The DIY Series is *FREE* on Amazon! 10/10 – 10/14

Hi friends!

To celebrate the wonderful month of October…and my birthday, I’m giving away DIY Writing Retreat and DIY Chick Lit for free on Amazon 10/10 – 10/14.

Both are *excellent* for preparing for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), and both are super fun. They are only currently available as Kindle ebooks, but you can read them on a computer, tablet, or phone if you don’t have a Kindle!

About DIY Writing Retreat:

DIY Writing Retreat - free all weekendDIY Writing Retreat: A Guide to Getting Away is a guide to making time and space for you to do exactly one thing: write. With step-by-step instructions to planning and running your own escape, DIY Writing Retreat will show you how to schedule time for your retreat, find a cabin or cabin-equivalent to stay in, and separate yourself from the rest of the world. Then, it will guide you through the entire retreat, from writing prompts to relaxing activities.

Written by the acclaimed author of DIY Chick Lit, this fun guide is sure to motivate writers at every stage, from aspiring authors to experienced novelists. Time to write alternates with fun activities that will energize you and keep you going. A worksheet guides you to reflect on your writing process and set goals for when you return home. There are even (super easy) recipes for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Download it now!


About DIY Chick Lit:

a pink cover with a cupcake in the center, title: DIY Chick Lit/A Writing GuideDIY Chick Lit: A Writing Guide is a beginner’s guide to writing funny, snappy, sucks-you-into-the-story prose about modern women, life and love. Designed for the aspiring novelist, it’s full of tips and techniques, prompts and pep talks that will spark your imagination and inspire you to put pen to paper.

Originally published in 2013 as The Chick Lit Cookbook, this fun, cupcake-themed writer’s road map has been updated as part of acclaimed writing teacher Alicia de los Reyes’ DIY writing series.

DIY Chick Lit will take you from start to finish of your first draft in just 13 chapters, each with a short exercise that will get you writing now. Whether you’ve been wishing for years that you could write chick lit or are a brand-new fan of Bridget Jones and Becky Bloomwood, you owe it to yourself to pick up this guide.

DIY Chick Lit will prove to you that writing a novel can be fun and easy—it’s just like baking cupcakes!

Download it here!

Ends Saturday, October 14! Get them while you can!

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Four ways a day job can help your writing

Last week, I talked with Erin Lane of Holy Hellions about money and her ministry for a post I’m working on for Patheos. Erin is an author, speaker, and blogger, and she splits her time between working with a nonprofit that runs retreats and her own freelance projects.

Erin said something that really made me think: that without her work in ministry (at the nonprofit), her creative life would feel like it didn’t have enough depth, and without her creative work, her ministry would miss out on an element of playfulness.

Often, I think writers feel pulled in two directions: to find a way to make money and support themselves, and to find a way to pursue the projects they care most about. Should you pitch that boring trade publication that promises to pay or work on your passion project? Should you make writing your career or your hobby?

And then there’s the guilt that comes with not being able to find time to write because a living needs to be made. “I’ll write tomorrow,” you think. Or on the weekend. Or over vacation. Or when I retire.

But Erin’s point of view was so positive–it reminded me that writing and the other things we do can actually help each other.

In the spirit of positivity–frankly, it’s difficult for me not to be happy on this potentially 80-degree day (SUN!)–here are four ways your day job/side gig/family responsibilities can help your writing.

1. It gives your life structure. Some of the most stressful periods of my life have been when I was totally unfettered from jobs, school, and family commitments and had time to write. When I was between jobs, I stressed out about the job hunt. When I was working on my thesis, I agonized over how to spend my free time. In both cases, I found ways to add structure to my life by volunteering and making a schedule for myself. This allowed me to feel free to write in the time I made for it.

2. Work allows you to enjoy concrete progress. If you work at a company, you get periodic check-ins with your boss to chart your progress. Maybe you can even see the progress of your work: you plan a project and execute it. Or you watch your pay go up over time. You see your child learn to talk; you help her learn to get dressed on her own.

In writing, the progress can sometimes feel like no movement at all. You might spend days working on a chapter that you end up scrapping. You might send out six pitches in a week and be rejected six times. Even though these experiences might help your writing improve, writing doesn’t have as many clear milestones, and there might be an epic wait in between each one. Having a bit of job satisfaction can keep you from tearing out your hair.

3. People appreciate your work. These past few months, I’ve been working with few small businesses and nonprofits to write their company newsletters. And you know what they do at the end of each month? They thank me.

I didn’t realize how much I enjoyed people appreciating my work until I fell into a rut of writing rejection. Reading an email from a happy client was a great reminder that I’m helpful and productive.

No matter what your job is, the thank you’s you get–from your spouse, your parents, your boss, your coworkers–are a great pick-me-up when you’re not getting any feedback from the writing world.

4. You have the freedom to pursue riskier creative projects. This was really Erin’s point–she talked about the balance between flexibility and stability. A day job lets you make a living (or a partial living) outside of your writing. Contributing to your family allows you to have self-worth apart from how many publications you have. These things are vital to making you feel safe and bold enough to take on creative risks. If you have to make your living solely from writing, you’re more likely to have to take on projects that you don’t love (and that even suck you dry, creatively). Erin talked about how having some stability actually makes you more confident in the flexible part of your work–writing. It’s totally true; if I have to make all my money, I’m limited in where I can pitch and what I can write about.


Thinking this way really helped me get perspective on my own situation, splitting time between writing and tutoring/writing newsletters for small businesses. It’s difficult juggling so many things, but ultimately, I think it’s the best set up for my writing right now.

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How to make an e-course (using MailChimp)

I just launched an e-course version of DIY Writing Retreat–Your DIY Writing Retreat–and it’s been a lot of fun. I’ve taught before and I’ve taken online ecourses before–both emailed and not–so I had a pretty good idea of what I should make it look like. But actually making this course took longer than expected.How to Make an Ecourse in Mailchimp - Alicia de los Reyes

I thought I’d share a quick guide to how to make an e-course using MailChimp, my automated email service of choice.

If you follow these steps and add your own content, you’ll have an e-course that works like this:

  • People sign up to take your e-course on a MailChimp sign-up form (in other words, by joining a MailChimp list).
  • They receive an email that starts the course. Emails = lessons.
  • By clicking or waiting a certain amount of time, they get another email lesson.
  • The course sends automatically whenever someone joins the list.

If you’ve ever signed up to get a free mini-course from someone’s website, this is likely what you got–automated emails in a sequence that makes sense.

Here’s how to do it:

Step 1. Outline your e-course by breaking up an idea or a lesson into roughly half-page-long chunks. If you’ve ever planned out a syllabus or a lesson plan unit, this is a lot like that. Think of each email as a lesson that gives the reader one thing to take away. For example, when I was working on Your DIY Writing Retreat, I made one day “Pick a date” and focused on how to find time to get away.

How to Make an Ecourse in Mailchimp - Alicia de los ReyesStep 2. Add assignments to each day. For each day of Your DIY Writing Retreat, I wanted there to be a clear takeaway. The best way to do this is make that takeaway into a concrete task. So, for example, on the “Go shopping” day of Your DIY Writing Retreat, I made a printable grocery shopping list and gave the reader the assignment of printing it out and buying the supplies on it.

Step 3. If you have a free MailChimp account, upgrade it. You only need to sign up for the cheapest level of service ($10/month) to get access to “Automation,” or the ability to make emails that send themselves.

Step 4. Make a MailChimp List for your e-course. You don’t want everyone on your regular email list (if you have one) How to Make an Ecourse in Mailchimp - Alicia de los Reyesto get your course–just the few who sign up (unless you’re making an intro-to-you course–then this list can be your newsletter list!). So, make a separate list for these folks and design a sign-up form.

Step 5. In MailChimp, go to “Automation” and click on the “Create Automation Workflow” button. Set it to send to the list you just created and choose the type of workflow that you want to send–I used “Educate Subscribers.” Your list should be empty, so this won’t actually send to anyone–yet.

Step 6. Design your first email, then click “Add new email” and design the next one. Repeat.

Step 7. Making any printables? Create them in the program of your choice and save them as PDFs. Then, upload to Dropbox (another free service–isn’t the Internet great?) and click on the “Share” button to get a link you can put in your emails/lessons.

Step 8. Decide on the trigger for each email. If you want the emails to send automatically (so that once someone signs up, they get one email per day or one email per week), then change the settings for each email so that it sends periodically after the last email has been sent (or opened). If you want the e-course to be self-paced (so that the reader controls when to get the next email), change the settings for each email so that it sends after the last email Capturehas been clicked. (You get to choose what they click–I made a button for each of mine that sent them to a page on my website that just says “Thanks for clicking! Your next lesson is on its way.”)

Step 9. Test the e-course! Add yourself to the list you made and make sure everything works: links, downloads, triggers. Look for typos. Have someone else try it out and ask them for feedback.

Step 10. Confirm! Add start sharing the sign-up form on your website. (Like this: Are you interested in running Your DIY Writing Retreat? Buy the course here!) If you want to offer it for sale, keep the link hidden and send the code to customers who buy it–if you buy my course, you’ll get the link in a spiffy PDF so you can sign up and take the course at your leisure.

Have you thought about making an e-course? Please share in the comments what’s stopping you if you have!


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Want to take your *own* writing retreat?

The days are finally longer than 4.5 hours and your cat has stopped permanently hibernating on the top of the couch. You have that itchy springtime feeling that makes you want to DO stuff: hike a mountain, take up kayaking, go for a bike ride.

Your DIY Writing Retreat - A Guide to Getting Away E-courseBack in the day, this time of year meant summer time! No more school, the chance to do something fun and/or money-earning. For me, it meant babysitting or trying something new: working in a bakery, taking a summer class, teaching math. Whatever I was doing, there was none of the pressure I felt during the school year to make important choices: all I had to do in the summer was earn enough to buy books for the next year, and perhaps add a line to my resume.

Now that school is over (sniff) and summer doesn’t mean the same thing, I still want some time to do things without the pressure to succeed. I want to finish a project that I care about without having anyone looking over my shoulder and asking how it’s going. I want to sneak away into a tent in the mountains and fill up a notebook with things no one will ever see. I want to write things I never write: poetry! textbooks! whatever!

I’ve been lucky enough to do this before: when I was between jobs, I camped out at a family friend’s farmhouse and spent my mornings writing and my afternoons walking on the beach. It was amazing. I got things done.

The key was making a plan and sticking to it. A few months later, it dawned on me that this isn’t easy–it wasn’t easy for me, and it would have been a lot easier if someone had given me a plan and told me to stick to it. So, I wrote DIY Writing Retreat.

But always in the back of my mind, I knew that an ebook wasn’t necessarily the best medium for this type of thing. I wanted to make something people could print and fill in–a way to plan a retreat that would be more tangible and, to my mind, fun. I wanted to add more to DIY Writing Retreat and make it something people would be more likely to actually use–instead of just read and think, “Oh, that sounds nice.”

And that is how Your DIY Writing Retreat, the DIY Writing Retreat e-course, was born. I broke down DIY Writing Retreat, added in printable worksheets for almost every chapter, and expanded the schedules to accommodate folks who only have time for an afternoon or a day-long writing retreat. I added in more concrete suggestions for how to make a writing retreat work for your life, whether you’re a mom, a just-graduated student who misses writing, a teacher, a self-employed person who can’t get a break (high five), or someone who’s always wanted to try writing something but never found the time.

For $39 (and maybe a train ticket), you can buy yourself a fun, no-pressure-to-succeed getaway experience that will (in my experience) make you more productive, more relaxed, and better able to write. You’ll enjoy trying something new. You’ll learn about your writing style: when and where you work best, what you write when you don’t have cat videos to distract you. You’ll probably put more words down on paper than you ever have before (I did).

Interested? Your DIY Writing Retreat e-course is on sale now–read more here.

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