Storytelling is universal, with every culture indulging in their own myths and creations. Each story teaches society something, from learning to love without bias to overcoming fears to do great things. These are passed down from generation to generation, starting with the oral tradition, and have since moved on to the written word.
Each culture is different, and provides a unique way of storytelling. In Asian storytelling, timelines can be non-linear and there is never a guarantee of a happy ending. African storytelling is known for their folktales, which use animals as the protagonists.
In the Western hemisphere, storytelling is observed by the use of Campbellian Monomyth, also referred to as the hero’s journey. Though Joseph Campbell, the noted mythologist and author, did not invent the structure, he is the first to explain it with success to both amateur and professional writers.
The Campbellian Monomyth is often referred to as the spine of most creation myths, including Jesus Christ and Gautama Buddha. Because this structure focuses on one protagonist battling a series of internal and external forces that are keeping them from their goal, it is considered one of the best storytelling structures for fictional narratives. Every reader can find themselves relating to one aspect of the lead protagonist, reeling in their emotional investment into the writing.
The template centers on one person embarking on an adventure, going through trials and tribulations to become victorious, and returning to their old world different from when they began the adventure. It is characterized by the trials and tribulations that are spread across the story, a three-act structure as opposed to a five-act structure, and an overall arc where the protagonist is changed by the situation they find themselves in and endeavor to make different decisions based on what they have learned.
The main structure of the Campbellian Monomyth is three acts. The first is the departure, where the hero chooses to accept a call to adventure and finds some success along the way. This is the part in the story where the character finds a reason to go on the adventure, makes new friends or meets a love interest, and takes the adventure on with little repercussions.
The second act is the initiation. This act is the longest of the three and covers the midpoint of the story and the challenges that has the protagonist doubting his or her ability to succeed. The initiation act also finds tension between the protagonist and those around them.
The third and final act is the return. The character is overwhelmed by failures or betrayals, and experiences the darkest point in his or her story. This is generally when it looks like the world has turned on the protagonist and the protagonist risks everything to achieve his or her goal. The protagonist fights back, becoming victorious in the process, and is allowed to return home with the lessons and blessings he or she received from the adventure.
Most American and European stories are told in the Campbellian Monomyth tradition, and using it as a template for fictional prose is the best way to find success in writing. Taking the time to learn and embrace the Campbellian Monomyth will strengthen any writer’s work.
Figurative language is any literary device used by a writer to communicate something beyond the literal meaning of the words being used. That might sound complicated, but it just means that a writer can use words to paint a word picture to help their readers more accurately visualize what they are reading, or imagine the emotions and the feelings of the characters. You may find the following literary devices helpful to make your own writing more interesting and meaningful, both for your readers and for yourself.
A simile is comparing two very different things, using the words “like” or “as.” In order to be a simile, one of those two words must be used.
An example of a simile is the sentence, “He is as sweet as pie.” A person is not really like a pie, but the idea conveys to a reader that the boy in question has a sweet nature and is very amenable.
A metaphor is very similar to a simile in many ways. However, a metaphor compares two very different things without using the words “like” or as.”
An example of a metaphor would be the sentence, “He’s a real tiger in the courtroom.” A comparison is made between a person and a tiger; however, because the words “like” or “as” are never used, it is a metaphor rather than a simile.
Hyperbole is intentional exaggeration that is made for a specific effect. For example, if a mother tells her children that she has “told them a thousand times not to climb on the curtain,” the reader understands this is not to be taken literally. Rather, the mother simply means she has told her children repeatedly. The exaggeration is clear, and its intended effect of illustrating the parent’s frustration is accomplished.
While difficult to spell and fun to pronounce, the concept is quite simple. Onomatopoeia refers to words that make the sound they are emulating. In other words, they sound like what you are saying. An example of this is the word “creak.” As you say it, you can hear the creaking of a door or rusty hinge.
Alliteration repeats the initial sound in a group of words and is usually used in poetry or in prose with a specific rhythm. The effect emphasizes the sound through the repetition. An example would be, “Sally saw Simon selling seashells.”
Personification is attributing human characteristics, thoughts, and feelings to objects and animals that are not human. In some cases, they may not even be living. An example would be talking animals in stories, such as the popular Aesop Fables.
All of these types of figurative language add color and personality to your writing. The next time you read a book, take the time to notice how the author uses these techniques to draw you into the story.
Content writing can be a great way to make some money, either from home as a freelancer or at a marketing company. You may be thinking about giving it a try, but wonder if you have it in you. While content writing does require focus and commitment, you can be sure that the rewards are worth it.
If you are starting out as a content writer or are looking for ways to write more effectively and produce better content, the following tips and tricks may help you go far in your writing career:
- Your mental state for writing is key to providing solid quality articles or websites--Think about what time of day may be best for you. Having a clear and focused mind will help you to avoid typos, poor writing, and mistakes. You will want to write when you are fully awake and able to focus completely on the work at hand. Writing content after a long day is usually going to produce poor work. On the flip side, working on content when you are at your peak in the day is a great way to provide your clients with what they are looking for.
- How to approach research—At times the topic that you have been asked to write about may be something close to your heart or something that you enjoy and the right words will flow freely. At other times, you may need to do a little bit of research to ensure that you are providing clear and necessary information that the reader is searching for. Take your time looking up other websites on the same topic. Do not waste your time on reading generic sites, but look into companies that offer real information that will help you to write content that is 100% fool-proof.
- Avoid repetition and filler–While it can be tempting to fall into writing filler and repeating the same information or “lines” over and over again, this will turn off clients and readers. People who are looking up the websites and articles that you are writing want to read true, clear, and valuable information. Take your time doing the proper research and even jot down the points you want to focus on to ensure that you are writing quality informational content. Don’t overcomplicate your content with clichés; make it simple and straightforward.
- Think about who you are writing for—Think about the type of people who may read the content that you are writing. For example, if you are writing about education or a daycare, most likely, your audience will be parents. Parents want to read positives about the company or school, details on academic services, and what they can expect for their children from the institution. Use the corresponding keywords and vocabulary that will give readers what they want: valuable information.
- Write something that you would want to read—If you are like most people in 2015, you look up the places you want to visit, the restaurants that you want to eat at, and you probably spend a good amount of time reading online. Most of us have come across those websites that you wish you hadn’t. Poor grammar, a lack of substance, and mindless writing make it almost impossible for you to leave the page with any real information. Write as if you wanted to know the information being provided. Keeping this in mind will help you to write content that is worth reading.
- Look up competitor’s websites or other writer’s articles–This may sound an awful lot like plagiarism, but it shouldn’t be if you know how to maintain information while remaining creative and writing original work. After all, that is the number one job of a writer: to write with the information you know and of course, imagination. Reading competitors’ websites on the topic that you are writing about will help to provide you with clear and concise information that is relevant to what you are working on.
- Proofread your work—It can be easy to skip checking your work once you have finished the content for a website. Believe me, I know. It may have taken you some time to get the words out and to compile all the necessary information and the last thing that you want to do is to check your work for more mistakes; which means even more work. Proofreading is a must. It will save everyone time and bring you more money in the long run.
- Use short sentences, concise wording, and objective language—There will be time in your life for writing a lengthy novel, but the time when you are working on content for websites is not it. Save the witty phrases and the un-necessary adjectives for another day because content writing is all about keeping it simple. People read quickly online and they want to get straight to the point; especially when looking up services or products from a local company. Over-wordy articles or websites are bound to be skipped by readers even if they do contain valuable points and information.
- When possible, choose topics that you like to write about—As a content writer, there are not always opportunities to write about things that you enjoy. As someone who enjoys traveling, food, and fun, I try to pick up assignments on these topics. Whenever possible, take on work that means something to you or that you already have a background in. This will help to make your content more interesting and captivating for your audience.
Content writing is about staying focused on the subject at hand and keeping an open mind on what clients and editors want. If you want to make money as a content writer, do not be afraid of putting in the time. While it may come naturally to you to write, content writing requires research, practice, and commitment. Stay original in your work, keep your eye on clichés and un-necessary wording, and enjoy the profits.
You’ve just received your first manuscript to edit. What should your work process entail? In this article, we will cover the steps you can take to ensure a thorough edit—whether for a blog post, a book, or any other text.
- Establish Realistic Expectations
It is commonly known that the more times you go over a document, the greater your chances of catching all errors. However, even if your client approves an extended timeframe, the pay may only be equal to the equivalent of one read-through.
This is why it is necessary to first consider the author or publisher’s budget and then how many hours you can reasonably allot to this project to make it profitable for you while meeting the client’s requested deadline.
Find out whether the client wants a light, medium, or heavy copyedit. A light copyedit, also known as a mechanical edit, takes care of all definite errors in spelling, grammar, and punctuation, as well as ensures consistency across hyphenation, number, and word treatment.
A medium copyedit includes all tasks within a light copyedit but goes beyond it to point out questionable grammar and usage and possible factual errors, along with suggesting revisions where needed. A heavy copyedit takes this one step further by revising poorly worded sentences, reorganizing confusing text, and brushing up all aspects of the document.
Since more work is required of a heavy copyedit, it naturally takes longer to complete, and your fee should reflect this. If a document needs a heavy edit, but the publisher or client’s budget only allows for a light edit, explain the amount of time (which determines the type of edit) your client’s budget allows.
For example: “Your budget of X for editing 10,000 words only allows me to give your document a light edit.”
Obviously, not all clients have limitless budgets, and you will need to adapt the level of your editing to the budget available. Quite often, this means a light edit, and you should stick to correcting glaring errors but leave certain issues—such as passive construction—alone for when you are hired to do a medium or heavy copyedit.
Getting a firm grasp of the various editing levels and making sure both you and your client are clear on the type of editing you are being hired for will keep expectations clear on both sides.
- Preparing for a Successful Edit
After receiving the manuscript from your client, place the original in a safe place, and make all your edits to a copy of the file. Microsoft Word’s Track Changes is the most commonly used revision software available. As an editor, you should be familiar with how to make changes on-screen, as the majority of editing is now done through this method. There are many online tutorials on Track Changes, and a little fiddling should have you up and ready to go fairly quickly.
If your manuscript is short, say under 2,000 words, it is possible to edit from start to finish without needing to scan the text before beginning to make corrections. For longer manuscripts, such as novels and text that exceeds 2,000 words, it is helpful to get a glimpse of the manuscript’s scope before beginning your edit. Often, you’ll note questions to ask the author/your employer that need to be resolved before you begin.
You will also want to determine the client’s preferred dictionary and style guide. If your client does not have a preference, Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 11th Edition is used by many in the publishing industry as the preferred dictionary, and The Chicago Manual of Style, 16th is the preferred style guide.
If this is a client you will potentially be working with frequently in the future, create a style sheet with preferences particular to your client. Editors use style sheets to keep track of editing decisions made for a client that go beyond the indisputable. Katherine O’Moore-Klopf provides style sheet examples on her site, which can be found here.
Some issues that are good candidates for style sheet entries in order to maintain consistency across a document are the following:
- Treatment of numbers
- Hyphenated words
- Unusual capitalization preferences
- Treatment of proper nouns
- Names of people and places
Entries can be listed alphabetically, but you can organize your style sheet file using whatever method works for you.
- Don’t Lose Your Cool
After inserting the millionth comma, or correcting numerous misspelled words, you may begin to feel frazzled. Keep in mind that those little mistakes that made their way into the document are why you are being hired in the first place. Be thankful for them, as those mistakes are what keep you employed. If everyone were capable of catching them, you would be doing something else for a living.
Aside from not losing your cool, you need to maintain a positive and helpful relationship with your employer. Venting your frustrations regarding problematic text is for amateurs. Professional editors are solution-oriented when they need to resolve an issue. Depending on the requested level of edit, if you feel strongly that some sentence must be reworded to avoid being misread, keep your query brief while also providing a suggested solution.
Occasionally, you’ll come across an editing issue that you will not know how to handle. Perhaps it has been so long since you have come across an issue similar to it, and you are simply unfamiliar with what convention mandates. This happens to even the most experienced of editors, and it can be solved by knowing where to turn for answers. Bookmark key websites, or have on your bookshelf resources that can serve as a lifeline when you are floundering.
During your final read-through, keep an eye out for errors you know are weak areas for your author. If you’ve found one usage error, it is likely the author has repeated that mistake at some point within the document. Be prepared to consult your dictionary as often as needed. Do a word search for certain commonly misspelled or misused words. The following are some terms to search for:
- to / too
- lie / lay / laid
- who / whom
- less / lest
- effect / affect
- then / than
Check that correlative conjunctions appear in their complete form. For example, a sentence that includes “not only” in the first part should be followed up with “but also” in the second half. Monitor lists for parallel structure, and make sure subheadings or chapter headings are treated consistently throughout your document. Search for doubled periods and other punctuation symbols that could have been missed on the first edit. Search and replace double spaces with single spaces.
- How to Complete Completely
Say you’ve completed your first edit. Is your job done? Not yet. Your responsibility is not only advocating for the reader by ensuring easy-to-read, error-free text, but you are also accountable to your employer.
After completing your first editing job for your new boss, explain the basics of what you have done. For example: “I’ve edited for the following: punctuation, spelling, word treatment, repetitive use of certain words or phrases, and consistency in word and number usage. Of course, if there are any edits you do not agree with, please feel free to reinstate your preferred version.”
Praise any aspect of the writing you appreciated. Mention issues you came across and how you resolved them. If there are any unresolved aspects, discuss how to proceed. Your tone should be respectful. Your role is that of helper, not grammar teacher. If the client questions an edit, explain the convention you are following in simple terms. Include a link to where a more thorough explanation can be found.
As an editor, it pays to keep a humble demeanor. There will be times where you will miss an edit—it happens to the best of us—and when it does, the less cocky you have been, the easier it will be for you to apologize and rectify your mistake.
Save all your work. Keep notes on how each job went, time to completion, and any particulars peculiar to that client—as you will want to have all of this information on hand if they hire you again.
Finally, congratulate yourself. With your first editing job complete, you are now a professional editor!
Being a freelance writer comes with it a set of perks. You can work from home, meaning you don’t have to spend any money on gas. You can work in your pajamas, so you don’t have to get dressed up in uncomfortable clothes. There are all sorts of benefits to working for yourself.
But what about the drawbacks? The stress of keeping a client and, in turn, bread on the table? If you work it right, you can keep clients coming back for as long as they have the budget to do so. The key is to run your freelance business like exactly what it is: a company. Here are five tips for keeping your business, and head, above water.
- Turn Down What You Cannot Take On
Never take more work than you can handle, no matter how tempting it may be. Yes, you may need to make an extra $50 to pay the electric bill this month. Perhaps a new client is offering you double what an old, stead client is. None of that matters if you can’t deliver what you promise. Be a write your clients can rely on. If you cannot accept more work, be honest with your requestor and tell them when you can get to work for them.
- Always Meet Deadlines
Emergencies happen and are understandable. However, consistently turning in work late is no different than punching a time clock five minutes past the start of your shift every day. Never fail to meet your deadlines. If an emergency does occur, be honest with your client. Most people are understanding once. Some are even understanding twice. You will rarely find someone who is willing to accept your excuses a third time.
- Charge What You Are Worth
There are people out there who pay poorly for freelance work. There are others who pay fantastically. Do a bit of research and charge your customers accordingly. You should always charge what you are worth. Never try to gouge your clients for money simply because you believe you can. If you decide you are going to charge 10 cents per word, you better be able to explain why.
- Be Consistent
Ask any freelance writer and they will tell you that they have had a day when the words didn’t flow. They made typo after type and constructed entire articles out of run-on sentences. If you find this happening to you, walk away, take a break, and return to your writing later. Your clients deserve your commitment to consistently accurate writing. If you want to experiment with your writing style or voice, discuss it with your client. Not all are open to having fun or witty articles on their site.
Stay in communication with your clients. If you fall ill, you are cutting back on your output, or even if you are thinking of taking a vacation, alert your clients. Advanced warning will give your clients time to find another writer. If you really want to impress them, suggest a writer that you know so they don’t have to spend time and energy hunting one down.
Do not rest on your laurels once you have found and began to write for clients. Clients who enjoy working with you will stick around. Clients who stick around put money in your pocket. It only makes sense that you would want to keep your customers coming back for more.