Today’s guest blog is by a, at the time of this writing, 5 star rater and writer I reached out to named Mona Gallagher.  Her list of Helium accomplishments is noteworthy – 5 star rater/writer (as previously mentioned), just shy of 1000 articles (making the previous accomplishment even more noteworthy), has invited almost a dozen writers, sold 4 marketplace articles, has a creative writing badge, and has won a Nobel prize.  Ok, I’m kidding about the last one but her list of accomplishments here is pretty impressive.

If you enjoy Mona’s work make sure to check out her blog and the rest of her articles on Helium.  I read her one on “How to find out if your personal information is available on the Internet” and it was pretty good.  Thanks again Mona.


Writing for public consumption can be a pleasure, savored and rolled about one’s tongue providing the sensation of a fine exotic dessert…but reality says: that’s not what many of us experience as we pound out our articles for Helium or paid assignments for those willing to pay for our written words. Frankly, sometimes the words just won’t appear on the page as we envision them.

We need motivation and we need to find our stride.

When I joined Helium two years ago, I had no problem writing tons of articles because my first choice was to make money through writing for contests. It worked well and I was publishing three to four articles a day to qualify for a cash prize. I made money and that was my primary motivation to stay with Helium.

At the end of my first year, I had written about 700 articles and earned a decent amount of cash, but money was no longer the primary motivation for staying with Helium. The bar was raised on the quality and length of articles and I accepted the challenge by raising my own bar. As I read and rated the writing of others, I sampled the many styles of writing and saw the opportunities for improving my own.

What’s your motivation for writing? It might be the desire to express your ideas and feelings and Helium provides the platform for polishing your writing. Maybe you want to write a novel and Helium is your perfect springboard. Many of us are looking for paid assignments or a steady gig with a publisher, but should you accept any offer that comes your way?

Saying no to a paying assignment is not easy. Why would you turn down such an opportunity? The assignments to pass on are subjects that are interesting but not inspiring. Writer motivation is crucial when writing for publishers that demand specific information and expertise. Research and narrow perspective won’t always cut it for publishers who want a good overall view on the subject matter.

Know yourself and the subjects that draw on your knowledge, experience and passion. These elements may have nothing to do with the work you’ve performed over the years, or they may be intimately linked with your writing. You’re the only one that can make a wise choice of what to accept and what to turn down.

Negotiating with a publisher should be fairly straightforward. Know what the market allows and don’t sell yourself short. If you’re confident in your ability to provide satisfactory services, the publisher should be willing to pay you a satisfactory rate. Anything less makes for a strained writer/publisher relationship.

Become an expert:

For many writers, niche writing is the way to go because you already have the knowledge needed to write a comprehensive article that will attract publishers willing to pay for your services. Several writers on the Helium website are highly successful in Marketplace submissions because of their level of knowledge and ability to communicate that expertise successfully. They deserve success and we’re glad they represent Helium.

If you prefer to sample the smorgasbord of channels and topics, you gain knowledge that helps you mature as a writer and simultaneously sharpen your ability to research and write on a number of different topics. Your knowledge won’t be wasted. You can still sell to Marketplace and you may receive job offers, but you won’t necessarily choose paid assignments that do not reflect your passion.

I once received an offer to write financial articles dealing with insurance and retirement. The offer was not of great interest, not my area of expertise, or my passion. The decision to pass on that offer was easy. (except for the money part)

Helium is a great platform for all motivated writers. The key (I believe) is to know yourself, your passions, abilities, and limitations. That said, have confidence in your writing at the level you have achieved and know that the majority of us are still looking for ways to improve and meet the challenges that beset all writers.

Today’s Guest Blog is by David Elder, who came highly recommended by Kat Apf.  David is our sub-channel steward for Short Stories in the Creative Writing channel.  At the time of this writing he is a 2 star writer and a 4 star rater – a pretty impressive feat when you consider that only 48 of his current articles are not in Creative Writing – which means he must have a 85% plus writing score.  Also, he has a Silver Creative Writing badge – meaning he has at least a 75% writing score there – and considering how subjective Creative Writing is, that’s pretty impressive.

If you like David’s post, be sure to check out the rest of his articles including his Creative Writing ones.  You can also check out his blog.  If you would like to write a guest blog(s), please feel free to contact me via the contact writer feature.


My name is David Elder, and I’m the sub-channel steward for short stories on Helium.com. I would like to encourage new writers as well as seasoned veterans to publish their stories on the site. We search our minds and cast our nets to draw readers to our tales of mystery, intrigue, romance, science fiction, and horror. You will find mainstream writing as well, with all varieties represented, and an impressive body of work that is constantly improving while it grows.

There is great opportunity for any who come to Helium to hone their skills at creative writing, and especially in the category of short story composition. Here you will find a welcoming community, and other writers who are willing to give you their honest opinion on your writing.

In the short story critique area of the Helium main forums, authors of all levels offer their stories for critical comment, and almost always come away with a clear understanding of how to improve their work. Volunteers answer all questions and give advice when asked, helping anyone who is willing to have their writing looked at from a different and fresh perspective. Occasionally there is a flash of brilliance that stuns us all, and reminds us of what is possible in the world of original creative writing.

Sometimes as writers we become too focused on our own work, and we lose the ability to look at it objectively. In some cases, the first instance of true valid objectivity is experienced by those who ask for opinions on their writing on this site. After all, it’s not the same as asking a friend or relative what they think of your writing. While loved ones will tell you what they think you want to hear, other writers will most often provide the best opportunity for improvement.

Another valuable opportunity to have your stories read and commented on are the short story contests, which are offered on a monthly basis in the Tantalizing Tales zone of the Betaville section of Helium. Entered stories are listed and linked on the zone, along with the authors name and the title of their story. The contest awards three winners with featured spots on the zone, with the first place winner given the most honored spot.

Exploring the possibilities of expression is a seemingly endless task at Helium. Writing original short stories has been a fantastic experience for me, and for many others who have finally found their outlet within a circle of like-minded friends.

Today’s guest blog is another by the affable Kat Apf, our Creative Writing channel Steward.  If you would like to read more by Kat check out her articles on Helium.

Titles & The Creative Writing Channel

New members are often confused by the titles in the Creative Writing channel on Helium. Here’s help!

The titles are largely broad. And that’s for a reason. The nature of Helium is for pieces we post to compete with other people’s work. So, if the titles are narrow, others’ can’t add to them and then, there isn’t any competition. Narrow titles in this channel would lead to a lot of single articles in a title.

For example, Poetry: Missing a loved one works. Anyone can add a poem to that title. But, Poetry: Great Aunt Annie’s death, doesn’t work. Not all of us have a great Aunt Annie who died, so we can’t add a poem to that title. Poetry: Death of an aunt would work, though.

Before you suggest a title, use the Title Finder. There might already be a title that you can post your work to.

Here’s how to use the Title Finder:

  1. Go to My Helium.
  2. On the left-hand side there’s a column of red words.
  3. Click on Title Finder.
  4. Three prompt boxes come up: “with all these words”, “exact phrase” and “with one of these words”.
    1. The first box, With all these words, is best to use when you don’t have an exact title and are browsing to find something that might work. So, for your nature poem, you’d type in poetry nature. When I did this search, I came up with 22 titles that had the word nature, nature’s, natural or naturally in them. And I found another 24 that related to nature. That’s a total of 46 titles that could potentially work for you.
    2. If you have an exact title you want to look for, use the second prompt box on that page. When I typed in poetry nature, I came up with nine titles that had the word nature in them.
    3. The third prompt box works best when you don’t have a certain subchannel in mind, but a subject.

It’s best to do a thorough search before you suggest a new title. If after searching, you still can’t find something that works, then, use the Suggest a Title button.

Also, a good thing to note is the way Helium titles are set up in terms of capital letters and lowercase. Helium uses AP (Associated Press) style. So, instead of this:

Short Stories: End of The World

Helium uses AP style like this:

Short stories: End of the world

Note the caps on Short and End and the lowercase on the rest. It takes some getting used to for those of us who were taught how to title work in high school.

If you type your titles out using this formatting style, it’s much easier for the title editors on Helium to process your titles.

A good thing to do, too, is to browse the channel you are want to suggest a title to and make note of how the titles are set up.

Titles seem sort of mysterious when you first join Helium but it’s not all that complicated. Just remember to search before you suggest and to use the proper formatting. That will make it easier for everyone!

Today’s guest blog is by Diane Quinn.  Diane has been a mentor for Helium, is currently a steward, and as of this writing has 4 stars for both writing and rating with over 100 contributed articles among other accomplishments.  If you enjoyed her post, be sure to check out her articles on Helium.  If you would like to be a guest blogger or would like to recommend someone, please feel free to contact me via my “contact writer” link on my bio.


As a new Helium member I already know that you love to write.  However, perhaps it has been a very long time since you fell asleep during an English grammar class. Before I found Helium most of my writing centered around emails which didn’t require a lot of organized thought; and certainly not much editing besides a quick spell check.

Self-editing is challenging because it is difficult to remove yourself from the emotional attachment you have formed to your writing.  The sooner you can evaluate your writing from a purely technical standpoint, the quicker your articles will rise in the ratings.

Following are some self-editing tips that helped me as a new Helium member. I hope that they will help you too.

  • Quickly evaluate your weaknesses.  What mistakes do you keep repeating?
  • Find good resources explaining the basic rules of grammar and punctuation.
  • Choose your words carefully.  Pick dynamic verbs and interesting adjectives.
  • Avoid overly long sentences.  They can work just as well as a sleeping pill.
  • Organize your thoughts and present them in a logical order.
  • Understand what it means to write a topic sentence.
  • Vary sentence structure.  Overuse of “See Spot run.” will only impress a 2nd grader.
  • Avoid repetition of words.  Use the ‘find’ tool in your Word program.
  • Important: read your article out loud prior to submission for awkward sentences and clumsy words. If you find yourself stumbling, do a rewrite.

You don’t have to memorize the rules, but you do need to know that they exist and which ones are your weaknesses.   Books on self-editing are legion and easily obtained, as are websites devoted to self-editing.  Here are a few great internet resources to add to your ‘bookmark.’

  1. http://oregonstate.edu/dept/eli/buswrite/capitalization.html
  2. http://grammar.ccc.commnet.edu/grammar/marks/marks.htm
  3. http://owl.english.purdue.edu/handouts/grammar/gcomma.html

Today I found another great board post that I wanted to repost.  This one is done by Lerrina Collins and is response to a very popular thread on the boards so far.  I had not heard Lerrina on the boards at all, and she had an interesting take on rating coming from a viewpoint of being very discouraged just a couple of weeks ago.

If you enjoy her thoughts, please take a look at some of her articles.  Thanks again Lerrina for letting me repost this.

Hello everyone,

I just wanted to make a ‘pro’ comment on rating. A couple of weeks ago I was a very frustrated Helium member, having lost my only star and unable to figure out why. As a result I contacted the ‘help’ desk and posted a few comments on the forum hoping to stir the pot and get some answers.

The help desk responded – kindly. And, while they gave me the ‘general’ information we all hear and read about, they made one point which is the basis for this post. They said most of the comments in the Forum are negative, written by disgruntled raters who are unhappy with the system.

While I personally believe the rating system has its issues (obviously I’ve had a few hairpulling moments), I also appreciate the sheer volume of Helium users and the obvious effort which has gone into making the system as user friendly yet fair as possible.

Since those posts I have obviously upped my rating stars. And, it has come from following a few simple principles – basically what has been posted in this thread.

Thus I am writing to encourage others who may feel frustrated with the system to keep plugging away. Watch your rating scores and pay attention to what increases or decreases your stars. I believe this is the most effective way to find what ‘works’ for you and fits into Helium’s mold.

For me this has been:

  1. Rating a few every day. This is the one change I made which appears to have made the biggest difference.
  2. Ask yourself if the article’s writer IMMEDIATELY gets into the subject. In other words, without knowing the title, would you be able to discern the article’s subject within the first paragraph (two at the max)?
  3. Look for paragraphs which are of a reasonable length (3 – 5 sentences, usually) and sentences which are clear and easy to read.
  4. Grammar and punctuation are also important. Misspelling and sentence structure count. However, while some grammar teachers go bananas over these things, it doesn’t appear they are as important as I would tend to expect.
  5. Interesting reading seems to be another point which, while important, isn’t key.

I’ve noticed some talking about using skips. While I’ve tried to use them infrequently, I can’t really tell any difference in my rating score – one way or the other.

I hope this helps others out there who, like me, are struggling to do a good job rating. I also wanted to be sure and say something positive after having been vocal in my negative response. We all like to hear some praise once in awhile!

Lerrina

Today’s guest blog is by Kat Apf who came highly recommended to me for creative writing topics, which is good since she is the steward for the channel.  If you would like to read more by Kat check out her articles on Helium.

Most people who write poetry and short stories want feedback. And there are lots of places on Helium where you can get exactly what you’re looking for. There are many talented creative writers on Helium who are more than willing to give your work a read and give you their thoughts.

If you’re a poet, the Poetry Coffee House is probably where you are going to want to hang around when you aren’t writing. This is good place to post poems and get thoughts/feedback. To be fair, remember to read other people’s work and comment after you post a thread with your own work in it.

Here’s a link-

http://www.helium.com/smf/index.php?board=35.0

If your write short stories there’s an active forum for critiques. Again, many talented writers are there to give you critiques and comments on your work. And there as well, don’t just post your own work, comment on other people’s work, too!

Here’s a link-

http://www.helium.com/smf/index.php?board=225.0

There are many people to learn from who write on Helium. The creative writers are a very welcoming group, too.  Drop by and introduce yourself. You’ll get a warm welcome!

Recently there was a post entitled Rating Rant that gained some traction on the community boards.  During the discussion there was an excellent alternative point of view to the issue at hand.  A very old member and well respected of the community, in the sense that he’s been around for quite awhile with Helium, offered a slightly different take on the discussions.

I asked Paul and was given permission to repost his answer on the boards.

Paul Lines has been a long time member of Helium and has contributed well over 1,000 articles.  One interesting thing you might not know about Paul is that he is apparently directly responsible for the following bit of our user agreement:

In the event of your death, your Account and the right to continue to receive earnings for the services and content you provided to Helium may be transferred to your heirs in accordance with this Agreement and applicable law; provided, however, in order to continue to receive earnings from your Helium contributions your heir(s) must remain active on the site and agree to be subject to this Agreement. The transfer to your heir(s) of the Account and the right to continue to receive earnings from your content is conditional upon your heir(s) providing Helium with legal proof of death, in its discretion, and your bequest of your Account within six months of your death. Failure to provide such proof in a form as agreed to by Helium will render any such transfer null and void.

It’s sort of an infamous story inside Helium.  I was not here for this, so I can only summarize what was told to me.  Basically, Paul early on saw the long term earnings potential for Helium – that by contributing many well-written articles, he could generate a large passive income that will slowly build over time.  The problem is – what happens in the event of his passing?  He opened communication with our own CEO Mark Ranalli and thus the preceding clause was born.

So if you ever thought to thank someone for this, Paul is the man.  I now post his view on rating.  If you enjoy it, be sure to check out the rest of his articles – although set aside some time as there are quite a few!:

You may lift your head from its lowly position. Even some of the people with five rating stars stuggle to get above the 80% mark. Personally, like you, I rate according to my own perception of quality and content and I fail to see how anyone can do any different.

The major problem I believe is with the style of the writing to be compared. For example, the article could be descriptive, narative, a personal experience or a technical piece that is highly researched, all pertaining to the same subject. The difficulty here I guess is that you are trying to appeal to a wide range of readerhip segments, each of which have valid opinions and views. Some will respond better to narative and first person articles whilst other will prefer descriptive and technical and they will rate accordingly.

Sometimes I think it is these differentials that lead to concerns over the rating system. I think that all writers on Helium have to accept that the catholic nature of this site does lead to situations where reading and rating of others articles as well as the rating of our own can appear to have deficiencies. It is this situation, more than anything else that leads to the situation where “a person who teaches your children how to write at university levels ends up 1% above the one-star rating quality cut-off.”

What would help perhaps is an analysis of the individual rating percentages. To give an example of this based upon what I consider to be my own person preferences (which others may not agree with) I would suspect that my rating percentages might appear as follows: –

Business      94
Relationships 92
Politics      78
Pets          71
Health        58

I hasten to add that this is not based upon any factual information. However it can be seen from this that, if averaged out this would only give me a quality rating of around 79%. Maybe this is something that might be considered for the future, which could perhaps lead to an improvement of the quality of ratings.

I think the other thing that is important is to look at the situation now that Helium have introduced 30 day rating. I have found since this introduction that my 30 day rating quality percentage is consistantly higher than the 90 day, which can be confusing. However it could also indicate that our rating percentages will fluctuate and the 90 day score is a mean average of this.

Paul

I’ve decided to start an experiment here on the blog.  Periodically – which I hope to be at least twice a month, but as frequent as content is supplied – I will be featuring user contributions.  Mainly from the boards, but original works are fine.  Basically they are viewpoints from “the other side” because, as I mention on the suggestion thread:

I’ve found that we – i.e. Helium employees – can talk until we’re blue in the face, however if a member – especially a respected, well-known or infamous one – writes a well thought out, instructive and useful reply it’s infinitely more useful.

I also included some rules for this as well that may be subject to change as the experiment continues (or become irrelevant if it fails):

  1. Don’t self promote – i.e. don’t nominate yourself.
  2. Post must not violate the user agreement – obviously.
  3. Post should not be self-promotional, rude, or poorly defended – passion about a topic is fine as long as they back it up with rational points to defend their conclusion/position.
  4. Useful is better – i.e. a post that answers a commonly asked question and/or concern in a helpful and instructive manner.
  5. Name brand does not matter – although I’d personally love to see some Erich Rosenberger M.D. or Tenebris simply because their replies tend to amuse me the most, anyone is game (even the newest member) as long as the above criteria are met.

If you want to submit something, please either use the thread (if it’s a board post) by reposting the direct link or by using my “contact writer” link on my bio for original works (at the risk of my inbox being flooded 🙂 ).

Our initial guinea pig, er, contributor is Robin Tidwell.  I have to admit that I don’t know Robin that well, unfortunately, but I was really impressed with her thread that she started about rating.  She has given me her permission to repost it here. Although I did take the liberty of adding some formatting that is not available on the boards, it is copied verbatim with limited commercial interruption:

There are a lot of questions/comments about rating and acquiring stars – how, when, where, what, etc.  I decided to throw my opinions into the mix, in a new post, that hopefully will shed some light on this topic.  Some of it will, no doubt, be repetitive.

The purpose of rating is to allow the best articles to rise to the top.  We all want our articles to be #1, but unfortunately some Heliumites are not able to do this; it may be lack of knowledge, or lack of education, or unfamiliarity with the English language.  This is a fact of life.  Not everyone can be #1 all the time, and some will never have a #1 article; we are not in kindergarten anymore, everyone does not “win”.

If you want your articles to rise to the top, or move upward at all, someone has to rate them; if your articles are not rated, they will not move.  If YOU do not rate articles, no one else’s will move – in other words, if no one rates, articles remain stagnant, which is why EVERYone must rate.  This is a requirement in order to earn.  This is the reason.  And here is how to do it:

  1. Make a committment to rate X pairs of articles each day.  I do 10, for example, then usually 10 more in my channel.  For those in my channel, I make the effort to send a message to the writers, if warranted.  Sometimes in my “general” rating I do so as well, if there is one which particularly stands out.  Rating 10 pairs each day takes me about 15 minutes, tops.
  2. Know what you’re looking for:
    1. Does the article address the title?  Rephrase the title as a question, and see if the article answers that question.  If only one article in the pair does so, then that article should be rated higher.  Move on to the next pair.
    2. Are spelling and grammar and punctuation and word usage correct?  If so, rate that article higher.  Move on to the next pair.
    3. Which article grabs your attention?  Rate that one higher.
  3. Same, slightly more, more, by far: articles are seldom the “same” and shouldn’t be rated as such.
    1. Sometimes a leapfrog will appear to be very, very similar, but usually you can find the change(s).  Often it just involves a corrected spelling or word usage or change in punctuation; if so, this would be an example of “slightly more”.  If it’s completely reworked, or has additions or has been reformatted, it could be “more” or “by far”.
    2. Sometimes one article, after passing the above tests, will be better “by far” – this seems to be rare; most ratings should be “slightly” or even “more”.  It appears that two articles slated for rating as a pair are usually pretty close in quality.
    3. Sometimes, however, both articles are really bad or even really good.  This is where it comes down to a judgment call based on preference.

A good piece of writing must address the question/title, be technically correct, and grab/hold the reader’s attention.  Period. There is no mystery in rating, simply pretend you are an editor.  The catch, however, is that YOU must know those technical aspects of writing.  If you often confuse “there, their, and they’re”, your rating percentage will suffer; if you simply ignore incorrect spelling, your rating percentage will also drop.  These things will affect your rankings and writing percentage as well.  You will never be presented with one of your own articles to rate, so it doesn’t matter if you rate good articles down to “improve” your own ranking.  Your purpose here is to write because you love to write – and to receive recognition and perhaps earn a few dollars.  And I would imagine that you would like to also improve your chosen craft – which is the purpose of rating.

If you enjoyed Robin’s work be sure to check out her articles or visit her site.  Thanks again Robin.