Anyone who has ever applied for a job online knows that not all application processes are the same. Enter your cover letter, attach a resume, send an email… these are fairly standard methods. As a writer, you really only need a few basic tools for applying for writing positions:

  • Website with writing samples (portfolio)
  • Cover Letter (digital version)
  • Resume (on your website and PDF version for uploading)

How you use these items is another story all together.
Here are a few common scenarios and tips to consider when applying:

Email Replies

Though employers advertising online usually asks applicants to send the basics (rate/fee, experience, samples, and resume) via email, you should be careful about how you approach the ‘email application.’ Just because you are being asked to send an email, doesn’t mean you should be casual and throw the information together and hit send in under twenty seconds. Your email is your cover letter and perhaps your one – and only – chance to make yourself shine.

The kicker is how you include your additional information. Do you attach five different documents? An email brimming with attachments appears cluttered and unorganized. This certainly is not the impression you want to give the employer! The solution is rather simple. Include a link to your website where you have housed your writing samples and resume. Of course, if the employer requires you to attach your resume and/or samples, then do so. Always follow the employer’s directions, even if you think it’s easier or ‘cleaner’ to send a link to a resume. Of course, this doesn’t mean you can’t still send a link to your website or other work on the web, however. Go beyond what is required to grab an employer’s attention. Getting creative in your approach may be what ultimately lands you the job. Just do so in a way that is subtle (e.g. adding a link to your signature line or as part of a single sentence of text inviting the employer to peruse additional information).

Attaching a Resume or CV

If an employer asks you to upload your resume online or to send it via email, keep in mind two crucial items (beyond the basics of having a resume that is neat/organized and shows off your skills):

  1. Send PDFs, not word docs. The formatting in a word doc often get ‘screwed up’ when the document is opened by another operating system. You want your resume to open and look the way you sent it… readable, organized, and professional. You don’t want lines and fonts taking on a life of their own because two computers (sending and receiving) aren’t of like-mind.
  2. Add links to a few key words in your resume. Just because the employer asked for a resume doesn’t mean he or she will print it out. In all likelihood, the employer will open your resume online – along with the other 250+ resumes he/she received. Those 250+ resumes is the main reason your resume will probably only receive a 10-20 seconds perusal, which is exactly why you should embed links in your resume. Those few embedded links will stands out and scream ‘click me,’ enticing your potential client or employer to open your online portfolio and view work that couldn’t fit in that one-page resume.

Don’t go overboard adding a link to every other word in your resume. There is always the chance that your resume will be printed out. The underline for embedded links will show up as mere underlines when the resume is printed. You could end up with a bunch of underlined words that appear random or out of place. Where to embed links in a pdf resume is a balancing act and takes consideration, just like each and every word you place in your resume and cover letter.

Twitter is an excellent forum for anyone learning how to write humor. With only 140 characters at your disposal on Twitter, you have no choice but to be brief, regardless of what you’re writing. That limited space can be daunting to a writer or comedian who is used to writing long set-ups before reaching the punch line.

Follows those Comedians

While one-liners are humorous, they are a different type of humor than traditional long jokes. As with any form of writing, studying what you intend to write is the first step. Search Twitter until you find comedians whose humor you admire, and study their one-liners. Then, study the one-liners of some lesser-known or unknown comedians. With such a mix, you will see what works and doesn’t work for one-liners. Of course, to write funny one-liners, you still need to understand some of the basics of humor (e.g. how the last few words or line are the punch line, how to use innuendo and puns, etc.). It also helps to pay attention to what’s happening in the news (from social and economic to entertainment and political events) as there are often a lot of opportunities there for humorous commentary. I like to follow a few comedians on Twitter such as That Everyday Guy, Women’s Humor, and Daniel Tosh. You can find other sources of one-liners on sites such Smart-Words.org and KickassHumor.com just by Googling “one-liners” or “funny one-liners,” though these may not stick to the 140 character limit required by Twitter.

Writing is Writing, No Matter the Form

As with any form of writing, once you understand the basics, you will need a notepad or journal where you can jot down your tweet ideas as they come to you. Then you will have to revise your tweets several times to perfect them to meet the 140-character limit and/or improve the comedic effect. If your tweet is over 140 characters, don’t panic and don’t erase or delete that tweet. Let it sit for a few days or weeks and in time you will likely find a way to shorten it without sacrificing the humor.

2 The Pt.

If you still can’t shorten the tweet, social convention has provided an ‘out’ for you on Twitter. You can abbreviate and intentionally misspell words to force your tweet to fit, without people thinking less of your writing or you. Proper grammar and spelling take a back seat to the 140 character rule on Twitter. Just keep in mind that while abbreviations such as BTW and 4 U are commonplace and understood by most people using Twitter, you don’t want to overcrowd your one-liners with too many abbreviations. BTW, write w/ TLC or no 1 will LOL. As you can see, too many abbreviations will slow your readers down, throwing them out of the joke as they focus on deciphering what you’re saying instead of focusing on the humor. While it doesn’t hurt to brush up on your twitter abbreviations or twitter slang, use these terms judiciously, and not at the sacrifice of your humor!

Probably the worst reason for adding a new blog entry is because a few days have passed and you feel pressured to post another entry. Of course, the other extreme is letting weeks, months or, dare I say it – years – go by between posts. Yes, I’m guilty of the latter; I looked at my blog this weekend and realized I hadn’t posted anything in two years! My last post was November 2012…. Has it really been that long since I posted? Heck, I still remember my WordPress password (a rarity for me), so it certainly doesn’t feel like it has been two years. I realized the trap I had fallen into. I had never developed a blogging routine, and thus had been easily distracted by work and the demands of daily life.

What Blogging Frequency is ‘Good’?

While there is no right answer, I know I’m safe when I say one blog entry every few years will accomplish nothing. How often you should add a new blog entry is directly related to your blogging goals. My goals when I started this blog were to generate some interest in my freelance business. Ironically, I became so busy with my freelance work that I didn’t put as much time into the marketing end of my business. Hopefully, I’ll be able to develop a routine over the next few weeks, posting on a more frequent basis!

Don’t Post Unless You Add Value

While I haven’t posted here with any real frequency, I am not new to blogging. I post blogs for clients (more frequently than I post to my own site), enough to know that blogging when you have nothing worthwhile to say is a waste of everyone’s time, and can cost you readers. Even if you are blogging with the purpose of boosting your SEO, you should still make sure you are giving your readers what they want. In other words, your posts must add value, which means adding something interesting, insightful, new, uplifting, motivating, or entertaining.

Most writers know that they should write every day, as part of perfecting their craft. A blog is certainly one method of doing so. And perhaps that is the only reason some writers have a blog. If that is the case, then daily is a good rule of thumb for blogging. If, however, you are trying to generate a following, be it for advertising dollars, self-promotion, or other marketing needs, then you must think strategically in terms of content – quality over quantity.

Updating one’s resume, or publishing credits, can often yield surprising information.

I am as guilty as any when it comes to being too busy to add new credits to my resume on an ongoing basis. I recently needed to send my resume to a potential client, which meant I had to spend a few minutes updating my credits first. What I didn’t expect were the few hours it would take me to clarify some information with an editor.

I have developed and sold many puzzles over the years. Once you sell a puzzle (with full rights) to a publisher, anything can happen to the puzzle. The puzzle may appear in a book once, or in several books, or not at all, just sitting in inventory until an editor pulls it for the ‘right’ book or publication. In my case, several of my puzzles were used in books I didn’t know about until I made my request.

After several emails back and forth with my editor determining which books and publications had included my puzzles, I suddenly had a longer list of credits to my name than I had previously believed. A nice bonus there. Of course, it was nice to touch base with my editor, and put my name in the forefront on her mind. While I love keeping in touch with editors, I won’t email or call them without good cause. Their time is precious too. And this editor at Brain Games was quite gracious to work with me to unearth the information I sought.

The key to finding out about the additional books, aside from having a great editor, was the detailed list of what I had worked on, with dates, puzzle names, and the names of her predecessors to whom I had sold the puzzles. I didn’t simply go to the editor with the request, “find all the information associated with my name, please.” I had a detailed starting point for her, which undoubtedly made her search easier – never burden your editor if you can avoid it!

In the end, I have my list of credits… and I even sent my updated resume out on time.

How do puzzle developers develop puzzles?

Once you know what type of puzzle you’d like to create, the process is fairly simple. For this example, we’ll create a simple coded message:

  1. Start at the end. Your solution is the starting point. Our solution is EVERYONE LOVES PUZZLES.

     

  2. Remove Pieces of the Solution. In this example, I’ll remove all vowels. That leaves us with _V_RY_N_     L_V_S     P_ZZL_S.

     

  3. Provide Clues. We need to give our viewers a way of determining the proverbial ‘missing pieces of the puzzle’ (the missing information). Your clues can be as simple or as difficult as you’d like to make them.

    Here are just a few ways we could present the hints to our example puzzle:

    • State that the missing letters are all vowels.
    • Provide the missing vowels in a mixed up string, EEEEE OO U
    • Encode the answer, e.g. 5E2O1U. (This means there are 5 of the letter E, 2 of the letter O, AND 1U)

       

  4. This last step is optional, as it doesn’t necessarily impact the puzzle. Most puzzles have a title. In this case, that could be something like “Secret Message”. Often, however, puzzlers will make the title part of the puzzle… another clue. This isn’t a beginnner step, but it does make for a more interesting puzzle – for both the one solving the puzzle and the puzzle developer.

     

The process is the same for word searches, crosswords, sudoku and any other puzzle you can dream up. The key is always working backwards. Don’t forget to test your puzzle once you’re done. You may have to adjust your clues to ensure you have only one possible solution (You certainly may develop a puzzle with multiple solutions, but when you do so, make sure you let your viewers know this!).

Solving puzzles is more challenging when there is only one solution, and so is the developing!

Character development is crucial to creating a good story, unless your goal is to have flat characters who don’t appeal to your readers. Learning how to develop a character can be tricky, which is part of the reason writers are always encouraged to read, read, read as part of learning the craft of writing.

Reading, however, is not the only way to witness or even experience how other authors develop characters. TV shows often have excellent character development over the run of a series. A recent example that comes to mind is a new show on CBS, Elementary, a show about a modern-day Sherlock Holmes and his side-kick Watson.

In this series, Watson is played by actress Lucy Liu, a slight divergence from the traditional British male Watson we know from the books by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Though the series has only a handful of shows under its belt to date, Lucy Liu’s character Watson has already shown much growth.

In the first few episodes, we are given insight into who Watson is, all while she is learning how Holmes gleans clues from what would otherwise appear to be meaningless and arbitrary facts. By the third or fourth episode, we already see Watson learning to apply some of Holmes’ methods in deductive reasoning. I believe we shall see the character continue to grow in both her understanding and respect for Holmes as the series matures.

Watch the ‘baby steps’ this character makes over time, and you will likely witness a subtle but solid growth of the character. You may even gain insight into how to help the characters in your stories grow.

Many professions (e.g. law, medicine) require continuing education of its professionals, justifiably so. After all, who wants to have a doctor whose knowledge of medicine, treatments and diseases is from twenty, ten, or even five years ago?

While continuing education isn’t required for writers, it is nonetheless a smart idea. There are two types of continuing education for writers: 1) Writing related 2) Technology based. Continuing Education in Writing covers any writing class, exercise, research, or connection that expands and improves one’s writing. I won’t cover that subset here, as most writers understand the reason to keep honing one’s writing skills. What many writers don’t consider is the need for continuing education regarding one’s technological skills.

The role of technology in writing

How do you use technology as a writer? Do you stay abreast of all the technological advancements? Ten or fifteen years ago, writers started venturing online, creating their own websites to market themselves, trolling for work on job sites such as Craigslist or Freelancewriting, or learning how to write web copy. What we now consider the ‘basics’ of the internet were at that time new skills we needed to learn to take advantage of a new market. And so, many writers plunged forward, developing their own sites and learning how to write proper web copy for their clients. Searching for jobs online or marketing oneself online are commonplace for many writers now, but they weren’t when the internet was in its infancy.

Blogging

Consider the next progression on the timeline. With the explosion of websites by businesses, the need for content to attract people to their websites exploded tenfold. Content jobs abounded everywhere. Then came the advent of blogs. The concept brought new marketing possibilities and new job opportunities. Now the concept of blogging is so mainstream that many job websites such as Freelancewritinggigs include blogging as a distinct category of writing.

How does one blog to attract as well as retain viewers? How does one promote products and services through a blog? How does one maximize SEO (another technology-based skill writers need to learn if they’re writing for the web)? Of course there’s nothing saying a writer needs to know anything about blogging, but not staying current with the technology limits the writer’s potential for new jobs, and may even risk the loss of current clients, if those clients want a writer who knows how to blog. Blogging was, and remains, nothing more than another technological facet of a writer’s continuing education. Blogging is not a necessity for writing, but rather a new skill to be learned and mastered if a writer wants to stay current and competitive in an existing market.

Social Media

That brings us to present day technological advances… Social Media. More and more writing jobs are not just asking for writers savvy in social media, they are requiring it. Do you know the difference between a tweet and a facebook post? Do you understand the value or ‘like’ing and ‘friend’ing? Do you know how to upload pictures, re-tweet, or create buzz in social media? Or do you avoid using social media all together? Yes, it’s the writer’s choice, but the choice impacts the writer’s marketability.

Lessons From the Past

If you’re finding more and more job opportunities for blogging, and secretly wish that you had starting blogging years back so that you’d be current, then you’ve learned the value of staying current with technology. Even if you haven’t yet started a Facebook account, or have no clue what Twitter is, don’t panic. The good new is that it’s never too late to get started. Just like the internet, Social Media is here to stay. Technology is every-changing, and the sooner your start, the faster you’ll catch up.

In conclusion, consider technology another facet, but a vital one, to your continuing education as a writer. Knowing the ins and outs, as well as the potential uses of the various social media sites can make the difference between landing a client or not.

It’s not news that ‘all the good domain names are gone.’ Actually, this isn’t entirely true. As I struggle to find a domain name for my new comic strip, I’ve come across several names that would be great for a site housing a comic strip, but not necessarily for the name of my comic strip itself. Thus, I’ve had to focus on determining exactly what is my goal with regard to the site? Is it to house only my comic strip or other items as well? If I choose a domain name that matches the name of my comic strip, then that’s a definite plus for marketing purposes. But If I choose to expand the site to encompass other comic strips, then the name becomes inappropriate, even limiting.

Let’s assume I decide to name the domain name after my comic strip, but that name is already taken. Do I change the name of the comic strip to match an available domain name. Most definitely not! Choosing a title is similar to choosing a character name… the writer must do what works for the piece, not what’s convenient or even prudent for marketing purposes.

The truth be told, I’m not quite ready to publish my comic strips online, not because of my drawing skills, but because I’m still not sure I’ve chosen the right title. Perhaps that’s not the best thing to admit given the fact that I’ve published an article on how to choose a title.

My problem is tied to the fact that I’m still fleshing out my characters, and my target audience. Do I want to limit my target audience to my original intended group, or go broader? The answer will then dictate, in part, the title I ultimately use. My original target audience is anyone who is Jewish or has had some exposure to Jewish life. The name Kibbitzers would be understood by most, and it’s not a hard word to read or pronounce. Other names under consideration are so mired with various yiddish spellings, that the words may not be obvious, even to those familiar with Yiddish.

So, I’ll continue creating, knowing the answer will come to me in time as I flesh out more of my characters’ back story, and develop their relationships to one another. And until the answer pops into my head (which will likely be when I’m not even remotely thinking about my comic strip), I’ll stick with The Kibbitzers and call it my ‘working title’.

As many writers know, writing is a creative outlet, and it takes many forms. I’ve written sci-fi novels, children’s books, web-site pages, math puzzle books, advertisements, brochures, web copy and a long list of other items over the years (some of these items have been published, others not – such is the life of a writer!). There are creative itches, even within the writing arena, which never go away until confronted, head on. I’ve reached one of those moments where I’ve decided I have nothing to lose by trying something new.

This creative itch of mine – to create a comic strip – has been on the back burner for ages, all because I don’t have a talent for drawing. I recently reminded one of my kids that no one starts out with perfect skills. Any skill, whether a sport, writing, cooking, or the ability to nail wood together without nailing one’s hands to the board comes with practice, practice, and more practice.

Just because my drawing skills are not in the top 5% of the country’s artists (if I’m going to be realistic, I should change that to the top 99%), doesn’t mean I shouldn’t create a comic strip. After all, a comic strip is another creative writing outlet, and the writer in me wants to explore this genre. The tragedy is not when one fails, but when one fails to try.