Taking Off Some of My Hats

I've always taken pride in being able to wear a lot of literary hats. I'm an editorial assistant for a traditional publisher, freelance editor, reviewer, author, freelance writer...

Something about knowing I can wear all of those hats and switch between them multiple times in one day made me feel like the ultimate freelancer.

Now it's time I finally admit to myself that, considering the circumstances, I can't wear all of those hats. So, what are the circumstances?

Today I went to a job fair and handed out a lot of resumes. I not only asked for part-time jobs, but I asked for full-time ones as well. The jobs I'm mostly interested in are full-time jobs, where I'll most likely be expected to work anywhere between 35-40 hours per week. School won't be a concern, at least not for the next eight or so months, but my freelance jobs will be a concern. Usually, I write book reviews, work on my books, put together style sheets and style guides for Month9Books, edit a freelance project, and write articles for websites. If I try doing all of that with a full-time job and a desire for a love/social life, I'll burn out hard and fast, and I don't want that.

That's why I've decided that I will only wear two freelance hats: editorial assistant/freelance editor and author. I am no longer a freelance writer or professional reviewer. From now on, as far as freelancing goes, I will only edit books and write my own. I may occasionally write a review for SPR or submit an article to websites like Listverse, but not consistently.

Plus, the main reason why I held on to professional reviewing and freelance writing was because I can make money off of both. However, in a recent blog post, I decided that I'm no longer doing freelance things for money. I really like writing reviews and articles, don't get me wrong, but editing and writing books are things I truly do out of a passion. I'll hold on to those.

Why You Shouldn't Read Reviews First

This may seem pretty odd coming from a reviewer, but I genuinely believe that reading reviews for anything you're generally interested in before starting is a terrible idea. Doing so can really ruin a show or book you would've otherwise loved. People like to think that their opinion is their opinion and no one else's thoughts can interfere, but that's not true. As humans, what we do and think is both directly and indirectly affected by others.

If you go on Amazon and read five reviews that all say that the plot is weak and the characterization is bad, you'll start that book with those reviews constantly circulating in your head. You'll start looking for instances of bad characterization and weak plot. And what if you actually like the characters and the plot in spite of all the bad things people had to say about the book?

When that happens to me, I feel like maybe I'm missing something, like maybe my judgement is lacking and I just can't tell the difference between what's good and what's bad...but then I realize that reviews are highly subjective. Even the most intelligent, experienced reviewer is only a judge of what's 'good and bad' based on their opinions.

I'm fully aware of how subjective reviews are, but they still ruin books and shows for me if I read them beforehand. Once the other opinions are already in my mind, it's too late. No matter how aware I am, my thoughts are never fully my own.

Reviews are best read after you've finished, not before. How do you feel about reviews? Do you read them before or after? Do they negatively or positively impact your decisions?

When Money Becomes the Elephant in the Room

Money is a touchy topic. For some, it's even more touchy than sex, and I hate it. I hate that it almost feels like a person's worth, specifically my worth, is measured by how much money I have or appear to have. Up until the age of nineteen, I didn't associate success or making my dreams come true with money. If I was working hard, getting things done, and making my dreams come true, I felt some semblance of success. But now that I'm twenty, in debt, and struggling to hold on to money, I can't do the things I used to do that had nothing to do with money without feeling like I'm taking one step backward.

So let's talk money and writing/editing. I need to, or else it'll keep making me sick. The elephant is too huge, the room too small.

If I got fired from my part-time job tomorrow, I'd be able to make a living off of editing, reviewing, coaching and writing. After all, I only make $7.75 an hour and I never work more than 25 hours. I make between $100-150 a week. It certainly helps, but it's not a lot where if I lost it I'd really suffer.

At first becoming a full-time freelancer would be a struggle, and I know some months would be rough, but all I currently need to get by is $250/month. I no longer have a car, nor can I afford another one. I'm in $18,000 of debt because of that car crash. I'm a college student paying with loans and I still live with my parents. Though I'll only be going to college spring semesters, it's still expensive. Which, while all very irritating, means I can get by on very little.

As assuring as all of that is, that knowledge is also a double-edged sword. Somehow, it made me forget that I edit, write, and read out of a passion for editing, writing, and reading. When I'm doing stuff and making little to no money, I get anxious and stressed. It's like, somewhere along the line, I forgot that - while I CAN make a living off of it and would like to go full-time one day - it's certainly not some glamorous choice where I'll make enough money to feel as well-off as all of my well-off friends. The people I hang out with, while not rich, have considerably more money than me. Then I feel like I must be doing something wrong.

Basically, I need to know where to draw the line. I ramble a lot, I know, but just bear with me.

Should I go full-time as a freelancer and put all my energy into succeeding as a freelancer, even though I know that will financially stress me out? Or should I handle my freelance jobs the way Stephen King handled his writing before Carrie sold for $400,000 and made it so that King no longer had to work as a teacher anymore?

I've been reading On Writing by Stephen King, and the first part of the book shows how he worked full-time and had a variety of part-time jobs, yet he still worked on his writing and sent out short stories consistently. Though his major source of income came from those other jobs, he still took his writing very seriously. Any amount of money that came in from his efforts and consistency were more like a bonus payment than anything else. And, while the extra money was definitely wonderful, he didn't keep submitting to magazines and writing for money. He did it because he couldn't NOT do it. That's what matters, and that's why I'm considering going back to that style.

Maybe it's best I go back to keeping my freelance life and 'average' life separate. I ask myself, "If I had no freelancing interest or skill, how would I get by? What would I focus on?" I know the answer to that question: I'd be focused on working at least 25-30 hours a week and getting a degree in something business-related.

So maybe I SHOULD be focused on that and, like Stephen King did, maybe I should treat the money I make from freelancing as bonuses and go back to working on writing, editing, and reviewing because it is my dream - not to prove something, not to make as much money as my friends. If I happen to hit it big somehow, enough so where I can quit working at day time jobs, then I'll stop working at day time jobs. But until then? I should just stop worrying myself about money.

Unfortunately, that does mean that I can't get as much freelance work done. I have a lot of projects, a lot of skills I'd like to take to the next level. I'm an editorial assistant for Month9Books, and I may become a paid reviewer for Fantascize (if not, I can still be a paid reviewer for Self-Publishing Review or Kirkus). My services as a freelance editor are still open, and I'm definitely working on nonfiction and fiction books. There are lots of things I want to do, and if I work 25 hours a week and spend 10-20 hours a week focusing on school...well, I'm not super human. Things will get done, but certainly not a fast rate.

That's why I've decided to only go to college one semester every year. The semester and summer I'm off means those 10-20 hours I would spend stressing out about college won't happen two semesters in a row. I can dedicate that hour to stressing out about my wonderful freelance career instead. ^_^

I've spent far too many nights mentally destroying myself over the amount of money I make freelancing. It's time to stop. It's time I stop letting the elephant distract me from my dreams. If I want to make money, that's what day time jobs are for. That's where I'll think about money.

I don't edit, review, or write solely for the money. Sure, I need to make some money from it, but it's not my aim to get rich off of it. I'm just glad I've finally remembered that.

Now it's time to work on a style guide for Month9books. I was at the day job a couple hours ago. This week, I'll only make $100, and that money will be spent right away on food and bills. I'm making absolutely no money on my freelance ventures right now. And you know what?

That's okay.




The Crossover Alliance Giveaway

I'm a big supporter of author David N. Alderman and his communities/books. The Crossover Alliance Giveaway contest looks really awesome. I'm particularly hoping to get my hands on The Maze.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

2012: What Did I Do All Freaking Year?

Last year, I did a post summarizing what I did all year. Why not do the same thing for 2012? Unfortunately, I didn't write as many posts this year as I did last year. In 2011, I was able to read all my posts at Tiffany Rambles to jog my memory. I'll do the same for 2012, but I'll definitely have to fill in the blanks more often.

Keep in mind that this list is not in order of when they actually occurred.

  • I discovered myself and learned to accept who I am and who I'm becoming: Many of my posts in February revolved around my battle with overcoming depression and how much I have changed since meeting Matthew. Discovering and accepting myself as well as learning to fully trust my love for Matthew were two of the most important things to happen to me last year, but I did spend a considerable time making sure I didn't regress.
  • Indiegogo Campaign: Though I'm still working on Unconventional Methods due to having a lot to learn about self-publishing and unfortunately being distracted by a number of other assignments, last year I ran an Indiegogo campaign and made about 16% of my goal ($290 out of $2000). It wasn't enough to fully self-publish the book, but it's definitely a much better amount to start with than $0. I plan to have Unconventional Methods ready for publication and in the hands of formatters and artists sometime this month.
  • Launched an author website: I mainly launched the site for the Indiegogo campaign, but, when the campaign ended, I dedicated a good amount of time and energy into making the site something I'd be proud of. I succeeded in that enough to get a great website critique from Author Media.
  • Wrote Unconventional Methods: Sure, I still need to edit it again and get it ready for publication, but I did finish writing the book. It's the first nonfiction book I've written, the first book I plan on self-publishing. Because of that, writing this book means a lot to me. Unfortunately, I wrote little to no fiction, but I've pretty much accepted the fact that I won't be writing fiction for a while. EDIT: I'm currently working on a contemporary fiction book that I'm very excited about.
  • Went back to college: In spite of my love/hate relationship with college, I enrolled myself in Purdue Calumet in time for the fall semester. I actually did very well. I got a 3.53 gpa, which was much better than my 2.7 gpa from the Fall 2011 semester at IUB, and I enjoyed college this time around much more than I did the first time.
  • $1400 Month: Last year, I made more money in one month editing and reviewing novels than I made all 5 months working as a barista at IUB. It was a very busy, stressful month, but definitely well worth it. The $1400 gave me much more confidence about taking my freelance duties to the next level. Soon, when I can find a way to make $1400 months a more consistent thing, I will be going full-time.
  • Stopped Being a Wallflower: By that, I mean I finally stopped despising myself for not hanging out with people, for feeling like my life revolves around Matthew too much, and actually hung out. Spending too much time with others does drain energy from me. If I start feeling like I'm obligated to be social, I very quickly get miserable. However, when I allow myself to be a social butterfly after spurts of being a loner, I genuinely feel a lot better about myself. I'm still trying to figure out when to switch between the two.
  • Became a writer for Neatorama: Neatorama is my first paying gig, and it's an amazingly fun and flexible job. I love finding interesting content to share, sharing it, and then actually getting paid at the end of the month for doing something I'd do for fun anyway. I can't thank Adrienne Crezo enough for putting up a status on FB about a website hiring writers. Without her, I would have never had the opportunity to get this job.


Five Most Popular Posts of 2012

Since 2012 is coming to an end, I figured it would be a great idea to write a post featuring my top five most popular/helpful posts this year. Listing and rereading these posts are as helpful for me as they will hopefully be for you. 2013 will be one hell of a year for me, so it's important I take note of what posts were popular and try to comprehend why. Enjoy!

#1
How to Survive 100 Degree Weather with No A/C and Limited Fans

#2
Uncommon Assassins edited by Weldon Burge

#3
Four Characteristics Successful Writers Share

#4
The Snowflake Method, Info Overload and Consistency 

#5
Buffy, Supernatural, Ghost Ship, and Silence of the Lambs

I'm not surprised that these posts are the most popular. Four of those posts were list posts, three humorous. From my experience with Neatorama and Cracked, those are definitely formulas that work.   

Uncommon Assassins edited by Weldon Burge

*Giveaway Bonus* 

The giveaway is closed. The winner of the signed, paperback copy of Uncommon Assassins is Selinda!

I hope you enjoy the the review. ^_^

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Assassin stories usually don't interest me. For the longest time, I associated stories centered around assassins with flashy action movies - you know, the type of action movies with sexy characters, one-dimensional villains, action-packed music, and little to no plot.  I'm certain the association is a misinformed, close-minded one, but it's the type of association that sadly kept me far away from many books or movies centered around assassins.

Regardless, when I learned that Weldon Burge was putting together another short story collection, this one called Uncommon Assassins, I knew I had to get my hands on it.

Zippered Flesh: Tales of Body Enhancements Gone Bad, the first short story collection edited by Weldon Burge, was amazing. I absolutely loved reading and reviewing it. Back when I used to give out the Reader's Den Choice Award, I knew without a doubt that Zippered Flesh would get the award.

Weldon Burge is great at many things, and putting together interesting short story collections is one of them. Fortunately, that's as true with Uncommon Assassins as it is with Zippered Flesh.

Just like with Zippered Flesh, Uncommon Assassins is full of short stories with terrifying or interesting twists. I read and edit so much that I can predict what will happen in most stories. Because of that, I'm often desperate for uncommon books. I love being surprised. I love being totally uncertain about what's going to happen next or assuming I know exactly what will happen next and being proven wrong.

While one or two of the stories in Uncommon Assassins didn't surprise me or come across as particularly uncommon - For instance, as well-written and interesting as the first short story was, it didn't seem all too uncommon to me - most of them did.

My absolute favorite story is a tie between Everybody Wins by Lisa Mannetti and Fire & Ice by Joseph Badal. Both stories have incredibly terrifying plots. In Everybody Wins, the antagonist takes advantage of suicidal people through a suicide hotline and basically forces them to kill themselves and someone else. In Fire & Ice, the antagonists takes advantage of young girls by getting them addicted to drugs and forcing them into a sex business. In both stories, the writers do a great job showing just how heartbreaking and horrifying being in those positions would be.

With Fire & Ice, I loved knowing that the antagonists had finally messed with the wrong young girl and that karma was about to get them really bad once the girl's brother, an assassin, got involved. As for Everybody Wins, I found the whole concept as interesting as it was terrifying.

Other favorites were Fat Larry's Night with the Alligators by Ken Goldman, Misconceptions by Matt Hilton, Bloodshed Fred by Monica J. O'Rourke, and Slasher by Paul F. Wilson.

Of course, there were some stories I didn't like so much either. My least favorite was The Pepper Tyrant by J. Gregory Smith. The concept of having a pepper eating contest as a serious challenge with serious consequences is interesting, and I liked the twist at the end. However, the story seemed awkwardly written, definitely compared to the stories after and before it. I also had mixed feelings about Killer by Ken Bruen. I loved it's poetic style, word usage, and formatting, but the plot confused me about halfway through.

Overall, I have to say that Weldon Burge did a great job with this collection, just as I expected, and that I can't wait to get my hands on the next collection he puts together.


Find Uncommon Assassins