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Alternative Opportunities for the Linux-minded

By simmons75 in Media
Sun Dec 03, 2000 at 02:23:09 AM EST
Tags: You Know... (all tags)
You Know...

I'm about to graduate so naturally I have work on the brain. :-) I've also been thinking about writing, and about other like-minded people who like to write. It's been making me wonder how one could write about their favorite subject and make some cash doing it.


Since the first write up of this went down in flames last time, I decided to give this another go. DISCLAIMER: I don't intend for this to be a work example of my writing, so I'm keeping it informal. My main intent is to 1) Get information and 2) make it available to other k5 readers who may want to write for a living but don't know where to start (like me. :-)

So, I suppose the question is this: if someone's interested in journalistic writing, but only as a secondary source of income, how does one go about building a portfolio? How do you go about building a reputation for tech writing, and how do you carve a niche for yourself? Of the net resources I've seen, most writing sites deal with writing fiction. That's not really what I'm interested in doing. Ideally, I'd like to write about Linux. I know that's broad. I feel like Linux as a desktop users' OS hasn't been covered very well and that there's a lot of FUD floating around. I'd like to help with that, and I'm hoping others do, too. While volunteering to write on sites like linux.com is rewarding, a paycheck, for me, is a lot more rewarding. ;-)

Also, are there any net resources, such as, say, independent news wires, that take these sorts of stories, and do they work well? I haven't really found anything like this and am hoping that it's just because I haven't found them. :-)

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Alternative Opportunities for the Linux-minded | 14 comments (13 topical, 1 editorial, 0 hidden)
Find a college campus nearby. (2.12 / 8) (#2)
by ramses0 on Sat Dec 02, 2000 at 01:15:40 PM EST

If they're technically inclined (ie- they have a CS program) offer to write stories about their CS program. Then offer to write howto's about areas that interest the newspaper's target audience.

--Robert
[ rate all comments , for great justice | sell.com ]

Standard foo (3.00 / 6) (#3)
by _cbj on Sat Dec 02, 2000 at 01:18:25 PM EST

Don't segregate the market into online and offline for a start. And forget about concentrating on Linux and being paid for it until you have some kind of vague reputation.

The standard route to get into writing is to pick up a newish copy of "The Writers and Artists Yearbook", or your country's equivalent, make a list of all the likely publishers, and get your arse busy sending off speculative articles and collecting rejections. And eventually non-rejections. In theory it gets easier. Also: do volunteer for free sites in the meantime, and do not consider Linux in any way 'broad'.

Volunteer (4.16 / 6) (#4)
by r0cket on Sat Dec 02, 2000 at 04:47:45 PM EST

Check out The Open Source Writers Group for some projects to work on that will help you go about building a portfolio. It takes time to build up a portfolio, but there are lots of open source projects which could use some help writng FAQs and docs, etc. (see this k5 story for example). I'm trying to find a way myself to contribute to the open source movement (I'm not much of a programmer, and I have an English degree). It seems there is lots of work to be done. Go check out SourceForge and see if anyone will let you volunteer to help with FAQs, docs, PR, etc.

Try this... (4.88 / 9) (#5)
by skim123 on Sat Dec 02, 2000 at 07:48:37 PM EST

if someone's interested in journalistic writing, but only as a secondary source of income, how does one go about building a portfolio?

I think I had mentioned this in your previous writeup... but anyway, I'll do it again here. (Just so you know, I've written two technical computer books myself so this advice, IMHO, is credible and good.)

First off, identify what you want to write about. It sounds like you've already done that, which is great. Next, start up a Web site of your own with articles on that topic. (www.SimmonsHouseOfLinux.com is avavilable <grin>.) This will serve as some practice for writing, you'll get some good feedback as visitors read your articles, and it will provide a place you can point potential employers to.

Once you've done that, contact book publishers and offer to (free of charge) do some technical editing for books in the field you're interested in. Very rarely will you get turned down, especially if you can point to your site and say, "See, I know what I'm talking about." This will do two things: it will help with networking (you'll get to know some editors in book publishing companies) and it will get you some experience that you can reference in a resume. I know you are interested in jounalistic writing, not books, so after a few tech reviews, ask the editors if you can write an article for their site. (Most publishing companies have a decent Web site with articles and such...)

Next, visit Linux sites and offer to write articles for them. Point to your site for examples, the books you tech reviewed, etc.

Next, contact Linux magazines (via their site or whatnot) and present your portfolio - your site, articles on independent Linux sites, your tech reviews... use your editor/Web site friends as references, submit a writing sample, etc.

While volunteering to write on sites like linux.com is rewarding, a paycheck, for me, is a lot more rewarding

Yeah, I agree, but you may need to do some volunteering first to get some name recognition, experience, and contacts. Imagine if you write a monthly article for Linux.com that a lot of people read... your name will get out there. When you go to a magazine offerring to write an article for $$$, you can say, "Hey, I'm so-and-so, and my articles on Linux.com have gotten over X page views."

If you want to write books, also look into getting a literary agent. I never did that, but probably should have. Also, be sure to always have a lawyer review all contracts before signing! :-)

Money is in some respects like fire; it is a very excellent servant but a terrible master.
PT Barnum


kde docs (3.40 / 5) (#6)
by gregholmes on Sat Dec 02, 2000 at 08:09:26 PM EST

I know the KDE team needs documentation written; I wrote a small piece myself but then had to stop for technical (snapshots wouldn't compile for me on openbsd) and time reasons.

Couldn't hurt in the linux community to say "open your help browser to see some of my work".



Wow. (2.00 / 1) (#8)
by simmons75 on Sat Dec 02, 2000 at 09:42:35 PM EST

I hadn't even thought of that. :-) Then again, I'm not a regular KDE user, and I'm having trouble feeding & caring for KDE2. Maybe when my distro does a major upgrade, they'll work the bugs out for me...it's an idea, though.

GNOME *really* needs docs, too. :-)
poot!
So there.

[ Parent ]
Favourite approach (1.40 / 5) (#7)
by maketo on Sat Dec 02, 2000 at 08:54:33 PM EST

today is to disect everything, break it down to smallest steps and assess your opportunities. Since you are set on that way I wish you good luck on the mercenary path. I hope it feeds you well and allows for a humble porsche.
agents, bugs, nanites....see the connection?
Luck? (2.66 / 3) (#9)
by DemiGodez on Sun Dec 03, 2000 at 01:25:58 AM EST

I am not a linux person, but I do technical writing on Java, so I have some experience in a mostly relevant way. I have written one article and been a controbuting offer to two books. I think one way to get a leg up in this area is to just get something out there. I wrote the forementioned article and was contacted about the books. I have even turned down some offers.

However, when I wrote the article, I chose a kind of unique topic that isn't written about all the time. I think that helps.

get on the phone. (2.00 / 2) (#10)
by streetlawyer on Mon Dec 11, 2000 at 03:44:53 AM EST

Beginning and end of story. Come up with a good idea (or, more realistically, jump on a bandwagon) and pitch it to an editor. The first few cold calls will be pretty painful, but the learning curve isn't too bad. once you get an article published by someone, that guy gets a weekly call; if you don't have an idea for him, make one up. It's a tough business, but them's the breaks.

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
Spell things properly. Use good grammar. (2.00 / 1) (#11)
by PenguinWrangler on Mon Dec 11, 2000 at 06:57:16 AM EST

I often despair when I see the poor spelling and bad grammar displayed on such online forums as this one and others.
You need to take time and care, and not just blindly believe the spelling checker. If you spell badly or use poor grammar (there, their and they're being the worst cases) you will not be taken seriously as a writer.
If someone shows less aptitude for spelling and grammar than a ten year old, they lose all credibility in my eyes.

"Information wants to be paid"
elitism (none / 0) (#12)
by kubalaa on Wed Dec 13, 2000 at 04:58:03 PM EST

Your attitude is comparable to a highbred Englishman who refuses to give credence to opinions delivered in a Cockney accent. While admittedly a good writer should show command of his or her language, one should not discount ideas out of hand because one does not like the crude package in which they are presented. People were not always so close-minded. As Andrew Jackson said, "It's a damn poor mind that can only think of one way to spell a word."

[ Parent ]
out of context (none / 0) (#13)
by _peter on Thu Dec 28, 2000 at 04:58:06 PM EST

He's not talking about conversations, or informal writing. He's not even talking about the validity of their opinions.

He's talking about taking the time to get the details right. Not ``upper-class rich white male right'', but correct. There are standards. Their does not mean they're does not mean there just because they all sound alike. Affect is not interchangeable with effect. Apostrophes go in certain places, and one of them is not in the possessive form of the gender-neutral pronoun.

For someone to not take the time to learn and practice these standards shows a lack of care. It's haughty to dismiss cockneyed accents when they might simply come from ignorant lips, but it is reasonable to expect someone who purports to write for an audience to learn how to polish things up.

[ Parent ]

online forum != writing. (4.00 / 1) (#14)
by rsmith on Sat Dec 30, 2000 at 05:02:25 PM EST

You have to take into account that there are lots of people in these forums, for whom English is not their native language (myself included). I think you should cut them some slack.

Besides, there are people who just don't rise above the level of a twelve year old.

I concur that you need to be in control of you language if you want to be a professional writer. But that goes for the tools used in any job.

Also, spelling and grammar are not static things. In the Netherlands, where I live, the preference spelling of a lot of words has changed a couple of years ago. Although a lot of the changes are logical, they still seem strange to me, because I was raised with the old spelling.

Roland



[ Parent ]
Alternative Opportunities for the Linux-minded | 14 comments (13 topical, 1 editorial, 0 hidden)
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