Review: How to Make a Living with Your Writing: Books, Blogging and More

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I have first heard of Joanna Penn through Twitter, then found her podcast on a list of podcasts for writers. From there, it wasn’t long before her non-fiction books caught my attention. Two weeks ago, ready to take my writing career more seriously, I finally bought How to Make a Living with Your Writing: Books, Blogging and More.

Joanna Penn is an independent author claiming to make a multi-six-figure income, and considering she makes almost 20k a year just on Patreon, I have no doubt she’s telling the truth.

Review
The book is written in a tight, conversational language, which I always like in non-fiction books. In the introduction,  Joanna Penn briefly explains how she became a full-time author. I identified with her a little, despite our different personalities, and was motivated by her success story. A few years ago, getting a book published seemed next to impossible to me, let alone making any money with it; now, even making a living with it seems possible.

In part 1, she discusses traditional publishing, self-publishing and independent publishing. That changed my point of view on both traditional and independent publishing: I have stopped idealizing traditional publishing and now see indie publishing as an equally good option, depending on the book and my goals for it. There is also valuable information on what to look for when reviewing a traditional book deal.

How to Make a Living with your Writing companion coverIn part 2, she talks more about her other streams of income, for you see: only 50% of her income comes from actual books sales. The rest comes from affiliate commissions, course sales, professional speaking, consulting and podcast sponsorship. There is also some information on marketing.

The last part of the book gives pointers to plan your writing career and make your first few bucks with your writing. That was my favourite part because it made me feel able to create a solid career plan – I’m getting on it as soon as this post is published. There is a separate paper-only companion workbook. I’ll tell you all about it later: I should get my own copy in about two weeks.

I wish the book had been longer and more detailed. However, all through the book, there are links to additional information (mostly free), which I’m sure will be useful. There are also multiple book recommendations.

Another thing I loooved is how this book teaches by example: it provides great value for the reader while also promoting all of the writer’s other products! It sounds like a good marketing strategy to me!

Author20Blueprint_coverIf you’d like to know what you can expect before you purchase anything, I recommend downloading a free sample through your favourite ebook retailer or signing up to her mailing list to get her free book Author 2.0 Blueprint. I am currently reading it myself and I find it very interesting. The author also has a free thriller for sale through her fiction website.

Rating: 8/10

Who would I recommend this to? Every writer who wants to make it pro, especially if they’re considering the indie path. It’s short and fairly inexpensive and offers great value.

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12 Short Stories Challenge

xmas-65-x-smallWinter isn’t a very good season for me. I used to love it, but in recent years it’s meant exhaustion and sickness (I blame my working from home for the weakness of my immune system). I sat down yesterday to write a post while wishing I was napping with the rest of the family. I ended up writing a discouraging post about hope. Or was is a hopeful post about discouragement? It’s good for my mental health whine once in a while, so long as it allows me to move on. I’ll never post it, but it did help me regain some fortitude.

I was ready to write something better.

xmas-64-x-smallHowever, I didn’t feel like taking on the rewriting of my novel. I’m too tired and too busy for such a long project. I wanted to write short stories, but not one per week; it wouldn’t have been realistic in my current situation. That’s when somebody from my writing community brought 12 Short Stories to my attention. The goal is to write one short story per month, based on the given prompt and word count. Then you post it on the deadline and read and comment on 4 other stories.

It sounds doable.

I like that it’s not completely open: you get to share stories with a restricted audience composed of other writers and receive feedback. You get to never publish it publicly if you don’t want to, or to revise your piece using the feedback received before you do.

So I’ll try that. The January story is due on the 24th though – in two days – so I’ll start next month. Who’s with me?

Overview of 2017 and resolutions for 2018

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Happy New Year everyone!

I hope you were able to relax a little during the holidays. I have, and now I’m ready to start the new year head on.

However, before I make any resolutions I’d like to reflect on the past year: where 2016 was a year of breakthrough and dreams, 2017 was one of “reality check”. The first quarter of the year was marked by anxiety and frustration due to my lack of income. I also a hard time trying to edit my first novel, which led to the dispersion of my efforts.

Early April, I started working again with a revenge, some 50 and 60 hours a week, which I sustained surprisingly long before I burnt out in September. However, that didn’t prevent me from getting a sense of direction and starting the rewriting process on my first novel. In fall, I also took a creative writing course, which I think helped me improve my skills considerably, and got the amazing opportunity to beta-read Marnie Shaw and the Mystery of Yapton Farm by Deborah Wallace.

In November, I participated to NaNoWriMo, though I also took care not to exhaust myself again. In December, I slept a lot, did a lot of house cleaning and spent a lot of time with my family in order to start the new year in the best conditions.

I checked 5 of my 13 resolutions (#4, 7, 11, 12 and 13) which isn’t so bad considering everything that happened. Also: more important than those goals was “finding a source of income”, which I did.
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For 2018, my theme will be: the warrior’s training. Being a writer, I see my own life as a story (or a series of stories). If I gave up writing early 2016 and then went back at it with a revenge by mid-year, but was slapped in the face in 2017 by reality… I must be at that point in the story where the hero, after having been defeated, needs to train much harder than ever before to vanquish his enemy. That could also be the moment where the hero gets a mentor using unconventional methods.

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In other words, I intend to get out of my comfort zone this year. I’d love to try variants of the exercises I did during my creative writing course (poetry, short stories, creative non-fiction). I have no plan yet, but something like one short piece every 2 weeks a sounds acceptable, though most likely, I’ll only start in April. And if I can gather enough courage, I might even publish some of them online.

Reading-wise, this year I’ll allow myself to indulge: I’ll read whatever I want whenever I want. Last year, I tried to read more modern novels, but though most of them were good and some even excellent, I often found myself wishing I was reading something else. That might explain why even just reading 13 books took some effort. I’m starting the year with Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey. ♥

Besides my theme, I’ve also set a few goals for the year:

1 – Rewrite my first novel

2 – Continue blogging weekly (or almost weekly) and being active in the blogging community

3 – Read at least 13 books

4 – Take another creative writing course

5 – Experiment with poetry, short stories, creative non-fiction… maybe even comics!

6 – Take care of my physical and mental health

7 – Furnish my house (at least one room)

Quite a bit fewer resolutions than in 2018, but I’m aiming for 100% success this year (or at least 85%)! I’ll print this list them and paste it on my wall to keep it in sight all year.

Do you make New Year’s resolution? Do they help you reach your goals?

Creative non-fiction: Happy Endings

Foreword: As part of my creative writing course, I had to write creative non-fiction with narrative elements: characters, setting, plot, etc. It was extremely challenging, even scary. I made a list of events I thought could be of some interest and started several drafts. In the end, I chose a fairly cheesy event, but I think it was worth writing. It could be extended, made more tangible, but I’m fairly satisfied with the current version. This happened 5 years ago, around this time of the year. It’s also an ode to happy endings in literature. They’re the best.

~*~

Happy Endings

            I graduated in the aftermath of the financial crisis of 2008. All through my bachelor’s degree, teachers kept repeating that there was a huge need for translators and we’d never lack work. It turns out language professionals aren’t always up-to-date on the matters of economics.

I spent two years doing odd jobs before I finally got one in my field… in Ottawa – 5 hours from everyone and everything I know.  I went. I’d stay a year, get some experience, then find a new job back in Québec City.

By the end of my ninth month of exile, I was restless. I had gone to several job interviews in my hometown, but none of them had paid off. I was almost 25 and nowhere near “having my life together” as I thought I should. An existential crisis ensued.

I used several tricks to feel better. I started writing a middle-grade novel for NaNoWriMo to get my mind off things. My fiancé tried to help me, to find a way to bring me back home that wouldn’t put us in a financially unsustainable situation… But without him by my side to make me laugh every day, my mood only got worse.

Then, on my birthday, my roommate, who was also my landlady, told me I had to leave within two months because she was going to sell the house to move with her new boyfriend.

I broke.

I hate moving, and I hated the idea of having to move somewhere else in Ottawa. In my mind, the next time I’d move would be to go back to Québec City.

A few days later, I sent my fiancé an email that was more or less a break-up letter. I woke up the next morning more depressed than ever, dragged my feet downstairs and… saw my white Elantra through the window. The car I’d bought with him. The car he’d kept when I moved to the national capital. What was it doing there at 6 freaking a.m.?

No doubt he saw the light turn on, because he got out of the car and came to the door. I didn’t understand. How was he there? He lived 5 hours away from me, how was he there a Thursday morning at 6 a.m.? I opened the door for him.

“What’re doing here?” I asked. I am a fairly intelligent person, but, confronted with an improbable event two minutes after waking up, my mind was trapped in a loop of confusion.

“I’m taking you home,” he said.

“We went over this.”

“We’ll be alright, kay? It’s not healthy for you to stay here anymore.”

It was the climax of my own fairy tale. Prince charming had come to get me. This prince wasn’t rich, and a sedan is less romantic than a horse, and I was still in my pyjamas, but that moment seemed perfect nonetheless.

I quit my job the following Monday, became pregnant two weeks later. We had our struggles, but we made it. Besides, my Ottawa employer called me a year later to hire me as a long-distance employee.

There might be no real “happy ever after” in life, but there can be happy endings on paper. Of course, I skipped over the part between then and now where I wanted my life to end. But “happy” and “ending” are all a matter of perspective.

~*~

I hope you’ve enjoyed this and happy holidays!

NaNoWriMo 2017: Week 4

NaNoWriMo Week 4The final week! Last year, that one went smoothly… I even managed to write over 5k words in a day. This year though, the cold I’d caught during week 3 persisted all through week 4 until the very last day. I managed to kick myself in the butt, however, and write until I reached over 15k words, the equivalent of 500 words a day. I used to consider this the bare minimum, but this month was crazy busy so… this a win. If it hadn’t been for NaNoWriMo, I’d probably have written even less than that.

And now what? Well, on December 1st, I came down with a gastroenteritis. I wasn’t even fully recovered when my daughter started throwing up, too. I took a week off any self-imposed obligations and rested. jean-baptiste-camille_corot_-_the_reader_wreathed_with_flowers_virgils_muse_-_wga5288This week, I’m back to blogging, although I’ll probably take it easy fiction-wise for the rest of December. There are just too many other things that need to be done this month. Besides, I still feel a bit ill, with an almost constant heartburn and occasional nausea – probably my thirties slapping me in the face.

I’ll also use this time to “regroup” and plan my next steps. I’m not sure exactly what I want to do next… Rewrite my first novel? Continue brainstorming on my NaNoWriMo 2017 project? Continue another of my several WIPs? Challenge myself to write one short story every week or month and publish it? So many possibilities!

NaNoWriMo 2017: Week 2&3

Week 2 of NaNoWriMo went a very little bit better than week 1: I wrote a total of 5,488 words, bringing my total to 9,704 words. Whoops, that’s less than I should have written in the first week. But I held on. Part of those words was my final creative writing assignment, which I am rather proud of it even if I can’t get rid of my writer insecurities.girl-3-copie

What I’m particularly proud of is that I managed to write a whole story in under 1,000 words. I don’t write short stories because whenever I try, I end up wanting to expand and expand on them until they’re novel-length. Even for this one, one of my teacher’s comments was:

It […] feels like it could keep going, as the world of the story feels fleshed out and inhabitable. It reads a bit like an opening chapter or a television pilot, where you could keep the story going significantly after this.

Yeah. Absolutely. I know at least 3 different possible directions in which to extend this into a novel. Buuut it can also be read as a short story, and that’s an achievement for me.

As for my NaNoWriMo project, it became… weirder. The hero developed a taste for BDSM – though he’s a teenager – and the heroin sort of digs it. Ahem. That might not make it into the final draft.

NaNoWriMo Week 2-3a

Week 3 was uh… a warp zone. Poof! Before I knew it, it was week 4 already and I almost hadn’t written anything. See the sad, flat line in the graph, like a dead person’s ECG?

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I went to a Lego convention on Nov. 17, 18 and 19 and came back with a bad cold. If I wanted to be able to work 8 hours in a row, I had to go to bed right after supper. I know all too well that trying to “push through” at that point would have been harmful to my physical and mental health.

Now week 4 is well underway and I’m still sick, but I feel a bit better. My total word count is 12,177 words. It is clear that reaching 50,000 words won’t be possible for me this month. I know people who can write 10,000 words per day, but I’m not one of them. It’s disappointing. However, I’ll write as much as I can until November 30 (and beyond) because the ultimate goal is to write the story without compromising my health or my enjoyment in the process.

Don’t give up, people. NaNoWriMo is hard and it’s not for everybody, but the good news is there are 12 months in a year. November is just one of them, so keep writing.

NaNoWriMo 2017: Week 1

Hello folks! Are you doing NaNoWriMo? How did your first week go?

NaNoWriMo Week 1Mine was rough. I wrote only 4,216 words when I should have written 11,667 words. Responsibilities, homework and social obligations prevented me to write 3 days out of 7, which didn’t help. The fact that I was tired the remaining 4 days didn’t help, either.

I almost gave up. I thought my exhaustion was proof enough that I shouldn’t be doing it this year. But the thought of giving up was too depressing.

Besides, this false start isn’t a problem. At this point, 50,000 words by November 30 is still achievable.

Story-wise, I almost switched to something else. Before NaNo started, I had trouble outlining this story because I couldn’t choose a direction. It is complex, as all psychological thrillers should be, so trying to plan it all ahead is a nightmare. I settled for using NaNoWriMo as a month-long intensive brainstorming session. If I can end the month with enough material to make a fairly detailed outline for draft 2, I’ll be happy.

Do not give up, people! No matter how late you are, no matter your chances of reaching 50k, don’t give up. Nobody “loses” NaNoWriMo: every participant ends the month with more words than they had at the beginning and that’s what’s important. And if it can get you into the habit of writing every day, it’s even better! It’s a win. A win that will outlast NaNoWriMo and make you grow as a writer.

NaNoWriMo is an exciting challenge, but it’s easy to get discouraged and forget why you’re really doing it: because you love writing.

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