Rules for Writers and Money (and everyone else too)

Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
Rules for Writers and Money (and everyone else too)

You will find a lot of popular content all about how to make money. There are a lot of random blog articles about HOW I MADE 8 TRILLION DOLLARS IN PASSIVE INCOME A MONTH or 22 AWESOME PASSIVE INCOME IDEAS.

Which is lovely. But a lot of us writers are thinking, “What are these even talking about?”

What Is Passive Income?

Passive income is money that happens and builds from things that already exist. They can be from investments (like you rent a room in your house or an entire house or you open a savings account or CDs). It can also come from the investment of effort and time in something you build. This could be a YouTube channel or your eBook once it’s up and running. It could be affiliate marketing or selling prints of your art.

What is Active Income?

Active income is money that someone pays you when you do something for them that’s a service. It can be your salary at the grocery store. It could be an hourly wage at a bookstore. It could be a commission. It could be a tip.

So what’s all this have to do with writing?

According to a study by the Authors Guild, the average full-time writer’s median pay was $20,300 in 2017. That’s full-time. For most of us that’s not a big ton of money. There’s no real standardization of pay and that number doesn’t account for pay discrepencies for sex and race.

On Publishers Lunch, Erin Somers, looks at average earnings instead and wrote,

“For the 63 percent of authors who reported receiving book related income in 2017, the average total income was $43,247, which paints a very different picture . Over 2,000 authors had average publisher royalties of almost $32,000; close to 1,700 self-published authors reported royalties of just over $31,000, and a smaller group of about 700 authors also had average ebook subscription service earnings of over $13,000.”


But that’s only the writers who actually survived and didn’t give up. About a quarter of the authors that the guild surveyed received no money at all from book activity that year.

So, yes, most of us writers have to have other sources of income outside of writing. And that my friends, is why we’re writing this blog.

Being constantly terrified of not making money makes me, Carrie, a stressed-out writer who sometimes worries more about money and profitability than the actual craft. And a stressed-out Carrie equals a cranky Carrie. Nobody wants a cranky author.

So here are some examples of passive income investments when you have money to spend

  • Buy an investment property and rent it.
  • Invest in a high-yield savings account.
  • Check out crowdfunded real estate with REITs. Sites like Fundrise are a great place to start.
  • Peer-to-peer lending like on the Lending Club where you can loan money to others and get a return.

Examples of passive income investments that are more initial work than initial money.

  • Affiliate marketing on your blog. When people click through an ad that’s on your blog, you get a commission when they buy something that’s affiliated with that link.
  • YouTube – if you get a big enough following you can monetize your YouTube channel and have ads during your content.
  • Create an Online Course – Teachable and Udemy are great places to show off your skills.
  • Sell your art prints or your photos. Shutterstock Is a great resource for photographers.
  • Make an eBook – Seriously, especially if it’s nonfiction.
  • Rent out some storage space or your car or a room in your house.
  • Sell your clothes. Thredup and Poshmark will often give you cash or credit on their site. And it’s good for the environment, or at least better for the environment.


Those are ways to make extra income, but it’s also about not spending too much money and saving, right?

Live Like A Student

Mark Cuban (the guy from Shark Tank) is a big cheerleader for living beneath your means. Don’t buy all the things. Pretend you have less money than you have.

His yacht is anchored outside our town a lot and his yacht is HUGE so I’m not sure that Mr. Cuban is doing this? But I guess maybe he could have an even bigger yacht? It’s good advice for the rest of us though.

Step Away From the Credit Card

My dad was always murmur-screaming, DO NOT USE CREDIT CARDS! THEY ARE EVIL DEMONS FROM HELL! And he was right. Don’t use them if you don’t have to. Use your debit card.

The interest rates on these babies are horrific. You end up owing these companies so much money. Try to pay off or pay down your bill every single month. And then step away. Lock them in a gun safe or something. Seriously. Try not to use them.

Gather Information

Reading blogs and books (much more in depth usually) can give you the information you need and generate the ideas necessary to move your life or your business or your writing to the next level. A $25 investment with a potentially thousand-dollar return? That’s kind of a no-brainer.

Be as informed as you can be so you can make the best possible decisions.

Don’t Be Afraid

Because I grew up poor and because I heard a TON of stories about the depression and the stock market crash of the 1920s (my grandfather was a stockbroker allegedly and watched one of his friends die), I became a bit terrified about stocks and things.

There are three rules that help me deal with this and invest my money.

  1. I ignore everything that’s happening in the stock market when it comes to my portfolio. I pretend that once that money is invested, it’s just gone. This lowers my anxiety even as I plug in $25 a week automatically to a random Edward Jones account.
  2. If you want to invest in something scary, only invest 5-10 percent of your total investments in that scary possibility.
  3. Standard & Poor’s mutual funds are good places to put a bit of money into. But go for the cheapest ones possible.

It’s okay to talk about money and to be smart about it.


Do not gobble all your box of dog treats (or writing advance) in one big gulp.


The music we’ve clipped and shortened in this podcast is awesome and is made available through the Creative Commons License. Here’s a link to that and the artist’s website. Who is this artist and what is this song?  It’s “Summer Spliff” by Broke For Free.


Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness on the DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE podcast and our new LOVING THE STRANGE podcast.

We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of. 

Please share it and subscribe if you can. Please rate and like us if you are feeling kind, because it matters somehow. There’s a new episode every Tuesday!

Thanks so much for being one of the 256,000 downloads if you’ve given us a listen!






And to hear our podcast latest episode for DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE about cats on Tinder and other bad advice click here.

Our first episode of LOVING THE STRANGE is here. It’s about loving places for no logical reasons.

The visuals for our podcasts are all on Carrie’s YouTube channel. You can like and subscribe there, too!


I have a quick, pre-recorded Teachable class designed to make you a killer scene writer in just one day. It’s fun. It’s fast. And you get to become a better writer for just $25, which is an amazing deal.

Writing Talk Wednesday: The Scene

The Scene

It’s this element of structure for the story. We all write them, but sometimes it seems like this overlooked aspect of our stories. I’m not sure why this is. It’s not as elemental as the word or punctuation. It’s not as long and sexy as a chapter. It’s not as easily diagramed as a sentence, right?

But it’s so important.

There’s an old book by Raymond Obstfeld called Crafting Scenes and in its first pages he has a chapter called “What a Scene Is and Isn’t.” In it, he quotes the actress Rosalind Russell who was asked what made a movie great.

She answered, “Moments.”

And Obstfeld compared that thought about movies to our thoughts about scenes. He wrote, “The more ‘moments’ a work has, the more powerful it is. Think of each memorable scene as an inner tube designed to keep the larger work afloat.”

And then there is the corollary, “The fewer memorable scenes there are, the quicker that work sinks to the depths of mediocrity.”

So What’s A Scene and How Do You Make It Memorable?

That’s the obvious question, right? A scene is usually action that happens in one setting. But it’s not always. It’s about focus. It can be ten pages or one.

Obstfeld says that a scene does the following:

            Gives reader plot-forwarding information

            Reveals character conflict

            Highlights a character by showing action or a trait

            Creates suspense.

And a memorable scene? What is that?

It’s unexpected.

What does a scene have to have?

A beginning, a middle, and an end.

And the beginning? It’s like a blind date, he says. You have to tell the reader what’s going on and not just expect her to know. It has to hook the reader in, pulling her into its clutches so she wants to keep reading.

So, authors, look at those scenes. Are you hooking people in? Do they want to keep on that journey with you?

And people, look at the scene you’re at in your life. Are you into it? Is it at a beginning place? Are you still hooked into what you’re doing, who you are? Do you want to stay this way? Are you good?

I hope you’re good, but if you aren’t? Be brave. Make changes. Think about who you want to be and what you want the scenes in your life to be like. You can do this.

Brave Thing I’m Doing

Pretty soon, I’m going to have a Teachable class all about the scene. It’s going to be pretty cheap and hopefully you’ll sign up and like it.

Continue reading “Writing Talk Wednesday: The Scene”

Ghost Reaper Hot Sauce Fatal Errors and Scenes Heck Yeah

Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
Ghost Reaper Hot Sauce Fatal Errors and Scenes Heck Yeah
The Scene

To read the text, you’ll want to click on the box where it says “The Scene.”

Writing Tip of the Pod

Think about what kind of scene you’re building in your story. Do you have too many character or theme scenes in a row?

Dog Tip for Life

Think about your life. Do you have too many plot scenes going on? Is it all drama? Is there some theme in there too?


The music we’ve clipped and shortened in this podcast is awesome and is made available through the Creative Commons License. Here’s a link to that and the artist’s website. Who is this artist and what is this song?  It’s “Night Owl” by Broke For Free.


Every weekday, our dogs have inspirational or motivating tweets on Carrie’s Twitter. Go check it out and be her Twitter friend.

Continue reading “Ghost Reaper Hot Sauce Fatal Errors and Scenes Heck Yeah”

Rebel Reading the Hobbit & Talking Head Syndrome

Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
Rebel Reading the Hobbit & Talking Head Syndrome

A lot of time I’ll be reading scenes in books and it will be two characters talking and I’ll only have a vaguely general idea about where they are. Maybe I won’t have an idea at all. We call this evil beast the talking heads syndrome. 

Cue scary music here. 


No, it’s not about the iconic 1980s group. Sorry!

It’s where there’s a lot of dialogue going on but there’s no actual anchor for the characters. It’s like they are floating in space blabbing at each other. There’s no physical world placement. 

This happens a lot and it’s because some of us are writers who really hear our scenes rather than see our scenes or live in our scenes. It’s also because we sometimes forget to get those anchors in there. 

How to Imagine Yourself in a Scene

To do this exercise you have to step away from the keyboard for a second and stand up. We know! We know! Writers are all about sitting down and putting their butts in the chair and getting the work done, right? Well, give yourself five minutes and stand up in a quiet place preferably not in Starbucks or anything. 

Now close your eyes and think about your scene where there are talking heads.


There you are with your characters. Maybe you can even imagine yourself as one of the characters. Possess them like they’re Zac Bagans and you’re filming Ghost Adventures. Inhale. What kind of smells are you smelling? Remember that. 


You’re still there with the characters standing in the setting. What do you hear? Remember that. 


Your characters don’t stay completely still for the whole scene, do they? Have them move even if it’s to fidget. Let them touch things. What do those things feel like? Are they hot? Textured? Hands aren’t the only things that touch. Does their hair sweep over something? Does their foot kick against a table? Do their shoulders lean against the rough wood of the wall? 


What does it feel like inside their mouth? Dry? Coppery? Do they need to brush their teeth? Please make them floss. Everyone should floss. 


This is the fallback for most writers and it can have some issues. We want to be able to visualize the setting and where things are happening, but we don’t need the buffer of the character seeing what’s happening. 

There are a lot of stories where it says, 

“Shaun looked over and saw the cat dangling from the curtain.”  

Don’t pad the details with distancing words. Don’t tell us that Shaun’s looking. Just have us see. 

Instead write, 

“The cat dangled from the curtain.”  

It’s so much more powerful. 


Have the characters move. Give them actions and objective correlatives to their emotional states. 

What are the next steps to Banishing the talking heads?

No, it’s not casting David Byrne to an isolated bunker in Nebraska. It’s also not putting him on SNL. It has nothing to do with him! I promise.

The next step is incorporating what you imagined for tasting, smelling, hearing, seeing, movement into the actual scene. You have to have your characters’ perceptions of the outside world and setting incorporated into that dialogue and action. Don’t be afraid to dig deeper. 


Don’t be full of talking heads. Write scenes that come alive. 


Be in the moment, man, and actually notice things. 

Note: In the random thoughts in bed section of our podcast we talk about Liberal cheers, famous for being losers, getting thick thanks to the Coronavirus and Shaun binging Swedish Fish, and golf balls. How’s that for random? 


The music we’ve clipped and shortened in this podcast is awesome and is made available through the Creative Commons License. Here’s a link to that and the artist’s website. Who is this artist and what is this song?  It’s “Night Owl” by Broke For Free.

Last week’s episode’s link.


The podcast link if you don’t see it above. Plus, it’s everywhere like Apple Music, iTunesStitcherSpotify, and more. Just google, “DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE” then like and subscribe.

This week’s episode link. 


Over 180,000 people have downloaded episodes of our podcast, DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE, you should join them.

Continue reading “Rebel Reading the Hobbit & Talking Head Syndrome”