Working in the Cloud: Top Tips for Busy Wordsmiths

Working in the cloud

Freelance writers are often perceived as enigmatic, whimsical types who work in their pajamas. The magic simply happens with little effort.

If that were true, there would be no need for research, editing, and proofreading, which consume the bulk of a writer's day.

Cloud computing makes it easier than ever to be your own boss but feeling overwhelmed is a common downside that you can avoid by taking a more structured approach.

Structuring a draft is something like creating a wedding cake: Tackle one tier at a time and build from there.

Nobody Said It Was Easy

It's rare to start with a blank Word document and watch in awe as compelling prose fills the page. Writers who take shortcuts are mocked by white space and a blinking cursor.

Cogent, memorable writing represents a dozen good ideas that were rejected in favor of better ones. Promising leads in the research process may have turned out to be rabbit trails. The final outline could be the third or fourth version of the original.

Producing a polished piece is a step-by-step process, and writing is the easy part.

Editing and proofreading are equally important, but they're vastly different. Trying to do both at the same time is akin to biting off more wedding cake than you can chew.

Editing is considering the big picture.

  • Does the piece follow a logical outline?
  • Is the overall meaning clear?
  • Does it flow seamlessly from one point of view?
  • Are its arguments well supported?
  • Does it strike the right tone?
  • Is it engaging from start to finish?

If a novel, how-to guide or short blog doesn't achieve these fundamental goals, typos are the least of your worries.

Edit first. Cosmetic errors can wait.

Cold-blooded Editing

"Murder your darlings," urged aptly named writer Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch in 1914. A "darling" is anything in your writing that doesn't add value.

Editing a poignant work of staggering genius, especially if you wrote it, is a painful process. However, it invariably results in a better final draft.

Here are some tips:

  • Step away for a time. Walk the dog, empty the dishwasher, or work on another project for a while. The distance will give you fresh eyes to read the piece objectively. Some experts suggest waiting at least 24 hours before editing. Freelancers can't always afford that, but even an hour or so is beneficial.
  • Make sure that you can clearly identify a thesis statement that the rest of the piece supports.
  • Check for a logical connection between paragraphs. Rearrangement may be in order. If lack of flow is the problem, try adding more transitional words or phrases.
  • Clear up the confusing language. If you can convey the mean in fewer, simpler words, do.
  • Use a thesaurus to avoid repetition. A writer, for example, may be an author, essayist, biographer, correspondent, contributor, blogger or wordsmith. He may even be a quill-driver or smear-monger, but don't go crazy.
  • Vary sentence structure and length to avoid sounding monotone.

The Agony of Proofreading

Nobody looks forward to this odious task, but there are tricks to making it more bearable:

  • Print a physical copy in a different font. Errors that you missed on the computer screen will leap off the page.
  • Read aloud. Wordiness or awkward phrasing will be more evident.
  • On the first pass, physically point to each word as you read to catch typos and spelling errors. Watch for homonyms like "effect" and "affect" or "there" and "their".
  • Do a second reading devoted solely to grammar and punctuation problems. Pay special attention to contractions.

Cheaters Never Prosper

That's absurd. No one even knows who said it.

When in doubt, cheat. There are numerous resources out there for poor spellers and participle danglers.

  • If you're new to the writing life, search the internet for how-to books, online courses and writers' forums.
  • If you need time-management help, check out Pomodoro's Tomato Timers.
  • If you're easily distracted, increase your focus with Calmly or Bookflow.
  • There's no shame in taking advantage of editing tools, like Grammarly and Hemingway App, that catch most mistakes for you.
  • Some, like ProWritingAid, expose issues with your document by category. These all-in-one tools point out spelling and grammar errors, clichés, passive voice, and poor syntax. Some even catch overly used or imprecise words and suggest replacements.

It's a tier-by-tier approach to refining your work. Unlike trying to build a wedding cake all at once, it’s not overwhelming.

Some editing tools are free, but the most thorough ones are by subscription. Once you get the hang of the structured, step-by-step approach, you won't need them anymore.

You may even get adept enough to expand your business.

Keeping Your Head in the Cloud

A recent Gallup poll revealed that more than 40 percent of U.S. employees work remotely at least some of the time. Many telecommute full time.

The advent of the cloud - which stores and accesses data over the internet rather than a hard drive - forever changed the workplace. For almost all companies, the cloud plays a critical role in conducting business.

A writing, editing and proofreading business is fairly easy and inexpensive to launch. Thanks to the cloud, anybody with an internet connection and the right credentials can work for you.

The tiered, structured approach is ideal for this kind of startup because you can delegate the workflow according to specific talents:

  • Writers create original content at clients' request.
  • Structural editors are concerned with the content itself. They review it for things like logic, clarity, and flow.
  • Copy editors look for mechanical or style issues in the writing. They may also fact-check or expose inconsistencies.
  • Proofreaders ensure that the final draft is readable and error-free.

Since team members can access drafts at any time using any device, collaboration is smooth and highly productive.

Freelancers needn't go it alone anymore. With the cloud, you potentially have more support than ever before.

Guest Author

Eric Gordon

Eric Gordon is an independent business development and marketing specialist for SMEs. He loves sharing his insights and experience to assist business owners in growing their revenues. You can find Eric on Twitter @ericdavidgordon