People often ask me what it’s like to make a living as a writer. I tell them I’m living the dream; but I also add that my dream could be their nightmare. Here’s a peek into my writing life:
(And some outdoor photos, since one of the best parts of my writing life is being able to pop outside for a few minutes whenever I want! Click on the photos to see larger versions.)
Writing is my favourite thing, but I only get to do it about 16 to 20 hours per week. The rest of the time I’m bookkeeping, maintaining my web page, marketing, keeping in touch with my readers through my blog and social media, and doing research on publishing trends, legal and copyright precedents, book design, marketing, and new technologies.
Weekdays, I usually work from 8 AM until noon, take half an hour for lunch, and work until about 4 PM. Then I have a snack and hit the gym for a couple of hours (or skip the workout and stay at my desk, but I try to exercise at least 4 or 5 times a week).
I take an hour off for dinner and then I’m back in front of the computer from 7 to 9:30 PM. I try to knock off at 9:30, but sometimes I work until 10 or 11 PM if I’m really in the flow.
I work 7 days a week, 52 weeks of the year; but I sometimes only work half-days on Saturdays and Sundays. (I know; I’m such a rebel!) Even when I’m on ‘vacation’, I work an hour or two per day.
That may sound gruelling, but it’s flexible — I usually take Friday afternoons off to do some watercolour painting and grocery shopping, and I can make time for friends and family whenever I want. I don’t watch TV, but if I’m not in the final 25% of writing or buried under a book release, I often read a novel in the evening. (It’s market research — I love this career!) I read fast, so I usually finish the book in three or four hours, and then it’s off to bed and on to the next day.
Such is my glamorous life.
The birth of a book is (maybe) a little more interesting: (I won’t include any graphic birth photos, I promise. 😉 )
I decide which events will kick off the book and how I want the characters to develop, but I don’t do a lot of plotting in advance. Instead I throw my characters into the action and see what they do for the first half of the book.
Every day I re-read and edit my earlier 4 or 5 chapters (by the end I’ll have read the whole manuscript at least 25 times) and then write my new content for the day. By halfway through the book my characters have gotten themselves into a batch of impossible situations, and then I stop and spend a LOT of time deciding how they’ll get out.
That’s when I write a plot outline, which is mostly a waste of time. I make a “final” decision and write in that direction; and a few chapters later one of my hardheaded characters blows my plot out of the water. I’ve never actually ended up following my outlines, but at least it gets my brain working.
By the 75% mark, all the plot threads start to come together. Then I write obsessively while the rest of my schedule falls in tatters.
After finally writing “The End” I re-read and edit the entire manuscript a few times to tune up pacing, stakes, and clarity before passing it on to my beta readers/editors. (Nobody gets to see a single word of the manuscript before I’m completely finished — not even Hubby.) In between final edits, I choose a title (I never know the title until I’ve written the whole book), do the cover design and photography, and write the cover blurb.
At last I announce a release date — hooray! Then I assign ISBNs, register copyright, send the new book to Library and Archives Canada, convert the MS Word manuscript into epub, Kindle, and paperback formats, and upload it to retailers. When that’s done, I fix typos and update links in my previous books, and upload their new versions, too.
After that I switch to my ‘marketing’ persona to develop ads, promotional listings, and social media announcements.
When the release furor dies down, I tackle any major work like updating my website, and finally take a breather for a few days. But within a week or two (or less) the next book scratches at my mental doors, and next thing I know I’m writing again. The administration is a slog, but the joy of writing makes it all worthwhile!
So… anybody wanna be a writer…?