The Struggling Writer

The chronicles of a freelance writer as he tries to make a living.

Friday, June 30, 2006

Repeat after me: "I am a writer"

The other day it happened again. Someone asked me what I do for a living. I stammered and stumbled and finally said something weak like, "I do some writing."

Then he asked me what kind of writing. I stammered and stumbled and finally gave a disjointed list of some of the kinds of writing I do.

So what the heck is my problem?

It's not that I'm ashamed or embarassed. I'm lucky in that I haven't gotten that "When are you going to get a REAL job?" thing from people. So why do I stumble?

I guess I feel like I'm lying. I'm not making much money as a freelancer. Without getting into specifics, I can say that I haven't had to pay federal tax the last two years because my income is so low.

But I'm not saying I'm a SUCCESSFUL writer.

But I am a writer. There, I typed it without stammering. With practice, someday I can say it the same way.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

The hunt for a publisher

I spent the morning going through the book publishers at Writer's Market. So tell me, why do searches at Writer's Market bring up publishers who have been delisted? I felt like half of the publishers I clicked on brought up a "no longer on the list" message. I could see maybe if there was some kind of archive reason, but at least give me the option to remove those from the list.

So I've narrowed it down to about 50 publishers to investigate further. Some of them specialize on books about disabilities, but they are also the smaller houses. I also need to do the old "go down to the bookstores and see what's on the shelf" thing.(Wait, you mean there is research that DOESN'T involve the internet?).

In other news, I have been growing increasingly annoyed with the unreliability of Blogger. I finally got around to downloading Wordpress and installing it to my website to play with it. It imported this blog very nicely, but I didn't like the look. For example, I didn't like the categorization of posts and wanted to get rid of it but the default template uses categories in at least three places. Plus I was tweaking on the sidebar and so on and it just was taking too much of my time. I probably will move this blog at some point but I don't need yet another excuse to avoid writing.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Why am I here?

Recently over on Absolute Write, Teddy Gross offered to do some blogrolling on his blog, Cobwebs of the Mind. OK, I'll add myself to the list, but it got me back to thinking about just what the heck I am trying to do here.

When I first started looking into freelance writing I did a lot of research and learned a lot of interesting things. After a couple of months of this it occurred to me that I could start documenting some of the things I discovered in the hope of helping other up and coming writers. I also could document my daily writing so others could learn from my mistakes and, frankly, because I’m more motivated if people are watching.

In February I made 15 posts. In March I made 4. Hmm. Then I made 8 in April, 4 in May, and this is my 7th post for June. Not exactly the daily update I had hoped for.

I don’t want to turn this into a personal blog. I want to talk about my writing, not the fact that today is my niece’s 2nd birthday (oops, did I slip that in?). That’s why I don’t participate in the AW activities like the Monday Memes or the AWChain.

Then we have the vicious circle: I don't post because I have no traffic, and I don't promote my blog because I don't post.

I know one of the rules of good blogging is that short entries every day are better than a long entry once a week. I need to sit down every day or two and write about my writing, whether it’s some interesting fact I’ve learned or a mention of how many queries I sent out this week (ok, that will usually be “none” but that’s not the point).

So, we’ll see if I actually do that this time...

Thursday, June 22, 2006

It's not that I have nothing to say...'s that I never think to post my profound thoughts here.

My home office continues to help me stay focussed, although my cat (in the way cats do) has decided that any time I'm in the office is her "pet me RIGHT NOW" time.

I posted some time back that I was going to do six hours of work per day. Yeah, that didn't work. So now my rule is that I can't "play" before 4 pm. I don't necessarily have to sit at the computer, but I've ruled out certain distractions during that time. It's working out fairly well so far.

I've also hired someone to take care of my yard. I can't afford it, but every hour I work on that is an hour I don't write.

I also have the usual problem freelancers have: people think that since I am at home I'm free to chit-chat. No, folks, I'm working. For my part I need to just not answer the phone during the day if I see it is one of my friends. But I always have that "What if it's an emergency?" thing. Besides, I have this completely pathological thing about telephones. If a phone rings, I get an anxiety spike like you wouldn't believe. I have no idea why. So even if I don't answer, it breaks my train of thought.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

My first book proposal

I mentioned before that a group of people are embarking on a book about hydrocephalus. We've decided on a book rather than a web site, so I've elected to write the proposal and start querying publishers. There is a great threat at the Absolute Write forums entitled Learn The Nonfiction Book Publication Process With Momma Jenna which has a detailed description of how to write a non-fiction book proposal. Should be fun (I am simultaneously serious and sarcastic when I say that).

I added some links to the sidebar last time I updated, and they have mysteriously disappeared. Part of some evil government conspiracy to restrict your freedom of information I'm sure. It couldn't possibly something like I was looking at it in preview and never actually posted the changes. Nah.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Changes everywhere

I decided to change the template for this blog since the other one I was using didn't have a links section and used images for the sidebar section headers so I couldn't add a links section. Silly, yes?

I didn't mention before, but the home office seems to be helping so far. I'm more focussed and find fewer excuses to avoid writing. I still find them, just fewer than before...

I got a solid outline of the article I've discussed before (you know, the one I've been trying to write for five months now) and hope to have a first draft tomorrow. Here's hoping that I'm finally really on the path.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

A big project

As I've mentioned before, the real motivator for freelance work for me was to give me the freedom to take care of my disabled niece. A group of people on some neurology support forums have decided they want to write a book on hydrocephalus and I've offered to help. I also pitched the idea of doing a content website rather than a book and there seems to be some interest. It won't be a big money maker -- in fact it probably won't make money at all -- but I'd feel good if I could contribute something like this to the community. I'm also more enthusiastic about it than I have been about anything in a while.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Home office

I don't update this blog as often as I had originally hoped. Mostly because each entry would begin "My flimsy reason for not writing today was...". It's the usual freelancer's problem -- it's so easy to get distracted.

My latest effort to combat this is to convert one of my bedrooms into a home office. I considered this idea before but discarded it for logistical reasons -- the only room available for a home office is also the only one where my satellite cables come in, so it would require moving the TV out into the living room (wacky concept, I know) which means stringing cable through the hall creating a serious tripping hazard.

However, I've decided to give the home office a try. I'm hoping that having a "go to work" mentality will help with my production. My biggest obstacle so far has been finding a desk. I do all my work on a laptop and it is very hard to find a desk that works for that. I spent ten years pounding a keyboard and have a real appreciation for how important proper ergonomics are. Traditional desks and tables are too high for comfortable typing and computer desks have keyboard trays which are too shallow to take a laptop. There are "laptop desks" which are small and flimsy. I finally found a table with adjustable height that I hope will work out. Plus I sprang for a decent office chair. Let's hope this will create the kind of environment I'm looking for.

In a similar "spend money to make money" vein, I've also decided to hire someone to do the yardwork that exhausts me. Now if I could only get any of them to return my phone calls!

So within days I should be writing like mad, right? I'm sure this will be completely different from all my other "I'm not writing because..." excuses ;)

Friday, June 02, 2006

Clever marketing

There is an author named Max Barry who wrote a book called Jennifer Government. In an effort to promote the book, he created a free web-based game called NationStates where you can run your own country. The basic game is quite simple: each day you are presented with a political issue that you must make a policy on. For example, today the issue I faced was traffic congestion. I could implement a toll (thus encouraging people to use public transport), I could expand the road network (destroying many green areas), or I could severely restrict private transport (basically mandating public transit). Based on these decisions, your country's politics moves in a certain direction. There's no "winning" and no real competition, other than wanting to be on the top of they daily "best/worst" lists (my personal favorite so far being "Country with the Rudest Citizens"). There is a lot of role-playing in the forums, and there is a UN and "invasions" of a sort, which involve flooding a region and electing your own UN delegate. I don't mess with any of that so I'm just playing at the most superficial level. Come visit The Democratic Republic of Cyjon.

My point is that this is a clever, "outside the box" method of promoting a book. Regardless of what kind of writing you do, self-promotion is part of it and a part most authors dread. Finding a fun way to do it makes it easier.