Ditch job, become an author!?

(250 Posts)
Pigsmummy Fri 17-Jan-14 15:18:36

I haven't voiced this in RL, I would love to ditch my well paid job and write some gritty fiction. I read a lot, hundreds of books of different genres, I also really enjoy theatre. I have the outline story of about three books in my head currently and in my day to day life find situations that I would love to write about.

Where do I start? Do I type up my outline and try to enter competitions? Do I write chapters then send them to a publisher? (I work in sales so have developed a thick skin regards rejection). How much might a publishing deal be worth? (kicking myself that I didn't get this nailed before ebooks came along).

I have wanted to write for a long time (most of my adult life) but suppressed the desire, i have a good job, been in this position for 6 years, my colleagues would be astounded by my lack of motivation and enjoyment of my job as i hide it well, I often sit through high level meetings wishing the time away so I can get back to my Kindle.

Is this madness? Has anyone done this?

I am 39, married with one DC btw

RowanMumsnet (MNHQ) Wed 22-Jan-14 13:13:20

Hello all

This is in AIBU (not Chat), so it wouldn't go 'poof' anyway. But it shouldn't really be in AIBU, and we do like to get you all using our lovely appropriate topic areas, so we've moved this to Creative Writing now.

SunshineOnACrappyDay Wed 22-Jan-14 13:35:42

kungfupanda Not literally Vogon poetry, but I prayed for death. grin

Abra1d Wed 22-Jan-14 13:54:49

Tunip--exactly.

Marsha--yes, it should look as effortless as writing a shopping list, shouldn't it? Not that shopping lists are that effortless in this household, come to think of it, what with everyone's particular little preferences.

Merrylegs Wed 22-Jan-14 15:47:01

Oh am glad this is in creative writing now if OP is Ok with that? Those that have signed up with PLR you do know about ALCS don't you? Unlike PLR it's retrospective so you could be owed, well squillions (ish). It covers European PLR, photocopying etc and is just for the writer no matter if you own copyright or not. Enter a book, or journal or play or whatever wot you have wrote in the search box and if it comes up green you are owed money!

(It's the fact that JKR kept copyright on anything HP that has earned her fortune. From toothbrushes to trucks -if it has HP on it, she gets the dosh. Clever woman.)

Oh yeah, 'anyone could have written Harry Potter'. Yeaaaah, riiiigghhht. The plotting and the whole story arc is awesome - and she wouldn't get away with it today simply because the first 2-3 are so much lighter and 'younger' than the last ones.

I dread being asked to look at acquaintances' work, too. It's nearly always shite. People who are entertaining and fluent on Twitter/Facebook etc turn out these awful, meandering, stylistically clunky epics about bugger all and wonder why no one wants to read more than a page or two before leaving the room abruplty...

Anatana Wed 22-Jan-14 17:05:03

One of my besties is a hugely successful writer and does make absolutely squillions, unlike practically every other writer I know!

We both work from home so we hang out in chat and work at the same time, so here are my tips for being a bestselling author. wink

1. Write every day. 250 words a day is a novel a year, but aim to be comfortable with writing 2500 per day. My mate will turn out a million words a year, easy.
2. Get an agent and let them handle 100% of your submissions.
3. Be prepared to do a lot of book tours and signings and readings and interviews and on and on in a deadening endless grind.
4. Pragmatically, write series not books.
5. Don't be precious - they'll change everything about your books. It's not personal; it's marketing.

Spiritedwolf Wed 22-Jan-14 18:00:24

Just wanted to say thank you for the excellent advice on this thread. I am afraid I'm another 'wannabe' writer. I do have a realistic idea of the vast gulf between having an idea that I think has potential and the reality of getting down the words and shaping them of a book that could be published. I also have a good local writers group, though I haven't been since having a baby.

I do hope to find more time to write as he gets a bit older. I don't claim to think I'll be any good... I am certain that my NaNoWriMo from a few years ago, which is the longest thing I've written so far is a load of rubbish. But I think it helped to get out the semi-autobiographical, Mary Sue stuff that I obviously needed to get through to actually get over myself so I can write about other things.

I still like the nugget of an idea that sparked off the NaNo, but I didn't really like what I did with it! It was definately a lesson in how small a part of writing that intial idea is. I know I've got a lot to learn.

I love the Harry Potter books, its when you re-read them and find little things from the earlier books that have a different meaning or greater significance when you've read the whole series that you realise how intricately planned it was.

I think its like any skill, you have to put the hours into learning the craft, to get to a basic level, and even more to be great at it.

Abra1d Wed 22-Jan-14 19:02:35

ALCS is definitely a very good thing. If you're not in it, you might be missing out on money.

kungfupannda Wed 22-Jan-14 19:36:46

SGB - I kind of expected the meandering epic from this particular person, but it turned out to be more akin to the Biff and Kipper Key Stage 1 books.

Literally. It went along the lines of:

He met a girl. They walked along the river. They made love. They saw a boat and realised that the mafia had caught up with them. They escaped from the mafia. Then they went to Brighton to see a man about a dog.

It was a synopsis, not a work of fiction. I was really surprised as the person in question is articulate, intelligent, creative in other ways. But not, in any way, shape or form, a writer.

PenelopeLane Wed 22-Jan-14 22:08:29

Just wanted to de-lurk to say that this thread has inspired me to write another 2000 words of my novel! Some of the advice upthread is great as well - my biggest issue is time as have a baby and a toddler. Sadly my first novel really isn't up to scratch for publication, but the process of writing it - especially the long and torturous editing that was made worse by poor planning when I'd started to write it - taught me a lot.

For those published folk, I do have a question though - how strictly do you plan your novels before you start writing?

CelinaGrace Wed 22-Jan-14 22:34:33

Really enjoyed reading this thread. Can I suggest that those (sorry, can't remember all of you) who are still seeking publication and have agents and everything and are clearly talented, have a bit of a read about self-publishing? Seriously, it's the best thing I ever did and I spent about 15 years trying to get a traditional publishing deal. I got close SO many times: writing awards, agents, etc but the more and more I read about writers beginning to really make a living from indie publishing, the more I thought 'hell, why don't I give it a try?'.

And if you publish through Amazon's KDP platform, by the way, you get 70% royalties if you price within a certain (reasonable) spectrum. Not the paltry 20% that I think was mentioned earlier upthread.

PM me if you want more info or I'm happy to give it here.

wordfactory Thu 23-Jan-14 09:02:21

Penelope, when I first started writing I planned meticulously. Scene by scene.

I'd give each scene a piece of paper and number it. I'd then write whose POV the scene was in, what happened (including any snippets of dialogue or images that came to me). I'd also include why the scene was imperative. Each one had to justify its place. If it didn't, it was binned.

I wouldn't sit down and write the novel until this process was finished.

Now, I no longer use this system, because I can do that process subconsciously.

That said, I am still incredibly mindful before I begin. I make conscious decisions about the book, its structure, its themes, its tone. This is a lengthy process. No quicker than my original process.

Reading an essay by Zadie Smith she says she works the first few pages obsessively for months, as she finds her tone, structure etc then all else follows. Another way of planning, I think...

BoffinMum Thu 23-Jan-14 09:21:06

I made more in ALCS and PLR than sales on my first book. Vital to register.

expatinscotland Thu 23-Jan-14 09:31:03

Ans why is it when people say,'I'm going to pack in my job and become a writer,' they always mean a novel writer? No one ever jacks it all in to become a poet, a playwright, a comic strip author, a technical writer.

TunipTheUnconquerable Thu 23-Jan-14 09:37:59

Because no-one makes big money out of poetry or plays the way a few people do out of novels, and this skews the popular image of novel writing so that people think it's more lucrative than it really is.

Punkatheart Thu 23-Jan-14 09:39:41

Some writers are cartographers - planning meticulously, mapping out every element, others are explorers who use a more chaotic method that nevertheless works.

Such a fascinating process, writing.

claudeekishi Thu 23-Jan-14 11:09:07

I suppose expat it's because people in general read novels, and because they read them and are affected by them and understand them, they think they can also write them. The target audience for poetry is mostly other poets; for technical writing it's usually technical experts or niche users, etc. (Tech writing does pay decently though wink).

I'm working on a novel now and I'm trying to be much more rigorous about the planning. With my last book the structure evolved as if through a great haze over many painful years. I'm trying to tell myself this time that it doesn't have to be this way...

Thisisaghostlyeuphemism Thu 23-Jan-14 11:10:28

Jacking in your work to become a poet really would be deluded!

CatAssTrophy Thu 23-Jan-14 14:05:12

What a brilliant read this has been over lunch grin

I've no intention of trying to become a professional author right now, since I'm far too sensitive to be critiqued, but I may one day try to submit one of my works.

I've written about three YA novels over the past eight years and 5 short stories (for picture books, but i can't even draw a matchstick man).

My YA novels are part of a series. I'm halfway through writing the first draft of the fourth one (it's dire right now, mind you). I love them and was all set for submitting the first three chapters of book 1 to an agent when i read a lot of 'don't bother' type threads on various CW forums.

Apparently publishers aren't interested in a series from a debut/unknown writer. My first book doesn't end on a cliff hanger. I've written it in a way that it could be published as a standalone novel if needs be. But i still feel uneasy about submitting.

So can i ask your opinion on a series from a new writer? Is it a total waste of time? Should i (if i ever submit) mention in my opening letter that it's part of a series, or would this put a potential agent off?

It also weighs in at 85,000 words. I've read that this high a word count won't be considered from a new writer for a YA novel. Should i try getting it down to about 75,000? I've already chopped and changed it about 50 times over the years. After the first draft, it think it was something like 125,000 words!

Also, I've read that you shouldn't just submit to one agent at a time. How many would you recommend submitting to?

What happens if two authors request a full MS, then they both want to represent you? How on earth do you choose? And will they both feel messed about by you if you need a while to decide?

And how much power does an editor have? Are you ever allowed to disagree? And how does the editing process work? Do you need to travel and meet with them in person, then they send you home to make the changes? And then you email the revised MS to them?

And a few other questions for those of you who tour.

How do you afford it? Does the publisher/agent pay for your travel and hotel? If so, do you ever need to pay this back from future sales? How high is the impact on sales if you don't tour?

What happens if you're self published? Can you not tour unless you're making loads?

How does the touring tie in with other responsibilities such as family, work etc. Are the dates negotiable? Or is what the publisher says goes? Are you ever allowed to take your children with you on a tour? If so, would a publisher pay their expenses too? Then what do you do with them once you're there? Find a new CM every day?

So sorry for all the questions! They've just came tumbling out. blush

TunipTheUnconquerable Thu 23-Jan-14 14:26:01

What genre in YA are you, CatAssTrophy? The normal wordcount varies between genres - it's usually under 80k for contemporary but can go a lot higher in historical or fantasy or anything else including lots of worldbuilding. Mine is historical and 85k and my agent doesn't seem concerned by that.

Don't be too easily put off. Creative writing fora are always full of second-guessing and people treating trends as if they're rules set in stone. I have heard that publishers are looking for standalones more now whereas a few years ago they wanted series, but that's not the same as 'Your book is part of a series so there's no point even in submitting it!' Especially when you've said it works as a standalone.

And being critiqued is less painful than you think it's going to be - in fact it can be quite exciting, when there's something you know doesn't quite work but you're not sure why, and then someone else reads it and puts their finger on it and you can rush off and write it again better!
If you're scared, you should get involved in critiquing other people - you'll learn a lot from it but you'll also get more relaxed about having it done to you.

hopskipandthump Fri 24-Jan-14 08:08:00

I agree with Tunip - good critiquing is a great thing to receive as a writer. When it's done well, you feel someone has really properly read and engaged with your book, which is the most meaningful compliment a writer can receive (although 'I love it, here's a million dollar advance' has its merits too grin )

Oneglassandpuzzled Sat 25-Jan-14 14:03:28

Yes, a good critiquer should be nurtured! They can really help push your writing onto the next level.

Among other genres, I write YA historical. My last one was 40k words. It is part of a series, though.

(BTW, I am Abra1d. Changed my name last night to post something I didn't want to go under my usual name, but haven't got time to change back now!)

TunipTheUnconquerable Sat 25-Jan-14 15:10:03

Oh, I never knew you wrote YA historical, Oneglass.
I wonder if I've read any of your stuff....

Oneglassandpuzzled Sun 26-Jan-14 18:42:20

The first one has only come out recently (WW2 girl spy-type thing) so I am not well known in the genre yet. smile

Oneglassandpuzzled Sun 26-Jan-14 18:43:01

Honesty requires I add I am not exactly a household name in my main genre, either!

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