Getting Back to Writing

In an ideal world, I wouldn’t have to work at all. I could just write at my own pace and people would be so impressed that they’d throw money at me like confetti!

Sadly, getting paid to write isn’t as easy as it sounds. For one, there are no office jobs where you can sit in a cubicle and produce fiction while taking home a base wage, benefits and a bonus each time a book sells that you wrote or contributed to. I would be applying to that job in a heartbeat. Particularly if there were on-site proofreaders and editors!

The opportunities available often take advantage of writers that are so desperate to get their name out there that the writers often end up paying for the privilege of being published, or getting paid so little for each story that it would be impossible to sustain a living wage even if you were to write 24/7.

The best I could manage, when I was able to get by without a ‘proper’ job, was about 35 hours per week. 9am-4pm Mon-Fri. I would update this blog on Mondays, write the next part of Hermes925 every Thursday, and the other days were dedicated to other WIP, updating the Games and Geekery blog or searching for writing opportunities.

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Disheartened by the lack of opportunities that favoured the writer, I wanted to do something better. That’s when I took over as admin for the Creative Writers group and started bringing people together to help me make the Monolith project a reality.

For those that are new to this blog, Monolith is a series of anthologies (short story collections) containing a variety of fiction written by members of the Creative Writers group. Despite my passion for the project and my education/ background in business management and marketing, it all started to get too much for me to handle and I feel like I’ve had no time to actually write!

Thankfully one of the newer admins has taken it upon himself to organise the project and is doing a far better job than I did at keeping everyone on task. I’m still the heart of Creative Writers, but Greg is the head. Some people might have trouble handing over the reins like this, but it’s not about me and my ego. It’s about doing what’s best for the group, especially the Monolith writers.

I feel like I can finally write again! Especially since my current job as a night porter typically gives me a good few hours to kill between re-laying the breakfast and dinner tables at the start of my shift, and setting up the breakfast buffet right before my shift ends. I may not be able to do seven hours a day, like I used to, but I should at least be able to write something every day again.

I’ve already begun drafting the next part of the story following on from Hermes925: 13/17 Data Not Found. Written a blog entry or two, and added my Monolith story to this page (so readers can get a sneak peek, and to prove I wrote it first if it leaks). I haven’t quite managed to write every day yet, but perhaps that will change as of now.

The reason I started Monolith is so that I could sell my writing, and help other authors to sell their writing too. If I’m so wrapped up in the process that I don’t do any writing then it’s has failed to serve it’s purpose. I’m excited that the team has reached a point where it barely needs me, and that I’m able to get back to writing.

Grinning Again :)

If any of my family and friends were worried about my last article, Grateful Gardening, fear not I’m feeling much better. This is in large part to being able to work in the garden with Grandad again yesterday evening. Mostly we were just re-gravelling the pathways and adding decorative stones, but it felt good. Not only to be useful but to be able to reconnect with my Grandad.

He didn’t realise how much I liked gardening. Grandad seemed just as excited as I was at my enthusiasm, and happily showed me his plans for the garden. He also showed me what he had grown in his hidden vegetable plot next to his decorative garden. He has lettuces that you can just pull leaves off and eat. He also has rhubarb, leeks, raspberries, mint, and gooseberries.

I’m not a huge fan of gooseberries, but I’m looking forward to eating fresh home grown salads and drinking mint and raspberry leaf tea. He has a couple of potato plant growing too. Having a garden had been a dream of mine since childhood. It was a big part of my ‘happily ever after’ dream of adulthood. It’s rained hard today, so no gardening for us tonight, but I’m looking forward to the next opportunity to get my hands dirty.

I’ve also gotten to talk to Grandma a little more than I had. Perhaps Grandad and the Doctors have finally got her meds balanced correctly, or perhaps I just didn’t see her enough while I was preoccupied to make an accurate assessment before. She’s a lot more with it than I thought she was. This makes me happy too. I’m glad I still have the opportunity to chat with her and get Grandma cuddles.

Even chatting with my ex at work today has been positive. Despite our separation, I still have the same reaction I’ve always had in her presence. I smiled. It looks like we might be able to pull off this ‘just friends’ thing after all. She even said she misses me, which boosted my ego somewhat. 🙂

I’m finding my urge to write again too. Not just talking about it in the Creative Writers group, but actually write too. This article is just the start. I’m also going to type up and proof-read the story I’m working on for Monolith, and then begin revising my narrative for Hermes925 to fix any inconsistencies and strengthen its connections to the UbiquiCity universe.

Once Hermes925 is finished, I’ll release it under the CWP brand, and add a page telling readers about other titles for Creative Writers’ Press, including Monolith, Mosaic, and anything else we have out or in the pipeline by then. I’ve had several members of the Creative Writers group ask me to help them publish their work. The stories will have to be awesome. I’m holding Hermes925 to the same standards. If the team doesn’t think it’s good enough for a CWP label, then we’re not printing it until it is.

I’m not going to announce it just yet. I want to get my new work-life balance figured out to be sure I’ll have the time, though I’m fairly certain I’ll make the time. I’m also considering taking more hours at work, to help save up more capital to invest in this venture. I also think I’m more likely to find interesting characters and possibly even people I can network with.

There may be a supervisor position available soon at Whitewater hotel. It would allow me to apply my group-tested leadership skills in a real-world environment, and it would be a much better rate of pay. I’ve already let the hotel manager know I’m interested and reminded him of my experience and credentials. We’ll see what happens. If it doesn’t happen, I have contingency plans.

This is a 360 flip of my previous goal which was to dump the day-job entirely in favour of becoming a full-time writer. However, the structure of a working day keeps me writing, and I gain the resources to produce, market and sell books faster than my current strategy is. I’m going to work my ass off!

😀

 

Opportunities for Growth

For those who read the previous blog entry, Unexpected Hope, yes I did bump into that lady again. I gave her another one of my business cards the very next day and I even saw and spoke to her again the day after that. She promises to email me. If you happen to be reading this, I’m still waiting 😉

In other news, the Creative Writers group is going extremely well. We had had a few fires to put out because too many people were joining that didn’t really belong there. I had wondered for a while how I might be able to make sure that everyone understands the ‘spirit of the group’ when I know that only a fraction of the members will ever read the group description or the pinned post, and join based on the name of the group alone.

I don’t remember now which of the other group administrators reminded me that you can set three questions for new members to answer. I’ve seen too many groups misuse this feature. They’ll ask a confusing question such as ‘Do you promise to follow the group rules?’, when the rules are only accessible after you’ve been accepted. I didn’t want to make this same mistake.

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I had posted a rant to the group after I had kicked out the trouble-makers to try and make sure we didn’t have similar trouble again:

“Creative Writers is a community of writers, wordsmiths and storytellers. We know the power of words. Some words can cause discomfort, and some writers are skilled at deploying these words for maximum effect.
If you plan to drop a verbal bomb in the group, please include a trigger warning out of respect for your fellow writers.

“If you happen to see a word or phrase that offends you, please remember we’re writers. We use words to illicit an emotional response. By all means, correct their grammar and punctuation, but demanding censorship goes against the spirit of the group.

“Having said that this is not the place to discuss religion or politics. You can submit any piece of writing for critique but bear in mind that we deal mainly in fiction and your opinion may be analysed as such.

“We are here to become better writers. To help each other, support one another and learn from each other. Competitiveness and attention seeking behaviours disrupt the spirit of the group and will not be tolerated.”

I boiled this rant down to the following three questions (I copied this from a membership request, so it also includes the answers I’m looking for):

  • Do you understand that this is a place for fiction, and not religion or politics?

    Yes 🙂

  • If you post anything that could be deemed offensive, are you willing to include a trigger warning?

    Yes.

  • Are you looking for a supportive group of fellow writers, willing to help others grow and develop your own craft?

    Yes!

As long as the member answers ‘Yes’ (or some synonym of it) for all three questions, they’re in. If they only answer one or two of the questions, or they reply ‘no’ (or some equivalent response), they are declined. People who still haven’t even answered the questions are declined after a six-hour window of opportunity.  Despite this hurdle, membership continues to increase at a rapid pace.

It seems like we’ve regained the ‘spirit of the group’ I had established when I took over. Finding a way to quit the day job and do this full-time isn’t so pressing anymore. We’re still creating a Kickstarter page, but the focus has been switched from payroll to our product. Which is only right. We’re asking for £3,000 to cover production and marketing of the Monolith Anthology.

 

Plant Cover with Biondi font
We’ve gone back to this cover

 

My original plan, after all, had been to produce Monolith for as cheaply as possible so that all the writers and other contributors can get a fair share of the profit. If I could do it without putting any money in, I would, but my team tell me that this is just as unrealistic as hoping to raise enough cash to pay each administrator $5,000 per month for 6 months! They make a good point.

With all the time effort and passion I’m putting into the Monolith project, including the Creative Writers group and Creative Writers’ Press, I worry that Laura, my girlfriend, is getting neglected. To that end, I’ve been asking her what she’s really like to do with her life. She said she’d like to travel more. At first, this answer made my heart sink when I realised that it would be a long time before I could afford to buy flights and hotels all over the world. Then I watched this video:

I often watch TED videos while I’m working on Monolith, to keep me motivated. This video helped me to realise that travelling the world doesn’t need to mean expensive hotels and flights to every destination. You can travel on a shoestring if you don’t mind roughing it a little, and I have a tribe of over 7,700 Creative Writers to ask for help.

We’ve already had members offer Laura and I a place to stay in Holland, Iceland, Pakistan, Canada, South Africa and several states in America. I don’t have a lot coming in from Patreon subscriptions, but it would be enough to keep my phone data active, and as long as I have power and internet access, I can write anywhere. If it gets too hard I know my family would welcome me back.

We’re not running off immediately (much as I’d like too) we’re currently aiming to start our adventure next year after Monolith has launched, which will hopefully provide an additional trickle of income. In the meantime, we’re going to save up and do our research so we can do this as safely as we can. It will still be risky, but it’ll be a great adventure, an amazing experience, and I’ll have some great stories to tell. I may even end up with my own TED talk!

 

 

 

 

 

Unexpected Hope

Today I was working a breakfast shift at the Whitewater Hotel. I grumble about having to work here from time to time, but I still like it. There are much worse places I could be working. We were waiting for the last of the guests to finish when one of them called me over.

“Young man? (instant ego boost) Do you have any toothpicks?” she asked

“I’m sure I can find you some,” I say, already knowing there are cocktail sticks in the kitchen. I’ve been working in customer service for most of my adult life, and read quite a bit too, to actively try and excel at it. I habitually under promise and over deliver now.

I returned with three cocktail sticks and asked: “Will these do?”

She accepted them gratefully, and I said, “I’m terrible, I always use the corner of a business card.” She replied that she refuses to admit to doing the same. I took the opening and pulled out one of my business cards saying, “I have one if you need it”.

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She looked at it. Read my name, and that it says ‘Author’, and asked me what I was writing. So, of course, I told her all about Hermes925, the Creative Writers group and the Monolith project. She held my gaze as she asked if I was published, so I told her excitedly,

“That’s part of the reason I’m doing the anthology. It will allow me to figure out how self-publishing works without risking my baby”. My ‘baby’ being Hermes925. She came up with a great idea.

“Then afterwards you could write about how to become self-published. There’s a huge market for that right now.” It turns out she’s retired from a corporate position in which she specialised in attitude-focused motivation. I’m sure my eyes lit up as I mentioned a project currently on the back-burner called “Levelling Up! A gamer’s guide to success“.

The book would compare gaining XP (experience points) to gain new skills in both tabletop and video RPGs to gaining real life experience and applying them to your life to develop real skills.

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She seemed very interested in the idea of applying game experience to real life and encouraging people to be more with what they already know. I loaded my tray with dirty plates and used breakfast items such as the jam tree and sugar bowl as we talked. We soon realised that we’d spent a long time talking and she promised to keep my card and email me. I went back to the.kitchen with the tray, invigorated and hopeful.

I was a little disappointed that she left my card behind, but not terribly surprised. If I bump into her again over the next couple of days, I’ll hand her another card as if she forgot. I may have been deliberate, and if it was it wouldn’t be the first time that someone in the corporate world promised me a great opportunity that never materialised.

It also reminded me that the only people I can rely on are my family. They’ve given so much to help me become a successful author. I want to return the favour and help them live they way they want to live. If I want to do that I need to work harder to make Creative Writers Press a reality, and put rest to the idea that some mysterious benefactor will simply give me what I want.

I’ll learn a lot more figuring this all out myself. I’ll be more than just someone who got lucky. I’ll be an expert, and I can use that expertise to compound that experience into more stories, projects and self-help books! I feel more confident in my ability to pull this off than ever.

I’ve been trying to crowdfund to support giving the administrators of the Creative Writers group a salary, so they have more time to work on this. There’s already a Patreon site, and I’m working on a Kickstarter site too. If that doesn’t work, it’s not the end of the world. I just pointed out to someone today that my part-time job gives me a break from all the work I’m putting into this. Maybe that’s not such a bad thing.

However, I think I might be able to get myself a better income if I do this right. I can schedule breaks for myself. I can keep a standard work day again instead of fitting time in around my Whitewater shifts. Even if I’ll fail, I’ll be gaining experience and I’ll learn. When I try again I can use what I’ve learned and I’ll find a whole new set of hurdles, and I’ll learn from those too. I’ll keep practising what works until I have a whole new set of skills.

Those of you who play RPGs will know that at this point things start to get easier, but then you level up. This gives you new recognition, more renown, and tougher challenges. I can’t wait 🙂

Monolithic (the Xan Whittle edit)

This article was edited with help from Xan Whittle, a member of the Creative Writers’ Facebook group. The original can be found at journal.media/monolithic. If you like the changes they made, check out quill & ink consultancy.

A few months ago, I received a Facebook notification that one of the writing groups I was a member of was about to be deleted unless I would like to become an admin. It had no admin and only 32 members. That group was Creative Writers.

Normally, I’d ignore such notifications. If I wanted to make a name for myself as a writer, I couldn’t afford to take on the responsibility of safeguarding a growing online community. I had too much to do already. Between writing my Sci-Fi series, Hermes925, maintaining my authorial presence online and looking for paid writing opportunities, where could I possibly find the time?

Perhaps it was because of the name. My favourite classes in school were the Creative Writing classes. To this day, my best stories are written the way my teachers at St. James’ Junior School taught me to write. You always need to know the beginning, the middle (or muddle) and the end before you even start the rough draft.

The fact that almost every writing group I was in wouldn’t let you post links to your stories was definitely a factor. I wanted to start my own group that encouraged open discussion of your work-in-progress. Posting links without participating regularly in discussion would result in you being labelled a spammer.

Amongst these other reasons, the opportunity to create a haven for writers lead me to my final decision of filling the role. With a little help from my writer friends, I got by, and Creative Writers flourished. We have now reached 6,308 members, and we’re still growing! It is a bustling hub where writers of all genres seek advice, information and encouragement.

One of the ways we’re encouraging members to discuss their writing (and thus, often, write more) is by offering our members an opportunity. This was also inspired by the way that other Facebook groups, writing contests, and vanity press sites did things. I wanted to provide a writing opportunity that I, as a writer myself, would be excited to participate in. So, after in-depth consideration, I produced from my figurative sleeve; The Monolith Anthology.

The Monolith Anthology would not charge a submission fee, or have any other hidden costs. It also wouldn’t bear an iota of resemblance to the endless slick of hideously overproduced, poorly written self-published work. Regardless of the level of technical skill, the books I’m referring too are clearly written too quickly and solely for financial gain. Monolith would be as grand, epic and magnificent as its name implied, and would also be priced appropriately. Too many books devalue themselves. I wanted to be able to pay my writers well, and know that the book will sell. I want to produce something that I know will blow away all who read it, drive them to enthuse about it to their friends.

We’ve already begun receiving short-story submissions for the anthology and the quality of writing we’re receiving is impressive. By the time submissions close on August 31st, we could easily have a book at least 2 inches thick, packed full of some of the best short stories you have ever read. We originally planned for a finished product by January 2018, but I think we can do much better than that. The sooner we get it out there, the sooner we can start work on volume 2!

In order to secure the success of this endeavour as much as success can be secured, I aim to encourage pre-orders, sponsorship, crowdfunding and donations in order to fund the project and allow me and the other admins to work on this full time. With the Creative Writers‘ shared passion for writing, and my own background in business and marketing, this challenge is well within our repertoire.

The way I see this story ending is with over a hundred success stories from every author whose careers we’ve helped to launch, each with a range of books published by the Creative Writers’ Press; writers that were all valued members of the best creative writing community around.

Redefinition

The original intent for this website was to be the public face of my professional writing career. A sort of interactive portfolio. I included Hermes925 thinking that the ongoing story would encourage repeat visits and help me build my brand. I also thought that some day I could finish it and publish it, and have enough online notoriety to get picked up by a traditional publisher that would pay me for the story and help me distribute it.

I realised not long after though that posting the story on my website could possibly be considered ‘previously published’, and would exclude my story from eligibility for almost every publisher I looked into. Crap. If I wanted to actually make money from writing I had to shift my focus away from Hermes925 and look into other alternatives.

I searched online for writing jobs, and writing gigs, and contests, and magazines accepting submissions. All the traditional jobs seemed to be for bid-writing, technical writing or social media content writing for boring businesses. Nothing creative. There were a few gigs that seemed more than a little interesting, but the amount of research, time and effort necessary to write what they were asking for seemed to be more valuable than the money they were offering.

The contests were interesting, but if you don’t win you get nothing. It also bothered me that all of the gigs, contests and magazines would then own that story for the pittance they were asking. You’d never be able to use that story again. It was gone. If I could use the same story for several gigs it might have been worth it, or they paid royalties.

As luck would have it I discovered that one of the writing groups I was in (called ‘Fiction Writing‘) was compiling an anthology called ‘A Horror of Words’, and the theme was ‘ghosts’. I used to love writing ghost stories, so I gave it a go. The group was very supportive and gave me some great feedback, but ultimately my ghost story was rejected.

I’m glad it did, because I realised my story would work better as a longer, deeper, more three-dimensional narrative. I also realised that there was no reason I couldn’t do exactly the same thing the ‘Fiction Writing’ group were doing. I had recently taken over admin duties for a group called ‘Creative Writers‘ that had been abandoned. It had only 32 members and was about to be deleted, but it had already begun to grow, rapidly.

I’d also recently learned that Amazon now offers a printing-on-demand book publishing process, in addition to the Kindle book publishing. I could make a book. I wouldn’t need to pay a bunch of money up front to a ‘vanity press’ that would print my money whether it was good or not. I could do that for free and Amazon would just take a cut of my profits.

Of course, I know that my book won’t sell unless it’s good, so I still need proof-readers and editors, and mentors. I know my writing is good for me, but it needs to be good for others. There was already a great feeling of collaboration between the Creative Writers, so I proposed the idea of creating an anthology together. We would check each others’ writing, and encourage each other to get better.

It was a very popular idea, and there were several great questions that came up that helped me improve the initial idea. The anthology series will be called ‘Monolith’. Book one is going to be called ‘New Beginnings’ and every story in it will share this theme in some way. Submissions need to be 2000-10000 words and be submitted between June and August. Besides that, any genre goes, and you retain rights and ownership of the story.

The admins and I wanted to make a project that we would want to write for ourselves, and it continues to grow and evolve. The latest example of that is a new WordPress page I’ve put together, the Creative Writers’ Press. The hope is that, once we’ve playtested the process with Monolith and ironed out the kinks, we’d be able to offer to publish other books written by the Creative Writers.

This new website has a blog also, and I’m currently thinking it would be a great way to highlight interesting subjects that were discussed in the group that some of the other members might have missed, and articles on writing, and about the spirit of the group. Creative Writers Press is soon going to become my professional face as a writer and publisher.

This page has been great practical experience, but it’s been bumped. However, this could be a good thing. It would allow me to write a little more personally, and less professionally. I haven’t really done a good job of keeping it professional, but there was always the thought as I was writing that some future boss, publisher, or patron of the arts might be reading this.

The atmosphere of this page may change a little. I may speak my mind a little more. If you’re a family member who would rather follow my entrepreneurial efforts as a writer, you may want to switch your subscription to Creative Writers’ Press. 🙂 Go there now!

If you’re still following this page when the next article is written, then I will assume that you’re not the sort of person that would be intimidated, offended or appalled by frank and honest opinions and topics including (but not limited to) sex, nudity, marijuana, heavy metal, gender-fluidity, faeries, demons, witchcraft, success, business, marketing, money, Science, technology, self-improvement, personal development, depression, bipolarFB_IMG_1492162261458 disorder, rebellion, identity and/or freedom. 🙂

It’s going to get real! Either that or this website will get ignored completely while I focus on other things (which is probably far more likely).

Have a great day 🙂