Joy Collado: Fiction Writer [TLC 03]

The Creative Life (then Creative Stories) is a mini series where I sit with emerging creatives and seasoned professionals to know and share their stories. They show a side of the creative life that we don’t often see: vulnerability, mistakes made, questions about the way their industries work, and lessons they’ve learned, both the painful and the eureka moments.

Joy Collado is a fiction writer and a freelancer. She’s a fellow member of the Story Cartel Course, an online course for writers. Her story has been translated and edited for length.

Describe your journey as a creative. What motivated you to start writing?

Since childhood, I didn’t consider myself as a creative. The word “creative” often pertains to painters, those skilled at drawing. That was my notion of what the term meant.

Back in high school, we worked on a project where we had to create our own comics. My classmates would copy existing stories and use them for their comics, while I wrote my own stories. At that time, I didn’t realize that I could write stories after all. It just seemed natural to me. When we had school plays, I wrote the script. I think I even worked on a radio project and another stage play.

For my last year, I was appointed as the literary editor for the school paper due to a lack of staff. For me, it wasn’t a big deal that I became a writer. It just so happened that I wrote stories at that time, which is why the editor-in-chief picked me for the role.

When I entered college, I almost forgot about writing. I was an accountancy student — far from writing. I eventually got tired of working with numbers and became unhappy with the work I did. That’s when I realized that I needed another outlet where I can use my energies to search for what I truly wanted to do.

I soon stumbled upon freelancing. I thought that if I worked as a freelancer, I’d have more time to discover what I truly wanted to do. At this point, I’ve tried all kinds of things and interests just to discern what I wanted to do versus what to do to simply occupy myself.

When I worked as a virtual assistant, I did some research and stumbled upon these personality or “find your passion” tests. It became clear that writing and virtual assistance were the best fit for my skills. Yet at that time, I still didn’t accept myself as a writer. But when I started writing my first few articles, it was like a flash back where I’m back in high school when I believed I could write.

The book cover for Moonlight Sonata

While I was freelancing, a former coworker of mine encouraged me to write stories. I told her that I wasn’t that creative anymore, yet she insisted I give it a shot again. I soon wrote one intro, one chapter, one scene — all left unfinished. But while I was writing, I remembered what inspired me to write “Moonlight Sonata,” a story I wrote the the Story Cartel Course. Joe Bunting gave us a basic format, I followed it, and the story was born. I published it on a blog and got a lot of positive responses. That was when I felt motivated to write fiction writing, and it was at that course where I got to express my creativity and finally accept myself as a creative.

Download a copy of “Moonlight Sonata” here.

It sounds like “Moonlight Sonata” was the first story that you finished. Have you written other stories after that piece?

Yes, but they’re just short stories. I’ve tried writing a novel, but it drove me crazy. It’s hard to write a full-length novel. I didn’t know how I was going to edit and arrange it. I’m currently writing and finishing a novella instead.

Do you plan on writing new stories?

After writing several short stories, I plan on compiling and perhaps publishing them. Or I might insert a preview once my site launches.

One other problem I have is finding readers. It’s a challenge many fiction writers struggle with.

You mentioned you were able to join the Story Cartel Course by Joe Bunting. Do you consider Joe as one of your mentors or role models? Who do you usually turn to when you’re trying to create or form a story?

I’m usually the only one working on my story ideas. I’d simply ask my friends or my husband for interesting twists.

As for Joe, I consider him as a huge influence with my fiction. His course was where I learned to try to write and accept myself as a writer. It was also through the course where I got to meet other unpublished fiction writers. I got to know some of the members that to this day are still active in our Facebook group. You can submit a story and they’ll critique it. Here, it’s okay to admit that you are a beginner and there’s no need to be ashamed of it.

As a writer, how do you usually receive and handle feedback and criticism for the work that you do?

At first, I was a bit sensitive. I think that’s how it is if you’re a writer — you feel protective over your work. I soon realized that the more people who critique my work the better the piece becomes. My problem is figuring out what to do or where to start now that I’ve all these ideas and suggestions. We have a member who gives great criticism in that she tells you exactly what she’s looking for, so you know what to do. “Construction has to have rhythm,” “don’t use long sentences,” “don’t overuse short sentences,” etc.

Whenever there are calls for submissions, do you usually submit? If not, what’s stopping you from trying to get your work published?

Not yet because I feel I’m not yet good enough with fiction writing. I’m still learning. I consider myself as a beginner so I feel hesitant to participate in contests or submit pieces to magazines or publications.

What is your biggest struggle as a fiction writer? Is it that fear or self doubt, or is it something bigger or deeper?

Yes, skills. Self-doubt.

I find it interesting that you consider skill as your biggest struggle. You’ve experienced blogging and writing articles. You’re able to guest post for both Firepole Marketing and Be a Freelance Blogger. How’s the reception level? Were people able to subscribe to your blog and read your story? Did they e-mail you with feedback?

It’s positive, except for Firepole Marketing I can’t recall what the guest post was about. My first guest post was about fiction writing, which I haven’t updated. The second guest post I’ve posted the link to my blog portfolio. The traffic increased but no one subscribed because there wasn’t a landing page setup at that time. Those who subscribed to my blog were my fellow writers from forums and close friends.

Do you have a piece of work or a short story you consider particularly significant to you? Is it still “Moonlight Sonata” or is it a different story?

As of now, it’s “Moonlight Sonata” because that’s the story I put a lot of my effort into. I spent time editing it because it was my assignment for the Story Cartel course.

How do you find the time to do creative work, especially when you’re also into freelance writing?

While Story Cartel was ongoing, I was hardworking in that I had output to show every night. As time went by, I soon became lazy. I realized that this is the reason why writers are known to procrastinate. Once you dive deep into the story, once I’ve written half of the story, I know the ending and I feel hesitant to put it down on paper. Once I’m done, my next problem is improving it.

Still into your creative process. Could you describe a typical day as Joy Collado-Bautista?

As soon as I get up in the morning, I’d write a nonfiction article for my personal blog. If I’m writing a story, that’s what I work on first because it’s a lot easier for me to write fiction during these hours as opposed to nonfiction.

Once that’s done, it’s breakfast, the computer, spending time on social media. At lunch time, I start doing my VA work until the evenings. Between then, I try to insert time for reading blogs and doing research about marketing. It’s one of my weaknesses.

Considering everything that you’ve done so far, what do you aspire for, what do you hope to achieve, and what steps do you intend to take to get to that point?

When it comes to my fiction, my goal is to write a full length novel — a trilogy even. But I keep thinking to myself that if I can’t even finish a book, how much more a trilogy? But it’s my personal goal.

For the meantime, I want to write short stories so I can develop a sense of discipline and I can hone my skills. I’d like to start with short stories, novellas. and then a novel in the future. I hope to build an audience that would like the stories I write.

What is the most important thing people should know about you as a creative, as a writer, and as a person?

As a person, in terms of fiction writing, that’s where I express my opinions about life. In “Moonlight Sonata,” the idea is about taking chances, getting out of your comfort zone. That’s the message I want to share with the world; that you need to take risks sometimes, to break out and discover different things.

If I ever get published in the future, I’d like to be known for stories with deeper meaning and that can be used in real life.

What book would you recommend to fellow creatives?

Sean Platt’s Writing Online. More on freelance writing.

His stories of how he used freelance writing to fund his dream of becoming a fiction writer is inspiring. If you want to write and publish fiction, you need to invest in an editor, designer, etc. The problem with creatives is that they feel guilty if they earn from their work. That’s when I understood what he meant by not thinking of yourself as a sell-out. Think instead that you’re planting the seeds for your future. The nonfiction writing that you’re doing now can be used for your fiction, especially the money you earn from the former.

On marketing, I read John Locke’s How I Sold 1 Million Books. He talks about how he managed to create a bestselling book. The only problem is the controversy where he paid reviewers to write reviews of his book. But even with that rumor lingering, he’s consistent about what he says about marketing. He provides tips about social media (i.e. Twitter) and talks about how to use blogging to promote your fiction and that your blog should be the introduction to your fiction.

What is your favorite tool to use when doing creative work?

Scrivener. I discovered Scrivener during the 2013 NaNoWrimo event. There’s even a free trial for NaNoWrimo contestants.

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