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My Freedom Flame

Motivating Writers Worldwide

Author: Todd Matthews (page 2 of 72)

How to Fit Writing Time With the Dreaded Day Job

How many of you are stuck in the cycle of waking up, fighting traffic, arriving at work for eight to ten hours, then repeating?

A lot of us do so six days a week and with it we sacrifice writing time and other passions for the sake of a place we admittedly would rather do without.

We want to pursue our writing passion and make a full-time living off our writing, but man, where do we start and when do we find the time?

It’s a question all aspiring writers ask themselves.

I’m currently working a 2pm to Whenever work shift and I’m in this thing strictly for the money. I fit in with warehouse work about as well as one of my favorite symphonic metal bands would at what used to be Jamboree in the Hills (the Super Bowl of country music).

So comes the obvious: Focus on both my writing to make money in it and return to my old fitness passion and start making money in it again after I turned my back on it not so long ago.

The goal for all of us is to get the hell out of these dreaded day jobs society has trapped us in as soon as possible. Only then can we start to experience life to its fullest.

 

Your Writing Time is Sacred

I’ve touched up on this in previous articles, but I like doing so every few months as reminders to my reading base. You need to choose a time to write and stick to your guns no matter what.

It’s like when I choose my workout times; nothing and nobody will stop me from working out at those times.

If your writing time is 6am, then it needs to be that way every single day. Ditto if it’s on your lunch break or 6pm.

Nobody can take this time from you unless there’s a legitimate emergency going on somewhere in your life. Don’t allow anyone to take this time away from you and if they’re confused regarding your writing time, be real with them.

If they try to guilt-trip you, then get rid of that person. True friends and understanding family members won’t do this; they’ll support you.

 

Speaking of Support Systems

A lot of writers out there, even those who have accomplished a thing or two, have dreaded day jobs they’d rather not be at.

Like you, they want to be at home, in libraries, or in coffee shops, or wherever their sacred writing place is, doing what they love.

Even if no one in your personal network understands or supports you, there are a lot of writers out there that will. While they’ll be online for the most part, remember that these are real writers and real people.

Twitter and Facebook have revolutionized global communications and you will find a lot of good people on both sites if you haven’t already done so. A lot of them are just like you and we all want the same goals.

While many writing fields are competitive markets, it’s important to remember each writer has their own niche or field that they write in, so don’t think of other writers as your competition. Many won’t be. And even if they are, we’re all on different levels as it is.

The only person a writer needs to compete with is themselves.

 

Self-Competition

As someone who used to compete in men’s physique between 2012 and 2015, I’ve come to learn one thing: It isn’t simply about the competition on stage as it was to me becoming the best version of me.

In other words, if I took the stage in the best shape of my life, I knew I’d done my job. The same goes for you as a writer. We still have about 45 weeks left this year, so if you can start today if you haven’t already done so and by the end of December, truly state you’ve come a long way, you’ve already won.

Set goals and commitments, such as:

1. Write every day during that sacred writing time.

2. Make at least three new writing friends per month.

3. Turn what you’re writing into projects and watch them grow throughout the year.

Guys, the possibilities are endless when it comes to self-competition, and soon you’ll be setting goals like:

1. Minimize adverbs to X amount.

2. Stop using two or more adjectives to describe, instead use stronger nouns and verbs.

By watching yourself grow, you’ll add tougher challenges for yourself over time.

 

The (Not So) Long Road Ahead

A year really isn’t a long time, though it seems so to many.

It’s already the middle of February, so the first six weeks of the year have flown by.

Did you do anything to better yourself yet in 2019?

If the answer is no, today would be a great place to begin.

Here’s why you need to pursue your writing dream despite the 40+ hours you’re working already at the DDJ.

1. Writing is a great escape from reality.

2. Writing will provide you a sense of accomplishment.

3. Writing is a process that you can see through from beginning to end.

4. Writing is work, but it’s fun and fulfilling work.

5. Writing is a form of self-care. If you haven’t researched the importance of self-care, I urge you to.

6. Writing will open the doors to new friends, both online and potentially offline.

Imagine accomplishing just these six examples over the next ten and a half months. Look at where you are now and ask if you want to be in the position you’re in. If the answer is no, then by all means, it’s time to pursue the passion you’ve always had in you and wanted.

Why wait another second?

Why continue to procrastinate?

It’s about time you started enjoying your work, feeling successful, feeling as if you did something other than the 9-5 (or in my case, 2-10) grind.

Get out there, write, make time, find a support crew, set goals, accomplish them, grow, and you will soon find that the full-time writing dream really isn’t as far off as it appears.

Oh, and always, always, always keep learning. Invest in courses, find ways that make you better as a writer.

Never think you know it all. Never assume just one or two people know it all. Invest in ways that will take you to where you want to be in the writing field and no one can ever stop you.

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How to Avoid Brain Drain at the Keyboard: Two Simple Steps You Can Take Today

 

Okay, so what is brain drain? I first came across the term back in the sixth grade when my teacher defined it as coming back to school on Monday after the weekend or coming back after Thanksgiving or Christmas break.

Yes, she was one of those old school teachers who gave homework as if she was the only one giving it out.

Needless to say I passed her classes with a ‘C-minus’ and a 2.2 overall GPA back in the sixth grade.

Anyway, enough for the throat clearing. Today I want to talk to you about how to avoid the dreaded forgetfulness at the keyboard.

Recall my previous article where I stated my four awesome ways to get motivated to write.

Something I neglected to mention: Always have a notebook on hand or at least make notes in your phone when the inspiration pops up say, if you’re gazing into the sunset at your favorite place where the memories stir up.

If I’m gazing at the good old Wintersville water tower it’s wise to have something to write with so I don’t sit at the keyboard and wonder what the hell motivated me in the first place.

So, embark on the following steps in the following situations.

 

Journal

I don’t mean a daily journal. Instead I mean an idea journal. Jot down the thoughts, emotions, and inspiration. Sure, you can use your laptop in such situations, such as if it were a clear summer evening when I gaze into the lost horizons behind the tower and write down every single thought that crosses my mind.

Remember, you aren’t writing a novel idea here; just write your feelings and analyze them later on. They don’t even need to make sense.

For instance, if I’m gazing into the tower (see picture above), I’m writing something like this:

1. Time

2. Gin Blossoms

3. Not only Numb

4. Congratulations, I’m Sorry

5. New Miserable Experience

6. Goo Goo Dolls

7. Only Wanna be With You

8. A synopsis of my own, personal music videos for some corresponding songs like Lost Horizons, Hey Jealousy, Found Out About You, etc.

Notice that I’m associating time in Wintersville, Ohio with alternative rock songs from the 1990s plus some other subgenres.

Also note that what I wrote doesn’t even make sense, but that’s not the idea here. The idea is to know exactly why I drove to that abandoned grocery store parking lot to catch a view of the Wintersville sunset falling behind the tower.

At least I have an idea on what to write about.

 

Make Videos

Yes, make a video of your ideas. If I’m running around town during a summer morning I might make a video as they spark my creative juices.

Since Northern Knights was set in a Wintersville-like area, I did this constantly. Some of the more notable landmarks in Wintersville were also set in Northern Knights, such as shots of the water tower, the mural, Kettlewell Stadium, which is actually mentioned in the book, and the “location” of Summit University.

Note that no actual university is located in Wintersville and the nearest one is Franciscan University of Steubenville a few miles away.

I also snapped a little picture montage as well, which I’ll share below.

The pictures and videos both allowed me to be more descriptive while writing and editing the work.

 

Take Action

It’s more than just me stating this is what you need to do. You actually have to get up and do it.

I know the weather is still somewhat cold, but don’t worry, we’re only eighteen days from March 1st when the season changes in my neck of the woods.

Your homework assignment is a simple one, and don’t worry, it’s nothing like the mountain of work my sixth grade teacher once gave my class.

All you need is a notebook or laptop and a cell phone. Write your feelings and ideas, snap photos of places that provide inspiration, go home and get writing.

Trust me, you will be inspired by what you find and your creative juices will start flowing immediately.

Four Exciting Ways to Find Writing Inspiration

 

Exhausted from work? Too tired to carry on and see another day? Well, you’re in luck because I’m going to give you four tips that will help you find writing inspiration.

Kind of cool, right?

The fact is you, yes you, can find inspiration just about anywhere, if you know where to look. We’re going to search deep inside ourselves for such inspiration, such as the search for that initial motivation to write.

What was it that caused the motivation in the first place?

That’s what we’re looking for right here, right now.

So, let’s search for that long-term inspiration today that will light a fire in you.

 

Music

Music does strange things to us. It takes us back to another place, another time, back to a group of people, a time when we may’ve felt elated, depressed, inspired.

The reason I placed music so high is the fact it’s associated with the other three little-known ways listed below.

We embark on a journey when we listen to music.

When I hear, say, New Miserable Experience or Congratulations, I’m Sorry albums from Gin Blossoms, I’m catapulted back to Wintersville, Ohio, the town I grew up.

But I have more memories than just an awesome childhood.

I spent a summer working out at the local track with a great friend before we parted ways. It was truly one of the best times of my life, if not the best days of my life.

And yes, remember that creative nonfiction piece I was telling you about in a previous post?

Yep, it’s really a memoir that speaks of my early days working as a personal trainer, all the way to my massive breakup with the profession after becoming disheartened by it, to the great comeback that’s being set up right now.

 

Places

I revealed a huge hint regarding places, by associating them with music.

But think about it. Where were you when you were first inspired to write?

Why did this particular place spark the creative juices?

Know what’s funny?

The place you might be thinking of might not even be a real place.

Maybe mom and dad read you a story about Neverland when you were young and you immediately were inspired to write your own work. Your own Neverland.

Or your own version of Hogwarts? Narnia?

Did you take a vacation to Scandinavia and were immediately inspired by the beautiful scenic landscape?

Where were you when you were initially inspired to write?

Go back to that place, even if it’s a virtual tour. If it was a novel, read it again. I guarantee you’ll find that initial fire inside you once more.

 

People

Again, taken from the first way of inspiration.

This is especially true for those of you who write nonfiction.

Who inspired you to write and what kind of plot?

Are you still friends with them?

Or have you gone your separate ways?

Really think about this.

They might have a lot to do with the plot of your work, or perhaps you’re like me and tend to base every single character in your work on people you’ve met, worked, and were friends with over the past few years.

Why did they inspire you to hit the keyboard?

What kind of relationship did you have with them that you just had to write?

You will find a lot of answers and perhaps a lot of inspiration.

For me and the creative nonfiction piece I’m working on it was the gym staff, my old client base, my workout buddies, including the one I mentioned earlier.

I did base a lot of characters in Lord of Columbia on them, but the (sometimes) wild memories I shared with these people, I knew someday a novel would be written. There are too many stories to tell in the Tales from the Gym Office.

I could probably write a three-book box set, to be honest, and still have stories left over.

How my boss and I were never fired for the things that went on in our offices I’ll never know. And the colorful people.

You get the gist of it.

 

Time Periods

Finally, time periods come last because it sums up the previous three.

If you read the first three closely, you probably found a little pattern.

Music takes you to a time period.

Places take you to a time period.

People take you to a time period.

All written works occur in a time period, and again the first three can relate to fiction. Maybe you listen to fantasy-based music as I do and it takes you to a place like Neverland? I don’t think I have to explain the cast and characters.

I drew most of my inspiration for Lord of Columbia from Harry Potter, as it’s not even a secret these days, and the series is what I continually reverted back to.

I listened to music that reminded me of Hogwarts, mainly symphonic, pagan, and power metal, with composers like Thomas Bergersen and even some Disney songs scattered in there.

I’m lucky to have grown up around a landscape that is Hogwartian in nature, with bounding hills that eventually turn mountainous, endless forest, and few urban areas so the sky lights up on those clear nights.

Again, you should see what I’m talking about now.

 

If You’re Feeling Down

Go back to these four cornerstones.

Play some music, as it’ll always help, no matter what. I love to pair it with one of my two daily workouts.

Go to places that first inspired you. I don’t have to go far. I can sit in the parking lot of an abandoned grocery store, park my car, sit on top the hood on a spring, summer, or autumn night, gaze to the west, and watch the sun set behind the white water tower, which serves as the gateway to the bounding countryside.

If I pair it with listening to music, it automatically brings back the people, my favorite people, the workout partner whom I spent the whole summer of 2014 with, wondering what she’s doing now, and when she’s coming back.

Aha, see?!

You know where those lyrics came from, right?

Bam, it just took me back to the time period.

As crazy as this post sounds, I insist this works, and you’ll be glad you undertook it.

Thanks for reading.

What is the Average Income for Indie Authors?

 

The indie-author business is a tough one just like any online business these days, and the average income for indie-authors varies as well.

I posted previously that the average is around $500 per year in royalties, not even close to making ends meet for even a single month of rent anywhere in the United States.

However, I also said that it doesn’t need to be this way as most indies believe royalties will pile in the second they upload a manuscript.

Or, they might upload something that resembles an early draft with little to no editing. Once enough people read, or try to read, the book, it’s game over for that author.

So much can go wrong and so little can go right in the indie-author world, but today I’m showing you all that can go right and boost your own income over time.

 

Rookie Season

Okay, so if you’re in your first or second year as an indie, it’s going to be a rough outing.

Why?

Nobody knows your name and you could have a book out there that’s better than Harry Potter but why would a reader new to your name choose your work which just launched with zero reviews over a proven product like Harry Potter?

Chances are, they probably won’t, so just like when you start a new job, you need to realize your place in the pecking order. That’d be the bottom, so enjoy the basement life for a bit.

Most rookie indies won’t make jack, including well-established names raking in seven-figures, so don’t worry if your royalty count for year one and year two reaches a grand total of $200.

The first year is all about getting your name out there, as well as your second year.

You do this by doing the following:

1. Go to where the readers are. Enroll your books in KDP Select since, while you must give exclusivity to Amazon, you also earn five free giveaways every 90 days.

But the sad truth is people still won’t buy the book and you’ll be lucky to see a little over one-hundred sales. So, let’s go to the next step:

2. Invest in book promotion.

There are hundreds of thousands of readers on the email lists of Freebooksy and Books Butterfly, among others. Note I didn’t mention Book Bub, since it’s rare for anyone to get accepted onto it even if you have a killer work. We’ll try for Book Bub and their 7,000,000 email list later.

If you want to test the waters with paid book promotion, there are a lot of options, which allowed me to sell around 250 copies over my last free period, which worked rather well. This time around, I’m looking to go with Books Butterfly before Freebooksy a couple months after.

Notice we’re giving the book away more than anything else.

Why?

We want two things:

Reviews and rankings.

That’s all you’ll need for the first year or two.

 

Ads. Do They Work?

I would point to yes and there are dozens of ways to use them to get your author name out there.

Newspaper, radio (yes these still exist), social media, Amazon, the list is endless. Marketing companies can do this. There are so many ways to get the name out there.

While you’ll have to pay some hefty prices for some ads, wouldn’t you think them to be more than worth it if it meant a steady income stream in the long run?

Again, I would point to yes.

So many indie-authors fail to make a full-time income doing what they love because they like to search for free ways to get their series out there or they’ll just create social media pages and think this will do the trick.

Remember a golden rule and that free is free, meaning it won’t get you far.

 

How to Really Earn Money as an Indie

Earning money with your own products isn’t an easy task for anyone, especially if you’re new.

It’s like running a Tough Mudder with the hardest obstacles staring you down within the first few miles.

That said, you will have to pay a lot of money to get a head start in this field in terms of promotion and advertisement. It might mean working more hours at your dreaded day job. It might mean needing a second job to pay for production costs.

You just don’t know until you crunch some numbers.

Think of being an indie-author as being in business for yourself. Being self-employed. Being a business owner.

Name me a single business owner who started their own company that didn’t invest capital into their own business.

Why would you think being an indie-author makes you exempt from that rule?

You should be investing in the following:

1. A professional cover.

2. Paid promotion.

3. A blog.

4. A keyword tool.

5. Social media ads (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest are the Big Three).

6. Newspaper ads (these still work, by the way).

A decent book cover will cost $60 at the very least. Paid promo ranges between $25 and $50 for something that’s halfway decent. Something like Freebooksy will cost about $100, but the results speak for themselves.

Blogs won’t cost too much to uphold. I pay $49/month at the Wealthy Affiliate platform as WA is a course complete with a community of millions dedicated to helping you perfect your blog. It’s worth the $49/month or $349/year investment. My keyword tool comes with the WA package, too.

Finally, set a budget for ads and do your own ad campaigns.

 

Bonus Tip!

Create an email list. You can do this by giving something away in exchange for an email. MailChimp has a free option which works well for up to 2,000 emails before they start charging you by the month.

You can create a work, upload it to Prolific Works, and start collecting emails, create a landing page on your blog, there are so many avenues you can undertake here.

So, if you’re struggling to find an audience, try my tips and see how much you can and will earn in time.

Five Benefits to Creating a Novel Series

There’s always the old standalone versus series debate and whether it’s better to write one standalone novel as opposed to a multiple-book novel series.

While there’s nothing wrong with writing standalone, authors wishing to earn steady passive income should always opt to write a series as it can do things standalones can’t.

Here is a quick-hit list of five benefits writing a series can bring you.

 

No Reinvention of the Wheel

That’s right.

You already have your characters and while there’s definitely need for more as the series progresses, you have a main cast who will likely see the series through.

For that reason, you can say good-bye to reinventing a whole new cast of characters. This will save you a lot of time in the beginning stages of each new work.

Also, readers have become close to specific characters and by the end of each novel should be craving to find their eventual fates throughout each book and the series finale, whenever you should choose to write one.

You just saw two benefits with only the first headline.

So, what are some of the others?

Let’s find out.

 

Readership

Yes, you already have a readership with a series. As shown in Reason One, readers come close to the characters.

However, they might become close to the plot elements themselves.

Look at Northern Knights, where there are so many themes related to the work, such as 1) Libertarianism, 2) National Sovereignty, 3) Voluntarism, 4) Bill of Rights, 5) Anti-Police, 6) Anti-Intervention, 7) Anarchocapitalism, the list goes on and on.

I’ve often stated I loved Harry Potter not because of J.K. Rowling or the characters, but the overall plot elements running through the entire series, the themes, and the messages.

Reading the work sparked positivity in me because I agreed with many of the messages whether it was Rowling’s intention or not.

So, your readers might be close to the characters but others will be in love with the messages stemming from your plot.

You’re building an active readership in all avenues with one single series.

Rather than writing standalones, which might make a case for finding a new reading audience, you can keep your audience time and again with however many books you decide to write in one series.

 

A Series Creates a Brand

Yes, you can brand yourself as an author but you can also brand a series. While I’ve read many articles advocating against this, including articles from my favorite indie-authors, I’ve come to disagree.
In doing so, I created this web site for my Lord of Columbia Series.

A series can be a brand of its own and from experience of successful indie-authors utilizing this tactic is where I rest my case. While I still advocate for authors to brand themselves, it still is wise to brand the series.

Readers will read a series if they’re interested in it.

For instance, they will say they love Game of Thrones, not that they love George R.R. Martin.

Ditto for Tolkien, Rowling, C.S. Lewis, etc.

It’s going to be Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, and Chronicles of Narnia over the authors themselves.

Again, these authors, well, the modern ones anyway, will always have their own brand, but they all realize the series brand will take them so much farther than their own, personal author brand.

 

Additional Cash Flows

No one’s going to wear a t-shirt with your face on it, but they might wear one with your characters’.

A series is a potential gold mine that goes farther than just books; you can build an entire franchise around it unlike a standalone. While possible, it would be way harder to build around a standalone work unlike what it would be like to build around a series.

T-shirts, apparel, memorabilia, the possibilities here are endless.

For instance, if I wanted to sell tees with the Lord of Columbia Series characters on them, I could do so easily, which will likely come in due time.

Some readers might be close to the Columbian coalition, or whatever, and by designing shirts with the logo and colors, they will trek to an online shop.

Again, a standalone can do this, but it’s easier when people know a series. With Harry Potter, I see people wearing merchandise of their Hogwarts House time and again, which is just one of many examples in Harry Potter.

Your franchise doesn’t have to be that big, but it can and will be beneficial enough to make a full-time living doing so in time.

 

Binge Culture

Yes, we live in a culture these days where people want everything this instant. It’s why Netflix is so popular.

It’s why people spend entire days watching marathons. The same goes for books.

The more books you have available in a single series, the higher the potential of you selling them in bulk.

If a reader or readers find your book covers and work captivating, you just found an audience willing to buy every single book you have available in that series.

Just like your marathon viewers, readers will be spending days (or weeks) reading your work.

Have five books out in a series and each are priced at $4.99 in e-book format? That’s $25 and after the 70% royalty from Amazon gives you about $17.50 in profits.

Compare that to just one standalone.

Or, if your reader prefers paperback and each are priced at $15 apiece, you just earned $75 before royalties and deductions for production costs, which for Amazon equals about $3.50 in profits per book, or $17.50 altogether.

Thousands binge, so the potential, especially in today’s global market, is endless.

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