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How to Write Memorable Characters

How to Write Memorable Characters

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The shadow of a story in your mind, you sit down and begin to write.

Too soon however, you are stumped and your mind wanders in circles. Your hero just cannot seem to find their footing in your story. Your dialogue is stale, your story becomes stagnant.

What happened?

Chances are, even with a fleshed-out plot, if your characters are not motivated, unique, flawed, and dynamic, your story will fall flat. Your readers will fall out of love with even the most deliberately crafted prose.

To keep readers engaged, create characters that are memorable and three dimensional, from protagonist and villain to sidekick and supporting character.

Follow this guide to create characters that are human, believable, and worth rooting (and reading) for.

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Amani Marie Hamed is a Muslim-feminist film critic/blogger, in addition to being a professional cat-snuggler with a crippling chocolate addiction. Amani lives and works in San Jose, California (mostly watching Netflix and pitching social justice-laced movie reviews to online magazines) with her brothers and her cat/feline overlord, Kirin.

Word Count Woes? How to Break Out of the 'Content Mill' Mindset

Word Count Woes? How to Break Out of the ‘Content Mill’ Mindset

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The topic of rates for article writing and copy-writing came up in a networking group I’m in and it really got me thinking (AKA riled up!)

Hear me out.

I want to address something for all those who are struggling as freelance writers and working to find their place on the scale that is FREELANCE PAY RATES (capitalized because I want you to read that in a loud announcer voice in your head!)

The group was discussing whether $.01 per word is a reasonable rate for an article that needs intense research and development. 

I really wish we could, collectively as writers and publishers, get off this “per word” rate merry-go-round. It is, quite frankly, complete nonsense! 

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Janet Kozak is the Community Manager for Noor Kids as well as the Founder of ContentStrategyPlan.com and JanetKozak.com. Her passion is Content Marketing. Janet helps businesses and bloggers craft PR and Content Marketing strategies for their brands.

Janet’s bylined articles are featured in dozens of print and online publications including; About Islam, Al Jumuah, Islamic Horizons, The Islamic Monthly, Productive Muslim, SISTERS Magazine, and Women’s INC. She’s also been interviewed for The Huffington Post, Glassdoor, Work At Home Success, My Corporation, The New York Public Library, and NBC News.

The Five Ways I Beat Writer's Block - Overcoming writers block for Muslim writers

The Five Ways I Beat Writer’s Block

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I have been writing since I was eight or nine. I recognized it as my main passion at the age of eleven or twelve. I’ve been outlining stories long before I knew outlining was really a thing.

Even with pages of frenzied notes and elaborate scenes playing in my head, for years I’d made a habit of not lifting a pen to write it all out until true inspiration hit – even if it happened only once or twice every few months.  

The result of waiting forever to be fired up?

Nothing other than countless, quarter-filled notebooks and reading every story that sounded even remotely like mine with a twinge of envy.

Fast forward to my life now as a stay-at-home-mom (SAHM). My personal time is always seen as flexible at best, and nonexistent at worst. However, I’m more consistent with my writing than I ever have been, and I make sure to be inspired every evening at seven.

Just over a year ago, I made a commitment to my goal of being a writer: specifically, a novelist.  That simple declaration lifted a decade’s worth of mental fog. The path toward real progress on paper (or Word doc.) rolled out in front of me.

Since that day, I’ve written out the first draft of a novel that’s been in my head for the better part of fifteen years. It’s a fifty-chaptered gem that I’m currently polishing a little more each day. I’ve also submitted shorter works. Twice I actually won something.

Perhaps it’s not full speed ahead, but it’s a lot further than where I used to be. I’m loving the process and myself more because of it.

With all of that said, here are a few things that helped me out of my writer’s rut…

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Ameenah M. Hassan is an aspiring novelist and book lover currently residing in Ohio. She has a passion for using fiction to shine a light on things often left in the dark. Her writings can be found at A.M. Hassan Writes.

writing a book vs writing for web

Writing a Book vs. Writing for Web

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Writing a book and writing for the web are two completely different beasts…

It can be hard for her to switch hats and go from writing academically or creatively to crafting the type of articles needed online.

So what makes writing for online readers so different? Why is it sometimes more difficult than writing an academic paper or book?

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Janet Kozak is the Community Manager for Noor Kids as well as the Founder of ContentStrategyPlan.com and JanetKozak.com. Her passion is Content Marketing. Janet helps businesses and bloggers craft PR and Content Marketing strategies for their brands.

Janet’s bylined articles are featured in dozens of print and online publications including; About Islam, Al Jumuah, Islamic Horizons, The Islamic Monthly, Productive Muslim, SISTERS Magazine, and Women’s INC. She’s also been interviewed for The Huffington Post, Glassdoor, Work At Home Success, My Corporation, The New York Public Library, and NBC News.

Hena Khan Aminas Voice

Mindset Matters: How to Become a More Confident Writer

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In April 2017, I had the privilege of leading a weekend writing intensive at Zaytuna College in Berkeley, California, alongside award-winning children’s author Naheed Hasnat Senzai. We were invited by the Whitestone Foundation to work with new and experienced writers from their “Muslims Write Now” author development program.

Upon meeting Naheed for the first time, I immediately felt as if we had known each other for much longer. She was very down-to-earth and personable, but what stood out to me the most was her confidence as a writer.  [click to continue…]

Tayyaba Syed is an award-winning author, journalist, wife and mother. Her work has been featured in numerous publications including NPR and Chicago Parent Magazine. She is the author of the new children’s picture book The Blessed Bananas and her debut middle grade novel Call Me Mary due out in 2018. She has also co-authored four books in the Jannah Jewels kids’ adventure series and currently works as the Creative Developer for Noor Kids educational books. Tayyaba is the Research Specialist for Daybreak Press Publishing and helped designed the curriculum for Whitestone Foundation’s “Muslims Write Now” program. She has a passion for reading and writing and has presented at Georgetown University – Qatar and Zaytuna College in Berkeley, California. Tayyaba is pursuing her Islamic studies certification through the Ribaat Academic Institute and lives in Illinois with her husband and three young children.

How To Get Started as a Freelance Writer

How To Get Started as a Freelance Writer

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Freelance writing is fun, challenging, and deeply rewarding. I love (almost) every minute!

Because I’m a prolific writer, I get asked quite a lot of questions from freelancers. All want to know how to get started earning as a professional copywriter.

Rather than replying to everyone individually (which is getting harder and harder for me to find time to do) I’ve written up these tips and guidelines for you to follow as you get started.

As you may already know, I’ve been working as an SEO Copywriter and Content Strategist since 2014. I’ve also worked with a digital agency where I would sometimes need to write as many as ten 800+ word articles a week!

*Whew*

It was creatively exhausting work, let me tell you.

Nowadays, I set a more reasonable and passion-driven pace. I only work with companies and organizations that align with my personal priorities.

Along the way, I’ve learned a few things that may help you on your journey to becoming a professional copywriter. Here are some tips to help you make the transition to your new writing career.

 

Experience is golden

 

One of my strongest passions is community service. I see it as a compulsion and duty. Over the years, my volunteer grant-writing (essentially storytelling) won grant awards for various community and university projects I’m passionate about.

Having won several grants for community organizations and university programs in my younger days, I applied and was inducted as a volunteer grant writer for an Oregon-based non-profit. Through my efforts, we won tens of thousands of dollars in grants – all while I was living over 7600 miles away in Karachi, Pakistan.

While I don’t want to encourage you to regularly work for free, in many cases, internships and volunteer positions are a great way to get a “crash course” in writing copy for the types of projects you’re passionate about.

Keep a lookout for unpaid positions on sites like Idealist.org or local paid positions on sites like WorkHalal.com.

You can also create your own opportunities! Reach out to companies that you would love to work for and offer to give them a month or two of free services.

Following this strategy, you’ll gain valuable experience in your niche. If you do well, you’ll also gain great social proof in the form of outstanding client testimonials and referrals.

This is exactly what I did in 2014 to further develop my grant writing abilities. The organization even sent “thank you” funds my way in appreciation of my efforts!

If you know the culture, speak the language, and have value to offer, you can work remotely with amazing organizations. You can also turn some of these opportunities into paid part-time or full-time positions.

With any job, the hardest thing is getting your foot in the door. It’s critical to show companies or organizations what you’re capable of. Once you plant that foot, all you need to do is deliver (or over deliver) on whatever you promise.

 

Understanding freelance platforms

 

Freelance websites are a great way to practice your writing skills and see what type of writing you enjoy most. You generally won’t get rich working on them, but they’re good for gaining valuable experience and professional recommendations.

Bear in mind that you will need to work your way up from the back of the pack. You’ll be competing against established freelancers and even whole digital agencies.

To be competitive in this space, make sure that your pitches are unique and tailored to each client as you share what you can do for them. “Cut and paste” form pitches will get you nowhere fast. Clients may not be paying much, but they still expect individualized service.

Be prepared to accept low-paying jobs (or even participate in “spec. work” contests a few times) to beef up your freelancer rating before you move on to higher paying projects.

*Note* It’s worth noting that I don’t recommend “spec.” work in general. Spec. work means work done on “speculation” without a payment up front. It’s usually only paid upon acceptance. However, spec. work can be a necessary evil on many of these platforms. It’s virtually unavoidable if you want to quickly build your reputation.

Don’t get stuck doing too much of this. Set yourself a deadline of one or two months of part-time spec. work. Aim to get a few projects under your belt, or win a few contests, to gain some testimonial and review traction. Then, consider yourself graduated and move up to pitching clients for their listed paid projects.

Also, if you do decide to go the freelance platform route, remember to keep everything on the platform. This ensures a digital trail and protection in the case of payment and project disagreements. It’s also worth noting that it’s usually against the T&Cs of the platform to work with your clients off the platform anyways. Doing so may get you banned.

To keep your clients happy, set milestones and then stick to them. And always, always, meet your deadlines by providing impeccable work.

 

Writing your passions for publications

 

You may decide that you wish to become a citizen journalist. I’m sure there are issues in your community worth shedding light on. By all means, write about them, share them, and get them some attention!

I’m passionate about domestic abuse education and prevention. You could call it a pet project of mine after living through 11 abusive years of marriage. You’ll notice that many of my online articles explain and address issues related to domestic abuse – and that’s fine!

I use my storytelling powers to explore causes I feel passionately about, and it shows in my writing.

Guest posts and contributed articles for a variety of publications (paid or unpaid) are also an excellent way to build up bylines online. They serve as easy to share writing samples with potential clients.

I personally use my Contently Portfolio to park my articles, but you could also use your website or other platforms as well.

Additionally, if you build a website (or at least buy a domain) from the get-go (which I would highly recommend) the SEO-building backlinks to your website from higher authority sites will build your domain authority and online clout immediately.

Remember though, there is an art to pitching publications, so check out these publication pitching tips for more advice.

So there you have it! This is a great starter guide to working your way up as a freelance writer. But I’ve only scratched the surface. There is always more to learn so be sure to read, learn, and practice as many tips and strategies as you can find.

Remember to take lots of online courses, and attend in-person workshops and classes. Strive to perfect your craft.

Soon you’ll have companies reaching out to you and seeking you out rather than the other way around.

Janet Kozak is the Community Manager for Noor Kids as well as the Founder of ContentStrategyPlan.com and JanetKozak.com. Her passion is Content Marketing. Janet helps businesses and bloggers craft PR and Content Marketing strategies for their brands.

Janet’s bylined articles are featured in dozens of print and online publications including; About Islam, Al Jumuah, Islamic Horizons, The Islamic Monthly, Productive Muslim, SISTERS Magazine, and Women’s INC. She’s also been interviewed for The Huffington Post, Glassdoor, Work At Home Success, My Corporation, The New York Public Library, and NBC News.

writer productivity

5 Productivity Hacks for Writers: Finish Your Projects Once and for All

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Do you have a “Writing Projects I’m Going to Finish” file on your computer, or an “I’ll Get Back to This Story” cabinet in your desk drawer?  A sad place where once bright and passionate ideas, developing characters, plot twists and catchy one-liners go to die? Some of us have multiple stories in that file or crammed into that drawer. The truth is, it can be difficult to stick with something once the initial passion and excitement have dwindled down. It can be hard to push through the late nights when you’re writing just to write, and you don’t feel inspired or creative anymore.

In order to get something you’ve never had, you must do something you’ve never done. It’s a popular phrase seen on posters hanging in the gym or the result of a Google search for “How to get motivated.” It’s a cutesy little phrase, but it’s right on the money. If you want to stop half-writing stories, you have to stop half writing stories. You must find a way to push through and complete what you’ve started. Last we checked, bookstores don’t sell a lot of unfinished novels. Readers have this thing about wanting the book to have an ending. So here’s how it’s done:

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Sakeena is a freelance writer, author, and founder of the Muslim Writers and Publishers Association. Her dream is to help Muslim writers share their stories with the world. She is currently working on a memoir and preparing for the launch of MWPA.