Moira is the founder of WRITING-WORLD.COM (www.writing-world.com). Her site offers more than 650 articles
and columns for writers of all interests and every level of expertise. Their free monthly e-mail newsletter offers articles,
contest information, and publishing industry news. It is edited by Moira Allen, author of "Starting Your Career as a
Freelance Writer," "How to Write for Magazines," and "The Writer's Guide to Queries, Pitches and Proposals."
You are a writer/editor/publisher. Which was your career of choice? Which was the scariest to embrace?
MORIA: My original "career goal" was to be
a "writer," to finish the novel that I'd been working on for about 15 years! When I applied to Dog Fancy, I wasn't thinking of becoming "the
editor"—I was thinking more in terms of a position as a columnist. I love the process of pulling together a bunch
of different elements—different articles, images, etc.—and creating something worthwhile and beautiful. (You'll
see more of that in my travel website, TimeTravel-Britain.com.)
I don't really consider myself
a "publisher," even though I am in the technical sense. I have self-published a book, and I am now titling myself
the "publisher" of www.Writing-World.com to avoid confusion with Dawn Copeman, who is now the site's official "editor." Overall, I consider myself
Writing is by far the scariest of the three options; it always has been and I suspect it always will be. It's
not even so much an issue of external rejection; most of us are our own worst critics. The question I deal with as a writer
isn't so much "Is this good enough for YOU?" but "Is this good enough for ME?"
WOW: Would you recommend setting aside time to read trade
books, no matter how long you've been in the business? Or is that only for beginners?
This was a tough question, because I realized that I hardly ever read "trade books" (by which I assume
we mean "how-to books for writers"). I asked myself WHY I don't read "trade books"—and the answer
came as a bit of a surprise: Because there AREN'T any, to speak of, for non-beginners! The vast majority of writing books
for beginners. About the only niche where you can find more advanced books is in the category of self-publishing or book promotion.
The word "beginner"
can also apply to someone making, or trying to make, a transition in a writing career, and here's where I find the lack
of "advanced" books a bit frustrating. One of these days, I hope to write a romance novel, and/or a mystery. However,
when I pick up a "how-to" book on one of these topics, I find that as much as half the book is devoted to the same
information I find in every OTHER book on writing: How to format a manuscript, write a query, etc. I feel as if I've wasted
half my money.
Obviously, publishers of writing books
know the big market IS the beginners. One reason for this is that there is no "one size fits all" niche for more
advanced writers; if you gathered a hundred freelancers into a room you'd find we were all writing very different things
and earning our income in very different ways. So it's hard to come up with trade books that are going to achieve any
type of sales at the advanced level, because THIS writer may be writing advertising copy and THAT writer may be writing for
trade magazines, etc.
I think this is why, at the more advanced
level, writers tend to gain more information through organizations that focus on their specific area or genre, from articles
online, and from other writers. The romance community online is huge, for example, and absolutely packed with how-to articles
that are helpful to all levels of writers. So it's not so much a matter of whether advanced writers still search for information;
it’s more a matter of WHERE they look for it.
Freelancing must be
approached as a business for one to succeed. Yet the field invites creative-types. You've combined your flourishing creativity
with the attributes of an astute businesswoman successfully. What advice do you have for women desiring to take on "full-time freelancing?"
First, let's rephrase that first line. It's not just that freelancing should be "approached" as
a business. It IS a business. Freelancing is a business, just like plumbing or making shoes or running a store.
Creativity is your business ASSET. It is what makes it possible
for you to choose THIS business as opposed to something else. Creativity is the source of the product you create and/or the
service that you sell. But you cannot market the results of your creativity without mastering some aspects of "running
I suspect many people (male and female) harbor the notion that "creativity" and "business
sense" are mutually exclusive; how can you be a brilliant, daring, creative thinker AND a cold, calculating bean-counter
at the same time?
First, being a good businesswoman and being a creative person are NOT
mutually exclusive. You CAN be both. If you truly want to make a career out of writing, you HAVE to be both.
Second, yes, you DO have a head for business. Business isn't a mystical gift bestowed on a chosen few. It's a learned
skill, and you can, in fact, learn most of the things you need to know about the "business" of freelancing by picking
up one or two good books on the subject. (I do, of course, recommend mine: "Starting Your Career as a Freelance Writer.") The ability to learn effective business skills isn't linked to a particular chromosome. If you want to do it,
you can learn how.
The key is to determine exactly what you want to gain from a "career"
in writing. If you want to earn an income (or a living, which is not necessarily the same thing), then it will be essential to learn the business side of this career. But it is
also important to remember if you DO choose a freelancing career, you ARE choosing "business" as well as "creativity."
You are choosing to direct your creativity toward business ventures that will earn income. These may not always be the type of writing you have dreamed about, and at times you may not even find them terribly creative.
However, even at its least creative, freelance writing can still be a far more rewarding career than most "day jobs”!