Do Writers Deserve to Be Paid for Their Work?

Two great discussions of interest to writers flew around the internet this week. So great in fact that I couldn’t choose between them to highlight for you.

Do writer’s deserve to be paid for their work?

This debate blew up after Seth Godin was quoted as saying, “Who said you have a right to cash money from writing? Poets don’t get paid (often), but there’s no poetry shortage.”

You can read the original argument-inspiring article Godin to Authors: You Have No Right to Make Money Any More, and also literary agent Rachelle Gardner’s respond on her blog with do Authors Have A Right to Be Paid?

Should writers avoid controversy on their blogs?

Kristen Lamb wrote an excellent post called Deadly Doses – Politics, Religion, and Our Author Platform suggesting that unless you’re a religious or political writer, you should avoid talking about religion and politics on your blog (or at least be very careful about how you do it).

This ended up sparking responses both in the comments and on other blogs about not just politics and religion in blogging but controversy in general. My favorite reply came from Amber West in her post The Controversy Over Controversy.

Marcy

Marcy’s Posts This Week

What Do We Mean By “Strong Female Characters?” – Do female characters need to deny all traditionally feminine qualities to be considered strong? The first in a series Marcy is starting.

Yoda Was Wrong – At the risk of a nerd lynching, Marcy argues that Yoda was actually wrong when he said “there is no try.”

Lisa’s Posts This Week

Mare-Milkers and War Lords – The Scythians aren’t a well-known people group, but their innovations revolutionized ancient warfare. In their day, they were the boogey-men of the Greek world. These guys were downright scary.

Reminder: As of the end of this month, Lisa and I will no longer be blogging here at Girls With Pens. Instead we’ll still be writing the posts on writing and social media that you’ve come to expect on our own blogs, and we’ll be creating a monthly Girls With Pens newsletter to bring you amazing interviews with industry professionals.

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6 Ways to Develop Your Voice

writing voiceA distinct voice seems to be the thing that everyone wants but no one can tell you how to get. And I have to admit this annoys me. I’m a very practical person. If you can clearly tell me how to do something, I’ll get it done for you. If it’s ooey gooey and you tell me “it just has to develop over time,” I’m going to be cheesed.

I’m also going to set out to figure out how to do whatever you’ve just told me can’t be taught and has to develop organically.

Developing your voice–like everything else in writing–takes time and discipline, but it can be done. So here are some ways you can actively work on developing your voice.

(1) Learn the Basics of Writing

Before you argue that this will only teach you to write like everyone else, hear me out.

Can an artist sculpt a lifelike statue without first learning about the features of different types of stone and without learning how to use a chisel and other tools? Can a pianist compose a sonata without first learning which notes sound good together?

One of the most important things a writer trying to develop their voice can do is to read craft books. Writing is just like any other skill, whether that be painting, woodworking, engineering, or neurosurgery. You have to be so solid on the basics that they come instinctively before you’re able to truly create something fresh and unique.

(2) Set Boundaries

In her excellent post on Ways to Develop Your Unique Writing Voice, social media maven and bestselling author Kristen Lamb pointed out how boundaries can actually free your creativity rather than limit you. She likened setting boundaries in writing to narrowing down what means of transportation want to use to take your vacation.

If you want to develop your voice more quickly, pick a point of view (first person or third person – if you’re not sure what that means, check out our post on point of view) and a genre and stick to it until you’ve mastered it.

How will this help? Each genre comes with conventions that you need to follow to write in it. POV adds structure and establishes how you can tell your story. When some of these big decisions are settled, you’re free to focus on the actual writing. In other words, you’re free to allow your voice to come out. 

(3) Read and Analyze

Read a lot is one of the few pieces of advice novelists are given for developing their voice. But reading alone isn’t enough. You need to figure out what works in these books and what doesn’t. What do you love and hate about them? It could be something big picture (like the way they weave their theme throughout the book) or it could be something more subtle (like the cadence they use in their sentences).

For each book you read, try to identify and write down three things you loved and three things you didn’t. For the things that you didn’t enjoy about the book, ask yourself why you didn’t like them and how you would have done them differently.

(4) Make A List of Words that Describe Your Personality

In her post about Author Voice Vs. Character Voice, romance writer Roni Loren describes her author voice and then points out how it directly relates to who she is as a person and how she approaches life. Your voice is you.

Sit down and make a list of 15-20 words that describe you, then elaborate on each and how you see that trait expressed in a normal day.

For example, I’m quirky, sarcastic, thoughtful, structured, and equal parts dark and optimistic. So is my voice. By identifying who I am, I can look at my writing and see what parts are true to me and what parts aren’t.

(5) Stop Reading Novels

I know. I know. Up above, I told you to read and analyze. That was one step along the path. But eventually, you’re going to need to make sure that you’re starting to sound like you rather than subconsciously copying another writer. The only sure way to do that is to stop reading other people’s work.

Take 1-2 months and use your reading time to write instead (or exchange novels for books on craft).

This isn’t meant to be maintained long-term. You only need to stay in this stage until you start hearing yourself. I made the biggest jump in developing my own voice when I stopped reading temporarily.

(6) Read Your Work Out Loud

What flows off your tongue? What comes naturally? What doesn’t?

Reading your work out loud helps you smooth out the tongue twister passages and create more realistic dialogue, but it also helps with voice. What sounds right to your ear? Could you see telling the story this way out loud to your friends?

(7) Blog to Get Comfortable Being You in Public

In a post she wrote back in November, YA author Susan Bischoff said that one of the benefits she gained from blogging was that ” I learned how to be myself. In public. I don’t think that’s something that comes naturally to most people.”

The only way you can develop your unique voice is to be proud of who you are and how you sound. As soon as you start worrying about what other people will think or whether they’ll like your voice, you’re going to start trying to change it.

Blogging helps you learn to be comfortable with who you are and with sharing who you are with readers. Writing magazine articles is another way to help develop your voice in a public forum.

What other ways have you found to develop your voice? Do you agree with me that it can be developed or do you think it needs to develop organically? What author’s voice do you love the most?

Marcy

**We’ve moved! Please join us at our new permanent homes. You can find Marcy at her website and Lisa at her website.

Connect with Marcy on Twitter, Facebook, or Google+. Connect with Lisa on Twitter, subscribe to her on Facebook, or join her circles on Google+.

 

Promotion Tips for Co-Writers

Cowriting can be a great boon to your career – think Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins – or the anchor that beaches your writing career. Marcy and Lisa have been writing together for almost 3 years. We started out as good friends with similar interests before launching into freelancing together, and we work well together – but we thought we’d share a few promotion tips for cowriters.

women holding sign 'mutual benefit'The Key To Success

If you write together long enough, one challenge you’ll encounter is how to juggle joint and individual networking and promotion. The lynchpin for us has been mutual benefit. Any of our joint platforms also promote our individual freelance work and vice versa. We’ve reaped many benefits from this, including saving time.

Visibility

If you want a career as a professional writer, you need a web presence through a website, a blog, and social networking sites. As part of maintaining our independent careers, we both have our own websites. This allows us to display our individual work in our portfolio sections (though we also both display co-written articles there as well). It also allows us to have something to show to clients who will only be working with one of us, and to highlight our unique areas of expertise.

To save time and to promote our partnership, we share this blog. Marcy made Lisa sit down and make a plan for the blog, and to humor Lisa, Marcy lets Lisa decide spur of the moment when it’s her week what to post about inside stated guidelines. If Marcy is out of town, Lisa covers, and vice versa. By splitting the work, we’re able to do three posts a week, something neither of us had time to do on our own.

Regardless of who posts, we both promote the latest blog post on networking sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and G+, doubling the exposure that we’d otherwise have individually. Even if you don’t plan to write together regularly, if you know a writer who you trust and who has a similar vision to yours, sharing a blog can be a huge time saver as long as each participant has high visibility.

Conferences

Another area where our divide-and-conquer strategy has served us well is at writer’s conferences. We bring our own business cards, one-sheets, and presentation binders, but our presentation binders often contain pieces we’ve co-written. We attend different sessions and exchange notes afterward. This broadens our investment at each conference and our network of contacts.

On occasion we’ve gotten a reputation for being inseparable. (David Koop from Multnomah, who we met at Mt. Hermon, will probably always remember us as the quirky Canadian girls who finished each other’s sentences.) The lines can be fuzzy, and you need to be prepared for some people to remember you only for your co-written work and to not want to work with you independently.

This doesn’t bother us, but if sharing the limelight bothers you, you might want to hold off on entering a co-writing relationship.

It’s not all about you

The most important thing to remember when you’re networking and promoting together is that you’re going to be more successful if you support and build up the other person. When we hear about a good opportunity, whether it be an editor looking for new writers, a job, or an idea that we’re not going to pursue but that the other might enjoy, we pass it along.

We’ve even entered the same contests and critiqued each other’s work – never had a problem because we’re friends underneath everything else, and want the other one to see her dreams come true whether we ever see our own happen.

When it comes to managing the distance, as well as networking and promotion, flexibility is the key. Be willing to bend a little, be patient with the other person, and if they’re doing the same for you, you might just form a partnership (and a friendship) that lasts a lifetime.

So – your turn. How do you juggle your writing, your family, and other outside commitments?

**We’ve moved! Please join us at our new permanent homes. You can find Marcy at her website and Lisa at her website.