Two things. First, I’m almost done with Puck’s Call’s rough draft. If I focus, I think I can finish by the end of this week.
Focus, in this case, means getting out my timer and doing sprints whenever I can. And doing occasional Pomodoros if I think it’ll work within my crazy schedule.
Second, it’s #SelfPubFantasyMonth on Twitter and Instagram. I’m going to try the challenge on Twitter. It’s my first time doing something like this, especially while I’m also trying to write. Not sure how it’ll turn out, but I’m having fun and learning about a lot more indie authors who write fantasy! I recommend taking a look if you get a chance.
It’s been a very busy time for our family. However, I have some time to post an update on my works-in-progress, so I will.
First, I switched projects. Pre-COVID I was working on Puck’s Call. After COVID, I decided to go back to the world of Trial of the Ornic and finish the third part of the second volume.
I finally finished the third part of what I’ve been calling The Lord’s Tale last month. I’m fairly pleased with the general shape of the story. There are issues that need to be fixed, and I need to make sure this third part flows well with the parts that came before it, but I think it’s good. And I’m glad the whole second volume of Trial of the Ornic is now written.
I’m thinking of changing the title, though. Thoughts?
While that cools off, I’m back to working on Puck’s Call. It’s flowing a lot better than it was before COVID showed up and I switched projects. Setting is clearer and I got down a really great scene the other day involving the land of Faerie itself. I think it’s absolutely beautiful and wondrous. Makes me happy just thinking about it. It’s one of those scenes that I’m pretty secure in saying will make the final cut.
It’s also a scene that’s helped me define the rest of the story, including the point of the series. I’m really looking forward to seeing how the story ends now!
That’s about it. What about you? Any projects you changed this year? New plans? New direction? Let me know in the comments!
I can’t believe it’s been three weeks since this whole thing started. Can you? I go to the store and see patches of empty space where there once used to be completely full shelves. Meat, juice, and beans are no longer impossible to find, but toilet paper still requires a hunt. What was initially going to be a couple of weeks (supposedly) of #SlowtheSpread has turned into the beginnings of a new normal. For now, anyway.
And here in America, the unemployment numbers keep climbing.
So, I decided to do what little I could to help. This post is the first part of that. Because the worst thing is to not even have an idea of what to do when it comes to bringing in money, and because I do have some experience in this, I thought it might be good to share the resources I’ve found helpful when it comes to non-fiction writing.
Why am I starting with non-fiction if I’m all about self-publishing fiction? Here’s three reasons:
Non-fiction is easier to market because the need is concrete and can be easily explained (lose weight, improve memory, etc.), plus it can easily flow from skills you’ve already gained over the course of your life. Fiction delivers an abstract experience that can be difficult to put into words, and that can cause issues when it comes to finding your audience.
Non-fiction identifies and helps solve an immediate need. People turn to non-fiction when they have a problem they want solved. Now.
Non-fiction is, in many ways, easier to write. Because you know the problem and often have a clear idea of your audience, everything from research to the writing itself is geared toward solving your audience’s clearly defined problem.
If you need money, need flexibility, and also need a portable job that can easily be done at home, it’s hard to beat freelance writing. I highly recommend trying it if you have a basic grasp of grammar, an interest in sharing information, and the ability to see viewpoints outside your own to give people what they need. Oh, and it helps if you have an intense curiosity about the world around you. Just sayin’.
If it sounds like something you want to check out, here are a few resources to get your started.
First, Moira Allen’s site Writing-World has info on just about everything you’d want to know in order to make money from your writing. It’s an older website, but there’s solid info on how to get gigs writing magazine articles, greeting cards, travel writing, tech writing, and so on. It also has general info for freelance writers (basics like info on grammar guides, how to conduct an interview, etc.), articles on productivity, business information, time management, book and author promotion, and a whole lot more.
If you prefer something a bit more intensive with a site that looks more contemporary, I strongly recommend Carol Tice’s website, Make a Living Writing. Carol Tice is passionate about helping writers make money writing and has a fantastic blog that updates regularly with great info. Though it wasn’t as easy for me to navigate as Moira Allen’s site, she covers an enormous amount of ground, with an emphasis on making sure writers get paid what they’re worth for their work. Highly recommended for those who want to get started making money from their writingfast.
Next, if you like helping businesses sell their products, there’s a wealth of information about copywriting out there. Personally, I recommend Bob Bly’s The Copywriter’s Handbook to learn the basics of copywriting and the website Copyblogger for more specific information and courses. Another very good resource is The Well-Fed Writer by Peter Bowerman (link takes you to his site, which includes info about his book).
If you want to get into blogging for businesses, Sophie Lizard’s Be a Freelance Blogger has great info about not only getting started in this particular aspect of freelance writing but how to handle the other, non-monetary aspects of the job.
ProBlogger is for those who want to make their own blog start paying. Excellent resource, and it has a job board, too.
This final resource is actually kind of interesting. The Freelancer’s Survival Guide by Kristine Kathryn Rusch is a book meant for freelancers of all kinds, not just writers. It’s available for free on the author’s blog, but she also has it available at all major ebook/paperback retailers.
I own a copy and it’s an excellent resource. She really does take the time to try to reference other freelance professions in her examples and her points are clearly stated. Great for those who want to look at general principles when it comes to the freelance life.
(Side note: Kris Rusch has been writing about the corona virus and it’s impact on her blog, particularly on the publishing industry. If you’re interested.)
Those are the resources I’ve found most helpful. More soon.
What about you? Any resources you recommend or ideas for generating income? Leave a comment and let me know. Thanks!
Our family just finished watching a great documentary called In Search of Greatness. I keep trying to find a way to describe it here, but it’s difficult because the implications of what the documentary uncovers is so far-ranging. I could just say it’s about what makes sports stars great, and that would be a nice sum up, but in talking about that, they uncover what makes everyone great at what they do.
I mean, at one point, Wayne Gretsky is talking about how parents will come up to him, parents who want their kids to be great hockey players, and they’ll ask him how many hours their kid should be practicing.
They want a specific number, and Gretsky says to the interviewer that he can’t really give them one because it was part of playing when he was a kid. He didn’t really keep track, and it’s not like his dad told him how often to practice. He played hockey because he loved it.
Not because his dad told him to practice. In fact, it’s implied, if I remember correctly, that if his dad had told him to do it, it would have taken the fun out of it and he wouldn’t have wanted to do it as much.
When hockey season was over, he’d throw his gear into the basement, pick up his glove and ball, and go play baseball.
And this turns out to be true for a lot of great athletes. They play the sport. (And often play more than one.)
What was also fascinating is that Gretsky wasn’t a natural hockey player when it came to what mattered physically. And Jerry Rice didn’t do so hot in the combine when it came to what most coaches looked for in a star player. And the undefeated heavyweight boxer, Rocky Marciano, was too short with a short reach.
What all of them have in common is that, because of those differences and obstacles, each of those players learned how to adapt.
Because they loved the sport. Because they loved to play that much.
Gretsky learned to come in from the corners and from behind the goal. Rice learned timing was everything for him, so he kept a running timer in his head. And Rocky learned he had to get in close and jab upward. (Forgive me, fans, if I’m getting the terms wrong.)
In other words, what made them great was not the number of hours they practiced, though they all practiced hard. It was how they mentally approached the game.
And this is true, I realized, of everything in life, whatever it is you decide to do. If you want to be great at it, you have to love it the way kids love their games. It has to be something you’ve chosen to do, not another chore to add to the list. And what matters most is your creativity. How do you overcome the obstacles in your way?
This is something that can’t be taught, though you can get tips from different sources. You either figure it out or you don’t.
As you can see, this is a very flexible system. It’s enabled me to keep my schedules, lists, charts, and so on, all in one little book. It’s not expensive to start. I use a regular composition book and a cheap pen. It’s very simple and straightforward. The rapid logging is fantastic and, between that and the index, simplifies finding what I want when I go back.
In the process, I’ve already begun to see how often I make writing goals I don’t keep. Given what keeps bumping it, I think I need to accept that my time is more limited than I thought. Which is nice because it’s better to have a realistic idea of my time than beat myself up because I think I can do more than I actually can.
What about you? What’s your favorite system for keeping track of your writing?
I had the bright idea to use my phone for writing last year when I found myself unable to open my laptop for days at a time, for various reasons. For someone whose income is tied to how often that laptop gets opened and words written on it, this was a bad thing.
I’d like to say the idea came immediately, but it took a few days of doing a few other activities that were usually laptop-specific for me to ask why I didn’t write on my phone? Isn’t that a thing right now in China, cell phone novels (good gosh, saying that makes me feel old)? I mean, I was using it for everything else. Why not?
So I tried it.
I took to it faster than I thought. It was always in my pocket, just a reach away. And during a time when I was never sure where I would be at any given moment, it allowed me the freedom to write without having to lug my laptop along. It also gave me peace of mind. I felt far more concerned about someone trying to steal my laptop than I did someone trying to steal my phone.
Because it was even more portable than a laptop, I was able to bring it into places where a laptop would have been clunky and difficult to position.
This all had a great psychological effect. It also showed me how many little bits of time could be put toward writing.
There were some issues. But, with one exception, I was able to find a way around them.
First, I was used to working in Scrivener and LibreOffice for my writing needs. Scrivener had an iPhone version, but not an Android one. And my phone uses Android.So I tried out a few free apps in Google’s Play Store that looked like they might work. Maybe. I eventually settled on Novelist for my novel-writing and Google Docs for shorter works. (As of this writing, Google Docs chokes on long-form documents like novels.) Novelist is a flexible novel-planning app similar to Scrivener that can be adapted to whatever outlining approach you use. If you aren’t aware of Google Docs or have yet to try it, it’s a great app, especially for short stories and articles.
I tend to write at night, so I used Blue Light Filter to reduce eye strain. I also am not very fast at typing on a phone. I downloaded Gboard, which remembers the words you type and uses the data to offer you the next word it thinks you’re going to use. The more you use Gboard, the better it gets at predicting. This worked great for me because, even with Gboard’s help as well as daily practice getting used to where the letters were on the keyboard, I was still at about half my usual typing speed.
Compared to no words at all, though, half was great. And I knew I’d only get better with time.
Formatting turned out to be a minor issue when I decided to self-publish what I’d edited on my phone using Jotterpad. Even with Word Wrap off and using text files, there were unwanted line breaks in a story that took a bit of time to remove, but that was the only issue I encountered.
And for those who are curious about why I used Jotterpad instead of editing directly within the Novelist export or some other app that did better tracking, I used it because I was trying to sync with a previously written novel in Scrivener and didn’t want to mess up the formatting by pulling it into yet another app (LibreOffice doesn’t have a stable Android version). I did some searching and found someone who created a way to sync files between Scrivener and Jotterpad using Google Drive.
As I said, it worked reasonably well except for the line breaks. Would I do it again? Yes, but only as a way to sync with Scrivener, and I would only use Scrivener for the export. Maybe that would get rid of the line breaks. *shrugs*
Though writing on my phone helped enormously during a time when I couldn’t get near my laptop, I now use it only as a backup. Why? Because I started feeling pain in my right wrist and at the base of my thumb. It turns out that this is a recognized problem called “texting thumb.” There are things you can do to prevent it and things you can do to treat it at home while still using your phone. In my case though, I had to stop entirely until the pain went away. Thankfully, by the time that happened, my life had settled somewhat and I was able to use my laptop again. I still mostly use my laptop, just because I type faster on it and I’m more used to preventing repetitive stress injuries from typing on a keyboard instead of a touch screen. But now I know how to avoid that, too, even though I’m using my laptop more.
(Update: It appears my decision regarding quitting the group has been made for me. I looked at the list to see whose blogs to comment on, and I’m no longer on it. Makes sense, given my erratic posting. So, this is the last IWSG post for me for a while.)
My ponytail is still scrunched up into my hair when I wake up this morning. And panic sets in.
I’ve been so focused on writing my WIP that I haven’t even thought about my monthly IWSG post. I missed last month. Will they kick me out if I don’t have anything this month?
Maybe I should just quit. Maybe being part of a group is too much for me right now.
And yet, habit kicks in, or something like it. I pick up the laptop and open it up.
What on earth am I going to write about? I’m still groggy, miasma is making the laptop slightly blurry, and my WIP is calling from the back of my head, begging me to keep working on it until the adventure is done.
I still don’t know what I’m going to write about.
Pants it, I tell myself, and type whatever pops into my head. My hair feels funny because I accidentally slept with my hair still pulled back into a ponytail, so I start there.
And the words just flow.
And that’s the point of this month’s post. Yes, I’m winging it as I type this. But sometimes it’s better to just write, if only for the sake of habit, because, these days, when I open my laptop, my mind is already getting ready, even if it’s still groggy from sleep. Opening the laptop is the trigger that it’s time for the muse to show up.
I’m finding this is true in my WIP as well. On days when I don’t want to write, I’ll set a very small goal, sometimes as small as 250 words. I open the laptop and habit kicks in. I write down a brief (sometimes not so brief) synopsis of what I want to happen, and the ideas flow. Before I know it, I have that scene mapped out and written and the next one in the queue.
Granted, there are days when I really can’t do more than 250. Even on those days, habit helps. Because it keeps my mind trained that writing time has a structure and in that structure it’s time to get something out.
Twyla Tharp talks about this in more detail in her book, The Creative Habit. Even though her background is in dance, what she describes can easily be translated over to writing, everything from her experience of the “empty room” to putting on her leg warmers in the morning, even when she doesn’t feel like it. Putting on clothes specific to dance gets her moving enough to get in the taxi, which takes her to the studio, which starts the process.
It’s a great book. I highly recommend it.
So now this post is written and I’m about to hit Publish. And my mind is already drifting toward my WIP because my laptop is open, my WIP is open, and the habit has kicked in.
February 6 (optional!) question – Besides writing what other creative outlets do you have?
I sketch sometimes. I’m not very good at it. Out of necessity, I’ve been learning some digital art, mostly just whatever I think I need for a cover.
And I sing. Though I don’t do it as often as I once did, and I definitely don’t perform anymore, I sing.
Most of my non-writing creativity, though, goes into building and tweaking systems so that the household runs smoothly. Yup. Systems. It’s a lot more fun than it sounds now that I’ve typed it out.
Right now I’m using a 3×5 card file system, inspired by the book Sidetracked Home Executives, but tweaked to fit both home and writing. I use principles gleaned from the books Sink Reflections and Confessions of an Organized Housewife, but after about twenty years of running a home, I’ve learned that principles are all a person’s got if they hope to ever get on top of life. The details in all the books I mentioned have often been helpful to jumpstart my thinking, but they’ve always had to be modified. Thus, the non-writing creativity.
This has turned out to be great prep for running a business, by the way. Business is all about systems and organization.
If you want to look deeper into the subject, and don’t mind language that’ll make your eyes cross after a full day of work, I recommend the book An Introduction to General Systems Thinking by Gerald Weinberg. I will admit, I have not yet finished it. It was an Interlibrary Loan and I had to return it before I could. But what I have read has helped me in both system creation and has helped me see that yes, there’s a reason so many struggle with staying organized. I’m not an idiot or lazy.
And you? Outside of writing, where does your creativity come out to play?
I was going to post on the question for this month but no one asks me about my writing. No one.
I’ve had people at my church come up to me out of the blue and say they’ve looked at my blog. A couple actually read my stories. And liked them. Gamily members have asked how my writing is going, but they don’t ask about particular projects anymore because I have so many.
They’re just happy I’m writing, which makes me a very lucky writer.
Maybe I’ve been too quiet about my writing. It’s always been this thing I’ve just kind of…done. Maybe I should start finding ways to work my writing into the conversation.
What do you think? Am I being too quiet about my writing? Is that why others don’t ask me about it (outside this blog hop, that is)?
This is going to have to be a short post. Sorry. Lots going on. Hoping next month will be better.
This month’s optional question, paraphrased: what are five items a person might see in my writing space?
These days I don’t really have a writing space. I have no dedicated room and write wherever I can. So, when I do find time I have my laptop and my phone, so those count. I sometimes have a pen stuck in my ponytail (item #3?). I tend to have the house phone near, in case anyone needs to contact me.
What else…hmmm. I’m sorry. I can’t think of anything else that I consistently have around me when I write. Sometimes it’s a copy of one of my books so that I keep things straight in a series. Sometimes it’s dishes or a snack or a glass of water. Sometimes people are in my Writing Space and sometimes I’m surrounded by whatever was left in the car.
Nothing is static and I doubt it will ever become so. But I have a tendency to speak too soon. Maybe that’ll be the case here and next time I’ll actually have more to report.
Happy Holidays everyone! I hope all of you have a great Season!