May 31

Before They Were Famous: What Some Famous Authors Did Before Hitting It Big

before they were famous

Sometimes, I get really frustrated, because I haven’t had huge amounts of success with this writing thing. Granted, I’ve only really been at it for three years, and most of that time, I’d say, was spent learning rather than earning. But, I’m human, and impatient, and constantly looking for inspiration to keep me going.

On the days when I’m juggling a puking toddler, a forgot-to-pay-a-bill notice, and the realization that I have to carve out time to buy groceries, finish up client work, and cook dinner before I can even look at my fiction, I turn to Google to help keep me going. Always curious, I often ask myself if writers like Neil Gaiman or J.K. Rowling ever had to deal with these things before they struck it big, and the answer is, yes and no.

Most writers (gasp) weren’t born successful. They had to work hard, put in their time at a crappy job they hated, and pay their dues before finding success. Here are a few of my favorites, and the things they did prior to becoming the awesome authors we know and love today.

J.K. Rowling

The “Harry Potter” author is well-known for being a poor single mum on benefits when she drafted her iconic novel in Edinburgh cafes while her baby napped, but she was oh-so-much like the rest of us in many other ways, too. She started life being teased for her last name, went on to study courses her parents wanted her to, rather than those she really wanted to study, and held a job as a teacher before finding success as an author.

Rowling also had a failed marriage, lost her mother to a terrible illness, and worked for Amnesty International before ever putting pen to paper. These all undoubtedly helped shape her writing and the lovely person that she has become.

Stephen King

Horror writer Stephen King may have been born to be a writer, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t pay his dues with other jobs. He worked in a laundry while penning some of his earlier stories, and was a teacher long before his name was known in households around the world.

King’s success can be attributed to his dedication to the craft of writing; he simply never stops. In fact, in his early career, his pseudonym, Richard Bachman, was created because King felt it was too unusual for an author to release several books a year, so he created the alter-ego to split the publishing.

Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman always knew he wanted to be an author. He wasn’t put off by his initial rejections because he was convinced that he had the talent, just not the “know-how” of how the publishing world worked. He has admitted that he wasn’t as great as the thought he was when he first started, but I’d like to point out that his faith in himself is one of the most important reasons why he did succeed. He simply did not believe he could fail.

Neil did work as a journalist and freelance writer to earn a living before getting published. He worked on learning all he could about the publishing process and honed his craft, great advice for every writer!

Nicholas Sparks

Admittedly, I’ve never read one of Sparks’ books, but he’s big-time famous round here in SC, so I thought I’d see just how he found success. I was surprised to find that this romance, feel-good writer had more than his share of tragedy and stress before finding success with books like “The Notebook.”

His first two books were never published. He wrote them while he worked at jobs such as a real estate appraiser, food service, and pharmaceutical sales.

His mother died in a tragic accident before his first book was ever published. His sister would later die of cancer, and his father died before Sparks began his first book became the smash-hit that it is today.

Still, despite all the bad stuff going on in his personal life, Sparks persevered, with his wife and kids standing firmly behind him. It just goes to show that if you have a great support network in place, and you never give up, you can succeed.

James Patterson

Want to know how America’s most prolific writer got so successful? He just kept writing, and used his knowledge gained by working in marketing to make his works widely known.

Controversial for his extensive use of ghostwriters, Patterson has learned the art of delegation can help turn creative ideas into actual books. He has sometimes given credit to his ghostwriters on the covers of his books, and he has always been open about giving back to his fans by promoting childhood reading.

Like him or loathe him, Patterson shows us all that if you ask for help, use all the resources at your disposal, and give back to your fans, you just can’t fail.

Patricia Cornwell

Cornwell’s most famous novels feature medical examiner Kay Scarpetta. The gritty thrillers have a LOT of information about forensics and medicine in them, primarily because the author is familiar with these subjects from her job in the office of the Chief Medical Examiner of Virginia.

Cornwell also wrote articles for her local newspaper, covering crime stories in the area. Her books reflect her knowledge, making them believable and easy to read. It just goes to show you that if you write what you know, people will find it much more palatable.

The next time you’re juggling your full-time career or family with your writing, remember, we’ve all got to start somewhere. Don’t give up, keep on writing, and who knows…you could end up on a list like this some day!

May 29

Pantsing Vs. Plotting: Do You Use An Outline?

pantsing vs plotting

There’s a lot of talk about writing fiction these days, and Kindle has made self-publishing a respectable option for people like me and you, who otherwise wouldn’t have the patience to write, submit, cry, resubmit, drink lots of wine to console ourselves, etc. the way “traditional” authors do. I’ve recently rekindled my romance with fiction writing, which has been harder than I expected it to be.

Normally, I’ll just get an idea, sit down, and write. There’s no planning, no outlines, just writing. The story develops as I write, with little or no thought about what comes next until it’s actually on the page. This is called “pantsing,” or writing by the seat of one’s pants. This is what I do, or have done, until very recently.

Plotting is the opposite of pantsing. It involves logical, planned-out events in your story, and is probably more efficient than pantsing because it can help avoid writing yourself into a corner or running out of ideas before you finish. Plotting is the practical twin, always knowing what comes next and in what order the story will play out.

Pantsing is the rebellious twin who refuses to bow down to authority and give up her secrets until she’s good and ready. Some could argue that she’s the lazy twin who can’t be bothered to plan ahead, but I like the first description better, because it makes me feel better about my methods!

I think that plotters have a slight advantage because there’s no lost time worrying about what bit to add in next or wondering what to do with the odd character that was introduced early on, but who needs to be done away with later in order to make the story “tidy.”

I’m trying to be a plotter. Or, at least, that is my plan. I am plotting to plot, but not in the book I am currently working on, at least not fully. So, I guess you could say that I’m pantsing the plotting in order to get through the first book, so that I can then plot the subsequent books and make life easier for myself.

Did you get all that? 🙂

I’ve looked around, and found some really good, and some really awful, basic outlines for story-writing.  You can find a few here, and also here.

So, tell me, are you a plotter or a pantser? No judgement here, lol, just asking! Feel free to share your tips in the comment section below!

May 26

What To Do When You Don't Know What To Do

What to do when you don't know what to do

What to do, what to do….


At some point in your writing career, you’ll probably find yourself doubting your choice of profession. If not, you can skip this post, and go be smug somewhere, sipping a latte and enjoying your confidence in your career choice.

If you are like the rest of us, you’ll find yourself doubting your sanity at least once or twice, maybe even weekly, if you’re very neurotic, like moi. I’m starting to believe that creativity comes with confusion as a package deal, at least sometimes. If you find yourself struggling with “what the heck do I do now?”, these tips will help.
Why do you write?  Ask yourself this, out loud if no one is around, and feel free to answer verbally, too. Then, write it down, like a sane person, and read your reasons. Are you writing for money, but hate what you do? Or, are you writing for passion, but not earning anything for your writing?
There’s a fix for both of these scenarios that will help you move forward.
If you dislike writing, there are so many other ways to earn money online. Spend a little time looking at your skills, and consider changing horses, so to speak.
If you love writing, but aren’t earning, look at your approach. There are many ways to earn money from your writing, but you may have to put in a little extra effort to see a payoff.
•Advertise your writing services on your own website, post ads in classifieds, and check out freelance job boards DAILY. Consistency is key to earning more.
•Sign up as a freelancer on sites such as Upwork and Elance.
•Learn how to properly market any books you’ve written. You may have written a fabulous novel, but if you don’t know how to market it, you won’t earn as much as you could.

Do you lack inspiration?  A LOT of writers seem to think that writing is all about chasing the muse, but that gal will leave you high and dry when you need her most. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you can only write when you’re inspired, or you’ll never finish anything.
Instead, just write something, anything, to get your brain going. Write a blog post, describe an object in your home, or write out your shopping list, but write something. The actual act of writing can trigger all sorts of awesome brain activity, and it works whether you are trying to come up with fiction or non-fiction ideas.
Stop focusing on work for a few hours. This one works every time. Sometimes, when you think about something too much, you can overwhelm yourself. Your poor little human brain can only handle so much, then it shuts down, leaving you frustrated, grumpy, and ready to give up.
When you feel this coming on, go for a walk, grab a coffee with friends, or just take a nap. Your brain will ‘reset’ and you’ll be more likely to find a solution to your dilemma.

These tips should help you get moving forward again the next time you are at a loss for something to do. How do you get that forward momentum going again? Please share in the comments section below!

May 19

Valuing Yourself: Why It's Crucial To Being a Successful Writer

I am the first person to admit I don’t always value myself highly enough. In fact, some days, I feel absolutely worthless. Whether you chalk it up to low-self-esteem or the pitfalls of the creative personality, I have, and continue to struggle with self-worth.

As a writer, this is bad news for business. If you don’t value yourself, how are your clients going to see what you’re really worth? If you think you aren’t worth $x.xx, then you aren’t going to earn $x.xx. Sounds pretty simple, huh? Oh, if it were only true.

Mindset is so important to your success as a writer. If you don’t value yourself, no one else will, either. If you fall into a hole of self-loathing, you can start a vicious cycle that results in a lack of productivity that can seriously impact your earnings and completely derail your business.

I had a major crisis of confidence recently. It was almost enough to make me stop writing, and, if you know me, you’ll know that it takes A LOT to make me stop writing! But, I had fallen into the trap of feeling worthless, and it took a while to come out of it.

You do have to price yourself based on your worth, but what do you do when you don’t know what that worth is?  Ask someone.

If you have a client that you’ve worked with for a while, and if you trust them to be honest, ask them what price they value your services at. This doesn’t mean you have to change your pricing for that client to match it…but it should alter the way you charge future clients. And, feel free to remind your current clients that they are getting a discount from you, if that’s the case.

(If you don’t have clients, but are a self-published author, you might be overpricing yourself. That’s a whole ‘nother blog post…)

My whole point is this: Remember that you have value. Just because people want to pay you less than you are worth, it does not mean that you are worth less.

Just wanted to give you something to think about. Feel free to comment below!

May 9

3 Ways You Can Use PLR To Look Like A Smarty-Pants

smarty pants

I’m the first to admit, I don’t know everything. I’ll never admit that to my husband, but I’m happy to tell you guys! Sometimes, a girl just wants to write all the stuff, but doesn’t have all the time to do extensive research, and this is where PLR comes in handy. I’m going to discuss three ways you can use PLR to make your life a lot easier, and potentially make you a lot of money.

What is PLR?

PLR stands for Private Label Rights. It’s basically content that is sold to a number of people, all of whom get the same content, but they have the right to alter it in any way they see fit and use it in a number of different ways.

There are two things you need to remember when using PLR. First, you aren’t the only one who has this content. It could have been sold to hundreds of other people, who may or may not have used it “as is” on their own websites or in their products.

Second, not all PLR is good quality, or even accurate. I personally know a few people who sell PLR that is amazing, with lots of detail and facts that they took the time to research. But, I also know a few that don’t bother to do any research at all, and who hire others to write the PLR that they sell. While hiring someone else to write your PLR isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it is if the content hasn’t been checked for plagiarism or if the person who did the writing doesn’t have a clue what they’re talking about.

That being said, PLR is an amazing tool for busy bloggers or marketers who need some extra content, fast. Here are three ways you can use PLR today to make your life easier, make more money, and sound like a real smarty-pants.

Use it on a blog or website.

Need extra content for blog posts or reviews? PLR is great for this. Buy a pack of articles on topic of your choice, rewrite one or more of them to match your site’s tone and voice, and, “voila!” You have ace content, fast, that took zero research time.

Do you have to rewrite PLR? Not unless you want Google to consider your post potential duplicate content. Even if Google doesn’t penalize you, do you really want to run the risk of someone reading the exact same content that your site has posted on another site? You won’t look too clever then, so spend five minutes and rewrite some or all of the PLR for best results.

Use it to create an awesome freebie.

Blog posts aren’t the only thing people want from you. The masses crave free stuff, and if you can give it to them, they’ll love you more for it. Turn a pack of PLR into a free report to give to your subscribers in exchange for their email addresses. This lets you build a list of people you can email your updates and offers to, and it gives them a reason to want to follow you.

I like the idea of giving freebies out to your regular subscribers, too. Every now and then, just package up some rewritten PLR, add a few of your own thoughts and ideas, and send it out to your subscribers as a way to thank them for sticking with you, even through your slightly crazy phases.

Use it to create short ebooks.

I love this idea on so many levels. First, let me state that you should NEVER just put together PLR articles and sell them as an ebook. Why? Well, imagine fifty other people did that, and you all sold the exact same ebook as each other, but you sold yours for five bucks, and some of them gave theirs away. You’d look like a prat, and people would suspect that you are lazy, greedy, and incapable of creating your own stuff.

Now, the right way to do this is to break up the PLR, rewriting the bits you want to use, leaving out the parts you don’t need, and adding a little more information and detail. I find that it’s good to start with a pack of PLR articles that you already have some knowledge about, so you can minimize your research time.

People seem to think making money online should be effortless, but it’s really not. It’s harder, in some ways, than just working a 9-5, brick and mortar job. PLR can make your job easier, but it really shouldn’t replace the work you would normally put into creating something.

Use it for what it is, a helpful tool that can shorten your research time, and can help you make more money, both by building a list of followers you can sell to, and by helping you create more products, faster.

How would you use PLR to make your life easier? Please share below!

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May 4

Using a Calendar To Plan Out Your Business (PLR & Freelancing)

calendar GoogleThis post may seem like common sense to some of you that have been working online for a while, but bear with me. If you’re like me, it’s easy to miss the obvious stuff while you’re nose to the grindstone trying to learn EVERYTHING there is to know about earning money online.

I wrote about some of the most useful tools in a writer’s toolbox, but I left out one that is super useful and underutilized by yours truly, the humble calendar.

Way back when, I used to print out a calendar every month from Outlook, and I’d write in every bill that I had to pay, plus every doctor’s appointment that anyone in my family had, and those other important happenings in my world. I kept that calendar with me at all times, checked it frequently, and acted on it, doing whatever needed to be done to keep on top of the things listed on it.

I stopped keeping a calendar when I got an iPad, and started keeping a digital version instead. But, I don’t always have my iPad with me, so I stopped adding EVERYTHING, and never even considered using it when I started my business.

Fast forward about two and half years, and I was struggling to keep up with all my “to-do’s,” and nothing seemed to work. So, I started asking other writers and marketers for tips, and lo, they suggested the humble calendar.

Here’s where I use mine most.

Freelancing: I’m still working on this one, but at the moment, I keep week-by-week breakdown of any client work that’s due, and track any other income from “miscellaneous” sources.

What I plan on doing is using the calendar to pitch ideas to clients based on what’s coming up. For example, it’s May now, so I may look ahead to July and suggest summer-related stuff, or even back to school articles.

PLR: This is one place I struggled to get organized, until someone suggested using a calendar. I always thought writing PLR would be easy, since I could basically write anything I wanted. However, it was harder than I thought, trying to guess what people might want to buy.

Now, I try to look ahead a couple of months, and write about upcoming events. I’ll probably do back to school PLR soon, and Halloween PLR not long after that, because by the time I write it and people buy it, it will be fast approaching.

If you already do this, and think I’m late to the party, you could be right. But, there’s always someone who can benefit from even the most basic advice, so I’m all for sharing.

How do you plan ahead in your business? Are you a calendar girl (or guy) too?