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Make it Your Job

In thinking through some of the response I've had to last week's show, I've decided that, while my situation and yours are probably too different for you to follow exactly in my path, one thing we can all do right now is to treat our writing like a job.

Mental Flip

Saying, "I'm working," on my days off from my day job was a really big leap for me—despite the fact that I was indeed writing novels, promoting my work and building my business. Would it be no big deal for you to consider writing a "real job", or is it a struggle?

Separate Bank Account

Get a separate bank account for your writing. You'll be glad you did when tax time comes around and you have all the expenses separate.


Decide how many hours per week you want to work at your second job. A 20-hour week might break down to 1.5 hours per weekday and 12.5 hours over the weekend. If that seems like a lot, how about a 10 hour workweek, or even 5? I'll bet you could write a novel over the course of a year if you did a consistent 5 hours every week with no dawdling.

Time Log

Try keeping a time log for a week and see how close you can get to your goal. Don't count dawdling time, meaning re-reading your old stuff, browsing Wikipedia, looking at calls for entry. Actually write or edit the whole time. I suspect a lot of time we give ourselves credit for "working" when we're really dawdling.

On Self-Publishing

Nearly every article I read about the rise of self-publishing treats self-published work as a cesspool of dreck that readers will never be able to wade through. I figured journalists must have some agenda to want to slant thier stories that way. The weird thing is that I've been getting a lot of email from unpublished writers lately that have rather hostile or belittling undertones.

I suspect they think self-publishing is "easy" and it involves writing a book, putting it at some online venue with no editing and a poorly done cover, and having customers miraculously flood in and buy it via word-of-mouth.

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!

Yes, You Need an Editor

On recent episodes of both Writing Excuses and The Writing Show, it was assumed that self-published means unedited. I can't say, "That's just stupid!" emphatically enough. If you're an author and you think self-publishing means skipping the editor, then you will never get off the ground.

➙ Readers don't care if a book is self-published.

➙ Readers do care if a work is quality or not.

You need an editor. You need a professionally-designed cover. You need professional typesetting. I wouldn't dream of cutting my own hair, nor would I dream of editing my own book. Be a grownup and hire an editor.

Your Assignment

Give some serious thought to how many hours per week you're willing to devote to your second job, and keep a time log. You'll probably put in more hours because you're keeping track—and that's great! I want you to get a good idea of what you can accomplish with consistency.

Listen at PackingHeat.net, 24 minutes


( 15 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 3rd, 2010 07:26 pm (UTC)
they think self-publishing is "easy"
LMAO - they have obviously never done it
The little stint I did in self publishing was a nightmare lol
granted I had pneumonia at the time but it was hard as hell. I gained a whole new level of respect for you. And you put out the best paperbacks and ebooks - because you care and listen to feedback. And I must say those books I did do look very pretty on my shelf and Ali should be getting the rest any day now :o)
Aug. 3rd, 2010 09:23 pm (UTC)
I'm so happy your book set came out pretty!

My first paperback was PsyCop: Property and it was just brutal to work out all the kinks. Then after Camp Hell I switched to a different printer with a whole new set of rules and had to re-learn everything AGAIN. It's not easy, not at all.
Aug. 3rd, 2010 09:27 pm (UTC)
Again thank you so much for all your help
And you do remarkable work :o)
Aug. 4th, 2010 02:11 am (UTC)
You seem to be producing articles and posts that are about exactly what I'm thinking about just now, I'm getting slightly paranoid! :D

Just yesterday I was thinking now I can officially call writing my second job. I do it for at least 20 hours a week most weeks (more sometimes!) and now I've got contractual obligations and will eventally get paid. That's definitely a job!

I like the idea of that time log. Might try that for a few days to give myself a kick on the pants. Just keeping the log will probably me less likely to dawdle!
Aug. 4th, 2010 12:09 pm (UTC)
Ah, good, the invisible telepathic transmitters are working!

Isn't it interesting what our definitions of "job" might or might not entail? I think I was well into the process before I got very serious about calling it "work." And many people in my life weren't willing to accept that writing was my job.
Aug. 4th, 2010 02:56 pm (UTC)
It can be difficult to get people to accept that, for example, sitting snoozing in an armchair is "work". Ah, if only they could see the steam coming off our busy brains at times like that! :d
Aug. 4th, 2010 04:38 pm (UTC)
Sadly, sleeping does not count as work. Even in my liberal definition of work, where poking through an abandoned house does count.

I think sleeping counts as self-care though. That's important too.
Aug. 4th, 2010 05:50 pm (UTC)
Sadly, sleeping does not count as work.

Not even if you dream about your current work in progress? Or even get a whole new book idea from a dream? ;-)
Aug. 4th, 2010 04:03 am (UTC)
Excellent advice - as discussed! ^_~

I'm on my own at home next week - still working at the office during the day, that is, but my leisure time is ALL my own - so I'm starting a log. I'm looking forward to it providing me with a proper measure of how much time it takes to do how much writing. The word-count meters are fun, but don't take enough account of timescale for my liking.
(my inner accountant sneaking through...)
Aug. 4th, 2010 12:13 pm (UTC)
Speaking of the time log - I'm really surprised how keeping a budget is changing the way I think. I'm sure everyone has money hangups, but looking at my budget in hard numbers has made me reflect deeply about how long I'm going to try to keep all the plates spinning by myself when I could probably hire out some unpleasant or busywork-tasks.

I've contacted a college student who's done work for me before to see if he wants a few-hour-a-week gig for the rest of the summer. (And then my overgrown garden better look out.)
Aug. 4th, 2010 12:19 pm (UTC)
The latest Christine Kane newsletter is about this *exactly*. I'm sending it on to you :)
Aug. 4th, 2010 12:51 pm (UTC)
OMG, this was a gem:
The belief that no one can do it better than you serves only to keep you in the role of the Martyr. Unless you are, say, a brain surgeon, then there are many people who can (and will) do it as good as you. (And I doubt that brain surgeons run around cleaning the floor after surgery!)
Aug. 4th, 2010 04:09 pm (UTC)
And I realised I'd moaned last night to someone about a work situation where I used the actual words "well, by the time I've explained all that to them, I might as well just do it myself...."

*cue jaws music*

Aug. 4th, 2010 02:59 pm (UTC)
This is an excellent strategy that all small business owners (and that's what we writers really are) should consider. If it's repetitive, clerical, and/or someone else can be easily trained to do it, then it's worth considering *paying* someone else to do it. (Or trading/bartering if your cash flow doesn't allow.)

Er, for me when I was writing my first novel, that was laundry. So much better to drop it at the local wash n' fold than spend 3 precious hours in a laundromat. Everyone has their own bugaboos and time suckers so seeing yourself as a businessperson with a schedule and an agenda is a great mindset.

Keep going, JCP!
Aug. 4th, 2010 04:44 pm (UTC)
Oh, I love that as an example. Laundry is a big time-eater if you don't have a washer and dryer. So easily hired out, too.

My dentist and I were talking about his computer system, which had been on the fritz, and he said something to me that really made an impression. (No bad dental pun intended.)

"I could have probably figured out what was wrong myself, but I called out the computer guy instead. I figured it was a better use of my time to keep myself up to date on all the latest dental journals and innovations."

Wow. Well said.

Also, I couldn't agree with you more that writers are indeed small business owners. Maybe those pooh-poohers who are resistant to the idea that we're working need to hear us referring to our "business" more often.
( 15 comments — Leave a comment )

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