Saturday, May 28, 2011

Writing for Money

When my 8th grade English teacher signed my yearbook, knowing I was moving from California to Arizona, she told me to "show the people in Arizona what a real writer was."  When I wrote letters back to my band leader, she responded that her fiance said I should become a writer.

But when the time came for me to choose my area of study for college, I chose physics.  I was under the impression that only with a technical degree could one be assured of making a living.  I was good at math and moderately interested in physics, and I was following in my father's footsteps.

I graduated with a degree in physics and a specialty in secondary education, holding a teaching certificate.  But I never taught under contract.  Instead, I ended up working for a defense contractor, sometimes staring at twenty-year-old undocumented lines of Fortran, and sometimes working as a technical editor.  Interestingly enough, I really enjoyed technical editing.

If I hearkened back to my deep roots and my first love, it shouldn't have been too surprising to me that I enjoyed technical editing.  It wasn't writing, but it was playing with words and phrases and punctuation.  I gained the confidence to stand up to people with Master's degrees and tell them that the paragraph they had written was confusing and should be revised, regardless of their credentials and their pride.  And I gained an appreciation for the beauty of parallel structure and a consistent format.

When I realized how much I enjoyed the process, I considered writing for money.  In my youthful thinking, the only way to write for real money was to write fiction, but I found the process very arduous.  There were many novels for which I started character sketches and skeleton plotlines, but when I sat down to flesh them out, I found my enthusiasm waning almost immediately.  And there was no market for short stories, even if I wanted to write them.

One day, I admitted to myself that I just didn't like writing fiction.  And as I considered myself without the knowledge to write non-fiction, I gave up the idea of writing for money.

Until now.

Not too long ago, I discovered some websites which connect freelance writers to purchasers of written content for on-line use.  Granted, they pay pennies, but they are a start.

The process is simple:  register on the site, submit a writing sample when requested, and claim and complete writing assignments from a list of choices.  Payment is made through Paypal.

Tentatively, I registered at the site most recommended for complete beginners.  I chose a topic from their list for a writing sample and put something together which I felt flowed reasonably well.  I knew when they read my writing sample, they would rate it from a 2 through a 5, which would affect both my rate of pay and the quality of assignment I would be permitted to accept.  I also knew there was little chance I would receive a rating of 5, as that is considered a professional writer.  All I wanted was to receive a 2 rating and begin the process.

When I received notification they had completed reviewing my writing sample, I logged on to the site to view the results.  I stared at the screen and immediately called my husband.

"They rated me a 4!  I can't believe it!"

He laughed and said, "I told you you sell yourself short."

Yesterday I completed my first article, a short piece on toilet training, which took me roughly a half hour, including edit time.  I do not know if the purchaser will give me on-line credit for my work, which is not required under the terms of service, but to me, that does not matter.  What matters is that I have finally dipped my toe into the world of writing for money, even if just for pennies.

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