An Interview With ThisIsHowIWasteTime

Today we have an author interview! This is ThisIsHowIWasteTime, who has graciously agreed that I may call her Jen. Both Jen and I are part of #51writers on twitter, which has brought us together for this lovely conversation. Jen tweets and blogs and today she talks to me!

1. Welcome, Jen. Tell me a little about yourself:

Let’s see, I’m almost 28. I’m a CNA by day and have been for twelve years. I’ve told stories all my life but really got into writing at the age of nine, my first “book” being a Goosebumps style story about a rose that killed people who moved into the house it belonged to (horrible I know, haha)

I strayed away from writing in high school when I started my career and hadn’t picked it up other than writing random story ideas that I never stuck with until my current project.

I have a soon-to-be 8 year old boy, 2 cats, and one very weird pup. In my spare time, I am a hobbyist and have many many creative projects going aside from my book. Crochet, sketching, dabbled in jewelry making, and many more that I want to try.

2. Fantastic. And what do you write now? What is your WIP about?

Ever since I could read I’ve chosen Fantasy, I tried other genres but it was a struggle not to abandon them. I always had a pull towards the worlds and creatures you could find in Fantasy novels/series/art! Actually I always turned to Fantasy books to escape stress/emotional moments. Still do!

My novel is a New Adult Fantasy novel, kind of a mix between Astral Projection/family magic/spirit world. With innocent souls, horrid demons, and a rogue team member. Grace comes back home from college when her mom goes into a mysterious coma, only to find out that her family has special gifts passed down through generations. Along with six other families, they’ve been tasked with protecting innocent souls (living or dead) in the Veil. However the circle broke years ago and went into hiding when the Gatekeeper went rogue. Now he’s back and coming after the rest of the circle. Grace and the others have to find a way to take him out and save her mom and all of the other souls before catches all of them.

3. What genres do you like to read, but NOT write?

Hm, I like to read SOME mystery/romance books. Or New Adult dystopian. Not many others can keep my attention and you could say horror but I have considered dabbling in horror for future projects- not fully set on that.

4. And another reading question! We met via #51writers, a hash tag for and about strong female characters. Who’s your favorite strong female character?

I might have to think about this question, there are so many options. I’ve read so many books that it’s hard to decide. How about you?

Right now, Wonder Woman! Alanna made a big impact on my teenhood, too.

Always Wonder Woman! Or Hermione Granger, I don’t think Harry would have gotten very far without her.

So true.

I was never a fan of the whole damsel in distress scenarios so most of the books I’ve read had stronger female characters.

5. Okay, second to last question. What do you do to keep yourself writing?

I read or do something creative, when I get stuck or when I’m having trouble getting motivated. Just to get the creative juices flowing.

6.  And the final question: if you could give younger you one piece of writing advice, what would it be?

I would tell my younger self “Don’t stop!!!” I shied away from writing and I would probably be a lot farther had I kept going. Now, coming back into writing with all of the technology that it entails, I’m trying to remember everything I learned about writing and trying to learn all of the new information. It’s tough, and a little degrading at times.

Jen, aka ThisIsHowIWasteTime, thank you so much for joining me. I hope that we have a lot of fun on the #51writers hashtag. For everyone else, you can find Jen at her blog, or on twitter. Read her fantasy and enjoy!

Writing for Money: Getting Started

Every author and their dog has writing advice, whether we’re published, soon to be published, or just messing around. I’m not a big fan of giving theoretical advice or espousing the show-don’t-tell mantra (what does that even mean?). But there’s one thing I can talk about – getting writing gigs.

The landscape around freelance writing has changed a lot since I started 7 years ago, which has significantly affected writers’ opportunities to make money. And that’s not entirely a bad thing!

So, let’s say you want to start getting paid for your writing. How do you do that? I have a few general tips.

Let’s tackle the big issue: writing your own stuff. By this I mean short stories and novels that you submit to magazines, agents and publishers. It’s so rewarding to see your name (or pen name) in print, to see yourself credited for a piece of work that not only you love, but that someone else loved and felt was valuable. There are many people who make a living just by writing their own stuff. If you’re starting out, though, that’s not going to be you. Not yet. If your goal is to make a living off of writing, make sure that you have the time you need to focus on your work, but ensure other income streams as well.

Writing for other people can pay, and it can pay well. Start with analyzing what you want to write. There are opportunities in fiction, nonfiction, articles and stories aimed at kids and at adults, web or magazine copy, and more. There are also editing opportunities. Examine what interests you and keep those interests as broad as possible – the more you can do, the more you’ll be hired to do.

Personal contacts are great to have, and if you can get a gig through a writing program, site or friend that’s great. If you don’t have the contacts you need, head to a freelance portal. Odesk, Upwork and other sites will connect you with clients and make it easy for you to get paid for your work. The downsides of these sites are that they take a cut of your earnings, and they’re often flooded by clients who want high quality work for low-quality pay. You may have to take a couple of low-paying gigs to start in order to establish yourself, but always make sure that you’re okay with the work and the price. There’s no shame in saying no, and resentment at the work versus the pay can make a difficult job even worse.

It’s best to have work you can showcase in a portfolio for prospective clients. Make sure that whoever has commissioned this work from you is okay with having it posted.

My best paying gigs have usually been ghostwriting. Ghostwriting has changed a lot since I first heard about it in high school – back then it was writing autobiographies for B-list celebrities and downwards. With the advent of self-publishing and the rise of small publishers, the Book Packager has begun popping up. Book packagers put together a concept and hire a writer to turn it into a novel. Some allow you to write under your own name, some require you to ghost write. Some work together with traditional publishers, granting the writer an advance and royalties, and some pay the writer up front. I ghost write fantasy and science fiction, and it has been one of my greatest writing experiences.

Writing is a build-up career, and it takes a lot of work up front for little or no pay. You probably won’t be able to jump headfirst into a freelance writing career. But with focus and persistence you can build a client list and reputation, see what jobs work for you, and get started on that elusive goal – getting paid just to write.

Good luck!

Writing Advice from the Wall Street Journal

Well, it’s not exactly from the Wall Street Journal. Thanks to Chuck Wendig’s blog post on the subject, I was able to read a lovely article about the way teachers are trying to get kids to use words differently.

Yes, I do think it’s lovely. And yes, I understand what teachers are trying to teach kids to do. And yes, I think they’re going about it the wrong way.

First, the article. It was brilliant. Props to James R. Hagerty, who follows the advice he writes about and eschews the so-called ‘bad’ or ‘boring words.’ Take a look, I’ll still be here when you get back.

You can also consider the objective quality of the article, separate from its satirical element, via these words.

I think it’s cool that teachers are actively trying to teach kids to be better writers, and to use more of the English language. One of the greatest aspects of English is the vocabulary at our fingertips. But the important thing about writing is to use the correct word, not the most interesting one. And that is something that the teachers of the article are failing to teach their students.

I went through a phase where ‘said’ was a banned word for me. I thought there were so many other great dialogue tags out there, why not let them shine? But much better writers than me have come up with the answer. ‘Said’ is an invisible tag. The eye skips over it. It’s only there for reference, when we need to remember who, exactly, said (proclaimed, sniveled, ejaculated) what. It doesn’t need to jump up and down, waving its arms in the air. And that’s what 5-dollar words do.

Despite the fact that I don’t think they’re dispensing great advice, I’d say – let’s NOT tell these teachers what horrible people they are. Most of the kids they teach won’t pursue writing even as a hobby, and even fewer will pursue it as a career. And those that do will soon learn that ‘banned words’ are a bogus entity in the English language, thanks to that great pit of advice called the Internet. We’re not talking about a BA or MFA course here. I can appreciate a class which focuses on making my child think in different ways, even if I don’t completely agree with the method.

I’d like to finish with my favorite quote from Hagerty’s article:

Second-guessing famous authors was tricky, Josh cautioned: “It’s almost as though they’re given a free pass” to flout the rules. Josie submitted that she wasn’t sure they should get that pass.

Her brother winced: “You’ve got to remember,” he lectured, “most of these guys are dead.”

And my favorite quote from Wendig’s post:

Context is more meaningful than painting up your words to be pretty.