How Not To Starve And Die As A Writer

Cue sad Sarah McLachlan song such as “Full of Grace.”

Gaze over images of various writers trapped at their desk with their sad faces, quivering lips, and snot-bubble noses. One writer extends a gruel cup in an inky paw. Another is missing an eye, uhh, just because. A third writer wears nothing but a dirty pair of Hawaiian shorts — he feels his very-visible ribs with one hand as he shoves his keyboard into his mouth with the other, gnawing like some kind of squirrel.

“Did you know that fewer than 1% of writers are able to make a living wage, or even scrape together enough money to buy black market Ramen flavor packets from dubious Laotian street merchants? Every minute, three people give up their dreams of being a writer and become inept middle managers. Every hour, seven writers die on the streets of Los Angeles, New York, and for some really weird reason, Sedona, Arizona. But you can help stop the tears. By donating no less than $25,000 a year — less than the cost of 25,000 cups of coffee — you can contribute to and keep afloat our Instruct Writers How Not To Starve And Die In Sedona fund. Only you can keep stories in the world. Only you can stop writers from putting out their eyes with fountain pens.”

Here, then, is how you feed yourself, clothe yourself, and pay rent or a mortgage with naught but the power of your writing. Ready to roll? First, three caveats.

Caveat The First: Am I Really Talking To You?

Let me separate this out by talking first about fishermen.

Let’s assume, however falsely, that two types of fishermen exist in the world. The first identifies as a fisherman when he is asked, “What do you do in your spare time?” The second identifies as a fishermen when he is asked, “What do you do for a living?” Nothing fundamentally wrong with either answer. But each answer says something different about each type of fisherman.

Ask yourself the same question about being a writer. Is it a spare time thing? Or is this an, “I want to do this for a living” thing? Sounds obvious, but if you’re in the hobbyist camp, no harm, no foul to you, but this post probably isn’t for you.

Caveat The Second: Your Dream Of Creative Integrity Is Cute And All

I am a huge fan of creative integrity. I am also a huge fan of unicorns. My Trapper Keeper? Covered in unicorn stickers. And yet, despite my love of unicorns, I also realize that they are not real, or, even if they are, they’re not helping me pay the mortgage. At least not without taking them to the abattoir and selling their precious meats (or making weapons from their horns).

Creative integrity is a good thing to have and it will at times serve you well, but if you steadfastly hold to some kind of lofty notion of your work — say, you fall more on the “artiste” side of things than the “craft” side of things — then it will be more difficult for you to make a living wage. You may create more transcendent, beautiful work; I dunno. But with it you are unlikely to feed your baby (or your unicorn sticker addiction) with it. Once again, I may not be talking to you in this post.

Caveat The Third: This Will Not Happen Overnight

No “Magical Ink Fairy” exists.

You will not get an apprenticeship at the Wordsmithy.

Tomorrow, I am not going to quit being a writer and suddenly transform into a marine biologist. So too are you not going to eject from your job and become a full-time paid writer. Sure, it happens, but only if you take a writer position or writer job. Most writers I know do not have “in-house” writing work. (And those that do: I’m not talking to them because those lucky gits have it covered.)

Self-Evaluate Honestly And Find An Hourly Wage Or Salary That Keeps You Alive

Oh-ho-ho, you might be saying, “Hey, writers don’t make an hourly wage,” which is technically true. You also don’t make an annual salary. But you still need to determine those numbers. You enter into the fray with only a hazy cloud of possibility in your head, then only a hazy cloud will return to you by the end of the year. Which means — yup, back to the street to hit up the Laotian for more Ramen flavor packets. (“Ooh, this one’s called ‘Oriental.’ How exotic! It tastes like soy sauce and boot leather!”)

Let’s say the bare minimum of what you need to be making before taxes is $35k a year. If you’re where I am, that might do you okay — but if you’re in LA or NYC, you’re probably going to have to crank that number up because I think that’s how much the average homeless person makes in the city and they’re, y’know, homeless. So, you take that magic number — $35,000 — and figure out, okay, how much do I need to make per week to live?

Consulting my abacus and these pigeon bones, it looks like you’ll need $650-700 a week.

Second thing to figure out: how much work can you accomplish in an hour? I write about 1000 words an hour on average. Generally speaking, I get paid five cents to $0.25 per word, but let’s look at the bare bottom of five cents. A thousand words at five cents is fifty bucks an hour, which means I’d need to work a total of 14 hours a week to earn out. Kind of awesome, but betrays the reality: first, you have editing time to factor in there (the better you get, the more you’ll cut this down), and second, you may have a hard time constantly scaring up work. Be ready for inconsistent work schedules.

Will You Work Freelance, Or Is It All Creator-Owned?

If you work freelance, you will always be trying to hunt down work and deadlines will be your best friend and worst enemy. But you will earn a steady rate and have contracts that bolster your efforts and you’ll be building up a resume in a professional arena.

Creator-owned is a little more personally satisfying, but also the harder road. (By “creator-owned,” I mean you’re going to rely on putting out and selling your own work, whether that work is short fiction, long fiction, screenplays, comic books, and whether or not that work is self-published or published through traditional channels.) If you were to choose to thrive on short stories alone, let’s say, and you publish short work that is paid the minimum pro-rate of five cents a word, you’d need to write and sell –

*spells BOOBS on a calculator*

– 140 short stories in a year. Which is not impossible, but it’s pretty fucking epic just the same.

Some work pays a helluva lot better than others. Film and TV pay very well, especially compared to novel-writing. The average novel advance these days is, according to Tobias Buckell, $5,000. Now, playing Herr Doktor Pessismist, I’ll assume you won’t ever surpass that advance, which means you’d need to write about seven novels a year (and sell each one of those crazy sumbitches) just to earn out.

What does this tell you?

Always Be Writing, And Diversify That Shit

This is when Alec Baldwin steps to the chalkboard and writes ABW, “Always Be Writing” across it. And then you go to pour some coffee and he tells you to put that coffee down, coffee is for writers only. Then something something, fuck you is my name, something something, set of steak knives.

You need to always be writing. I don’t necessarily mean that you need to fill every hour with word count (screw food, so what if my baby is crying, I can just pee in this Snapple bottle — best stuff on Earth, bitches, hahahaha *sob*), I just mean that you need to peg a daily word count and hit that word count every day you can manage. If you take weekends off, fine, fuck it, but fold that word count into your week.

Also: diversify. Do not rely on one revenue stream. When I asked the question above about freelance versus creator-owned, it’s something of a false dichotomy — I set a trap for you, and you fell right into it. And now I will eat your sweetbreads. Which are not breads at all, but rather, your delicious pancreas. Wait, whuh? I dunno. What I’m saying is, you can and perhaps should do both. Novels and short stories combine together to form part of your Wordmonkey Voltron. Throw in there some freelancing, some scripting, some under-the-table smut writing, whatever, and you start to see the whole package emerge.

And by “whole package,” I do not mean genitals. So calm down.

Have The Right Tools

Tiny point: have the right tools. Have a good computer. Have a good word processing program. You don’t need the best, but you do need what fits you and what works. Writing, like any other self-involved career, is an investment — it costs a lot less than a start-up restaurant, so spend a little bit of money to get the bare minimum of equipment you need. Once you start making money, hey, look, tax deductions!

Wait, Where Do I Find Freelance Work Again?

Ehhh. Uhh.

*knocks over a stack of plates, runs for the exit*

No, seriously? I don’t know. Here’s the thing, though: writers make the world go ’round. You wouldn’t think it looking at some writer pay rates, but it’s true. In nearly everything that exists, some kind of writing went into its making. Somebody has to write menus and placemats and planograms. Somebody has to write technical manuals. We are the word of God. We say “light,” and by Sweet Molly McGoggins, there is light.

Okay, that’s a little overwrought, but the idea is firm: writers are everywhere, and this is true of creative content. Turn on the TV. Pick up a magazine. Check out a website. Writers are there. If not like gods, then like roaches, we’re that ubiquitous. So, the work is out there. You just have to keep your eyes focused on finding it. Gaining work is some mystical combination of knowing the right people, seizing opportunities when they arise, and building up a small portfolio of work in that realm.

(It also involves saying “yes” a lot and nailing the shit out of deadlines.)

You might ask, “But what about sites like eLance?” To that I’d say, I dunno. I’ve never used it. From what I can see, it feels like a race to the bottom in terms of pay, and a lot of the jobs there look a little dubious. It doesn’t seem like a great way to work a living wage, but alternately, it might be a way to get started and get some paid credits under your belt. If anybody has used a site like that, sound off.

Also, those of you out there who are freelancers: share your sordid tales of how you got your work the first time. I tell people that working your way into a full-time freelance life is like digging a tunnel through a mountain and then detonating it behind you — every path in seems to be different.

So, Self-Publishing Is The Future?

Sure, maybe, I dunno. I don’t live in the future, though, I live in the present. (You know how I know it’s the present? No jet packs. No teleporters. No hoverboards.)

I do not think you should jump right in and hope to subsist on a self-publishing revenue stream. Again: diversify. But that does mean it behooves you to try it out. If you self-publish something and it’s good enough to get you $1000 over the course of the year, well, now you’ve only got $34,000 to go.

Slow Like Molasses

I got my first short story published (for $$$) when I was 18 or 19 or something. I started freelancing when I was 23 or 24. I was able to go full-time and earn a living wage when I was 30 or 31. Again: not an overnight sensation. And it’s still a struggle, every year, because it’s not something you can sit back and allow to happen. But that is also part of the joy. To go back to the fisherman, you get money for every fish you sell. It’s an elegant form of commerce: I did this thing, and this thing is worth money. At a desk job, for every spreadsheet you do you get… well, what? You get a check every week no matter how many spreadsheets you do. The commerce is muddy. The reward, uncertain.

Me, I like being a writer. It requires a bundle of sacrifices. And it makes you crazier than a shithouse owl.

But it feels good to go down in the ink mines with my pick-ax and chip away at the word count clustered on the wall like pretty, pretty crystals. *chip chip* *sob*

Final Notes

No, this doesn’t cover the breadth and depth of the topic. It in fact is merely a hangnail — if I start to pick it, a strip of skin will peel back all the way to my elbow and suddenly you’ll be tasked with reading a 5,000 word blog post, and nobody wants that. This is long enough already. I can’t say how useful this post actually is — it ultimately covers the generalities, but it’s a start, at least. Future posts down the line will deal with more specific tidbits (dealing with editors, managing money, and so forth).

Also –

Yes, I had to crawl inside a deer carcass to get that picture at the fore of the post.

I dunno. Shut up.

Drop comments, questions, add-ons, marriage proposals, or hateful screeds in the comments below!

41 comments

  • Although I’ve never personally gotten a gig from Elance, I’ve been told it’s a great place to find filler work between bigger clients and is perfect for people just starting out in the whole resume-building game. A web-friend of mine still works with one of her Elance clients (outside the system, of course.)

    As for my first gig: I scoured craigslist writing job boards in various cities and pitched to whatever sounded like something I could handle. Eventually I pitched to a movie blog which I still write for. Really low pay, but it’s a fun gig and tosses my name a bit higher in the search engines.

  • Ah, reminds me of the first time I ever picked up one of those “So you wanna be a writer” books. Good times.

    I evaluate my success based on how I feel about myself this year as opposed to last year. If I’m more satisfied this year, I’m doing well — even if I’m not making as much money, and sometimes I’m really not.

    Lisa

  • I’ve often thought about trying to build a career out of more creative pursuits. I’ve dreamed about carpet bombing the earth with little nuggets of nihilism, building a desk like those dudes in the Matrix and rigging my computer to make little cash register sounds for every word I crank out. Be your own boss, make your own schedule, catch up on all those early morning infomercials….

    But $35,000 is too little money by several orders of magnitude. Hobby farm, here I come…

  • My two Copper Pences!

    One of the thing’s thats really hard for me is not just working a day job and then writing at night, but working a day job, watching my nephew, then writing at night. There are times when my background music for writing is Elmo because Jack is sitting quietly and I don’t want to disturb him!

    Seriously though, it does make you feel like a serial killer when you’re imagining a psychotic death machine tearing up innocent bystanders to the tune of “Na na na na, na na na na, Elmo’s Show!” XP

    But I would like to add that it IS possible. While it may take a while to get into the routine I find the best part is the fact that you turn it into a routine. While it may really make you drag ass when you get home from work and all the time you have is just to edit what you’ve already written but once you get used to it everything becomes a lot easier.

  • I’ve used Elance since 2006; I still do.

    I picked up one of my favorite clients by 1) bidding supercheap on an Elance project, 2) deciding I liked doing it but NOT at those rates, and 3) sending out resumes and clips from that projects to everyone I could find who did the same thing online.

    I’m trying to do the same thing with ghostwriting, but I’m getting a lot of “nice resume, we’ll call you.” And no calls.

    Gahhhh. I love doing it, though, and I like the ghostwriting client that I found through Elance; I get super-interesting projects from him. I just need to find more clients and better rates.

    The thing I take from this post is – it takes time. I’ve been PT freelancing since 2006 and FT since last May. My spouse is covering most of my expenses. I *have* time. But I hate being at this point, being patient and industrious. I want to work hard, put out good work, and brag about the money already.

  • Interesting post, but fun to read as always. I think the thing to hammer in out of it is that writing is a lot of work (duh), and trying to do it professionally is even more – and takes a lot of responsibility.

    Still, great to see. Glad to hear eLance is a decent place to get a start. Also, under “Self Publishing is the future” I think you missed a 0 on the $500 a year part.

  • Ok, I’m completely starting out and this kind of information is invaluable to me. For this I say thank you. Is it overwhelming? Yes. Confusing? Can be. But very, very necessary.
    I will be looking forward to your follow-up posts on this subject. Until then my brain is going to keep sucking up this post and others like it through a straw. A bendy straw because they’re more fun, of course.

  • You will not get an apprenticeship at the Wordsmithy.

    Well, there goes the past week getting the required 2 academic recommendations. :(

    And oh fuck getting freelancing assignments, shit. That is a hellish brimstone cauldron I will never vacate, is it? Still, you wanted a story, you got a story.

    Again, I have to preface my story with a simple caveat: I am not a freelance writer, but a translator. It pays a bit more or a bit less than writing (depends on how rare the languages are), the deadlines are a bit tighter, the work is a bit faster and the respect you get is even less than a regular penmonkeys.

    I got my first true, big freelance assignment thanks to an internship. During my last day in a translation bureau, my project manager who liked me very much offered me a quotation for an upcoming coffee table book on racing and vintage cars. The way this would work is that I would submit a sample translation of a part of the book and the publisher would choose the one he felt was best. I grabbed a copy of the page and went back home, where I found I had no Internet again. And Internet is important in this job as it allows us to research terms like “monocoque”. I rushed to the mall, where I paid for an overpriced lattee to use the coffee shop’s iffy wifi. After a speedy one hour of translation and editing, I e-mailed the sample to my manager, confirmed she received via phone and went back home to pack, as I was supposed to leave the next day. I got word of my acceptance a week later, when I was picking my girlfriend up from the Berlin airport. I spent that summer with her in my brother’s free apartment, translating, editing and having fun. It was one of the best summers ever. The work was so good, they offered me the next book… which I messed up, but that’s another story.

    In conclusion, getting and acing freelance assignments requires luck, Internet and sex.

  • I’ve been kinda iffy with Elance so I personally never tried it.

    I’m pretty much a newbie with this novelist thing so I’m with you in that it will take awhile to be able to earn a full fledge living with just my book and I agree that you do have to diversify. So what I did was take a low stress, decent paying day job and just started taking online writing and print gigs, most of them for free until I was able to build up my resume so I can pursue a staff writing job. I work on my novel as well as the small press company I’m forming with some friends all on the side. Do I have much of a life doing all this? Not really but my bills are paid and I can take the time I need to get my writing off the ground so I can be one of those cool novelists who get to work out of Starbucks! :)

  • I’ve been full-time since about 2002 or 2003. First gig was through the journalism department where I was attending grad school – the client emailed the department head wondering if any students would be interested in the gig. I took the gig and dropped out of grad school. My best and longest running gig (HowStuffWorks.com) I found through a posting on a random freelancer message board a long time ago. Finding a steady, week-in, week-out freelance job like that is like finding a real, living unicorn. And yet I managed to find one.

    I’ve made my living with nonfiction stuff and am only now breaking into the fiction side of things. Chuck touched on this when he mentioned technical manuals and stuff, but to make it more explicit, the “diversify” part pretty much needs to include non-fiction and probably some paid blogging (which can actually be pretty lucrative if it’s the right site – io9 has been very good to me).

    I can also say that “writing under the table smut” may be fun, but those publishers are the first ones who are going to screw you over and not pay you for your work (but not the only ones).

    The other really vital thing you need to do to make a living as a writer is: marry someone with a steady job. Seriously, don’t marry another writer, that’s a terrible idea. One of you needs a regular paycheck to fill in the gaps when the freelance jobs are dried up and the mortgage is due anyway, and if you’re lucky you’ll get a dental plan.

    [Lisa needs braces]

    [Dental plan!]

  • I’ve gotten small jobs through eLance and freelancer.com, and one decent job through freelancer.com that actually paid $500, which was fine for the relatively small amount of writing it required. I’ve found that you just have to be aware of what your hourly rate would work out to be. If researching and writing an article pays $5 and takes you 2 hours, is it really worth it? My rule of thumb is “Would I take this as an hourly job or not?” I don’t work for $2.50 an hour. It’s meant less jobs, but better quality and not wasting time I could be spending writing my own stuff instead of theirs.

  • I have a friend who keeps telling me I should go work at Target so I can focus my “free” time on writing, but still earn a regular paycheck. I have been freelancing as an editor and a writer for five years now, and finding work never gets any easier. Sometimes it actually feels like it gets harder, but it makes me happier than working in an office or in retail. *shudder*

  • Or, you can do what I’ve done, which is work your ass off and get a long-term gig at Disney as a writing ninja — web copy, video scripts, games. I’ll never understand why people think they’ve only “made it” if they can scrape their acts together once a month with their bylines. It must be an ego thing because I write creatively every single day and I’m in no absolutely no danger of starving. Yet, people are all googly-eyed over the idea of the glamorous, stress-addled life of a freelancer. It’s got perks, for sure. I’ve done it for years at a time. But so does having a steady paycheck and healthcare. (AND a pension, bitches.) Doesn’t mean I don’t still write books, stories, articles, etc., and that those don’t get published. They do. But unless you have a spouse with a regular paycheck to even things out or you’re a sizzling success, it’s much too hard to support oneself that way for most, and it ain’t got nothing to do with talent. Old Maria likes the paycheck a lot — especially as I’m planning her future. And that’s something you have to think about at some point.

    And like Chuck pointed out, there are no overnight successes in anything. I didn’t get my job overnight. It took years of professional experience leading up to it, plus I had to pass a writing test. You’d be amazed at how many people ask me to recommend them for a job when they have zero professional writing experience.

    Peace, out.

  • You speak truth, Wendig. One thing I’d add in: When you’re freelancing, at least/especially in the beginning, you can’t afford to be too choosy about the projects you take. I may get all kinds of glam marketing and game projects *now*, but to get here involved making ends meet with copy editing and SEO writing. And even so, I’m always six weeks out of being functionally unemployed, so there’s a chance that one day, I’ll have to go back to copyediting and SEO writing.

    Also, read and live Scalzi’s financial advice for writers: http://whatever.scalzi.com/2008/02/11/unasked-for-advice-to-writers-about-money/

    Wait, why am I a freelancer again?

    • @Andrea: Love that Scalzi article.

      @Dan: Big companies, no doubt, pay better. In terms of creative (or creative-ish) writing, that’s a harder-to-find option. Not impossible — some web content will pay well, so too with some video games or other digital material. For me, my biggest client (White Wolf) pulled back on publishing which cast a big void of work into my life. It worked out fine, though, as I was able to pick up gigs that year from bigger clients (which meant fewer gigs total).

      @Maria: No doubt that getting in with a company is good stuff. Freelancing is definitely not a romantic endeavor, though as noted there is something kind of “pure” about turning in work and getting paid directly for the work — no committed hours, no forced to sit at a cubicle desk, can write at 12 noon or 12 midnight. But you’re right that supporting yourself as a lonely freelancer is some tough, tough stuff.

      — c.

  • I made good coin as a freelancer for a long time — twenty plus years, you add it all up. And by good coin I mean better than $50,000 my first couple years (and that’s 1980s dollars, people) and better than six figures most of the last decade I was in it. The trick? Write for big businesses. My specialty was legal and accounting stuff — taxes, mostly. Boring as hell, yeah. Hard work with a lot of difficult interviews and nasty research, yeah. But companies with very deep pockets NEED that copy to market their services, and they will pay top dollar if you can pull it off.

    Some gangster, back in the roaring twenties, said he robbed banks because “that’s where the money is.” You wanna write and not starve doing it? Write where the money is.

  • God, the Writing Test. “We’re going to ignore the 389 published articles with your byline and force you to write 2,000 words unpaid for a shot at this $0.05/word freelance gig. That cool?”

  • @T.N. Tobias, that’s what a backlist and licensing is for. You can’t expect to make a living off of writing just writing books. You make a living off of selling them. Over and over and over again. And not just the written word, but the subrights, like international sales, audio drama rights, audio book rights, play rights (wrights?), movie rights, and on and on and on. And you can sell them all multiple times.

    You would be surprised with how well you can live off of this gig after writing solid for ten years.

  • First, you are one hilarious fella.

    Next, I agree with diversifying, but I also find it’s hard to switch back and forth from the more creative work (short stories/novels) to the “Five Ways to Not Let Your Children Drive You Insane” magazine pieces, or copy. But, like Dan said, you have to go where the money is whether by topic or publication. I’d rather spend all of my writing time on my novels, but so far no one has come by to pay me for writing stories I have yet to submit. I know. Unbelievable.

  • Way back (was it the ’80s? memory fails, the ’90s I guess) I got started doing freelance gaming writing by doing it for free and ego. Specifically, I produced a fanzine for a game I liked. (People still talk about it now and then: http://www.ars-magica.ch/index.php?id=167&L=1) It helped that I knew the guys who wrote the game and a few others in the field, but I like to think that the first steps were able to be taken by anyone without that initial connection. These days, you’d start a blog. The key idea, though was to get started doing what it was that you wanted to get paid for. Prove you can form coherent sentences, that you can tell a story, that you get a point across, that you can write to (self-imposed) deadlines.

    With that under your belt, you have something to point to when you go begging for work. I turned my fanzine and some beers at a convention into a contract for a role-playing supplement that spawned a series of such (that other folks picked up and wrote).

    My life’s twists and turns took me out of the writing gig so that I’m not even a weekend fisherman now, but I think my path is one that is open to a lot of people today. Write, get better at writing, then find a way to sell what you’re writing. Is that freelance? Is it self-publishing? Whatever. The writing comes first.

  • I loved this post! If only this came in concentrated awesomesauce form, I would pour it over my pasta and devour it so that I could keep it with me at all times.

    Also, I am right there with you @ John the Great. I work a day job that is slowly sucking my soul out and has made me cynical enough to realize that people in general suck and are horrible trolls. Then I come home to my two darling children who proceed to do their best to make me suffer male-pattern baldness in female form. I usually get tons of marvelous ideas while at work, and it’s damned hard to write with two kids screeching and Dora the Retarded Explorer blaring in the background. Write, I do though.

    What else can you do?

  • What Dan said.

    Project du jour is an ebook on mortgages. The last one was on taxes. They pay the rent.

    Yes there are some good projects on Elance and Guru, but a lot of dreck. Tons of “100 articals for $100″ projects. I stick to looking for corporate copyediting jobs on these sites.

  • I’ve taken a few jobs off Elance and other sites, but the real value in those sites is making connections to long-term clients. Some of those I & my freelancing partner now work for off the sites, at a better rate. The other thing I really like them for is finding a quick turn-around job when my regular ones go on vacation or something. Might not make as much money that week as I normally would, but it’s better than nothing.

    That said, I agree heartily with the “diversify” advice. We have four major clients we spend a lot of time on each week, and are all news outlets. But we have several other clients that fill in some of the gaps, like newsletters, magazine features, blogging, and even the occasional local travel or business piece. The more connections we make, the more we find our names offered up to other potential clients.

    The path into freelance writing, though, started out pretty sparse. Made something less than $10 grand the first year. Used old newspaper connections to get a few low-level magazine gigs, started some blogs, wrote a lot of SEO and rewrite content, and did a lot of local one-off projects, whatever I could scrounge up. One by one, we landed steadier, larger jobs, and now we have a pretty locked-in schedule so it’s almost like a regular job, and pays every bit as well. Of course, our clients could suddenly go under or fire us, and we’d be back searching for work again, but that could happen to a regular employee, too.

  • I started the process by writing a really bad novel, now I’m working on a much better one and some short stories. I hadn’t been aware there were sites like Elance. I’ll do some checking and see if that is something I could do. I write fiction, but I’m also a teacher who works with kids ranging from developmentally delayed to brilliant, so I have to be able to explain a concept in several different ways for everyone to be able to grasp it. I’m hoping I can use that as a strength on Elance. The only other experience I can cite is doing reviews for The Portal, a Canadian review site.

  • Thanks for the suggestions. I’d kind of like to make this writing thing pay off, since I’m almost out of Ramen. Sounds like Elance might be a good place to start for the totally uninitiated.

  • I’ve been making a living as a writer since my first book came out in 1991. I remember listening to David Morrell at Thrillerfest two years ago warning writers not to quit their day job. I’ve heard that a lot. But I had a moment’s realization: writing was my day job. And I’m not quitting.
    I used liken this to doctors who enroll in my writing workshop. I ask them if there was a weekend workshop I could enroll in so that next week I could stop by their hospital and perform brain surgery.
    The game has changed, but the players who succeed will be the same: working damn hard to write a great book; constantly learning to be better at the craft; understanding it’s a business not a game; and in today’s clime, be able to sort through the various options and make the best of the Wild West publishing is turning into.
    The success rate for self-publishing is going to be roughly the same success rate that people had trying to go through agent, editor, publisher, book rep, bookstore, yada yada, yeah I told you about the bisque. Really, really, low.
    I suggest to most people to play the lottery. The odds are the same, but it’s a lot less work.
    Great post. Thank you.

  • That was brilliant. Had me smiling after a shit-tastic day of zero productivity. And don’t knock the smut writing too much; it’s paying my…something. I’m sure it’s paying at least one thing in full at the moment. Anyway, don’t remember how I found you, but I’m glad I did. Now. Weird guy, but a marriage proposal might be forthcoming if you keep this up.

  • You would make one legendary professor.

    I wish I would’ve been more clear on the direction I was gonna go when I landed a contract as head writer with a major multimedia company a few years back. I could’ve parlayed that pretty nicely. Instead, I got married and became a teacher. Now I’m going after writing again.

    Anyway, that was a sweet gig for minimal hours and great credits (a couple hundred thousand biweekly readers). And I still made less than $2K a month. Diversify is right.

  • Wait. There was a post? With actual words?

    I’m still staring at that awesome photo. It’s like gooey bits of amber BBQ sauce clinging to the gnawed-clean bones of the most weird-ass cookout ever. I am so impressed and totally in awe.

    What? Oh yeah, topic. I do not plan to ever quit my day job. Not because it pays the bills or because I think I can (or can not) support myself as a writer, but because without it I suspect I’d never leave the house or talk to actual human beings, ever again. As nice as that sounds, and it sounds really really nice, I think it would be A Bad Thing if I stopped brushing my hair. Or, you know, my teeth.

    There are advantages to enforced mingling in society. At least, that’s what I keep telling myself. I’m adding “weird-ass cookouts” to the list of Good Things That Only Happen In Proximity To Other People.

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