Writing Tools

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With almost seventy percent of Americans wanting to write, one would think there would be far more tools out there. It has taken some time for me to find them.  Let me save you some time and effort.

My first breakthrough in my quest to find an economical sources for critiques and editing was Critique Circle.  My second breakthrough I found in their forum, ProWritingAid.  Here’s why you should use both of them:

  • You get both sides of the coin as a writer
  • You save a ton of money on editing

When you write, you may experience a cycle of content and discontent.  In other words, there may be times when you hate your work or get sick of it.  Dorothy Parker once said, “I hate writing, I love having written.”  It’s easy for a published author of several novels to say it’s a wonderful career.  He or she has completed their work and it was accepted.

But, when you’re in the middle of a novel and you’re running out of steam, you may need a break.  That’s when I head on over to Critique Circle and start reading someone else’s work.  It’s FREE but you can upgrade for more benefits.  The most that would cost you is $10 for one month or less than $4 a month if you pay for the year.  Well worth it if you have an entire novel written.

Here are a few of the benefits I’ve experienced:

  • I discovered I know stuff (grammar, spelling, punctuation)
  • It felt really good to help someone else do what I want to do
  • By critiquing as a reader, I was learning as a writer
  • As a writer, I’m not alone
  • It has a buddy system so you almost feel like you’re in school
  • It’s a two or three to one ratio of critique/getting critiqued
  • It forces you to pull up your bootstraps and let someone else see your work
  • Stranger critiques are far more honest than friends and family
  • I’m saving myself a ton of time, money, and embarrassment

At Critique Circle (they call themselves CC), they call critiquing “critting” — that would make us “critters,” I guess.  Here’s a video on how it works.

Before you post your blog, assignment, short story, poem, or chapter, head over to ProWritingAid.  When I critique, I only have a certain amount of time and patience.  If the work is riddled with spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors, I never really get to critique the story.  It’s a waste of the writer’s and reader’s time.  At ProWritingAid, you can copy-paste your work into their writing tool and fix those.

They also have the plagiarism tool and a lot of other goodies but it’s only free for the first 500 words.  Premium is $40 for the year or less if you buy two years and so on.  Consider the cost of editing (average of $35/hour) and you’ll see it’s worth it.

If you know of other economical tools and groups that have helped you as a writer, please let us know about it in the comments below.  You can also let me know what information you’d like to see in the next blog.

 

Track Your Profits

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No matter what type of online business you have, tracking your profit/loss is vital to your success. Most people will buy Quickbooks or Quicken programs for their computers but for an entrepreneur, I do not advise it unless you are familiar with the programs.  Hire an accountant who has those programs but don’t waste your money getting it for yourself.  Why?  Because the programs are complicated and offer many features that you do not need and will not use.  The time you spend learning it, you could be making money.

A simple Excel sheet, if kept up monthly, or daily for retail sales, will keep you in the know.  If you don’t have Microsoft Office, you can get a free version at LibreOffice for either a Windows PC or a Mac.  You can also use Google Docs or Google Drive (my personal favorite) or other online cloud service.  Android tablets and Apple portable products can also get free spreadsheet apps, too, so there’s no need to go without.

1. Get tax forms for the type of filing you will be doing.  In the U.S. for a sole proprietor, that would at the least include a 1040 plus the Schedule C for Profit/Loss reporting.  Schedule C can be very hard to read as they wrote it for everyone including farmers and daycare owners.  Either take a day to read the Schedule C Instructions or find a very good accountant you trust that will list out for you what you can claim as expenses.

2. Set up your spreadsheet with the categories from Schedule C that apply.  Again, if you do not understand the directions in the Schedule C Instructions, get a good accountant.  You still need the spreadsheet, just make sure you understand the categories.

3. Try to run your entire business with three or less cards and banks.  For example, if you use one business card for all purchases, it is simple to track.  But if you use a check, more than one card, PayPal, cards issued by the supplier, etc., you will have to download multiple statements and keep your memory sharp.  It’s not just for you, it is also for your accountant and the tax officials and you don’t want to frustrate the people who charge you for correct tax reporting.

4. Download your statements and enter the payments into the correct categories.  Remember that some categories do not allow you to claim the full amount so keep good notes and references.  This is especially true for travel and meals.

5. To ensure you can explain yourself if ever needed, use two or more columns for details.  Title them “Description” and “Tracking Information” and be sure to have a column for which bank or card you used so it refers back to your downloaded statement.

6. Keep hard copies of your records.  Print off your records and keep them in a safe or filing cabinet.  Computers can go down and usb plugs, external hard drives, etc., do wear out.  Even though there are plenty of ways to rescue your information from a hard disk, fires and theft won’t recover your information.  Another way to protect it is to upload to Google Docs each month or email a copy to yourself.

7. Store evidence with your hard copies.  If you do a lot of traveling, receipts are very important.  If you buy wholesale and sell retail, make sure you have itemized receipts.

8. If you pay anyone for work done for your company like an employee or subcontractor, you must have an EIN (Employer Identification Number) in the U.S.  It is your responsibility to know the laws of your country and region.  See our Legal Department page for more information.

9.  You can file your federal taxes for free online.  I prefer Tax Act but there are others.  Most charge a small amount to file state taxes.  No accountant will take responsibility or be held accountable for incorrect tax filing so you just have to buckle down and read the instructions.

 

ALSO COMING SOON…

  • Video tutorial on how to track your profit/loss
  • What sites to go to for help
  • How long before you should be making money
  • When to stay with a company no matter what
  • Google documents
  • Excel spreadsheets
  • Knowing your country’s tax laws
  • And more…

The Writing Journey Begins

 

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I would love to tell you that writing is fun, easy, rewarding, and everything you dreamed it would be.  For your sake, I won’t do that.

When I decided I would write, the first thing I did was to change my identity.  No I didn’t get an alias and forge a social security number.  I changed my “online presence.”

“How?” you ask.

I took a picture that did not represent my family, my pets, my passion.  It was simply me, maybe a picture I wouldn’t mind seeing on a dust cover of a novel I’d written.  I found some wallpaper with quotes from famous authors.  Then I set to the task of changing the way I looked on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, and my personal blog.

I did this for many reasons but the main ones are based on these facts:

  • Before you can do something, you have to be something
  • Before you can have something, you have to do something

So how do you BE a writer?

The best way to BE a writer is to say that’s what you are and write something.  It really is that simple.  You don’t have to be a great writer, a famous writer, or a rich writer.  Just BE a writer.  Probably the worst thing you can call yourself is an “aspiring writer” or say “I want to be a writer.”  You simply decide you ARE a writer and start writing.

Think about it.  How did you get to be anything professionally or otherwise?  Somebody handed you a piece of paper or said you were hired and there you were, telling people, “I’m a _____.”  Their next question isn’t usually, “Oh yeah?  Are you a good _____?”  They might if they happen to be your wise guy friend who can’t seem to take anything seriously.

The great thing about being a writer (author, copywriter, journalist, blogger, poet, etc.) is that you’re self-employed.  So HIRE YOURSELF.  Go ahead, look in the mirror and say, “You’re hired!  You’re a writer.”  That’s all there is to that.  Actually, you should probably do that several times until you believe it.

Next step is to DO writing.  This implies that you are going to write something that you exchange with someone else.  You exchange writing by publishing and that can be as simple as putting it online.  If you write for your own pleasure, you’re not really DOING writing.  If you write things that no one else sees, what you’re actually doing is PRACTICING.  Well, that’s okay but it also means you are not yet DOING writing.

So write an article, a song, a blog post, something, make it as error free as possible, and post it.  Now you’re a writer.  You have authored something and published it.

If you want to HAVE written, have the life and rewards of a writer, then you must DO the writing.  If you want to BE a writer, then you have to DO writing.

Some people say they are some title but they never do that job — so it’s a lie.

I heard a story once about a firefighter who would show up at the scene of a fire and start taking pictures.  He loved photography and it only took a minute or two to snap a picture so he didn’t see anything wrong with it.  Do you?

Imagine you own the house and the belongings that are burning.  You see the fire truck pull up and several of them jump off and quickly hook up the hoses and grab the fire extinguishers.  But this one guy, he takes some pictures first.  I think you would agree, he is not DOING firefighting and to that degree he is not BEING a firefighter.

So the point is, if you want to be a writer, BE one and DO writing.  Tell people you are a writer.  Their next question will usually be, “What do you write?”

Why?

Because what I’ve just told you are the natural parts of anything you want to be.  You are something, you do what that something does, then you have what that something would have.

Once you get started that way, the next step is to associate with like-minded people.  But that’s another article.

Hope this helps…here’s some more advice from one of my favorite authors, Stephen King.

Writing Is My Passion

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