Faith M. Boughan reports:
"If you’ve ever written flash fantasy, you know how challenging it can be to fit a fully-rounded story into fewer than a thousand words (or whatever word count the market you’re writing for requires)...When writing flash fiction of any genre, it’s important to keep in mind that...[some] people will happily click through a link from a friend and read a brief piece of fiction—whereas they likely wouldn’t do the same if that friend handed over a paperback. That means you have a lot less time to grab your reader’s attention, and you’re going to need to hold that attention all the way through to the end. Drop the pace or confuse the reader and they’ll click that little red ‘X’ without a second thought...If you’re tackling fantasy flash fiction, it’s important to approach the story with a different mindset: Think small. Think tight...If you forget who you’re writing for, you’ll lose your audience—or never gain one in the first place...In flash fiction, you don’t have a whole lot of space within which to tell your story. That means paring it down—focusing on one situation or incident that needs resolution. Think of it like a sitcom...[Flash fiction needs] some measure of resolution in order to leave the reader satisfied and fulfilled. This means that you should never, ever pluck a chapter or scene from your WIP [work in progress] and submit it to a flash market as a complete flash story...Taking a scene from a longer work and calling it flash almost always runs the risk of too much plot...In fantasy, readers and writers are used to dealing with a lot of characters...Are all these characters necessary? Most of the time, yes—if we’re talking about a typical fantasy novel. Each character has a role to play, and if they don’t? Presumably those ones were cut during the editing process. Even walk-on characters advance the story in some way...Take that same mindset into a piece of flash, however, and what are your readers going to do? Same thing as most of the characters in your story: Wander around looking confused until someone bothers to explain what’s going on...Readers want to make connections with your characters. Readers want to relate to them, empathize with them, and share in the journey toward growth. If you’re attempting to introduce a seven-member party in a thousand-word story, not only is it highly unlikely that each character will attain the desired character growth from beginning to end, but it’s [also] even less likely that your readers will be able to find and connect with any of the characters at all. The story will be stretched too thin over too many people—that is, if the story can even break through the crowd to make an appearance in the first place...[T]he ideal number of characters sustained by fantasy flash seems to hover around one to three individuals...Readers don’t want to know the fabric and design and trim and adornment of every female character’s dress...Readers’ imaginations will fill in the blanks where you can’t...Only describe what’s different and what matters. Everything else is filler. Leave it out...Mentioning things in your world, without offering an explanation, is one of the best ways to lose a reader...If you absolutely must worldbuild, and absolutely must include aspects of this worldbuilding in your flash piece, your readers will be best served by familiarity...Similar to paring down description, reducing the amount of the unfamiliar in a fantasy flash piece can help create the desired sense of atmosphere and tone without wasting all your storytelling space on explanations. Pare it down. Keep the basics. Eliminate the rest."
"Sci-[f]i has a strong cult following, and when it captures the imagination a franchise...can make literally billions of dollars. That is why [s]ci-[f]i scripts are often in mind for a big summer blockbuster. Like all genres there are some specific guides you need to follow and things you need to research. Before planning to write a sci-fi screenplay read through the following points and you’ll have a strong idea of the work you have in front of you...At the centre [sic] of most sci-fi scripts is the concept of good vs. evil and that good will always triumph. This is often focused in on as an evil government, empire or organisation [sic] which is [led] by an evil tyrant who wants to mould [sic] the world in his own image. To combat this force there is always a group of rebels with a leader who is honest and true. These 'total opposites' are often bonded together by a shared characteristic or belief. It could be that they both wish to save the world, [and] they just have a different idea of how to go about it...To write a good sci-fi screenplay you have to have a strong ability to 'world build'. It’s most likely that the world in which your story [takes place] is quite different from the world we live in today. There could be space travel, alien beings, matter transporters and worldwide unity. On the other hand it could be a gloomy [post-nuclear] holocaust future with little food, mutant people and a corrupt government. There’s so many directions you can take this in and details to think about...You might have a race of ignorant, violent and untrustworthy aliens but it can be an interesting twist to have a member of this race be an intelligent thinker who is extremely loyal and a friend of your main protagonist. This can lead to conflict between the leaders of the alien race who see this outsider as an abomination of the species who must be dealt with while the main protagonist might lose confidence in their loyalty after a failed mission...[Sci-fi allows you to] make friends and companions out of types of people/beings that you wouldn’t normally see together...It’s fun to watch [two] opposites interact, the differences of opinion they have and the type of conflict this can create...[T]ry to take into consideration that if you want to sell this screenplay then someone has to pay for it. You can help trim the potential budget of turning your screenplay into a [feature-length] film by using locations more than once, keeping the number of main characters down and not cramming in scene after scene of expensive CGI [computer-generated imagery]...[Y]ou still need to follow the tried and tested guidelines of structure. Hopefully these ideas and concepts will help you in writing your sci-fi script and maybe, just maybe, you’ll come up with the next blockbuster franchise."
John Stackhouse reports:
"Here is what writing a master’s thesis won’t get you: a gasp of admiration from a PhD admissions committee. It doesn’t matter how long a thesis you write or how brilliant you think it is. It frankly won’t even be seen by (busy) admissions committees, who certainly don’t want applicants mailing a hundred-plus pages of text as part of their applications...[M]any programs, including those at elite schools, don’t expect theses from their own master’s students or even have a thesis track for their master’s degrees...So why go to the considerable trouble of a master’s thesis? Here’s why. There is nothing short of tackling a doctoral dissertation or writing an actual book to acquaint you with what it means to conduct frontline academic research and to write a complex academic report on it. If you want a 'discernment exercise' to know whether an academic career is for you, try a master’s thesis. If it goes well, then you’re a good candidate for everything the PhD and the professoriate can throw at you. If it doesn’t, now you know: Get out and get going on something else for which you are more suited and in which you’ll be much happier!...There is a kind of 'quantum break' between papers and the master’s thesis that sorts out who is suited for an academic career and who isn’t. It’s like the break between single-celled and multi-celled organisms. Once you’ve crossed that gap successfully, a dissertation or a book is just a bigger version of something you have already done. And until you have crossed that gap, you don’t really know how you’ll do in the Big Time...[Y]ou’ll never, ever be able to pay an expert to take pains over your text once you’ve graduated. So if you can, take advantage of the opportunity the master’s thesis gives you...Finally, once you’ve completed a master’s thesis successfully, it’s just not that big a deal to write the doctoral dissertation...I strongly urge students who have PhDs and academic careers in view to write a master’s thesis...If you wait until your thesis is done before you apply, your examiners can then sing your praises on the basis of that finished thesis. But I wouldn’t delay applying with that possibility in view unless you really need your thesis to wow these examiners when your previous coursework hasn’t."
Power Poetry reports:
"There are lots of great reasons to enter poetry contests. A contest gives you a goal and deadline, so it may motivate you to finish a poem and make it the best it can be...If you win, the organization may publish your work and make it available to a wide audience (bonus: instant fame!). Plus, you could win prizes that are worth up to thousands of dollars...Find the right poetry contest for you. Poets & Writers is a magazine for writers. If you go to the magazine’s website, click on 'tools for writers' and then 'contests,' [where] you’ll find a searchable database containing thousands of magazines and journals that hold poetry contests...Quick tip: The contests that charge entry fees tend to award larger prizes but you’re likely to face greater competition...Read the contest guidelines. Sure, it’s tempting to skip reading the fine print—snooze alert!—but it’s important to learn how to enter a poetry contest so you don’t get disqualified...Pay attention to the details so you can find a contest that suits your style of poetry. The guidelines may ask for a certain form of poetry (i.e. haiku, sonnet, free verse) or they may ask for poems about a particular topic (i.e. nature, people, school)...Once you know what kind of poem contest organizers are looking for, write up a first draft well before the deadline—you’ll want to leave some time for revisions. Ask a mentor whose opinion you value (such as a friend, sibling, neighbor, teacher, or parent) to read your poem and offer feedback. Ask the person what he or she thought the poem was about to see if it matches your intention. Then ask if he or she can think of ways to make the poem even stronger...No matter what happens, entering poetry contests can only make you a better writer...Remember, there will always be more contests. It’s probably going to take some time to write critically acclaimed poems, so don’t get discouraged [if you don't win]. If you’re patient and keep working on your craft, you’re bound to eventually wow readers and win prizes from poetry contests!"
Molly Thompson reports:
"Regardless of the scenario, by doing your homework, understanding what your supervisor is looking for in a report and completing it accurately and on schedule, you can produce a report your supervisor will appreciate as informative and useful...Establish with your supervisor his preferred format for your reports...Also, ask how he wants the report conveyed -- electronically or in hard copy -- and how often he expects you to prepare a report...Use the format your boss has requested to present key information related to the subject. A recurring report, such as weekly sales figures or monthly project status, can be presented in a simple memo format with changes from previous reports highlighted. Reports on one-time events...likely require information that is more detailed...At the top of your report put the date, [the] report title, the name of the person for whom the report is prepared and your name as the report writer. If your report is in memo format, use the report title as the subject line...Create section headers for each key element of the report. The introductory section should introduce the topic and summarize key points. A background section might describe why a marketing study was commissioned or what production problems prompted a workflow evaluation. The body should include the main points of your report...Conclude your report with a summary and include recommendations for action if warranted. For a trip report describing participation in a recent conference, the recommendation might be that it was of little value and the company should no longer send employees. A report describing a recent study should end with recommendations based on the study results...If you are requesting his action on something, state that clearly so your supervisor isn't left guessing...Double-check the report before sending it to your boss. Make sure there are no spelling or grammar errors, that it contains accurate figures and dates and that it is neat and in the correct format. Sign or initial the report. Make a copy for your files."
Laurie Reeves reports:
"One of the key roles of an editor-in-chief of a newspaper, magazine or television news program is to inspire and motivate the editorial staff. The editor-in-chief has the ultimate say when approving articles or manuscripts for publication...The educational path to becoming an editor-in-chief starts with selecting a college that offers key majors, and then gaining experience in the field...If you're interested in working for a newspaper or magazine, then consider a degree in journalism. Traditional bachelor's degrees in journalism prepare you to work in print media, but most programs have added instruction in digital media and the use of social media by journalists...A mass communications degree is another path to take on the way to becoming an editor-in-chief. A mass communications degree focuses on all aspects of communications, the Internet, television, radio and the print media. Students learn about domestic and global media systems...You can obtain a bachelor's degree with a major in English or writing. Both of these degrees can help you get a job as an editor-in-chief after you gain experience in the field. Editors also need to know how to write so that they can effectively edit their staff's work...Some editors-in-chief obtained liberal arts degrees, which offers a rounded education on a variety of subjects. Liberal arts degree students study languages, linguistics, literature, political science, religious studies and science...The editor-in-chief is well served by a liberal arts degree because she is prepared to oversee coverage of a variety of topics often covered in the news."
"Most technical writing comes down to documenting procedures. Many technical documents are complex, yet most are collections of relatively simple procedures. The art in technical writing is breaking everything into [easily digestible] steps...Procedures are everywhere. Cookbook recipes are procedures. So are model-making how-tos...Mowing the lawn? That can be defined in a procedure. Changing the seal on your toilet? You want a procedure to tell you how to do that. Driving to a previously unvisited destination? Driving directions are a procedure. The world needs well-written procedures. Writing good procedures is not difficult, if you know how...Define the procedure you are going to write down...Most procedures are badly written because they are poorly defined...Start by framing exactly what you want the procedure to do...Create a list of everything you need to complete the procedure...You may not necessarily include the full list in your procedure, but you need to know what it includes...Jot down everything you do. Record the flow of things. Note tools used and when. Note dependencies – things that have to be done before something else. Also note what stuff does not have to be done in any particular order. Take pictures or screenshots as you go...Start at the beginning. Continue to the end. Sort the dependencies, so tasks which must be completed before a later task can be finished are done first. Fit the independent tasks – the ones which must be completed, but not in any particular order – so they do not interrupt the flow...Examine your outline. See where you can optimize the sequence of steps. Are there places where you are looping back and repeating work unnecessarily? Is the flow logical? Do the steps outlined require unnecessary effort?...Rearrange the steps to minimize movement and effort...Take the steps you outlined and put them on paper. A picture really is worth [1,000] words in providing clarity; add images as necessary to explain the process...Test the procedure. Give it to someone completely unfamiliar with the process outlined in the procedure and have them follow the instructions. Do not help the person. Once they use the procedure, get their feedback. Find what was confusing and unclear...Take the feedback...and fix any deficiencies found...Find another set of sucker-testers to test the revised procedure. Redo until exhaustion sets in, deadlines are reached, or you converge on a solution – write something which works the first time someone goes through it...Actually writing the procedure seems like a minor part of the whole process. That is because the secret to writing a procedure is the preparation done before writing it...[I]t is like laying the foundation for a building. If the foundation is bad, the building will be inadequate, no matter how much effort goes into the rest of the construction."
Here are some highlights from Peter Kent's January 1998 issue for The Internet Writing Journal:
"[Y]ou really can make $100,000 a year as a freelance technical writer. Some writers make a lot more, $120,000, even $150,000. So, struggling writer, consider what that sort of money could do for you. You really want to write poetry? Then do a few freelance technical-writing contracts for half the year, and spend the rest of the time on your poetry. Want to work on that screenplay idea you've been thinking of for years? Use technical writing to fund it; let three days of technical writing each week pay the bills, and take off two days for the screenplay. The Great American Novel you're working on? Wouldn't it be easier if you had some cash to buy you the time you need to write it? All this may sound too good to be true, but plenty of writers are making great money in technical writing...There are really three main ways to sell your services as a freelance technical writer. I generally advise newcomers to begin selling their services through the technical-service agencies. Not because this is the way to make the most money, but because the agencies provide a good way to break into the market. There are thousands of these agencies throughout the United States, companies large and small that sell 'bodies' to companies...The second way to work is to cut out the agency. Once you've built up a good network of fellow writers, you can often get to the clients before the agencies do. Not all companies will employ freelancers directly -- some prefer to work with the agencies -- but enough will, especially smaller companies. Instead of making $30 or $35 an hour, for instance, you may be able to make $40 or $45...The third form of work is a step up from here, more of a 'consulting' arrangement. In such an arrangement you agree to complete a particular project for a client. For instance, you may agree to write a user manual for a new software program, or instructions for a toy or electronic device. It's up to you when and how you get the work done; you may be able to do most of the work at home, for instance. Now, most writers still bill clients by the hour when working in this kind of relationship...It's possible to make more money if you bill by the project, as long as you can make a fairly close estimate of the time it will take to do the work, and if you work quickly. Rates can reach $100, $130, or $150 an hour or higher. This is when your income breaks the $100,000 barrier, of course...You can't bill by the project in some cases, but I believe it is possible in many, perhaps most cases. It's just a matter of keeping track of your hours for a while...Why does billing by the project pay more? It pays more for writers who are above average. If you can write quickly, and do a better job than most writers, why charge the same as other writers?...[M]any clients really like to be given a per-project bid. Rather than being told, 'I'll charge you $40 an hour,' they like to know what the project will actually cost. After all, what does $40 an hour mean? What's an hour? 'I don't know,' I tell clients, 'and I bet you don't.' One person's hour is, after all, different from another's. Some writers bill more hours than they work, other writers simply don't get much done in an hour. Will the $40-an-hour project cost the client $10,000? $20,000? $30,000? Who knows?...Freelance tech-writing rates are hidden from employee writers, and even many freelancers don't know what they could really earn...Freelance writers have to talk to other freelance writers, about the rates they're earning, about the rates being offered by various companies and agencies, about the rates being made by other writers. It's a game, and the prize is a higher hourly rate...[I]t is possible for many people to increase their incomes significantly immediately...and even double their incomes quite rapidly (I doubled mine in about a year). To get to the higher rates takes more effort, but the potential is there if you want to reach for it. There's one danger. As one freelance writer, who had scriptwriting aspirations, told me: 'The money is seductive. Technical writing pays so well that you get used to the money, and it's difficult to break away.'"
David Cutler reports:
"To teach effective writing, we must be effective writers ourselves. We can't teach what we don't know, and when it comes to writing, it's important to continue honing our craft. If you haven't engaged in much formal writing since college, you will remain a less effective writing teacher...Reading is important, but reading alone isn't enough to strengthen your writing skills, or to make you a credible authority on the subject...No matter what you teach, share your written work...[I]t's essential for students to recognize not only your skill, but also your interest and engagement in constantly refining a crucial life skill...No matter what you teach, write in front of students...Create workshop environments, with multiple stations focusing on different aspects of writing...Urge students to share their work with each other and online. Few writers have ever improved by keeping their work to themselves...In an increasingly flat world and a digital age, students must feel comfortable and confident about sharing their work for the whole world to see. To that end, teachers should help students produce appropriate, high-quality content...[T]eachers must do whatever they can to convey the importance and usefulness of writing more effectively...From science, math, engineering, law, history, and journalism to anything else one can think of, the ability to express oneself clearly in writing is absolutely essential."
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