Making Money as a writer

Most of us dream of becoming full time authors, but the reality is that few people will make a living wage off writing alone. Especially, in the beginning.

This blog isn’t intended to be depressing or disheartening, quite the opposite.

Personally, I think it is empowering when people deliver a hard truth such as, it’s difficult to make money writing fiction, with a counter-truth, but there’s plenty of writing related job that can. 

Figuring out what kind of career you want and how else you can make money in additional to writing can be a little tricky, but when you see what other people are doing, it opens up new possibilities and ideas that you can apply to your own life.

That’s why in this week’s blog, I’m unpacking the career models of eight successful writers so you can see what’s possible for your own career.

Ghost Writer: Kim Chance

Kim Chance

Kim Chance is the author of the young adult contemporary fantasy duology, Keeper Seeker. She is a former high school English teacher and currently works as a part-time ghost writer. She ghost writes full length novels for a publishing house and though the narrative concepts are not her own, she does have plenty of creative liberties. She aims to complete these projects (from draft to final version) in four to five months. She is able to meet these tight deadlines as the concepts and characters have already been fleshed out.

Website: https://kimchance.com

Instagram: @KimWritesBooks

Writer on Retainer: Alexandra Franzen

Alexandra Franzen

Alexandra Franzen is a full time freelance writer with multiple streams of income, working as a ‘writer on retainer’ for regular clients. She is hired to write TED talks, marketing copy, blogs, and digital course content for clients. She also runs in-person writing retreats, maintains a personal blog, offers free classes, and paid digital workshops/courses. Her ‘day job’ as a writer allows her to complete one personal creative project a year (novel or non-fiction book). She refuses to use social media.

Website:https://alexandrafranzen.com

Interview: Fearless and Framed

Teacher: Zadie Smith

Zadie Smith

Zadie Smith is an award wining and highly acclaimed novelist, short story writer, and the author of two collections of essays. She is currently a tenured professor in fiction at New York University where she has taught since 2010. She is a frequent contributor to The New York Review of Books and she has had *many* articles published have in The New Yorker.

Website: https://zadiesmith.com

Interview: Salon@615

Teacher: Carmen Maria Machado

Carmen maria Machado

Carmen Maria Machado is the award-wining author of the short story collection, Her Body and Other Parties, and her experimental memoir, In The Dream House. Her short fiction, essays, and criticism have been published in the New Yorker, the New York Times, Granta, and Tin house, among others. She holds an MFA from Iowa Writers’ Workshop, is a Writer in Residence at the University of Pennsylvania and teaches creative writing at Penn Arts & Sciences. She has said in interviews that she doesn’t write during university semesters as she wants to devote her energy and attention to teaching. She completes the bulk of her writing during Summer break. 

Website: https://carmenmariamachado.com/

Instagram: @carmenmariamachado

Interview: Design Matters Podcast

Self-Publishing: Joanna Penn

Joanna Penn

Joanna Penn is one of the biggest names in self-publishing. Her business is split between fiction (thrillers) and non-fiction works. The non-fiction side (books/podcasts/digital courses) make up the bulk of her income as she shares writing, publishing, and marketing advice for emerging and established independent (indie) authors. She also generates income through sponsorships, affiliations and her Patron page.

Website: https://thecreativepenn.com

Twitter: @thecreativepenn

Interview: ChoseFI Podcast

Hybrid author: Rachael Herron

Rachel Herron

Rachel Herron is a hybrid author (traditionally published and self-published). A cross genre writer, her back catalogue includes thrillers, mainstream fiction, feminist romance, memoir, and nonfiction about writing. She has created several courses for writers including 90 Days to Done and How to Stop Stalling and Write Your Book. She teaches writing extension workshops at both UC Berkeley and Stanford. She was the co-host of The Writer’s Well with J. Thorn and host of the interview podcast series, How Do You Write. In conversation with her agent, Rachel often decides which writing projects would be best pitched to traditional publishing house and which should be self-published. Rachel publishes annual incomes video where she breaks down her multiple revenue streams and their earnings. 

Website: https://rachaelherron.com/

Facebook: @Rachel.Herron.Author

Interview: The Secret Library Podcast

Writing Coach: Caroline Donahue

Caroline Donahue

Caroline Donahue is the host of the The Secret Library podcast where she interviews writers about their creative process. She has created multi-streams of income as a one-on-one book coach and digital course creator. She is currently completing her debut novel and lives in Berlin where she also teaches English part-time. 

Website: https://carolinedonahue.com

Interview: Watch her IGTV episodes

Editor: Sacha Black

Sacha Black

Sacha Black is the author of a YA fantasy series and multiple non-fiction writing craft books. She is the host of the writing podcast The Rebel Author and co-host of Next Level Author with Daniel Willcocks. Sacha is also a developmental editor for indie authors and offers one-on-one hour long consultations with aspiring writers.

Website: https://sachablack.co.uk/next-level-authors/

Interview: How to become a full-time author

Traditionally published author: VE Schwab

VE Schwab

Victoria Schwab is a full-time fantasy author. At 32 years old, she has never had another job. She has 20 published novels under her belt, but only ‘recently’ achieved mainstream success. Schwab has expanded into comic books, movie, and TV writing (adaptations of her novels) as a way to diversify her writing portfolio and income.

Website: https://www.veschwab.com

Interview: 88 Cups of Tea

Instagram: @VESchwab

Portfolio Career:

While I’ve singled one particular aspects of each authors career, you’ve probably noticed that few of these authors do one single thing.

Ultimately, most authors have portfolio careers.

A portfolio career is a way to work that incorporates multiple jobs from a field or across multiple fields.

This could look like:

  • Freelance work.
  • Short term contract jobs + freelancing.
  • Create your own service or product business that you run alongside freelancing and/or paid employment.

Attributes:

  • Use different skill sets that you apply to different jobs.
  • Be willing to try new types of work, new projects and learn new skills.

Click here to read more.

Portfolio Career: Charlotte Wood

Charlotte Wood

A brief CV:

  • Former journalist
  • Taught writing at multiple levels (retreats, community classes, postgraduate)
  • Freelance writer & sub-editor for various magazines
  • Judge for literary prizes
  • Recipient of writer residence program at the Charles Perkin Centre (supported her during the writing of The Weekend.
  • Podcast Host (A Mind of One’s Own)
  • Publisher of The Writer’s Room (collection of her former digital magazine)
  • Author of six novels and two works of non-fiction.

Website:https://www.charlottewood.com.au/

Podcast: A Mind of One’s Own

Interview: The Garret Podcast

At this point, I think we’ve all read Elizabeth Gilbert’s book Big Magic, and one of the key messages in this creative manifesto is that we shouldn’t demand that our art pay our bills, it’s totally okay to have a day job, preferable in fact, and that we should support our creative practice instead of expecting it to support us.

What do you think? Did you find reading about these career models supportive? Did it give you any ideas on ways that you could add additional income streams to your life? Let me know in the comments below.


Access The Follow-Through Formula training video

Follow-through_ How to complete a long-term writing project (1)

Need help finishing that short story, novel, memoir? No problem. The Follow-Through Formula is a free video training which unpacks the five strategies you can use to go from idea to completed project.

To access, please join my email newsletter and you’ll receive a thank you email containing the link to the free video training.

You’ll also receive my weekly newsletter which is sent out every Thursday morning. This is where I share links to my latest blog and YouTube video as well as other inspiring goodies that I only share via email.

Everything is writing + Fun activity

You’ve been circling the shopping centre for ten minutes trying to find a carpark. You’re here to pay a phone bill, buy that dairy-free mayo from the health-food store that your partner loves, get a key cut, and pick up something for dinner.

Or maybe you’re sitting at your desk, playing email ping-pong with your boss, colleagues, and clients. Maybe there’s a stack of reports you need to run, a wad of paperwork that needs filing, and even more that has to be entered into ‘the system’ before knock off.

Meanwhile, your small, inner-literary-self is screaming, ‘but this isn’t writing!’

Feeling resentful of all the tasks that ‘steel’ time away from writing may be common, but that doesn’t mean it’s helpful.

Most of us compartmentalise the components of our lives: work, health, money, relationships, community, etc. But when we segregate our lives like this, we forget that everything is actually connected. 

It may seem like your day job is disconnected from your writing, that exercise has nothing to do with the revision of your latest novel, or that meeting your best friend for a coffee does little to move the needle on your word count.

But that’s not necessarily true.

In an interview on the Joe Rogan podcast, author Chuck Palahniuk said that writing doesn’t happen while sitting in front of a computer, ‘that’s typing.’ Writing is coming up with ideas, talking about it with friends, reading, deep thinking, and having new experiences: living your life.

Writing informs our life, and life informs our writing. 

Finding ways to find or create value in the mundane, necessary, or seemingly unrelated tasks that we all have to do is a mindset shift that could benefit your writing.

What exactly does that mean?

How do you create value in these sometimes resentful tasks?

Let’s indulge in a little thought experiment.

Grab a piece of paper (or two) and draw a stick figure in the bottom right hand corner.

This figure is you (ta-da!).

Fill up the rest of the page with all the non-related writing tasks you do every week.

You might like to write blanket categories and then list all the tasks that fall beneath that category, for example:

Domestic: cleaning, laundry, cooking.

Platform: social media, newsletter, blogs.

Take a pen and draw a line from each of these categories and connect them to your proxy stick figure.

Non-writing activities we do on a weekly basis

Now, spend some time thinking about how you could connect this activity with writing.

Some ways are obvious, like thinking about your story while doing the dishes, but don’t reach for the obvious; challenge yourself to think beyond these first ideas and really consider how these activity could directly or indirectly inform your writing.

To give you some ideas, I thought I’d share my own results from this activity. (Image below).

Domestic:

Listen to music that complements my story, or listen to writing related podcasts. Daydream scenes. Mentally revise plots and characters. Indulge in ‘what if?’ thought experiments.

Errands:

Observe the strangers around you and the people you interact with. How do people move? What are they wearing? Who are they and what are they doing? Let your mind fill in the gaps. [Ideas for character descriptions.]

Platform:

Engage with online community by writing and replying to comments. Critically reflect on my creative process and extrapolate so that others can learn. [We learn best by teaching.]

Socialising

Listen. How do you people speak? What kind of words or phrases do they use? What do they care about? What lights them up, makes them angry, or sad?’ [This is will inform dialogue and characterisation.]

Exercise:

Pat attention to the movements, discomfort, or tension in the body. Describe it in detail. Reach for original metaphors, similes, descriptors. Imagine each of your characters, how would they react to this movement?

Leisure:

Read and watch for fun. Re-watch and re-read for learning. What works? What doesn’t? Analyse and dissect. Write down new words, great phrases, and unique descriptions.

The next two are specific to me, but think about how your own work and/or studies may be supporting your creative practice.

Teaching (creative writing):

Cements my own understanding of craft principles as there is no better way to learn than to teach. Marking and providing feedback on student’s work makes me aware of weaknesses in my own work. I can’t ever be lazy, double check everything! 

Doctorate:

Challenge assumptions about my practise by integrating new theories and concepts. Ask myself ‘how might this apply to me?’ Learn from other writers and research via books and interviews. Identify weakness in my creative and academic writing by comparing my work to existing works.

How these activities could be used to support your writing practise.

You don’t have to make your whole life about writing, and in fact, you shouldn’t.

It’s important that you give your brain (and soul) a break, to think about and to do things other than writing.

Ironically, if you spend a great deal of your day intensely focusing on a project, your subconscious will continue to work on that problem while your conscious mind moves on to other things.

What this activity shows, however, is that with a little bit of mindful effort you can transform a morning of errands, a gym session, a party or a day at work into words on the page. 

You just have to make the decision.

Now, I’d love to hear from you? What insights did you get from this activity? Share your comments below and tell me all about it! 



Follow-through_ How to complete a long-term writing project (1)


Need help finishing that short story, novel, memoir? No problem. The Follow-Through Formula is a free video training which unpacks the five strategies you can use to go from idea to completed project.

To access, click here to join my email newsletter and you’ll receive a thank you email containing the link to the free video training.

You’ll also receive my weekly newsletter which is sent out every Thursday morning. This is where I share links to my latest blog and YouTube video as well as other inspiring goodies that I only share via email.

How Writers Can Improve Their creativity

I haven’t felt creative since I was six years old.

I stared at the participant’s response, my stomach sinking into the seat beneath me. 

I’d joined Caroline Donahue’s course Write Free* as a beta tester, alongside 200 writers from all over the world.

One central activity asked us to recall the last time we felt truly creative.

My response? Yesterday.  

Considering Caroline’s platform, the title of the course, and the types of people who’d be interested in it, I had expected most of the responses to be similar to my own. They were not. Far from it.

Most participants said they hadn’t felt creative since they were a kid (most citing ages under ten). A huge sector of the group were professionals: academics, editors, and teachers; their age ranged from mid 30s to mid 40s, and most were female.

The reason for their lack of creativity? Work, kids/family, putting other people’s needs before their own, and lack of time.

Why had so many people supressed their creativity and how do they get it back?

Before answering the latter, we have to understand the former.

It doesn’t take a genius to recognise that contemporary, western society doesn’t value creativity.

Here in Australia, at least, arts funding is constantly getting cutting which means that writing festivals, literary journals, and theatre’s and dance companies continue to be stripped of vital funding.

While the internet allows artists to connect directly with their audience, said audience expects that art to be free.

As Lisa Mitchell sang, ‘they figure it out / that we’re gonna do it anyway / even if we don’t get paid.’

Our perception of art and creativity as foolish and silly pursuits can be traced back to a schooling system that prioritises route learning, memorisation, and the obeying of rules (the opposite of creativity) over non-linear, questioning, critical and outside the box thinking.

The intention of industrialised education is to produce workers that then keep the system churning, but a capitalist system also depends on the innovation of individuals to create new businesses, inventions, products, and systems, but how can this occur if people are incapable of thinking creatively?

If consumers don’t value art and creativity, then why would an aspiring artist respect or honour their urge to create?

Right, now that you know why you’ve perhaps neglected your own creativity, let’s get to the business of re-establishing this relationship.

Connected to your creative-self sounds a little too new-agey, even for me, so let’s go with improving your creativity instead.

Improving your creativity really only requires two things: time and effort.

You don’t need a lot of time, at least not in the beginning, but you do need to put in some effort.

What does this look like?

Here’s some simple examples:

  • Day-dream while doing the dishes. Take a recent funny moment or event from your life and fictionalise it. Exaggerate it. Make it enormous. Change what happened to make it even more dramatic.
  • When hanging out in waiting rooms or while waiting for a friend to arrive for lunch, pull out your phone, open the notes app, pick a topic, and list out ten ideas related to said topic: ten new inventions, ten dinner recipes, ten opening lines, ten character names, ten inciting incidents, ten ways to describe a sunny day – whatever.
  • When you read a news article, play the what if? game. What if he didn’t get caught? What if they passed this law instead of that? What if it wasn’t an accident? And so on.
  • When listening to music, use the mood or a particular line or the message behind it as a ‘story kernel’ and build the rest of the story from this starting point.

As adults, we don’t usually engage with this type of imaginative play, but these exercises can help limber up our otherwise ridged ways of thinking.

To further improve your creativity, you must consume creative content: good books, uplifting and inspiring podcasts (fiction or non), and articles.   

When we see what others are creating and how they create it, we see what is possible for us.

Finally, you must make time for creative practice. Decide what that creative practice is going to look like, the amount of time you can reasonably dedicate to it, and establish a reward system.

For example, you may pick up a writing exercise or prompt book and decide you will dedicate thirty minutes, two times a week to completing the set activities. At the end of each session, you give yourself a sticker, watch a supportive YouTube video, have a cup of tea, or read a few pages of a book.

As time goes on and you become more confident and more willing to dedicate larger chunks of time to your writing, you can create more elaborate goals and rewards. For example, you may dedicate an hour before work each morning to working on a short story or novel, then on Saturday morning you meet a writing buddy for breakfast. 

Improving your creativity, engaging with your imagination, and starting a creative practice can seem daunting if you’ve neglected this aspect of yourself for some time, and while our present culture has become accustomed to instantaneous results, there is no ‘hack’ for creativity.

The only thing that is required is time and effort. Not the sexiest ways to end a post, but perhaps the most truthful. 

*currently unavailable.



Follow-through_ How to complete a long-term writing project (1)


Need help finishing that short story, novel, memoir? No problem. The Follow-Through Formula is a free video training which unpacks the five strategies you can use to go from idea to completed project.

To access, click here to join my email newsletter and you’ll receive a thank you email containing the link to the free video training.

You’ll also receive my weekly newsletter which is sent out every Thursday morning. This is where I share links to my latest blog and YouTube video as well as other inspiring goodies that I only share via email.

Taking Creative Risks

‘Sometimes I wish I’d been a little braver and jumped into the unknown.’

I was talking with a friend about the writing life and the unwelcoming reality of making a living as a writer and teacher during what is now the second economic crash of my lifetime.

It was Tuesday morning and we were sitting in a café I’d only discovered a few days before despite it being a ten-minute walk from my home and opened for over two years. The chai was creamy and spicy, and the older male waiter wore alarmingly short-shorts.

A few days earlier, four out of town friends came to visit, none are writers and only one is a reader.

The spooling conversations about food, travel (or lack thereof), music, climate change, health, changing careers, politics, our dogs, and retirement pried open my tunnel vision and reminded me that there is more going on in the world than my doctorate, my manuscripts, the course I am helping teach, and this blog.

It feels a little like waking up a train, only you can’t quiet remember how you got on it or where it’s going, but hey, you’ve been here for a while, so you figure you may as well ride it out to the end.

Plus, hopping off the train doesn’t mean you’ll step out onto a platform — it’s a scientific fact that you’ll topple off into the massive void of unknown.

When talking about decision making with another friend, she asks herself, ‘If not this, then what?’

Then what?

Then what?!

The void is a scary place. It’s unknown. Empty. It lacks certainty. There is no map or path. It’s living in a cardboard box. Losing all your money. Failure.

But it’s also possibility.

Staying on the comfortable train has its own perils. There’s the fear that you’ll hop off at the end having arrived at a wasteland; there’s nothing here for you (or anybody else).

You stayed comfortable and safe; you got your money’s worth and were rewarded with nothing.

There’s a Virginia Woolf essay where she talks about crossing Oxford and following in all the (male) footsteps that had gone before her and she worries how (and if) she has become complicit to that system, that process, that way of being.

So, do we hop off or stay in our seat?

Or perhaps, the even better and more gluttonous question is: can we do both?

Can you stay on the train and hop off into the void?

Can you keep your seat warm and jump off when the urge for adventure strikes? (Presumably while passing a particularly inspiring landscape).

The train and the adventure will be different for everybody, and both can change form.

Perhaps the train is a day job, and the adventure is starting a podcast, a novel, a new short story.

Perhaps the train is a novel, and the adventure is a part-time gig or saying yes to a work collaboration or opportunity.

Perhaps we need to find better ways to get out of the ‘this or that’ thinking, and instead find ways to ‘have it all’ – while also recognising cost-benefits, time and energy limitations, responsibilities etc.

Like The Fool from tarot, maybe we need to take a leap of faith. Step off the train and onto the terrains of unknown lands, trusting that we are capable, that we will not losing our footing, and that another carriage will eventual come by if need be.   

Removing ‘this or that’ thinking means that we can choose the bigger life.  



Follow-through_ How to complete a long-term writing project (1)


Need help finishing that short story, novel, memoir? No problem. The Follow-Through Formula is a free video training which unpacks the five strategies you can use to go from idea to completed project.

To access, click here to join my email newsletter and you’ll receive a thank you email containing the link to the free video training.

You’ll also receive my weekly newsletter which is sent out every Thursday morning. This is where I share links to my latest blog and YouTube video as well as other inspiring goodies that I only share via email.

Are you obsessed with writing?

Sometimes I wondered if my relationship with writing is unhealthy.

I’ve joked with my partner that I am so grateful he isn’t a writer because it forced me to talk about topics other than writing.

Writing takes up 90% of my thoughts (or at least, my interesting thoughts).

I spend 6-12 hours a day writing or doing writing related activities (reading, proofing, brainstorming, teaching writing, etc).

I don’t take days off unless I am travelling, have out of town visitors, or a backlog of errands I’ve been ignoring and need to attend to (sometimes not even then!).

Recently, a friend asked me what I do in my free time. I didn’t have an answer. I was totally baffled. I mumbled that I enjoy cooking, and the rest of my free time is spent socialising with friends or family.

Writing used to be the thing I did in my free time, but I’ve worked hard to create a life where writing is at the centre.

I chose to pursue a doctorate in creative writing and when I’m not working on my thesis, I am working on my online platform: a space dedicated to sharing writing advice and adjacent tips (time management, productivity etc).

For years, much of the non-fiction content I consumed was about writing (podcasts, blogs, YouTube channels, documentaries, and books) and for a while, the only movies I could stomach (or justify watching) were movies about writers or who’s protagonist was a writer (Julie and Julia, Stuck in Love, Misery, The Guernsey and Literary Potato Peel Pie Society).

Recently, I was watching an interview with … a writer … and the interviewee mentioned a book by Phil Tetlock called The Fox and The Hedgehog. Basically, the book seeks to answer the question, is it better to be a generalist or a specialist? (The idea being that foxes survey the field while hedgehogs burrow deep into the ground). After running a series of test, it was revealed that generalist tended to be better at problem solving.

In this same vein, I’ve wondered whether my obsession with writing has shrunk my life.

What important things am I missing out on by being so devoted to this one area of life?

Is it okay to spending 90% of my time on 10% of who I am?

Strangely, while most of my internal world is filled with writing, much of my external world is not.

Few friends ask about my writing or my writing life and when they do, the conversation runs for less than a minute.

In the past, I’ve craved a writing community where I could geek out on the craft, business, and life of being a writer. Fortunately, I now have friends that meet that need, but I’ve also satisfied that craving for connection through this blog, my YouTube channel, and Instagram page.

Something that does trouble me though is how writing is consistently on my mind. If I find myself in a situation that is ‘social-lite’, as Sarah Wilson would describe it (in the company of others but you’re not connecting in any meaningful way because you’re both on your phone, watching a movie/sports/TV, or the conversation never moves beyond small talk), I see these as an opportunities to scurry away.

They’re distracted; they don’t feel like talking; they’re checking out; they won’t even notice if I leave … then I make my escape and go get some writing (or related activity) done.

Rather than staying in the moment and asking said person to put their phone away or turn off the TV, or me making the enough to steer the conversation in a more meaningful direction, I flee; and in that fleeing, I wonder what opportunity I am missing out on. What revelation goes unrevealed because I’ve left the room?

Recently, I spent a week helping out a friend who opened a pop-up restaurant. I worked seven day straight and racked up nearly 50 hours on my feet (not including travel time which was 90 minutes each day).

At the end of it, I was spent. I am no longer hospitality-fit.

I vowed that I wouldn’t do anything productive during my first day off. I needed to rest. I promised myself that I wouldn’t open my laptop, work on my novel, my thesis, or any of my contract work.

The first few hours of my morning were bliss. I lingered in bed reading while drinking tea and I took my time making breakfast.

By 10am I was climbing the walls.

I was restless, anxious, and squirmy.

Now, for the recorded, I’m usually a pretty even-keeled person; I’m not terribly anxious. But on this day, when I vowed not to work and I didn’t have any other set task to fill my time, say a social engagement or even the tedium of domestic chores and errands, I found become very … uncomfortable.

Which then lead me to question whether writing (or general busyness) had become a numbing activity. Where another person might check out by scrolling on their phones or reading hollow listicles on Buzzfeed, I used writing (and productivity: the most social acceptable form of numbing) to keep myself distracted.

The irony that most self-help books encourage people to use writing as a way to STOP numbing out and to tune into their feelings does not escape me.

Is it possible for writing to become a numbing activity or is it the exact tool we all need to deal with our shit?

The only conclusion I can come to is: it depends.

Recently, I started reading Natalie Goldberg’s Thunder and Lightening and in the opening pages she describes as equally restless day where she was dripping in unexplainable despair. (In fact, she opens the book with the line: ‘I have not seen writing lead to happiness in my friend’s lives’).

She grabbed a friend in an equally icky state walked up a large mountain and check in.
“How do you feel?” she asked.
“Bad,” her friend replied.

They drove to Natalie’s home and sat in meditation for an hour.
“How do you feel?” Nat asked.
“Bad,” her friend replied.

Natalie pulled out some notebooks, a fast writing pen, a timer, and they got to work. They each wrote for half an hour, read to each other, and then went again. By the end of the second round they were both beaming.

‘Writing practice had done it again—digested our sorrow, dissolved and integrated our inner rigidity, and let us move on.’

Natalie Golberg

And perhaps that’s why I, and maybe you too, are so obsessed with writing. Because writing can do stuff for us that other mediums and activities can’t. We can reach different parts of our psyches, relish in the challenge of seeing whether we can pull a narrative technique off, and find satisfaction in the general practice of art making.

When you give yourself to writing, it gives back.

But writing is just one part of our lives and how we feed our writing is by living our life.

If we constantly check out of ‘social-lite’ situations, we’ll soon find ourselves unable to fill the blank page.

We need to have deep conversations, follow our curiosity, explore, and become educated on a wide variety of topics (that means consuming interesting content that is not about writing or writers).

Instead of using writing as a fix for restlessness, sit in the feeling and really think about how it actually feels in the body. Then open the notebook/word document and describe that sensation in detail. You might use this material one day, you might not, but at least writing has been put in its place as a support tool rather than an insidious device for productivity (and potential dopamine hits).

There is little division between my work and my life. I cannot imagine not writing. But we cannot compartmentalise our lives, everything is connected and everything feeds into everything else.

In order to have a good writing life, we must have a good life period.

As Natalie says …

‘This is your life. You are responsible for it. You will not live forever. Don’t wait.’

Natalie Goldberg
Follow-through_ How to complete a long-term writing project (1)


Need help finishing that short story, novel, memoir? No problem. The Follow-Through Formula is a free video training which unpacks the five strategies you can use to go from idea to completed project.

To access, click here to join my email newsletter and you’ll receive a thank you email containing the link to the free video training.

You’ll also receive my weekly newsletter which is sent out every Thursday morning. This is where I share links to my latest blog and YouTube video as well as other inspiring goodies that I only share via email.

structural Edits Part Two

As per the title, this week’s post is a continuation of last week’s post. So, if you skipped over last week’s post, The Structural Edit Part One, correct that mistake immediately. (Click here).

As discussed in last week’s post, I spent a considerable amount of time figuring out my novel’s theme.

Once I’d finally nutted it out, I then started brainstorming potential fixes for act three. As previously mentioned, I had realised that my manuscript, at least act three, was a bit simple and I had fallen into the lazy habit of recounting my characters’ every action.

It is perfectly find to have a simple story. Your story does not need to have complexity within it, but given the meaty theme I had landed on I realised I needed to craft scenes that hit on multiple notes: no one scene could do only one thing.  

I knew that act three needed to be majorly restructured and my go getter attitude was screaming at me to open the word document and to start making changes immediately; I wanted to leap off the cliff because the best way to solve anxiety is to do something.

But opening that word document and randomly making changes would not be helpful. If anything, it would only further break and confuse the act.

Instead, what I needed to do was create an outline for act three, a mud map that I could then follow during the revision of this section. It is far easier to get a grip on a three-page outline then a whole novel, or even a whole act. It is also easier to fix a plot hole in an outline than it is in a manuscript.

Before diving into the outline however, I knew I needed to spend some serious time brainstorming my plot points and developing the world, the latter of which is not my strong suit.

So, this is what I did.

First, feeling totally unmoored, I spent some time consulting various beloved blog posts and chapters of craft books and YouTube video that unpacked plot and world building.

Here is my favourite definition of plot: A character actively pursuing a goal and encountering difficulties.

Plot is made up of four things: a character, a goal, proactive pursuit, and difficulties.

When we think of world building, most of us think of Tolkenish novel where the author has gone into painstaking detail to create a visceral alternative world that includes history, political systems, economic systems, environmental factors, and languages.

These days, most traditional authors are contracted to release a novel a year and most indie authors (at least of the rapid release model) release multiple novella length publications a year.

When you publish at this speed, there is no time to do extensive world building. You cannot dedicate the time to construct an iceberg when readers will only see the tip. Instead, you build as much of the world as necessary to a) write the story and b) create the illusion of an iceberg.

Once I revisited these craft basics, I grabbed my sneaks, a water bottle and a tiny, un-precious notebook and I headed out for a two hour walk.

I’ve written before about the connection between walking and creativity and Cal Newport’s idea of Productive Meditation, but in short:

Walking = ideas.

Long walks = solution to creative problems.

Alone, without music, or a podcast, I went out with the intention of generating ideas for act three while also determining the story arcs for two main characters.

I brainstormed …

  • basic character motivations (money, fame, sex, power, survival, justice, reward, recognition, happiness, revenge)
  • character backstories
  • potential obstacles
  • plot points
  • And answered questions like: what is at stake? What would make them do that? What do they want? What are they willing to do to get it? How does the character change? What inspires this change?

This activity is mentally draining as you are challenging yourself to think outside of your normal, lazy and predictable thought loops. After this activity was complete, I put my notebook away and let my mind process all of the ideas that boiled up from this long walk.

The next day I bought a tonne of colourful sticky notes and with the ideas generated from the day before still in my mind, I started exploring all of the possible directions the story could go in while exploring all the potential ‘what ifs’.

I wrote out particular plot point and then followed the thread to the end to see what would happen if …

  • X died.
  • Y died.
  • X and Y had a bad marriage.
  • X and Y had a good marriage.
  • X is secretly in love with Z.
  • X hates Z.

And so on.

Once I’d exhausted this process, I was able to step back and look at my sticky note filled wall and see which plot point were the most interesting and which best supported the novel’s theme.

Sticky notes support the exploratory process as the experience is tactical (movement helps creative ideation) and it allows you to see new connections between threads and story ideas.

Then, at last, I opened a word document and started writing the outline, at least for act three (remember: when you work out the ending, it means you can also work out what needs to happen in acts one and two) .

Because I wanted my revision to be as easy as possible, I decided to create a detailed outline where I broke the act into three sections and each section was broken into scenes and each scene was broken down into dot points.

For example:

Act Three

POV: Rebecca
Part one: Establish Rebecca’s goal and introduce first obstacle. Subplot: marital problems.

Scene one:
Rebecca’s digital magazine is losing readers. She needs to do something to increase traffic to her site. 

i. Rebecca and Carl are fighting while getting ready for work when Rebecca receives a notification from a junior assist: the latest report shows a huge drop in their website’s traffic.

ii. Emergency meeting is held where the team brainstorm potential solutions, but none are in alignment with Rebecca’s work ethic or her vision for the publication.

iii. Meeting ends and Rebecca calls Mary her mentor for advice. She recommends that Rebecca nominate her digital magazine for an award as a way to generate public interest.

iv. Rebecca hangs up and sees multiple voicemail messages from Carl. She doesn’t listen to them; she already has enough things to worry about.

You can see in the above example how there are two things going on within the scene: Rebecca is fighting to save her career and her marriage, and the goal, the award is introduced. [Note: this is NOT the story I am writing, it’s just an example].

Once I mapped out all of act three, I then began to work on my world building.

As previously mentioned, world building is NOT my greatest strength and to be honest, because world building can influence and shape the plot so much, it is best to figure this stuff out before you do your outline — but that’s not what I did and I’m not going to pretend!

So, once I completed the outline, I then pulled out another stack of post it notes, opened my web browser and started doing some intense research.

My novel is set in a future time where climate change has resulted in some pretty massive shifts to our world’s ecology.

In order to figure out what was plausible, I needed to figure out what was possible and that meant doing some research into what is happening now and what scientist are predicting for our future.

I researched governmental policy and all the sectors climate change affects: agriculture, industry, residential, transport, and electricity, as well as the roll-on effects of climate change: floods, fires, acidic oceans, loss of habitat, animal extinction etc.

I looked at future predications and potential solutions, and from all of this information I was able to map out a potential future for my protagonists.

This process is reasonably idiosyncratic, but again, think about how this approach could be useful for your novel regardless of the genre you are writing in.

During this research phrase, I filled my wall with sticky notes containing all the information I discovered, but I also wrote out random ideas for small exchanges between characters or potential plot points that could occur – both of which were inspired by the research.

I then went back to my outline and carefully embedded this information so that all my world building efforts could be scene in the plot. 

And that’s it!

Simple, right?

Ah no, but eventually I did complete my outline.

When we see how other writers get their writing done, it generates ideas for our own creative process.

That’s the intention of documenting this lengthy process here: to show, in detail, one writer’s approach to revision.

This process is not clean, linear, or efficient. It is spooling, swish-backing, and exploratory.

By investing this time in the outlining stage, presumably, less time will be spent during the final editing phase, or at least, that’s my hope.

It’s unusual for me to share my writing process while I’m smack bang in the middle of it, but I am hoping that sharing these details and opening up my creative journal will provide you with a road map, or at least an idea on how you could approach the outlining or revision of your own work.

Now, I’d love to hear from you, do you find it useful to see explicit examples of other writer’s processes? Do you have a similar approach to the one outlined above? Leave a comment below and tell me all about it!


Follow-through_ How to complete a long-term writing project (1)

Need help finishing that short story, novel, memoir? No problem. The Follow-Through Formula is a free video training which unpacks the five strategies you can use to go from idea to completed project.

To access, click here to join my email newsletter and you’ll receive a thank you email containing the link to the free video training.

You’ll also receive my weekly newsletter which is sent out every Thursday morning. This is where I share links to my latest blog and YouTube video as well as other inspiring goodies that I only share via email.

Structural Edits part One

In this blog, I’m unpacking my own specific, messy, imperfect, and exploratory approach to structural editing.

When we see how other writers approach their writing process, it give us ideas on how we might approach our own work, which is why I am sharing this post.

Rather than dashing off the below post as an overly idiosyncratic process, I invite you to think about how some of these approaches or methods could be applied to your own work.

Right now, I’m smack bang in the juicy part of the writing process where I have gone through five drafts and come up with a mass of content that I’m relatively happy with.

What I’ve learnt over the last seven years is that my process messy, fluid, and changing, but it’s the only way I know how to write.

The creative process is not stagnant or fixed, it evolves over time. At least, that’s how it is for me.

Perhaps I’m still trying to find my process and maybe that’s what this blog and my YouTube channel are all about: a way to document the discovery of my creative practice.

Over the course of this year, I’ve been working on the fifth draft of act one, two and three. When I finished a section, I sent it off to my supervisor and moved onto the next. (You could share your work with beta readers, critique partners, or your writing group).

We need others to read our stories and provide feedback because we can’t see our work clearly.

Once I received my last round of feedback, it was time to look at the story I’d actually written, rather than the idealisation version in my head, and to consider what changes needed to be made to make this book the best novel it could be.

For the sake of your reading experience, I’ll present my approach in a somewhat linear fashion, but it’s important to think about the creative process as a cycle, or better yet, a spiral where you start at a particular point and then drill down, further and deeper into the work by questioning what you are doing, stepping back, brainstorming, conducting further research, and all the while tweaking the outline in front of you.

After receiving my initial feedback, I realised the first thing I needed to do was fix act three.

Why? Because act three is where everything comes together.

If I know what is going to happen in act three, then I also know what needs to happen in acts one and two. Basically, you’re reverse engineering the plot by starting at the end and then working your way backwards.

Wait, shouldn’t I have done this from the beginning?

Probably, but my brain (at least for now) doesn’t seem to work that way. I tend to write in a linear fashion from the perceived beginning, following my nose until I reach the conclusion.

I let the story lead the way.

Now, there is a reason why people write outlines and figure out the ending first, because letting my nose lead the way resulted in a few things: unresolved loops, simplicity, and overwriting/lazy writing. (In many scenes, I was documenting the characters’ movements as I followed them throughout the day. I became a digital stalker who was tracking and recording my characters movements in a word document!).

To fix your novel, you must first come up with a plan.

I sat back and looked at the threads of my story. What did I really want to say with this book and what was the book actually saying right now? Before I did anything else, I needed to work out the theme.

Theme is not a single word or a question. Love, family, loyalty, ‘what does it mean to be a good person?’ are not themes.

Theme is a statement, and within my own work I was seeking to combine four disparate topics: woman, animals, the Anthropocene and the trickster.

I had to figure out how these four topics were connected, and most importantly, what I was saying about that connection.

Figuring this out pretty much broke my brain.

Q: So, how did I pickle this cucumber?

A: Mind maps + productive meditation. (I will speak more about this next week!).

I also palmed the problem off to my subconscious.

What do I mean by this?

The brain is a super computer that LOVES to solve problems. Problem solving is totally it’s jam and I had one hell of a creative problem to solve, so I gave it over to my subconscious.

After doodling with some mind maps as a way to get my brain thinking about the story and to slip into a ‘flow state,’ I grabbed a piece of paper and wrote down: What is the connection between woman, animals, the Anthropocene and the trickster? What is the theme of my novel?

Then I closed my notebook and went for a long walk where I thought about other aspects of the novel that I wanted to address.

When I came back to my outline the following day, and once I’d settled myself into the work (see ‘flow state’ again), I pulled out a fresh piece of paper and started a new mind map.

Within ten minutes I landed on an answer.

BOOM.

Once I knew the theme of the novel, I felt as though I had a direction. Something to work towards during the drafting of act three.

As indicated by the title, this blog is a two parter. In next week’s post, I share how knowing the theme directed the restructuring of the novel, and I include plenty of tips about how creative exploration can lead to a way better outline.

Now I’d love to hear from you. Do you find it helpful to see how other writers approach different stages of the creative process? Do you enjoy structural editing? How does your approach differ to the one shared above? Leave a comment below and tell me all about it.


Follow-through_ How to complete a long-term writing project (1)

Need help finishing that short story, novel, memoir? No problem. The Follow-Through Formula is a free video training which unpacks the five strategies you can use to go from idea to completed project.

To access, please join my email newsletter and you’ll receive a thank you email containing the link to the free video training.

You’ll also receive my weekly newsletter which is sent out every Thursday morning. This is where I share links to my latest blog and YouTube video as well as other inspiring goodies that I only share via email.

How to Become a Filthy rich author

Disclaimer: this blog is joke, please don’t send me hate mail.

Want to become a filthy rich author in five easy steps? Me too!
(Not really … well, maybe … sorta).

Below are the five essential steps that’ll ensure you experience worldly literary success and a FAT bank account.

# 1 Find a formula and stick to it

Become a filthy rich author by adding your own twist to an existing formula and then use it as the structure for ALL of your future novels.

Now, you can pump out one or two novels every single year!

Basically, you’re just releasing the same novel, but with different character names and different locations.

Maybe.

Unless it’s a series and then basically it really is the same novel.  

# 2 Don’t change

Do not change.

Do not develop your writing craft.

Do not expand your vocabulary.

Do not write in different genres, or viewpoints.

Ignore any thoughts of challenging yourself creatively by writing about big topics that scare you.

Really, don’t think too hard about the work at all.

Just tell a story; the same story you’ve been telling for years.

# 3 Be a jerk

Make sure everyone in your novel is white, straight, and male.

If there are any females in your novel, they had better have blonde hair, big boobs, and be able to run at a sprint in five inch heels. She must also agree with everything the male characters say, and make sure that she doesn’t make decisions or show any initiative.

Mostly she just answers phones and passes on messages to the character who actually do stuff.

Characters of different ethnicities, religions, ages, ability, and sexual orientation – if they appear at all – should only be included as minor characters so you can tick the diversity box. 

# 4 Act entitled

If a reader shows up in a signing line with a copy of your book that they purchased from a library sale [with the call number still printed on the side] or a second hand bookshop [the resale price written in pencil on the fly leaf), shame them, and exile them from the room.

You didn’t get any royalties for that purchase, so why should you sign their book? Who cares that they read your work and enjoyed it enough to get in their car, drive to the venue, and wait in-line for an hour to spend fifteen seconds with you?

The rich author’s moto: Money talks and poor readers walk.

# 5 False perception

This is the most important trait for you to adopt.

To become a filthy rich author, your perception of your work must be totally different from the novel you wrote. 

‘It’s about feminine agency!
But ninety percent of the cast is male?

‘It’s an exploration of what it means to be human.’
But it’s a romance between two straight white people and the only thing that is keeping them separated is a silly misunderstanding.

‘It’s a coming of age story nestled in a family drama.’
Where everybody essentially becomes their parents … ?

‘His brown eyes—’
They’re actually blue or at least they were on page three …

The more your perception of your work differs from what you actually wrote, the better.

Gas light your readers to oblivion!

There you have it, folks, those are the five steps you can take to become a filthy rich author.
*Please don’t do any of the above steps. Seriously.


Follow-through_ How to complete a long-term writing project (1)

Need help finishing that short story, novel, memoir? No problem. The Follow-Through Formula is a free video training which unpacks the five strategies you can use to go from idea to completed project.

To access, please join my email newsletter and you’ll receive a thank you email containing the link to the free video training.

You’ll also receive my weekly newsletter which is sent out every Thursday morning. This is where I share links to my latest blog and YouTube video as well as other inspiring goodies that I only share via email.

Discover your writing type

What type of writer do you want to be?

What would your ideal writing career look like?

Maybe you’re not sure; maybe you’ve never been asked that question; maybe you’ve never asked yourself that question.

Below are three categories that most writers typically fall into. Of course, each of these categories is filled with its own subcategory, and the boundaries between them are porous which allows us to move between these different forms depending on the task at hand.

But if you’ve been toying with the idea of writing for some time, but you’re not sure exactly what you want to write about, the following post may help you.   

# 1 The personal writer

Motivation: Sharing and connection.

This writer prefers to write from personal experience. They are comfortable talking about the lessons they’ve learnt or are learning, sharing facets of their lives, and creating content from their own lived experience. They believe they have something to say and that others can benefit from their knowledge.

These writers enjoy creating …

  • Blogs inspired by or based on personal experiences.
  • Articles that document a lesson learned or a revelation.
  • Memoirs.

Think Glennon Doyle, Dani Shapiro, and Alexandra Franzen.

# 2 The researcher

Motivation: Inform and entertain.

This writer loves to bury themselves in books, article, and journals. They enjoy meeting people and conducting face-to-face interviews. For them, the work is not about their own lives or opinions (though these may filter into the work), but about what we can learn from others. They pride themselves on informing readers by sharing little known stories and/or important facts. They manipulate this external information into a different shape and publish it with the intention of moving, informing, entertaining, or inspiring their audience.

These writers enjoy creating …

  • Long form articles (print and online).
  • Podcasts.
  • Non-fiction books.
  • Fiction books.

Think Zadie Smith, Helen MacDonald, and Carmen Maria Machado.

# 3 The Creative Entrepenuer

Motivation: To help and inspire.

This writer thrives on variety. The enjoy tending to a multitude of tasks, writing for different audience, in different styles, and for different purposes. They have a mind for business and enjoy creating new meaningful content, solving problems, and inventing new processes and systems.

These writers enjoy creating …

  • Courses and workshops (digital and in-person).
  • Coaching programs (one-on-one or group).
  • Retreats.
  • On-going relationships with publishers and companies (i.e. a writer on retainer).

Think Elizabeth Gilbert, Caroline Donahue, and Joanna Penn.

So, what kind of writer are you? Do you fall neatly into one category, or do different aspects appeal to you? Share your responses in the comments below.


Follow-through_ How to complete a long-term writing project (1)

Need help finishing that short story, novel, memoir? No problem. The Follow-Through Formula is a free video training which unpacks the five strategies you can use to go from idea to completed project.

To access, please join my email newsletter and you’ll receive a thank you email containing the link to the free video training.

You’ll also receive my weekly newsletter which is sent out every Thursday morning. This is where I share links to my latest blog and YouTube video as well as other inspiring goodies that I only share via email.

Writing in different forms and for different audiences

Few writers stick to a single form.

We write for different audiences, different purposes, and different platforms.

We write copy for our websites, blogs, newsletters, and social media pages. 

We share advice, insights, and snippets of our lives to followers we may never meet but with whom we’ve cultivated a digital connection. 

We send emails, pitches, queries, and invoices to build a collaborative network from which our career can hang from.

We research, interview, criticise, and reflect so that we can craft an argument that is entirely our own. Then, we share it.

We use words to conjure worlds real and imagined; we are the tellers of stories.

Most contemporary authors (*obviously disclaimer) have a digital platform, a professional network, and a body of work that includes fiction or non-fiction publications (or both!).

We write a lot.

We are fluid and flexible.

But each of these forms of writing requires a different voice, length, and depth.

Who these works are for differs, as does our motivation behind creating them.

Contemporary writers hold all of these tasks, voices, and audiences in their head, they have to, but these tasks, voices, and audiences can easily become muddled and murky.

Below are three simple strategies any writer can use to help separate and to keep straight all of the tasks, audience, and purposes they need to write for on a daily and weekly basis.

#1 Managing Your Schedule

Create a schedule that supports the different forms of writing you have to complete in any given week.

Weigh your best working hours (morning/evening) against deadlines, priority tasks, and passion projects. You also need to consider your own personal work ethic.

Are you the type of writer who can work on a personal project (novel/course/book) before starting your work day? Or, do you need to tend to professional tasks and save personal projects for evenings and weekends?

You can also batch your tasks. Here’s some examples, you could …

Dedicate your mornings to creative work and afternoons to admin. Decide that you’ll work on your book for three hours on Tuesdays and Thursday. Chose to only reply to email between 2-3pm and let all your clients know.

By batching tasks, you’re allowing yourself to stay in one voice and to write to one audience for an extended period of time rather than toggling back and forward between different tasks.

# 2 Read and Reflect

Before you sit down to a writing task, read something that contains the voice and feeling you want to create.

If you’re writing a blog, you could read one of your previous posts.

If you’re writing a speech for a client, listen to a TED talk.

If you’re drafting an academic article, find one that has a voice or structure you admire.

Alexandra Franzen recommends answering these three questions before sitting down to write:

  1. Ask yourself who is this work for?
  2. What do I want them to think or feel?
  3. What do I want them to do when they’ve finished reading?

The answers to these three questions will direct the style and content of your writing.

# 3 Atmosphere

If you do all of your paid work in a home office, consider choosing a different location for our creative work.

Changing your location will signal to your brain that you are now working on a different task, you are writing for a different audience and for a different purpose.

If space is limited, experiment with changing your position. Decide that your paid work and admin will be completed at the desk, but that creative writing will be done standing up, or even facing in a different direction.

You could also change your atmosphere by dedicating particular music, scents, teas, or other tactile equipment to particular tasks. For example, you only listen to rain sounds when working on your novel; you drink peppermint tea when completing client work; you light scented candles when tending to your author platform.

Writers write to niches and wides audiences, publically and privately. We have our fingers in all different flavoured pies.

Holding all of these different styles and audiences in our mind can lead to muddled copy and confusion, but the above steps offer three simple ways to bring clarity to you and your work.

Do you struggle with this problem in your writing? How do you differentiate writing tasks?


Follow-through_ How to complete a long-term writing project (1)

Need help finishing that short story, novel, memoir? No problem. The Follow-Through Formula is a free video training which unpacks the five strategies you can use to go from idea to completed project.

To access, please join my email newsletter and you’ll receive a thank you email containing the link to the free video training.

You’ll also receive my weekly newsletter which is sent out every Thursday morning. This is where I share links to my latest blog and YouTube video as well as other inspiring goodies that I only share via email.