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If you dream of a full-time freelance writing career—but have felt discouraged by the largely negative messages about how difficult it is out there (many of which come from freelancers themselves), then allow me to introduce you to Mridu Khullar Relph of The International Freelancer.|
Last week, she released a list of 70+ publications that pay $1 a word or more (or a $500+ flat rate). She put together this list in defiance of everyone who says it’s “impossible” to make a living as a freelance writer and to provide a helpful resource to the wider community of freelance journalists and writers who are looking for ways to earn more.
Mridu was a successful freelance journalist for twelve years before starting The International Freelancer. She built her career from New Delhi, India, writing for top US and UK publications, including The New York Times, TIME magazine, The Independent, CNN, Forbes, ABC News, The Christian Science Monitor, GlobalPost, and more. She’s won several awards for her journalism, including being named Development Journalist of the Year in 2010 by the Developing Asia Journalism Awards for her work on wastepicker women in India. She is currently based out of London.
Mridu was kind enough to answer my questions about the freelance life.
From Dave Farland:
Many writers begin their writing journey and choose to focus on gaining the skills they need to become publishable. In fact, that becomes their sole focus. They don’t worry about learning how to sell their books. After all, you can’t sell a book that you haven’t written, right?
But what happens when you do sell a book and suddenly find that in addition to learning how to write, you now need to launch a career?
I’ve known many authors who have done just that. They focused on becoming writers and never learned the first thing about building a career. They’ve taken so little thought to the business side of writing that in some cases, they even managed to derail their career before it got started.
So, what are the first steps in building a career?
One of the first steps you need to take is to begin building “your list.” What is your list? It is a list of friends and fans and business associates who want to follow your career. These are people who will go out and buy your books. In fact, a good friend or fan will go out and buy your book on a certain day, a day that you ask them to buy it, in order to help launch your book on the bestseller lists.
Now, if you’re like me, you’ll think, “I don’t know anyone who would do that!” Well, you might be surprised at how many people would be willing to do that, if you just ask them to.
So, how do you ask? You send an invitation to people that you keep on an email list. This list is your most important business asset as a writer.
Who is on your list? How about this: look at your family first, not just your immediate family, but also your cousins, nephews, nieces, and even your crazy uncle. If you’re from a large family, getting the names and email addresses of these people can take some time. But it’s worthwhile. Family members are often eager to buy your books, tell friends what you’ve done, and so on. Even if they aren’t frequent readers, they’re likely to read your work.
Who else is on your list? How about your business associates at the place(s) that you’ve worked? How about old friends and classmates from school—from kindergarten on through college, and even people that you’ve taken seminars with?
Then go to your business associates—other writers, producers, editors, agents, and so on.
I began reading Louise Glück’s poems around the time I handed in the final draft of my first book. Now I can see that the book was a culmination of a decade of work and obsession, but at the time, without the manuscript to anchor my thoughts, I felt adrift. I had to come down from the high of achieving what I had set out to do and had to face the blank page again. For a year, I plunged into another project, until I realized that I was rewriting my first book and that I did not yet have the depth and experience to give the new story the justice it deserved. For another year, I hardly wrote at all. I had a few real life adventures, but for the most part, I felt that I was waiting at my desk for words that would not arrive. Without my usual way of expressing what I saw and felt, it seemed to me that the world had lost its texture
Do you write non-fiction but secretly want to write a novel?
Are you confused about the process? Do you think you’re not creative enough, or worry that you don’t have enough ideas?
Are you afraid that writing a novel might be a waste of time with no return on investment or practical use in your business?
How do we sell our stories? That is the big question. It is the reason for craft classes and editing and cover design and agents and editors and all the time on social media. And while platforms and covers and algorithms do matter, there is one tried and true way to sell more books.
Write a great story.
And not just any story, but a story that hooks from the very beginning and only continues to hook deeper
Have you ever read a book that just fell flat?
The author didn’t necessarily do anything wrong. They created strong characters, killer conflict and a clever plot, beautiful scene descriptions, and so on. But still the book fell short for you, and you just can’t place your finger on what could have made the story more dynamic.
“Eh, it was just a bit formulaic,” you say when a friend asks how you enjoyed your latest read.
Today, I’m here to make the case that disappointing stories aren’t the result of sticking too closely to story structure (or to any other established writing techniques, for that matter), but rather sticking too closely to the basics of those techniques.
Vague statement. I know.
But I’m going to explain everything you need to know about how we, as authors, can move beyond the basics and elevate our stories into a realm of dynamism that will knock our readers’ socks off.
In setting out to write Future Sex, Emily Witt
I hoped to define what she once considered an “interim state”: the sexual identity of being a single woman unconstrained by long-term reciprocated love and partnership. The language used to describe relationship statuses within this state, such as the too all-encompassing “dating” and outdated “lovers,” she argues, has lost its meaning in the 21st century. This leads her to another query—perhaps this state isn’t so interim after all
Every fiction writer beyond the beginner stage knows about point-of-view. It’s the perspective from which a story is told. It’s the eyes through which we are seeing, the ears through which we are hearing, the mind through which we’re processing, the heart through which we’re feeling.
POV is mostly the protagonist’s, but it can also be any other character’s (as in multi-POV), an observer’s (think Nick Carraway), or even the author’s. The prime directive of POV is also well known: keep it consistent, no head hopping within a scene
Creativity hits me several times a day. I can see something while I’m out and about, overhear a conversation, or be involved in a conversation, hear a funny line & say “I’ma put that in my script.” I say that a lot.
When this happens and if I’m away from home, I write a note in my Memo app or in Evernote. If I am home, I decide if the “idea” already has its own notebook. If it does, I write it in there. If not, I break the idea down even more. If the idea needs its own notebook, I designate one.
I have notebooks for everythang. I have one that’s primarily for my brand. I have one where I outline blog posts, jot down ideas in a hurry; it’s a catch all book, and also the book I used to outline this post. 🙂
Other than that, each project has its own notebook.
Once it’s in the notebook, then I brainstorm, free-write whatever comes to mind, organically & naturally, about the characters, the story, or whatever. I do this for as long as the creativity flows. And when it’s done, it’s done. I absolutely do not force it. I step away for a day or so and re-visit, if necessary.
Next, I look to see if there’s enough information for a story…which there usually is. To rephrase, the real question is: What type of story does the information yield? A short story, a novel, novella, a series? You can always add, takeaway, or do whatever your heart desires. That’s the beauty of writing and story telling. When there’s a will, there’s a medium. 🙂
A Beginning, Middle, and an End
This is an example of how I separate my story. This one is blank because, it just so happens that, this particular story came to me so quickly that I actually wrote the entire story in a day. No outline. No nothing.
From here, I just write the story to the end, without looking back until I’m ready to edit. I do not edit as I go. I repeat, DO NOT EDIT AS YOU GO! It drastically slows down the process. Took me 2 years to write my second book, because I was obsessing over stuff. Just write it. You’re welcome!
- Edit summore
- Proofread summore