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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!

5 Ways to Stay Healthy as a Freelance Writer

Yes, there’s more to it than just “stand up!”

Illustration by Sandpaperdaisy Art

You know the usual tips for staying healthy when your job involves a lot of sitting — take breaks, use a standing desk, stretch — but you probably don’t have the tricks to follow through.

Let’s be real, how many of us actually get up and walk around every fifteen minutes or stay vigilant about our posture?

I know I don’t. In fact, I’m currently writing this in an armchair in my living room. (Not the most ergonomic).

So, let’s break down some ways you, as a freelance writer, can stay healthy during your workday. As a bonus, I’ll include an app recommendation for each tip to help you stick with your new habits.

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6 Tips to Develop Your Writerly Resilience

writer heroically facing rejection
Rejection deflection is a superpower! | Illustration by Sandpaperdaisy Art

Every writer — even the most successful ones — has had to face rejection. It goes with the territory. But that doesn’t make it any easier to swallow. Here are some practical pointers to help you grow a thicker skin and learn to roll with the punches.

1. Try to see the positive

Rejection is tough. You can’t help but take it personally. So much of yourself goes into what you write, it’s hard not to conclude that it’s you who’s being rejected along with your work. As the rejection letters mount up, you may start to believe that you’re simply not good enough. It’s really important not to let that happen.

A rejection doesn’t have to be a negative thing. Look at it instead as an opportunity. They think you’re not good enough? What better incentive could there be to prove people wrong?

Some successful writers have even viewed their rejection letters as a badge of pride. “I love my rejection slips,” wrote Sylvia Plath. “They show me I try.” The poet Brett Elizabeth Jenkins set herself a goal of getting a hundred rejections in a calendar year, and when she succeeded she found she’d “grown as a writer, met some kickass writers, sprouted relationships with a few editors, developed a thicker skin, and learned to take rejection like a champ.” Often there would be an encouraging note attached to a rejection, and a few, after she had made some changes and resubmitted them, turned into acceptances.

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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!”

Research Tips for Writers Who Hate Doing Research

Image via Unsplash

This title might sound like an oxymoron. After all, research is intrinsically tied to writing, especially if you’re unfamiliar with a topic.

It’s precisely this close association with research and writing that may be putting people off writing altogether. Research takes a lot of time, and the proliferation of hashtags and fake news means that the search for credible sources has become that much more taxing — and important.

That said, research can open up a whole new world of information; it can even take your work to exciting places that you never would have thought possible.

The good news is that if you’re reading this article, chances are you’ve already got a good grip when it comes to writing. So, here are some tips to hone your research skills, and to hopefully make you enjoy the process while you’re at it:

Read widely

Research from Emory University shows that reading helps create new neural links, boosting brain function and allowing you to tackle even the most difficult writing assignment. As a freelance writer, sometimes you get assigned to write about something you don’t know much about. One of the best ways to get a feel for the topic is to read similar articles to get a grasp of tone, vocabulary, and the like. Reading up on your chosen topic also gives you an idea of how to structure your argument, which can help if you’re someone who prefers to make outlines before writing.

Keep track of your citations

Depending on the length of your article, you might require anywhere from two or three to a whole handful of sources. Whenever you’re writing an article, it’s best practice to keep track of these links for when it comes time to cite them. Zotero is a great place to store your citations, as it stores everything from the link address to the publication date and author. You should also develop the habit of double checking your sources every once in a while to ensure that the information you use is up to date, which is especially important if you’re writing a longer piece.

Associate research with credibility

Research is just a way to fortify your writing and make it more persuasive with credible information. The fact of the matter is that there are tons of freelance writers out there, with many trying to write articles similar to yours. In fact, Small Biz Trends reports that freelance writing salaries remain low for beginner freelancers, a testament to how saturated the market is. Credibility is what gets your writing ahead, as it shows that you’re a source of information that people can trust. Rather than viewing research as yet another task you have to do, think of it as a way to show that you’ve thought deeply about what you’ve written.

Diversify your sources

Sources like news outlets, publications, and the like are good sources for a reason, as they’ve garnered a reputation for posting trustworthy news. Relying on the same few sources, however, doesn’t add much to the conversation. Google is always a great place to start your research, but looking at specialized websites can help you get the information you actually need. Try as much as possible to switch up your citations every once in a while. For example, online journal databases like JSTOR and Project Muse host a wide range of studies across all disciplines. As mentioned, this adds some welcome variety too.

Dedicate time to research

A lot of writers hate doing extensive research because it makes them feel like they’re back in college. To that end, an article by Special Counsel notes that breaking up your study into smaller chunks and creating a timeline helps you manage your time better. That way, you won’t get overwhelmed, as you will be adequately prepared. The same can be said for research and writing, because the tricky thing about research is that you can quickly get lost in a rabbit hole of endless clicks. Use the timeline trick and work backwards from your deadline, making sure to give yourself an ample amount of research time before you start writing. The important thing is to not go beyond the allotted time frame.

Always keep in mind what the reader wants

Your ideal audience is someone who’s never heard of your topic before. You want to write an article that engages them, so you should look to conduct research accordingly. Author Andy Weir says that it’s easy for an author to write about everything interesting they find — it’s your topic, after all! However, it is important that you to look for the facts that your readership will actually find interesting. When in doubt, always consult someone unfamiliar with your piece. And always make sure the content you are writing about has factual basis.

Researching is a muscle that you can build up through practice, just like writing. Backing up your work makes it more credible, allowing more readers to relate to your story. At the end of the day, we write to share our experiences and stories with people from all over the world. So don’t forget to leave a comment below sharing your research tips, and good luck!

Don’t Fall for These! 6 Common Freelance Writing Scams to Avoid

Watch Out for Red Flags! | Graphic by SandpaperDaisy

Getting caught in the web of a fraudulent client is every freelance writer’s worst nightmare.

If you’re a newbie, you’re the easiest prey. There’re a good number of scammers out there looking to milk free content out of you by using your naivety and desperation for work to their advantage. That said, well-seasoned writers aren’t immune to these insufferable predators either.

Follow along as I shine a light on the telltale signs that reveal common freelance writing scams.

Continue reading “Don’t Fall for These! 6 Common Freelance Writing Scams to Avoid”

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!”

8 Tips on How to Become a Successful Fanfiction Writer

Illustration by Ramiro Roman

I noticed on the Internet there’s a stigma attached to being known as a fanfiction writer. Go online and search for writing tips or advice; there’s a wealth of information on the topic, but generally with the intent to self-publish or solicit a publishing house. Almost never do you see advice catered to those who write fanfiction, and that’s missed opportunity.

Just look at the success of authors who got their start in fanfiction; such as E.L. James, Rainbow Rowell, and Amanda Todd. Authors who “graduate” from fanfiction to eventually create their own original works are a growing niche that mainstream markets have yet to fully embrace.

I’ve written fanfiction for over 20 years. Currently, I’m on the path writing my first YA novel, using my two decades’ worth of experience to mentor the new generation of writers on how they can position themselves as authorities in fanfiction.

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