Do You Need to Take (Yet Another) Writing Course? Here’s Why it Might be a Bad Idea

Over the years, I’ve taken quite a few writing courses and classes, both online and in person. They’ve ranged from afternoon workshops to a two year part-time Masters degree.

On the whole, the courses I’ve taken have been very helpful.

But I know just how easy it can be to think that another course (or class, or conference) might be The Answer.

If you want to make money writing – which many people do! – then it may seem perfectly sensible to take a course, particularly one that suggests it’ll lead to financial reward.

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What Are Content Mills … and Why Should Freelancers Avoid Them?

If you’ve been around freelance writing world, you’ve probably heard the phrase “content mills”.

So what the heck is a content mill?

It’s a large website that offers lots of low-paid writing gigs – either writing for the website itself or with third-party clients.

“Content mill” is a somewhat pejorative term, so you won’t hear sites proudly proclaiming “we’re a content mill – come and work with us!”

I don’t imagine any new freelancer starts out thinking that they’d love to write for peanuts … but sadly, many fall into that trap. They look for writing jobs online, and they come across a content mill; they sign up, with the promise of easy, regular writing work … and they end up making an incredibly low rate, like $5/hour.

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How to Create a Free Blog or Website: A Step-by-Step Guide for Writers

Most writers, at some point, will want a website.

You might use your website:

  • As a way to promote your writing services (e.g. copywriting, freelance writing, editing, or proofreading).
  • As a resource for a creative writing group (e.g. letting members / new members know about meetings).
  • As a place to let readers know more about you and your novels, and perhaps to encourage them to join your email list.
  • As a blog where you write about writing … or about another topic altogether.
  • As a place to publish your work or other people’s work, like an online journal or literary magazine.
  • … or perhaps you have a different idea altogether!

Whatever you want a website for, there’s a good chance that:

  • You’d ideally like it to be free (especially if it’s more like a hobby than part of your business).
  • You want it to be simple to set up and to maintain.

Why I Recommend WordPress.Com for Your Website or Blog

I’ve been creating websites for 16 years now, and I remember the days when I had to hand-code everything in HTML. For the past nine years, I’ve been using WordPress for almost all my websites.

Whether you’re new to websites or already have one (or more!), WordPress is a great option. Many, many websites run on WordPress – including lots of big ones like ProBlogger and Copyblogger.

While WordPress is a great tool for blogging, your website doesn’t have to have a blog. You can use WordPress to make a “static” site (one that’s only updated occasionally, without a blog/news section) if you want.

You may already know that there are two types of WordPress to choose from … and I know this is where a lot of writers get a bit stuck!

Your options are:

  • WordPress.COM – your website is hosted for you (you don’t have to pay for web hosting) but your options are a bit more limited.
  • WordPress.ORG – you have full flexibility, but you need to pay for your own hosting and there’s a bit more of a learning curve when it comes to setting up and maintaining your site.

You may have heard that it’s best to use WordPress.org because it’s more professional and you get full control over everything.

Personally, I think WordPress.com is fine for the vast majority of writers creating a straightforward website … and anyway, you can transfer over from WordPress.com to WordPress.org in the future, if you feel the need to.

Here’s how to set up your website on WordPress:

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Why Your Self-Published Book Needs a Professional Cover

 

One of the two crucial things that indie / self-publishing authors should pay for is cover design. (The other is editing.)

Here are six different covers.

Which ones do you think are self-published?

 

(All of these are taken from the September 2016 and October 2016 editions of Joel Friedlander’s e-Book Cover Design Awards. I decided to use covers from these Awards as the authors or designers had already submitted them for critique, and I chose Awards from last year so that if those authors had wanted to make changes based on Joel’s comments, they’ve had a chance to do so!)

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Is it OK to Use Swear Words in Your Writing?

 

Swearing. Cussing. Strong / bad / foul language. Whatever you want to call it … can you use it in your writing?

Yes.

It’s your writing, and you can do whatever you want!

Of course, there are reasons you might decide against swearing, or reasons why you might moderate your language in different contexts.

Here are a few things to consider.

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The Four Essential Qualities You Need for Freelance Writing Success (and How to Develop Them)

 

How do you know if you’re going to make it as a freelancer?

I’ve been freelancing for eight and a half years now, and to be honest, there were times early on where I thought maybe I wasn’t cut out for it!

Over that time, I’ve seen lots of freelancers thrive … and I’ve seen others give up and return to the world of employment. (And, of course, there’s nothing wrong with that. Freelancing certainly isn’t for everyone.)

Assuming you really want to succeed as a freelancer, though, what qualities do you need … and how can you develop them? I’ll go through the four that I think are most essential, but I’d love to hear your take in the comments!

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Is a Fear of Technology Holding Back Your Writing Career? Here’s What to Do

 

Image shows man writing in notebook, in front of laptop.

Do you ever wish you could simply write and that somebody else would take care of all the technological side of things? I know a lot of writers do, just as a lot of writers wish that somebody else would take care of marketing for them.

The truth is, whatever sort of writing you do, and whatever your ambitions for your writing, you will need to be at least somewhat comfortable using computers, the web and different software packages.

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Interview with Mark Gottlieb, New York Literary Agent

mark-gottlieb-interview

What are literary agents really after? Do they want first-time authors who’ve already built a huge platform … or simply a great book?

New York agent Mark Gottlieb, who’s currently building his list, has been kind enough to answer some questions about his job and the state of publishing in general.

If you’ve been reading Aliventures for a while, you’ll know I’m very much a fan of self-publishing … but I also think traditional publishing still has a huge amount to offer. Mark argues the case for going down the agent and publisher route here.

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A Quick Guide to Formatting Your Microsoft Word Manuscript for Amazon’s Kindle

 

word-manuscript-for-kindle

One daunting task for many self-publishing authors is how to get their finished book up for sale on Amazon as an ebook. It’s not as simple as just uploading your manuscript … right?

Well, it can be!

Amazon’s KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) service gets easier to use every year. If you have a fairly straightforward manuscript – like a novel, collection of short stories, or text-only non-fiction book – you can upload your Microsoft Word document, preview it, and have a finished ebook in minutes.

In this post, I’ll explain how.

Quick note to Writers’ Huddle members – you have a much fuller version of this now available as a video seminar, with detailed step-by-step instructions. There’s also a transcript with screenshots.

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Should You Be More Business-Like About Your Writing?

more-business-like-writing

One piece of common advice in the world of writing is “treat your writing as a business”.

But like the idea of striving to write faster and faster … is it really such an equivocally good idea after all?

I have a writing business: for eight years now, my income has come from my writing and from my work with writers. And I’ll readily admit that adopting some “business-like” practices can help most writers.

But sometimes, treating your writing as a hobby – or an artistic pursuit, or an avocation – is better than trying to be super-serious and business-like about it.

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