Wild Musing

Writing – Diary of a Budding Freelance

Some Games Are Just Not For Kids

Interestingly after my article of a few days ago the Byron Review was mentioned in parliament this week. And I find it interesting that while evoking the name of the review the politicians involved still seemed to be taking the tone that the games industry is hard to deal with and in some way irresponsible. This was not actually stated but to me it was the clear implication.

The discussion was kicked off by home affairs committee chairman Keith Vaz who, according to the Scottish Herald asked the following of commons leader Harriet Harman “Given the fact that there is increasing availability of these games on the internet, exhibiting scenes of graphic and gratuitous violence, when is the Government proposing to implement the Byron report in full.”
It is not actually this portion of the question I have a problem with it is the way the journalist paraphrased Ms Harman’s answer “She told Labour home affairs committee chairman Keith Vaz that the video industry itself had a role to play and vowed to take action on all these fronts”. As a former English teacher I feel qualified to say that the use of a strong word like ‘vowed’ implies that the games industry is doing the wrong thing and needs to be taken firmly in hand. This was not the finding of the Byron Review at all, in fact the opposite was true. Professor Byron made it quite clear that the large majority of those in the games industry were responsive and helpful and keen to work with the government on this issue. I am not sure if this was Ms Harman’s emphasis or the journalist’s but it was entirely misplaced.

Another thing that annoyed me about this was Mr Vaz statement that “This isn’t about censorship, this is about protecting our children.” Unfortunately Mr Vaz these two things are not mutually exclusive. History has taught us that once people think they are pursuing the worthy cause of protecting their children they begin to think anything is justified.

The rest of Ms Harman’s answer was more in fitting with the findings of the Review

“We need to make sure we have tough classification, which are properly enforced. We need to make sure that parents have the information they need.”

Yes exactly, parent education and a clear sign on the front of the game that states that the contents are not for children, so that the rest of us can get on with our gaming in peace. I do hope that that is what Mr Vaz was suggesting.

March 4, 2009 Posted by | Gaming, Sex in games, Writing | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Charge Me With Neglect! Elance Triumph

Well the bad news is I have been very remiss in keeping my blog entries up but the good news is that is because I have been run off my feet with decent (read no dodgy SEO) writing work. And without exception the work has come from Elance. So haven’t I come a long way from where I was?

I know I am probably sounding like an advert for this place by now and that was never my intention so lets have a look at the downsides of the Elance world. Their charges for bidding are just a bit silly. You pay nearly ten bucks a month for being a member of the site but for that you do not get unlimited bidding, only 20 a month. I have found that, this month at least, this has not been enough. I think most people starting out will experience the same problem. So you have to buy more ‘connects’ and already you have paid them twice.

They then charge you 8% of any fee you earn on the site. So this is the third time they have been paid. I am not sure how this goes if you are the provider but I figure they are charged somewhere so Elance is earning money four or five times on the pair of you. Genius! As a business it must work stunningly well for them and the thing is it is still popular. Why?

Well, for me the answer is that it works. Yes its charges are daft and annoying but it beats the crap out of having no work. I would rather have a nice juicy fee for them to take 8% of than nothing at all. Basically, like it or lump it, it is the sole reason I have not had to go supply teaching and have been able to sit the snow period out in the comfort of my own home, doing what I love. And making really rather decent money out of it.

I am starting to get a bit of work in through word of mouth and trust me I will not be crying about not having to pay Elance a big cut. But, bottom line, I would have had no word of mouth without them.

A quick summary of my recommendations for getting to this position. Do not work for crap money, in fact don’t even bid on those jobs, you cannot compete with those people coming from the countries with a much lower cost of living and you will just make yourself miserable. I no longer even look at $5 an article jobs (she says with what is probably supreme over confidence). Also, once you are slightly established only bid on jobs that are going to improve your current position i.e. they pay more or they are on something that you would enjoy writing about. I write an awful lot on video games now, which I love.

I may, in time, be in a position to move away from Elance but at the moment it is serving me very nicely. Oh and Guru? Probably works well for a lot of people but in the time period I have been using it there seems to more of the dross and less of the good stuff. May just be coincidence or could be something about the way it markets to or charges employers. If I notice a difference I will let you know.

February 5, 2009 Posted by | Elance, Guru, SEO writing, Uncategorized, Writing | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Confident Elance or Guru Pitch.

I was looking back over some of the templates I had created for these sites at the very beginning of all this and I was struck by how much they differed from the ones I send out now. In the early ones I was pathetic, I sounded like they would be doing me a favour throwing any ill paid rubbish my way. Here is an example

Thank you for the opportunity to submit my proposal for your project. Enclosed please find all information relative to my skills and experience.

I believe I could do an outstanding job of this project. I consider myself to be a very persuasive person who has an exceptional way with words. In my previous career as an English teacher I was often required to mock up advertising campaigns with a strong element of persuasion. Not to mention motivating the kids to complete the project which is perhaps the biggest challenge of all.

I gave up my teaching job to concentrate on my writing very recently, as a result I am eager and determined to produce a fantastic piece of work to satisfy your requirements.

Give me a go: you won’t regret it.

Please contact me on michellejbuss@googlemail.com to further discuss pricing and project details.

Regards Michelle Buss

How awful. And it elicited very few responses except the odd ” Do these really well for $1 each and I might have some more work for you” kind.

The type of proposal i send out now is much more confident. I know I can do the job well and expect fair pay for it. The bonus is that this is actually more professional and attracts a better quality of employer. If you come across as under confident you frighten the employer. Most of them are there because they don’t know how to do the job themselves, they are hardly likely to hire someone who comes across as if they haven’t got a clue either. Who can blame them? My bids now are more likely to sound something like this.

I was drawn to your advert because it sounds like you want quality articles, it seems to me a lot of employers are not the slightest bit interested in quality. It also sounds like a lot of fun and I gave up a fifteen year teaching career to write because I enjoy it so that is very important to me.

I write articles for an Australian gaming magazine. They are a journalistic endeavor as I decide each month what topics are hot in the industry and do the research and interviews to put the article together. They pay very well but there is not enough of this work to earn a full time living.

As I have great difficulty turning out rubbish low fee articles take me far too long to be worth the effort. Your project sounds just right for me. A chance to reflect the true quality of my writing for fair pay would be very much appreciated.

It is hard to give you a truly reflective price as you do not mention how much writing would be involved. I would be happy to discuss this with you.

Please visit my website at

https://michellejbuss.wordpress.com/

This will give you a feel for my style and writing ability. I have also attached an article I had published in a gaming magazine. I can provide the contact details of the editor who will be more than happy to provide me with a reference.

I look forward to working with you on this.

That is slightly generic and clearly i respond to each project on an individual level so I would add the following;

– A few sentences on why I am the best person for their particular brief.
– If possible a pertinent question to show my understanding of the type of project they are asking for.

This has worked loads better and jobs do come to me quite regularly. An up date of my profile to include my new improved writing ethos has also started bring employers to me. So, at the risk of repeating myself my number one tip is to be confident, it is vital.

On another note if you found your way here looking for a view on these sites from a web designers point of view the following site is worth a visit
http://rubiqube.com/elance-tips-top-5-projects-you-should-run-away-from/


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January 21, 2009 Posted by | Elance, Getting published, Guru, Writing | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Boy Shoots Parents Because They Won’t Let Him Play Halo 3- Daniel Petric

Wow this is an extreme story. I am currently writing an article on it for a magazine and another for a website so I thought I would share my thoughts with you on here. It will help me to organise them.

Firstly, the story itself for those of you that are unfamiliar. Daniel Petric was raised in a religious family in Ohio. His father was a religious minister and by all accounts pretty careful ( some may even say a bit over cautious) about the kinds of entertainment his children were exposed to.

Daniel was involved in accident the year he turned 16 and was confined to the house for months on end, during this period he apparently played a lot of games and watched a lot of TV, as you would, no surprise there.

The trouble started when Daniel’s father, Mark, decided that the Halo series of games that Daniel was particularly fond of was too sexually graphic and took it and hid it in his lockbox with his own handgun. Daniel apparently knew where the key was and retrieved the game and the gun. He took the gun into the room his parents were sitting in and told them, chillingly, to close their eyes because he had a surprise for them, then he shot them both. His mother was killed and his father suffered a severe head injury. There is something even more heartbreaking about the way Mark Petric testified that he closed his eyes expecting a nice surprise from his son only to feel his head go numb from the bullet Daniel had shot at his head.

Daniel was recently convicted of this crime after the court rejected his plea of insanity. He is to be sentenced at a later date.

The blame game is, of course raging full steam ahead on this one. A lot blame the video game industry and there are none of us dropping
dead of shock over that. The judge really did not help with his comments.

“In the game you shoot aliens, and they are there again the next day. You have to shoot them again, and I firmly believe that Daniel Petric had no idea that if he killed his parents they would be dead forever”

I am not pointing my finger at the judge, a case like this has got to put you under immense strain, but neither can I accept his comments.
It would suggest that a sixteen year old boy who two experts had already ascertained was not suffering from a mental defect or disease did not understand the concept of death. That just beggars belief, I don’t care how many hours of Halo he had played. What, had he never had a pet cat, dog, bird die? Not had an auntie, uncle or grandparent pass away. Nope, sorry not having that. Anyway, it occurs to me that if Daniel Petric thought his parents were just going to spring to life again then he had no motive for what he did, it was not going to get him any closer to being able to play Halo 3.

The gamers focus more on the humans involved and seem to predominately make two sorts of comments. Some make comment on Mark’s parenting skills, I think we have to tread very carefully here to avoid tipping over into blaming the victim but some people put forward ideas of a repressive regime in the home. Halo 3 is after all an M rated game and Daniel was 16. Not that anyone is suggesting that this one piece of discipline was a reason for murder.

Others, of course, blame Daniel himself and it would be easy to say that this is clearly where the real blame lies but I can’t help thinking that even though Daniel may not have been insane by criminal standards any boy who shoots his parents must have been in dire need of some sort of help.

Anyway, the most heartbreaking detail in a heartbreaking case is the fact the fact that Mark Petric looked at his son in court with forgiveness and told him “you are my son, my boy”. I am not sure how to comment on that except to say, for some reason, it nearly made me cry.


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January 21, 2009 Posted by | Gaming, Sex in games, Writing | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

My Freelance Writing Ethos.

When I first started this caper I used to look at all the profiles of writers who knew exactly what they could bring to a project with envy. People were chucking around terms like value added and I really did not have a clue. I certainly had nothing approaching an ethos or a mission statement but as I have gone through the process I think I have started to develop one. I am quite sure that it is not fully formed yet but if I was pushed for an ethos now I think it would go something like this

I produce quality products. I do not copy sections from the internet or re word other people’s articles . Inserting a bit of spark and personality is my specialty.I love to write and anything I produce will reflect my genuine love of language.

I strongly believe that top notch writing can add value to a website or product and help increase profit. I also believe that poor writing can harm the image an employer is trying to create and therefore cost them money. That is why I will strive to give them a product that is of exceptional quality every time.

I don’t think I came into this expecting to have to convince people of the power of words. I suppose as a former English teacher I should know better than anyone that not everyone appreciates how important language is. But somehow I expected that if someone was hiring a person to write for them then they would understand this truth. Some people seem to think that any words will do. The way these people totally underestimate the power of language still astonishes me.

This freelance writing thing has really focused me on the pleasure of earning a living from something you are passionate about and so far I declare this career change a success.


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January 20, 2009 Posted by | Elance, Gaming, Getting published, Guru, Uncategorized, Writing | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Guru Update- Employers Who Don’t Pay For Your Writing

Well I think Karma may have got me. After all my moaning about the quality of the work my first guru employer had asked me to do it now looks likely he won’t pay me. I am not going to get into the whole blame game thing, suffice to say, he was totally in the wrong. I said I could do 4/5 articles a day every day this week except New Year’s Day (for obvious reasons). He sent me three sets of four with a note acknowledging that I would not be able to do them all at once. I polished off the first set yesterday and returned them to him within twelve hours, with a note reminding him that as I would not be working New Year’s Day, one more set was probably the best I would manage before the holiday.

I got up this morning and did two more articles, then sent him an email querying a minor detail in the assignment and received a reply stating that as I could not finish the assignment he had given it to another writer. I am left to assume he mean the whole 12 articles. So what about my first four? Gentle emails prodding him for an answer have had no response, funny that as the longest he took to reply to any queries yesterday was about ten minutes.

So… I think I can kiss goodbye to my articles and my money. Where does this leave me with Guru.com? Not in as negative a frame of mind as you make think. I figure this can happen anytime to someone who provides goods or a service up front. Look at the amount of people who skip out on motel bills or drive away without paying for petrol ( no-one I know,obviously, but you see what I am saying). I will even stick up for this Guru employer slightly, he may actually pay some of his writers. His mindset may be to use the first sign of a problem to his advantage. Or he may be an out and out scammer. It is not really important at this stage.

The question is should I allow it to put me off Guru.com all together? I think not. I have had some quite promising emails from people discussing far more interesting and lucrative projects than this one which is very encouraging. I think I will persevere and see where they lead me.

Though I must admit that another experience like this and even my sunny, Pollyanna style optimism may become slightly tarnished. I will keep you up to date.

December 31, 2008 Posted by | Elance, Getting published, Guru, Uncategorized, Writing | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Moral Issues in Freelance Writing- Can We Afford to Care?

Yesterday I was pretty dismissive of a minor moral dilemma I had encountered in my day’s work. I still largely stand by what I said, there is nothing inherently wrong with writing articles to draw people to your client’s website. Clearly this is a legitimate form of advertising and just because it is a fairly recent development does not make it unethical. I did toy with the idea that having writers who know nothing about a product, sell it, may be deceitful but really, since when have advertisers known the ins and outs of their products? Over all I think we are on pretty solid ground morally when we accept this type of writing, so long as you undertake to research as best you can and do a thoroughly professional job I think you can sleep easy in your bed (I dare say that is a huge weight off your mind, worrying about my opinion on the matter has no doubt kept you up nights)

But what if as you are writing you start to get a small but persistent, sneaking feeling that the whole thing may be a big con? What if you fear, on a fairly educated guess, that the product you are selling is designed, largely to do people out of their cash without much gain for them? Do you stop? Can you afford the loss of income and inevitable negative feedback?

Again, I am not sure I can afford to care at the moment but if it is any consolation I would feel bad about it and I will care as soon as I have enough money to feed myself. Anyway, I may be wrong, maybe the product is making everyone rich. How does everyone else feel about this?

December 30, 2008 Posted by | Elance, Guru, Writing | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Guru Update – Is It Writing Prostitution?

Forgive the emotive title, I have just finished my first Guru assigned writing gig. And I have mixed feelings about it. On the one hand it is, if everything goes to plan, going to bring in a much needed fast cash injection. On the other the work was very repetitive and not very exciting. The pay per activity was not very exciting either actually, or the topics for that matter. It basically entailed writing four articles on the topic of real estate and then spinning each one twice.

For those of you who have never heard of spinning, as I had not until today, it has nothing to do with Tony Blair’s labour party. It basically means going back and changing enough about your article so that it appears original to whichever site the client submits it to. The idea being to attract potential clients to their sites so they can sell their product. Apparently a 30 percent difference should be enough. You can get spinning software but clients are unhappy with that because it basically goes through the article and replaces random words with one of its equivalents from the thesaurus. I had a friend who used to do this to his high school English essays so I can well imagine the results, hilarious. Anyway, humans are much better at this process than computers (except my friend of course). Score one for us.

The work is not difficult I will say that for it. A tiny bit of knowledge on the subject is enough to generate a couple of articles and you can always research a bit on the web to find out more. But it is boring and not very well paid. If you can do an article and two re writes in an hour it works out at just above minimum wage (for this particular employer).

I did question the ethics of the process for awhile, until I decided that really it was just a modern version of advertising and the debate about the ethics of advertising has been going on around me ,unheeded, for decades. I don’t plan to start taking notice now. As for the ‘rewriting’ issue, I have made a decision, I will never re write another writer’s work, that is just wrong. But so long as the work I am re writing is my own I figure I am the only one getting ripped off and I can live with that.

On the bright side while this type of work is common on Guru it is not the only type that is available, there are other better paid and much more exciting projects on there. When you can afford to be choosy it is a very good resource. Just for the record (and for the benefit of Guru employers I point this way) I can’t always afford it. So I will continue to accept project like this and complete them to a high professional standard. Maybe that will reap rewards. Here’s hoping.

December 30, 2008 Posted by | Elance, Getting published, Guru, Writing | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Pitching Your Article:Template for a Detailed Pitch

This is a follow up on the article pitching blog from last week. I  needed a bit of help with my first detailed pitch so I thought I would share my formula with new writers in the hope it helps them.I have changed the name of the magazine and the person involved but you can probably see it relates to my horrible interview blogs. Still the reason I was holding the interview was because the pitch succeeded and that is the main thing.

If you do decide on a long, detailed pitch as the way to go for putting forward your idea then it is important that it is still concise but informative at the same time. It is also important that you are familiar with the readership of the magazine and the style. Below is a example of the kind of structure such a pitch could take. It may also be an advantage to include a paragraph from the article.

Successful Woman Interview- Your Magazine

Synopsis

The focus of the article written from the interview will depend on which magazine I am writing for. For your magazine I would propose to concentrate on Ms Taylor as a successful woman who manages to juggle family and hugely busy career with aplomb. As well as her work with children and in the field of child psychology, she also wrote a successful TV which was very well received.

As your magazine is directed at women 25-45, many of whom will have children, I also propose to spend some time on her latest achievement The Internet Used Well- a book she has written on how to assist children to get the best from the internet and video games. I believe this area to be of huge concern to mothers and the report has some good, practical advice on how make sure your children are safe on the internet and how to help them get the best out of video games(it is not all bad news, if used wisely video games can be beneficial for children).

Structure (largely dependent on how much room I am given)

A 2000 word article on Ms Taylor”s life – home and work. Some focus on how she manages to ‘have it all’, kids, successful career and marriage. In this section I would include her reasons for refusing to do anymore of her popular parenting shows and her work with on the successful TV series.

500/1000 words on her book, the way information was gathered and a discussion of its findings and the implications for parents.

I also think a sidebar detailing the more important and relevant recommendations of the book in jargon free language would be of interest to your readers.

Possible Coverlines

Video games- it is not all bad news. Ms Taylor tells us how to keep our kids safe and have fun at the same time.

Your Magazine Reader’s Interest

Ms Taylor is an attractive, successful and intelligent woman firmly in the demographic of your magazine’s readers. She has a brilliant career, a long term marriage to a man who is successful in his own right and two lovely children. For these reasons alone I believe your magazine’s readers would find her story inspiring. Add that to the fact that she has a track record of giving parents sound, practical advice on child rearing and has written a very well received report on an area of concern for parents and I believe she is an ideal subject for your magazine.

December 27, 2008 Posted by | Getting published, Interviewing, Writing | Leave a comment

Video Games Are the Root of All Evil

I am presently writing a commissioned article on a recent report on the effects of video games on children. The report itself is very balanced and sensible and,dare I say it, quite pro games and the gaming industry. But in the course of my research I have come to realise that people try to blame video games for some amazing things. So I decided to make a top five list of the contentious things people say about video games and the video game culture.

1.”These are real lives. These are real people that are in the ground now because of this game. I have no doubt about it,” said Thompson, a Florida attorney and fervent critic the of video game industry.

To be fair this could have just been a list of the top five contentious things this guy has said in his campaign against everything to do with video games. This particular gem was in the wake of the Virginia tech shootings after some of the perpetrators’ friends suggested he may have played a bit of Counter Strike when he was younger, that was about as strong as the link to video games got. When his room was searched he did not even have a copy of the game or a single console. The comment is not that surprising coming from a guy who calls gamers knuckleheads and says playing games is ‘mental masturbation’.

2.ENO, Nev. (AP) — A couple authorities say were so obsessed with the Internet and video games that they left their babies starving and suffering other health problems have pleaded guilty to child neglect.“They had food; they just chose not to give it to their kids because they were too busy playing video games,” Viloria told the Reno Gazette-Journal.Police said hospital staff had to shave the head of the girl because her hair was matted with cat urine. The 10-pound girl also had a mouth infection, dry skin and severe dehydration.Her brother had to be treated for starvation and a genital infection. His lack of muscle development caused him difficulty in walking, investigators said.

I have no doubt that had there been no video games in the world these people would have been model parents! Video games are apparently so addictive that they can over-ride the strength of the bond between parent and child. Sure. Is it not more likely these people were defective units in the first place?

3.Children are playing a game that encourages them to have sex with prostitutes and then murder them,” the senator and former first lady Hilary Clinton, said.

No ,Hilary, it is really not. It is encouraging them to to have pretend sex, with pretend prostitutes and then pretend to murder them. It is not real, honestly. Anyway, these kinds of games are not directed at children, where are their parents?

4.McDonald’s boss: ‘Games to blame for childhood obesity’

Yes, Mr Easterbrook and your fat laden food, aggressive marketing to children and encouragement of people to ‘have fries with that’ has absolutely nothing to do with it.

5. An interesting study confirming an effect I’ve experienced many a time: After playing a driving-based video game, 27 percent of drivers (ages 16 to 24) found that they were more likely to speed or take risks when behind the wheel. 

Oh come on! Now games are to blame for an increase in crap driving.

Oh well, one thing I will say for anti video game pundits, they have kept my research for this article interesting.

December 23, 2008 Posted by | Gaming, Writing | , , , , | 1 Comment