Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Shona Prophett on Writing

Vowels and Consonants are the Pennies that Make up the Literary Pounds

Article writing seems to be the way to go, even if it is just to prove to yourself that you can earn a few pounds from your writing.

It may not be the most lucrative work, as the paid hours involved are usually short, but with so many millions of websites and so much time spent on marketing and social media, there are plenty of people out there prepared to pay for site content - good, bad and indifferent!

You would probably be amazed at how many sites are generating their content from third party sources. Even more amazing, many of these newspaper, magazine and TV forums you visit may have people who are paid to do nothing more than post online comments.

Please note - The Frugaldom forums are NOT like this, they cannot afford to pay me minimum wage to post. It's just not frugal! 

£6-£10 an hour seems pretty usual and £15-£20 per short article is a fair target to aim for in the early days. It may sound quite a sum of money, considering many can produce a dozen articles per day while sitting at home, sipping coffee and running the household, but others tend to forget that many freelancers may average only a few hours of paid work each week. (Do not confuse this type of writing with true journalism, which is more likely to pay on word count, or else an hourly rate of about £20-£25.)

I have seen many writing projects advertised at well below UK minimum wage, but I refuse to apply for them. I would prefer to write here for nothing than churn out automatically plagiarised copy for 25p per page!

Only last week, I found one of MY ARTICLES spun and published on another content provider's site. I was livid! Not only was it really badly reworded, the person who had spun the article was obviously NOT a native English speaker.

How did I know it was my article? The translator/article spinning software had no equivalent for the words 'Frugaldom' or 'frugaleur'!

The Internet is awash with copyright infringements and plagiarism, but there isn't a jot of a lot any of us can do about it, unless we have very deep pockets and are prepared to fight our corner. You need to be able to prove that the negligent party is actually profiting by stealing your work.

NYK has taken a stance on this in the past. On one occasion, we discovered someone producing DVDs carrying one of H's paintings as its main cover image! Although the 'producer' had to cease printing and redesign his labels and was temporarily suspended from eBay, no apology was ever received and eBay officials were hard-pushed to even become involved!

Copyright law is a quag-mire. If you are worried about others stealing your work, try using something like 'Copyscape', but even that isn't infallible. With so many people writing about so many similar subjects, there will always be a case for them claiming it is their original work - basically their word against yours.

I disapprove of article spinning software, I disapprove of automated script writing, novel writing, character development and story writing software - it all makes a mockery of what being a writer is supposed to be, in my opinion.

That opinion may change, if I can be convinced to the contrary. Perhaps the entire publishing industry is in dire need of diversification in order to survive the ravages of technological advancement and the explosion in electronic publishing. My guess is, however, that the glorious publishing industry is already well ahead of the game and will have it within their grasps to control it, too.

Just as newspaper, magazine and book distribution is controlled, so too will be the new writers of the day. We are, afterall, still all little fish in a huge ocean of words and pictures.

My way of dealing with this, especially when losing out on work to non native english speaking individuals, is to concentrate on the home truths:-

I write for me
I write about genuine experiences
I do my own research
I write in English as my first language, Scots as my second
I write for the pleasure of writing
I write in the hope that I may, one day, call myself a professional writer and feel no shame in how I derive my income

I strive to write to the best of my ability
I read as much as I write
I learn something new every day

Sorry for the rant, but I don't think £15 is too much to expect for a 200-word, carefully written article on a specialist subject. (Can you tell I had a haggler?)

I don't care if I'm never asked to produce another article for this particular person again; there's a principal involved.

Word of caution - this is not a good sample article for the 'don't cut off your nose to spite your face' brigade.

Soap box gone now. 

Shona Prophett

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