Debbie Ridpath Ohi reads, writes and illustrates for young people. Every few weeks, she shares new art, writing and reading resources; subscribe below. Browse the archives here.

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Will Write For Chocolate


Archived WWFC strips


If you'd like to see older WWFC strips, please check the Will Write For Chocolate archives or start from the beginning. You can also follow WWFC on Facebook, Pinterest and Google+. Thanks so much for your continuing support! -- Debbie


Mimi Gets Rejected


Dealing With Rejection: Tips For Writers

I don't care what any writer says, no matter how experienced: Rejection hurts.

Maybe not the soul-wracking agony of Mimi in this week's strip, but at the very least a small twinge of irritation, a miniscule blow to one's ego. Unless you're incredibly lucky, it's also an inevitable part of the freelance writing life.

Being able to handle rejection is also one of the first tests in a potential freelance writer's career. I know many who bow out after only one rejection, convinced by a single editor's rebuff that they don't have the talent to be a writer.

Some don't even make it that far, forever working on a writing project but never actually managing to get it "ready enough" to actually to submit to a publisher because, deep-down, they don't want to face the possibility of rejection and humiliation.

Here are a few suggestions on how to deal with rejection:

- Don't be embarrassed about being disappointed; accept it as part of the writing life. But then move on to other writing projects.

- If there is a handwritten or personally written rejection on your letter/e-mail, be encouraged. It means the editor thought your submission worth the time to add a personal note. Read criticisms carefully. If you agree with them, make the appropriate changes before sending it out again.

- If your rejection was a form letter, don't be discouraged. It may just mean that the editor was too busy or overwhelmed with his/her work to write something more personal.

- Remember that there are many different reasons why the editor rejected your piece that could have nothing to do with your writing. Just a few of these possible reasons: they may be overstocked, have just published something on a similar topic, you sent your piece to the wrong editor, the editor has overspent his/her monthly budget, or maybe was just having a bad day.

- Have another potential market for your piece researched. Pre-address another envelope, have it ready. That way if you get a rejection, you can send it out again right away. If you get a check instead, can use the envelope for sending another piece! :-)

Some related resources:

Dealing With Rejections by Ellen Jackson. An excellent article with some good points.

Rejection Slips: A Balm for Writers and as Certain as Death by
Gerald W. Haslam. This piece offers an interesting perspective from the editor's side of rejections in addition to that of writers.

Dealing with Rejection by Lee Masterson. Part of Fiction Factor. Lots of useful tips here.

How Do You Handle Rejection? by Kenneth T. Henson. Focuses on academic publishing, but some of the advice is still useful.

Reader feedback to my previous column:

Thanks for your feedback to Avoiding Distractions While Working At Home.

Margaret Middleton says she misses the old style external answering machine, "where you could HEAR the person’s voice leaving the message, and interrupt it if it was somebody you had time to talk to Right Then. This also gave you an extra few seconds to Get There From The Other Room."

Mari takes advantage of this aspect of answering machines, saying she ditched voicemail when they got DSL. "I set it so that it picks up after two rings. Too, we live in a one-floor apartment, and I have the volume set so that I can hear it regardless where I am. The only time I pick up is when it’s my husband calling from work, either of my two boys, my mother, or my husband’s mother — unless someone’s emailed and told me to expect their call. Otherwise, if it’s improtant, the caller can leave a message, and I can call them back."

Being the mother of a toddler, Annie Walker faces additional challenges: "I loved your suggestions and the links you provided, as this is becoming more of a problem for me on a day by day basis. Copywriting only makes up a portion of my day, but I’m a mother running two businesses from home whilst looking after my toddler - every working day revolves about the interruptions at the moment and it is DRIVING ME CRAZY!!!

We hope to have built a new home right around the time our youngest starts school fulltime, and I’m really looking forwards to being able to provide some focus and structure to my working days, instead of the fire-fighting which I seem to be doing at the moment!

Thanks again for the suggestions and links - I am mentally filing them all away for 18 months until I start implementing them."

Lois is looking forward to reading my future column on coping with e-mail distractions: "I’m just starting out, really, and have been having a really hard time with e-mail distractions. I can’t wait to read more on this! And thanks for all the other great tips!
They’ll really help.

Have a great day,


Suggestions? Feedback?

How do you cope with rejection? Also (in prep for the column on e-mail distractions sometime in the future mentioned in the paragraph above), how do you manage your e-mail or e-mail time so it doesn't become a distraction from your freelance writing?


Coffee Break


Avoiding Distractions While Working At Home

Thanks for your feedback about my goal-setting column last week.

From Roxanne Nelson, for example:

"I have a business plan, rather than goals. I do a variety of different types of writing, and my business plan has more to do with the amount of money that I want to earn per week, and the areas of writing that I want to break into.

For example, one of my goals this year is to start doing more corporate writing. I do have some weekly/monthly goals that I'm still tweaking, but they do include contacting XX number of new to me publications, businesses, companies per week."

Lynda agrees that the need to pay rent and similar goals is highly motivating. "I also find that setting goals to achieve consistent marketing of my corporate and magazine writing results in work which results in deadlines which results in The Fear. The Fear is a great cure for procrastination."

This week's Will Write For Column entry is about WRITERS OVERCOMING DISTRACTIONS.

I've found that one of the biggest challenges of being a freelance writer is learning to overcome distractions.

Distractions come in all many of shapes and forms, including:

- Housework. I'm generally not all that crazy about housework. If I've hit a tricky bit in a writing project, however, I'm suddenly overcome by a desperate need to vacuum and dust, go through an old storage area that has needed a thorough purging for months, or organize my workspace.

- The refrigerator. I'm big on "grazing," so resisting the lure of the fridge is a major challenge for me. I try to keep the fridge stocked with healthy snacks, and also try to have well-rounded meals so that I'm less likely to want to snack in between.

- Personal e-mail and non-work Web browsing. This can be a big challenge for work-at-home frelancers; I speak from experience! More on this topic in a future column.

- Phonecalls. Call display has become my saviour, though sometimes the caller id doesn't work and I'm forced to make an on-the-spot decision about whether or not to pick up the phone. I've started to purposely NOT answer the phone; I figure if the caller needs to speak with me urgently, they will leave a message.

Too often, I find that the caller is a telemarketer. I also try to avoid "chatty" phonecalls with friends during the workday. Beware of Time Vampires, especially those who assume that since you're not working in a "real" office, you have plenty of free time.

Happily most of my friends and family have been trained to respect the fact that even though I don't work in a regular office, I DO work; if they call during the day, the calls are short and to-the-point, and they aren't offended if I tell them I can't talk because I have to work.

Some tips on how to avoid distractions

1. Keep a work log. Try writing down how you spend your time each day, even down to the littlest details. It would be impractical to do this longterm, but even keeping this kind of log for a few days can be enlightening and occasionally horrifying.

2. Keep a weekly and a daily goal prominently displayed on or near your computer.

3. Use Call Display on your phone to screen calls. Or better yet, make a point to NOT answer phonecalls during certain parts of the day so you can focus on your writing. Schedule times during the day when you check your messages. Let friends and family know that this is what you're doing, and why.

4. If an unrelated task comes to mind when you're working on a particular project, write the task down on a separate sheet of paper or notebook devoted to that purpose and put it away until later. That way you know you won't forget it, but you also don't let interfere with your current work.

5. Keep your workspace as separate from the rest of your house as possible. At the very least, ask others in the household NOT to interrupt you during work hours and/or when you're at your desk.

Some useful online resources:

Secrets To Staying Focused In Your Home Office

Ways to Minimize Interruptions When You Work at Home

What kind of distractions are your biggest challenges? And how do you overcome them?


Setting Goals In Your Writing

Why do it?

Setting writing goals can help any freelance writer by:

  • Providing focus in your writing. It's sometimes too easy to get distracted by other projects or tasks.
  • Forcing you to prioritize writing projects.
  • Reducing opportunity for procrastination, or at least forcing you to recognize when you do procrastinate.

Some tips for setting writing goals

Set short-term as well as long-term goals. Here are some examples of short-term writing goals:

  • Number of words written per day or week.
  • Number of hours spent writing.
  • Number of pages written.
  • Number of queries sent out.

Set realistic writing goals. Be honest with yourself about what you can and can't achieve, else you're setting yourself up for disappointment.

Keep a record. If your writing goal involves a certain number of words or hours per day, for example, keep a written record to help provide motivation and to keep you on track. If you know how to use a spreadsheet program, set up a table that automatically totals up the number of words or hours you've written so far in total.

Share your writing goals. Join a local writer's group that meets regularly, or make a pact with a writer friend to send each other weekly goals and updates. There are also many excellent online writers' groups; more info in a future column.

Some useful online sources of information:

An Approach to Goal Setting For Freelance Writers by Steve Slaunwhite

Setting Effective Writing Goals by Moira Allen

Are You Achieving Your Goal? by mridu Khullar

Do you keep writing goals? If so, what kind? Daily, weekly or monthly? Number of words or hours written? Feel free to share them below:


Eliza's New Year's Resolutions


Meeting Mimi


Do you have what it takes to become a freelance writer?

For some, becoming a fulltime freelance writer is a glamorous-sounding goal, with visions of glorious days of doing nothing but writing. Ah, and the luxury of working at home!

However, as I mentioned in last week's strip, the joys of no boss looking over your shoulder and being able to set your own hours come with a price.

Before quitting your job and embracing the world of fulltime freelance writer, ask yourself the following:

1. Do you have self-discipline? It's great having no one checking up on you, but that means you need to resist the lure of distractions and opportunities to procrastinate. Not everyone can do this. To make a living, freelancers need to know how to use their time efficiently.

2. Do you have self-marketing and research skills? Very few beginning freelance writers can count on work landing in their lap regularly. You need to be able to convince editors to buy your writing or find clients yourself, depending on the type of writing you're doing. Unless you're lucky enough to find some regular paying gigs, you'll be spending a substantial part of your time looking for work.

3. Does your spouse or partner support your goal? Without that support, things are going to be a LOT tougher.

4. Do you need financial security? If you're supporting yourself, you'll feel more pressure to find enough work to pay the bills on time. Writing is not a financially secure career for most freelancers. Publications can shut down without warning, editors move to other magazines or leave the business. has a helpful article about creating a business plan for your writing career, whether or not you plan to freelance full-time.

There are a lot more factors that should go into your decision, of course, but the questions above should help get you started. I'll be addressing some of these topics in more detail in future Will Write For Chocolate columns.

Some useful online sources of information: Moira Allen's great online resource of information for freelance writers, beginning and advanced.

The Freelance Writing FAQ: frequently asked questions about freelance writing, answered by Marcia Yudkin.

How to Become a Successful Freelance Writer: by Bob Brooke.

How To Become a Professional Writer: from eHow.

Any other useful advice or useful resources for hopeful freelance writers? Please post your suggestions in the comments area.

First day


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Welcome to the first episode of Will Write for Chocolate, a new online comic focussed on the freelance writing life. The comic revolves around an up-and-coming writer who shares a house with other writers of different interests and varying levels of talent. Starting sometime in January (need to finalize some contract details with Offpanel first), I'll be updating this strip every Wednesday.

Please do consider putting in a vote for Support Will Write For Chocolate at, thanks.

I'll be using this first entry to keep track of the main characters as they're introduced in the strip, editing the list below over time.

Eliza Street: Recently quit her day job to become a full-time freelance writer. Writes magazine articles for a living, but is also working on a novel on the side.
Mimi: Resident poet, not yet as successful as she'd like. Works part-time in a bookstore.

In my Will Write for Chocolate columns, I plan to cover topics of interest to freelance writers and those interested in freelance writing, including the struggle of finding markets for your writing, the challenges of working at home, e-books and e-publishing, self-publishing options, networking with editors and other writers, rejection slips, procrastination, and other topics within the craft and business of freelance writing.

Brief note about the title of the comic: I'm sure I'll get some flack from freelance writers about the title; how is a serious freelance writer supposed to survive on chocolate, after all? Even high quality chocolate?

The title has much more to do with Eliza's passion for her craft than her intended business plan...she loves writing, HAS to write and is willing to do almost anything to make this work.

I'm hoping Will Write for Chocolate will inform as well as entertain. I always welcome comments and suggestions.

Happy New Year, everyone!

- Debbie

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