I’ve been a writer, at least half-time, since 2008. Wow – time really flies. It was October 2008, to be exact, so roughly about four and a half years now. And if there’s one thing I’ll say about writing for a living, it’s that it’s a lot of freaking hours. Your butt has to be in that chair for like – every waking minute, almost.
You think I’m kidding. No. Unfortunately, I’m not. Yeah, it gets better once you get rolling, but in order to make a living at writing, and I suppose this holds true for lots of other creative careers, you have to produce things. And producing things means you have to actually be working most of your day.
When I started writing non-fiction I created and published one new unit study each week. Granted, these things were only about 2000 words long, but since I write for kids they have to be extremely attractive – which means I spent a fair amount of time either making graphics or finding free ones on the internet. I didn’t have a lot of money for art back then, so I made most of them or I scoured government websites looking for public domain stuff.
Luckily for me, I had a part time job that was a mostly work-from-home position. I used to do farm inspections out in very remote areas of Colorado, but I only had to go on a trip about once every two weeks, so it left a lot of time at home.
Back then, I had a strict weekend schedule for my writing:
- Friday – pick a science topic and write the unit
- Saturday – make a PowerPoint course, adding in images and captions for each slide
- Sunday – (this was always like a 16 hour day) Narrate and convert the PP slides to flash, build the course in Rapid Intake, make Flash games and quizzes, publish, and upload.
- Monday – make the pdf workbook to go with the unit and market it to my customers.
I still do that for my non-fiction, except I don’t do it every week. It’s exhausting. I made one last weekend, Animal Tracks of North America, (which , yes, did make number 1 today!) but I won’t make one this weekend. I try to hold it down to two weekends a month now, but if there’s a major holiday – like this month there was Chinese New Year (I skipped V-Day, I’m out of ideas on that holiday) and next month is Easter and Spring. In my business, you cannot ignore holidays because you make big money on these themed units. But typically I try to do one elementary age unit and one high school unit each month.
So the rest of the week I’m doing fiction mostly. I’ve been writing full-time for about two months now, and this is basically what my schedule has shaped up to be:
- Monday – marketing, blogging, short stories
- Tuesday through Thursday – Books in progress – Write, write, write – I try for 8,000 -10,000 words, but most of the time I get about 5,000 each day.
- Friday through Sunday – Non-fiction and/or other stuff relating to fiction (book trailers, blurbs, editing, marketing, blogging) Sometimes I’ll work on the short story serial I’m doing.
It works and I stick to it about half the time. In between of course, I have other things to do. Editing takes up time. I was behind on my non-fiction this week, so I spent yesterday and today getting all that stuff settled. Plus, I decided to make the Range book trailer last night and I just finished that about an hour ago (It’s lovely! I am getting a lot better with After Effects.)
This weekend for instance, is all blown to hell because Range and Magpie will be back from RJ and I have to have ARC’s ready by next Monday to send out to bloggers when I make the cover reveal post. Plus I have a smexy short that’s been ready to go up for like three weeks, but I was too lazy to go on Bowker to give it an ISBN. So I’ll have to spend a few hours making accounts with iTunes and B&N so I can put that up. Not to mention it’s under a pen name, so I have to make up all new accounts for Goodreads, start a new blog, and all that bullshit. New mailing list…I see the reasoning behind a pen name, but honestly – it’s twice the work when it comes to marketing and that sucks.
Stuff like that can derail you. I assigned that smexy short ISBN today, along with the other four books I have coming out (Which takes forever, if you’ve never been on Bowker’s website – it’s sloooooow). Then once I got on there I realized that I had to assign eight ISBN’s because each format (print and eBook) needs its own number – so what might’ve have looked like a five minute task, literally took a few hours to sort out. (I changed the categories for my Junco series, which requires an email to whoever handles that stuff over at Bowker and blah blah blah…you get the idea)
Plus, I run a business. Simple Schooling is pretty much on autopilot, but I have to build a new website and have it in full production by middle of May for my spring open house (which is a HUGE money-maker for me, so that is NOT NEGOTIABLE) – and this is HUGE – I have almost 1000 active subscriptions that have to be moved. Plus I do all my own customer service. So if someone has a problem, or the phone rings, I have to take care of that right away. SS is my #1 priority because that’s my “real” job right now. I pretty much get a paycheck from those royalties every month.
And this is what writing full time looks like. It’s really not glamorous at all. You work your ass off, you complete a project, and then you do it again.
So if you’re thinking the life of a writer is like the one Hank Moody on Californication has, well – shit. I hate to break it to you – but the writers for that show probably have a day more like mine than Hank’s. Every time I watch it, the whole time I’m thinking – that loser wrote one f-ing book – how is he living in Venice Beach and doing blow every night with rock stars?
Anyway! 🙂 A writer’s life isn’t for everyone. You don’t have a steady paycheck, you’re almost always thinking about sales or bills, and your ass is in a chair looking at a computer almost all day every day. You best friend is Scrivener, and your dream about keystrokes. If you don’t produce or market, you don’t get paid. So you have to be able to make yourself stick to some kind of schedule and you have to produce products all the time.
You can’t be a full time writer these days and write a book a year (or every five years, if you’re Hank f-ing Moody). Unless you get millions of dollar advances from big publishers, and that’s not likely. If you want to write one Big Book a year, you can – but you’ll also have to push something else out practically every month to make it – either a short story, some erotica under a pen name, or some romances on the side. Whatever. Your name must be everywhere in your market.
But a writer’s life is also freedom. You can work all night and sleep all day. You can go to your kid’s school stuff or basketball games and not have to ask your boss. You can spend your time daydreaming and then knock-out a 15,000 short story, upload it to Amazon, and be making money off it the next week.
If it’s a writer’s life you want, then you can have it by simply saying it is true. Just be prepared to put in the hours. Sure, people get lucky every day – some make it big on the first book. But most of us don’t. And as Junco would say, luck is a total bastard – you don’t want to depend on luck for anything.