IN THIS ISSUE
- From the Editor’s Desk: How online education is changing
- On The Wordling: What is the Snowflake Method?
- News & Views: Why storytelling is at the heart of all good writing
FROM THE EDITOR’S DESK
By the time you read this, I’ll be in India! Actually, I’ll probably have been in India for a few days, but I’m writing this ahead of schedule so I don’t miss an issue.
Some of you might not know this, but I became a freelance journalist when I was still a college student in New Delhi. I was studying IT and hating it, so I started writing on the side. By the time I graduated, I was making a full-time living as a writer.
Back in the day, working from home was an anomaly. People questioned my sanity, what kind of career I really had (and whether I had one at all), and what I did all day. Was I so unemployable that I had to sit alone all day at home? I had an online business, but no one understood what that meant back then, and so, even though I loved my life and was proud of what I was achieving, I often couldn’t explain it.
I spent most of my time online, of course, where other freelancers like me gathered. We talked about whether to put banner ads on our sites, and which Yahoo Groups to subscribe to, and how to deal with families who didn’t understand what we did on the computer all day long. We all followed the same blogs, read the same websites, and took the same courses. And one of the most common pieces of advice we got back then was to treat your online business like a job. That each morning, you should get up, get dressed, and put on make-up, as if you were going to a “real job.”
I hated that advice, and I could never get behind it. The entire point of having my own business and working from home was so I didn’t have to do all the shit other people had to do when they worked for someone else. I considered my writing a “real job,” even when I was barely making any money. I wanted to sit at home in comfortable clothes, work at my own pace, and live by my own schedule.
But I get it—societal mindset was stuck in the corporate world. Even the freedom we’d chosen was in the context of what society expected from a productive member of society.
In 2024, this is laughable. Thankfully, we’ve learned. We’ve evolved. And we’ve learned to prioritize our wellbeing, not the systems we were programmed into.
I was thinking about this recently because sometimes we’re so caught up in this cultural programming that we don’t even realize how bizarre it is until it’s finally behind us.
My interest—and where I’m seeing this pattern repeat itself—is in online education. The launch model. The high prices. The systematization.
Last month, I wanted to learn how to write a better sales page. Spent $200. The basics of a funnel. Another $300. Advertising? $450. For my business, I can justify these costs. I will make it back as my business becomes even more profitable. But as a writer, I find it a lot harder. The return on investment isn’t always there. When I looked at my own courses, some of which will help you make money immediately (30 Days, 30 Queries, Higher-Paying Freelancer Clients, Content Marketing for Journalists), some will help you make money eventually (Write 5K a Day, Fix Your Broken Novel, Success Habits for Writers), and some of which may never (Finish That Damn Book), I had to truly think about costs.
The writing industry is failing writers. The industry (including publishers, agents, and platforms) is making money from the work of writers, while writers themselves are (usually) not.
My mission is to empower all writers to have excellent careers doing whatever they want—writing stories, building an audience, making money. It starts with education and training at a reasonable price that is accessible.
And Wordling Plus is my first step towards that goal.
Check it out here, and if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to get in touch.
Enjoy the issue!
Natasha Khullar Relph
Editor, The Wordling
NEW ON THE WORDLING
Create a powerful structure for your novel with this 10-step method.
I started out writing fiction the way most first-time novelists do: opening up a blank page and wishing for the words to materialize.
It wasn’t until I discovered the Snowflake Method many years later that I realized my entire understanding of outlining had been flawed. That most of us, no matter whether we’re writing novels, short stories, or narrative nonfiction, identifying as plotters or pantsers, work off some version of an outline.
In fact, I’d been doing it in my journalism all along. Every story starts with a character or something happening and expands into a wider universe as the story develops. That’s what outlining is.
And the Snowflake Method made it endlessly easy for me to put my story through that framework.
NEWS & VIEWS:
Why you need to focus on readers, not publishers
I’m traveling this week, so here’s a repeat from April 2023.
Two remarkable events happened in the publishing industry in 2022 that caught the trade’s attention.
One, Colleen Hoover became the queen of the bestseller list. At her peak, Hoover had eight books on the New York Times bestseller list simultaneously. Two of her books, It Ends With Us and Verity, sold more than two million copies each. Hoover had initially self-published Verity after her publisher turned it down (this is after she’d already hit the list with previous books.)
Two, fantasy author Brandon Sanderson launched the highest-funded Kickstarter campaign of all time, with $41 million raised. (The goal was $1 million.)
Despite these incredible accomplishments, Hoover and Sanderson’s talent—and their fans’ taste—has repeatedly come into question.
But, do they write well?
In this Wired piece that took five months to report, journalist Jason Kehe simply can’t fathom how anyone could find Sanderson or his books interesting. The central question of the piece should have been: how does one author achieve this level of success on his own that publishing insiders spend their careers trying to get to, often unsuccessfully? But no, Kehe can’t get over his own bias, the only question that seemed important to him: “Is Brandon Sanderson even a good writer?”
That question is entirely pointless and can be debated at length. What’s not up for debate is a simple fact: Brandon Sanderson is an excellent storyteller.
So is Colleen Hoover.
And E.L. James.
And Rupi Kaur.
Say what you want about their sentence structure, all these writers have found ways to tell stories that resonate with their readers on a deep, fundamental level.
They’re all exceptional storytellers.
What the industry wants vs. what readers want
Many in the publishing industry and, sadly, many authors, will turn up their noses at these authors and their work. For editors, publishers, and writers who take pride in making sentences sing, in playing with the rhythms and beats of words, a book that seems not to prioritize those aspects of writing seems poorly written. (Though, again, that is up for debate.)
Here’s the thing, though: most readers don’t care about excellent sentence structure. Readers want to be entertained. Readers want to be gripped. Readers want to stay up in the middle of the night to read one more page, one more chapter. They want to know what happens next.
Bad sentences can be and are frequently forgiven. Bad storytelling isn’t.
So, what’s the takeaway?
For most writers, the art of writing excellent sentences is at least half as much fun as telling gripping tales. I would never advise that you no longer prioritize that. However, if you want to make a career of this, if you want your books to reach millions of readers, if you desire to make a living from your writing, then storytelling is key.
Instead of throwing up your hands and saying, “I don’t understand what people see in this author,” study them. Learn from them. Understand why their work resonates so widely with millions of people. Even if you’re not a fan of their sentences. Especially if you’re not a fan of their sentences.
The beautiful sentences will bring in the awards, the book deals.
But it’s the storytelling that brings in readers.
It’s a truth that Kehe takes five months to understand. “So many of us mistake sentences for story, but story is the thing. Things happening. Characters changing. Surprise endings,” he writes.
It’s a lesson all writers should take to heart.
Rates for journalism have never risen with inflation, but over the last few years, they’re getting worse. Many freelancers are changing business models or relying on other income streams in addition to writing stories.
The Kyiv Independent launched an English-speaking journalism school last year with the goal of appealing to new, young professionals.
And a new TikTok home decor trend has caught the attention of the masses. It’s called “bookshelf wealth.”
SPAIN: “The International Press Institute (IPI) has released a big-data case study exposing a campaign to intimidate and discredit the Spanish foundation Maldita.es earlier this year. Maldita.es, an nonprofit organization of journalists that exposes falsehoods and misinformation, became the subject of a campaign by conspiracy theorists, anti-vaxxers, and denialists in the run-up to the municipal and regional elections in Spain that took place on May 28, 2023.”
NIGERIA: “More than 25 journalists and media outlets in Nigeria are anxiously waiting to be reinstated to their posts covering the presidency after the Presidential Villa’s media department revoked their accreditation in August. The action effectively bars these journalists and outlets from covering the Presidential Villa, which is the workplace and official residence of Nigeria’s president.”
BRAZIL: “A recent report by the Brazilian Association of Investigative Journalism (Abraji, for its acronym in Portuguese), though, highlights a problematic trend during Brazilian elections, with a direct impact on democracy and press freedom: lawsuits filed by candidates and political parties asking for the removal of journalistic and informative content related to the electoral process.”
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“Atticus told me to delete the adjectives and I’d have the facts.”
– Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird
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