All posts by Alfonso Colasuonno

I am an editor, publishing consultant, and marketer for writers. I am driven to help ambitious writers achieve their literary dreams. I take pride in helping writers perfect their manuscripts. I've had my own writing published over sixty times in over thirty publications. In 2016, I co-founded Beautiful Losers Magazine (belomag.com) to present the sharpest voices in modern literature. I trained under American Fiction Award winner Clint McCown and PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award winner Bei Dao at Beloit College, where I earned a BA in Creative Writing. I'm passionate about writing and providing the best possible path to helping other writers advance. In my spare time, I'm a basketball fanatic, a huge retro video game nerd, and act in and direct short films.

I Want To Write, But I Don’t Know How To Start

Introduction

Many of you, I’m sure, have started to write.

Some of you, have achieved a bit of recognition. Maybe you’ve had some short stories or poems published in a few literary magazines. Maybe you’ve self-published a book and sold a good number of copies.

Sorry, this post isn’t for you guys. This post is for those who want to write, but haven’t embarked down that path yet.

Because they don’t know where the hell to start.

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Where to Begin

KISS. It’s an acronym a future writer would do well to heed.

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And no, you don’t need to become a knight in Satan’s service.

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Keep it simple, stupid.

What does that mean? Here are a few examples of rookie mistakes that you’ll want to avoid.

Don’t Write That Novel…Yet

Have you tried to write a novel? Did you get a few thousand words in and then not know where to go from there. Frustrating, isn’t it?

If you’re just getting into writing, don’t attempt something as monumental as a novel.

Especially if you don’t have an idea that makes you want to practically burst with excitement.

Instead, start with short stories. Master the narrative arc. Get familiar with setting, dialogue, internal monologue, and character development.

So yeah, that epic 150,000 word novel. You may want to put that on hold.

Unlimited Freedom Isn’t Always A Good Thing

You can literally write about anything. That’s great, right?

Wrong.

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Beginners often find that they can’t think of a compelling idea. That’s where writing prompts come in.

If you’re a beginner, writing prompts can be a nice tool to help focus, allowing you to focus on writing, not on generating ideas.

The New York Times produced a list of 500 writing prompts. To read it, click here.

Setting Goals

Realize that you’re not going to become an overnight sensation. At least not in the course of your first night writing.

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When you’re just starting out on your writing career, you may find it helpful to set little goals for yourself. Once you achieve your goals, you’ll find that your confidence increases. Your increased confidence will spur you on to write more and write better.

Here are a few goals you may want to consider targeting:

1. Writing 1000 words per day for a month.
2. Completing three short stories.
3. Crafting three works of creative non-fiction.
4. Submitting your writing to ten literary magazines.
5. Achieving your first acceptance in a literary magazine.
6. Learning how to use Duotrope to find literary magazines that publish writing similar in style and content to your own writing.
7. Receiving your first sincere compliment (close friends, romantic partners, and family don’t count).

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Conclusion

If you’re new to writing, there are four main things that you want to do:

1. Keep it simple, stupid.
2. Start with short stories.
3. Utilize writing prompts.
4. Set appropriate goals.

How About You?

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For the more established writers who read this post anyway, what methods did you use when you started writing? Did you find them helpful, or were they more of a cautionary tale? Share your thoughts in the comments!

How To Keep Writing When Everything Around You Is A Mess

Introduction

I’ve said it, and pretty much anyone who writes about writing says it, you need to write daily. 1000 words. An hour. As many words as you can fit on the page in as much time as you can possibly spare.

Yeah, that’s all well and good in a perfect world.

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But your world isn’t perfect, is it? Neither’s mine. Who can really say that they don’t have any major challenges in their life?

So, how do you keep writing when it feels like the world’s crumbling at your feet; or, if your life isn’t so bad, how do you keep writing when your life could use a tune-up.

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Solutions

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Fix Your Shit

If you’re unable to write because of too many crazy things going on in your life, then don’t write. Solve your problems first. Besides, you can’t write 1000 words a day if your computer…and your grandparents’ typewriter…are confiscated by repo men.

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Phone A Friend

When life’s at its worst, know that misery loves company. Get on your phone and dial a buddy. You can ring the wisecracking one to get you out of your slump, or the understanding one if you need a shoulder to cry on, but ring someone to get out of your own head and elevate your mood. Then, after they’ve served their purpose, hang up and write!

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Power Through

If your problems aren’t going away anytime soon, then just say “fuck it” and go ahead and write. Put your feelings on the page if it’s a confessional work, or write from a fictional concept to take a brief reprieve from your stressors. Being productive can sometimes be the best cure for mental anguish.

Seek Professional Help

I’m not a psychiatrist. I don’t even play one on TV. If things are really bad, get yourself to a trained professional who can help you get back on track. Who knows, your psychiatrist may even know an agent, and if that won’t get you to start writing again, I don’t know what will.

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Conclusion

We’re all unique. Each of us responds to adversity in different ways. Find the way that best handles your situation, and go with it.

How About You?

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What method do you use to keep writing when life becomes overwhelming? Share it with our readers in the comments section.

As always, I’m Alfonso, and I’m fighting the good fight with you!

Eventide, by Chance Averill

Introduction

A few weeks ago, I received an email from Chance Averill, a longtime reader.

Chance told me that she enjoyed my posts, but wondered if I could go beyond the general info provided on the site. She wanted me to coach her in both writing technique and in navigating a successful literary career.

Obviously, I accepted. I mean, helping writers flourish is the reason that I started this blog in the first place.

Over the course of a few weeks of intensive sessions, Chance has developed this first piece that I’ll present to you – Eventide. Enjoy!

Eventide

Countless times I have sat or lied beside you. Sometimes just in the same room with you in a trance, eyes affixed to a screen. The thought of you stroking yourself off into the night to thousands of little boxes formed into a fantasy, be it organized into cosmic or flesh scene, I always find myself revolted by it. I came from the senses. Scent, sound, touch, taste, the beauty of nature impressed upon me without that incessant buzzing in my ears. I was cultivated to acquire the flavor of salted skin on my tongue. My eyes burned, melting into more than a few others as we’d drift from dusk to dark turned loose in a field, under the trees, locked into a van with the windows condensed so thick with shared breath, they would drip. You are a digital slave and I am an analog damsel held captive in your world where the empty fantasies never end and reality is obsolete. Meanwhile, I itch and boil and ache for my sickly savagery. I almost left to go be with two different self absorbed assholes just because I knew if I touched them, they would feel real: filthy, weathered, connected to cellular entropy, in tune with the cycles of corporeal rise and fall. This is the best time to be with you, listening to you heaving through membranes, forcing air through your nasal passages. You sleep like a beast but you wake and function like a milk cart, the wheels turning incessantly knowing only the draw of compulsion. I knew this when I met you. It didn’t matter then. I just wanted the company of another accepting body in the room. My former partner made my world a living nightmare and I would descend to your basement to get stoned so my awareness of his cruelty could dilute, if only for a while. I had to deal with your e-hive, its whirring and spinning. I knew I’d be leaving that town and would have to acclimate to the electronic grid of a city. So we did it and the hardest thing of all after five years of transition is having shored up a strong desire for community, the touch of other humans amidst the constant interference of electromagnetic bombardment.

The purgatory of commitment gets really bad at night, I imagine walking out into the dark and intercepting some beautifully physically sculpted brother under the moonlight, somewhere the vegetation gets thick and the waves of radiation subside. Where the human organism reclaims its domain of the tangible, receptive and offensive vessel we call a body. I dream of the bicep covered by cotton, the kind I can pull back and feel the skin of humanity spark against my own. Just standing there in the dark holding fast to his arms overcome by the lust of this vehicle. Like an utter stalker in the night, over his shoulder and inhaling his organic pheromones. Somewhere the wires and threads and frequencies can’t find me. Your snoring flaps next to me like a lone car window of four open on a fast highway or like a taut sheet on the line, yanked by a strong breeze. The most agitating and yet one of the few truly human things that you do.

I guess all addiction is human. Like water caught in a dam or cornered in a recess of mud. It’s a blockage. The fluid swirling around in a spiral pressing against the resistance of its mineral boundaries. That’s where I’ve been for too long. Compressed into a bubble of existence with you. Self imposed abduction though you would protest, you wouldn’t find a way to sweep me off into the trees to ravage me; I know this because its been years and you’ve yet to try. You’re not uncivilized like me. You don’t see what’s amiss and if I were to explain it you would find a way to take that upon yourself as criticism but it isn’t. It’s just a fact of my reality, I haven’t been swept away in so long. I don’t even mean the sexual component. Just the pure and concentrated animal intimacy. The grooming and preening, the encompassing tears and sweat and temperature of living beings. Raw epidermal exchange under the canopy of lush green arboreal protection. I long to hear the vocal undulations so close to my ears that I’m actually overwhelmed by tuning in. Intonations traveling the auditory range, so close to a real person you can hear their heart pumping blood through their veins.

This body has become shabby from neglect but I’m determined to rekindle the fires of my will’s hearth to blaze frenzied trails for future deviants to tread. I expect my new style of conditioning will revive this body to its former fusion with the human network in all its disgusting and meaty glory soon enough. I don’t know how you’ll take it when I redeem my soul from the systematic tedium you’ve become accustomed to but I won’t let that deter me from this quest. This is what alive means: knowing instinctively when something is wrong, be it physically imbalanced or psychologically insubstantial. I’ve always been so observant, so detailed, apprehensive and cognizant of my environment and it looks as if I shall remain this way indefinitely. The universe perverted me for its own purposes and this is the crux of my character. By it I have been instilled with a sort of curse to defy the convention of societal inundation and drudgery. The affect of industrialization is lost on me. I am repelled by factory bought or thought and am drawn to invention, defiance and distinction.

The drowsy montage of time flips me forward like a slideshow into a quaint backyard enclosure. The sun shines but the brutal unabating winters from the North clutch desperately onto the breeze here even in the subtropics. Years now and I have yet to run the beach in the notorious birthday suit I donned frequently in the woods I hailed from. It’s not a matter of fear but of liberation. Gotta be able to pay the fines for indecent exposure and gotta have a co-pilot ne’er do well to get caught with. You’re a lovely soul to watch a clock tick beside in content TV dinner, suburban ambiance but you are not what I expected. In your flights of fancy and bold displays of courtship days, the peacock colors you presented to the world I later discovered were a gold dust mirage fashioned by your esteemed PR party planner. She had you impacted in the bowels of her closet and tagged you on the clearance rack or not unlike a fixer-upper staged in presentation for quick sale.

She made you believe you were a bargain basement find and when she set you out on the floor with a ribbon round you, she knew there was sentimental value but grossly underestimated how much. After the transaction was complete and you were no longer a utensil in her drawer, she lamented her lost showpiece. A curio; a trifle and none know better than I the value you have depreciated yourself to match her assessment of you. I challenge your self-analysis and it’s no cake walk to prove your potentiality to you after a lifetime of her training. It’s so strange to watch you shrink small as the curtains of life open wider. With such qualifications as yours, one would think you’d light up naturally luminous under such conditions but the seats are empty, save the one for yourself. I understand your perception, you see no need for masquerade knowing full well what lies beneath. But do you really? You only know the subjective half of it and undercut your own value, by default of course, to the point of discounting your own position as an observer, an objector. That is the gaping seat you refuse to take, declined to applauding yourself on in the moment and instead tolerating the experience with banal filler: activating the digital treadmill and running the program. The one you coded straight from watching your father fall asleep in those aisles despite your exhibitions. I glimpse smiles of accomplishment after the fact when another captures your skill in motion but not so when you are dared to espouse the present moments where your inner critic could be your greatest ally. You deny him and by that mistake diminish the adjective, “potential” as it’s curse word counterpart in noun form. It doesn’t have to be an ends but for that you must make peace with the means to embrace ambition and promote your inherent promise. That dirty word, “abeyant”, “unrealized” “within the realm of possibility”…potential.

Through the viewmaster, my mind frames back as the shadows fall to what I need. The waking hours belong to function and the eventides are bound to form. I always do this… begin with me but somehow end with you. My cold toes cramp my style, waiting for my high noons to return and my deep currents to swell once again. I hope one day your epiphany of this skewed vantage point will strike you and that ambition will engulf you so that you’ll set sail with purpose. You’ll open your eyes to the world waiting for you, one without scarcity and excuses, one lavish with passion, joy and bounty. I long for those days where you leave the false security of her mainland and make the voyage to the claim that we have staked. Long as I might, you may never make that journey.  No matter, you don’t have to be a force of nature but it is inevitable that I must. I only hope you’ll batten down the hatches and find your hands on the wheel ready to navigate the squalls when they arrive. If the lighthouse goes dark, I hope for your sake you’ll have your position ready and your eyes on the stars for when the clouds part. I don’t want you lost out there drifting, a drenched straggler on the liquid frontier as I come ashore and lose these sea legs, primed and ready to be a pioneer.

Leave Your Feedback

What did you think of Chance’s piece? Let us know in the comments below!

Fighting the good fight with you,
Alfonso

Punk Rock is Over, Thank God

I wrote a new poem. I want to share more of my stuff with you guys. Cut out the litmag middlemen. Enjoy!

Punk Rock is Over, Thank God
by Alfonso Colasuonno

she talked about green anarchy
and punk rock music and
nintendo gamecube and
wasn’t sure if she was a
punk or a hippie
maybe she threw
red paint on her
leather jacket
but she didn’t eat meat
but she blew trees
i remember she blew trees
and had pet roaches
and she went to school
in Olympia but I never asked
her if they all fuck the same
she wasn’t Courtney
and they’re gonna bitch about
this poem having a bunch of
pop culture references and
pass this one over and joke
about it but fuck them
and I’m gonna bitch about
them calling it pop culture
and I’ve never been to Olympia
and I’ve never thrown a javelin
but I’ve been mistaken for a Greek
and they’re killing an Arab
somewhere with U.S. bombs
and we take our smoke breaks
and talk about green anarchy
because we aren’t worth shit
we’re all talk, no action
aren’t we? are we?

college is over
and she still won’t quit
usually, that’s not how these things go
one of us becomes a politician
even when we talked shit about them
one of us becomes an entrepreneur
even when we talked shit about them
one of us becomes a small business owner, a weird shop, but a business
a mother, overprotective, like our mother, right, but not
even when we talked shit about mothers
and business and everything
one of us dies
because how punk rock of us
one of us goes somewhere else
because transit and we talk about Dylan
and gang of four and Ivanka was at the wedding
of a girl I used to know and by know I mean date
and by date I mean the modern sense of the word
as in watching the office for an hour
and then kissing, her lead, and then fucking, her lead
and then falling asleep to some old Hitchcock film
and Ivanka was at a wedding in page six with some
yellowing paper memory of a girl and her sister

and ten years later
how much has changed
when one talks about riding across the country
in a hippie van
the other about art
and culture
I’m just bored
how punk rock
punk is over, thank god
good and dead
but as for me,
not quite inside
just bored
and amused
weren’t they supposed to entertain us?
isn’t that in our mutual interest?

johnny ramone voted for nixon
and moe tucker is in the tea party
and exene is to the right of ted cruz
you can’t satisfy the editors
you can’t satisfy the punks
but you can kill a little something
day by day

It’s Not You, It’s Me: A Truth About Rejection Letters

Introduction

If you’ve ever received a rejection letter from a publisher or literary agent, then you know just how much it sucks.

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But there is some good news.

Really, it’s them, it’s not you.

The Biggest Reason Why Your Writing Gets Rejected

I have a close friend who has an almost ungodly amount of perseverance. Usually, that’s an amazing thing to behold. Usually.

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A friend of hers is a poet. I’m the editor-in-chief of a literary magazine. Hey, wouldn’t it be great to feature her poetry in your magazine, Alfonso?

Nope.

While my friend’s friend’s poetry is strong, and she’s quite accomplished, this woman’s work was completely outside of the parameters of the writing we publish at Beautiful Losers Magazine.

Does the fact that this woman’s writing was rejected for our magazine mean she was a bad poet? Absolutely not.

The truth is that every agent, publisher, and literary magazine has VERY specific requirements of what they’re looking for. If you aren’t an exact match for those parameters, your writing will probably be rejected.

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And it doesn’t mean you suck as a writer.

And it doesn’t mean that particular piece sucked.

It just means that you need to find a better home for your writing.

If you’ve received tons of rejections, you’d better spend a little bit more time finding an appropriate place for your writing.

Now if you’ve been doing this legwork and still are receiving tons of rejections, you may want to consider having your work edited by a professional editor. I’m available, kids!

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Conclusion

Treat agents and publishers like members of your preferred sex. You wouldn’t marry just anyone, would you?

Don’t send your writing to agents and publishers without screening.

Unless you like being left at the altar, you fucking masochist.

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Like What You Read? Like What You Read!

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If you found this post helpful, please do me a solid and like and subscribe. If you’re really looking for a way to get on my good side, then share this post on social media.

Any questions? Feel free to leave a comment and I’ll do my best to help.

Fighting the good fight with you,
Alfonso

 

Do You Need A Degree To Be A Writer?

School Days

I’ve always been a writer. In what seems like a former life now, I used to be a teacher.

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When I was teaching, my students knew I was a writer.

Probably because I wouldn’t shut up about it. You know those bartenders who are actors or those waiters who are musicians. Yeah, I was that guy.

My students got a kick out of me (and hopefully learned a little something). They were all great in their own ways (well, almost all were); however, many years later, I find that some of the most memorable students were the writers. Of course.

When I was teaching, students with a talent and passion for creative writing were always eager to share their stories and other writing with me.

You may want to replace the word eager with desperate. But hey, we writers want to get read, otherwise what’s the point, right?

Rashad’s science-fiction short stories were incredible. Of course, the factual descriptions involving smoking cigarettes were inaccurate. But I suppose that’s a good thing for an 8th grader.

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Jibriel’s screenplays for short films were excellent. He wasn’t a student of mine, or even in my school, but word about my second career spread and Jibriel sought me out. I’m glad he did.

Should Rashad, Jibriel, or any other aspiring writer pursue a Bachelor’s in Creative Writing or an MFA?

The answer, for most writers, is no. Here are five reasons why I think you should probably skip the MFA or BA in Creative Writing:

1. Writers Hate Other Writers

What kind of person really wants to be around other writers all the time?

You love writing now, but how would you feel about it if you were talking about writing all the time? Would studying creative writing that intensely sap your interest?

And, of course, there are professional jealousies.

Could you handle other writers in your program receiving more recognition than you?

Could you handle your own creative writing being judged harshly by other writers in the program? Would this discourage you?

2. Never Ending Student Loans

Are you ready to embrace debt?

Because that’s what you’ll face unless you’re from an affluent family, can land a scholarship, or attend a low-cost state or city university.

3. Insularity and Lack of Adventure

If you want to write something worth reading, then you’d better have a wide array of experiences.

I suppose interesting stories can be written about downing vodka shots for Adderall, grinding to Teach Me How To Dougie at a frat party, or performing a bell run. Maybe.

But remember, the only thing that’s positively more boring than stories about writers are stories about students in MFA programs.

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4. You Can Do It Yourself

Writing is an art, not a science. Therefore, some degree of natural talent is extremely useful. If you have talent, all you need to do is hone it. If you don’t, cut your losses.

Write consistently, embrace honest critiques, dedicate yourself to continual improvement, read as much as you can on improving craft, and soak up an array of interesting experiences.

If you do all of the above, you’ll soon be writing better than many who undertake formal study in creative writing.

5. These Programs May Stifle Creativity

Want to be confined to writing in certain forms, on certain topics, or within other parameters that limit the creative process? Hell no.

Conclusion 

If you’re really really really serious about being a writer, then you can ditch the creative writing program without any negative consequences.

And if you’re not serious, why are you wasting your time reading this blog?

Like What You Read? Like What You Read!

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If you found this post helpful, please do me a solid and like and subscribe. If you’re really looking for a way to get on my good side, then share this post on social media!

If you’re not sure if a creative writing program may be right for you, leave me a comment and I’ll do my best to shoot a helpful answer your way.

Fighting the good fight with you,
Alfonso

 

 

 

 

 

How To Land High-Paying Writing Jobs

I landed a five-figure screenwriting gig without ever having sold a screenplay before.

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I landed a similarly lucrative non-fiction writing gig without ever having written a non-fiction book before, or anything longer than a short story.

Regardless of what my mom told me growing up, I’m not special. If I can do it, so can you.

Moral Of The Story: Listen To Lauren

My fiancée Lauren and I have a relationship that’s like a sitcom. A problem arises. She proposes a solution. I go my own way in a bullheaded fashion. My own devices fail. I reluctantly try her way and succeed.

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Yes, she is always right. I hope she never reads this admission. Let’s make this our special secret, okay?

Anyway, one day, after years of providing editing services, I wanted to get my feet wet and land a client as a writer, not as an editor. Lauren suggested Upwork.com

I decided to give it a try, and after a few searches, I turned to her in disgust and said something to the effect of “Why the hell would anyone write a 50,000 word book for $100?”

If you’re willing to write a book for $100, and you live in the US, EU, or any other developed country, you’re a fool. Believe me, I told this to Lauren. Over and over again until she got sick of hearing my self-righteous statement. And a couple more times long after she had grown tired of my ranting.

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But, Lauren told me to stick with it. Reluctantly, I did.

And I landed a five-figure screenwriting client.

Without having sold or optioned a screenplay at that point.

Five figures certainly beats $100, right?

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Full Gordon Gekko Mode

Okay, quick interlude. I know some people are probably annoyed at the money talk. To those people, let me quote British author Samuel Johnson, “No man but a blockhead ever wrote except for money.”

There is NOTHING ugly about getting large sums of money for your writing. If you want to turn writing into a career, you’re going to need those large sums of money. If writing is just a hobby, that’s fine, but if you want to make writing your primary profession, then you’re going to need to be able to get people to pay you for your work.

And pay you more than $100.

How I Landed My First Client

So, how did I land this client? Let me walk you through the steps:

Step 1 – I applied for the gig.

As Woody Allen said, “80 percent of success is showing up.”

Step 2 – After no response, I sent a follow-up message.

No response does not mean no. No response means you need to do more to convince me.

Step 3 – I steered the prospective client to a phone call.

We established rapport, shared values, and a willingness to learn about the topic.

Step 4 – I sent writing samples.

I sent him a previous screenplay I had written.

Step 5 – I kept sending follow-ups after he went cold.

He agreed to work with me, and gave me insights into writing his screenplay, but then went cold for ten months. I kept sending him follow-ups, spaced long apart not to annoy, but regularly enough to be assertive. I never was judgmental or passed blame. I’m a professional and I acted the part.

Step 6 – I flew out West to meet with him.

There, I got a chance to further develop the rapport, learn more about the project, and iron out the details. It was a success!

And he wasn’t the only client I landed.

With A Little Help From Your Friends…

Ever hear the old saying, it isn’t what you know, it’s who you know?

Yeah, sometimes that’s true.

I landed another great client as a referral from a friend. She knew that I was looking for writing clients. Another friend of hers was looking for a talented writer.

Yes, sometimes it’s really that easy.

A Whole Bunch Of Other Ways To Land High-Paying Writing Clients

Of course, these aren’t the only ways to land high-paying clients on great writing projects. Here are a few other methods you may want to consider:

  1. Craigslist. Yes, there are a lot of flakes there, but there are diamonds in the rough.
  2. Create a website and blog, and hit social media hard. Get yourself out there online. Lots of people do, though. The key is quantity and quality. Provide immense value and provide it as often as you can.
  3. Develop an expertise. Coupling talent as a writer with a subject expertise puts you ahead of nearly all competition when finding ghostwriting gigs.
  4. Target business leaders. Use your professional network to find the alpha dogs of the business world. They’re often far too busy to write books on their own, and pay ghostwriters well.
  5. Make business cards and leave them in well-trafficked areas. Go to affluent neighborhoods and leave business cards behind in coffee shops, libraries, hotel common areas, etc.

Conclusion

Whether through a friend, Upwork.com, Craigslist, a website/blog/social media presence, sharpening up on a skill, targeting your friendly neighborhood CEO, or hitting the rich neighborhoods with a stack of business cards, writers don’t have to be poor (even if it’s fun to joke about).

Now go out and land a high-paying gig and make me proud!

What’s Your Story?

Have you ever landed a high-paying writing gig? How did you do it? Share in the comments below. I’m open to guest posts for compelling and insightful stories about this topic.

You Like Me! You Really Like Me!

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If you found this post entertaining or informative, please do me a solid and like and subscribe. If you’re really looking for a way to get on my good side, why not share this post on social media?

If you have any questions about landing high-paying writing gigs, just leave me a comment and I’ll do my best to shoot a helpful answer your way.

Fighting the good fight with you,
Alfonso