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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 The weird thing is that I've been getting a lot of email from unpublished writers lately that have rather hostile or belittling undertones.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


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.

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