Tips for the Aspiring Writer

Occasionally, someone will reach out and ask me for advice on writing. Here’s what I tell them:

First of all, don’t expect to make any money from writing; its a proven fact that artists make NO money, and if you are after a writing career to make money, you are in it for the wrong reasons. I’ve had a few people contact me and say, “I want to write a book so I can make money from it”, and all I want to say is, “I’ve been relatively successful in MY writing for being a No-Name-from-Suburbia (I mean, my book pitch gained 15K views before I had to take it down), and I’m still not rich so….” Unless you are like Justin Bieber and Usher just happened to stumble across your YouTube video, remember that building your readership (that will eventually lead you to making money) will take a very, very long time, and in the meantime, you need to keep in mind that you are writing to express yourself, and to hopefully influence someone to make this world a better place, and anything that comes next is an added bonus.

…I remember writing my very first blog post, and seeing it scored a whooping five views (which, quite honestly, three were probably from me, and the other two from people I directly sent the link to). It took me quite a while to build a readership. Most importantly, I had to write things people actually wanted to read. There’s honestly so much crap on the Internet that whatever crap I’m throwing on top of it must be worthy as well–it must be humorous, entertaining, juicy, uplifting, thought provoking. But, I also had to be an active participant in the writing community, which meant spending more time reading and commenting on other people’s stuff so they would be drawn to my stuff. Don’t expect to be an overnight sensation, and don’t expect for your blog to take off on Day One (and if it does, I’m incredibly jealous of you).

Now, not to say that I haven’t made money off posts before (but I can’t tell you which ones those were–its a breach of contract). I once had a stretch of time where a bunch of Indonesian psychic websites were contacting me, and wanting me to write articles to include their links. I prayed about it, and it honestly felt dirty and immoral to me, so I rejected their advances, but I’ve certainly accepted a few other offers that I felt would not taint my blog.

Submit, submit, submit!: Ultimately, your goal is to increase your readership so that you can increase your views, so that you can make money someday, and one way to do this is to  have your stuff published on larger platforms that can already guarantee a large number of views. Whenever I have a few “free” moments, I do a little Google search and submit my articles. I would say 7 out of 10 times, my article gets picked up, I get a cool author profile (which makes me more Google-able), I have another link to share, and I gain more traffic to my blog (I’m just waiting for the day I’m sitting on an aeroplane and the person sitting next to me says, “Oh my gosh! You are Britany Ederveen! I read your blog all the time!). Everyone is so busy these days that if I want my posts to be shared, I have to take initiative, and I have to seek out the platforms.

Embrace rejection: Hey, not everyone is going to agree with what you have to say. But remember, you don’t really always know who is reading, what their background is, their motives. You have to learn to sift through rejection–what are useful points, and what are un-useful points. For example, I once had a publication want to run my article, but they wanted me to include some immoral details. By doing that, it would change my persona as a writer, my writing style, so I brushed that off. But, another time, I had an editor tell me I needed to “SHOW” more than I “TOLD”, and I felt that rejection and advice was very valid, so I went to work on (see next tip).

Study other’s writing: One way to get better at something is to learn from the experts. When I first started to get into blogging, I would walk around with a notebook, and copy down sentences and phrases of things people said that I liked. As I’m scrolling around on my social media, I’m analyzing the kinds of articles HuffPost and New York Times are posting, how many views they have, what people are saying in the comments, etc. This gives me insight into what people want to read, and I can cater my writing. In addition, as an English teacher, I spend a good amount of time analyzing the structure of writing–looking at the effectiveness of the point of view, how humor and inside jokes are created throughout the piece, how an author can produce an angry tone, which headlines are catchy (and which catchy headlines lead to a disappointing article). I take these ideas back to my own writing; sometimes, they work, and other times, its a large fail, but eventually, the hope is that, with enough practice, failure, and feedback, something of merit will be produced (and, like Harper Lee, all you need is ONE good thing to put you on the map). Again, the goal is to continue improving–while people may be ‘expert writers’, I don’t think anyone is ever a ‘perfect writer’ (except Harper Lee and Oscar Wilde), so there’s always things I can improve upon.

A few other tips and tricks I’ve picked up: Sunday and Monday evenings incur the largest amount of views. People tend to click on stories that promise gossip and the juicy, intimate details of your life. Numbers and lists of things make posts easier to read. People like attractive pictures. Don’t include any identifying information about people if there is any possibility of slander (like, you can say, “This friend of mine”, but you can’t say, “Bridget Jones”). Or, if for your writing style you need to include identifying information, change it so they can’t be tracked (like, you can say your high school friend played soccer, when in reality, he actually played rugby–that way, any attempts of tracing could be mislead).

But, most importantly, write for YOURSELF. Don’t write for money. Don’t write because you want revenge on that crazy ex-boyfriend (oops!) or you are vying for attention from a new one. Don’t write because you want people to give you compliments. Write because YOU want to write, and then anything that comes as a result is an added bonus.

(Featured Image: The Writing Cooperative)

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