David Farland’s Writing Tips: “Writing for a Living”
As Cicero put it over 2000 years ago, “Times are bad. Children no longer obey their parents, and everyone is writing a book.” What was true in Rome is true today.
We’re facing a global downturn in the economy due to the Corona virus. Whenever that kind of thing happens, a lot of people begin looking toward writing as a way to support themselves. Very often these are people who always wanted to be writers but have put their writing dreams on hold to do other things. Some are entrepreneurs or lawyers or work running newspapers—anything that they imagine will make them feel more secure about making money. But now they’re looking seriously at their dream job once again.
So I often hear the question, “Can you make a living as a writer?” My answer of course is “Yes, I’ve been doing it for thirty years.” The real question is, “Can YOU make a living?”
The question gets couched in a number of different ways. “How long does it take to learn to write?” “Are publishers buying books?” “Can you make money writing as an Indie?” “Is one place better for a writer to live than another?” and so on.
Over the past few months, with our Apex writer’s group, I’ve been interviewing successful writers. Some are #1 New York Times bestsellers in different genres—thrillers, romance, fantasy. Others are killing it as Indies—in adult, young adult, and middle grade lit. It has surprised me how each of the writers has his or her own path to success. One author might be writing huge thrillers for adults and pays little attention to social media. Another focuses on advertising on Amazon.com, while a third is making big money just by hand-selling his work to kids. My friend and old student Brandon Sanderson is doing a Kickstarter this week for his “Way of Kings” anniversary edition and is right at $5 million this morning. His efforts were so successful, he just made Newsweek Magazine. But I know lots of authors who are using Kickstarter and Patreon as distribution methods to support themselves.
In short, I see dozens of paths to success.
As to how long does it take to break in? Good question. Many new writers are afraid to take the plunge as writers because they are worried that they will have to spend a lifetime developing storytelling skills before they succeed. They’re kind of right—we do spend our lives as writers perfecting our skills. But you don’t have to be perfect to make a good living as a writer. I’ve had several students who sold their first novels for six-figure advances within months of starting to write. One of them began writing and finished his fourth book just six months later and sold it for a $400,000 advance. Another did it in a year. Others have gone Indie and begun careers almost instantly.
The question isn’t how long does “it” take, it’s how long will “you” take?
So much of that depends upon innate talent, your own drive and excitement, and how much inspiration you mix with your perspiration.
Inspiration and perspiration—those are the keys to success.
TOMORROW 7/11/10, Apex will be having a special 2-hour workshop, “Taking Charge of Your Writing Carreer,” with Forrest Wolverton. Forrest is an amazing speaker who has helped dozens of writers learn to beat writers block, connect deeper with their audiences, and accomplish their goals. Its not too late to join! Become a member of Apex now! Start by, messaging the word “Apex” to email@example.com or visit thecompleatwriter.com for more info.
Dave will be teaching on “Clark Kent to Superman” in an online workshop to be taught July 18. Register here: https://www.fyrecon.com/master-classes/david-farland-master-classes/
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