Life, On Writing

the rise and fall of my freelance career

IN A WORLD WHERE CIVILIZATION HAS CRUMBLED AND CRUMPETS ARE KING, ONE WOMAN MUST STRUGGLE AGAINST THE TERRORS OF THE TOASTERS AND FREE HER PEOPLE.

a blurb no one will ever pay me to write

For six months – from January 2019 all the way through June 2019 – I operated a fiverr account. I wouldn’t say it was a particularly successful account; but I received enough orders to put money towards my groceries while I was volunteering as an English Teacher in Moldova – and that was a badly needed blessing.

Here’s the two gigs I offered:

  • I would write the back blurb of a book
  • I would provide plot outlines/story ideas if you were in the middle of a block

THE RISE

I’ll never forget the first order I received. I was home for the holidays, I was excited and … I had no idea what I was doing, only that I was going to be totally professional and very, very awesome. So awesome. The awesomest.

Reader, I read the whole book in order to write a blurb. The. whole. book.

Don’t be like me. Never assume that you need to read the entire book in order to write a blurb. It will leave you despairing of an impulsive decision to be a FREELANCE WRITER! (woot woot!)

You can be sure that I learned my lesson. Trial met error and eventually I worked out what, er, worked.

He was alone, and he was scared … would he ever pay his mortgage in time?

Genre? Horror. Book? Unwritten.

THE GOLDEN ERA

I stumbled upon how to do it correctly – worked out how long a gig would take me to do, tweak the descriptions, made my own bio just quirky enough to grab prospective customer’s interest.

I wrote blurbs, some very interesting, some highly unusual. I wrote blurbs for a comic series, for an album (well, my roommate helped me with that one. I don’t have the first clue about music really, other than: huh, this sounds nice), for books that were factual and works of fiction.

I wrote outlines for stories (ACT ONE, ACT TWO, ACT THREE, a list of characters – helpfully labeled ‘A, B, C etc’) – I sat on my bed or on the windowsill in-between planning lessons or writing my own book, and forced myself to get on with it. To write blurbs that made me giggle, blurbs that were for books that seemed so personal to the author, blurbs that were to replace other blurbs and so on, and so forth.

For a dedicated procrastinator, I’m proud that I managed to get everything done on time. (It’s been long enough now for my memory to conveniently blank out any failings.)

It gave me satisfaction, it was entertaining, but most of all – and less romantically speaking – it put some money in my pocket.

the windowsill of occasional writing

THE INGLORIOUS END

I came home from Moldova and kept going … but then gigs were taking longer to fulfill, the hole that fiverr was filling wasn’t as gaping or anxiety inducing anymore. I put the price up to deter customers (when someone purchases a gig on fiverr? You can’t refuse it.) The freelance work dribbled, it drabbled, it gave a cough and a splutter and then I called it quits; I had a full-time job. It was time.

In total, I had done 70 orders, studied blurbs (THE SCIENCE OF IT! IT IS A LEGIT SCIENCE) plotted books I’ll never write, worked out that I was terrible at setting prices, and mainly had a very interesting time of it.

I know – I should break this post in two – it’s getting long … but HA, I’m not – let’s talk some do’s and don’ts:

DON’T READ THE ENTIRE BOOK TO WRITE THE BLURB. DANG IT. JUST DON’T.

If you want to write blurbs, don’t read the entire book. Ain’t no one got time for that. You can, if you want – but let’s face it, some of these books aren’t going to be your cup of tea. This is business. (Oh yes. I took myself seriously.) I asked for the following criteria:

  • details about the book – its genre, length, setting etc
  • the book summary
  • key info about the characters
  • things that the author was excited about in the book

Using this info, I was generally able to write a blurb that satisfied the customer. It was like a puzzle, attempting to understand the heart of the thing, and then how to put in a way that would leap out and grab any prospective readers.

Lost, far away from home, and cast into the dark depths of despondency by the loss of her One True Love, Hunter ManlyMan, Leena must wrestle with a terrible choice – tea … or coffee?

No one paid me to write this one either. A true shame.

DO BE REALISTIC

Be realistic about how long something is going to take you – and communicate with your customer. Always. Be realistic about the price – if you are getting a load of orders at a certain price, perhaps – when you’ve received enough reviews – you can put the price up.

But, like, my dude … maybe don’t take my advice on this one? I was generally:

  • insecure BECAUSE WAS MY WORK … WORTHY? OF THIS PRICE? (give yourself a stern talking to if you’re worried about this one.)
  • impulsive … research into the ‘market’ was really daunting so I winged it. Yeah. Maybe. Don’t do that? Or do?

DO MAKE BOUNDARIES

Writing blurbs for erotica wasn’t quite my thing. So. I learned to write on the gig’s description exactly what I was willing to write blurbs for. Or rather, what I wasn’t. There were some narrow brushes, but after one unfortunate … er, blip (or blurb) … I learned my lesson, set my boundary and cheerfully got back to plotting a book series out and writing a blurb about trees talking to us (genre? Factual.)

DON’T LET IMPOSTER SYNDROME SEIZE YOU

Imposter syndrome, feeling a fraud, ‘not good enough’ – I think this afflicts a lot of us. It afflicted me. How do you get past it? My friend – you fake it. Don’t feel confident? To heck with that! Write your bio, your descriptions, your interactions as if you are Maria belting out:

I HAVE CONFIDENCE IN SUNSHINE, I HAVE CONFIDENCE IN RAIN, I HAVE CONFIDENCE I CAN DO THIS STUFF AGAIN AND AGAIN.

legit lyrics from the sound of music

And then? You back that up. You say you’re dope? You can write tip-top blurbs or outlines? You do your best. Your very best. And then you send it to your customer and keep going.

(That’s the secret – keep going. No matter what doubts beset you.)

DO TRY TO HAVE FUN

Be professional but don’t strangle your quirkiness . Experiment with what works and what doesn’t. If you dislike something – it’s going to shine through. I always tried to be enthusiastic about what I was writing – attempted to be a maybe-reader and try to grab my own attention. Yeah. It was meta.

I have a full-time job now, but for those six months, I desperately needed something extra to keep going; and my brief brush with freelance writing definitely helped. I don’t know if it was a brilliant run – it certainly wasn’t enough to live on – but it helped. It really did.

And as a bookworm? It was hella interesting.

happy reading/writing etc etc

Life

reading books, writing books, and buying fish, and so on and so forth

I haven’t completely dropped offline, but my blog has been sadly neglected. Here’s some of the devious things I’ve been up to …

REREAD THE AMELIA PEABODY SERIES

It took six months – but it was six months of reading pleasure. More on this later, but let me tell you it was wonderful. (Also, read it in publishing order not chronological because by George … no, I shall save that little rant for later.)

In short, there isn’t a series I’ve read that surpasses this one.

BOUGHT BOOKS, READ BOOKS, STARED AT BOOKS

The book ban feels like quite a while ago, but I must say that my bookshelves are looking terribly interesting; there are some books that I’ll be soon reading about Georgian Britain and the Victorian era that just look so brilliant, I can’t wait!

(Also I’m currently reading ‘How To Be A Victorian’ by Ruth Goodman and DID YOU KNOW THAT THE VICTORIANS GAVE THEIR BABIES OPIUM???!!! HOLY CHEESE CRACKERS, MY DUDES!)

Also a book about Alexander Dumas?! I’m eying up the Count Of Monte Cristo too.

Still haven’t finished a Dickens. I’ll get there. Eventually. Probably. Yup. ‘fo sure.

FINISHED WRITING A BOOK

Originally given the dignified working title of ‘Unicorn Poop’, these days it is called A Suffragist Abroad and will be coming your way next year. As long as I can get past this editing stage, that is.

Lord willin’, a friend and I will be having a writer’s retreat in a little cottage on the coast in November where A Suffragist Abroad’s edits will be completed. While, I’m there, do I expect to:

  1. solve a crime
  2. walk through mist-laden countryside in a nightgown and cloak
  3. stumble upon an ancient mystery that’s been hidden for centuries

… yes. Yes, I do.

BOUGHT A FISH TANK. ALSO: FISH

This is still quite recent. The tank is called ‘Abbey Road‘ and John, Paul, and George have been recently introduced to it. I’m sure it will go swimmingly. (No. No apologies will be made for this pun. NONE.) But I’m also terrified that I’ll wake up and find them all dead and floating on the top and oh my word what have I done- AGONY!!! BEYOND POWER OF SPEECH!

ETC.

Life doesn’t feel as though it is wildly adventurous, but there is more than enough to keep me busy and I find it hard sometimes to carve out the time for dedicated reading sessions – but that’s okay too. There are books lounging in every corner of my room and all of them are interesting.

(I sometimes feel bewildered by the sheer amount of choice I have – which is admittedly a very privileged position to have.)

I’m trying to learn that it’s alright to not live up to my own expectations (which I never reach and are always far, far too high), it’s alright to plod, it’s alright to take things slow – just … just keep going.

I hope you are doing well – thank you for stopping by!

happy reading 🙂

Life

art, march, and goals for april

I can’t draw. Or at least, that’s the excuse I’ve used for years to hide the fact that I was incredibly disappointed with myself because I didn’t emerge from the womb a full-fledged Da Vinci. (No, I NEVER create high standards for myself. Pfft. Why do you ask?)

At the beginning of March, I thought – NO. MORE.

this was my first attempt at watercolour. his name is harnick. he is not a sea lion as i continuously referred to him. he is a seahorse.

I decided that I would take up sketching and sketch as often as I could. I would have an art journey and it was going to be long, arduous, and painful but I wanted to have a before and an after and draw a super duper eye gosh darn it!

I might not have talent, but I could pour in some time and see what happened.

It’s been a month now (what a month) and I find myself picking up the paintbrush rather than a pencil, choosing to use colour in a notebook rather than words on a document.

It’s so relaxing. So very relaxing. I focus on the page and the paint and not on the world which is whirling round and round with so much panic, confusion, hurt, and death and- I promised myself that it wouldn’t be a post about COVID-19. Dang it.

My writing has come to a standstill, but my hope is that in April this will change. My family is currently self-isolating, I am working from home and our country is in lockdown … so that should cut out commute time and free up some extra time.

(THIS IS LIKE BEING IN A DISASTER MOVIE.)

three brothers, me, and a work colleague wearing a mask – also SO MUCH TALENT HAHAHAHAHAHA. This will be a ‘before’ in my art journey i think maybe. i hope. I HOPE.

(Also, the idea of writing of worlds when my own is in such disarray seems preposterous to my subconscious mind.)

I look back on my ‘goals for march’ list and I could laugh at how much didn’t happen. I survived work, and we are currently weathering the virus. That’s what happened. Everything else, didn’t.

But that’s okay. March has been horrendous and surreal and just very much not normal. I’m not entirely sure what normal is going to look like. (My mind flies to one of those YA novels where everyone wears grey and the heroine is sixteen and suddenly THREE BOYS LIKE HER OH WOE IS HER HOW WILL SHE SURVIVE AND THE WORLD IS SO BLEAK AND ALL THE SKYSCRAPERS ARE ABANDONED AND FALLING DOWN LIKE BABEL.)

April goals? I’d like to write more. If it’s possible. I think I’ve managed to wipe off OneDrive from my computer (I AM A GENIUS!) and have tried to reload it and it’s just not working, dang it.

Ironically, the ‘surviving work’ goal for March has now transformed to ‘survive’ for April. Wasn’t quite expecting that. So. Plot twist.

oh yes, i can see this being a possible career move

This is Lilabet, by the way. She is calm, serene, and UNBELIEVABLY humble. Her hair has Medusa snakes and she’s spray-painted them brown. Rumor has it that that hand? It’s not hers. It could be plastic. From a mannequin. It’s far too small to be her natural hand.

(I CAN’T HELP IT – EVERYTHING I DRAW/PAINT HAS A BACKSTORY. Even a butterfly. I was painting its wings red and I just knew that they were angry wings and basically THE BUTTERFLY WOULD BE AT HOME IN THE FRENCH REVOLUTION.)

Keep going, old chum. Stay safe. Wash your hands. Stay at home. Pray. Look out for others – via phone, or email, or shouting over the fence. And try not to get dragged into the depressing cycle of endless Twitter and news websites. It’s no good. Nope. Nuh-uh.

As the newest Cinderella puts it:

have courage and be kind.

I think I just rambled, Life

very exciting and likely goals for march

Well, it’s a new month. Instead of reviewing what I did in February (… I saw EMMA. three times. That’s it.) I’m going to put my goals/wishlist for March right here. Feel free to let me know what your goals are for March. Or don’t. That’s okay too.

EDIT ANOTHER 40 PAGES OF PROJECT IF

The editing of Project If is going so slowly that it makes a glacier like it’s breaking the sound barrier. However, I will take whatever victories I can and so therefore, I wish to edit another 40 pages and update the word document for the last 40 pages.

Patches of the novel still boggle me – I’m not sure how I got the plot into such a state, but I did. And so, I must mend it.

I don’t see problems … I see solutions.

EDIT/PROOFREAD OUR INTREPID HEROINE THE FIRST

Our Intrepid Heroine was taken down because it needed de-typoing and updating and just a major overhaul. It’s getting a new cover – exciting, I know – I’ve got Monkey and Whale Designs lined up to do it for me and I’m looking forward to seeing what they come up with. I’m going to have a whole step-by-step front cover design post at the end of it too. (I always find those really fascinating to view. AND IT IS NOT BECAUSE I AM NOSY. I am interested in the creative process. So there.)

I knocked this one up myself – but it is time for someone else to have a go …

SURVIVE WORK

It’s that life to work to sleep balance that I’ve been lacking recently. I slipped out of my writing routine and didn’t get enough sleep and so everything went to pot. I don’t know about you, but if I’m sleep-deprived, I turn into an emotional wreck riddled with paranoia and bouts of Certainty That Everything Is Dreadful.

NO MORE! This is going to change. I – a twenty-five year old adult – am going to have a bedtime.

Yeah, I know.

SUCH A BLOOMIN’ ADULT. MUCH SHOCK!!

WRITE MORE + SPEND LESS

Once I’d finished Project If and Unicorn Poop Part One I fell into a creative hole. Well, much like Ben Solo, I’m going to crawl out of the pit, save someone’s life and then die and OH MY GOSH THE RISE OF SKYWALKER WHY WOULD YOU HURT HIM LIKE THAT????

Ah-hem.

Well, I’ll be hammering out Unicorn Poop Part Two and possibly starting back up on Our Intrepid Heroine The Third.

Also, I’m going to be budgeting – or if not that, at the very least be more aware of how much I spend. I need to save up for a cottage with room enough for a library, you see. PRIORITIES.

WEATHER THE CORONAVIRUS OUTBREAK

I don’t usually – or ever, really – talk about world news on this blog, but let’s break with tradition for a wee moment …

No one truly knows what is going to happen though it is very easy to think of worse case scenarios. I keep on thinking of FEED by Mira Grant which is rather inappropriate because that was about zombies and bloggers. (There’s a difference.)

I just hope that we can weather this with the least amount of cases as possible. Perhaps this is too much optimism but there’s always a chance that it won’t be as bad as some people predict.

Oliver Cromwell apparently once told his soldiers to: put your faith in God, but keep your powder dry.

I think we can change this to:

Put your faith in God, but also please wash your hands.

On Writing

hayden wand visits the blog

Today, I have Hayden Wand on my blog. I’m dead chuffed because I read her review blog for years and now I get to examine her brains about everything. I mean, to interview her. Asking questions. Politely. Nowadays, she’s over at Leatherbound, is an author herself, and has excellent taste*.

*And by that I mean – amongst many other wonderful things – she is a fan of Batman and doesn’t mind when I message her out of the blue about him. NO. I DON’T HAVE A PROBLEM? Why do you ask?

So, grab a beverage of your choice. Stand, sit, or lie down. Pop your headphones in or retreat to a quiet place. Or don’t do anything. Don’t let me tell you what to do – except for this: enjoy, because we are in for a treat! We’ve got books (of course!), writing (THANK YOU), a controversial opinion on Jane Eyre (* le gasp*) and Batman (!!!). Buckle up! Let’s go …

TRADITIONAL GIF IS NOW TRADITION!

Quick! Three random things about your day to day routine. GO!

1- The first thing I do when I wake up is make my bed. My day goes so much better when my bed is made.  

2-TODAY has a special wrinkle in my daily routine because my family and I are going to a ball tonight! Years ago, some friends of my family started a biannual heritage ball. We all dress up in our best finery (I have curlers in my hair right now) and then dance like it’s 1810 London. 

3- You know those fancy jade rollers you can use on your face for a massage or to apply serum? I have one of those and I love using it before bed. I feel very rich and glamourous when I do so. I immediately turn into a wealthy Hollywood Star circa 1938.

If you could read a book for the first time again – what would it be?

I think I’d have to say Pride and Prejudice, just because reading it for the first time was one of the best reading experiences I’ve ever had. When I first read it, I knew nothing about it, and what’s more, I didn’t really know anybody else who’d read it either! So it was basically this book I no preconceived notions about and ended up—to my shock—loving.

I’m a little sad that overexposure to the story has taken away a lot of its charm for me.

What’s a classic you think is underrated?

Hmmmm….would the world kill me if I said Jane Eyre is overrated, and I enjoy Charlotte Brontë’s Villette much more? Even that isn’t my favorite (The Brontës and I don’t get along very well) but I think it’s weird how EVERYONE has heard of Jane Eyre, but like…no one knows about her other books.

If you had to turn a book into a flea, put the flea in a box, put that box into another box, mail it to yourself and SMASH IT WITH A HAMMER!! … what book would it be?

OKAY- so this book shall remain nameless, BUT there was this one novel I read that basically used religion (and Biblical imagery/paraphrased quotes in particular) as an example of Men oppressing Women. I knew the novel would be more feministic than I’d probably agree with, but I’d hoped it would more nuanced. Nope. It got RIDICULOUS by the end to the point of not, “men and woman are equal” but “women are literal goddesses and men have usurped our place & used religion of their own to strip us from our power because they are jealous.” It was such a mess. 

you have no option – turn it into a flea

I followed your old review blog and you read a lot of Christian fiction – what are its strengths and what do you think it needs to do to improve?

Oh goodness. I was the BIGGEST Christian fiction reader back in high school, but now I’ve learned I can enjoy it much better in small doses.

One thing I think Christian Fiction does pretty well is just how they are usually just about Christian characters living their lives in the context of following Christ. I enjoy it when the characters are simply & unapologetically Christian. Even in “clean” books the characters often behave in ways that don’t match up to my own values, even if it’s implied they are “religious.” So finally getting a chance to spend time with heroes and heroines who believe the same things I do are a nice change from secular fiction.

But there are a lot of ways I think the genre needs to improve. Many of them follow the same plots they just reshuffle over and over, especially when it comes to spiritual issues; the writing itself can be a little bland and lack personality, and sometimes they can even be too worried about being “clean” at the risk of not being true or realistic to the story they set out to tell. I am excited that I’m seeing Christian fiction branching out, though—and it seems we’re finally getting more Christian sci-fi and fantasy writers out there, even if they don’t write strictly “Christian fiction.”

Now, you and I have discussed Batman in the past (YOU WERE A LIFE SAVER!!) – you’ve been given the opportunity to write a Batman comic (!!!); what’s the plot?

askjhdzfgdhszkf YES! (I LOVE our Batman discussions!!!) This is the BEST question. OKAY. It’s a detective noir-styled comic with high stakes BUT it’s also focused on the whole Batfam working together. Do they always get along? Of course not. BUT BRUCE ALSO LOVES HIS KIDS AND THEY WORK THINGS OUT AND SAVE GOTHAM.

But that doesn’t mean the story is touchy-feeling emotional stuff. Not. At. All. There’d be a lot of focus on organized crime & I think Penguin and Riddler would be the main villains, simply because they are my favorite. (Catwoman is actually my favorite, but at this point in MY comic run she is more of an anti-heroine and totally a part of the batfam as she was always meant to be). 

I also picture it being a bit “vintage”—not purely historical, but with that classic old-school comic book feel. Kind of like in the style of Batman: The Animated Series.

write this. WRITE THIS NOW. (please).

Fanfiction – what are your thoughts on the subject?

I used to be really uncomfortable with the idea because as a writer myself, people taking other writers’ characters and ideas to do their own thing seemed a little…weird to me. Especially because so much fanfic can be inappropriate and sexualized. Nothing annoys me more than when someone’s taken a relatively clean and wholesome form of media and rewrites it to be…dirty. BUT if it’s clean and it’s written well, I’ve come to really enjoy fanfiction—especially for comics and TV shows/movies. It’s also very therapeutic to peruse when characters you love end up with stupid or tragic endings.

I also do occasionally write fanfiction myself and find it to be incredibly fun! Except once I wrote the first three paragraphs to an Emma sequel, then forgot about it until YEARS later before finding the document and realizing that I had 1) no memory of writing it and 2) no idea where the story was going. Which I’m still annoyed about. It probably would have been a masterpiece. 

By the way, congratulations on the new book! What was your favourite thing about the writing process?

Thank you! January Snow has been a long time coming, so I’m glad to finally get her out there! (Even though the whole publishing process was an absolute mess this time—everything from accidentally uploading files with typos to issues with the cover coming out the wrong color—I. Was. Pulling. Out. My. Hair.)

BUT my favorite parts about writing?

I LOVE the planning! Making maps. Creating character names. Writing down detailed plot ideas and fitting them all together like puzzle pieces. There is nothing better than suddenly getting the answer to a plot issue that you’ve been stewing over for days. Or when you realize that you accidentally foreshadowed something? OH it’s the best.

Also, not going to lie—the point where you’re finished and publish the book and then people buy it and you get money? I’m also pretty fond of that part.

How did the story sprout – did you plan it or did it spring into being?

The setting is my family’s car, eight or nine years ago. Topic of discussion? Disney princesses.

My brother Harrison: “I really just can’t stand Snow White.”

Me: “OH? How can I FORCE my brother to LIKE this story and character??? Hmmmm…ah, yes….I shall add MOBSTERS!!”

Of course, that first idea went through MANY changes. In fact, my main character’s personality was completely different in the first draft. Unfortunately, that character was simply not right for the story, and it made the plot and tension really, really, weak. But once I figured out who January was—when she “clicked”—everything else finally started falling into place!

What does your writing space look like?

So my desk is *actually* a dresser in my room that has a space for a bench underneath. It works pretty well…except for the fact that sitting at a bench for long periods is not great for my back, so if I have a lot of writing to do and the house is quiet, I’ll sit downstairs at the dining room table.

But even so, I do love my dresser-desk. I have a row of classic books behind my computer, and they sit below a bulletin board full of random papers and artwork and fairy lights. I also have a daily “Shakespeare insults” calendar that I got from my parents for Christmas. 

Today’s insult is, “You are not worth the dust which the rude wind blows in your face,” from King Lear.

I take undue interest in staring at other people’s writing desks. This has drawers. And books. So – perfection?

Pandas or llamas?

Llamas! I even have a sweater with a llama on it. And an Emperor’s New Groove mug. And also llama lights around my bulletin board.

What’s a really good story you’ve imbibed recently?

I feel like I’ve just been banging around pots and pans lately yelling “watch Tangled: The Series!! It’s too good to languish in obscurity!!!” to the point where everyone is probably tired of it. It is good, though—and after being Greatly Frustrated by animated shows that started out well and then crashed and burned later on, it’s SO NICE to finally have a show that’s been consistently enjoyable. This one is true to the original characters, actually includes character arcs, has great plot twists, and is genuinely funny. I’m just mad it took me this long to get around to watching it!

Thank you so much for having me, Ness! I very much enjoyed it 😀

Thank you, Hayden!! When Disney + arrives in the U.K, Tangled: The Series is at the top of my list. THE TOP.


You can find Hayden on her blog here, follow her twitter here, and check out the stories she’s spun right here. (I recommend ‘For Elise‘. The writing style – very Gothic but in a modern setting – tickled my funny bone and I thought the storyline was terribly sweet. I also thought it was called ‘Fur Elise’ for ages. Apparently, I cannot read.)