Author: Lauren Spear

Lauren Spear (née Tharp) is the owner and creator of the multiple award-winning LittleZotz Writing. She's written hundreds of bylined posts helping freelance writers to become BETTER freelance writers. Thousands if you count all the articles she's ghostwritten (but she's not allowed to talk about most of those).

I’m No Longer Accepting Guest Posts

I’m just writing a quick note here since my inbox is filling up with pitches faster than I can write replies:

I’m no longer accepting guest posts on LittleZotz Writing.

I’m planning to do something different with littlezotz.com when I’m able… But, for now, I’m prioritizing my health and HorrorFam.com content.

Thank you for understanding.

–Lauren*

LittleZotz Writing: The Blog is in YOUR Hands!

Hey, Everyone!

Lauren “LittleZotz” Spear here! I got some messages recently from readers who were afraid I’d, ahem, lost my battle with depression. Given my openness on the subject (and considering my suicide attempt in 2014), I don’t blame folks for fearing the worst…

GOOD NEWS: I’m still alive!! And I’m VERY well!

It feels strange (in the best way) to say this, but… I can’t even remember the last time I felt depressed! My mental health has been thriving and my physical health is following its good example (hehe!). As of this writing, I’ve lost 100lbs and I’m more “fit” now that I’m pushing forty than I was for the bulk of my twenties. Weird!

Now that you know I’m still among the living (whew!), you’re probably wondering: What’s up with the LittleZotz Writing blog?!

LittleZotz Writing Going Forward

This year (2020) marked the first year since its inception that LittleZotz Writing didn’t win any awards or land on any “Best Websites for Writers” lists. At first, I was mildly huffy about it like, “Aw! What?! I’m still bringing it! Why no prizes?!?”

But, after some soul searching, and looking at the blogs belonging to the folks who did win… I realized that I was, in fact, NOT still “bringing it.” My content was poop! I’d lost my passion and I was rightly demoted from my “best” status.

I’d grown bitter and had nothing good to say anymore. And that’s zero fun — for me AND the LittleZotz Writing blog readers.

Going forward, the LittleZotz Writing blog will be SOLELY guest submissions. That’s right. I’m leaving my beloved blog in YOUR hands!

There are already several guest posts featured on the LittleZotz Writing blog and I dig ‘em! The writers are all super gung-ho and have fresh, relevant, tips to help their fellow freelancers succeed. It’s pretty exciting!

If you want to submit a guest post, check out my guest post guidelines and send me your best pitch! Right now, I’m posting about one article per month… but if more folks start writing in, I’ll increase the publication rate. That’s all up to you guys and how many of you send me articles!

One note: I know a lot of people would send me articles solely to see what kind of custom illustration would appear with it. lol. Totally understandable! The custom art was a lot of fun for me too! However, going forward, I’ll be using stock photos with the blog posts. I can only afford to buy custom art for ONE website (it gets pricy, and rightly so — the art is amazing and deserves top dollar!), so I’m only shelling out for my other website.

Which brings me to…

Where’s LAUREN Going to Be?!

I’m still writing and editing, but I’m being VERY selective about the projects I take on now. This is still my “hire me” website… But I’m NOT going to say “yes” to everything anymore.

For the most part, you can find me on my other website: HorrorFam.com

Illustration by Heather Landry/Sandpaperdaisy Art

It’s been a dream of mine for YEARS to run a horror-focused website. I grew up in the horror industry (my folks were both practical special FX artists for horror movies) and the genre means a lot to me.

So… I did it! I now own and operate a horror website! My husband and best gal pals are co-founders!

I’m still utilizing the skills I honed here at LittleZotz Writing — I write articles, I edit guest articles, and I host weekly podcast episodes/interviews! — but I’m having way more fun than I’ve had in YEARS.

If you’re a horror fan, or simply want to check out what I’m doing these days, check it out! I’m also very active on Twitter (@LoveHorrorFam) and Instagram (@LoveHorrorFam).

Oh, and I accept guest posts on HorrorFam.com as well! 😉 So, if you ARE a horror fan, and you need additional writing clips, feel free to pitch articles to me there too!

Take Good Care of My Baby

LittleZotz Writing will always be my “baby,” but it’s up to YOU to take care of it now.

I’m really excited to read what y’all write!

Get those pitches in!!

And feel free to say “hi” to me! I’m SUPER alive. Promise.

–Lauren*
PS: There will be a guest post coming out later this month and another one in May!

50+ Freelance Writing Questions: Answered!

Lauren Spear freelance writing AMA
Illustration by Sandpaperdaisy Art.

Last month, I reached out to my readers/followers via social media and my newsletter to invite them to “ASK ME ANYTHING” about freelance writing. You guys readily responded to my “AMA” and I ended up with over 50 questions!

That was far more than I was expecting, to be honest — which is why this became my gigantic START-of-the-year post rather than my enormous END-of-the-year post like I’d originally intended. (Apologies to anyone whose been anxiously waiting!).

In the end, it feels incredibly fitting and, dare-I-say, “right” to have this post go up in 2020. This year marks LittleZotz Writing’s 10th anniversary — and what better way to get my 10th year rolling than to answer a buttload of questions from the folks who’ve stuck with me and made this site everything it is?

Which reminds me! Before I do anything else… THANK YOU!! Yes, you. Thank you — and you and you and YOU — for sticking with me and continuing to read the LittleZotz Writing blog for an entire decade! And extra big sloppy thank you hugs to those of you who wrote in with questions for this extra special post. You rock!

Ready to have your questions answered…? Here we go!

Continue reading “50+ Freelance Writing Questions: Answered!”

You’re NOT Alone: Surviving Depression as a Freelance Writer

freelance writing with depression
Illustration by Sandpaperdaisy Art

This is either going to be one of the best, most helpful, posts I’m ever going to write (on LittleZotz Writing or anywhere else), or one of the worst. Either way, it’s going to be very long and deeply personal. I’m holding NOTHING back.

Why write about mental illness on a website dedicated to freelance writers? Why not write another post about how to up your blogging skills, or how to earn affiliate income? How could this possibly be useful to anyone on this “niche” site?

Well, in my experience, freelancers – particularly freelance writers – are more often than not “mentally ill” in some way or another. In fact, more than any other post I’ve written in my career, THIS is the one that I get emailed about the most. It’s a post I wrote, along with Sophie Lizard and Kelly Gurnett (both fantastically successful – and mentally ill – freelance bloggers) about dealing with mental health struggles as freelancers.

There’s something about being a freelance creative that really appeals to those of us with “brain problems.” So, yes, I think this post – even with its largely personal focus – is valuable for my audience.

However, unlike most of the posts on LittleZotz Writing, which provide clear and “actionable” advice for the problems they tackle, this post is going to be more-or-less a long ramble about my personal experiences dealing with mental health issues as a (successful) freelance writer. I’ll offer my opinions on what “works” and what doesn’t, of course, but there’s no definite “do it THIS way” advice I – or anyone! – can provide on this topic. Everyone’s mental health journey is different, and what worked for me might not work for you.

What I do wish to provide with this post is encouragement, honesty, and hope.

My dream is that, by being candid about my own life and experiences, I can help YOU – even if you’re just ONE reader – improve your life in some minor-yet-significant way. You’re NOT alone.

Continue reading “You’re NOT Alone: Surviving Depression as a Freelance Writer”

Welcome to the NEW LittleZotz Writing!

Hey, Everyone!

My name is Lauren Spear. Longtime readers will remember me as Lauren Tharp… That changed recently when I got married (4/27/2019) and proudly took on my fabulous husband’s last name.

And this here? This is my baby: LittleZotz Writing. It’s a pretty well-grown “baby” at this point — quickly heading towards its 10th birthday! — but you get what I mean. LZW is special to me, and to so many others.

To keep LittleZotz Writing “special,” and to celebrate positive transformations in my own life, I knew it was time to make some changes.

Continue reading “Welcome to the NEW LittleZotz Writing!”

7 Things You’ll Need to Know Before Becoming a Managing Editor

meditating editor
Illustration by Ramiro Roman

After just over five years of being the Managing Editor of Sophie Lizard’s Be a Freelance Blogger, I finally said “so long” to the job.

Why? Well, long story short, it’s because I’m now a full-time content editor for Syed Balkhi’s Awesome Motive, and I simply didn’t have time for BAFB anymore.

However, five years as a Managing Editor is a long time. Especially in the fast-paced online world. Five years can feel like a decade, especially where learning and experience comes into play.

There‘re so many things I wish I’d known before starting my career as a professional Editor. I learned, of course; but fumbling around using “trial and error” tactics was brutal at times. I desperately wanted someone “in the know” to tell me “THIS is what you should expect, and what you should do…”

But, hey! Now I’M that “in the know” person. And I have the power to tell YOU what you should expect, and what you can do.

So, without further ado, here’s a list of seven things you’ll need to keep in mind if you plan on becoming a Managing Editor: Continue reading “7 Things You’ll Need to Know Before Becoming a Managing Editor”

BIG Changes at LittleZotz Writing!

Hi, Everyone!

I usually save the personal posts for my other blog, but I thought I owed all you LittleZotz Writing readers an explanation…

I haven’t written a post here since last October. And, as you could probably tell from my tone in that post, I was feeling very frustrated.

After eight years of writing about the same topic(s) again and again, I felt stuck in a rut. Like I had nothing new/good to say. So I just stopped updating.

Then the awards started coming in… LittleZotz Writing was named one of The Write Life‘s Top 100 Blogs for Writers and one of Positive Writer‘s Top 50! I was honored. And I felt like I had to continue! But…I still had nothing to say.

I became deeply depressed. Continue reading “BIG Changes at LittleZotz Writing!”

How to Be a Perfect Guest Writer

Illustration by Ramiro Roman

Imagine for a moment that a friend has invited you over for lunch.

When you get to your friend’s house, you not only eat their food, but you take a shower in their bathroom and sleep in their bed. Then, you put their indoor-only cat outside, take their paintings off the walls, sell their car to a man down the street, and smoke a cigar over their baby’s crib.

Is that any way for a lunch guest to behave?

Of course not!

Now imagine that you’ve been asked to be a GUEST writer. Would you walk into the publication like you owned the place?

You’d be surprised how many writers do! In fact, I get hundreds of e-mails every month from writers who do just that.

I’m the Head Editor of Be a Freelance Blogger and 133T, two online publications that depend on guest writers for content. However, despite the extremely clear guidelines on both publications, an overwhelming amount of writers don’t seem to know what guest writing is.

Let’s clear that up once and for all, shall we? Continue reading “How to Be a Perfect Guest Writer”

Write About Any Tough Topic in Two “Easy” Steps

Illustration by Ramiro Roman

As freelance writers, sometimes we get hired to write about tough topics. I’ve written about mental health issues, domestic violence, rape, and any number of other negative issues. And it can be rough to get through!

However, writing about depressing topics doesn’t have to depress you.

If you stay positive, you can write about any topic — and get paid for it! — without having it affect your day-to-day life. Continue reading “Write About Any Tough Topic in Two “Easy” Steps”

Know the Difference: Pitching, Querying, and LOIs

Illustration by Ramiro Roman.

This is one of the most important blog posts on this site if you’re serious about freelance writing. Every writer – whether you write fiction or non-fiction – needs to learn how to pitch to editors. Or query them. Or send them a letter of introduction.

So let’s talk a bit about what each of those terms means.

Letter of Introduction (LOI)

This is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. It’s a letter in which you introduce yourself to the editor/publication. And…that’s about it. You say who you are and mention that you have an interest in writing for them, but you leave it at that. In my experience, LOIs are much less wanted than they used to be – most editors would rather jump straight to the query/pitch. (Though most modern queries/pitches have elements of a LOI in them).

Query

Traditionally, this is a letter written to an editor/publication regarding whether or not it’s acceptable to send in a pitch. However, recently, the term “query” and “pitch” can be pretty much interchangeable (with the meaning more focused on the latter).

Pitch

This is a letter written to an editor/publication essentially attempting to sell your idea for an article/post/book. You say who you are (the LOI element), and offer up a brief outline of what you intend to write. Most importantly, a pitch should cover why the idea at hand is perfect for the publication you’re writing to. (Editors want to know that their readers are going to be happy with what they’re reading).

The most important thing to remember is to follow the pitching guidelines for whatever publication you’re writing to. If they want a LOI, send them a LOI; if they want a pitch, send them a pitch.

But, in general, you’ll be sending in something that looks a bit like this template: Continue reading “Know the Difference: Pitching, Querying, and LOIs”