Monday, October 15, 2007

Write Your Heart Out...


As online publishing methods and techniques become more and more popular, the debate over writing for free has begun to heat up. There is no shortage of opinions on the subject across the Internet today, especially among the freelance writing community.

While some writers stubbornly refuse to write a word without getting paid for it, there is a growing segment of those that are willing to give their talent away in the form of free articles distributed through sites such as and other similar venues. As a successful freelance writer, and someone who often writes for free, I want to take a few moments to share some excellent reasons why you should consider giving at least a little of your talent away.

A Well Oiled Machine

One of the biggest benefits of writing for free is that it allows you to keep your skills sharp, especially during 'dry spells'. All too often, we venture off and do other things during those periods of downtime. As a result, we run the risk of losing the focus and tenacity in our writing. We certainly aren't getting any better during those times. As the saying goes, use it or lose it.

Experience = Opportunity

For many, myself included, the ultimate goal is paid, published writing. There is nothing wrong with this. But what if you are just starting out, or are just coming off an extended period of not being published? Writing for free offers you the chance to build your portfolio, or to bulk up an existing one.

Were it not for the fact that I had published several articles on the Internet and in print publications, I probably would not have snagged my first paid gig. Thanks to writing for free, I was able to point the editor to several articles which gave me a solid argument for why I should be paid to write. Writing for free provided me with an opportunity - to showcase the skills I knew I had - an opportunity I would not have had otherwise.

The Marketing Factor

Another opportunity that presented itself through free writing was the chance to market my skills. When you publish through the free syndication sites, you include an author biography at the end. This bio often contains contact information, such as an email or web address. The more authoritative the article, the better your chances are of being contacted by someone needing your services.

This is a fairly effective method of marketing, regardless of what business you are in. I have seen it work for a wide range of people, from personal coaches to roofing contractors. I have even had success with it, securing several copywriting jobs over the years. All as a result of writing for free. In all reality, I made quite a bit more from the resulting projects than I would have if I had sold the articles to any given publication.

Is It "Write" for You?

Whether or not you decide to write for free will depend largely on your own goals as a writer. For me, my ultimate goal is and always has been sharing my talents with the world. I enjoy the response I get from people, and like the fact that I know my work is being read.

Don't get me wrong. I was hooked on paid writing the first time I received a check in the mail. The fact that someone was willing to pay me to do something I love led to a huge sense of satisfaction. Even better was the pride of walking into Barnes & Noble, picking up a magazine off the rack and opening it to see my name in print. Nonetheless, I continue to write for free because overall, I love the art of writing. It is my passion.

Do you agree or disagree with me? I would love to hear your opinion on the subject. Once again, give it some thought and then write about it. As always, if you post it on your blog, be sure to let me know about it so I can link to your article.


Got a burning question? I would love to answer it in my latest blog, "The Geek Advisor". No question is off limits! I welcome your questions about EVERYTHING, from writing to politics, religion, sex, money - you ask it, and I will provide the very best answer I can, from a geek's perspective. What are you waiting for? You'll never know until you ask!


I hope you like what you have seen so far on this blog. I am currently working on several posts for the near future, including articles on writing for the web, blogging for cash and much, much more. I also have several good interviews with other bloggers waiting in the wings. If there is anything in particular you would like to see in an upcoming post, please let me know. You can leave me some comment luv, or drop me an email at

I look forward to hearing from you! Until next time...

Interview With Camy Tang...


Camy Tang enjoys blogging and sharing her faith, and it shows in both her blog, CAMY'S LOFT and in her work at WRITER...INTERRUPTED. Drawing heavily on her Asian American culture, Camy's first book, "Sushi for One" was released in September. The book is the first in her "Sushi Series", which she says falls in the 'Christian chick lit' genre.

"Nosy relatives, sibling rivalry, and parental angst are the same whatever your ethnic background, and I hope my stories give people a fun taste of Asian American culture." she says.

Here are a few of her thoughts on the subject of blogging:

The Writing Geek: What is the best part of blogging for you?

Camy Tang: Well, I like to talk! LOL Seriously, I enjoy the comments. I like theinteraction with my blog readers and hearing what they have to say.It's also fun to have somewhere to post those weird, "Have you evernoticed ...?" kind of things I see in everyday life.

TWG: If you had the chance to go back in time a year, what would you do differently/the same with your blog?

CT: This is something I'm still working on--I would make more of an effort to be consistent with my Sunday prayer post. I feel like that's one of the most important posts of the week for me, because it lets me pray for friends, family, and my blog readers.

TWG: What is the best piece of advice you can offer a blogger?

CT: This is something I got from Exploring Adoption blogger Laura Christianson ( I take one day a week and do all my blog posts for the week that afternoon. I can usually write all my blog posts in an hour or two, which is a more efficient use of my time.

I have to do this because I have several blogs--Camy's Loft, where I post 5 or 6 days a week, Story Sensei, where I post 3 times a week, Writer Interrupted, where I post 2 or 3 times a month, Girls God and the Good Life blog and Faithchicks blog, where I post twice a month, and The Seekers, where I post once a month.

As you can tell, I love blogging! But if I didn't streamline my time writing blogs, I'd never have time to do anything else.

During the week, I write down things I think I'll blog about for the following week, and when I sit down to write all my blog posts, I have a list of topics to blog about.

TWG: What are your top three favorite blogs?

CT: I have WAY too many blogs to pick just three. Sorry.

TWG: You've been elected president of the blogosphere. What is your first move?

CT: I wish there was a central database of ALL the blogs out there, labeled with the categories they fall under. There are some websites that do this, but unless the web gets completely hijacked by somebody, I doubt there would be one central place to list everybody.

TWG: What is/are your predictions for blogging over the next ten years?

CT: I think bloggers are getting smarter and starting to focus their blogs more. Rather than somebody's random weblog journal, blogs are now becoming targeted toward specific audiences, or with specific themes, or with unique tones/voices that set different blogs apart. I think the next few years will see hundreds of very targeted blogs becoming popular, just like a New York Times Bestseller list, but for blogs instead of books.

My thanks to Camy for taking the time to respond to the interview. Here's to hoping your blog lands at the top of that bestseller list!


In my last post, I mentioned that I was going to make an attempt at selling an article or three in the 'Marketplace'. Yesterday, I posted my first article for that attempt, "A Guide to Small Business Grants for Women". The article debuted at #1 of 2 articles, so we'll see what happens with it.

In the meantime, I would strongly urge any women freelance writers out there to check it out. Freelance writing certainly falls under the category of small business, and there are a number of ways that women writers can take advantage of various grant, loan and other information programs offered by the federal government, state governments and even private organizations.

Guys, don't feel left out. As I continue to grow this blog, I intend on exploring the many options for all segments of the population. The fact is that there is literally millions of dollars in grants waiting to be had by 'starving artists', including us writers. If you want to find out more, you'll just have to stay tuned!


As we speak, I am currently hard at work finishing up a new e-book I plan on offering right here at The Writing Geek. It's called "The Blogger's Handbook: Essays & Articles on the Art of Blogging", and should be available sometime around the end of October/beginning of November. "The Blogger's Handbook" will be an extensive guide to the world of blogging, with articles covering topics from getting started to promoting your blog and yes, even blogging for cash.

The e-book will be available for purchase for just $4.95, but I am also offering you a way to get your copy free of charge. To get your free copy, simply include a brief mention of The Writing Geek, with a link, in your blog. When your blurb is up, just let me know and include your email address with notification. When the e-book is released, I will send you a completely free copy, right to your email inbox. Easy enough? If you have any questions, feel free to drop me a line at

That's going to do it for this post. I have a TON of writing to do, as well as some grocery shopping to do while my girlfriend is at work. On top of that, my engine light came on in the truck the other day. I think I need to get an oil change sometime in the near future.

Until next time...

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Query Letter Confessions...


The first query letter I ever sent out led to a writing assignment, but I have a confession to make about it. I stole it. Yes, you read that right. Stolen. Lifted. Five finger discount. And you know what? It worked wonders for me.

As a budding writer, I was eager and anxious to see my work in print. I wanted to be published, and I was willing to do whatever it took to get there. One day, as I was perusing a copy of the "Writer's Market", I came across the query letters that would eventually become mine. Now, when I say stolen, I mean that I took special care to analyze how the successful letters in the front of the book had been crafted. I read them over and over, until I had a good feel for their timing, rhythm and mechanics.

After doing so, I set out to write my own. As I wrote out the query, I made sure that the reading pace was the same as the others. I was careful to include all of the elements the others had - the hook, the pitch and the close all played out almost exactly as the others did. When it was finished, I could compare my own query letter with the ones in the book, and they looked exactly the same. Except, of course, that the subject was different.

When my query was complete, I carefully read it over to ensure that my spelling was good, and then pasted it into an email and sent it off. Several days later, I received the good news. The editor wanted to include my article in an upcoming issue of the magazine, and the rest is history. In my next pitch, with a few minor changes in the angle of the story I was pitching, I used the very same letter to sell yet another article to a different magazine. Since then, I have continued to use the same format in all of my query letters, with a rather high success rate.

If you are just starting out, I would strongly urge you to take the time to research the reasons behind successful query letters. Today, there is no shortage of examples available in various magazines, writer's books and on the Internet. To get you started, check out THIS ARTICLE by Moira Allen. She is an extremely successful writer and webmaster of In the article, she lays out several paragraphs of successful query letters, and explains why they work.

And don't be shy about copying the style, either. There is no sense in re-inventing the wheel, when those letters were successful for a reason. Steal their style. It works, I know!


This is probably going to sound weird, but I have taken to calling wherever I sit to write, the "wet spot". Why? It's simple, really. I have noticed that, for me, a good writing session is comparable to good sex. My girlfriend tells me I have a certain 'glow' after completing a long block of writing, and I even tend to follow my usual after-sex rituals. There's nothing like a cigarette to still the nerves after pouring your heart and soul out on paper, and I find myself taking smoke breaks between each article I write.

Now, I know smoking is bad for my health and, in all reality, it will probably be what kills me someday. Do not take this particular column to be my advice to you to start smoking, and don't think that I am saying you have to smoke in order to be a successful writer. I'm not. I am simply sharing some of my own thoughts & writing rituals with you. Let's say, for entertainment purposes only.

Anyhow, I have a couple of articles to write for, so I am going to go grab a smoke, then get back to work. In the meantime, beware the wet spot, and enjoy the rest of this post.


Everything I have read about successful blogging indicates that a little routine in the blogging experience is a good thing. Many of the bloggers I have talked to say that creating a routine helps the creativity, and gets you used to blogging regularly. Even though I tend to write whenever inspiration strikes (and more often when it doesn't), I have noticed that when it comes to blogging, I have developed somewhat of my own routine. This is what it looks like.

5 a.m. - The alarm goes off, and I stumble out of bed. After making a pot of coffee and breakfast (which usually consists of a bagel & cream cheese or a couple of chocolate toaster waffles) for my girlfriend and I myself, I see her off to work.

5:30 a.m. - I spend a little time looking over my research notes, check any websites & blogs to tie up loose ends, and get to the writing. Lately, this has meant posting here, writing an article or two for Helium, and then working on the various offline projects that are currently taking up my time. At present, I am working on several magazine articles and a couple of e-books. When November rolls around, I will also be spending some time working on my version of the Great American Novel for National Novel Writing Month. I will take breaks throughout the day to do a little laundry, change the cat litter and other miscellaneous household tasks. I have also been known to sneak in a catnap or two.

Somewhere between 3 p.m. & 4 p.m. - My girlfriend gets home from work, and we get to spend a little time together. That time is usually spent watching a few episodes of Tivo'd House Hunters, Grey's Anatomy, Men in Trees, and House, M.D. You know, the good stuff. Although my girlfriend has tried getting me to watch Desperate Housewives, I have thus far been able to resist.

9 p.m.'ish - After tucking my girlfriend into bed, I venture back to the computer, and begin making preparations for the next day's work. For me, that means writing up my blog post schedule, writing and answering emails, researching new markets and seeking out any other information I need for the following day's writing activities. Sometimes I get started on the next day's writing, but usually I am worn out and ready for bed before I finish research.

11:30 p.m. - 12 a.m. - I crawl into bed and fall asleep thinking about the writing I will be doing the next day. I find that, after a night's sleep, I often come up with new ideas or angles I had missed the night before. I also tend to find spots in my writing or research from the day before that could use filling in.

Now, it's your turn. Have you found yourself falling into a routine when writing or blogging? Take some time to write about it. If you post it on a blog, let me know about it so I can link back to it here in a future post.

#1 AGAIN...

My latest article on Helium, "8 Tips for Keeping Your Online Payments Safe", quickly shot up to the #1 position yesterday, and has put me just one point behind the current first place writer in this week's Computers & Technology category contest. Now I could write another article and hope that it ranks high enough for me to win first place, but the contest ends Monday night, and I would run the risk of the article not having enough time to get ranked high enough to earn the required points.

In this case, I think I am going to follow another strategy. Instead of writing another article, I am going to stop where I am at for this particular contest, and hope the leader decides to write another article or three. If he does, and they fail to rank high enough to earn points, he runs the risk of actually losing some of the points he currently has. Instead, I am going to make my first stab at the Helium marketplace, and see if my writing has what it takes to make the cut for the publishers currently advertising for needed articles. While the pay is nothing to note, it will keep me working towards my original Helium goal, which was to have fun and keep my writing skills sharp.

Again, time will tell. The next contest starts Tuesday night, and this time around, I am going to write more than my usual number of articles. Instead of writing six articles for the contest, which has been my average, I am going to attempt to double that figure. Perhaps that will lead to a first place win. In addition, I am going to begin work on a series of articles that will discuss my Helium successes a little more, and detail what I believe has led to those successes. Stay tuned for that!

Until next time...

Saturday, October 13, 2007

John Chow on Blogging...


The name John Chow has become synonymous with making serious money blogging. His blog, John Chow dot Com, is one of the first stops for anyone wanting to learn how to make money with their own blogs today. As such, it is my pleasure to present the following interview, which I had the pleasure of conducting with Mr. Chow via email.

The Writing Geek: What is the biggest mistake most beginner bloggers make?

John Chow: Thinking they’re going to get rich by blogging. Very few blogs make good money but they get all the attention so many people think blogging and money come easy. It doesn’t.

TWG: Aside from making money, what satisfaction do you get from blogging?

JC: The community that blogs create. It’s great to get feedback and talk to readers and other bloggers. That is better than money really. You can build some really good friendships by blogging.

TWG: If you had the chance to go back in time a year, what would you do differently/the same?

JC: I would have spun John Chow dot Com off as a separate blog about making money so I could keep it as a personal blog with no ads.

TWG: What is the best piece of advice you can offer a blogger?

JC: Have fun and enjoy the experience. The money will come later.

TWG: Aside from John Chow dot Com, what are your top three favorite blogs?

JC:, and

TWG: You've been elected president of the blogosphere. What is your first move?

JC: Ban Google.

TWG: What is/are your predictions for blogging over the next ten years?

JC: I can’t see 10 years into the future. Your guess is as good as mine.

My sincerest thanks to John for allowing me the honor of his presence on my blog! This is the start of a new feature here on The Writing Geek, and I will have quite a few more blogger interviews over the coming weeks. Will yours be next? Drop me a line if you would like to be interviewed!


As a youngster, I can remember getting in trouble quite a bit. I'm not sure whether I had a knack for finding it, or it had a knack for finding me. All I know is that I found myself being lectured quite a bit. Inevitably, those lectures would always seem to end with my Mom asking, "What do you have to say for yourself?"

Today, I'm all grown up (well, almost) and find myself deep in my career as a writer. I don't know that I would have ever gone down this path without Mom's dedication to that question. So, it is with a grateful smile that I dedicate today's post to you, Mom. Thanks for pointing me in the "write" direction.

Now, here is your challenge: Looking back on your own childhood, can you remember any influence your parents, grandparents or other role models may have had that caused you to become a writer? Take a moment to write about it, and post it on your blog if you have one. If you let me know about it, I will make a collection of links to other responses right here in a future post.


I was rather pleased to receive an email from Barbara W. at Helium yesterday, notifying me that my article on Company Blogs and their Value for Public Relations (currently rated #1 of 11 articles) was being featured on the front page! I had hoped this would mean that the revenues generated by that article would jump somewhat, but alas, it has only served to generate a few extra pennies. On the other hand, I did get to see my byline displayed prominantly for the entire day, as many others would!

On the subject of Helium, my latest article, "8 Tips for Keeping Your Online Payments Safe" is now live, and ranked #4 of 6 articles. If past article performance is any indication, I expect this rating will improve fairly quickly. Of the 12 articles I have posted thus far, 7 are rated #1 of multiple articles. I take this to mean that either my articles are exceptionally good, or the ones they are going up against are exceptionally bad. I kind of doubt the latter, however, as I have watched my articles go up against some decent writing. There have been exceptions, but for the most part, writers seem to take quite a bit of pride in their work.

My article postings this week have also had another effect. Last time I checked, they have once again landed me in the top three positions (currently 2nd place) in the writing contest this week, for the 'Computers & Technology' category. Here's to hoping I can make the #1 spot this week. Wish me luck!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Evil Harry Potter...


My girlfriend is a big Harry Potter fan, which is fine by me. I have never read any of the books, but I fully support anyone else's Potter-habit. In fact, we were at the library yesterday, and she picked up the latest installment and is undoubtedly deep into it by now. That is, of course, as long as there is not a new episode of "House Hunters" on.

Unfortunately, not everyone shares her enthusiasm when it comes to Harry Potter. This morning, while surfing for new stuff to write about, I came across THIS PRESS RELEASE from the ALA. Apparently, Harry Potter tops the list of "Most Challenged Books of the 21st Century". The most cited reason for the push to ban the series? It encourages the practice of witchcraft among children. For cryin' out loud!

Included on the list of most challenged books? "Of Mice and Men" by John Steinbeck and even "Captain Underpants" by Dav Pilkey. I LOVE CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS! I couldn't tell you the number of times his antics and adventures kept me entertained while I visited the bathroom. Sheesh!

Anyhow, the list comes on the heels of 'Banned Book Week' which, in keeping with my usual luck of being a day late and a dollar short, was September 29 - October 6. Oh well. It is certainly an event I will keep in mind for next year. Until then, I think I will focus my efforts on writing something that will make this list in the future... CENSORS BE DAMNED!


Even while hacking away at the keyboard, writing away for and this blog, I have been quietly making plans for the novel I intend to write during National Novel Writing Month. I have decided to use the story I began writing last summer (I wrote one chapter), and will be fleshing it out a little more. My ultimate goal is to have a decent outline of events that will occur throughout the story, although I also plan on putting some of the elements in your hands right here as I make the journey through NaNoWriMo. Kind of a "choose your own adventure" experiment, if you will. Here's an excerpt:

"The hottest spot in Grand Junction, Colorado was the corner of Fifth & Ute avenues. At least that's what Jason Matthews was thinking as he stood at that very spot. He had been standing under one of the bus depot's loading structures, but had to move when a bus loaded with travellers out of Denver pulled in. He could have gone back into the terminal, but the sorry excuse for a bus station had become a hub of activity. There were people filing in from the Denver bus, and even more people getting ready to board the same bus he would be catching. So, for the moment, he stood at the corner, smoking a cigarette and admiring the park across the intersection.

"Homeless park." He thought. That is what his daughter said her friends called it. He could see why. A small group of bums congregated under the largest tree in the park. Most sat in the shade, though several had taken to catnaps beneath the tree's bows. "Almost spooky." He mumbled under his breath. The bums sprawled out in the shade could have very easily been dead, and noone would have noticed.

"Can you spare one of those?" As if on cue, a middle-aged man brushed Jason's shoulder from behind. His bloodshot eyes were fixated on the cigarette in his mouth. "Sorry, bud. Last one." He lied. His hand gesture and facial expression, however, appeared to convince the bum, who continued on his way down Fifth Street. Jason turned towards the brick building in time to see the people lining up at his bus. He finished his smoke, flicked it into the street and walked towards the line."

Ready to help finish the story?


I decided I would skip out on the blogging links today and focus on what this blog is mostly about - writing! The reality of it is that the world of freelance writing, be it fiction or non-, has been covered time and again throughout the Internet. I remember some of the more popular sites when they were just beginning way back in the mid- to late nineties. Nonetheless, some writers continue to come up with some good stuff about their craft. Here are a few good links.

Fiona Veitch Smith of The Crafty Writer just recently completed part 2 of an 8 week course in non-fiction writing. START HERE to see what she has to offer.

CLUB 100 FOR WRITERS offers an interesting take on overcoming writer's block. If you are finding yourself staring at a blank page, I suggest you give it a go.

Camy Tang of WRITER...INTERRUPTED gives some thoughtful insight into SHOWING EMOTION THROUGH DIALOGUE. I have always thought dialogue was the best way to show emotion. I have seen too many writers attempt to use narrative for emotion, which often leads to flowery, overly forced writing.


If you like what I have going on here, I would urge you to subscribe to my RSS feed. It can be found HERE or by clicking the FeedBurner link on the left!