Novelist: The full-time job, but part-time.

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There’s a romantic notion that writers spend their time either in coffee shops with a fountain pen in hand, scrawling notes in a beautiful notebook, or locked away in a writing room, with a bookshelf that reaches across one wall, and a view overlooking a stunning garden, full of inspiration. I’ve read statuses and comments telling authors that to be successful, they need to be able to push a book out a month, and spend £1000s on marketing and promotions. However, for me, this is not achievable. Not because I don’t want it, but because it’s simply not practical.

My office varies between sitting on the sofa in the front room or sitting at the dining table in the kitchen. One day, I hope to be able to transform our spare room into a little study, but it will be one that I share with my photographer husband and gaming children since the idea is that we invest in a high-spec PC they are able to use as well. It won’t be a private sanctuary I can hide away in, and I think this is partly why I struggle to make writing a full-time job, even though crafting a novel requires my undivided attention.

The average job is 9-5, Monday-Friday. My husband works longer hours than that, and on top of his day-time job also runs his own photography business. I don’t have what most people consider to be a “day job”, and a lot of people assume that I should be at home playing the good housewife, writing in my spare-time. Those that don’t think a woman’s place is in the kitchen, have the idea that I do write full-time, from the comfort of my own living room. Neither of these are true.

I’m a writer. I have been since 2008, when I got my first freelancing job. Since then I’ve moved onto editing, proofreading, fact-checking, and dabbled with cover design. I set up RW Literary Services, took it down again when I got overloaded, and have recently set it back up taking on even more work. I write for private magazines and websites, as well as “content mill” websites, churning out article after article on a variety of topics. So, yes, as a writer, I work full-time. Sadly, it does not pay enough to be considered a full-time job, nor does it allow me the same hours to work on my novels.

writing

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not ungrateful! I love creating new covers and helping other authors reach their goals. I love promoting my friends, and finding books for readers. However, I wish that I could call myself a novelist, and right now, I don’t believe I can.

The dream of having a library that I can hide away in, spending my days working on the next novel, be it a Charlotte Howard erotic romance or a C.V. Leigh paranormal story, keeps me going. It gives me something to aim for. One day, I will be a full-time novelist. But just lately, I’ve found myself being dragged down with negative thoughts, mainly because of the unhelpful and unachievable goal aspects spewed across social media.

There’s a difference of opinions over whether quick releases are positive or negative on an author’s career. Some claim to be making six-figure salaries by writing, self-editing, and self-publishing a book a month. Personally, I don’t think that’s realistic. Yes, some authors are clean writers and capable of producing quality work in quick time, but not everyone can, and I don’t think it’s fair to tell authors that they should be forgoing an editor and cover designer in order to save money. I’m not saying that because I work as an editor and cover designer, I’m saying it because it’s true. Even with my self-published books, I didn’t work alone. I had a whole host of people working behind the scenes. Even as an editor, I would never think to edit my own book. You should have an unbias opinion and a fresh set of eyes scan over every piece of work that’s going to be read by the public. But, that’s just my opinion.

I don’t think writing a novel a month is going to help my situation anyway. I’m a slow writer, and even slower at editing. I can write a first draft in 20-30 days, but that is just a first draft, and nobody should ever publish a first draft. My debut C.V. Leigh novel, The Change: A Wolves of Faol Hall novel is in the process of being edited, and because it’s a new genre for me, it’s taking a looooong time to get through. In the mean time, my head is full of ideas for new romance novels that I can’t give any attention to because the way my brain works means having to focus on one project at a time, and with RW Literary Services doing quite well, and my romance novels needing to be marketed, I’m already being pulled in several directions, and it is affecting the quality of my writing (shown by the amount of editing my recent books have needed). But, bills need to be paid, and editing a debut novel doesn’t bring in any money at all.

Saying that, I don’t think I’ll give up RW Literary Services even if I become a best-selling author. I’ve quite enjoyed creating digital artwork and expanding my skill-set. I produce images like the above in my downtime when I’m trying to clear my head from everything that’s tumbling around in it. Most of the images, I’ve picked up from commercial-free sites, but a few that I’m working on at the moment are from my husband’s stock.

I write romance as part of my career, and I still hold onto that romantic ideal of sitting in my own library, gazing out across my beautiful garden with bees and butterflies flitting around herbs and fruit trees, while my books make money without needing any help from me. But for now, I’ll have to make do with a laptop, on the sofa, and using my paltry royalties to pay for marketing.

P is for… #Procrastination. #FridayFeeling #AmWriting #AmEditing

It’s Friday. Both my children are off sick (again), and I am full of cold myself. My ears hurt, my throat hurt, and I cried when a neighbour popped in to bring me teabags. It’s safe to say that I am not in the mood to do any kind of work at all. But, the joys of being self-employed mean that if I don’t work, then I don’t get paid. So, work I must.

Yesterday, I finally finished part one of a five-year project.

Yes, for five long years, possibly more, my brain has been overflowing with the idea for an epic high fantasy series. I’ve spoken about it before, several times, but now it’s more than a plot bunny digging a warren through my mind. It is a real-life thing, and the first part is a complete first draft.

end of part one

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I have many opening chapters, and eventually gave up and decided to concentrate on dialogue, creating a script for it instead. So, while I have a first draft, and it currently stands at around 350 minutes (five and a half hours) long – if it were to be made into a film – it is not the first draft of a novel.

As a High Fantasy series, it will be written under my pen name, C.V. Leigh, and I know I should be concentrating on either turning this into a novel, or getting on with the next bit. But, my thoughts are fuzzy, my ears are ringing, and I am starting to panic over Brexit and food shortages. I cannot concentrate on anything writing-related.

I’ve also started several other projects over the past month, including re-opening RW Literary Services. I’ve found that I have a habit of playing with Photoshop when I should be writing. It’s my procrastination method. I either read a book, watch Netflix, or take Hubby’s photos from his Glamour Monkey site, and photoshop them. I’ve been watching YouTube videos to learn new techniques, and I think I’m doing quite well!

Copyright 2019 Glamour Monkey

All Rights Reserved

And, I’ve started looking on other sites to find images that I’m able to use, turning them into possible book covers:

I’m aware that they’re not great, but I am still learning. I still procrastinating. (Book covers are available for sale if you want one – email RWLiteraryServices@gmail.com)

When I’m not playing with Photoshop, reading, or watching cosy-mystery movies, I’m panicking. I really need to stop watching the news, but I’m glued. With all the worry over Brexit, Mum-Me has started stocking up on anything we import and blogging about it.

Blogging – more procrastination. I’m working on re-establishing #TirgearrTuesday at the moment, and have set up several posts ready to share the work of myself and other Tirgearr authors. But what I really should be doing is writing.

Or editing.

Or something other than procrastinating…

Happy Friday!

Needs Must… #amwriting #amediting

In 1996, I had my first publication. I was 14 at the time, and my grandma announced that she’d submitted a poem that I’d written for her when I was 10, to a regional anthology. To my surprise, it was accepted. Roll on three more years, and I was studying my A-Levels at Tuxford Comprehensive, Nottinghamshire. I definitely picked the wrong ones, focusing on science and maths rather than the arts. I knew I wasn’t going to do well, and stopped trying, instead spending my time writing short stories for my friends. The first one of any length was a 30k word novella titled ‘Can’t Buy My Love‘. God knows where it ended up, it’s probably on an old floppy disk in my mum’s attic.

I didn’t do well in my A-Levels, and for a while I flitted around from job-to-job, trying to find my way in the world. I signed up to the RAF and lasted 10 weeks, with old injuries flaring up to the point that I was left with little option but to leave. I worked at MacDonalds, I worked as a waitress, I worked in a bakery, I worked in retail, and eventually settled into veterinary nursing (although I didn’t qualify). Through all of this, the one constant was my need to write. Poetry, short stories, and first chapters were scribbled down and typed out, but I didn’t do anything with them.

2007. I was living in Jersey with my husband, and was pregnant with my daughter. It was an horrendous pregnancy, filled with problems that culminated in girl-child being born 8-weeks premature with health complications. I was on bed-rest, and started to find things to fill my time. I kept writing. I started to knit. I signed up to the Open University and completed a certificate in Creative Writing. I discovered content mills.

Content mills are a debatable topic amongst writers. Some think they are terrible – you don’t get paid what you’re worth, you upload articles to websites without the guarantee of sales, and a lot of the time you end up giving away the rights to your articles. I started writing for Helium.com. I began uploading a few of my poems, and sort of fell into writing pet care and health articles. I started to do really well, at one point earning $900 a month in affiliate sales alone. Then I started to find flaws in other articles, particularly ones giving incorrect advice. I was approached by a channel manager and asked if I wanted to become a fact-checker. I jumped at the opportunity, and this eventually led to proofreading and training as an editor, before becoming a channel manager myself. It was a full-time job, and through it, I made some amazing contacts and sold articles to private magazines & e-zines. I started ad-writing. At the height of it all, I was making $2,500 a month. But, my creative writing was being affected.

In 2011, the site began to fail. It was sold to another company, and completely dissolved in 2012. This gave me the opportunity to focus on creative writing, and I wrote The Final Straight, followed by Seven Dirty Words and Four Letter Words. I kept up with my freelance writing & editing, although I found it difficult to find a site that worked as well as Helium.

Jump forward to 2019. I now have 11 books published, both self- and traditionally, with a bad experiment currently sat on KDP unpublished. I’ve also completed my degree in Arts & Humanities, with a pathway in English Language, gaining an Upper Second Class Honours. I’ve worked with editors and cover designers for almost 7 years, either freelance or provided by traditional publishing houses.

Who Would You Choose_

www.charlottehowardauthor.co.uk

But none of this brings in as much money as I was earning when I was freelancing, and my bills continue to come in and expect to be paid.

I’m taking a break from writing romance this year, while I focus on my pen name – C.V. Leigh, and writing paranormal and fantasy novels. However, I still need to pay those damned bills. So, I have set up a few things to try and help raise much-needed funds.

EDITING & COVER DESIGN 

A few years ago, I set up RW Literary Services but closed it down for a variety of reasons, which I wrote about on this blog. I’ve decided to re-open it, but with a few changes. I’m still offering blog spaces and reviews for free, but I have changed the prices, and now offer cover and graphic design as well. You can follow me on Facebook.

I’m still learning when it comes to cover design – I am not a trained digital artist. With a photographer for a husband, I have access to top-end editing software and unique photographs that I can use. All of this is reflected in the prices, keeping them low compared to more qualified and experienced cover artists… You get what you pay for!

I’ve also set up a Patreon site, originally under the name of C.V. Leigh, but now changed to RW Literary Services.

FREELANCE WRITING

I’ve also gone back to freelance writing. I’ve currently uploaded all of my articles onto Dot Writer, which can be bought directly from them. The articles focus mainly on pet care and health, but I have also written about friendship, beauty & health, and financial issues.

Paying bills sucks. But, with any luck, I might be able to scrape through 2019 and enter 2020 with a successful business!

Rejected!

I recently received a lovely email from a fan and an aspiring author asking for some advice, and while I have responded, I felt that I should share my experience with rejection with all of you.

The email:

Dear Charlotte,

I am a fan of all of your books and have been following you since you first published Seven Dirty Words. I’m an aspiring author myself and was wondering if you had any tips on how to avoid rejection. I submitted a manuscript to agents and publishers, but every single one of them has sent it back and I’m feeling very down. 

Thank you,

FAN

My response:

Dear FAN,

Firstly, I’d like to say thank you for reaching out to me. I always enjoy receiving emails and messages from readers. The next thing I’d like to say is don’t beat yourself up over a rejection, especially if it’s with your first piece of work. Yes, I’m published now, but I wasn’t always and I still get rejected. In fact, I had a new manuscript rejected by three publishers in the past month – two of them being publishers I already have contracts with! Why? Because the manuscript I sent wasn’t up to scratch. It really is that simple. It wasn’t of a good enough standard to be considered. I’m lucky in that two of the rejections came with feedback and constructive criticism, and I plan on taking those comments and re-writing my novel over the summer. 

As a writer, it’s important that you have a thick skin. You will receive rejections and 1-star reviews and negative comments throughout your career. Even well-known authors have to deal with it. However, while you need to let the negativity slide off you, you need to take the comments that professionals make and learn from them. One of the comments I received with my recent rejection was that there was too much too soon. My characters burst onto the scene with little or no build-up. I could take that comment and get huffy, but instead I’ve looked at the scene and found areas that could be improved on.

If you got a standard rejection letter of “thanks but no thanks” with little or no feedback, the chances are that your manuscript didn’t make it past the slush-pile. This is common when it comes to big publishers & agents – in fact if it came from a big publisher or agent, then count yourself lucky that you got a response at all! The slush-pile is the enemy of all aspiring authors. There is no guaranteed method that gets you past it, all you can do is craft an amazing submission letter and synopsis, and pray. Also, make sure you follow their submission guidelines to the letter!

With regards to the manuscript, I would highly suggest finding someone neutral to read over it. Don’t ask your mum or a friend – they’re going to say that it’s great. Join a local book club, writers group, or art community and find someone who is willing to read through and give you some good, strong feedback. The manuscript I submit is never the first one I write. I take chapters and snippets to my local writers group to read out, and I’ve buddied up with another writer who can be quite brutal when he wants to be! I then go back, completely re-write it from scratch, and then edit it about three or four times before submitting. Even then, I can guarantee there will be silly mistakes (slither vs sliver and jettisoned vs jetted are always mistakes I make), typos and grammar errors that I’ve missed.

My last piece of advice would be to find authors that in the same genre as you, and follow them on social media. They will give you insights into who they use for editing, who their publishers are etc., and you may find that you make some useful contacts along the way. When I started out, it was a chance meeting at a literary festival that led me to discovering small press publishers like Tirgearr Publishing. 

I wish you all the luck with your novel, and hope you’ll stay in touch. I’d love to follow you on your journey.

Charlotte Howard

RIP RWLS

Some of you may know that 6 months ago (or just a bit over), I headed down a new fork in the road of life. With almost 10 years experience of editing and fact-checking, and 15 years of CV writing, I set up RW Literary Services, offering these (and other) skills for a price. And for the past 6 months, whilst not wholly successful, I have been happy with the way things have been going. However, 2016 has bought a whole series of new challenges and something has to give. Unfortunately, it is a case of last thing in, first thing out, and so it is with a sad heart that I say RIP RWLS, and close down the business.

However, this is not the end, simply a junction with a ‘Give Way’ sign. 2016 will see one, if not two or three, new books being published, and I need to give my previous books some much needed love, marketing and promoting. I am studying for an English Lit & Creative Writing degree, which requires me to study for an exam in June. My photographer husband needs some with a creative mind and flair for the dramatics (can’t think why he chose me…) to help design and style his models as he embarks on a new project. I volunteer for the Girl Guides, and am studying to become a qualified leader for Brownies. I run blogs and websites…

And more than that – much, much more than that – my children need me. My daughter has minor health complaints. I say minor, because it is nothing serious, and something she will grow out of eventually. But until she grows out of them, she needs GP & hospital visits and regular medication. My son is a typical boy, but struggles with hyperactivity and attention problems. With so much energy to burn, he needs a mum who isn’t sat on her backside editing someone else’s novel saying “in a minute sweetheart.” On top of that, I am a full-time housewife, mum and pet owner – a 24-hour job in itself!

Something has to give before I burn out. I’ve already given up article writing and freelancing. I’ve already given up my paid job and several volunteering bits and pieces. I now have to say goodbye to RWLS.

Thank you to everyone who has supported me on this journey.