I'm a writer. For real. My day job is writing. Someone actually pays me to do something I love...sort of. I'm not paid for fiction writing. That'd be awesome. Instead I'm paid to write non-fiction - articles about random shit that most of you probably don't even think about. But as monotonous as freelancing can be, I've learned a lot from the process and the content of each article.
1. Truth is stranger than fiction.
But it's not as fun to write. You can't just make shit up, especially factual shit. Not in fiction or non-fiction. If it's in a book somewhere, you best get it right because someone is always waiting to prove you wrong.
2. Editors are our friends.
Most of the time editors want to make your work better. Their suggestions are meant to help, not hurt. Unless they're assholes. Because every profession has some of those. I think I've had my share now, thanks.
3. Less is more.
Most of my clients want an article telling the reader all the facts in less than 500 words. Do you even know how hard this is to do? I spend more time cutting than I do writing. This is good though, because it's taught me how to be ruthless with my fiction writing. If it adds nothing, I cut it. Sometimes it hurts, but hey, pain teaches you. I'm not sure what...but it does.
4. I care about money.
Once upon a time, when I was young and stupid, I swore I wrote only because I loved it. I didn't care if I ever made money, as long as I could keep creating. Now that I've made a career out of writing, I can say that was a load of shit. I want to make money, but I'd rather make it from my fiction writing not this freelancing nonsense.
5. Writing is not about making friends.
We're mostly supportive, but in a job as competitive as freelance writing, particularly online, it comes down to strategic assholery or starvation. I'll do what it takes to get the article and get paid before the other guy. That means I am not sharing "good clients" who might be hiring with the rest of you. They're mine, all mine! In terms of fiction writing, I know that it's up to me to do the research about agents and publishers, just as I do my freelance clients. No one is going to hold your hand so get the rose-colored glasses off and get to work.
6. You can write the same thing 100 ways.
Seriously, I've done it. I'll probably have to do it 100 more ways before I'm done. This is encouraging, although it's soul-sucking to actually try to do. There are a limited number of plots when you break this fiction shit down, but each writer can make it fresh, just as I can write about how to unclog a toilet or get rid of that nasty rash every single month and make it a different article each time.
7. Writing can be a career.
I don't want to freelance forever. But I do want to write. I want to be published. I really want it. Freelancing has shown me that it is possible to love what you do. The only way I'd be happier in my job is if those published articles were books, with my ideas and my characters instead of something someone else thought up for me to fill in for them.
8. You cannot fluff through it.
In fiction or nonfiction, fluff is fluff and the reader knows it. Some of my clients pay per word, so early on I tried to fluff shit up to get a bettter payday. Wrong decision. Fluff adds nothing and it makes you look lazy. I've learned it's far better to go with a smaller word count than succumb to the need to go purple or frilly. Keep it simple.
9. Research is actually inspirational.
Sometimes I get a title from a client that I just stare at for a really long time thinking, "How the fuck do I write that?" Then I take a breath and Google a couple of keywords from the title. In researching these, I often find several angles to approach the title from and ample material to do it. I've applied this to my fiction writing too. Instead of avoiding topics or scenarios I'm uncertain about, I research them. Most of the time I come up with a way better idea than I started with, and I get to take a Google vacation while I'm at it. I love those.
10. You're your own worst enemy.
When you're in charge of yourself, it's really hard to stay focused. Who's going to dole out the consequences if you slack off? Who do you have to answer to? Freelancing and writing fiction are the same in that you get to be your own boss. This is good and bad. Sometimes I feel like my hardworking good side is battling that procrastinating dark side...and Dark Renee is winning.