19 June 2011

Working Weekends

For freelance writers, not writing means not making money. It's like the dentists' adage "if you ain't drillin', you ain't billin'." If I don't sit down and actually put words on my computer screen, I'm not going to get paid.

There is an upside, though. The more I write, the more I get paid. The more time I devote to my clients and to finding new clients, the higher the financial reward.

However, that can be a dangerous thing. As a freelancer, it can be tempting to work all the time to be able to boost income, especially during times when clients and projects are plentiful. So why not work over a weekend to get a few extra articles done? Why not put in a full day on the weekends to boost your income?

Everyone needs time off every so often. You need time to recharge your mind (and spirit), spend time with family and friends, maybe even take a shower once in a while. But if you need to work weekends, perhaps for your budget, there are ways you can make them a little more restful.

Take frequent breaks. You should do this anyway, but if you're working on a day you normally have off, or you've been working a lot lately, taking frequent breaks will help. Get up and walk around (refill your water glass!), stretch your muscles, whatever you need to do.

Do different work. Instead of writing, take your weekends to do research or interviews. Catch up on your emails. Make phone calls. Do administrative work like billing or filing. This gives you a break from actual writing, but you're still getting work done.

Work shorter hours. If you can, try working a half day (or less). That way you can still get some time off over the weekend.

Work different hours. If you normally work early in the morning, take the weekend to sleep in a bit and start later in the day. This will make the day seem different which can be restful in itself.

Everyone should take at least one day off a week. Give yourself a break! But if you have to work weekends, do what you can to make the days restful so you don't burn yourself out. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go put my feet up for a bit.

Have a great rest of the weekend!

16 June 2011

A door that closes....

Since we moved this past November, I've been sort of floating around in different work spaces. I have a desk and bookcase in the master bedroom that I don't really use (except the books), I have a desk in the dining room I use most frequently, and sometimes I sit in the recliner with my feet up. This "system" has seemed to work, but with the changes to my freelancing career, I think I would benefit from having a dedicated office.

Since we can't move into a bigger place I can't really have a bedroom as an office, and renting an office somewhere would defeat the purpose of working from home with two small kids. So I'm making do with what we have, and I'm going to create an office in our master bedroom closet.

When I first suggested it, Hubby wasn't sure about it. I think it seemed weird to him. But it's a good solution. We've been using our closet as storage (and not for clothing), so once I move all the boxes out, I'll have a good little room with a door that closes to use as a dedicated work space.

My desk will fit nicely in one corner, leaving me plenty of room for my bookcases and files. I can hang my white board and a bulletin board from the shelves pretty easily. I'll even have a bit of wall space for decorations and shelves for extra storage. It'll be perfect, I think.

I don't know how soon I'll be able to get the office up and running. (There are a lot of boxes to go through in that closet.) But I'm excited about having the space, which will motivate me to make it happen. After all, it'll be nice to not have to worry about peanut butter smears on my files or not being able to find my calculator when I need it because someone has been playing with numbers.

What does your office space look like? (Send me a picture and I'll gladly post it!)

13 June 2011

The nature of the freelancing beast

Photo source
I recently started writing for a content site that I like very much. It has a wide variety of articles available, good rates for what I do and what's expected, no expectations of minimum articles each pay period, and a great forum community among the staff. I haven't been there very long at all, but I already really enjoy the work.

I'm also excited about what it can bring to my career in terms of both my portfolio and my finances. My income is only limited by the time I devote to actually writing the articles. The more BIC* time I get, the better the job is for me. It's steady work and, for many of my colleagues, a main source of income. Even a full-time job. I think that's great, and I would love to be in that position, as well. After all, it's reliable writing with a lot of variety, so it's very attractive to full-time freelancers.

The problem is that when freelancers find good gigs like this, they forget that it's not like working for a traditional company in a 9-to-5 job. It's still freelance work, and you're not bound by a contract that dictates a set income on certain days.

That's not to say you won't be paid, but sometimes there are complications, especially with content companies like this. Sometimes organizing all that pay for all those writers doesn't go as smoothly as planned, and there are hiccups. Sometimes pay is delayed. It happens, especially to freelance writers.

And it's a good reason to diversify.

Freelance writers hear it all the time: have multiple clients. They're urged to keep looking for new clients and work, even if things are good. They're urged to keep working ahead and putting money into savings, just in case a client suddenly doesn't have work for you anymore.

As the cliche goes, don't keep all your eggs in one basket. After all, what if your basket breaks? Take a little time regularly (even 30 minutes once a week) to look for new clients or reconnect with old clients. But don't rely on one client or income source if you're a freelance writer. You never know what could happen.

10 June 2011

Patterned story structure meets the coffee house book

Photo source
Upon the recommendation of Nathan Bransford, I read this post by Jennifer Crusie at Argh Ink about linear vs. patterned story structure, comparing a patterned structure to a quilt that's been pieced together.

This post comes to me at a perfect time in the creation of the coffee house book since a lot of the background "stuff" I'm doing right now deals with structure and how everything fits together with this book, as well as with the other books I have planned in this collection.

In fact, I was just explaining to Hubby last night that I can't really start writing the coffee house book until I have a rough idea of the story lines in the other books in the collection so I know what character is where, who is important when, and what story needs to be told how.

Crusie says:
So in a patterned novel or film (damn hard to pull off), you need to construct pieces that are complete in and of themselves, scene sequences that form complete stories, and then juxtapose them with other pieces to make a pattern so that at the end, the pattern is the meaning of the story. Think of the scene sequences as quilt blocks, beautiful on their own, and the story as the finished quilt in which the blocks disappear when it's finished to form a patterned whole. The blocks are beautiful, but it's the quilt as a whole that's the finished design.
That is what I want to accomplish with the coffee house book, as well as with the whole of the collection. Yes, each book in the collection has its story, and each character in each book has his or her story, but it's how those stories fit together that's the important thing.

The books I'm working on are about relationships and perceptions. They're about how people work and live together in a community, how different community members interact with each other, and what, overall, makes up a community.

I could tell the community's story in a linear structure. I could go through the characters and explain the town and talk about how people interact with each other. But it would be a boring book, that's for sure! At that point, the collection (or the novel, since that's what it would be) would focus on some story arc that links the community rather than what really links a community: the people and their relationships with each other.

As Crusie says, some stories call for a linear structure. (When I first started writing the coffee house book, I thought it needed to be a linear structure.) Those stories don't hold up in a patterned structure. And some stories call for a patterned structure. And those stories don't hold up in a linear structure.

A patterned structure is not easy. You have to know the story really well, be conscious about how the quilt is pieced together (it can't be random), and know how it all fits together. It takes a lot of background work, takes patience during writing, and takes careful editing. But in the end, it's worth it.

After all, quilts sure look beautiful when they're finished, don't they?

09 June 2011

The coffee house book is calling!

Now that my beautiful Bunny has arrived, and I'm settling into a new routine with two kids and an increased freelance workload, I'm trying to make time to get back to the coffee house book.

Photo source
It's been bugging me quite a bit that I haven't had the time to work on it. Ideas have been rattling around in my brain, developments have been revealing themselves, and characters have been begging to be written. So in between scribbling about nursing education and wiping snooger noses, I'll be writing about (and drinking) coffee.

I will not be posting excerpts here, but I'll be keeping you updated on the writing process, how the story is developing, and anything else related to writing I can think of. (After all, this is a writing blog. And I've missed updating this blog just as much as I've missed working on the coffee house book.) However, to keep me accountable for the coffee house book, I will be updating with my writing task list often. I'd like to update daily, but I will post my task list at least weekly. And at least once a week, I'll "check in" with progress on my writing life.

Here's my first coffee house book task list:

  • Work on character biographies
  • Outline chapters for finished character biographies
  • Create a detailed description of the coffee house
  • Start creating a detailed outline for overall book story line
  • Write up the recipes for the chapters
Here we go!