Friday, February 7, 2014

The Other Stuff to Write

Today's guest post is by Nikolas Baron, who says he has the pleasure of being tasked with talking to writers, bloggers, teachers, and others about how they use Grammarly’s online proofreading application to improve their writing. Nikolas discovered his love for the written word in Elementary School, where he started spending his afternoons sprawled across the living room floor devouring one Marc Brown childrens’ novel after the other and writing short stories about daring pirate adventures. After acquiring some experience in various marketing, business development, and hiring roles at internet startups in a few different countries, he decided to re-unite his professional life with his childhood passions by joining Grammarly’s marketing team in San Francisco. His free time is spent biking, travelling, and reading. Here's Nick:

You need to be honest.  Years have passed; the novel has not materialized. You have not written it.  The little that you have written is sitting in a file “in the cloud” taking up a pitiably small portion of its virtually unlimited storage.  You are not going to write that novel, are you?  Well, if not, do not just sit around gathering dust.  Write something else.  Use that A+ that you received in English Literature.  What can you write other than that thing that you obviously are not going to write?  Here are some ideas that will put your atrophying creative voice to work.

  • Short Stories
            If you already had an idea in mind for a novel, you have a great start for a short story.  Consider a short story as a brief episode in one of your character’s lives.  Are you familiar with Winesburg, Ohio written by Sherwood Anderson?  This collection of short stories focuses on the inhabitants of a small town; I will let you guess where.  The characters interact with each other, so the stories overlap.  Sherwood Anderson compiled the stories into one book.  I am not a huge fan of short stories, but I loved this book because of how the stories relate to one another.  Take one of your characters and develop a story around a major theme in his life.  Before you know it, you may have populated a small Midwestern village with characters as interesting as those in Winesburg!

  • Blogs
            Blogs kill two birds with one stone.  On one hand, you are exercising your writing muscles.  You can write about your life, travels, and interests.  Blogs are a vehicle for sharing writing tips with others.  As followers give feedback, you discover what your readers really want to read.  When you are ready to tackle “the Great American novel,”  you have built a fanbase eager to hear your story.

  • Poems
            Those who write stories are not necessarily talented at writing poems.  Poems require a different set of skills.  Trying your hand at this art form will bring a refreshing change to your routine.  As an added bonus, magazines often accept submissions of a single poem.  

  • Product descriptions
            Would you like some extra cash?  Companies pay freelance writers to describe their minventory.  Companies rely on product descriptions to inform the public of product features and to entice them to buy.  Often, you will need to learn how to use SEO, or search engine optimization.  Take a class in this skill online.  

  • Reviews
            A lot of online articles about writing encourage new writers to read many different types of novels.   While reading, why not write a review?  Your analyses will teach you what makes a novel fail.  When you write, you will know what to avoid.  Furthermore, reviews are also great content for blogs.

  • Grants/Proposals
            If you want to support a non-profit organization, donate your writing talent to help them to gain funding for special projects.  Otherwise, grant writing is another way to generate income from your writing skills.  You will need special training because grant writing requirements are very specific.  

  • Query Letters
            Do you work best under pressure?  If a publisher accepts your proposal, it will obligate you to start writing.  Use the loads of templates available to give you ideas.  Do not copy them, not even brief phrases.  Many publishers use plagiarism checkers to ensure that content is original.  Any suspicion that it is not equals an automatic rejection.  Besides, if you cannot write a simple letter, you have no business proposing to write a novel.

In addition to what I have already mentioned, there are tutorials, screenplays, and dozens of other writing options to explore.  A masterpiece of a novel could be a part of your future, but you still need to be busy now.  Experiment with other writing styles and genres.  What a great way to get your mind moving again!