that works for you. Reassess your schedule weekly or monthly depending on your situation. I know mine changes monthly and when our second child is born it will change quite severely, but no matter what is going on, I will have a written schedule of some kind. I will know what hours I work, even if I'm working 20 minute chunks between a waking baby.

A schedule almost psychs your mind into "work mode" and you will see a difference instantly just by having one.

If You Are Too Lazy to Follow a Schedule, You Need a Career Change
I have had people say it is too impossible to follow a schedule. They can't do it or refuse to do it. If you cannot self-motivate and self-discipline to follow a simple schedule that YOU create, then YOU need to not work for yourself. Some people find this to be harsh, but in my 10 years experience as a freelance writer I can tell you that those very individuals with this mentality I have met in the past, never made it anywhere past entry level and $3 articles. Interesting isn't it?

Schedules. They are not the enemy -- they are what helps you make money in the freelance writing industry.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Bad Egg Alert: Richard Rahlston or DBA Devenia

This client was found on oDesk. Though most clients found on oDesk are honest, this client is not.

He did not pay for his week's worth of assignments from myself and then decided to disappear on both email, oDesk and messenger. oDesk suspended his contract because of other complaints and he is under investigation. I believe he takes his work from another content site and then sends it out to collect money on it.

I will be contacting any site that is posting the articles I wrote to let them know they are not paid for and therefore are being used illegally.

Do not work for this client. See contact names and information below to avoid him. He is based out of the United Kingdom. He calls his company "Devenia" on; however is in no association with the company Devenia Ltd. or

Yahoo Email/Messenger:
oDesk ID: Richardrahl
Company Name (listed on oDesk): Devenia

Clients like this give freelancing a bad name. Now I (and my family) will go without that money I spent all week earning and now I will have to make up an entire week's pay somehow through other or new clients. In all my years of freelancing this is the first time a client has skipped out in such a way. Usually after hassling they finally pay, this one just disappears.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Expert Blog: Breaking into the Freelance Writing Industry

By Shailynn Krow

I wanted to spend some time today talking about breaking into the freelance writing industry. A lot of people jump into the freelance writing world and think they are going to make it big overnight. Sure, some people are that lucky, though honestly I have never met or read about these so-called get rich quick writers. Ever heard the phrase “starving writer”? That is more likely than a rich writer happening overnight – to think of it, I started off on the ramen noodle budget diet. You would be surprised what you can do with those noodles and for $0.80 a pop, it is what most writers live off of.

Even famous writers like Stephan King and Michael Crichton had to put in their long hours – and they still put in their long hours today. Too many newbie writers jump into freelance writing and think they are just going to get rich and never work and these are the people that never make it.

Get to Work and Keep Working!
After 10 years of freelance writing I still work long hours. Some days I will work 5am to 7pm, while other days I work three hours. Why? Because I’m a freelancer. Work is never scheduled, never the same and it is always sporadic. You take the work when you get it because tomorrow you might have none. If you waltz into freelance writing thinking you will work when you want and have a scheduled number of hours, you might as well fill up your resume and get a real job. Freelance writing means long hours and never the same schedule. Ask any freelancer and they can tell you that.

Setting Your Own Hours by the Job Not Your Life
You should set your own hours, but by that I mean set up some working hours, but have them flexible. Example? I set myself up from 8am to 3pm for one of my clients. However I have to be flexible depending on the client I get.  Two weeks ago I had a client from China. We certainly do not share the same work hours. To meet with him I had to get on Skype by 4am my time. Did that mean I woke up at 3:55am and dragged myself in robe and no makeup to my computer to chat with my client via video chat? If I had, I doubt I would have been working for them.

Instead, I woke up at 3:00am, hopped in the shower, ate and even drank a cup of coffee all before heading to the computer. I was awake, fresh and clean for my client and more importantly I was alert and professional.

Think of the Competition
I cannot tell you how many writers I have met who are lazy and just figure they will find work later. These are the people that you see at Costco working part-time because their freelance writing career has got them nowhere. I have never taken a side job in my 10 years of freelance writing. Why? Because I know the competition and I strive to beat them every time.

Who are your competitors? Aside from the hundreds of thousands of so-called “freelance writers” in the United States, you are also competing against writers in China, India and other countries – all of which have impeccable work ethic in comparison to U.S. writers.  U.S. writers, in all honesty, are lazy. Deadlines mean nothing to them, they work slow and they don’t know the meaning of hard work. Writers in other countries are willing to do twice as much, twice as fast and for half the pay of U.S. writers. More clients are opting for non-U.S. writers simply because they know they will get their work on time, in bulk and for half the price. Can you blame them?

Start thinking in terms of competition. There are perhaps a few thousand jobs per month available and usually several hundred writers that apply for the same exact position. If you have history of missing deadlines, poor work quality or inability to comprehend simple instructions, you will not make the cut. Your portfolio, client referrals and feedback have to be extraordinary. You have to stand out in a crowd of perhaps 50 to over 100 other applicants. That’s not easy to do – no matter how great of a writer you are.

You Want to be a Writer – So What?
Telling someone you want to be a writer, whether it is a publisher, editor at a newspaper or some random employer looking for some articles, means nothing. I once told an editor I wanted to be a writer. His response?

“So why are you standing here telling me that? Go write something”.

He had a point.

Saying you want to be a writer means nothing to anyone who wants to hire you. You have to write, prove you can write and more so prove you want to be a writer. Standing around saying it doesn’t mean anything. Those that really want to be writers get up, write, get the job done and do what it takes to become a writer. Weird how that works out right?

What is Writing Really Like?
I get a lot of questions from people asking what it is like to be a writer. I tell them it’s a lot of work. You have to read, research and be up-to-date on just about everything. You have to be crafty and witty and take a boring topic and make it interesting  -- not something everyone can do, even real writers. If I can give one bit of advice to those who want to break into freelance writing, here it is:

·         Never be late with your work. It shows you are lazy and undedicated to being a writer.
·         Never be selfish with your work hours. If you want to survive and make a living, you better learn to fashion your hours around that of people hiring you.
·         You want to write? Then quit reading this, quit telling people what you want and sit down and do it.

Freelance writing is a harsh, highly competitive and grueling industry. You will be given horrible feedback, yelled at, and scrounging for work some days. If you love to write and really want to be a writer, however, you will make the most of what you have and you will find just how easy it is to actually break into the industry.

How to Work from Home as a Freelance Writer Successfully

The issue with the term “work from home” is that most people hear this and take it too literally. They become lazy, irresponsible and just assume that they are going to make it big or become wealthy overnight – all of which are wrong. So how come so many people work from home as a freelance writer and make a successful living, but you can’t? Consider some of the following:

The Work from Home “Dream”
Those that want to work from home as a freelance writer often do so not because they love to write, but because they want to make money and work for themselves – this is issue number one. The other “dream” misconceptions of working from home as a freelance writer:

·         I can make my own hours
·         I can be my own boss
·         I can choose when I work and how much I work
·         I can write on whatever I want to write
·         I can become rich working 20 hours per week
·         I can be a writer; I did good in school

Let’s talk about these “dream” misconceptions and how most likely they are destroying your chances of ever being a successful freelance writer.

I Can Make My Own Hours: Yes and No
Sure, you can make your own hours, but do those hours work around the people you are writing for? As a freelance writer, you still work for someone in terms of writing. What if that client is available 6am to 4pm, but you only work 5pm to 11pm? How will you contact your client with issues or questions? If you answer “I’ll wait until the next day”, then right there is your freelance writing failure. Though you can make your own hours, you still have to plan those hours around your clients.

Bottom line: If you are selfish with your hours, you might be surprised how many clients you lose or don’t get altogether.

I Can Be My Own Boss: No
A freelance writer still works for someone and answers to someone. Whether it is an editor at a newspaper, CEO of a copywriting company or the owner of a company you are writing a press release for, you answer to some sort of client and that client is, technically, your boss. If they are unsatisfied, they fire you. Therefore, if you think you will work from home as a freelance writer successfully by saying you work for no one, then you have just axed your chances of writing successfully.

Bottom line: Even great authors like Stephan King and John Grisham report to an editor at their publisher’s office and they still have to report on time and do the job. Everyone answers to someone.

I Can Choose When I Work and How Much: No
You can pick and choose what clients you take on, but that’s as far as your power goes. Clients will give you assignments, which might take you longer than your scheduled hours. If you don’t do it, you won’t get more work from that client. It’s quite simple. Those looking to work from home as a freelance writer need to be flexible with their working hours, flexible with how much work they take and always strive to do the best. Why? Because one week you may have work and the next none.

Bottom line: Take what you get when you get it, get it done and do it no matter how long it takes.

I Can Write on Whatever I Want to Write: No
If you have been freelancing for years and built up a large enough clientele or work for a newspaper, then yes, you can. However, most who start to work from home as a freelance writer do not have that luxury. Therefore, being an avid researcher is important so that you can write on any topic presented to you. You cannot just pick and choose. If you do, you will be surprised at how little you make.

Bottom line: Learn to research and learn to write on what you are told to write. Pretend you are starving and work is your food. Take the food you get so you don’t starve to death tomorrow.

I Can Become Rich Working 20 Hours Per Week: No
The whole “get rich, work less” jargon was created by the schemers of the work-from-home industry. They lure people in saying work 15 to 20 hours per week and make $5,000 per month from home. If it sounds too good to be true, it is. This is no different with working from home as a freelance writer. Freelance writers have to work long hours, long weeks and sometimes for little pay. Even famous writers work more than 20 hours per week. Do you think Stephan King wrote all of his novels working when he felt like it or just 10 hours per week? No. Stephan King writes a minimum of 2,000 words per day for eight hours per day the entire week. Sure he’s rich, but he didn’t get there nor keep himself there only working a few hours a week.

Bottom line: If you think you will make it big working a small number of hours per week, you will be surprised at how little you make. Get to work and get working hard.

I Can Be a Writer; I Did Good in School: No
Those who want to work from home as a freelance writer often fail because they say they are a good writer. Writing a term paper in school is nothing like writing a 400 word article on the effects of a prescription drug and hair loss or installing a vinyl fence. Those who look at freelance writing as “homework” ultimately fail. Those who are passionate about writing, who write naturally and without effort are the ones that are successful. You have to be naturally witty, entertaining and more so conversational. A client that asks for an article on vinyl fences doesn’t want a book report. They want something interesting for their readers to learn from.

Bottom line: Not everyone is cut out to work from home as a freelance writer. Just because you were good in school doesn’t mean you are good at professional writing.