Dawn Colclasure's Blog

Author and poet Dawn Colclasure

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Another surprise book

At the end of every year, I take stock of the books I managed to write and think about the books I’ll be working on in the new year. Every once in a while, though, a “surprise book” will land on my desk. This happened with my poetry books, Touched by Fire, Remember the Soldier and Wandering Soul (which is still a work in progress). All three of these books were created as I edited a mammoth poetry collection. I realized they could be separated into their own thematic poetry collections. This is how surprise books have happened for me; I’ll realize material in one book would work better in a different kind of book.

This week, I got another surprise book. It came about in a different way and, also different, it is with a nonfiction ebook I’d been writing.

Recently, I entered an agreement to ghostwrite ebooks for a client. He would provide a list of different books he wanted written and his team of writers would select topics to write short ebooks for him. Well, I happened to peruse what I later found out was an old list of topics. Those books had already been written. Not knowing this, I started writing the book, thinking I’d hear from the client after I notified him of what I was going to write next. I didn't hear from him until I was halfway through the book -–only to be told to abandon the project. It was already complete and he didn’t need it.

Well, after writing that much of the book, I was not prepared to just drop it. I wanted to finish it, anyway.

A writer friend suggested I self-publish this book. I liked this idea. Why not? If I’ve written it, why not get it out there? It does have useful information to readers and it is a topic that could sell. But first, I had to make some changes before moving forward in that direction. I had to give this book another title and flesh it out a little bit more to make it more like a book I would normally write myself. (That is, including quotes from people interviewed. I do this for all of my nonfiction books.)

I also realized it would be helpful to have a co-author on board for this book. And since it’s about saving money and looking for discounts, as well as living frugally, the first person to pop into my mind to ask was the “Discount Diva” Shaunna Privratsky. I contacted her and asked if she was interested in joining me to write this book. I was thrilled when she replied that she was definitely interested and actually had material for the book on some of the chapters included.

So Shaunna and I will be finishing this book together and then we’ll get it out there as an ebook. Yay! Because of the book’s topic, we hope to get it out sometime by the end of the year or around January 1st. I think this would be an ideal time for its release because people will be thinking about how they can save money in the year, start living more frugally and managing their finances better.

I certainly did not expect to be writing a book on this subject this year but I’m excited about this recent development. It’s definitely a book reflecting my own life and something I have experience with, so no worries there. And I hope it’ll also give a boost to Shaunna’s platform as a “Discount Diva.” Many thanks to Shaunna for agreeing to co-write this book with me!

Update, 10/28/14: 

I will not be co-authoring a book with Shaunna Privratsky. Oh, well. Gonna keep pressing onward!

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Saturday, October 18, 2014

My goal to be a paid ghostwriter for a book – I did it!

Not too long ago, I started hunting for a new job. I spent weeks on the job-hunt, checking the classifieds, scanning job sites and asking friends if they knew anyone who was hiring.

After some time of no luck finding a new job, I spent some time trying to think of how I could more effectively find the kind of work that I wanted to do.

At first, I tried to find a job that was outside of home, since I really didn’t need to work from home anymore because I wasn’t needed at home anymore all day long. My son was going to school full-time now. And our senior dog, who often had seizures, passed away. So I really didn’t NEED to be at home while the kids were at school. Even so, I realized that maybe it was time to rethink this approach. Shunning all work-from-home jobs was, apparently, not a good idea. I just couldn’t FIND one that was not a work-at-home gig and which fit my abilities or training. So I decided to include the at-home jobs in my search.

Next, I asked myself, what do I REALLY want to do? And, what CAN I do? What are my strengths?

Writing is, of course, my strength. So I decided to focus on a writing job. I knew I did not want to go back to working as a freelance writer. I have pretty much accepted that I won’t reach that one goal of getting published in one of the glossies. Hey, I only tried for 10 years to do it! I tried. That didn’t happen. So it was time to move on.

But then I thought, what about ghostwriting? Specifically, getting paid to ghostwrite a book?

This has been one goal I have REALLY wanted to cross off my list. I am not new to ghostwriting; I have ghostwritten articles, blog posts and even a book. Those first two were paying gigs. The third one was a freebie because I always, always never charge a first client when I am trying something new. So I ghostwrote a book for free (a children’s book) and I was ready to be paid to ghostwrite a book. This is definitely something I wanted to do. Haven’t managed to land that yet, so why not try again? I had almost gotten there, but my contact disappeared. I pretty much gave up trying. But then a writer friend landed just such a gig and she told me where she found the work. I joined the site and started hunting for a ghostwriting gig there. Eventually, after applying for many jobs, I landed a client. Yay! I was thrilled!

But I also had to get busy, because this client had an immediate need for writers, and he had work ready for me to tackle. And he also wanted the book to be written up and ready for submission by the end of the following week.

First, I had to choose a topic to write about from a list of titles. Then I had to get writing!

And I really got writing. The first day alone, I wrote over 3,000 words. Wow! It was like a switch had been activated, because soon I was writing like the wind. I lived, breathed and thought about the book’s topic 24/7. When I wasn’t writing it, I was thinking about it. It’s like I was all about that book’s topic all week long.

It was quite an experience. I wrote like I have never written before. I wrote while the kids were in school, while they were busy doing other things and while they were sleeping. I even made notes for chapters while I was at my son’s soccer practice! I usually take a day off every week to enjoy some me-time while the kids are in school, but not that week! I was writing, writing and WRITING!

And as I wrote, I had to go over everything several times to correct typos and make changes. This was going to be my first and only draft. I did not have the luxury of writing a poorly-written first draft only to go back to it weeks or months later to revise. Nope, I had to make it perfect on the first go!

So my two challenges as I wrote this book were:

1: To write a book in 5 days. (Monday-Friday.)
2: To write a book that would be a first and final draft.

I am happy to report that I met both goals. It was really exhausting and I fell behind on some other things. I also had to be at the computer to write A LOT. But I did it. I got it done. Yay!

When I landed this ghostwriting gig, I was so grateful that, at long last, my dream of being paid to ghostwrite a book has finally come true. At long last, it happened! I just had to hang in there and never give up on wanting to make that dream a reality. I had to believe it would happen. And it did.

But now I am also grateful for the challenges it brought me. Challenges I was able to meet. I never knew I could write so much in such a short time, but that’s only because I never challenged myself to do so. In this case, I HAD to. I didn’t want to lose this assignment or have the client look elsewhere for a writer. So I am glad for it because it showed exactly what I am capable of as a writer. I CAN write a first and only draft of a book in 5 days. I CAN make that book something I am happy with and confident about even though I had to revise it as I wrote it. And I CAN write about a topic like an expert even though I’m not an expert and have very little experience with the topic.

It was quite an eye-opener for me. I am glad I had this experience because it has helped make me a better writer. It has also helped me to see what exactly I can do as a writer.

Now that this goal has been accomplished, I hope to accomplish my next goal sometime in the next year.

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Saturday, October 11, 2014

When "write" can mean "write anything"

I use a dayplanner to keep track of all the writing stuff that I do. It also comes in handy for deadlines. If I have a deadline looming, I make notes in my dayplanner to work on that assignment until it’s due. (It helps to note the due date.) I also plan stuff out for the week to help me move through things faster, as well as to get something done in time for submission. (And usually, that works.)

One other thing I note in my dayplanner? The reminder to “write.”

Usually, this reminder carries with it a certain book project I have going on. “Write in the ol’ WIP,” my reminder would say. Or, I’d note exactly which WIP it is that I need to write in. And, yes, I have to remind myself about it, because I normally have so much going on that I forget that, oh yeah, I’m writing a BOOK!

Last week, however, when I followed through on that reminder to write, I didn’t exactly write in my WIP. I wrote in another book. Or, sometimes I wrote a book review and crossed off that reminder to write. Or if it wasn't a book review, it was a poem or a blog post. I still wrote something, just not for a WIP that I originally created that reminder for.

The way I see it, as long as I am writing something, anything, then it counts as writing. I don’t mean emails or tweets or Facebook status updates. I mean actual writing. Something that I thought up and put into words all by myself. The bottom line is that I kept up the habit to write something every day, no matter what it was that I wrote.

Why is it important to keep writing as much as possible? Because the more you write, the better you will write. You have to keep working with words. Your writing talent is like a muscle: It gets stronger with every use. So it is important to write every day to stay in the business of working with words. Or, if not every day, then every free minute. This is why I keep that reminder to write there. If I haven't written anything at all and suddenly (gasp!) the kids are asleep, the house is clean and I'm all by myself...then, hey! That's a great opportunity to write!

Yes, that reminder to write is meant to serve as a tap on the shoulder to work on a book, but I don’t like forcing myself to write in a book if there's nothing to write. I won't push myself on that. But I will write something, anything, and call it a day. Because as long as I keep writing every day, I know I’ll get back into a system of writing in one of the book projects I have going on.

I still wrote, and that still counts. 

And the best part about this is that I can keep track of how often I am writing, as well as how often I’m not. If I go days without writing, that’s when I have to ask myself what’s wrong. Why am I not writing as much as I used to? Is my schedule too crazy? Am I blocked? Have I run out of ideas for things to write?

Or is it possible a certain book project has been neglected for too long?

By keeping track of how much writing I do, and don’t do, I can gauge where I am going with my writing and if I’m giving enough priority to this daily habit. Yes, the research for book projects is important. Yes, working on putting other manuscripts together is important. Yes, the writing gig is important. Yes, time to read a book I’m reviewing for Night Owl Reviews is important. But so is the writing. Ultimately, being able to write.

So if I fall behind on writing anything at all, that’s when I need to start examining my schedule and figuring out what it is holding me back from writing. By doing so, I can get back on track and get back to writing every day. This will lead to writing in one of my WIPs again.

So, yes, the reminder to write helps because it keeps me writing. And anything can count as “writing,” because at least I will still be writing.

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Sunday, October 05, 2014

A change in expenses available for writing and author stuff

Recently, I lost a part-time gig that was bringing in extra income for the family. Because my financial situation has changed, I needed to find something else that was now going to support my writing.

How exactly has my financial situation changed?

Up until this month, I was taking money out of my monthly income to help support my writing. This kind of support was in the form of:

1. Hiring an editor for the poetry books I self-published
2. Hiring a cover designer for same books

3. Hiring an illustrator for the children's books I self-pubbed
4. Paying for a virtual book tour
5. Purchasing print copies of books
6. Shipping books to people they needed to go to
7. Print fee for books I wanted to have available in print
8. Ordering proofs of books I was self-pubbing
9. Paying contributors (a pending expense I have coming up)

It seemed like there were expenses every month related to those things, and to pay for all of that, I had set aside a certain amount of money from my personal monthly income every month. This was something which I felt I was able to do because my husband is the main breadwinner in the family (he earns more than I do) and I was working a part-time job to cover any extra expenses we had in the family. (Those things always turned up!) However, the amount I set aside each month for writing was more than what I earned with the part-time thing. After my dog became sick and died, I realized that I was probably doing this backwards. I could’ve used the money from my so-called "book budget" to take him to the vet or something. Yes, the guilt was harsh and I really struggled with it.

But it made me open my eyes. It made me see what I was doing wrong.

I have realized that I can no longer use my personal monthly income for writing-related expenses. I have to use that money for my family. It has to go back into supporting us just as the rest of that income does.

As for a source of income to support my writing? I will use what I earn from part-time gigs for all of that, as well as any royalties that I earn or money earned from in-person book sales. It’ll all support certain things I’ll need to pay for as a writer, author and self-publisher/publisher. This means I won't be self-publishing poetry or children's books as often as I did before, as well as delays in getting books into print.

I am hoping I will find that new source of writing income real soon. I thought I found it when I landed a ghostwriting gig, but I’m having trouble getting paid for my work so I am questioning if this gig is even solid. I do have things I need to do now – I have to ship about a dozen copies of a certain book to people – so I have been trying to find something to cover that as soon as I can. I DO hope I get paid for the ghostwriting job I just completed, but if not, it’s back to checking out the job boards again until something comes up.

And I must say that, so far, this recent change with my finances has been good for my family. I think I’ll keep it.