Ian Scofield’s Wednesday Writing Prompt

This week’s prompt is going to be a little more difficult for some of us. We are going to be writing an instruction manual. The challenge? It is for a product that has not yet been invented, you are going to be creating it and bring it to life via your writing. The product/item has to be something completely new, it can’t exist already. There is a little leeway in the fact that it can be for a purpose someone has already thought of. I encourage you put a little thinking time (5 minutes max) before you start writing so that you can format this the way you want.

Note: It may also be helpful to draw some illustrations for your work if you are good with a pencil. Sorry I won’t be illustrating, I can’t draw.


Thanks as always, Ian.

Writing Communities

Once upon a time, I ran a martial arts studio with 120 students. I spent 10 to 12 hours every day surrounded by high energy people, teaching classes, solving problems and talking with a cast of just over 500 characters who passed through my doors each week.

Now, I type at a computer for a living.

I love my job. The money, flexibility and variety are simply better than working in martial arts. But it can get lonely.

Which is where writing communities come in. Besides curing “lonely writer syndrome,” they provide a sounding board for your ideas. They serve as alpha and beta readers for your manuscripts. They provide accountability via verbal gobslaps if you don’t meet your goals.

Writing communities are, as the lady says, “A Good Thing.” Though there is infinite variety in these, as in all other things, I see three basic categories of writing community.

Writer Groups

These are small cadres of writers who get together to share and critique work. Rarely part of a larger organization, they meet regularly to help each other out.

Pros include a tight group of people you know well, and a regular structure of meetings. The biggest con is that you end up with the same five or six opinions every time.

You can find writers groups on local meetups, checking at bookstores and through Facebook and other social media sites.

Writing Forums

If you have the thick skin necessary to deal with the inevitable troll, you can join a writing forum. At any time day or night, some random fellow member can provide research advice, encouragement and critiques.

Pros include a wide array of opinions and experience, along with constant access to help and guidance. On the con side, the medium doesn’t lend itself to forming tight relationships.

Some of my favorite writing forums include Children’s Book Isider, WritingForums.org, and the forums over at WritersMarket.com. Freelance Writers’ Den merits a special mention because it comes with a great suite of articles and tutorials that are really helping me out. There’s a link to them to the right.

Professional Associations

You’d be amazed how many writers’ associations there are. National freelance associations, regional associations, genre associations, regional genre associations…each with their own newsletter, fee structure and annual events.

For the most part, these associations don’t give you the day-to-day help or a forum or writer group. They instead keep you in the loop for news, opportunities and chances to network. Most associations offer at least one convention or workshop each year — and they’re well worth going to. Membership gets you discounts for these conventions in addition to the standard benefits.

One last thing about associations: The Pacific Northwest Travel Writers Conference runs on April 29 & 30 this year in Port Townsend, WA. I’m speaking, so show up.

Thanks for listening.

Writer Websites

Alert readers might have noticed I’ve made some changes around here. I added a testimonials page (Thanks Bob, Kent, Tom, Devan and other Bob!). I cleaned up my portfolio (Thanks Kelly and Josh!). I have more changes planned for the next few weeks.

This is all in response to a class I took on making a perfect freelance writer’s page. This was through Freelance Writer’s Den. Look to the right for a link to the group. It’s a for-pay site with open membership only for the next week or so…and totally worth the $25 a month. Seriously. Go sign up. If you missed the deadline, you can still buy their books and ebooks.

On the subject of writer websites, here are a few belonging to colleagues and people I admire. Check them out. Compare them to your own. I’d love some comments about what you liked and disliked.

Some of these are hand-made by part-timers. Others are the kind of professional design you see when a writer can afford to hire the best. Check them out. What can we learn?

One last note: as I revamp my blog according to Carol’s and others’ suggestions, I’ll be writing it all down. Look for my ebook: Extreme Home Page Makeover.

Thanks for listening.

Market Report: Print Magazines

Here’s the thing about print magazines: they’re sicker and weaker than they’ve ever been. Magazines with long histories of success close every month. Others rely on their online content for much of their profits, or have moved entirely to a web format.


Magazines being weaker than ever is like saying an NBA center is shorter than ever. Even the receding magazine market is rich with opportunities to earn a living wage as a freelance writer. According to Wooden Horse Publishing, a resource database for freelancers, more than 400 active publications pay writers .$50 to $2.00 per word for articles in the 800 to 3000 word range.

That’s $400 to $6,000 for a single article. Not bad for a few days’ work.

Trade and special interest magazines are two of the best markets to start out with. They care more about your experience in the subject than extensive writing credentials, and they often get missed by the more active freelancers. Look into the industry and hobby magazines for your interests and send a pitch.

A final note

Getting in the door with a handful of magazines can make your life as a freelancer much easier. Take for example my experience with one magazine I write for regularly

First Article

  • Step 1: Write query email
  • Step 2: Wait two months, receive request for manuscript
  • Step 3: Write manuscript
  • Step 4: Wait three months, receive acceptance notice
  • Step 5: Wait 22 months, see article in print

Second Article

  • Step 1: Write query email
  • Step 2: Wait 2 days, receive request
  • Step 3: Write manuscript
  • Step 4: Wait 1 day, receive acceptance notice
  • Step 5: Wait 2 months, see article in print

Third Article

  • Step 1: Email editor “Hey, how about this idea?”
  • Step 2: Wait an hour for response “I liiike it.”
  • Step 3: Write manuscript, get contract on same day

It’s good to write for multiple markets, but a relationship with an editor streamlines the process considerably.

Thanks for listening.

Wednesday Writing Prompt

Short, simple and sweet from Ian today…

Spend sometime free writing, experimenting with a character doing something foolish. Something that he/she regrets and/or is mad at themselves for doing.

We will go again with the time limit style and say 7 minutes to work on it.

A great opportunity to practice writing the bad guy, or adding meat to a storyline through the main character’s own mistakes.


Thanks, Ian