Interview with Colin Wright-Creator of Exile Lifestyle

It is easy to fall in love with Colin Wright’s lifestyle choice. Just from reading his emails and blog, anyone can see that he is a highly driven, immaterial, and creative individual living a seemingly vagabond lifestyle in which I have become extremely jealous. He is the instructor of my 4-week online course on design for publishing and is someone to keep and eye on in the self-publishing world. Because of my burning curiosity, Colin graciously agreed to answer some of my questions about how he tackles a few aspects when it comes to writing his books. Check out his website, Exilelifestyle.com for more, you will be hooked.

Read my interview questions featuring Colin Wright below:

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Alright Colin, here goes:

1) When you set out to write a new piece, do you prefer to outline the concepts of your book first, or do you start typing start to finish?

It really depends on the piece, but in fiction generally I try to have the major plot points, some twists, and how everything fits together on a big scale worked out. I also have the broad strokes of the characters, and things about the world they live in. It’s all broken up into chapters, and I know for each where I want to start and where I want to end and what needs to happen in between, but I let the rest happen organically, so that I can evolve the characters as it makes sense, and allow them to respond more extemporaneously between the milestones I’ve set out ahead of time.

With nonfiction, I work pretty much the same way: I outline what I want to accomplish with the book, break it up into chapters that make sense, and jot down the points I want to make. Then I just sit down and write the thing.

In both cases, by the time I start writing, I’ve usually been thinking about the book and concepts for a while. As a result, I’m able to actually write books pretty quickly: all the hard work has already been done!

2) What is your approach to goal setting and writing a book? Example, do you have a yearly monetary goal, or do you wake up in the morning and set a goal for word-count?

I don’t have either of those, actually. When I start writing a book, I want to — almost need to — get it done as quickly as possible. Once I start writing, I need the whole thing out of my head, because I won’t be able to think about much else in the meantime, and I know that doing it all at once is how I write best. No time for my mind to wander, and I can stay completely on track (and batch-process, so the whole things goes faster…monotasking in a sense).

Money-wise, I like to make enough so that I don’t have to worry about money. I check my bank accounts and move stuff from place to place, but I never set hard and fast goals, because I don’t want concern over such things to influence my professional decisions (like it did for so much of my life). To me, happiness is being able to do what I want when I want and not to be too concerned about how I’m paying for it. This is something I had to work toward, of course, but these days, it’s a big part of why 1) I’m as happy as I am, and 2) I’m probably not making as much money as I could be, were I focusing on it more.

3) Do you have any vices to get you through writer’s block, to keep you focused, or just because sanity? Caffeine of choice? For some reason, I picture you sitting in a random coffee shop in Reykjavik.

I don’t do writer’s block. I’m fairly certain it’s just an excuse people make up when they’re feeling distracted or lazy. When I’m not feeling like writing, I don’t write. I go and do something else and think about the writing. If I really need to write — some kind of deadline or something — then I sit and write until the words find themselves in the correct order.

But yeah, I think giving yourself the excuse of writer’s block is a mistake. If you have the capability to put one word in front of another, you are not blocked. Don’t fall prey to that.

I recently started drinking coffee, but mostly to see if I liked it as a habit; something to keep by my computer while I type. It’s pretty good, but I’m not hooked. I do like coffee shops, though, and it’s much easier to sit at them for long periods of time with coffee than it ever was with tea (for some reason).

4) I know that you have your own publishing group. How many times would you say your book is proof-read before you decide to hit the publish button?

Quite frequently, though more with some books than others. We have some books that have a lead-time of almost a year, and others that are published as soon as they’re edited; the main difference is how many rounds of editing they go through and how much marketing we’re planning to do.

I don’t bother with much marketing for most of my work, because I have a large enough audience that things will have a chance to sell regardless, and because I release so much stuff, I’d feel bad marketing so much stuff to my audience all the time. As a result, I still put most of my books through at least five and sometimes several dozen hands, making edits after each one, before it hits the shelves. This catches most errors, thankfully, but also helps me refine my books to a point where they make sense to as many people as possible (not just me).

5) I am in love, love, love with your book covers and your collection on Pinterest. Do you hire out the work for this task? Do you tell them what you want or give them artistic license?

Hey thanks!

And nope: I do them all myself. My background is in design, and it’s a pleasure to get to flex those creative muscles from time-to-time.

6) Do you have a copyright/trademark lawyer that you work with or do you wing it yourself?

Nah. I haven’t had any issues with such things thus far, thankfully, and if you create your work, chances are you have evidence that you created your work, so if someone were to rip my stuff off and I deemed it worthwhile to pursuit action, I could do it on the fly. But I doubt that will happen: we live in a world where piracy is not only easy, it’s sometimes the best option in procuring certain media. I accept that reality, and do my best to give people reason to pay for my work (by keeping it cheap and readily available, and by giving a lot away, as well).

Life’s too short to lawyer up prematurely.

7) About how long does it take you to write one of your works from start to finish?

My older works took a month or long. Most of my newer books take a few days to a week. I wrote Act Accordingly and many of my short story collections in a day. It depends how well I’ve got it all worked out, what kind of mood I’m in, how the weather is, etc. Lots of variables that determine the time it takes, but it’s general quite a speedy process, because I can’t get much else done until it’s all out of my head.

8) I downloaded your new book Ordovician, and while I have not finished it yet, it does seem that you have a wide range of tricks up your English speaking sleeve. Was English your favorite class in high school? Were you in any writing clubs?

Thanks! Honestly, it wasn’t. I’ve always been more of a visual artist — painter, then designer — and the writing side of things was never a focus. I worked as a columnist for a while, and had a solid education in journalism, but nothing creative. I’m a lifelong book nerd, though, so I’m sure that helped. Kept my vocabulary growing, at least.

9) If someone wanted to start a website and has ZERO experience with HTML, where would you send them? If someone wanted to create a ‘marketplace” shop on their website to sell something, what do you think is the best tool to add to one’s website?

Start up a WordPress blog and learn what you need to know to host it yourself. Those are the fundamentals — just Google any questions you have, and follow the instructions they have available on the website. The best way to learn is to do.

Until recently I would have said build your own marketplace on your site, but these days there are some excellent options that you have to pay for, but the tradeoff is worth it. I’m thinking of Shopify, Squarespace, and Big Cartel, in particular. Pretty solid services, as far as I can tell, and relatively cheap compared to the e-commerce options of old.

Adding one to your own website could be as simple as using an external service (like the ones above) and then linking to it, or using some kind of code they provide to have a version of the shop (or cart system) on your page. There are plugin options as well, but most of them are quite clunky at the moment, so none worth recommending (that I know of) come to mind.

10) What is the biggest writing mistake that you always find yourself making? Any particular grammar handicap?

I use ‘that’ a lot; way more than I should. I’m also a huge fan of em-dashes when I should probably just use semicolons. My editors are great, because they tear me apart for things like that, and my work is much better for it.

11) I read somewhere that you use an electronic pen. How is that going for you?

An electric pen? I have no idea what that would even look like. I’m glad to hear there are rumors floating around about my writing habits, though. Means I’ve finally made it!

HumanImprint: Thank you very much for your time Colin, you just made my morning.

Colin Wright: My pleasure! And it’ll be great having you in class 🙂

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