10 Commandments For Writers Online

For all of you who are trying to carve out a career as a writer, here's a little advice that might smooth the way and remove some of the stress.

1. Don't kill the messenger.

When someone offers a report or just negative comments about a publisher or about self-publishing authors or about any of the writer mills for which you may be working in order to get your foot in the door, don't feel compelled to launch an offensive on the person making the report or comments.

2. Do feel compelled to discover your own truths.

If you wish to be an indie author, but your writing friends disdain that path, then grow a thick skin and prepare to prove them wrong. Or get a new set of friends who support your efforts.

Take all comments in stride and do your own research to discover whether they are valid or not. If you’re writing for a publisher that is roundly criticized, then do your own fact checking to see if your experience is unique or the report is false. Search engines make it easy to discover the truth or falseness of a claim.

3. Don't fail to read the Terms of Service.

No exceptions. For any business for whom you intend to write or any website with which you plan to self-publish or for anything that requires you to agree to Terms of Service, ALWAYS read the TofS so you know exactly to what you are agreeing, how your content will be used, how and when you will be compensated, what rights if any you are selling, and how your private information will be used.

4. Do know what remedies are available to you if things go badly.

In a writing career, as in life, things often go badly. Always know what you can do if that happens. In advance, think about the worst thing that can happen and have a plan to deal with that. Try to find a positive in every negative situation. Always have a plan B. And C, D, E, etc. Whatever it takes.

5. Don't accept rudeness from anyone.

Rudeness should not be tolerated in professional writing relationships whether it’s writer to writer, reader to writer, writer to publisher, or vice versa on all these. A true professional knows how to critique in a way that helps the writer produce better copy. A pro editor or agent should want to build a solid relationship with writers where respect is given on both sides of the desk.

Every person, editors and agents, have someone to whom they answer. Find out who that someone is and file a complaint if you feel you must, but be sure you are prepared to deal with the fallout and also be sure you can back up your complaint with evidence, not hearsay. Keep a paper trail of correspondence and be ready to produce it.

6. Do meet rudeness, if you get it, with calm professionalism.

A writer should never engage in a dialogue with anyone who has posted a bad review. Nothing good ever comes of it. Shrug it off, ignore the stings, and do what you do best–write. Live Coco Chanel’s creed: ‟The best revenge is living well.”

7. Don't let others make your decisions.

Read, research, and reflect. Draw your own conclusions. If Ima Writer says the company you write for sucks, don't feel bad even if you personally agree. You have your own reasons for staying with them. If she says a company is wonderful, but you don't think so, don't feel as if you have to persuade her to avoid them. She has her reasons just as you have yours.

8. Do make conscious choices about what you write and for whom you write and for what compensation.

If you are a freelance writer or a struggling novelist trying to get your foot in the door, and you choose to write for low pay, then acknowledge that it's low pay and that you have valid reasons for doing it. Don't try to convince others that it's not low pay or a bum deal. Don't deny the facts of the situation. Suck it up, do the best work you can, and look for better freelance clients, better publishing contracts.

Occasionally, there are times when all writers knowingly write for less than they should. They do this for many reasons from economic necessity to hoping it paves the way to a bigger job.

If you are self-publishing, and you price your work low just to generate sales, don’t hang your head in shame. Don’t let anyone denigrate your work or your decision because the bottom line is that if your spouse is out of work, and you're scrambling to just create some income, then you may do anything that generates sales. Why? Because your ability to earn bucks supercedes the value of your time, the opinion of others, and just about anything and anyone who is not in your situation.

You may write for low pay, but do so because it’s a conscious decision, not because of lack of knowledge of the business.

9. Don't take it personally.

Life is too short to get bent out of shape over what other people say. Sticks and stones. When you read something that questions the integrity of a website or client for whom you're writing or of self-publishing, don't take it as a personal insult to you and a negative judgment about your decision to follow a particular career path. Again, your decisions are your own. The writing business is hard and competitive, and it can grind your soul to dust if you let it. Don't let it.

10. Do strive for excellence in your writing.

Self-publishing authors compete with book authors from all over the world. Learn how to produce the best book you can with solid production values. Be resolved that your book can measure up to anything produced by the big print publishers. That should always be your goal.

On the Internet, freelance writers in North America compete with writers from India and the Philippines where a buck an article for 100 articles is considered good pay. That writing though may sometimes not be very good because idiomatic English is a skill not usually possessed by those who learn English as a second language.

For us in the U. S., compensation like that is not something we can live on, and I don't truly believe anyone can turn out 100 well-written, researched articles in a week or less. If you’re aiming at freelance writing, you must know from the get-go that you're going to lose a lot of jobs to writers whose first language is not English because they'll work for pennies an hour.

The answer is not for you to attempt to do the same, but for you to polish your skills and become a consummate professional. You'll get the higher paying jobs from clients who want excellent writing and who will respect your ability.

Takeaway Truth

Be resolved to be the consummate professional in your writing career, and be further resolved to use every writing project as a stepping stone to something better.

Note: If Joan Reeves aka SlingWords helps you get ahead, please consider buying one of my books (Written Wisdom is perfect for writers--readers too!), subscribing (only $.99 per month) to the Kindle Edition of SlingWords,or making a donation of any amount by clicking the button below. Thank you for your moral support and any monetary support you see fit to contribute.


  1. LOL Joan, with that post title, I half-expected you to say, "No web surfing until you get your wordcount done for the day."

    But these tips are even better. Thanks!

  2. Thou shalt not delay on getting thy word count done even if thou art reading SlingWords.


    Thanks, Suzan Harden!