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#AtoZChallenge O is For …

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AtoZChallenge O is for ...Happy Friday! We’re almost at the end of another week, and the weekend awaits us. Not that it makes much difference these days, of course, but never mind. Anyway, the A to Z Challenge waits for no man. Here I am again, and today I’m discussing the O words. Hmm …


So, organisation. One thing you quickly realise when you start a writing career is that you need to be organised. It’s very easy, when working from home, (especially if that’s your only job) to lose track of time, even days. Life can feel very unstructured, and that can cause anxiety and a sense of not being in control. I’ve had anxiety issues for as long as I can remember, and the one thing I hate is that out-of-control feeling. It makes my stress levels soar. Obviously, with everything that’s going on in the world right now, my anxiety levels have been steadily rising. Actually, they’ve been pogo-ing all over the place, but best not to dwell on that.

We all know there are things in our lives we can’t change, and some things we have no control over, whatsoever: the disappointing end to Sanditon, for example, or the fact that Opal Fruits suddenly became Starburst. I mean, whose bright idea was that? So it’s even more important that we take care of the stuff we can control.

Whatever they’re called they’re yummy.

A tidy desk is a tidy mind, they say. I don’t know who says it but they’re probably right. Sometimes, my desk looks like I’m hosting a rummage sale on it, and my mind is a whirling mass of contradictory thoughts, anxieties, jokes, dreams and memories that I can’t seem to focus on or put in any sort of order. However, since this pandemic struck, I’ve noticed that I’ve been most particular about keeping my desk tidy. It could be my mind’s way of pulling order from the chaos, or it could be that I’m secretly bitterly resentful of the fact that I have to share a desk with the husband at the moment, and he leaves crumbs and moves things. I’m not kidding. Do you know, the other morning there was chocolate on my mouse mat? My mouse mat!

So, right now, my desk is the tidiest it’s ever been and I have to say I like it that way. My office is neatly organised, with things in the correct places, and I feel calm whenever I walk into this room. All around me may be madness (sharing a tiny two-bedroomed house with two adult males is not conducive to calm, let me tell you) but in here, my little oasis, I feel in control.

Get a routine. My daughter has been telling me this ever since I became a full-time writer. I’ve always resisted the idea because all the years I had the day job, life was all about routine and structure, and I wanted to rebel – possibly for the first time in my adult life. However, time has proved her right. You do need a routine. It gives the day a structure, a frame.

AtoZChallenge O is for organisation
The day this arrived I was sooo happy!

For my birthday a couple of years ago I bought myself a Filofax. Not a serious-looking one, obviously. It’s bright pink. I do love pink, it’s such a happy colour. So I’ve got this Filofax and it carries my life within its pages. Every appointment, every deadline, every birthday, addresses, useful information, the lot. It’s just a small book that fits in my handbag, but it’s given me a sense of security that’s hard to explain. No more hunting around for scraps of paper, or frantically checking calendars, or logging into Moonpig to look for family addresses (yes, I’ve done that, many times). Now I know that if I need to find something, chances are it will be in my Filofax. Relief all round.

I also keep a supply of stamps to hand. I buy birthday cards months in advance. The other day, when I realised I wouldn’t be able to get round to deliver Easter eggs to my grandchildren, I decided to send them all an Easter card with money in them instead. My son couldn’t believe it when I said there was a pack of Easter cards in the drawer in my bedroom. I’d bought a spare pack a couple of years previously, just in case. How organised is that??

It’s funny, because I always say I’m not a planner at all. My friend Julie is super-organised. She has everything in her bag – it’s like Mary Poppins’ carpet bag! Scissors, first-aid equipment, painkillers, diary, a pencil case full of pens and pencils (truly!), tissues, spare water, you name it, it’s there. She’s also punctual to the minute, and she makes notes about everything. In contrast, I’m usually frantically scrabbling around my handbag, or searching my coat pockets for a scrap of unused tissue, and the pens in my bag invariably don’t work, and if I’m lucky I may find a crumbled up paracetamol at the bottom of my bag. I’m nearly always late – usually by a few minutes but, on one memorable occasion, by nearly an hour because I misread the time. Don’t ask, I still have no idea how that happened. So, you see, I’ve always said I’m the chaotic one. But thinking about it, I do have my organised moments, and it is rather nice to have that feeling of control in my life. I need to be more like Julie. I am trying. I’ve bought a pencil case anyway!

Orna Ross

Orna Ross is an Irish indie author and poet, and *drumroll* the founder of the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi). She has written several novels and books of poetry, and has appeared on the BBC and in various newspapers, advising them on self-publishing matters. The Bookseller named her as “one of the 100 most influential people in publishing”, which is pretty amazing, if you ask me. Because of the importance of ALLi to indie authors, hers is certainly a name you’ll become familiar with as you travel this rocky path. You can find out more about Orna here.

Other Income

It’s a sad fact that it’s very difficult to make a living as a writer, and most writers have other jobs to support themselves, since earnings from their writing falls short of paying the bills, mortgage or rent. Add to that the fact that, as an indie author, you also have to pay for book covers, editing, proofreading, perhaps formatting, etc, and it becomes obvious that many authors are going to need to find additional income from somewhere.

The good news is that doesn’t necessarily mean a job unconnected with writing. It can be as “simple” as maximising earnings from the work you’ve already done. For example, making sure your books are available in as many different formats as possible. So, your ebook can become an audiobook, a paperback and a large-print paperback, and even a hardback complete with jacket, if you think there’s enough demand for that.

An obvious way of making more money is to write more books! If you tend to take a lot of time off between books, maybe you should think again. Maybe you could work for a bit longer each day. Maybe you could investigate dictating your books, rather than typing them. There is software available that enables you to do this, and the general consensus is that dictation speeds up the writing process immensely. Here’s an article about this subject.

If you use a voice recorder you’re not tied to your desk. You can write your book even if you’re out for a walk!

You could contribute letters to magazines, submit articles, be a guest speaker, even teach creative writing. You could proofread other people’s books. You could make money from your blog, from affiliate marketing, from author services such as formatting. Maybe you’re a whizz at cover design? Collaborate with other authors to write books, or put one of your books in a multi-author boxset. Have your books translated so they can sell in other countries, opening up a huge global market. Host self-publishing workshops, passing on your knowledge to other writers. Even create an online course on aspects of self publishing. Obviously, some of these things will need an investment of time and/or money. For instance, you’ll need a professional proofreading qualification if you want to be taken seriously, and if you want to be sure you’re doing a good job (and you want to be sure of that). There’s a very good blog post about choosing a proofreading course here.¬†

The point is, there are lots of ways to make extra income once you start thinking about it. You just have to be a bit creative, and think outside the box. The great news is, you’re a writer. Being creative and thinking outside the box is what you do best!

Have a lovely day, and I’ll see you tomorrow for the letter P!