Investing in your writing career: when, why and how much?

money-1090816_640Let’s start with a fact we all know: building a writing career is hard work. It’s hard to become a freelance writer and it’s much, much harder to become a successful fiction writer. Even the best and brightest among us put years of hard work into their craft before they see any measurable success. The few who do manage to become popular with their first published novels often wrote several others first; those who get the first book they wrote published have often spent years writing short stories.

Luckily we live in the internet age, which means there are thousands of resources to help you speed up your own career. You can learn about how to get excellent freelance jobs from Linda Formichelli of The Renegade Writer or Sophie Lizard of Be a Freelance Blogger. You can read about character development and fiction writing on Live Write Thrive or the DIY MFA blog. You can even take a free course in fiction writing at Open University or the Purdue Online Writing Lab.

Yet sooner or later it becomes crucial to invest real money into your career. You probably know you need to invest in a website, but have you thought about investing in yourself?

Why investing in yourself is key to your writing career

If you’ve already written a book you probably know how irritating it is when people assume anyone can write a book. If you’ve edited a book you know how frustrating it is to see people believe you can just write a first draft, publish it and become successful. And if you’ve been at this for a while you’ve probably realized there is always more to learn. You’re prepared to commit hundreds, even thousands of hours to building a writing career, so why not invest some dollars too?

Yes, there is a lot of great free content online, but a lot of the best content is locked away in some sort of paid course or ebook. Paid courses also often come with actual mentorship and feedback from the instructor as well as your other classmates. Not to mention encouragement in real time(ish) when you’re struggling with an issue. This feedback from real professionals can leapfrog your writing by years if you use it well.

Committing real dollars into your writing education also helps you stay committed to learning and to your career overall, even when you’re feeling tired and discouraged by all the things you have to do to become successful. Sometimes a financial commitment to your career propels you to take your career more seriously than before.

When is the best time to invest in your writing career?

Any time is a good time. Making a small financial commitment to your writing education every month or year can keep you constantly moving forward. Every time you study a new aspect of writing or even a new writer’s process you learn something about the craft. Every investment will speed up your progress towards success.

So what should you actually invest in?

Like so many things in writing it all depends on what kind of person you are and what goals you have. If you happen to be independently wealthy and have full control of your time you might want to invest in an MFA. If you work a day job you might want to take evening classes at the local community college or purchase an online video course you have 24/7 access to.

Generally, though, there are three main things worth investing in: actual courses(online or offline), books about writing craft, and one on one mentorship. I believe every writer should invest in at least a handful of excellent books about the writing craft that they can refer back to. Having both books about overall writing and books that focus on specific topics relevant to the genres you write in is a good idea.

Should you take a writing course? I think you should try to take a few, either advancing a specific style of writing or exploring a new style of writing. I also think every fiction writer should take a script writing course because even a basic script writing course can change how you think about storytelling forever, especially if you’re a novelist. What type of course you take is entirely up to you and your goals. How much feedback do you want? How much structure? Do you want to take an existing project in or work primarily on exercises?  How much can you afford to invest in an extensive course?

What about one on one mentorship? One on one mentorship is great, but depending on the type of mentorship and who you want to work with it can be quite expensive. A mentor who works with you one on one will often provide the highest level of motivation–at least partially because it is so expensive–and the most detailed feedback. Hiring a freelance editor is similar: you’ll pay a fortune, but you’ll learn a lot and jump several levels in writing skill if you apply the lessons from the experience to the rest of your work.

In short, only you know what you really need and can afford. We can all benefit from investing in our career but every writer’s path is different. A

Want something a little bit more specific? Here are some resources & classes I’ve loved:

For Fiction Writers

Worldbuilding: From Small Towns to Entire Universes by Kevin J. Anderson – I loved this book so much I wrote a review!

Writing Fight Scenes by Marie Brennan – I’ve also written a review for this excellent guide.

WritingAcademy.com – I’ve taken the YA fiction and screenwriting courses here and quite enjoyed the exercises and examples given. They do put the courses on sale every once in a while so you might want to watch out for those.

For Freelance Writers

Escape the Content Mills – I actually got to beta test this course for an extremely low price and I absolutely loved it. The hand outs were great and the community on the forum for this course was also amazing. I love working with Linda Formichelli(you might notice this) and would recommend any of her courses.

Freelance Writer’s Den – Run by Carol Tice and Linda Formichelli, this is a paid forum where you can network with other freelance writers, ask questions of experienced pros, get feedback on query letters and letters of introduction and even find jobs.

These are the best resources/classes I’ve invested in so far. Of course, everyone I listed above sells ebooks or online courses and there are also hundreds of other reputable writers and schools who can teach you new writing skills and offer excellent feedback.

What have you invested in/are you thinking about investing in? Let me know in the comments below!

Writing Fight Scenes by Marie Brennan

WritingFightScenesIf you’re anything like me, fighting scenes are among the most challenging. Even if they flow when you’re writing them, they sound wooden when you go back. You spend twice as much time on fight scenes as any other scenes in the book, sometimes more than that. So you might be pretty excited about the title of this book. I know I was. In fact, it was one of the most exciting titles I saw in the Writer Tools book bundle.

Marie Brennan is an author who has not only written many fight scenes in her time but who also has some practical experience in both martial arts and fencing. She uses examples from her own work and life as well as some well known books and movies including The Princess Bride(definitely one of my favourite things about this book).

Writing Fight Scenes goes through all the important aspects of a fight scene: who’s in it, why they’re fighting, where they’re fighting and what they’re fighting with. It focuses primarily on how to weave the fight scene into your story and goes into great detail about how you can write an excellent fight scene without getting into much technical details.

Out of everything in this book, I found the sections about emotions and pacing the most useful. Pacing is definitely one of my biggest issues in a fight scene. I’m always torn between impressively long scenes to show off my characters’ skills and short, punchy scenes that focus purely on the chaos of battle. Reading this book has given me some excellent tools for deciding how to pace battle scenes in my next project–and how to improve pacing in the ones I’ve already written.

The section about different combat styles and weapons wasn’t quite as extensive as I would have liked, but I’m the type of person who would have been completely fine if this was a 700 page book that went into extensive, gruesome details–and I’m also smart enough to know that even that wouldn’t have been able to truly cover every style of fighting. Brennan does talk briefly about different types of swords as well as other common weapons like bows, maces and slings.

Overall I think most writers whose work involves battle scenes will get a lot out of this book, especially if most of their battle scenes are one-on-one or small group fights. Purchase your copy today and prepare to take your fight scenes to the next level!

Writerly Goals 2016

DSC_0615_editLast week I shared my accomplishments of 2015 and–in the interest of both accountability and education–today I’m going to share my goals for the year of 2016. This year I’ve actually also divided the goals into quarters and even figured out how far to progress on each goal during the first four months of the year. Of course, this is always subject to change, but I’m pretty proud of the way I’ve broken things down:

1. Submit Good Bye to 30 publishers(or until I get a contract) — Good Bye is actually a novella so this is a somewhat ambitious number, but it’s totally doable.

  • January: Finish editing Good Bye and edit the synopsis/query(queries will be customized but the blurb will be the same for each one) 3-5 times. Submit the initial batch of queries at the end of the month, probably 10
  • May: By now I should have heard from most/all of the publishers in my initial submission batch and if I haven’t gotten any nibbles I’ll revise the submission package and send it to a second group of publishers
  • October: Again this is plenty of time to have heard from publishers so this is when I’ll submit to the third batch of publishers on my list if I haven’t gotten any nibbles. At this point I’ll probably revisit the actual manuscript and potentially make some small changes as well

2. Submit Moonshadow’s Guardian to 40 publishers(or until I get a contract) — As an adult fantasy novel of roughly 67,000 words there are tons of markets for this book so I think 40 submissions is totally reasonable. This is currently on submission so whenever I hear back I will immediately submit to the first batch of publishers unless I decide to make a few more last minute edits(or miraculously get a contract from the first publisher I queried).

3. Write sequel to Moonshadow’s Guardian — I actually wrote a sequel for this book initially but scrapped it years ago. This year I had some brilliant new ideas for it and I’m already a quarter of the way through the outline. I’m going to start on this right away once I’m done editing Good Bye so it will theoretically be in something like readable shape when I actually get a contract.

  • January: Finish outlining and start the first draft
  • February: Complete the first draft
  • June: I’ll have spent two months away and be ready to start the second draft of this novel at this point
  • July: Knowing me I’ll convince myself I can finish the second draft in June, hit a snag and have to do massive restructuring, so I’ll finish the second draft sometime in July

4. Rewrite Some Secrets Should Never Be Known Pt. 1 for submission — This used to be one book but has grown enough to almost be its own book. I’ll be adding a couple subplots to flesh it out completely and mercilessly editing the already existing scenes. I also want to make sure the second part goes through at least a couple rewrites so I can adjust the story in the first part as I need to before submitting.

  • February: Outline Pt. 1 and Pt. 2
  • March: Start writing new version of Pt. 1
  • April: Finish new version Pt. 1 and start new version Pt. 2
  • May: Finish new version Pt. 2
  • August & September: Edit Pt. 1 & draft submission package
  • October & November: Edit Pt. 2, Start part 1
  • December: Finish editing Pt. 1 and start submitting

5. Blog Regularly — I really fell off the blogging bandwagon this year when a heavy workload and insomnia conspired to leave me without a lot of energy, but I’ve been working quite hard on my writing and I’ve also acquired a lot of books. So here’s my blog plan:

  • January — April: Reviews & Things! I’ll be exposing some excellent books with diverse casts that are far too often ignored, as well as reviewing all of the books I enjoy from a massive(think 30 books) bundle of ebooks about writing I purchased during a Nanowrimo special. This is the first time I’ll ever be reading so many writing related books in a relatively short period of time and I’m excited to share the best ones with you.
  • May — August: I suspect by this point I’ll be heavily into video production on some projects I’ve been sort of working on for the last month or so. Depending on where things are, I might be talking a lot about them and what I’ve learned as well as sharing them here. Otherwise I’ll probably continue to review craft related books.
  • September — December: I’ll definitely have some wicked video stuff to show during this part of the year, but I’ll also be taking some classes(both writing related and not) that I’ll be reviewing here.

6. Double my writing income(without working more hours) — It’s a fairly lofty goal with everything else going on in my life, but I’m fairly confident I can do it. Of course I will be working 5-8 extra hours a week at first to research clients and publications to pitch as well as working on the pitches themselves, but I’m going to get a strong start on this at the end of this month when one of my existing contracts wraps up.

For this one I have a simple goal: research and pitch 10 companies every month. It’s not a lot, but it’s enough to consistently get my name out there and a few excellent clients can easily double my income. I’ll also be applying for some grants this year in the hopes of taking a sabbatical to edit Some Secrets Should Never Be Known.

What are your goals for this year? How have you organized them? Let me know in the comments below!

Special Author Spotlight: Devorah Fox

MastersofTimeAn author I interviewed last November contacted me recently and let me know she’s going to be in an awesome anthology–coming out in just a few days! I normally don’t do two interviews with the same author in such a short period of time, but Devorah’s excitement is contagious so I’ve decided to bring her back.

Please give Devorah Fox a warm welcome.

1. We last spoke in November 2014. Can you talk a little bit about where you were in your writing career at the time?

November 2014 I was deep into National Novel Writing Month, endeavoring to write 50,000 words in 30 days. This was my fourth NaNoWriMo marathon and I’m pleased to report that I was again successful. Those words are the start of “The Redoubt,” Book Four in The Bewildering Adventures of King Bewilliam epic fantasy series. Many more words are needed, for example, the ending. I had hoped to finish the book in time for a July 2015 launch but Fate had other plans.

2. What are some of the projects you’ve worked on since then?

It wasn’t until June 2015 that I got back to writing “The Redoubt” so there’s absolutely no way it will be ready for a July launch. However, I have another book to crow about. “Masters of Time: A SciFi/Fantasy Anthology” will debut on July 13 and it include my short story “Turning the Tide.” I am thrilled to have my story in the company of work by talented, bestselling authors Samantha LaFantasie, Alesha Escobar, Timothy c. Ward, H.M. Jones and Alice Marks.

3. What’s the most interesting thing you’ve learned since then?

I learned that I can write short fiction. When I first set out to write fiction I wrote novels, largely because I was trying to write the book that I most wanted to read. Later as I joined writers groups I became in awe of authors who wrote short stories and managed to achieve so much with so few words. It’s a very different craft from novel writing, especially marathon writing where the goal is to pour as many words as possible on to the page, as quickly as possible.
When submissions to “Masters of Time” opened I recalled a piece I had written in response to a prompt during a writer group exercise. At the time I thought I had the germ of a novel on my hands but I seized the opportunity to develop the idea. I found that I could say what I wanted to say in less  than 2,00 words.

4. How do you balance your schedule between writing/editing/marketing?

I wish that I could say that I have achieved balance. I spend entirely too much time on marketing and not nearly enough on writing and editing. After “Masters of Time” launches I plan to spend less time on marketing and devote myself to finishing “The Redoubt.” It’s a truism that if we spend all our time on marketing and none on writing we’ll have nothing to market, but it’s hard to decline the opportunities that come my way, such as chatting with you.

5. What’s your favourite social media network and why?

I would have to say Facebook. I find it’s a good way to stay in touch with friends whom I don’t see in person because of time or distance. OK, let’s be honest: it’s because it’s chockablock with cute cat photos and videos.

6. Of the marketing techniques you’ve tried, which have been most successful?

If sales are the measure, the most successful marketing I’ve done has been book launch signing events at the Port Aransas Art Center. I very much appreciate the support of the Art Center and the Texas Coastal Bend community.

7. Where would you like to see your writing career in 5 years?

I have so many works in progress. In five years I would hope to have finished Books Four and Five in The Bewildering Adventures of King Bewilliam epic fantasy series and “A Whale of a Tale,” a spin-off from the contemporary Coastal Texas thriller “Naked Came the Sharks” that I’m co-authoring as well as a sequel or two to that book. During Camp NaNoWriMo last summer I revived a novel that I started in 1993 and I’d like to finish that. I have several detective-series drawer-stuffers that I’d like to dust off and get between covers. I’m a huge “Warehouse 13” fan and I have three pages of ideas that would make great short stories in the steampunk genre.

8. If this was your last interview ever, what would you really want to say?

Thank you, everyone who has read my work and asked for more. It’s your encouragement that tells me that writing is what I ought to be doing, as opposed to brain surgery or mixed martial arts.

About the Author:
“What if?” Those two words all too easily send Devorah Fox spinning into flights of fancy. Best-selling author of The Lost King, The King’s Ransom, and The King’s Redress in The Bewildering Adventures of King Bewilliam literary fantasy series she also co-authored the contemporary thriller, Naked Came the Sharks with Jed Donellie and the Masters of Time: a SciFi/Fantasy Time Travel Anthology. Publisher and editor of the BUMPERTOBUMPER® books for commercial motor vehicle drivers she is developer of the Easy CDL test prep apps. Born in Brooklyn, New York, she now lives in The Barefoot Palace in Port Aransas on the Texas Gulf Coast where she herds rescued tabby cats and writes the “Dee-Scoveries” blog at http://devorahfox.com.

Pre-order Masters of Time today!

Picture Prompt

I’m knee deep in rewrites and too exhausted to write a particularly informative post today, so here’s an interesting image I found on my journey through the UK:

DSC_0027

Who painted this? Why? 

Post the first line of your response in the comments below!

13 Inspiring quotes from awesome authors

Every week for most of this blog’s lifetime I’ve interviewed a different author. After four years of regular interviews, The Dabbler’s archives have become an invaluable resource, filled with advice on every part of the writing process.

So I’m making an ebook. This ebook will be a compilation of quotes from various authors I’ve interviewed over the years. So far the ebook has 22 quotes from more than 10 authors–and I’ve still got more than 30 interviews to go through.

This ebook will be my next subscriber freebie, so if you want to see it when it’s finished you should take a moment to sign up for my newsletter.

In the meantime, here’s a preview–13 of the quotes I’ll be including in this awesome ebook.

What authors have to say about planning

Writing is easy. Planning is difficult. But the reason writing is easy is because I have a good plan. So I spend a lot of time making sure I know exactly where I’m going before I even start. This avoids what a lot of people mistakenly call “writer’s block,” which isn’t really writers block, it’s just that they get stuck if they don’t know where they’re headed.

~Steve Alcorn, multi-published author and founder of www.WritingAcademy.com

The history of trains is hugely connected with the development of the United States as a singular entity. So, my first suggestion would be: find some time period appropriate museums, and go there. If you have a train museum nearby, visit one. There’s nothing quite like seeing the history to put you in the right frame of mind.

~Meggan Connors, author of Jessie’s War, a novel set during the American civil war

Typically I write a skeletal outline of the main events of the story first, then add in details between the ‘bones’ and flesh those out independently. Sometimes those won’t need additional work, but if they do I’ll keep breaking down the scenes fractally until I can write them out in prose. It helps me reduce plot holes significantly and make sure there are valid reasons for everything that happens. I hate having things happen arbitrarily so I’m always checking my characters’ motivations and making sure the progression is as tight as possible.

~Hugo Jackson, author of Legacy, a fantasy novel

What authors have to say about writing

I hate the first draft. Most writers love that part and hate the editing. I’m the opposite. The first draft is like running through mud. However, when I sit down to write fiction, I do not get out of the chair until a chapter is written. Doesn’t matter what time it is. I’m a night owl anyway, but I’ve often written until 3 and 4 in the morning because I was not quitting until I’d ended the chapter. Not sure that’s easier in any way, but it’s what I do. It’s a driving force to reach the end so I can enjoy the edits.

~Hope C. Clark, mystery author and founder of FundsForWriters.com

Writers write (as opposed to just talking about it).

I see so much terrible advice it makes me want to scream – but the thing I don’t like the most

is writing advice in and of itself. I wasted a lot of time reading about how other authors wrote

books, when I just knuckled down and worked hard to discover my own process, I made a

hell of a lot more progress.

~EJ Newman, author of 20 Years Later and the Split Worlds Series

Listen, listen, listen. And watch. Everything you need for your writing is there in front of you. Watch and listen and get it down as honestly as you can. Of course, you adjust to your own story, characters and situation. As for dialogue, you have to tidy it up and take out the ‘y’knows’ and ‘likes’ and hums and haws. Stephen King, in his book about writing, stresses honesty. I agree with him one hundred per cent.

~Cecelia Frey, author of A Raw Mix of Carelessness and Longing

There are plenty of days that your writing will suck. You’ll want to just throw your hands up and walk away in disgust. Just remember that you can always fix it in rewrites, and plow on through.

~Elaine Corvidae, Author of Daughter of Snow and other fantasy novels

What authors consider the most important advice for new writers

I would council aspiring writers to not be afraid to make mistakes, or to start over. I would advise them to be persistent, get to know themselves, and continue to make new friends who are positive, supportive, and well grounded in their goals and ideas.

~Judith C. Owens-Lalude, author of The Long Walk: From Slavery to Freedom

Never give up! The published author is the aspiring writer who never quit!

~Marcella Kampman, author of Inanna, Goddess of Love: Myths & Legends from Sumer

Fight not only to write daily, but to write BETTER daily. If editors aren’t buying your work, you’re doing something wrong. We too often try to argue with that truth. Keep struggling to improve until someone bites on your manuscript. Never stop tweaking.

~Hope C. Clark, mystery author and founder of FundsForWriters.com

Writing is a lonely slog. Be prepared for that. Find ways of dealing with it – socialize with other writers, get out to literary events, spend time with family and friends, schedule recreation and fun time, try to have a normal life. Don’t let your writing devour you. Destructive geniuses are all very well, but the trick is to survive to write another day.

~Cecelia Frey, author of A Raw Mix of Carelessness and Longing

Be persistent. Writing is a huge commitment, not just in getting the words on the page, but in all the other, less-fun bits that come after. The will to keep going is the biggest factor that separates the “aspiring author” from the “author.”

~Elaine Corvidae, author of Daughter of Snow and other fantasy novels

Follow your heart when you’re writing. Listen to your editor. They’re there to help you, to make your manuscript shine. So don’t take it personally, they’re there to help you catch all of the mistakes and plot holes before it goes into print. And read your contract. Sometimes authors forget that publishing is a business. Once contracts, royalties and money are involved it’s all business. Learn as much as you can.

~Liz DeJesus, multi-published speculative fiction author

Did you find these quotes inspiring? Want to read more? Sign up for my email newsletter and you’ll get the book when it comes out this summer! (Not to mention you’ll get the Ultimate Novel Planning Resource List)