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Advice for beginning freelance writers

The age-old advice is true: write what you know. When you speak about familiar topics, an air of expertise shines through. So examine your life, and focus on your interests. Your topics will find you.

It goes without saying (and yet I'll say it anyway), that you need to pick your genre first. Now my genre focuses on non-fiction articles. In particular, I am fond of the how-to article. I find that I enjoy hands-on experiences, and thus I'm able to guide my reader more easily.

(Now don't panic if you write in several genres, just apply this advice to each genre separately.) There's no long-term commitment involved.

You, of course, have a bevy of genres from which to choose. First, do you prefer fiction or non-fiction? What particular sub-category? What are your interests? Do you prefer first person or third person? Do you prefer writing articles, short stories, books, or something else? Do you prefer working for online editors, traditional publishers, or businesses? The choices are endless.

Once you've decided upon a genre, brainstorm about your ideas. Sometimes, they will come in fits and starts; sometimes they will flow freely; and sometimes they just won't flow at all. But THAT'S OKAY!!! Work through the pain, and keep going. Write every single day, even if you don't have much to say.

Here's a different approach: Every single time a new idea springs to mind, start a new Word file. Use keywords in the filename, so you can find it later. If you have five ideas in five minutes, then save five different Word files. Is it annoying? It can be. But when a new idea emerges, you can pop it into a new or existing file. Keep it up and you'll have an incredible brainstorming list for each topic. You never know when you'll want to open the file, rework it, and turn it into something remarkable.

I have a kazillion Word files on my computer (filed under "articles"). Some are merely flimsy ideas---they are only one sentence long. Others are full of pages and pages of material. Many articles are duplicated from a different point of view (POV). I may have the same article written in first person, and then rewritten in third person. Since every editor has a different style preference, I figure I'll cover all bases: I'm as flexible as possible when I'm "in the zone."

My topics also reflect my life's current events. When I was planning my wedding, I wrote numerous articles on wedding invitations, reception planning, and wedding decor. As my first child was born, I focused on pregnancy, childhood, and potty training. As my life reached the next stage, my writing evolved with me. Luckily, this works well for me: New ideas constantly emerge.

So now you're ready to go, but you don't know where to start? Just look around! Consider each aspect of your life. Did you hear a funny joke? Did you spend the afternoon stuck in traffic? Did your boss give you grief at work? Did your grocery bill shock you? Did your children argue about a trivial event? Turn each event into an article, and breathe life into your work. Your emotions will shine through.


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