Why You Think You Can’t Write A Novel – And Why You’re Wrong!

Calling yourself a “writer” is something that makes a lot of people nervous. It can feel like you’re asking to be called pretentious, or worse. If you’ve ever had the experience of meeting a distant relative at a family gathering and they ask what you do, you know how it goes.

“I’m a writer.”

“Oh! Anything I might have read?”

© Copyright 2010 CorbisCorporationAnd the answer is almost invariably “no,” and so you know in their heads they’re thinking “Not a real job, not a real job.” It’s enough to cause a crisis of confidence, which of course contributes to the dreaded Writer’s Block. And when someone reads some of your writing and says “This is superb! Have you considered writing a novel?”, it’s easy to answer “no.” Because writing a blog post or an essay is one thing – a novel is a whole other ball game.

So many good writers shy away from the idea of writing a novel when that friend might really be onto something. If you think you can’t write a novel, you’re wrong. It may take time, and you may have a few false starts. But if you are ready to put the work in, you can overcome any obstacles – including the ones you put in front of yourself.


Excuse #1: “I know I can write, but I can’t write people.”

Writing characters is maybe the toughest part of writing a novel, it’s true. Even those of us who don’t think we’re creative can set a scene, can sketch out a narrative, but writing people is hard. Most successful novels will have at least one character who’s a lot like the author. Why is that? Because it’s easy to write yourself. Other characters are harder, of course. You can base them on your friends, but you want your friends to read the book and still like you, so that’s tricky.

What you need to do is sit and set out a profile of your characters. Their name, age, what they do for a living. Their personality. Refrain from making them too amazing – readers these days can spot a Mary Sue a mile away, and prefer someone relatable. Read over your profiles, and if they remind you too much of anyone, change the details until they’re their own person.


Excuse #2: “I know I can write, but I can’t handle rejection.”

lettersEvery author on the face of the Earth has received at least one letter of rejection from a publisher. J.K. Rowling famously received numerous rejection letters before one publisher picked up Harry Potter. One of them told her that she should get a day job because she was unlikely to make a living in children’s fiction. If writing is what you want to do, then you need to have a thick skin. You will get rejection letters – but they make the non-rejections worth so much more.

If you don’t want to leap straight into the lions’ den with publishers, then consider self-publishing to begin with. Book-printing experts such as Steuben Press will put your book together for you. You can then sell online or at book fairs, or give your books out as gifts. If you get good feedback from those, that should up your confidence. Never give up on the idea. Where would we be if Suzanne Collins had taken her first poor feedback as a sign to give up?


Excuse #3: “I know I can write, but the good ideas have all been had.”

We’ve all sat in front of a laptop, racking our brains for ideas, and the moment a good one comes up our internal editor rejects it. “No, already been done. There are enough books about vampires/wizards/astronauts…”. It is true to say that it gets harder to be original the longer time goes on. So the first thing to say to that is … don’t worry about having a truly original idea.

J.K. Rowling wasn’t the first author to write about a wizarding school. Stephenie Meyer definitely didn’t get to vampires first. And there have been more novels about a dystopian future than anyone could read in a lifetime. What you do need is a hook. Something that makes it a bit different. Play around with the lore a little; there is always something you can bring to it. A new setting, a unique power, a different threat. If you try to be 100% original, you’ll just end up with a book no one understands.


Excuse #4: “I know I can write, but I don’t have the time.”

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Authors and actors alike have the same issue that stands in the way of their success. In the beginning, it doesn’t pay. And so they need to hold down a full-time job while finding ways to indulge their creative side. Where authors have an advantage over actors is the fact that an actor usually needs to break through while they are young. The film industry is very ageist. And sexist. And shallow.

On the other hand, when you’ve got your work backed up, you can take as long as you need to finish your first novel. If you snatch a few pages each lunch break, take a few hours at the weekend and some in the evenings, you can let it come together at its own pace. In fact, you may benefit from taking a little longer over it – this allows you to refine what you write and really consider where the story is going.

You can come up with all these reasons and more not to put your writing to the ultimate test. There are dozens of reasons not to try – but in the end, all you need is one reason to give it a go. If it works out, you’ll have the chance to make money doing something you love. And there is nothing better than that. Sure, when you’re on novel number 10, you’ll still get writer’s block. But it beats the hell out of doing a job you’ll never like, let alone love, for just enough money to keep your house warm.

You just need to stop making excuses.

Stay indie, and rock on, write on,
<3 Colby

Colby’s Creative Achievements in January 2014!

smart goal setting conceptSo, usually, I save my self-assessment for the end of the year. But this time, I decided to take a monthly inventory, not only because it makes the end of the year assessment easier to write (copy and paste, anyone?), but also because taking inventory on a short-term basis keeps me accountable. In public!

I can also check these updates against my 2014 goal list and start in on those goals I haven’t quite picked up on yet! So check out my creative achievements and steps forward I made for January and share yours too!

January 2014

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Theme of the Month: Massive Change, Massive Launches, MASSIVE Endurance (in the face of uncertainty and chaos)

1. Moved to California! It was a really exciting, treacherous, challenging, and exhilarating two weeks, but my boyfriend and I finally made it. Originally, we planned to move to Los Angeles, but we adored Long Beach and decided on that instead! No worries, though, it’s still only 30 minutes from L.A., there’s a train that goes from Long Beach right INTO L.A., and we’re still living in L.A. County. Plus, we’re three blocks from the beach and oceanfront, so no complaints from me!

2. Released the PRINT version of Ghosts of Koa! Which was a huge challenge due to spotty internet access, being Ghosts of Koa Cover WEB-MEDIUMon a super tight budget, and being technically homeless for two weeks (was totally living at a campsite ::CRICKET::). Feel free to pick up your copy today though at Amazon! Also, it’s “matched” with the Kindle version, and you’ll get the Kindle version for FREE if you pick up the paperback!

3. Officially launched the production of the Ghosts of Koa AUDIOBOOK! With the amazing talents of Michael T Bradley on my side, we have entered into a Royalty Share agreement for this version of my novel, and he’s also looking forward to narrating the other novels as well! I sent him the manuscript at the end of January and am super excited about the forthcoming product!

4. Began to explore Los Angeles and Long Beach. There are so many resources for writers and creators here, and I unearthed quite a few! Check out my comprehensive, ever-growing list of writer and creator resources in Cali!

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KX Cotch, resident sociopath and assassin for the Alchemic Order… and he’s getting his own novella series!

5. Began working on the novella spin-off series to The Books of Ezekiel saga! So clearly, while there are many main characters in The Books of Ezekiel saga, Ezekiel is the star (hence the title). I wanted readers to spend more time with the other main characters, time that was unrelated to Zeika and her journey. And so, here it is! All of the main characters that I LOVE– Caleb, Cotch, Manja, and many others– will have their own novella series that chronicle their paths through the world of alchemy. Caleb’s and Cotch’s full seasons will be released in early 2015. Stay tuned for the others, which will be released as the main Books of Ezekiel saga progresses!

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Rebel Ragdoll’s growing one step at a time!

6. Relaunched my work on my tv and feature script portfolio and… I GOT A WRITING PARTNER! Once again, the lovely Claire Zhuang and I thought it best to combine our talents and come up with some script hotness. We’re pretty excited about what we’ve got going on, too! It’s nice to have a partner to keep you in check!

7. Started penning many other creative projects, including, 1. the next installation of The Books of Ezekiel Saga, “The Final Page: The Second Book of Ezekiel”, 2. the inaugural novel in my sci-fi thriller series “Ryden’s Lot”, 3. and SIX other seasonal installment novella series! All of these novellas will be turned into pilot scripts as well, so writing these series does double work for my novel-novella backlist and for my tv script portfolio. 😉

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I’d love to not only write a character like Aveline, pen an awesome story like Assassin’s Creed, but also DESIGN a game for both! Making this dream come true one step at a time!

8. Re-launched my work as a Freelance Writer and Casting Producer with Demand Media Studios. Being new to L.A., I needed a job, and then I remembered that I actually still have one, lol! Since taking up the part-time job at the Westchester wine shop, I had let the Casting Producer gig fall to the wayside, but now it’s time to write and produce full-time!

9. Began studying video game design and SFX for films and video games. Super excited. 😉 Hopefully by the end of 2014, I’ll be pretty well-versed in lots of aspects of video game design, SFX, and film post-production… we’ll see! Excited, nonetheless!

10. Stepped more firmly into my career as a creative entrepreneur! In addition to starting a ton of projects, I kept up with my blogging (as promised), am catching up with my vlog tv/movie review series again, got more involved with writing book reviews (terribly overdue, and I apologize to my reviewees!), and I actually started a monthly newsletter!

wgf11. Started volunteering for the Scriptwriter’s Network and the Writer’s Guild Foundation! Also trying to wedge my way into the Writer’s Guild of America! You gotta start somewhere, and the best way to start is by giving back. I’m really excited to get to know people at the events I’ll be volunteering at and to finally start getting to know my industry.

12. Joined some screenwriting meet-ups, and I’m intimidated as hell, lol. Community is important. Especially one that will hold your ass accountable for the pages you were supposed to turn in a week ago, lol. It’s also a little nerve-wracking meeting new folks for the first time, but I also really look forward to it. Can’t wait to join the community of folks who are trying to go the same direction I am! 🙂

baby!13. And last, but certainly not least… I found out I was PREGNANT! Holy. Cow. Five weeks and I didn’t have a clue. Talk about a creative achievement, lol! There really is nothing like *literally* CREATING a life inside of you, and I’m thrilled to be having a babe on the way!

And for those of you who are wondering, YES, you CAN have a career in Hollywood as both a mother and a writer-screenwriter-producer or what have you, and I mean to show you how. Men do it all the time, so why can’t we? 😉 So please stay tuned for another month of moving forward, life lessons, and creative ass-kicking, and I hope to hear some of your stories too!

So what are your personal and/or creative accomplishments for January? Are you making progress towards your ultimate goals? Share them below! 

Keep it indie,
<3 Colby

List of Writer’s Resources in Los Angeles & Beyond (for Aspiring Producers too!)

listsI love lists. Lists are amazing. They’re easy to make, shareable, and editable. I’ve only been in Long Beach / Los Angeles County for about 2 weeks, but I’m already starting to sink my fangs into all the resources I can for aspiring screenwriters and producers.

I decided to keep a growing list of everything I find, so as I find more, I’ll add them and share them here on my blog! In the meanwhile, enjoy and explore! I only hope that this will make *your* creative journey a little easier! 😉

Coffee-Tea Shops Where Writers Congregate / Just Plain Ole Great Places to Work

coffee shopWriting can get lonely, so if you want a great environment to both get work done and commune with fellow writers, check out these spots below!

It’s a Grind (Long Beach)

 

Great Writer’s & Filmmaker’s Groups to Join

meetupBuilding a community is important for creatives in general, but especially if you’re trying to break into the industry. I’ve done some footwork locating interesting meet ups around town that you might want to check out.

Okay so granted, I’ve only just joined these groups, so they are still “under review” in terms of being places to build community. As I said, this list is ever-growing and ever-changing, so stay tuned!

Los Angeles Film and TV Meetup Group

The Scriptwriter’s Network

Writer’s Blok LA

Beyond Baroque Screenwriter’s Workshop

Writers with Drinks LA

The Original Los Angeles Writers Group

LA TV Writers

Hollywood Jumpstart

Great Orgs and Conferences (for volunteer work)!

conferenceWhy volunteer? Because there are so many benefits to it, not only for giving back, but also for networking, gaining invaluable knowledge, and getting into expensive conferences for free! Every conference, pitch fest, video game convention, and more needs volunteers, so don’t miss the opportunity to start your career growth!

The Scriptwriter’s Network

The Writer’s Guild Foundation

Writer’s Guild of America, West

The Great American Pitchfest

Trust me, MANY more are coming, no worries, lol!

Awesome Books to Read, E-courses to Take, and Blogs to Follow!

bookstackAnd of course, some self-teaching is always great. When you’ve got some quiet time, or when you’re traveling, or when you’re burnt out on writing and producing 24-7, check out these books and resources. They’ll help you hone your skills, develop important aspects of your creative portfolio, and will give you some great insight from industry pros who’ve already been where you want to go!

Hollywood Game Plan by Carole Kirschner
This book is a creative’s manna. Breaking into Hollywood has suddenly become so much more probable… READ THIS BOOK, YOU FOOL!

Good in a Room by Stephanie Palmer
This book is absolutely essential for you to up your game on pitching, self-presentation, and selling your ideas in Hollywood. Writer’s don’t only need to write well, but they also need to sell well!

Pitching Essentials E-Course by Stephanie Palmer
AMAZING e-course for developing a kick-ass pitch for your projects! Sign up, get the course… and understand what it means to be a pitching god.

Write. Publish. Repeat. by Sean Platt and Johnny B Truant
For indie writers and publishers who want to make a living doing what they love most, take it from the guys who are already doing it! Killer advice at a killer price. (Also great for screenwriters, as the principles carry over!)

How to Market a Book by Joanna Penn
One of the baddest chicks in the indie writing publishing game, Joanna Penn has created a massively successful indie publishing business off of her fiction and her non-fiction. She KNOWS how to market a book and has been in the trenches. Learn from a pro! And while we’re at it check out

The Creative Penn
Joanna wows us with her deep well of resources on indie publishing, marketing, and writing. She has an amazing podcast as well as some meaty articles on how to leverage your creative rights, be a great creative entrepreneur, and grow your personal creative business! DEFINITELY check her out!

Breakfast with Sharks
Michael Lent gives you the business in his candid rendering of Hollywood and screenwriting as an industry. He leads you through how feature film writing, selling, and buying work, what to expect, and how to maximize your chances of success as an aspiring screenwriter! Not to be missed!

The TV Writer’s Workbook
Ellen Sandler is an Emmy award-winning tv sitcom writer who knows how to write a damned good tv episode. She’s worked on Everybody Loves Raymond and Coach, so let her work on your tv writing skills! From tips on breaking down and analyzing tv episodes to tools to building your own pilot, Sandler ensures you won’t be disappointed.

And of course… more coming soon! If you have anything to add, I’d love your input! Please share! In the meantime…

Keep it indie,
<3 Colby

Life Update: I’m Officially in Los Angeles… and I’m Pooped!

Guess what?! I’m heeeereee! What’s up, L.A.?

1495972_705791970116_549192232_oHey all! I’ve got a little video bite for you all regarding my recent move to Los Angeles. Lots of interesting updates, insights, crazy cat catastrophes, and lots of pics to share from my trek across America (yay!). I don’t have much time or space to write a more extensive blog post because I’m using McDonald’s WiFi, and I’m currently staying at a campsite, lol. But I’ll be back really soon with more!

In the meantime, here’s some stream of consciousness reaction to completely uprooting my life to move to sunny California and kick up my creative journey a notch!

Off to Los Angeles!

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packed and ready to go!

Sorry I’ve been away from the blog for the week, but it’s because…

I’m on my way to Los Angeles! (For good!)

Yep, I’m making the big move across the U.S. to Los Angeles in sunny California, the HOME of the creative hustler. Here, I’ll be able to pursue my dream of being a tv writer, screenwriter, producer, and of course, full-time novelist. I know it’ll be a bumpy creative journey, but an exciting one too! Can’t wait!

battling the tundra to get to sunny Cali!

battling the tundra to get to sunny Cali!

My boyfriend and I have planned the trip over, but are trying to be flexible due to the huge snowstorm and deep freeze that’s ravaging the whole of the United States. We’ve been able to avoid most of it, but we’ve been lucky so far. Hopefully, our days will continue to be smooth and unencumbered.

Here’s the itinerary:

DAY 1: Poynette, WI to Lincoln, NE (done!)
DAY 2: Lincoln, NE to Denver, CO to Albuquerque, NM (happening today!)
DAY 3: Albuquerque, NM to Las Vegas, NV to LOS ANGELES, CA (soon)

So that’s that! Supper amped, especially because I’ve been working on tons of new creative work that’ll be forthcoming in Jan 2014, including the second novel in The Books of Ezekiel series, brainstorming on the Ryden’s Lot series, sketching some teleplays and screenplays, READING tons of other authors’ works, applying to producing fellowships, AND brainstorming five novella series spin-offs for The Books of Ezekiel! (Super exciting!)

Good things coming soon… good good things! See you as soon as I can for another update! If you have any advice on moving to Cali, living or hustling in Cali, or just getting to Cali in one piece, I’d love to hear your thoughts below! But in the meantime…

Keep it indie,
<3 Colby

Dawn of a New Day: What I’ve Been Up to, Travel, and Starting a Career in Film

Hiya folks! So sorry that it’s been so long since I’ve said hello! Whenever I have a million projects flying at me, I find that I have to focus on those. As a result, the blogging and social media thing tend to fall by the wayside. But I have a few minutes to breathe and reflect on the past 2.5 months that has been this crazy summer!

 

What I’ve Been Up To

sunriseIt’s the dawn of a new day! A new life, new place, new things to do, and new goals. But let’s clean house first. So, I’ve been away from my beloved Cove for three main reasons. Firstly, my internet access sucked while traveling through Europe, and I just sort of gave up on the blogging thing for a while. I will do some back posts on my travels though, so be gentle with me. 😉 Secondly, I’ve been working two pretty cool internships that have added up to full time hours, and… I MOVED! It was a harrowing experience trying to figure out how I was going to move my entire life on no money, but friends, loved ones, and lots of meditation saw me through, lol.

I’m already hitting the pavement hard with job and internship hunting (in film, television, market research, and doing film & tv market research), finishing up these two internships that I’m already on, and (gasp) sending out query letters to literary agents!!
Yes, SHOCKER, right? No worries, I’m still a proud indie. Hell, it’s my slogan. But I’ll explain exactly why I’ve taken this dive and how I expect it to benefit me in my next post! Can you still be an indie and have a literary agent? YUP! But you gotta wait until next post to find out how! 😉

Travel

Sorry I left you all stranded! The last time I checked in, I was broadcasting from Prague, whichPrague is an amazingly beautiful city with LOTS of character. I’d LOVE to shoot a film there. Vying for first place next to Prague is Budapest, which is hauntingly beautiful, affordable, and gorgeously filmable. LOVED BUDAPEST, and I want everyone to go when they have a chance! These two cities, plus Rome, turned out to be my most-loved places, especially for the people and the eats. (These are just place-holder pics for now. I’ll post my own pics as soon as I find my USB cord for my camera… EEK!). Traveling Western-Eastern Europe was amazing, and while it didn’t have the same emotional impact as when I took my first solo trip abroad, it certainly opened my eyes to even more awesome people, beautiful architecture, rich culture, and yep, mouth-watering FOOD!

Won’t be taking another massive trip for a few months yet; still recuperating, and plus I need to settle a bit for a few months to get settled and focus on my career. Between now and then, I gotta grind, make money, and WRITE. The next trip (probably in the fall of 2014) will be either Budapestto Mexico or to the Amazon in South America. I wanted to hit up some nations in Africa too, but we’ll see! So many choices and I love it!

As for now, I’m safe and sound back home… actually I’m at my *real* home in New York. Yep, I finished up my Masters in Madison, WI and now I’m back in the city that never sleeps and am SUPER excited about it. For those of you asking, yes I’m still moving to Los Angeles, but not until January of 2014. In the meantime, though, I’m visiting family, friends, saving cash, and enjoying my hometown (Yonkers) and NYC. And guess who’s hitting up the film scene, writing conventions, comic cons, AND the Writer’s Guild of America all in NYC? This girl! There’s definitely a film and literary scene here that is not to be missed, and if I can make connections on both coasts, that’s ideal. 🙂

Starting a Career in Film

So I was lucky enough to score two internships locally in Madison, WI and am still able to participate in them now even though I’m back in NYC. One is as a Script Reader for one production company, and the other is as a Line Producer for a different production company! Between the two of these internships, I’ve been working nearly full-time hours, and it’s been both intense and educational. My responsibilities on both projects will have ended by the mid-September, hopefully leaving me wiser, stronger, and ready to upgrade my responsibilities (and my pay too, lol)!

screenplayBut what exactly IS a Script Reader and a Line Producer? What do these folks actually DO? Furthermore, are you able to get an internship too? Of course! Let’s start with explaining what these roles mean…

Script Reader: You read scripts, usually really terrible ones, and then you write a 4-5 page report on it. This report is called coverage. The first page will usually be a summary of the story, its major turning points, and character points (i.e. Bob ate a sandwich and then hoagie-stealing ninjas burst through his front door). The next 3-4 pages will be an analysis of the script by premise, character, plot, pacing, writing style and ability, dialogue, story logic, and more. You answer questions such as, what were the major flaws of the plot? Did a character feel “real” to you? Was the dialogue incredible? Is this a great script that can be produced? And you must provide examples and evidence as to why or why not.

Getting experience as a Script Reader: Being a script reader and analyst is probably the best thing you can do for your craft if you are a writer (besides actually writing of course). It allows you a sneak peek at how story mechanics work or don’t work, and it gives you insight into the tricks that actually DO work. It also allows you to understand how scripts are structured and paced. If you’re interested in doing a Script Reading Internship from the comfort of your own home, I suggest that you email john@eclecticpictures.com. Check out Eclectic Pictures website for more info on how they roll. You can also call production companies clapboard(who get scripts all the time) and ask if they are looking for a reader or an intern.

Line Producer: These folks are badass mofos who pretty much handle ALL of the behind-the-scenes nuts-and-bolts stuff behind a film. There is no limelight glory for a Line Producer, but we’re integral to your film. We create and manage the budget, wrangle the film crew and talent, help to secure locations, track down and provide filming equipment, create the production schedule, schedule the film shoot itself, and keep you from blowing your cash (no, sorry, the burning palace scene in Fiji is not exactly within our financial limits). We are also responsible for making sure that the union rules are being followed (that your actors, writers, directors, and below-the-line crew all get credit and get paid) and that crew and cast alike are safe and healthy on set as per legal regulations. And like most people who work on a film, we handle other administrative tasks as required. In my case, I also had the luck and privilege of pitching, writing, and developing parts of Season 2 of the web series I’m working for, which is a nice treat!

Getting experience as a Line Producer: The way I got into this job is by a referral from a teacher I took a class with. The production I’m working on is an indie project with a modest budget. They were looking for reliable interns who were open to gaining experience while contributing in a meaningful way. I got in, bust my rump, and took initiative to innovate and to fix problems without being told that they needed to be fixed. I worked super hard, was clear filmreelabout what I wanted (which was more responsibility and a title), and eventually that earned me the title of Line Producer (since I was doing a Line Producer’s work anyway). This is my journey, but everyone’s journey is different!

You don’t always need a referral to get an unpaid gig, for example. If you’re in school, look through your internship office (or your fine arts department’s internship office). If you’re not in school, go visit a school that has a film department. Almost always there will be postings on the walls asking for PAs, extras, or more experienced crew for projects. Make friends with people who are on the film scene and see if you can’t go and visit a set. You can also check out craigslist.org or mandy.com for gigs that will be unpaid, low paid, or fully paid. Also, look up the local production companies in your area and ask if they need interns or volunteers! From there, it’s about applying yourself, making yourself invaluable to a production, and then asking for what you want. If you don’t ask for what you want, you won’t get it. (This is a whole other issue that I’m sure I’ll write about in the future, so stay tuned!)

Phew! What an update. Hopefully, some of this info helped a bit. “But what about writing?!” you ask! Great question. I’m definitely still writing on spec for both the screen and the page, and I’ll update you on all of that in my next post, “Being an Aspiring Writer-Producer & The Big Bad Writing Portfolio”!

Until then, keep it indie (while looking for agents)!
<3 Colby

Colby’s on the Road! Being a Loner Writer-Backpacker

Hey folks! Colby here, reporting from the lovely city of Prague! Sorry I’ve been so out of traveltouch. As most of you know, I’m on the road over here in Europe and have been really busy with traveling, sightseeing, and of course, writing! I’ll be updating my blog with some insights on the places I’ve been so far, including Lisbon, Portugal; Sevilla, Spain; Paris, France, Munich, Germany; Vienna, Austria; and now, Prague, Czech Republic. In the meantime, though, let’s break the ice with a well-needed intro post on the question that people lob at me the most: How / why do I travel alone?

So, understandably, there’s a whole hulabaloo around traveling ALONE. Yes, I typed that in caps, because that’s often what the word feels like. Huge, daunting, in-your-face-and-can’t-handle-it. And guess what?

There is absolutely nothing wrong with feeling that way.

Humans are social creatures. It’s natural to not want to be alone, and especially, to not want to travel alone. But let me tell you: traveling stag is the most freeing, most exhilarating experience one could ever have! Why? Well, here’s a list of five fantastic reasons to not be afraid of (or sad about) traveling alone.

1. You make your own schedule.

calendarLook, when I vacation, I vacation. Which means: sleeping in late, eating out, lazing about, going to see stuff (when I want to), or even staying in and just soaking up the atmosphere. And when I do go out, I take about 1.5 to 2 hours to get ready. On days that I decide to go sightseeing, I don’t usually get out of the door until about 1 pm.

Yeah. I know. Lol. I’m a pain in the ass. Every single cleaning lady in the hostels I’ve been in have all given me the phat side eye, because while all the other girls in the room have already left, I’m just getting the sand out my eyes.

But that’s the amazing thing about traveling alone. You get to do that. It’s your vacation, your time, your show. So take the spotlight and enjoy it!

2. No negotiating. Ever.

If you want to see the Louvre and the hop over to Marrakesh in that order, you can do it! Want to revisit the same site three or four times? No need to listen to anyone else’s “but we did that already!” Go back and stalk that monument (or the cute guard stationed there, if that’s your true motivation)! Again, your vacay belongs to you.

As a side note on “negotiation”, if I never traveled by myself, I’d never even get to see the world! Most people I know don’t have the time, money, or the desire to travel. And while I understand their reasons, I need to remember that those are their reasons, not mine. I’m definitely not negotiating in those waters! Gotta make my own path. Traveling’s where my heart goes, and I go with it!

3. MORE WRITING TIME!

Earth to all writer-backpackers: need I say more? If you’re traveling alone, you get to fill uptypewriter all those “you” hours with tons and tons of writing. Much as I love my friends, my fam, and my life back in the States, I can’t even begin to express how much of a blessing being 3000+ miles away has been for my writing. When you’re abroad, it’s generally a little harder to communicate (cheaply). Yes, we have Skype dates, international calling cards and SIM cards, and the all-notorious Facebook, but in truth, when we’re on the road in a different country, staying in touch gets rough. (Besides, you paid money to travel and see new things, not to spend most of your vacay on the phone with folks you already know!)

So how do I fill my empty time? I write. In fact, I’ll be done with tv pilot and with another pass over my novel by the time this vacay is over… a feat that is way harder to achieve when everyone back home has access to me. So take advantage of this precious alone time, writers, and do what you do and love best: WRITE.

4. If you don’t know how to do it already, you learn to be happy with yourself and by yourself. In other words, it helps you grow up.

peoplearepeopleMany people simply don’t know how to be alone. Some folks just have super close friends and fam and can’t imagine living without them (or without their emotional / physical / financial support, let’s be real). Others are genuinely afraid of being alone due to inner insecurities, fear of self, fear of looking like a loser or of feeling unloved, fear of change. Others get bored easily by themselves (though I argue that only boring people get bored, so feel free to take that to the bank)! And there are obviously many other reasons people are afraid of being alone.

Whatever your reason is, though, use traveling alone as an opportunity to face your fears. If you’re not afraid of being alone but just would “rather not”, then use this as an opportunity to challenge yourself, grow, and try something new. Facing challenges by yourself can be very educational and will help you to discover things about yourself that you never knew. When I came back from my 6-week solo backpacking trip through Europe in 2011, I genuinely felt that I could do anything. I had gone through some crazy challenging experiences, and they helped me to grow tons. I’m not saying you should put yourself in danger, but give yourself a chance to evolve in the spirit of adventure!

5. Because in truth, you are never truly alone.

In every city, especially if you are staying in hostels, there are tons of ways to be social. In fact, it’s a little hard to avoid! Hostels have tons of activities going on for your traveler’s pleasure. Pub crawls, contests, parties… some hostels even have their own bars, clubs,crowds restaurants, and lounges. Want a little company? Sit around in a hostel bar or lounge for a little while towards mid-afternoon or evening… trust, people will begin to file in, and you’ll have some delightful company in no time!

Oh, and if you’re sharing your room at a hostel? Forget it! You’ll never be alone. Right now, I’m sharing a room with 25 (yes TWENTY AND FIVE) other girls on the road. Yeah. Going solo is not nearly as “solo” as you’d think. At the end of the day I actually get a little annoyed sometimes because I need some “me” time in my bed, and just can’t get it, LOL.

So, in conclusion, give solo traveling a shot. You have everything to gain, not really much to lose. And if you’re concerned about safety, especially if you’re a chick traveling alone, then stay tuned for a future post on some awesome safety tips for solo travelers. Follow those tips, and you’ll be a pro at safe solo traveling in no time!

Now, let me get out of here. I’m in a Vietnamese restaurant with my stuff spread out all over the table, because hey, you get to make an entire table your own writer’s lair when you’re a solo writer-backpacker. Teehee!

Keep it indie,
<3 Colby

Into the Beyond: Life of a Fashionable Writer-Backpacker, Week 11, Tech for Traveling Writers!

travelOkie dokie, folks! Totally have NOT forgotten about the “Fashionable Backpacker” series! In fact, I’m gearing up for my whirlwind trip through Western and Eastern Europe right now, so I’m a bit crazy, MEGA excited, and I am also scared poopless! Hey, I never said backpacking was 100% easy, but that’s a part of the adventure! Know what else is a part of the adventure? WRITER’S TECH. So let me introduce you to some awesome stuff you might want to bring along with you depending on your writing goals for the trip. I’m bringing these same things and I also use them for my own writing (so you know I’m not just blowing sunshine up your nostrils). 😉 Check it out!

1. Ipad Mini

Great googly moogly, the Ipad Mini and her delightful accessories are probably going to be your greatest ally on ipadminiany trip. For one, 99.999% of hostels have free WiFi, but if you don’t have a computer, you’ll have to pay to use theirs. So bring one! And honestly, I suggest the Ipad Mini. It’s as small as a journal, lightweight, and POWERFUL. It’s one of the most advanced notebooks on the market, and in my opinion, it comes at a VERY reasonable price (starts at $299.00 for 16 GB).

With the Ipad Mini, you can create videos, podcasts, and documents as well as surf the net. It’s super fast and also comes equipped with SIRI, a digital assistant who speaks over 10 languages, talks to you, and also just makes magic for you when you ask it to do research, find locations, and schedule your appointments for you. The Ipad Mini might very well be the first step towards the Singularity, but who cares so long as you can catch my train to Seville while also speaking Mandarin Chinese to your computer?

Most importantly, though, you have a compact way to write your travel journals, blog posts, and yes, your novels and scripts if you so choose! How can you type efficiently with a touch tablet, though? Well luckily, I’ve got some more writer’s tech for you, namely:

2. The Poetic Keybook Bluetooth Keyboard Case (Ipad Accessory)

keyboardThe Poetic Keybook Bluetooth Keyboard is easy to connect to your Ipad Mini, protects it from damage, and ALSO allows you to actually TYPE (none of this touch-screen tomfoolery)! So if need to write on the road but want to use a more traditional way of getting your thoughts down, buy the Poetic Keybook. I recommend buying the black case because it makes your expensive Ipad look more like a journal than a $300.00 Macbook in hiding, which may discourage folks from taking it on first glance.

As a mini caution, the keyboard DOES need to be charged. The upside? It doesn’t take long to charge, and you can plug it in at the same time you’re charging your Ipad Mini. In fact, the Keybook’s charger is designed to plug into the Ipad Mini’s wall charger with minimum fuss. Another mini caution, typing on the Poetic may take some getting used to as its dimensions are smaller than a regular keyboard. Solution? You’ll get used to it after about a week of typing, promise. Aside from that though, this accessory rocks socks for writers on the go!

3. The Notability App

So basically, the haters at Apple copied off of the genius of the Livescribe Pulse Pen (which I formerly recommended for note taking and still do (especially for PC users!)). They integrated all of Livescribe’s kick-ass features with the iOS interface, and BAM, here’s what you get with the Notability app:

* Fully Featured Handwriting: The ability to take notes RIGHT on your Ipad mini screen without ink marks, and without the notetaking lag (i.e. your notes appear at the same time you write them).
* Editable PDFs: The ability to make notes on PDFs and then send them to yourself via email or a cloud Notabilityservice
* Advanced Word Processing: you can use features like bolding, italics, bullet points, underlining, and more
* Linked Audio Recording: By far the BEST feature and one that was snatched right from Livescribe, wherein you can record audio while taking notes. Furthermore, Notability will LINK the audio recordings to your writing. Don’t remember what your chem teacher said about covalent bonds? Just click on that section of your notes and Notability will play the recording of your teacher’s lecture back to you at THAT particular point in class! BOSS.
* Auto-sync: Your notes are always backed up in the cloud. And you can use whichever cloud service you like, including Dropbox, Google Drive, Box or WebDAV. I’m a huge fan of Google Drive, by the by.
* Media Insertion & Library Organization: You can add pictures, web clips, drawings, figures, and more to enhance your notes! You can also import notes, PDFs, RTFs, .doc, .ppt, and .xls files as PDFs using Google Drive.

So as you can see, Notability kicks up all the features we love into overdrive. But of course, we need an awesome stylus to help us take notes, and some great apps (customized for your needs) wouldn’t hurt either! I won’t dictate to you which stylus or which apps to get, but the Apple Store has tons for you to choose from, all designed for your particular writing needs!

4. Scrivener App for Ipad Mini (COMING SOON!)

ScrivenerappsampleMAJOR TECH WATCH: Scrivener is currently developing an app for the Ipad Mini, and when they do, I will officially have hit my Writer Travel Tech Nirvana. Follow Scrivener on Twitter to see their newest updates on the Ipad Mini app! And if you have not been lucky enough to experience the beauty of Scrivener for writing novels, short stories, scripts, and much more, then check out my article on Scrivener to see what you’ve been missing! In the meantime, check out the pic to the left to see a sneak preview of what the Scrivener Ipad Mini app is going to look like! I’m amped, are you? 😉

So what about you? What kinds of writer tech do you prefer to use while you’re on the road, traveling, and backpacking? Did I leave anything out? I’m a Mac girl, but I’d love to hear from you PC users too! Leave your suggestions below, and in the meantime…

Keep it indie & Rock on, Write on,
<3 Colby

Into the Beyond: Life of a Fashionable Writer-Backpacker, Week 12, Plane Tickets

travelSO you’ve pinched your pennies for traveling, you’ve gotten your travel documents, you’ve started to think about packing…  but how are we going to get over there? Let’s not forget about the plane tickets! Without ’em, we’re pretty stranded, so here are some tips that I’ve learned along the way to save beaucoup bucks on flights! I’ve got a formula that works pretty much every time!

Some of these tips combine a couple of the tactics I’ve laid out in former posts, including the Pinching Pennies for Travel Post #1 and Pinching Pennies for Travel Post #2. So feel free to check out those ideas as well! Okay, let’s get to it.

1. Pimp your Youth, Student, or Teacher Status

This will be my second major backpacking trip abroad, and I’ve yet to pay over 700 dollars for a round-trip ticket! YES. ROUND TRIP TICKET TO EUROPE FOR 700 DOLLARS. Why? Because while I work (as a university-level teacher), I’m also a perpetual student. Laugh if you will, but you can do it while I’m sunbathing in Sevilla, Spain, suckas!

Seriously, though, if you are under 26, a student, or teaching, you’ll be saving at least 50% on your plane tickets ISIC_ITIC_IYTCfor as long as you hold that status. The Student Travel Agency offers some AWESOME discounts for students on the move. You can also check out ISIC (www.isic.org), which offers the ISIC, IYTC, and the ITIC cards for students, youths, or teachers, respectively. Having just one of these cards will save you money not only on plane tickets, but also on tours, attractions, grub, supplies, and excursions worldwide! There are over 40,000 ways to save with these cards, so get on them!

And if you don’t qualify for any of these cards, strongly consider taking a writing class (or any class) at an accredited university (online classes count too!) Not only will you be honing your writer skills, but you can also save crazy money on airfare!

2. Fly out on Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday and fly the red-eye route

yawn

^this guy just saved 300 bucks!

Buying a plane ticket for the middle of the week (preferably at times that no one else wants to fly) will shave off a few hundred dollars from your plane ticket fare. The most popular times to fly out are folks going on those weekend days (Friday, Saturday, Sunday). Furthermore, no one likes getting up at the crack or crunch of dawn to much of anything, especially when it comes to waiting on long lines and getting felt up by disgruntled airport security dudes. Yeah. But if you want to pinch your pennies, then strongly consider inconveniencing yourself for a couple hours by taking really early or really late flights. They’re way cheaper.

3. Buy your tickets at ridiculous hours on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday morning

Between the hours of 2 am and 7 am during the weekdays, plane tickets are super cheap. Why? Because no one calendarin their right mind is up looking for plane tickets or anything else at that time of night… except you. You should be up scrounging for tix because, as it is said, the early bird catches the $200.00-cheaper worm. Make sure you peruse websites like Kayak.com, Statravel.com, and bookingbuddy.com at those god-awful (but serendipitous) times of day to see what deals you can get. You won’t be disappointed! Just make sure you avoid the expensive morning, lunch, and evening rushes (7 am-9 am) and (12 pm – 8 pm), when everyone is about to go to work or on lunch or have just gotten home from work.

4. Take a piecemeal approach to buying your plane tickets

piecemealSo say that you’re flying out to, say, South Af

rica from the West coast or from Middle America (like I am), you might find that direct flights from Chicago or Los Angeles to South Africa are insanely long and expensive. In my experience, it’s WAY cheaper (and more bearable) to fly out from the East coast to any country further east. So I buy my plane tickets in two stages.

First, I handle the international flights from the East coast to my destination. Choose INTERNATIONAL airports, because flying in and out of them is insanely cheap. The cheapest airport to fly out from in the NYC area is the Newark Airport, but keep on top of the plane ticket websites to compare and contrast departure airports. Also figure out which international airports are the cheapest to fly into at your target destination. As mentioned earlier in this post as well, there is a double benefit to this process if you use STA Travel or have an ISIC / ITIC / IYTC card.

Secondly. After I’ve booked internationally, I look for the cheapest domestic flights from my location (Milwaukee or Chicago) to New York, and I set up price alerts on my plane ticket websites (kayak.com, bookingbuddy.com, etc). I use the techniques above to find the cheapest flights I can and book them when they pop up. I can sometimes even find $99 round-trip flights from the midwest to the east coast, and I’ll actually bookend those flights around my international flights.

Using this technique can save you a couple hundred dollars that you wouldn’t save if you were looking for direct flights straight from your city to your final destination.

5. Set a budget

moneySo we all want to get the cheapest tickets possible! However, instead of waiting for ticket prices to plummet to depths that we will never see (400 round trip ticket to Spain, anyone?), you should instead set a budget or threshold of how much you’re willing to pay (reasonably) for your plane ticket. For example, I now know that I can get to Spain and back for 700 bucks, so once I see that price, I don’t bank on getting a cheaper ticket. It’s cheap enough and what I budgeted for, and so I buy it. 🙂 Don’t shoot yourself in the foot by waiting on ticket prices that will just never happen. Be patient, hustle, but be reasonable.

And enjoy your ridiculously discounted writer-backpacker trip. 😉 With all the price hustling you’ve been doing, you’ve earned it! And if you have any plane-fare-saving tips to share, share them in the comments below!

Write on, rock on, and keep it indie,
<3 Colby

Into the Beyond: Life of a Fashionable Writer-Backpacker, Week 13, Pinching Pennies for Travel, II of II

travelIn part one of my Pinching Pennies post, I talked about different ways you could save money before, during, and after traveling abroad. From student-teacher discounts to strategizing on ticket buying sites to couchsurfing, you can get anywhere in the world relatively cheap. But because I love to hustle a good deal and save as much cash as possible (times are hard), here is another slew of ways that you can save money for / while traveling!

1. Timing, timing, timing!

Pay attention to what many tourist spots call “high season”, “shoulder (middle) season”, and “low season”. For example, between late June and late August in Europe, the tourist season heats up, becausecrowds this is when everyone is going on vacation. Hotel, hostel, and train space tends to be hard to find, and prices for everything sky-rockets! So if you can, try to travel during the spring and the fall (for Europe), when the prices are super low, the sites aren’t packed with bodies, and things are generally calmer and more normal. This can save you hundreds of dollars and hours worth of headache. High, low, and shoulder season are very country specific, however, so research the particular country you want to go to and try to travel during their tourist low and shoulder season.

2. Get all inclusive packages at your hotel or hostel.

So I’ll definitely talk about the hottest hostels in much more depth in a future Fashionable Writer-Backpacker post, but because this tip will save you TONS of money, I’ll kick-start the hostel talk here! This summer, I’ve decided to stop in Seville, Spain to take in the gorgeous city, people, and the totally delish grub. But since I wanted to do this on the cheap, I got picky with my hostels. You can too.

hostelpackageI decided to stay at Sevilla Inn Backpackers, where for 17 euros a night, they offered free wifi, free breakfast, free BBQs, free walking tours twice a day, AND they also have “Spanish Experience Night” on Tuesdays, Fridays, and Sundays. The Spanish Experience Night includes a tour of the flamenco museum, an actual flamenco show, a paella cooking lesson, and free sangria drinks. All this. For 17 euros a night.

Need I say more?

Actually, I WILL say more. The hostel also provides FREE LOCKERS to hold your backpack while you explore the city. So in short, get all the bang you can for your buck and it’ll save you money in the long run. There are literally thousands of hostels across the world and they’re all competing for YOUR traveler’s dollar! Just like Sevilla Inn Backpackers, most hostels are pulling out all the stops to get you to stay with them. It’s a buyer’s market, ladies and gents. So buy!

3. Cheap Eats & Street Eats

streetvendorsIf you can, try to avoid sit down restaurants as much as possible UNLESS someone’s treating you, you can flirt your way to a free meal, or you can successfully eat a meal’s worth of free samples without looking like you’re trying to get a free meal. If you don’t have any of the above three superpowers, however, stick with eating cheaply.

You can do this by taking an hour or so to grocery shop and cook every night, or by finding a bonafide street vendor. BE CAREFUL with street vendors in certain places! And don’t think that just because you’re in France or Brussels that every street vendor is going to be on the level… make sure that the food you’re getting is clean, fresh, and not going to make a reappearance on your hostel floor an hour later. Get a good recommendation of a cheap food place from your hostel front desk.

4. Save crazy money on plane tickets by buying strategically!

Easily one of the most expensive parts of your trip, if you find a way to save on plane tickets, you save yourself between $1,000 – $1,500. BUT since my next post is about this, I’m not going to spoil the fun here! Stay tuned to the next Fashionable Writer-Backpacker post: Week 12, Plane Tickets!

In the meantime, what are some penny-pinching techniques YOU use when you’re traveling abroad? Share below! 🙂

Keep it indie,
<3 Colby