How to Handle Rewrites Like a Freelance Writer

Since October is the season of facing monsters, let’s talk about what most freelance writers fear and dread during every project; Revisions, rewrites and criticism. Dun dun dunnnn.

Have no fear, rewrites aren’t so scary. And they’ll happen more often than you think.

Setting the Scene

You are a freelance writer, working your hustle. Whatever material your buyer needs written, you put a considerable amount of effort into it. Once completed, you are proud of your finished piece and send it off for review. You’re left crossing your fingers that whatever you wrote is exactly what they ordered, no edits needed. Then, said buyer returns your work to you with notes. ‘Trim this, rewrite this section, change that, add more, fix this.’ Now, you are charged with perfecting your writing. And that may be a daunting task for some.

Has this happened to me? Oh yes, plenty of times. At first, corrections would hit me right in my ego and self confidence. Like “Maybe I’m an awful writer. My writing is garbage. I’m the worst.” Today, I just take it as a challenge. It’s a way for me to become a better writer. Actually, the other day, a repeat buyer sent me back an article with many crossed out sentences, to be deleted or rewritten. While yes, it stings a tiny bit, I cracked my neck and dove right back in to another round of writing, reassuring the customer that I could handle rewrites, no problem.

How to Tackle Revisions

When you are a writer, you have to expect, and be open to, criticism. I’ve seen so many writers get offended by constructive criticism. Don’t take it personally. Revisions are part of the writing process, especially in freelancing. At the end of the day, you are trying to fulfill someone else’s request. Therefore, you must collaborate with another person to achieve a goal, an awesome piece of writing.

See the source image

Often times, a client will give you their notes, aspects of your work they want to change. Those comments get turned into your to do list. Once you’ve received edits, go back to the original piece and pinpoint all the errors they mention. Remember, this is the second time you’ll be looking at what you wrote, so it will be with fresh eyes. Make adjustments at the buyer’s request, whether you agree or not. The customer’s always right, right? Once the piece is ready for review again, double check that checklist. Be sure you hit all the points noted and deliver exactly what the client wants.

And keep in mind, there can be multiple rounds of edits. Communication with your client is key.

Living Up to Expectations

It depends on who you’re working for, whether it be a one time buyer or a regular customer. Their expectations might be strict and precise, or might be laid back and they’ll accept anything. The more you interact with them, the more you’ll understand their standards. Trust me, I’ve received everything from minor editorial notes to a long laundry list of notes. It happens. The ‘under revisions’ stage is just one step in the writing process for freelancers.

Clients may offer some detailed instructions, or they may give you a vague topic to run with. Really understand what the buyer is looking for. And if you are feeling unsure about something, or confused about directions, asking a bunch of questions help. In my experience, it’s better to bother them with questions, just to be certain of what they want, as opposed to taking their request at face value and shooting in the dark.

Home Runs

In my experience as a freelance writer, nothing beats handing in work that is error free. When the client says “This is perfect! This is exactly what I was looking for!” It happens rarely, but when it does, I call it a home run, knocked right out of the park. I do a little happy dance in my seat. Savor those moments of sweet victory.

Offering your work up for review can be intimidating. And waiting for possible corrections while an article is up for criticism can be a bit nerve-wracking. I cross my fingers every time I send anything out. But, rewrites happen more often than not. And that’s okay. It’s not necessarily something you’ve done wrong, or not well enough. So, don’t feel discouraged when a paragraph needs rewriting. Remember your skills as a writer and revisions won’t be so scary.

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I want to hear from you guys. How do you feel when given criticism on your work? How do you handle the revision process? Be honest, and let me know in the comments.

Lady Jabberwocky

You’re In Charge (Short Story + Self Critique)

Hey Writer Bugs!

Today, I’m taking a look back in the archives and sharing a story I wrote from 2015 from Fiction Writing Class. Since this piece is four years old, and my writing has evolved over time, I’ll be self critiquing myself at the end of this post. This is me learning from past mistakes.

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    “Audrey?”
            “Yes, Arthur?”
            “Is our house gonna get blown away? Like in the Wizard of Oz?”
            We crunched potato chips as the wind howled outside.
            “That was a tornado,” I answered “This is a hurricane.”
            “They called it a super storm on the news.” He said
matter-of-factly. He was a small boy, with blonde hair and big curious hazel eyes, wearing Batman pajamas. My little brother was six year old, an age where he had a question for everything.
            We were sitting on the sofa, a pile of junk food between us. Our elbows leaned against the windowsill. Mrs. Goodrow’s tree across the street was teetering from side to side, threatening to fall. She was a wicked old bat, who would yell at children, including my brother, for playing in the street too loudly. Said the kids were ‘disturbing Winston’, her bird. Nutty weirdo. Part of me wished that tree did fall.
            “It’s an extra big hurricane, so they’re calling it a superstorm.” I explained, rolling my eyes, thinking we could wait out the storm, like the last one.
            “Mommy would be mad,” He started, digging his tiny hands into a bag of gummy worms. “Cause we’re up past bedtime, eating candy and chips and watching a scary movie.”
            Our parents left to Florida for a couple of days, for a business conference,  leaving me, a fifteen year old in charge of a six year old, Arthur. All I heard was “You’re in charge”, so I spent
my allowance on junk food and rented movies. They thought the storm’s route would redirect, that it wouldn’t hit New York. It did.
            “They said I was in charge, right?” I reminded with a smile. I glanced at the flat screen t.v. in the living room. An old scary movie was playing. There was a close-up on the werewolf’s face, which looked more like a cheap Halloween costume. “Look Arthur, you can see the zipper on his mask.” I laughed as I ran a hand through my messy strawberry blonde hair. He giggled too.
            “Are Mommy and Daddy ever coming back?”
            “Of course they are, they’re just stuck in Florida until this storm blows out of New York.” I answered, my gaze returning to Mrs. Goodrow’s tree, still swaying from side to side. The roots were beginning to peek through the ground.
            The lights began to flicker. I stared at the lamp in dread. “Oh no.” We were then engulfed in darkness.
            “The lights went out.” He informed, his Batman pajamas glowing in the dark.
            “I see that.” I huffed. This was perfect. I stumbled quickly into the kitchen, rummaging through the junk drawer for a flashlight.
            “I can’t see anything,” Arthur said, following behind me. “This is scary.”


Notes from Lady Jabberwocky

  • I like how the story begins. This is a good example of in media res. When the reader is dropped into the middle of a scene, or in this case a conversation, with little context. Grabs the attention of the audience quickly.
  • At this time, I hadn’t learned about Hemingway’s Ice burg theory. Some bits have too much unnecessary exposition. Like explaining how old the kid is, or why the parent’s are away. Show, don’t tell, Lady.
  • For some reason, I wish there was more physical interaction between the two siblings. Just to show more of their relationship as brother and sister. Their movements seem so staged. However, I made some interesting choices with a few verbs, like the boy digging his hand into a bag of candy, rummaging through a junk drawer.
  • Both setting and character descriptions need to be bumped up. I should’ve added more detail on the inside of the home itself. Right now, it feels like two kids floating in empty space, with only a window and a television to occupy them.
  • The idea of a young teen spending all her money on junk food and candy and movies while her parents are away makes me smile. Also, the boy’s glow in the dark Batman pajamas is an easy to imagine picture. It’s details like that that make this simple story feel real and relatable.

Back during peer review, we had to offer comments like this on stories written by fellow students. A proper, honest critique can really help someone grow and learn as a writer. And looking back at old work is definitely an enlightening (and cringey) experience.

What did you guys think of this short story (and my self critique)? Should I do more of these? Let me know in the comments. Have a great weekend, writer bees!

Write with Heart,

Lady Jabberwocky

The Do’s and Don’ts of Critiquing Writers

If you are a writer, then, one way or another, you will be involved in a workshop. Whether it’s in a classroom setting or in your personal life. Whether you are asking someone for criticism on your work or someone is asking you for criticism on theirs. Workshopping makes you a better reader and a better writer.

I have been on both sides of the criticism game. When I was in fiction class at Hunter College, many of my short stories were at the mercy of my peers. And as terrifying as that experience is, it was the most helpful and enlightening experience I’ve ever had with my writing.

And vice versa. Both in class and in my personal life, I’ve been asked for my opinion on someone’s work. Although it is a little bit of pressure, I put a lot of thought into critiquing a story.

So, here’s some advice on giving criticism in a constructive way.

Do Be Honest

If you were offering your work to someone, wouldn’t you want an honest response? I would.Be honest. Even if it’s hard. Even if you don’t want to hurt feelings.  Sometimes, you need the genuine reaction of a real reader. Pretend like the writer’s draft was a book on the shelf. What would you say about it? Would you want to read more? Although hearing those answers may seem scary (trust me, I was shaking during my first workshop), you don’t want to be lied to.

If, by some chance, you are dealing with a writer who has a hard time with criticism and your honesty seems harsh, make it clear that you have good intentions.  Trust me, I’ve dealt with my fair share of writers who think they are the next Hemingway and can’t take an ounce of criticism. Sad to say, I don’t think they make it that far.

Don’t Just Say “I Like It”

Ugh. Do you know how many times in a fiction workshop I heard things like “I liked it” or “it was a good story”? More than you think. Seriously, it’s probably the least helpful thing you can say. When you say things like that, it just sounds like you’re lying to make someone feel good. Workshopping isn’t about fanning someone’s ego, it’s about helping them become a better writer.

Do Actually Read the Story

There was this kid in my fiction writing class who, right before class started, he would read the assigned story written by a fellow classmate. Like, within the two minutes before the professor showed up. Sometimes, he would even ask other students for a brief summary, and not read the story at all. “Well, you aren’t going to give me any helpful insight, knucklehead.” It always made me cringe a bit.

If you want to give thoughtful advice,  read the story thoroughly. Maybe read it twice. Maybe even take a couple notes. Don’t just give it a quick skim, someone worked hard on that story. Give them the respect of actually reading their story and the attention their work deserves.

Don’t Be Too Critical

Let’s not be too harsh and nitpick. Always start and end your critique with positive comments. Be critical in a kind way. Don’t be personal. It’s about the work, not the writer. Try not to overwhelm a writer with all the weak points you find. Focus on a few, main points during the discussion.

Plus, try not to rewrite their story how you would do it. Everyone has different writing styles and different stories to tell. Most likely, what you like to write/read is different from what your friend or a classmate like to write/read. You can give suggestions, notes to improve the overall story, but don’t try to mold someone’s story based on your preference.

If you do give a suggestion, make sure you have evidence to support your reasoning.

Do Be Specific

In every comment you make, good or bad, try and be specific. What about their story is unique? Talk about individual characters or scenes. Yes, you should talk about the story as a whole. Also, focus on the specifics of the story. Setting, characters, dialogue. Highlight the things that stood out in your mine.

Examples of being specific? How about “I love how ___ the character is” or “The descriptions, especially in the ____ scene, are terrific.” or “The dialogue on page 12 seems out of place.”

Do Be Supportive

Being a writer is not easy, okay? We need all the help we can get. Celebrate someone’s passion and imagination. When critiquing, be kind and be constructive. Just remember, everyone starts somewhere. You never know what a rough draft can turn into.

Write with Heart,

Lady Jabberwocky

 

NaNoWriMo Day 8: Notes to self. Room to improve.

It’s day 8 of National Novel Writing Month. Had a good writing session today, broke 8,000 words. Yes, I know I’m behind word count wise, but this horse is still in the race. Since this is the first NaNo I’ve participated in, I’ve found things about my writing style that have room for improvement, and may make the journey to the end of the month a lot smoother. Because there have been some bumps in the road so far. So…

Here’s me critiquing myself (the title of my biography in 50 years.)

Note to self.

formalfickleherring-max-1mbStop trying to edit and be perfect – Now is not the time! I’m trying to get to 50,000 words here. I’m trying to hold myself back from deleting things that bother me for just being plain terrible. Trying really hard, but sometimes there are just garage sentences that nag at your brain to remove them. Holding out until December. (December will be a freaking slaughter of words, won’t it?)

Focus on one scene at a time – I have this problem that always seems to get me frazzled. I plant the seeds of all these different scenes, and then I end up confused and overwhelmed in a jungle.  Instead of jumping around and writing a bunch of bits for a bunch of different parts, I should tune in to one scene and only focus on that one part at a time.

tumblr_nscgzpygmq1uc78xbo1_250Write more descriptions – For some reason, dialogue always comes first when i’m writing. It’s like the bones of a scene for me. I’m pushing myself to work on describing the setting and characters more vividly. An image should be painted in color, not black and white.

Sometimes you gotta ask yourself, how can I be better at my craft, or whatever I’m trying to excel in? It’s not about listening to the voice in your head that says “Man, this story is a dumpster fire.”, it’s critiquing yourself in a way that you improve. Well, that’s what i’m working on in order to (barely) survive November. What are you guys working on in your writing? And how is NaNoWriMo treating you? Well, I hope. Look forward to hearing from you all.

 

Write with heart,

Lady Jabberwocky