Thursday

Writing for Free – A Means to an End

I have come to the conclusion that the most time consuming aspect of writing is keeping up with all the useful information that is made available through everywhere from business sites to personal blogs. It seems everyone is offering free information. I have already spent entire days just surfing through sites and reaming ideas, strategies, tips, and so on. It really is endless.

In the writing world everyone tries to and actually needs to keep their work and names visible. Providing information is a primary means of accomplishing this. New blogs are popping up everyday with free tips and advice. The blog has become a great vehicle to bring you to the reader. It is an excellent way to show readers what you have to offer. The information you provide will hopefully not only draw readers, but keep them coming back for more. Using my own blog as an example, I found that if I don’t offer beneficial information along with the hosting blogs I do, I lose followers.

Another vehicle to bring you to the reader is the free online magazines. This is where you can write and have your articles published – you don’t get paid, but you do get published. While it does not have the credibility of paying markets, it is a great way to hone your craft and be visible.

One more source of visibility is writing guest blogs or articles for other blogs or sites. Often the writers are looking for new and fresh content for their sites or newsletters. If the offer arises take advantage of it, or ask bloggers if they would be interested in a guest blog from you.

Every marketing teleseminar and workshop I have been to encourages writers to offer information through blogs or free online magazines. According to marketing experts the name of the game is visibility. Free information draws readers. I can confirm that this is true because I make it a point to attend all the free teleseminars and teleclasses I can. The businesses that offer this free information want to draw you there so they can sell you their services. This is understandable. It is a win-win situation; they acquire some new customers and you, whether you take advantage of their services or not, receive valuable information. But, to what extend should a writer offer their services for free?

While taking this path of visibility it’s important to remember that submitting to free ezines or guest blogging is not just a lack of financial gain, it’s the time loss incurred while preparing these articles and blogs. The best strategy is to start out offering free tips and articles until you can provide your own expert information and advice. It’s important to remember that this free information will draw readers and show them that your posts and articles are a source of useful data. Once you feel comfortable enough that the information you are providing is of substantial value you can offer it in the form of ebooks, newsletters, teleseminars or other means for a fee.

You should be aware that even when you reach this point, it’s still a good idea to publish articles in the free ezines for continued visibility and as a means of drawing new readers/customers to your sites and services. And, don’t forget that while you’re providing free information you can also be submitting articles to paying markets.

Wednesday

Backup, Backup, Backup

It's really crazy. I wrote an article the other night about submitting articles to free magazines and I can't find it. I've been having a lot of trouble with my computer lately. I'm hoping I saved it on my laptop which is trouble free...so far.

My troubles started with Microsoft Outlook. From the beginning if I tried to use it my computer hung and I had to reboot. Then my computer ate my Excel program - it literally just disappeared. After that MS Word started losing my files or saved them corrupted. I lost a 1200 word ms and several other research documents that I worked on for hours and hours and hours.

Thinking it might be the computer, I went out and got two zip drives. When working on my regular computer I only saved to the zip drive. Not wanting to lose any more files I did a backup of the zip I used (Zip A) to the second zip (B). Thank goodness, because I accidentally hit zip A while it was in my laptop and it broke. Talk about Murphy's Law.

I also thought maybe something happened to the Microsoft program so I had my husband delete it from my computer and he downloaded Open Office for me. I still had problems with files becoming corrupt or disappearing. Then, I lost Works Spreadsheet program - just disappeared. Is it Gremlins?

So, now I only use my regular computer for things I don't have to save. I also got a third zip drive (C) that I used to backup zip B. In addition to this, I'm going to get two more zips. One to backup (C) and another to keep just in case.

What's the moral to the story? Make sure you always back up your work! And, in cases like mine, backup your backup.

Karen

Monday

Writers and Responsibility

Within the last week I came across two local incidents and the papers' articles about them. They made me wonder what's happening to the world of writing, specifically writing and news.

The first incident occurred last week. A family in a borough of New York City were the victims of a home invasion. The family has 4 children who were fortunately asleep while the invasion took place. The intruders came to the door as police officers and once the door was opened, they pushed their way in. They bound the husband and wife and ransacked the house. While they were gathering what they wanted they repeatedly threatened to kill the family. The couple were left alone at times and the woman managed to untie herself and untied her husband. They were smart enough not to let the intruders know. When the intruders finally left, the husband chased them and called the police. The intruders were captured. This, you would think, is an amazing end to the story, but it isn't the end. The papers reported the incident and listed every article and it's value that was taken. This family happens to be well to do and the items and cash taken were substantial. Was this necessary? This family now has to worry about other criminals knowing exactly what they have in their home and where they live. In my opinion, the papers have put this family's safety in jeopardy. Shouldn't writers have a responsibility to ensure they are not the cause of further harm to the victims?

The second incident occurred a couple of days ago in my neighborhood. A 9-year-old boy was struck by a truck while running across a very large and busy intersection. While the story is graphic and disturbing, the pictures are worse. The front page shows the boy's body lying on the street in a body bag. The picture on the third page is of a man wiping the blood off the street with the boy's body in view. Are graphic words and especially graphic pictures of a 9-year-old's body and blood necessary to convey the story? The boy's friends and classmates will easily see this story and the pictures. And, I can't imagine how the family would feel if they see the paper – hopefully they never will. Again, shouldn't writers have a responsibility to ensure they are not the cause of further harm to the victims?

So, what's the reason reporters and photographers need to be so graphic and use words and pictures that are disturbing to the point of at times being sickening? I know papers are in the business of selling and it seems more and more it's the shock and gore effect that sells. The question is are the reporters leading readers down this path, or are the readers demanding it? Whichever is the case it is creating a world of desensitized people who need more and more horror and gore to get a reaction. When will it be enough? I'm not saying that writers shouldn't write the news; I'm saying there are many ways to tell a story and maybe the shock and gore should be replaced by compassionate and responsible news writing and reporting.

Just needed to vent.

Karen