Book Review: Your Money or Your Life

I’m going to preface this by stating the obvious: the first edition of this book (the one I have) was published twenty years ago. The internet was nothing like it is today. E-books were far fewer, and there sure as hell was no such thing as a Kindle. Even so, I’m using it as part of my Five Year Plan, to further my career as an indie ebook writer, which at first glance seems counter intuitive.

Stay with me.

This book is important, for anyone, but especially for people wanting to get away from a day job. It offers the standard advice, like making your own coffee* and packing a lunch. But where this one differs significantly from those other finance guides is in the perspective. The book’s goal is getting you to financial independence, and it may be closer than you thought.

But, you say, I need a million-billion dollars to support myself/my family, so I can’t ever leave my day job! “Your Money or Your Life” points out all the unseen costs associated with going to the day job itself. Do you spend money on special work clothes? On parking? On social lunches? These extra costs would disappear along with your 9-5.

And what about extra time? Do you commute? Do you spend a lot longer getting ready in the morning, so you can meet a certain office standard? What about after work–do you need mindless “unwind” time to get over your miserable day? Wouldn’t that time be better spent, y’know…doing something?

You may be working more hours for less money than you thought. And the more money and time your day job eats, the less of both you have to put towards working for yourself.

Pick this one up, from the bookstore, the library, or get it in ebook form. Sit down (when you actually get a minute) and read the entire thing. Even if something specific doesn’t seem to apply to you, read it anyway. It’s the overall mindset that’s important here. It’s about re-learning how to prioritize your money and your time.

As far as career goals go, I’d say that’s pretty damned important.

*pleasant side effect: since I make coffee in much larger volumes than I’d buy at the drive-through, my caffeine consumption is much, much higher and I am much, much happier. Caffeine is my happy drug.

On Copyright and Concept

So, yesterday I had a sudden flash of inspiration. A concept for a story that was so crisp and detailed and visual that I started to worry I’d seen it somewhere before.

Like, literally seen. Like maybe it was in a movie I’d watched and then forgotten.

I don’t talk about stories I’m working on, so no, I won’t be talking about the concept itself here. (Superstitious? Maybe. But I come from a home where putting shoes, even brand new ones, on a table is inviting misfortune and bad mojo to rain down upon you. Hi Mom!) Anyway, because I don’t talk about works in progress, that also means I can’t ask around to see if the concept seems familiar to anyone else. I Googled, which turned up nothing. I wracked my brain. I finally caved and reluctantly told my idea to C, something I very rarely do, and he assured me he’s never heard of it.

Still, the worry nags at me. It’s not that I think there’s anything new under the sun (hell, I even have a super-trendy zombie story under my belt). It’s just that the details of this concept feel reasonably fresh, and frankly I’d hate to find out later that someone beat me to it.

It’s the idea that writing a story about a hotel is fine, but writing about a haunted hotel where a snowed-in writer loses his mind has been done, and even barring legal issues, to write the same story would be stale and redundant.

I asked for advice in an online writing community and was reassured that I should write it anyway: that ideas can’t be copyrighted and that shy of actual plagiarism I should be safe from getting my ass sued off.

It’s a new feeling. I’ve never been so hesitant to write before, and it’s bumming me out.

It’s Spring! Writers, Get Organized

Spring always makes me feel fantastic. It’s not the frigid Canadian winter anymore (though I hate that less since I learned how to knit), and it’s not yet the scorching, disgusting summer when I turn into a walking freckle. Spring is when it feels like everything’s waking up again. It’s a great time to start new things, and with that in mind…

I started organizing. (If you know me well, I’m sorry I didn’t warn you to swallow your beverage before you read that.)

I’ve never been a consistent enough writer to need to keep track of things. I’d spit out a piece here and there, and there’d be huge gaps of nothingness in between. I don’t know how I lived for any real length of time without writing, but there you have it.

But now, see, I have plans. I have goals. I’m producing more and more all the time, and I started to realize a few things I need to keep track of. So I treated myself to an office-supplies fix shopping trip and set up shop, properly.

Now I have lists of character names, which stories they were in, dates of publication, sales information, outlines for future stories, a calendar…I actually feel like for once I know exactly where I’m headed with this writing thing, and how and when I want to get there.

I’m still feeling my way through this whole actually-staying-on-top-of-things thing, but it’s coming together.

What tips can you share on keeping your creative life organized?

“Aspiring” Writers Take Note

…Chuck Wendig has a bone to pick with you.

Anything that comes out of the delightfully filthy Wendig mouth is worth listening to, whether you write for fun or money (or both, please God). His ebooks on writing make you want to pick up a pen and wield it like a sword. (If swords weren’t a little…you know. You know.)

Anyway, I catch up with Chuck’s blog, Terrible Minds, now and then when I need a good kick in the writerly ass.

And the other day, he delivered. Hoo boy, did he deliver.

“No More Aspiring, Dingbats
Here are the two states in which you may exist: person who writes, or person who does not. If you write: you are a writer. If you do not write: you are not. Aspiring is a meaningless null state that romanticizes Not Writing. It’s as ludicrous as saying, “I aspire to pick up that piece of paper that fell on the floor.” Either pick it up or don’t. I don’t want to hear about how your diaper’s full. Take it off or stop talking about it.”

So begins his list of 25 Things I Want to Say to So-Called “Aspiring” Writers.

Coddling, it’s not.

Motivating? Oh hell yeah.

Hire Me!

Hey you! I’m looking for a few good writing gigs.

Maybe you came up with a great story idea, but you’re lost on how to flesh it out. You have all the bits and bobs, but maybe your grammar isn’t the hottest. Maybe it needs a little twist or a fresh perspective. I can ghostwrite it for you. You keep all the rights, any future profits, and you get to tell everyone you wrote it yourself. I’m a good secret-keeper.

or

Maybe your ad copy needs a little flair. You want something that will have customers clamoring like ravenous zombies for your product. You need someone who can give you punchy, vivid copy that’s concise and accurate. Know who can do that? This girl. Let me take care of your copywriting, so you can focus on your next project.

I’m fast! I’m precise! I’m awesome! You need me in your life.

Contact me at stefnsnider at gmail for rates.

The Things the Reader Won’t See

This weekend flew by too fast, as weekends do.
I spent an enormous amount of time doing writerly things: writing (of course), cover design (ask me about recolouring an image pixel-by-pixel), formatting, editing, exploring some publicity options and looking for freelance work.

Do I feel like I got enough done?

Never.

There’s such an incredible amount of behind-the-scenes work for indie writers. If I want someone to read my stuff, I have to polish it myself, upload it myself, advertise it myself, proof it, read and reread it myself.

Is it worth it?

Absolutely.

One day I hope to make this my living. One day I will. But not if I let the little things drag me down and overwhelm me. I have to want it more than the tiredness, the lack of time, the frustration.

If this looks like complaining, don’t worry. It’s not. I don’t have enough time or energy to complain. This is just me laying out the obstacles and vowing to crush them to dust.

5 Things I’ve Learned As an Indie Writer

I’ve really only been doing the publishing thing since mid last year, so I’m sure there are things I’m doing wrong that I haven’t even caught yet. But here’s a sample of some lessons I’ve learned:

1. Do it (mostly) yourself. This is first on my list because it’s my biggest mistake. I had been trusting a third party distributor to take care of submitting all my work to Amazon, iTunes, etc. I didn’t realize, and they didn’t tell me that they had stopped distributing to certain markets (permanently? I don’t even know.) Anyway, I didn’t catch on until I read it somewhere else, and lo and behold, my stuff’s been missing from a major market this whole time. I should have gotten off my lazy ass to format and upload these stories myself. I missed out on months of potential exposure. Don’t do that.

2. There are people who have been doing it better, longer. It’s so, so hard not to hold myself up against other indies. I want my work out there, en masse, and it was hard at first not to run myself ragged trying to “keep up” with the “competition”. But there’s no way to compete with the back catalogue of a writer who’s been publishing for years already. You can write as fast as you like, and they’ll be putting out new stuff just as fast. Besides, the volume of work means nothing; it’s the quality. It took me a surprisingly long time to realize that.

3. Readers will read what they like. Period. It doesn’t matter if there are a zillion zombie stories. If someone likes zombie stories, they’re…wait for it…going to read zombie stories. A good story is a good story, and there’s room in the niches if you have a great, unique tale. You don’t have to be there first. You just have to be good.

4. Write what you want to read. Okay, check it out: I know we’re all “supposed” to read literature. We’re supposed to be cultured and erudite and know who Ishmael is. I get it. But most of the classics I’ve read bore me. I don’t get into ladies-and-carriages-and-tea unless someone dies a horrifying death. I like horror; it’s the one thing I come back to again and again. When I read, personally, I’m there to enjoy myself. You may be different. But life’s too short to read books you don’t like, and it follows that you shouldn’t force yourself to write them, either.

5. Don’t be humble. I’m putting this one here mostly as a reminder to myself. I don’t mean be a jackass; I mean don’t be afraid to talk yourself up a little here and there. It’s awkward, for me at least, to talk about my writing to people (in person). I’m surprisingly shy in certain situations, and to me it feels like I’m being pushy if I talk about my work for sale. The funny thing, though, is that I can’t very well expect people to read my stuff unless they know it exists. It’s something I’m working on.

Any other indies want to chime in? What have you discovered so far?

Kristen Lamb's Blog

Photo via Happy Housewives Club, which is a FANTASTIC site, btw.

I have always struggled with organization, and frankly, if don’t make a list, I will be sorting baby pictures or writing out greeting cards in three minutes flat. I’ve always been envious of people who run their homes with military efficiency. You know the people I am talking about; those folk who aren’t afraid of their closets and actually know what is in every drawer. Show-offs :P.

Yet, I have to say that just because something is our nature doesn’t mean that we are to be a victim to our innate shortcomings. In fact, Bob Mayer gave a really interesting exercise in his Warrior Writer Workshop. He said to look at your Myers-Briggs personality…then look at the opposite of your personality, and likely that is the area you need the most work. I am going to take it…

View original post 1,510 more words

Famous Authors Before They Were Famous

It’s no secret that someday I want to make my living at writing. Nothing on this earth would please me more than waking up at 3AM with a great idea and being able to write it without worrying about work in the morning.

Some days it seems closer than others. It’s hard to remember that everyone had to start somewhere.

I found a great list on the blog at Publishers Weekly that helps to put things in perspective. Did you know that Douglas Adams thought of Hitchhiker while working as a security guard?

Read on to find out where some of the greats started.