notebook-and-coffee

Image from Flickr by waferboard.

Do you have as much time as you want to write?

Probably not.

(If you’re in the position of having plenty of time but somehow not getting much writing done, don’t feel bad — that happens too. Hopefully some of these tips will help you as well.)

Very, very few writers do nothing but write. Many have full-time day jobs, or more than full-time jobs taking care of kids or caring for elderly relatives. And most of us want to spend time with family, friends, significant others…

So when you do carve out 20 or 30 or 60 minutes to write, how can you make the most of it?

Right now, my own writing time is limited. While I produce plenty of words during my working hours, it’s tough to find the time for my fiction.

Back in January, I wrote about my optimistic plans to write 900 words every evening. (If that sounded rather ambitious to you … well, you were right!)

So here’s my advice for me, and for you too – seventeen ways to make the most of the time that you do have, however little it might be.

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A couple of weeks ago, I sent out a newsletter titled – like this post – “Can you call yourself a writer if you’re not currently writing?”

It got a great response … and I realised I’d hit on a subject that quite a few writers are concerned about.

So if you missed it:

1. Make sure you get future newsletters by signing up here.

2. Read on for the extended version…

blank-notebook

Image from Flickr by Pink Sherbet Photography

I’ve always been told – and I’ve probably told a fair few writers – that to be a writer, all you need to do is write.

You don’t need to be a full-time writer, or a paid writer, or a published writer.

You just need to write.

But … what if you’re not writing?

Last year, when Kitty was born, I had a couple of months where I did virtually no writing. I wasn’t working on my novel, and I wasn’t writing for clients – I was busy getting to grips with being a mum.

Does that mean I stopped being a writer?

Let’s dig into this a bit.

What Makes a Writer a Writer?

You’re writing a thousand words every day on your novel.

Are you a writer?

Of course.

(Heck, at that rate, you might well be a professional, full-time writer.)

Take it down a notch.

You’re writing two thousand words every weekend on your novel … and squeezing in a few extra words when you get time during the week.

Are you a writer?

Sure.

(Maybe you’ve got a full-time day job, or you’re a full-time parent. But you’re still a writer.)

Take it down another notch.

You’re starting to feel a bit stale. You go away for a week in the countryside, without your laptop. For seven days, you don’t write a single word.

Are you still a writer?

Sure. Writers are allowed holidays (really)!

But…

What if you take three months off from writing … or three years?

Are you still a writer?

Yes. You’re Still a Writer

Being a writer is not simply about putting words on a page. After all, many people write as part of their job (emails, at least) and they wouldn’t necessarily think of themselves as “writers”.

If you’re a writer – if writing fulfills you, if you don’t feel complete without it – then taking a break doesn’t mean you stop being a writer.

If you’ve taken weeks or months (even years) away from writing in the past, and you’ve found your way back to it, you’re a writer.

And you don’t need me to tell you that.

Writing’s in your heart, in your blood, in your breath. Writing’s part of who you are. Maybe it’s a relatively new part – but more likely, it’s been part of you for years.

(Even if you were denying it. Even if you were afraid to write.)
Is it Time to Come Back to Writing?

If you’re on holiday from writing, that’s okay.

Maybe life is just too busy or too stressful or too full right now.

Don’t force yourself to write.

Don’t beat yourself up for not writing.

You’re still a writer, and you’ll come back when you’re ready.

If you feel like you are ready, though – that you do want to come back, but you can’t quite find the path – here’s how you might begin.

Step #1: Dip your toes back into the writing world.

Read your favourite writing blogs.

Not got any? Try some of my favourites:

Step #2: Make a writing appointment.

Get away from home or work. Give yourself at least an hour, preferably more, and write.

You could book a writing class locally, or simply block out a couple of hours in your diary.

Don’t know where to start?

Write about something you overhear. Tackle a writing prompt or writing exercise. Choose an everyday object – a pen, a coffee cup, a mobile phone – and use it to inspire a blog post or a pice of flash fiction or a poem.

Step #3: Commit to a new project.

Stay tuned … I’ve got a new resource coming on this.

Find something you really want to write.

Maybe it’s a novel you’ve been dreaming about for years.

Maybe it’s a magazine article on a topic that’s close to your heart.

Maybe it’s a memoir or poetry or fanfiction … or anything that captures your thoughts and makes your heart leap.

You don’t have to work on it every day. You don’t have to finish it within a year. There’s no rush.

Finishing feels great. But the moment when you sit back and look at your finished story / article / book is just that – a moment.

What matters, what makes you come alive, is the journey. The writing.

 

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writing-money

Image from Flickr by Inha Leex Hale.

One of the big writing ambitions I hear about from a lot of people is:

I want to make money writing.

They – quite reasonably! – want to be rewarded for their talent and their work.

Yet many writers think that there’s something wrong with their dream.

Maybe they’re worried that making money will turn them into a hack, and that writing for pay is “not real writing”.

Maybe they think that while they might be able to make money “some day,” that day is many years away.

And very often they’re convinced that it’s going to be really hard, maybe impossible, to achieve that dream.

Here’s the truth.

It’s Far From Impossible

How hard is it to make money writing?

Honestly?

Not as hard as you probably think.

I make money writing, and I’ve been doing so for six years. While it’s not necessarily easy, it’s far from impossible, and if you’re even a moderately good writer, you can do it.

How do I know? Because…

Lots of Mediocre Writers Make Money

I’d rather this wasn’t the case, but it’s true: there are plenty of mediocre writers out there who make money from their words.

They probably aren’t getting rich … but they’re not necessarily doing terribly either.

Maybe they’re indie novelists with a flair for self-promotion, or agency copywriters specialising in website text, or public sector workers.

If they can make money writing, so can you.

And this is why…

There Are Plenty of Opportunities Out There

While print media and traditional publishing may be going through rocky times, that definitely doesn’t mean that writing is dead.

Far from it.

The web has opened up a huge number of new opportunities, with companies from tiny start-ups to huge brands running blogs, email newsletters and more.

Just take a look at Freelance Writing Jobs to see how many writing/editing gigs are around.

Having a Website Isn’t Essential

Would-be paid writers are sometimes put off starting because they think they need to present a really “professional” face to the world … complete with flashy website, slick business cards, an office phone number, and more.

The truth is, you can get started without any of this. Sure, a well-designed website will give you extra credibility – but what editors and clients really care about is how well you can write.

When I started out, I did have a website, but it was terribly designed (by yours truly ;-)) and I doubt most of my clients even glanced at it.

So…

Here’s Your Three-Step Plan

If you want to make money from your writing, here’s what to do.

I’m assuming here that you plan to make money selling writing services to clients rather than by selling books to readers – though some of the advice will apply either way.

#1: Choose a Specialism

I know it sounds counter-intuitive, but it’s much easier to run a business where you specialise in a particular form of writing or editing – e.g. creating blog posts, editing fiction, or proofreading non-fiction books.

This doesn’t rule out branching out in the future – or offering extra services to your clients – but it does help you stand out.

(If you’re aiming to make money from fiction, the same goes: stick to one clear genre, at least initially.)

#2: Build up a (Small) Portfolio

You don’t need a huge folder of published pieces in order to get work as a writer … but you’ll struggle if you don’t have any previous experience.

So, initially, you may need to do some work for free. That could be:

  • Writing articles for your local paper.
  • Writing guest posts for blogs.
  • Writing advertising copy for a charity.
  • Editing a friend’s writing.

… or almost anything. It’s useful if at least some of your published pieces are available online, so you can easily point potential new clients toward them.

#3: Start Pro-Actively Looking for Work

In the early days, you’ll need to spend a fair amount of time looking for paid writing opportunities – don’t expect them to simply fall into your lap.

(A few months down the line, you may well find that you have plenty of work from existing clients plus referrals.)

Use multiple methods, like:

  • Attending local networking events.
  • Getting friends to spread the word on Facebook / to their offline networks.
  • Applying for jobs that you’ve found listed online.
  • Writing guest posts for major blogs or websites, with your email address (or a link to your website, if you have one) in the bio.

And that’s it!

There’s no hidden secret and no magic bullet. Making money from your writing might feel like a distant dream … but it’s probably a much more achievable goal than that.

Whether you’re currently getting paid to write, or whether you’re hoping to do so in the future, share your thoughts (and tips) in the comments.

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novel-take-the-plunge

Image from sxc.hu by tatlin.

You want to write a novel.

It’s been your New Year’s resolution more times than you want to admit. And you might well have been day-dreaming about it or scribbling notes about it for months or years.

But you’ve never quite started the actual writing. And you’re not sure that you’re ready.

Wait, that’s not you? You ARE writing a novel but it’s taking forever? I’ve got a post for you too – How to Finish Your Novel (While Life Goes On)).

If you’re still with me, here’s how to take the plunge and get your novel going:

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The Three Stages of Editing (and Nine Handy Do-it-Yourself Tips)

January 28, 2014

Image from Flickr by Nic’s events. Whether you love editing or hate it, if you’re a writer, there’s no way round it. You may well have support – from beta readers, your spouse, your writers’ circle, or a professional editor – but a fair amount of editing needs to be done alone. I believe “editing” […]

14 comments [ click to read article...]

Is Social Media a Good Thing for Writers? (Pros, Cons and My Tips)

January 15, 2014

(Image from Flickr by Jason A. Howie) Should writers be on social media, or should they stay away? By “social media”, I mean sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and Pinterest. (Technically, social media also covers blogs, but I’m leaving those out for simplicity’ sake.) There’s a good chance you have an account on one (or […]

20 comments [ click to read article...]

How to Create a Writing, Publishing and Marketing Plan for the Year [Includes Template]

January 8, 2014

Did your writing go as well in 2013 as you hoped? If not, you’re definitely not alone! My plans didn’t quite work out either. In fact, “plans” is probably a bit generous. Often, what I have are writing dreams – “finish my novel this year” or “find time to market the previous novel”. It’s always […]

21 comments [ click to read article...]

2013 in Review and Seven Posts You May Have Missed

December 23, 2013

The past twelve months have been exciting and busy ones for me. Here are a few highlights: March 2013 – Kitty was born! I blogged about her a couple of months later, here. June 2013 – I opened the doors of Writers’ Huddle permanently – new members can now join at any time. July 2013 […]

8 comments [ click to read article...]

Blogger’s Guide Half-Price Sale for Charity

December 9, 2013

Super-quick version: All four of my Blogger’s Guides are half-price from Mon 9th – Sat 14th December All the money raised in that time will go to Divya Shanthi, a small charity in Bangalore, India Details of the guides are towards the bottom of this post Read on for the slightly longer version… It’s my […]

10 comments [ click to read article...]

Let’s Get Spooky: Writing Workshop Recap

November 5, 2013

I’ve not been to nearly as many workshops and classes this year, due to a certain little person taking up a lot of my time… But my friend and fellow writer and blogger Lorna Fergusson of fictionfire runs inspiring Saturday afternoon “Focus Writing Workshops” once or twice a month at her home in Oxford, which […]

25 comments [ click to read article...]