From first draft to finished product

So you plan to self-publish your book? How much do you know about publishing, when your craft is writing?

When you dream of holding your book in your hand you envisage something well-made, with a cover that will draw people to it on the bookshelf, with text that you can be proud of: a book that bookstores and readers will want to have on their shelves.

The problem with self-publishing is that this dream is often not realised. You have probably seen some of the scrappy, amateurish results of self-publishing. Don’t let it happen to your book.

Here is your chance to understand all the steps in getting a book from first draft to a really polished product. Once you understand the process, you’ll have a better understanding of what you can do yourself and where you need help, as well as how to go about getting your book from a file on your computer to a physical artefact that you can exchange for money.

Join us at Better for a talk by Dane Bowman, Project Manager at Staging Post, a self-publishing service bureau at Jacana Media. Dane has guided many authors through the self-publishing process and has in-depth knowledge of all the steps involved. He will also be able to answer your questions about self-publishing.

When: Tuesday the 29th August, 5:30pm

Where: The Studio at Better, 91 Oxford Road, Saxonwold

Cost: R100 (free to members of Better) including drinks and snacks

Book by e-mail to create@better.joburg or call 011 327 6098. Find our EFT details here.

 

Seven ways to bring more structure into your freelance life

Freelancing is about freedom – the freedom to choose what you do when, to sleep in one morning and get up early the next, to refuse one job and accept the next. But once you have experienced it, you will know that too much freedom can be an obstacle to productive and successful freelancing. It’s too easy for freedom to deteriorate into long sleep-ins, series-watching, eating, or just excessively tidy cupboards. It doesn’t take long to work out that some structure is useful.

Without the need to clock in at 8am, without a boss hanging over you telling you what to do next, how do you add structure to your life? And how do you do it in a way that feels better than the strictures of corporate life? Here are some ideas.

Start with a schedule. Get hold of a diary (electronic or paper), or a whiteboard, or even a blank notebook, and get in the habit of scheduling your time. Put appointments in it. Refer to it regularly. Work out a system that works for you. I keep an electronic diary (in Google calendar) because I can see it on my phone and add appointments wherever I am. But I also draw and decorate a schedule for each week on Sunday evening and use the time to plan my week. I like a visual reference and I use colour for different kinds of tasks. This shows me when my week is out of balance. Work out a system that works for you.

Take regular exercise. As a freelancer your health and state of mind are really important to your business. Exercise is good for both. Starting the day with a run or some yoga is a great way to establish a routine. If you need some encouragement, arrange to walk with a friend each evening. If self-motivation is lacking, sign up for a regular class. Having shelled out the money you may be more likely to go. The nice thing about being a freelancer is that you can attend a 10 am class, and not fight the traffic at 5 pm. Exercise will make you feel good about yourself and that is an important starting point for succeeding in freelance work.

Set aside your best time for production activities. Work out when you function best. Are you an early-bird, churning out copy at 4 am, or do you work better after a good breakfast? Block out three or four hours during that time to do your productive work – that is the stuff you get paid to do. During that time close down your email and social network tabs. Put your phone on silent, in another room. Create space to focus so that you can do your best work; after all your business depends on the quality of what you produce. Being fully focussed on a task also brings a sense of mastery, making work a pleasure.

Vary your surroundings. Working in one place can become monotonous, especially if that place is also where you live. You can try moving between the study and the garden, but actually leaving your home means having to shower and get dressed. Just picking out an outfit to wear can wake your brain up and get different neurons firing. You might be able to work at a client’s site one day a week or find a co-work space that you feel comfortable in. Having to go to work on a Monday demarcates the start of the week and helps to shake the lethargy of the weekend. Experiment with what works for you. You may find some work is easier to do in a different location, while some work is best done at home. I like to paint in my home studio but doing admin is more cheerful at Better.

Meet people regularly. Freelancing works for people who enjoy their own company, but if you are spending all your time inside your own head you are missing out on ideas and perspectives that could enrich your work. You need to have regular contact with other people. Think about the kinds of people who will support your freelance business. If you can find a group of people doing similar work to yours, try to meet at least once a month. These kinds of networks are great for sharing ideas about how you price your work, how to deal with client issues and to swap work when you get a deluge or a drought. You also need to keep contact with clients and prospective clients, so think about events where your best clients gather regularly and how you can get involved. Come along to the freelancer’s social at Better on the first Friday of every month.

Stick to regular admin time. When you create your weekly schedule build in a few hours for administrative tasks. Keeping financial records or completing your tax return is not the most fun part of freelancing, so you are likely to put it off and end up disorganised. Set aside time at the end of the week, or first thing on Monday morning to clear your work-related emails, invoice clients, follow up on outstanding payments, pay your bills and update your financial records. If you do this regularly the work will stay manageable. Keeping an admin to do list and clearing it weekly will also free you from that distracting little voice in your head reminding you of the outstanding tasks.

Take a day of rest. It’s hard to shut down, especially if you are trying to build your client base and the money is tight. You may find yourself working through weekends (what day is it?) just to get the next job done. While the attitude is positive, it’s not a good strategy. Freelancing is a marathon, not a sprint and your freelance business depends on you: your health and your state of mind. So taking a break is really important for your long-term success. Schedule one day a week to do something far removed from work: sleep, read a book, visit family, do pottery, bake, watch sport; just make sure that it is downtime.

As a freelancer you get to craft the life that works for you. What do you do? What works? Share your comments below.

Craft Day – Puppet Making and Storytelling

We all love a good story and puppets are the perfect way to create characters for your stories. Join us for a day of puppet making and story-telling.

We will show you how to make hand-puppets, finger puppets, sock puppets, stick puppets and others. You get to experiment and make your own. Script your play, make the backdrops and share your stories.

Materials will be provided, but do bring along all your mismatched socks and anything else you want to turn into a puppet. Tea and coffee will be provided and lunches will be on sale, or bring your own picnic. Join us for an hour or two or stay for the day.

The Better studio and garden will be open from 10 am to 3 pm for a fun day of making. Make friends too.

  • When: Saturday 12th August, 10am – 3pm.
  • Where: The Studio at Better, 91 Oxford Street, Saxonwold
  • Cost: R250 per person through Quicket, R300 at the door. Children under 12 can attend for free with an adult.

Booking essential. Call 011 327 6098 or mail create@better.joburg.

Writing IS collaborative

English novelist Will Self has been credited with saying: “The writing life is essentially one of solitary confinement. If you can’t deal with this you needn’t apply.”

I think he’s wrong.

Of course writing requires time alone, lots of it, without distractions so that you can hear your own thoughts, turn them into words and craft those words to best convey your meanings. But writing, the act of actually writing, is only one part of the writing life.

Most writers have some kind of ambition for their writing. By ambition I don’t mean that you want to be the next Stephen King. I mean that you want to see your writing going somewhere other than into your desk drawer. Ambitions can be modest: to learn how to write better dialogue, to publish a blog post, to send a short story or a poem to a competition. Or your ambitions can be greater: to self-publish your book or to get it accepted by a publisher. If you are writing anything other than your own private journal, you have ambitions for your writing.

I believe that any writing that you have ambitions for, however modest, will benefit from collaboration. Let’s see if I can convince you.

Collaboration is about working with other people and working with other people is good because it makes you feel less like you are in solitary confinement. Working with other people is also more fun and productive because there are more brains to contribute to what you are trying to do. Working with other people makes it easier to reach your writing goals.

So how can other people contribute to your writing?

If you want to improve your dialogue, other people can read what you have written and give you feedback. This might be a critique by a writing coach, but it may also be the response of someone who reads novels; they can tell you how the dialogue sounds to them.

If you are publishing a blog post, collaborators might contribute by providing a photograph to illustrate your post or helping you to set up your blog. Someone may edit your writing before you post to save you from embarrassing grammatical errors. Once your post is up people will contribute by reading, liking and sharing your post. Comments to your post will keep your blog alive and give you feedback on what your readers are thinking and want to read about.

If your goal is to self-publish a book, you might be interested in collaborating with readers to give you feedback on initial drafts, an editor to help you polish your work or a designer to design the book and the cover. You may want to work with a marketer to set up a promotion strategy and an event planner to arrange your launch. You will almost certainly be relying on your social media network to like, share and comment when you launch your book.

The point is that publishers put together a team with different kinds of expertise to publish a book, and so should you. You can draw on a team of experts for any piece of writing that has a goal.

So think about who you need, with what expertise, to support your current writing project. Find yourself a team of experts that you can draw on at different stages of your writing and for different writing tasks. At the very least, every writer needs a group of friends to cheer them on, inspire them and to celebrate with when they finally hit send.

If you are looking for collaborators to help you reach your writing goals, come along to the Regular Writer’s Tea at Better. Every Friday from 10 am to 12 noon.

Creative flow playshops with Ira Bekker

Flow is a mental state of being fully immersed in an activity with a feeling of energized focus, involvement, and enjoyment. When you are in a state of flow, you lose awareness of all other things. The idea of flow was suggested by Mihály Csíkszentmihályi who argues that being in a state of flow is the “optimal experience” of happiness.

The creative flow playshops are about experiencing this state through drawing and painting activities. These are not art classes; rather they are an opportunity to lose yourself, to forget what is going on around you, while you become absorbed in colour, texture, pattern and the act of making. They work for artists and non-artists alike.

If you think you are not creative, these playshops may make you think again. You’ll discover that you can make beauty without any skill in drawing, or training in art. The end result is not what matters, its the process of doing, so you don’t need to judge the “art” you produce. In fact you are encouraged to use the pieces you create to create subsequent pieces. You will cut them up, repurpose and reinvent them throughout the process.

If you are an artist who needs to loosen up and escape your inner control freak, these playshops allow you to explore the unexpected in a safe space where no-one, and particularly not you, will judge the outcome. Be in the moment. Watch the colour meander across the page, going where it will. Play and experiment with new materials and techniques, just to see what happens. Make a mess, make beautiful mistakes. Remember why you love creating.

About Ira

Ira Bekker used to think that being creative is just for the lucky few until she came across the idea of creative flow and never looked back. She currently works as a textile artist using natural plant materials to print onto fabric and is passionate about leading others up the garden path towards their own creative lives.

Details

What: A series of six mornings of play in the Better art studio, starting 23rd August to 27th September.

When: Wednesday mornings, 9:30 am to 11:30 am

Where: The studio, Better, 91 Oxford Road, Saxonwold

Cost: R1700 for six sessions (R250 per session, plus R200 for materials). Members of Better pay R1280 (R180 per session, plus R200 for materials)

It is essential to book and pay by the 21st August.  Call 011 327 6098 or email create@better.joburg. EFT details here.

 

 

 

Note: Better is a place for grown-ups to play, you must be over 18 to join Better or attend events at Better.

Making a creative space in a practical life with Gail Schimmel

The question that I am most often asked is how I manage to make space to be a writer when I have a day-career as a lawyer and am a hands-on mom.

The answer lies in a new way of thinking about our lives – gone are the days of each person only being allowed one job or role. The new catch phrase is “portfolio living” and the idea is that each of us has several portfolios. Gone are the days when we have to choose one expertise – there is nothing to stop one person being an expert in two, often unrelated, things.

Many people experience extraordinary frustration because they want to be more creative, but they can’t figure out how to make a creative space in their practical lives. They know that they don’t want to throw up their careers and become a starving artist, so they give up on their creativity all together.

Join me for a fun morning where we explore how to make a creative space in your practical life – and what your creative space might be. Interactive, creative and lots of fun.

 

Gail Schimmel is the author of three novels – Marriage Vows (2008), Whatever Happened to the Cowley Twins (2013) and The Park (2017). She has also written a children’s book (Claude & Millie, writing as Gail van Onselen) and a text book on advertising law. Gail’s short story was runner up in the 2016 Short Sharp Stories award. She runs her own consultancy as a lawyer specialising in advertising law. Gail lives in Johannesburg with her husband and two children.

 

Date: Weekday morning, 9:30 to 12:30 am, enquire for the next dates

Cost: R550, including refreshments and all materials (R450 for members of Better). EFT details

The workshop is limited to twelve participants for maximum impact

Booking essential! Contact Patience on 011 327 6098 or patience@better.joburg.

How to get published, a conversation with Marion Scher

 

All Better writers and aspirant writers are invited for a conversation with Marion Scher about how to get published.

Marion Scher is a top freelance journalist and author with over 28 years of experience in radio, television and print media. Author of two books, Business Manners in South Africa (Francolin) and Surviving the SA Media (Knowledge Resources), with another, ‘Conquering Communications’ coming out, she also ghost writes other people’s stories.

She will be sharing her experience and knowledge in an informal conversation at Better. This is your chance to ask all your questions and get useful tips for finally getting your manuscript out there.

Tea and cake will be served.

  • Who: Writers who want to know more about getting published
  • When: Monday the 20th March, 10:00am to 12:00 noon
  • Cost: R150 (free for members of Better)

 

The “very easy facebook for small businesses” workshop

If you’re a small business owner, entrepreneur, freelancer, crafter, artist or author struggling to work out how this whole Facebook for business thing works, Better are hosting an informal workshop that is perfect for you, run by Content Writer and Social Media Manager, Tracey Walker.

Learn how to set up and effectively manage a business Facebook Page that nurtures your business or product with content that builds a loyal community of clients and customers. With 1.86 billion active monthly Facebook users, the potential to find people who need just what you are offering is endless, just as long as you can get them to listen to you.

As marketing expert Seth Godin remarked “marketing is no longer about the stuff that you make but about the stories you tell”. And Facebook is where everyone is talking and more importantly, listening.

So come along to Better for a morning on Thursday 21st September from 9:30 until 12:30. You’ll get coffee, tea and a workbook with all the information we discuss as well as a monthly content template to help you get started. (Free stuff, yes!) The workshop costs R550 and members of Better pay R450.

Space is limited to 10 people, so please book your place now. E-mail Tracey at walkertracey0@gmail.com or call her at 083 424 7749 for information. Contact Candy on create@better.joburg or 011 327 6098 to book.

A Glint of Moonlight: A Better Writing Workshop, with Gus Silber

Don’t Tell Me the Moon Is Shining. Show Me the Glint of Light on Broken Glass.”
Anton Chekhov

All writing, in some way, is travel writing. All writing, in some way, is memoir. When we write, we invite the reader to join us on a journey; when we write, we cast a light on who we are, where we come from, and how we see the world.

On this Saturday writing workshop at Better, you’ll learn to do both, as you explore new ways of packaging memories and sharing stories that bring character, experience, and emotion to life.

Whether you’re new to writing or want to sharpen and invigorate your writing skills, this hands-on learning and writing session will show you how, by putting the focus on tools and techniques that shape your thoughts into stories and add flair and impact to your words.

You’ll learn how to make sense of writing, by using all your senses to write. You’ll learn what good songs and good movies can teach us about the art and craft of good writing. You’ll learn how to plan and structure your story, from the ground up, or the sky down. You’ll learn how to bring out the better writer in you, no matter who you are, where you come from, or how you see the world.

  • When: Saturday 20th May, from 10am to 3.30pm (please arrive at 9:30)
  • Where: 91 Oxford Road, Saxonwold, Johannesburg
  • What to bring: A pen or a pencil. A notebook. The stories in your head and your heart.
  • How much: R650 including tea, coffee, snacks, and a light working lunch. (R550 for Better members)
  • Who: Gus Silber is an award-winning journalist, author, scriptwriter, and media trainer.

Places are limited so booking is essential. To secure yours contact Patience at patience@better.joburg or 011 327 6098.

Come and write at Better!

Writing is a very solitary pursuit. This makes it difficult to stay motivated and inspired.

A community of writers can help you. Peers help validate the value in the craft of writing, provide social pressure to make progress, and reinforce the habit of writing regularly. They are also valuable sources of information, sharing their tools and processes, tips on getting published, and practical, lived experience about making life as a writer work.

Better is a co-working space in Saxonwold. We’re creating a community of writers who provide this kind of support for each other. Better provides a warm and welcoming space with quiet rooms, fast Wi-Fi, reference books, curated information for writers, tea and coffee and good company. We run regular workshops and writing-related events too.

Read our story to get a feel for who we are.

Visit Better and see the place for yourself. Work here for a day, for free.

Join our community as a member. Membership gets you in on your terms.