Is a story really ever finished?

One famous musician said they could work on an album forever but that at some point you have to let it go to live its own life.

The same, no doubt, rings true for writing.

I have many short stories I’m working on, both in the rough draft and final draft phases, along with a novel I’m trying to finish the rough draft on. It’s amazing how you can look at a piece of fiction work, think you have something brilliant and return to it a year later and think of all the edits that still need to be done on it. Maybe this comma needs to be deleted, this dialogue needs to be modified or this scene needs to be cut completely.

If George Orwell were alive today, I wonder if he’d look at his books Animal Farm, 1984 and A Clergyman’s Daughter and be tempted to make any changes to them.

Richard Zowie’s been writing professionally since 2000. Post comments below or e-mail him at richardzowie@gmail.com.

Adventures of a freelance writer

Freelance writing, with the countless websites offering jobs, could take all day. Even then you still probably wouldn’t scratch the surface. I have a few sites I go to and try to on a daily basis look and submit to which ones sound good. Sometimes it’s tantamount to being one of thousands of fishers at a giant lake the size of Lake Superior, vying for those two fish who are swimming around somewhere. You have to use the right bait, jerk the line at the right time and hope to reel in the fish.

I recently applied to become a blogger at a New Year’s Resolution site, and hopefully the story I told them (a true one) will help me get that gig. Then there’s the TV blogging, the proofreading, the web site content writer and so on.

Which ones do I skip? The ones where the ads are badly written with lots of misspellings. I realize they may need writing help, but such an ad just looks unprofessional and suggests you might get scammed for your services. Others that are a red flag are the ones that say something like this: “We don’t have any money to pay you, but we can compensate you by giving you a byline on our website.”

Big deal. 

Unless you’re desperate to get your name out, I’d recommend you avoid this. Often, this type of policy comes from a site that’s not really even that well known and one that, chances are, will be gone and inactive in a year or so.

So, the best thing to do is keep plugging away and be persistent. Every once in a while you apply and get something great.

Richard Zowie blogs at several websites, including three other blogs on WordPress. Contact him at richardzowie@gmail.com.

$25 per hour job, no experience, turns out to be glorified scam

I won’t say the name of the company, but it’s an energy company up here in Michigan. (It is neither Consumers Energy nor DTE). We live in a sue-happy society, so rather than risk the wrath of this company, I’ll just give other details.

Earlier this year, when I was laid off from a newspaper job, I was desperate for anything to pay the bills. Walmart. Meijer. Telemarketing. Clerical work. So, I came across this ad in the newspaper.

“$25 an hour! No experience necessary. We’ll train!”

If I remember right, the job title was “gas installer.” So, I thought that $25 an hour with no experience required was worth checking out. A long shot, but worth checking out.

So, I called, got set up for an interview and then drove up to Saginaw. Once I got there, I could see around 50 other applicants. I filled out an application and then gave the receptionist my resume and references.

Then a man in a suit got up and told us about de-regulation in Michigan and how this particular company was trying to get into the market. He talked about the cost of energy, which I knew a little about since I’d previously spent six months working in the oil and gas exploration business. He talked about leaving a job and getting into this one and how he and his wife now were making loads of money a year. He was trying to decide whether to accept a transfer to either New York State or to Texas. My life can easily be yours, he said. The funny thing was, they never gave us any specifics of what exactly we’d do–outside of talking about “expanding the company”.

It came my turn to be called and I spoke with him. He asked me a question about why I wanted to work for the company as he scanned my resume. I told him.

“That’s a great answer, Richard,” he said. “Your resume looks great. You’re on my short list and we’ll be calling later today if we’re interested.”

No call that night, and being one who tries to be persistent, I called back a few times and received no response. No response over e-mails, either.

The job ad kept running week after week after week, leaving me with the feeling that those they did hire quit shortly afterwards or were dismissed for lack of performance.

I applied again a few weeks later and went through the same routine but with a different man. Almost exact same response to my answer. Said they’d be calling later that night if interested (it was already around 6 p.m.). During his speech, the man said something that was disconcerting: he worked 16 hour days, but it was worth it since he’d be able to retire in 10 years. Again, no specifics about what exactly it was we’d be doing.

As far as his claim of retirement, let’s see…$25 an hour for 16 hours a day, five days a week for 50 months out of the year (two weeks for vacation) and for 10 years, that grosses at $1 million, or $100,000 annually. That’s before taxes, of course. And that’s assuming investments go well, IRAs mature and you’re living considerably within your means.

Again, nothing.

I got other jobs and recently chatted with a co-worker regarding this company. She told me her brother had worked there briefly.

“What was it like?” I asked.

“It was door-to-door sales, and his job was to convince people to leave Consumers Energy for this company. He quit after a week.”

“Why did he quit?”

“He made only one sale, and he didn’t make enough money to make it worthwhile.”

And then I asked a final question. “Was it commission only?”

“Yes,” she said.

That $25 an hour must be what you make if you’re a gifted salesman who could sell an oven to the devil, or a new cell phone plan to someone who’s absolutely thrilled with their current plan.

I count myself lucky I didn’t get this job. It probably would’ve made much more broke than I already was.

Richard Zowie operates several blogs and also blogs at Bleacher Report. Contact Richard at richardzowie@gmail.com.

Unable to locate my favorite Papermate pen

For the record, it’s a Papermate Silkwriter BP. Not the current silkwriter (which has a 1.6 mm tip and tends to leak gunky ink), but the older model with the see-through barrel, the metal clasp and ribbed rubber grip.

When I enquired about this pen to Sanford (Papermate’s parent company), I was told they no longer make it.

I love Papermate pens, but why is it they no longer make the great pens while making the el cheapos that do a lousy job of writing?

I keep checking out various stores in hopes I’ll see some being sold. At the Shop Rite in Vassar, Michigan two years ago, they had some for sale. I’ve also seen some on the internet, and I’ll see about picking some up when I have extra cash.