How To Become a Full-Time Writer

I know there are several people in Creative Writers that (like myself) want to make a full-time career as a writer. Today I had a conversation with an author, Candace Ayers, who had posted on Facebook “I make six figures a year from royalties. It supports my family very comfortably. I don’t love writing. It’s not my passion. But, I like it okay and love the lifestyle it provides me.”

Advertisements

I know there are several people in Creative Writers that (like myself) want to make a full-time career as a writer. Today I had a conversation with an author, Candace Ayers, who had posted on Facebook, “I make six figures a year from royalties. It supports my family very comfortably. I don’t love writing. It’s not my passion. But, I like it okay and love the lifestyle it provides me.”

This made me curious. I wanted to know how she’d managed to build a six-figure income from writing. I asked her if she had an article on the subject (I didn’t want to tread on her toes) and got this amazing response:

“I haven’t written an article about it, but I can share a few of what I consider important tips on the way I do it.

1. I write to market. In other words, I don’t write what I know, what I feel, or what I like to write about. I write what there’s already a market for. It’s easy to scour Amazon for best sellers and study what readers want. There’s a book by Chris Fox on the subject, which I haven’t read but gives more info on this.

2. I don’t just write because I’m in the mood, or have free time. It’s my job. I have to plan. Planning is not my strong suit, but I do the best I can. After letting the market dictate what I’m going to write, I plot, divide the plot into chapters, and determine how many words I’ll write each week, or each day, and as Nike says, “Just do it.”

3. Quality. This is tricky because almost every writer that ever existed improves on the quality of their work by writing. My aim is always improvement. However, I don’t recommend waiting until you have the perfect book written and perfectly edited before you publish. I recommend getting right in there and getting your feet wet. Write one; self-publish it; move on. I have a slew of novellas that I wrote early on that are still published and still earn money. Not my best work, and I’ve improved since, but my best is yet to come.

4. I highly recommend watching the YouTube video by Michael Anderle. The man’s brilliant, and shares generously.

5. Learn some easy and inexpensive ways to market your books. Lots out there on that subject, and I have only one caveat: you can spend a lot of money for little return if you’re not discerning.

6. Very important, and I believe it’s in line with what Dave Probert was saying in this post: There’s a reason I do this that transcends money. (Don’t get me wrong, I also do this for the money!) For me, it’s not the love of writing. I honestly believe I’m providing a service. I’m providing value to people, and I get occasional emails from readers to remind me. One that stands out was from a woman who emailed me the day after one of my books was published telling me how much she enjoyed it. I emailed back thanking her and telling her I was shocked she’d read it so quickly. She responded that she’d read all my books (I had almost 30 at the time). She told me her son had committed suicide 8 weeks prior, and she was grateful she had my books to escape to and help her cope. While this is probably the most poignant email I’ve received thanking me, it is certainly not the only one.

One more thing… #7. As with almost every other profession, with writing, you don’t have to be great, you just have to do it.”

Here’s a few additional tips of my own:

  • If you’re worried that selling books to make money like this would tarnish your brand as an author, then use a pseudonym (a pen-name).
  • You can take your time and make sure your work is beyond reproach before you hit ‘print’, or write what you want to write instead of what’s popular if you want, but it’ll take longer to reach your goal. Candace has been doing this for only two-and-a-half years and is now earning over $150,000 per year.
  • Schedule time to work as if it’s your job because it is. If you’re currently unemployed, set yourself a full 35-40 hour week. If you have to fit writing into your busy work life, set yourself 7-9 hours, with breaks and a lunch hour, on your days off.
  • Keep using the Creative Writers group to help you improve your writing, test your characters, check your wording, and tighten up your language. We’re a valuable resource. Don’t waste it.
  • Research this method of writing, but don’t spend so much time researching that you don’t actually write. You’ll learn a lot more from reader feedback after you hit ‘send’ than you would just to read about writing.
  • When Creative Writer’s Press has worked out the bugs (hopefully once we’ve published Monolith), we can help you with the marketing. Any book sold through CWP will have a recognisable brand on the cover, and a page recommending other books from Creative Writers’ Press.
  • Whether you go through us or not, it’s vital that you listen to customer feedback and write what they want. The best way to market your books is through word of mouth. If people like you, they’ll buy everything you put out and recommend you to friends. They’ll tell you what they want.

Personally, I’m excited to get started. What do you think of this method though? Are there any better ways to build your income? Any tips you’d like to add? Leave your comments below.

Happy writing!

How to Receive Feedback

Lots of Creative Writers would like to get feedback on their work, and become frustrated when they get no comments at all. This often leads to the writer deciding not to share anymore, which is a great shame since I wanted the group to be a place where writers good help each other develop their craft. So I decided it would be helpful to provide a few tips and tricks to encourage people to share their work again.

Lots of Creative Writers would like to get feedback on their work, and become frustrated when they get no comments at all. This often leads to the writer deciding not to share anymore, which is a great shame since I wanted the group to be a place where writers could help each other develop their craft. So I decided it would be helpful to provide a few tips and tricks to encourage people to share their work again.

One of the biggest hurdles we have is that members post questions that are far easier to reply to. At the time of writing, the top posts with the most comments include two threads asking people to share their Facebook author pages, a post asking “Why do you write what you write?”, and a member expressing frustration over losing some of their work.

Other examples I’ve seen come up include: “What app do you use to write?”, “What music do you listen to while writing?”, “How do I become a writer?”, and writing prompts that ask for a response in 4 words or less. These posts get a lot of responses, and they tend to overwhelm serious requests for beta-reading and literary critique, knocking them off the page.

They get a lot of responses because they’re easy. So tip number one to getting more responses is simple; make it easy for people to do so. Ask a simple question. Tell your audience exactly what you’re looking for. Not just “tell me what you think”, but “do these characters seem realistic?” or “I’m wondering if the setting is clear”, or something like that. If people know what you want from them, they can answer you more easily.

It would also help to make it easy to read. Keep it short. If you would have to scroll down to see it all as a Facebook post, share a link instead. You can host your writing on Wattpad, WordPress, Blogger, Tumblr, or one of the many other options available. You could even share it via Google Docs or upload it to the groups own file library.

If you don’t want to set up an account at one of those websites, you can just share the paragraph or two you’d like feedback on. You may want to summarise the context in this case so the reader isn’t utterly confused as to what’s going on.

If the reason you don’t want your writing published on a live website is that you’re concerned it would prevent you from getting published, don’t worry, you can always take the story down again before you send out query letters. By then you’ll probably have improved it anyway. If you chose to use an independent publisher (like us) it may not even be a concern. In fact, I’d probably ask you to include a link to the book on your website! 🙂

Enough plugging, let’s get back on topic. When you get feedback, bear in mind that (even if you disagree with it) that it’s well meant. No-one is going to give you feedback again if you complain and respond aggressively to any comments you get. It may well be upsetting to hear that your masterpiece isn’t perfect, but take their advice under advisement anyway.

If they tear it to pieces, don’t despair. Sometimes ideas don’t work the first time out, but with the right feedback from the right person, or the right kind of unrelated inspiration, and you may find yourself with a bestseller. Thank people for their feedback, no matter how much it hurts. Sometimes it may help people to understand what you were going for if you take the time to explain it to them. They might even be able to help you to find a better way to word it.

Remember that the purpose of this group is to help one another improve. The best way to encourage people to leave comments on your work-in-progress, beyond what I’ve already mentioned, is to give them feedback also. Look through the posts from other writers and offer them suggestions. It will dramatically increase the chance they’ll do the same.

To summarise: Keep it short. Make clear what you want. Don’t take the feedback you receive as a personal insult. Be grateful and give back.

Has this article been helpful? Do you have any tips that I missed? What works best for you?

What do I write about?

Lots of people have posted in the group,

“I want to be a writer, but I don’t know how to get started.”

Lots of people have posted in the group,

“I want to be a writer, but I don’t know how to get started.”

There’s been some great feedback in these threads, but it’s a fast-moving group. It doesn’t take long before the last post on the subject is too far down the page to easily find, and someone else asks,

“Hey, I’m new here and I’ve always wanted to write. How do I get started?”

The most obvious, and frequently commented answer is, of course,

“Write”.

While this may seem condescending, obvious, and not particularly helpful, it’s also true. As daunting as it always seems to put pen to paper for the first time before you even have an idea, it really is the best start. Free-writing, which is writing with no agenda (for those that didn’t read Overcoming Obstacles), is a great way to practice writing, get in touch with your creative side, and kick-start your imagination.

Don’t get upset with yourself if you don’t get a killer idea on your first try. You might not even get your story idea from free-writing at all. It could be a conversation with friends, a movie, a video game, or even someone else’s book that gives you an idea you can’t wait to write down. You could even ask the group for a writing prompt if you like.

Once you have an idea, no matter how you got it, you need to write to expand the idea into a full story. Tell yourself the story in broad strokes. Who is the main character? What do they want out of life? What interferes with that? Do they overcome this obstacle? How does it affect them personally? Make any other notes about the timeframe, setting, and characters that come to mind.

You may wish to provide yourself with an outline. This can be as simple as a paragraph each describing the beginning, middle, and end of your story, or it could be an elaborately detailed timeline. Some people prefer to skip this step entirely and write by the seat of their pants.

Whether you’re pantsing or not, you’re going to need to make a rough draft. This is the first run through of writing the story. Keep your notes and outline handy, if you’ve made any, so you can be consistent. Don’t worry too much about it though, or about spelling and grammar, you can fix all of that later.

screen-shot-2014-04-01-at-6-15-28-am

If you find yourself deviating from the plan you made, that’s okay, you find the story brings itself back on track in a way you didn’t expect. Character’s personalities might even change as you’re writing them, that’s all okay too. Keep writing, and see where it leads. Getting a story down on paper can sometimes feel like wrestling with a live python.

Once you’ve managed to fight the story onto the pages, now comes the part that a lot of writers, including myself, hate. Reading through the rough draft and finding those errors in consistency, spelling, grammar and flow that you tried so hard to ignore while you were writing out your rough draft. Lots of people give up at this stage and say to themselves,

“I’m a horrible writer.”

Don’t be so hard on yourself. It’s a rough draft. Everyone’s rough draft is horrible. I’ve said this before in previous articles because everyone needs to know this. The rough draft is supposed to be rough.

Some people, Steven King included (according to his book ‘On Writing‘),  like to leave their rough draft in a drawer for two weeks to make this step easier. Read through your rough draft, as if it’s someone else’s work. If you have a writing buddy, you might even want to swap manuscripts at this step and provide each other with helpful notes.

There’s a variety of different ways to do this. Some people like to make notes as they’re reading, and then write up the new draft from those notes. Some (like myself) transpose the handwritten rough draft into a word processing document, making corrections as they go. Others will scrap the rough draft entirely and start from scratch.

Once the second draft is written, you’re still not done. Read it again. If it doesn’t need another re-write, now’s the time for beta-readers, which might include the aforementioned writing buddy again. Beta-readers, for those not familiar with the term, are people who get to read your story before it gets published, in exchange for their feedback.

You don’t have to agree with everything the beta-readers tell you, but if you find that many of them are offering the same input, you may have to add a little to the story to produce the desired effect. The missing piece that makes the story fully immersive may take a while to find, and that’s okay. Don’t feel bad about putting the story on the backburner until it comes to you. You may even find your incomplete story inspires a better one.

Writing well takes practice. Sometimes you’ll get stuck completely, in which case try to use your time productively. Free-write, work on another idea, help someone read through their rough draft, read books that will help you understand the subjects, places and people you’re writing about, or chat with other Creative Writers to try and get your creative juices flowing again.

In other words, the best way to get started is to get started. Let us help you if you get stuck, and if your short-story is as well written as you can get it, submit it for the Monolith anthology 🙂

If you like what we’re doing, please support us by backing our Kickstarter campaign. If you can’t back us yourself, please share the project around. If you have any questions about the project, just ask.

Have a great day 🙂

Antony M. Copeland