Friday, July 15, 2011


I'm going to talk about money, since writing is -- to a considerable extent -- about money.

First of all, it is not easy to write while working full time.

Second, publishers used to want one book a year from writers. That was how you built a career: by building an audience. I could never write that quickly, in part because I was working a day job. What I am hearing now is that publishers want two books a year. What I am also hearing is that the money you make from writing two books a year isn't really a living.

This is a Catch 22. In order to write enough to establish a career and be able to become a full time writer, you need to be a full time writer already.

A lot of the writers I know have a partner who has a day job. This provides health insurance, which is increasingly expensive, and gives the household some financial stability; and the writer can focus on writing, rather than on making a living in some other way.

My technique for many years was to work part time and write part time or work full time and then quit and write full time for a while. This enabled me to write five novels and gain a modest reputation. I never made a living.

Then, around fifteen years ago, I looked at the neat little printout that Social Security used to send everyone and realized that I wasn't going to have enough for retirement. So I focused on working and building up my Social Security for 10+ years. Now I'm retired, with enough money to survive, and am writing full time. It took me till I was 66 to become a full time writer.

Always remember that I am a slow writer, who tinkers a lot with her writing and who takes time off from writing to think or enjoy life. Way back, when I was much younger and publishing was different, I had dreams of making a living as a writer; and I got very frustrated because my career never took off. I finally realized that I was not going to be one of those miracle writers, who can making a living from a handful of books, and I felt I simply could not write enough -- which was one book a year in those days -- to build a mid-list career. What I settled for was writing the best I could and building a reputation. If possible, I want to be part of the history of science fiction and the history of American literature.

I am not trying to be depressing here. I guess I am saying, think about what you want from writing and think about what you feel you can do. I found it easier to work day jobs, with benefits, than to write quickly; and I realized that what I really wanted was to write as well and carefully as I could, to have the luxury of discarding bad work and of walking away from bad deals.


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