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View Full Version : The Path to Full Time Writing (or a big goopy dob of appreciation)



James81
10-16-2009, 08:07 PM
So, a dude on another board was asking for advice on being a full time author and all that jazz, and I typed out a reply to him and this is what came pouring out of me:


All right, I'm an aspiring author who has gotten a little deeper into the process than you (I'm currently querying agents), so I'll offer you some tips from what I've learned thus far:

1. REALITY CHECK! (this is where you jump up and say "Praise Jesus!" :p) Seriously, take a baseball bat and hit yourself over the head. Can you handle that? Good. Then maybe, maybe you can handle the path to getting published. By the way, I'm not a negative naysayer here (I'm on your side), but I want to be extremely clear here that this is no easy road. Another reality check I want to give you: You do not KNOW anything about your novel. Let's clear that up immediately. You might want to wake up and realize that your first few works are going to be just practice. That's right, you might go through several novels before you get a bite on your work. I'm about to shelf my first one, because I've run out of agents to query it to. :D (fun, isn't it? lol) I've even heard authors say that the first million words are for practice. Just to give you an idea of the gravity of writing. (Don't take that literally...just realize that writing is something you get better at by doing it.)

2. Second tip, it doesn't matter how great your novel is, if you cannot put together a query letter that's going to hook an agent/publisher, you're novel is going to sit on your shelf and collect dust. Research how to write great queries and practice with them.

3. Revise, revise, revise! One revision is not enough. Two revisions are not enough. Three revisions are not enough. Get used to the idea that you are going to rewrite your novel several times by the time you are done revising. THEN, after all that crap, you'll want to send it out to beta readers to get their comments and revise again after that. Then, you'll query agents who'll want you to revise again. Then the publisher will want you to revise again. Fun, right? :D

4. Grow a thick skin. If there is one important thing that I can convey to you it's this. Don't take rejection personally. Remember, Gone With the Wind was rejected like 30 times before it got published. THIRTY TIMES! And it's considered one of the most classic stories of our time. This is a game of persistance. And I tell you, the rejection and harsh criticicism stings (but it's so amazingly helpful!). If you can take criticism on your babies (that's what a novel is to a writer), then you'l have half the battle won right there. So, please, make sure you can handle criticism because it takes a real masochist to get into this business.

5. Be a reader in the genre that you want to write in. I absolutely believe that you can't write saleable stuff without being an avid reader.

***

Ok, so those are my tips for the writing end of the stick. Kudos to you for wanting to pursue your dream. I commend you for it, and if you can even do half of what I just said, you deserve a pat on the back (especially since you sound like you're pretty young).

Now to even more reality. One simple fact remains:

YOU HAVE TO EAT.

Or maybe I should say, YOU HAVE TO EAT OR YOU ARE GOING TO DIE.

Is that a little more harsh and brash? :p

The process of getting published is a LONNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNG process. From the conception of the story to the moment of publishing can take 2 years or more. And you won't receive a dime until it goes to publication.

How will you live in the meantime?

How will you live until you get enough works published that you garner a bit of a following for your books so that you can write to live? Despite what people say, writing isn't some lucrative career. Sure, it is if you are Stephen King. It is if you are Steve Pavlina and have a massive blog following.

But for the average author? It's not going to make you rich. You can live off of it, but it's going to take a long time before you get to the place where you can support yourself from your writing.

In the mean time? You're going to have to suck it up and get one of those jobs that you are resisting. Either that or get someone else to support you.

So there you go, I tried to be as realistic as possible for you so that you know what you are getting into.

Remember, I'm not a naysayer. I support your decision ONE HUNDRED PERCENT. Go for it man. Go balls to walls for it actually. Write until your fingers bleed and edit until your eyes pop out of your head. Seriously.

But be prepared. :D

Anyway, as it was pouring out of me, I realized that like 90% of this stuff has came from my experience here on this board, so I thought I'd post it here to show all of you who take the time to give advice how much I appreciate what I've learned here.

I also thought it might make for a good discussion, so if any of you have anything to add, comments, etc. feel free.

(I feel like I might have been a bit heavy handed with him. :tongue)

Anyways, thanks to all who take the time to reply here....and.....discuss!

Phaeal
10-16-2009, 10:12 PM
I say never give up your day job until you're rich enough to buy the company.

;)

quickWit
10-16-2009, 10:14 PM
I'd just tell him to get a rich spouse.

Terie
10-16-2009, 10:18 PM
One way to be a fulltime writer is to get a corporate writing job, such as technical writing, marketing, advertising, and so on. Might not be fiction (not all the time anyway, LOL), but MAN it's cool to be able to have a discussion at work about niggly points of grammar or punctuation and NOT get in trouble for it! :D

the addster
10-16-2009, 10:23 PM
I say never give up your day job until you're rich enough to buy the company.

;)

Or sell the company. LOL

Richard White
10-16-2009, 10:38 PM
I'd just tell him to get a rich spouse.

I offered to stay at home and be a house husband.

I go no sympathy from the wife.

*back to the salt mine*

TrixieLox
10-16-2009, 11:06 PM
Funny cos I actually know a bunch of a writers who got a decent enough advance and / or royalties to leave work and write f/t. Sure, the chances are minimal but you gotta dream, right? I think the misconception that you can't do this is just as vast as the misconception you can. If that makes sense?

I think us writers are so damn cynical. The good ones among us should have hope that one day, the dream might happen.

As for the bad ones? Well, that's a whole other post...

Richard White
10-16-2009, 11:33 PM
Eh, I'd have to have a very nice advance to even think about quitting work right now.

Mortgages, car payments, insurance, college fund . . . those don't pay themselves.

What I'm realistically hoping is to sell enough stuff to go half-time here at work. 20+ hours a week keeps my 401K and my health insurance going. That sounds like a reasonable compromise if I'm going to keep living in this area of the country.

Jamesaritchie
10-16-2009, 11:43 PM
It's different every time, depending on what you write, how fast you write, how much talent you have, and what your day job is. There is no one size fits all.

I quit my day job based on one short story sale. When I sat down and wrote that first short story, and it paid almost as much as my crappy, pick it up here and sit it down over there, day job paid in a month, I quit my crappy day job. Two other stories I'd written and had out also sold, but I did yet know it.

Two months or so later, I'd finished a novel, found and agent, and the agent sold the novel in only a couple fo weeks. My first half of the advance wasn't huge, but it was more than three months salary from my day job, which is how I measured everything at the time.

But I took no chances. That day job was minimum wage, strong back and no mind labor, and I knew I could replace it just by walking down the street and asking at any one of half a dozen places. Had writing full-time failed miserably, I wouldn't have been any worse off.

Had I been making forty thousand a year with benefits, I couldn't have quit, and wouldn't have quit. Then again, I started writing simply because I desperately needed money, so I wouldn't have tried writing, had my job been a really good one.

Going full-time is not a wise choice for most until and unless they're making as much or more money from writing than from the day job, but if you're selling a bit, and if you have a dead end job that can easily be replaced, why not take a chance? I mean, if all you're doing is flipping burgers, pumping gas, or picking up very heavy things here and sitting them down over there, if you've demostrated enough talent to sell, and enough productivity to keep a fair number of things in submission, what do you have to lose by taking a chance?

Saskatoonistan
10-16-2009, 11:44 PM
I buy lottery tickets.

BigWords
10-16-2009, 11:44 PM
I think us writers are so damn cynical.

Cynicism is my protection against dashed hopes. If I say there is no chance of something happening, then I'll be over the moon if it does happen. If I expect something to go well, that's just asking for trouble...

TrixieLox
10-17-2009, 12:13 AM
Cynicism is my protection against dashed hopes. If I say there is no chance of something happening, then I'll be over the moon if it does happen. If I expect something to go well, that's just asking for trouble...

But beneath that cynicism, there's always the dream, right? Dream big, aim big? So you'll still have dashed hopes, no matter how hard u try to suppress them? I guess it's a little easier for me to be optimisitic because I actually work f/t as a journalist.

Anyway, makes me laugh I'm writing this cos my friend was having a go at my today for being cynical (book is on sub and I told her there's no way it'll sell in this climate). I guess I'm just doing what Beckham does - visualising that goal I'm gonna score ;-)

DeadlyAccurate
10-17-2009, 12:19 AM
I wanted to correct a mistake in your post:


And you won't receive a dime until it goes to publication.

Not entirely accurate, depending on your definition of publication. Most contracts pay a percentage (1/2, 1/3, or 1/4) on contract signing, and the rest comes at other milestones (like at delivery of an acceptable edited manuscript, on publication, etc). Those milestones tend to be months apart, however, so even a $50,000 advance means getting only a small sum of money at a time (and don't forget self-employment taxes; oh, and if that advance comes through an agent, take 15% off that, too).

stormie
10-17-2009, 12:27 AM
Anyway, as it was pouring out of me, I realized that like 90% of this stuff has came from my experience here on this board, so I thought I'd post it here to show all of you who take the time to give advice how much I appreciate what I've learned here.

That's really nice, James :)
And to think I knew you when you first said hello here. (I remember telling you not to do so many "LOLs" What a welcome! :D)

Anyway, your comment to that guy about growing a thick skin is good. No way can someone be a writer without this. BUT it's also knowing that whenever you're getting feedback, positive or negative, whether from an agent, editor, or a critique group, you have to weigh what you feel is worth keeping and what isn't. Everyone has a differing opinion of what works and what doesn't. It's a hard thing to discern.

The Lonely One
10-17-2009, 12:30 AM
I buy lottery tickets.

Yes! That's my second job, as I tell my wife.

Well actually I'm unemployed so...please, God....

aadams73
10-17-2009, 01:57 AM
I buy lottery tickets.

That's my retirement plan.

bettielee
10-17-2009, 02:39 AM
I buy lottery tickets.

you stole my answer.

Mine was: I'm gonna win publisher's clearing house. :)

And I'm growing some thick skin in the bottom of my refrigerator....

jodiodi
10-17-2009, 02:42 AM
I've been disabled for 2 years now and haven't done any writing worth a damn since. When I was working part-time, I wrote pretty well every day. When I was working full-time, not so much. But it seems now that I'm home all the time, I don't want to write or do anything at all. I'm sure it's depression.

Jamesaritchie
10-17-2009, 07:36 PM
I wanted to correct a mistake in your post:



Not entirely accurate, depending on your definition of publication. Most contracts pay a percentage (1/2, 1/3, or 1/4) on contract signing, and the rest comes at other milestones (like at delivery of an acceptable edited manuscript, on publication, etc). Those milestones tend to be months apart, however, so even a $50,000 advance means getting only a small sum of money at a time (and don't forget self-employment taxes; oh, and if that advance comes through an agent, take 15% off that, too).

Most often, I receive advances either in halves or thirds, depending on whether I actually finish a novel before the contract is written, which sometimes happens.

But a third of 50k, even after the agent takes her cut and Uncle Sam gets his, is a decent chunk of change for someone who's been living on minimum wage.

I think productivity is the key. If you want to go full-time, what you can't do is take two or three years to write a novel, or two or three months to write a short story. Nor can you sit and wait for one novel to sell or be published before you get the second one written.

TrixieLox
10-17-2009, 10:22 PM
Most often, I receive advances either in halves or thirds, depending on whether I actually finish a novel before the contract is written, which sometimes happens.

But a third of 50k, even after the agent takes her cut and Uncle Sam gets his, is a decent chunk of change for someone who's been living on minimum wage.

I think productivity is the key. If you want to go full-time, what you can't do is take two or three years to write a novel, or two or three months to write a short story. Nor can you sit and wait for one novel to sell or be published before you get the second one written.

Spot on. If you're a prolific writer with a genuine passion for writing, you have a much better chance. Not just writing books but also articles and so on. It is possible. Not easy or guaranteed or indeed likely (ha ha) but it can be done.

ishtar'sgate
10-18-2009, 02:26 AM
I think productivity is the key. If you want to go full-time, what you can't do is take two or three years to write a novel, or two or three months to write a short story. Nor can you sit and wait for one novel to sell or be published before you get the second one written.
That's where I fall down. I have to write nonfiction for money. I tend to take far too long with novels.