Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Writing Full Time: The Good and the Bad

Good: You get to write for a living.

Bad: Writing is a small part of being a writer, and many other things actually take up most of your time.

Good: You can work when you want to.

Bad: It's hard to force yourself to work when you're in your own house with all your cool stuff, like the Internet and DVDs and books and video games.

Good: You don't need to dress for work.

Bad: Three days without bathing and even the dogs will avoid you.

Good: You get to see your name in print. (Check out the June 2006 issue of Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine featuring my short story SUFFER, featuring Jack's buddy Phineas Troutt in a nasty snuff film tale, currently available in bookstores and newsstands everywhere.)

Bad: Your name is sometimes followed by "predictable, hackneyed, cliched, and formulaic."

Good: You have fans.

Bad: You have detractors. And for some reason, they usually have bigger mouths than your fans.

Good: You have a megaphone to share your self-promotion tips with people, at cool places like New Works Review.

Bad: Shouldn't you be out self-promoting instead of writing about it?

Good: You get to do cool online interviews for places like CHICAGO WRITES.

Bad: You don't get as many as you'd like. And why hasn't Entertainment Weekly called yet?

Good: You receive a lot of email.

Bad: You spend a lot of time answering email.

Good: People are already ordering your next book.

Bad: But not many.

Good: You're living your dream.

Bad: Ain't nothing bad about that!


Allison Brennan said...

Boy, you nailed it with your list! (Though I do avoid DVDs and most video games . . . ) But ultimately, the best thing about being a full-time writer is the last two lines. You're living your dream, and the crap that comes with it is trivial compared to that.

Jude Hardin said...

I urge everyone to get a copy of the June EQMM. Joe's story is the best, I think, and he's in there with some pretty heavy hitters.

As for living the dream: You're right, Joe. Ain't nothin' bad about that.

Flip Dixon said...

I agree -- Joe knows how to write a good short story, and we're lucky that he continues to submit stuff to EQMM and AHMM.

Rob Gregory Browne said...

I've done both. Worked as a fulltime writer and worked a day job while I was writing part time.

Writing fulltime is wonderful, but the biggest bad of all is not having that sense of security -- the steady paycheck.

There have been times when I was making money as a writer hand over fist, only to see it suddenly dry up and disappear. Not a happy place to be.

My advice to anyone who gets that first advance -- no matter how large it may be, and no matter how tempting that dream of fulltime writing is, think VERY carefully before you quit your day job. You never know when you wish you hadn't.

Bernita said...

You get to meet interesting people.

Some of them are also interesting to the police and various psychologists.

Mark Terry said...

Excellent, and you're right about the last two. I might add:

Good: You're a fulltime writer and you make a good living.

Bad: You don't know when the checks are coming, or how much they will be, and they never coincide with your mortgage payment, and you pay the government your taxes four times a year no matter when your checks come.

Anonymous said...

Joe, you described the writer's life perfectly! Yes, we live in a garden, but there are lots of little snakes in there. Self-doubts, publicity worries, critics, problems with motivation. I don't think anybody could have said it better.

The last three blogs have been stellar. You might have to put all this in a book.

Anonymous said...

I just read the EQMM story last week. I picked up a copy without even looking at who in it. I was flipping through at home and saw that you were there. You seem to be everywhere I go. I picked up your book at the library and noticed that you teach at COD which is where I got my degree a couple years ago. Small world.

Anyway, the story in EQMM is good. Everybody run at and buy a copy.

Allison Brennan said...

Rob, as someone who took the plunge and quit, I agree though I think every situation is different. I saved $1700 in child care expenses when I quit, and before doing so we paid off all our debt, including both cars. Now I drive a clunker, but it's all mine :)

I'm also fortunate that my husband has a good job with FULL medical benefits, so we're covered there. If he didn't have that, I wouldn't have quit my job because health insurance alone for a family of seven is more than our mortgage.

I was very frugal with the money, I didn't spend lavishly . . . I "paid" myself every month out of my savings account.

But you're right . . . there were some times I was waiting for a D&A or publication check because we needed it to pay the bills.

But on the flipside, I wouldn't have been able to sign my next three book deal if I was working outside the house full time.

Rob Flumignan said...

I really enjoyed your article on self-promotion in the New Works Review. Granted, much of this you have said before, but it's all together and concentrated here. I especially liked the section on making chapbooks. Not only is it a great way to market your work, it sounds like fun. Fun is a good thing. Never mind what the Puritans said.

Anonymous said...

Great list, Joe!

: )

robin brande said...

What's eerie is that just seconds before reading your blog about the benefits and burdens of working from home, I sent a rant to someone about almost the exact same things on your list (although the not-bathing thing is totally gross--come on, have some self-respect). Love to read about all your promotion techniques. Is it true you never sleep?

LA Burton said...

I think that the good out weights the bad. Do you?

Stacey Cochran said...

Lots of good; lots of bad.

Sounds like life.

Nice post, Joe. Keep up the great work!


Bonnie S. Calhoun said...

I can see exactly what you mean...this business isn't for the faint of heart!

Sandra Ruttan said...

Good: You get to make stuff up and live vicariously through your characters, doing all sorts of stuff you might otherwise never do.

Bad: You realize fictional people have a more exciting life than you do.

Jude Hardin said...

I have to admit, I'm envious of those of you who are able to write full time. I like my regular paycheck, benefits and all that, but I'd give it up in a heartbeat if I could make half as much writing.

Guess I better get back to work on the book, huh?

Anonymous said...


I've learned more reading your posts than I have from the hundreds of $'s I've spent on books from writers digest.

I'll have to go check out what you wrote for New Works Review. Thanks again.

Best wishes,

Lee Thompson

Anonymous said...

Ha ha. I got some belly aching laughs reading your interview with ChicagoWrites. And I learned a lot. :)

Liked what you wrote in New Works for self promotion too. There were a few things that I would never have thought of without trial and error (so thanks for saving me some blood. And embarrasement.)

Looking forward to more, Joe. Big fan, Lee

To: Jude Hardin

No offense taken when you were on a rant about Spoiled Ink and critique groups. Everyone has their opinion. It's helped me. About one out of ten comments give great advice and help me make the stories better. That's enough for me. All I care about is getting better and learning (whether by sips or chugs.)

Bob Farley said...

I've read recommendations for folks who work at home that they should still dress for work and go through those motions to make it more like a normal job, so I tried that for a while, but eventually my work clothes became sweat pants (or shorts) and a T-shirt, just in case somebody comes to the door, you know. When I go outside, I add shower sandals to the ensemble. And I make sure I hit the shower at least once a day, whether I need it or not. It ain't much, but it keeps the flies away.

Maurice Broaddus said...

is it that our detractors are louder than our fans, or we just "hear" the detractors more clearly (and one bad comment sticks with us a lot longer than 100 good ones)?