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Writers - do you have a non-writing job? Or when did you go for it as a full-time writer?
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Zoidberg · 11/10/2011 14:29

and should I give up mine? Grin Feel free to answer just the title q's and not this one. But if you're up for a long post -

I should prob post this in Work but bear with me, please.

I have a 2.5 yr old DC, not having any more. I work part time (0.5fte), I went back after 13 months mat leave because my job is special and well paid and if I left I wouldn't get another like it, ever.

A few months after going back to work I started writing fiction, having meant to for 20 years. First short story runner up in a good competition and published in a book. First piece of flash fiction about to be published in a mag. So, confidence boosted, I'm writing a novel. I have a 1.5hr commute each way so write in this time.

Now, after 18 months at work, I don't feel into it anymore, I'm unmotivated, I miss DD, still, and she misses me, despite being fine in her childcare (GM-nursery combo). She sleeps badly so am always tired.

We can live fine on DP's salary. I'm thinking I'd like to stop the job and cut DD's childcare in half, keep 12 hours a week of it in which to write, as well as other bits and bobs of time (evenings, naps if they continue).

Partly, I think, wow, I should be so lucky, ideal situation. Partly, I have the Fear - what if I write for a couple of years and can't sell anything and have to find another job and it won't be as good as this one blah blah, where I work now is very special, people are brilliant, tailor made job. In which I am not getting enough done, not really liking, round and round in circles I go. Argh.

Any advice/your experiences really very gratefully received.

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IShallWearMidnight · 11/10/2011 14:38

none of my writer clients gave up the "day job" till they had a contract/advance in place for their writing. But none of them had other income/a DP to support them at the time.

What feedback are you getting on the novel? Are any publishers interested? Agents? There's not a great deal of money sloshing around at the moment (one client who got a £40k deal for book 1 couple of years ago had to settle for £15k for book 2, and there's a suspicious silence re book 3).

However, if you don't enjoy the day job, and don't need it financially, and your DP is happy, then why not give it a go? What would be the worst thing that could happen? Call it a sabbatical from work in case it doesn't work out.

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belledechocchipcookie · 11/10/2011 14:39

I gave up work last year for health reasons and started writing full time since then as I'd go crazy watching daytime TV every day. I work a few hours a week doing transcribing and can manage financially (if I budget!). I spend my time reading, going to the library and writing. The housework rarely gets done Blush I'm a single parent and have always worked so it's been a huge adjustment for me but it's been the best thing I've ever done. I don't want a 'job', I'm my own boss, I chose my own hours and it's lovely to be able to take my son to school without worrying about rushing to work. I'm happier and ds is happy because he doesn't have a stressed mother. I'm very pleased I've gone down this road, I wake up happy. You have to make a plunge sometimes.

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Zoidberg · 11/10/2011 15:17

Thank you both. It is a case, for me, of taking a plunge and stop thinking about what might or might not happen in a few years' time - I always have been bad at living in the present.

I need to really identify gut instinct and go with that. Originally, it said go back to work. Now it's saying leave but I'm hesitating to trust it.

Midnight - novel is nowhere near finished never mind being shown to anyone else. Plan A was keep going with it for next couple of years, and not stop day job until I've sold it. Then work started to be a pain.

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belledechocchipcookie · 11/10/2011 18:27

It can take years to get a book published, I know writers who have worked on one book for 10 years before an agent signed them. I'm very, very lucky, I have a publisher interested in mine and it's only taken just under a year. You have to make sure it's well written with a great plot, it needs to stand out from the rest.

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ImperialBlether · 11/10/2011 19:16

How's it going with the publisher, belle? Are you still looking for an agent?

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belledechocchipcookie · 11/10/2011 20:16

I'm still looking for an agent, ones that deal with picture books are like gold dust Sad I'm waiting for the publisher to get back from Frankfurt, she likes my character and was looking for a series. I've been thinking of some new plots. Fingers (and toes) crossed. Smile How's yours going?

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ImperialBlether · 11/10/2011 20:37

Oh okay thanks, just been ill lately and haven't been able to do anything. Good news about a series! My fingers and toes are crossed for you, too.

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belledechocchipcookie · 11/10/2011 20:59

Smile Take it easy, your health is more important than anything else. I hope it doesn't take her too long to decide, I've spent my advance already (in my head I have anyway Grin)

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hester · 11/10/2011 21:09

dp is a writer who has a string of published books but still needs to work (in academia).

It's really, really tough to make a decent living as a writer, even if you write commercial fiction.

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ImperialBlether · 11/10/2011 22:09

Does he write fiction, hester? Would we have heard of him?

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hester · 11/10/2011 22:13

Non-fiction, IB. She commands relatively high advances, but as each book takes YEARS to write, it doesn't amount to a living wage.

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ImperialBlether · 11/10/2011 22:18

Sorry I made the assumption your partner was a man, hester!

Yes, I can understand that when you spread it out over many years, it isn't enough to live on.

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hester · 11/10/2011 22:26

No problem, IB Smile
I used to be a writer, too, but my mental health and our mortgage demands that only one of us treads the creative path.

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TheBride · 12/10/2011 01:35

I know a few writers who write full time, but neither of them is relying on the writer's wage and they are both writing very commercial stuff. One of them was a magazine editor and quit after her first book was published to concentrate on the second (as it's a trilogy and she has strict deadlines).

The other is not yet published (bit like you- has won some comps and had good feedback) but her DH earns c. £1m a year, so her salary (she was an events PA) was never really keeping them afloat. She quit work when she had her first child and her writing is (by her own admission) a hobby where if she gets published it'll be fun but she's never going to be living for it. HTH

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ninah · 12/10/2011 22:36

op I reckon keep the day job til you get a contract. Your job is part time, well paid and specialised, what's not to like? you still have time to write a novel. Thoroughly recommend nanowrimo by the way to give your word count a boost

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TheBrideofFrankenstein · 13/10/2011 05:22

I'd go further and say keep the day job till you see how the book sells. Most books don't earn out (aren't commercially successful) so you have to question if you can live on the proceeds without doing other work anyway.

Two other novelists I know are writing teachers/ do editing and manuscript appraisal on top of writing their own books.

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Zoidberg · 13/10/2011 20:55

Thanks nina and Bride, I have been coming to this conclusion today, having got the emtional outburst of the last week out of my system. I find it hard to know with myself how much this recent tearfulness/stressing about my life can be put down to ongoing sleep deprivation, it's been nearly 3 years since I had good sleep and I do wonder now, in a more rational mood, if that's partly behind this burst of desire to jack in the job.

That and, as 2 people have said to me, having been looking forward for 8 months between finding out a story would be published and the book launch happening a couple of weeks ago, I'm probably underneath all the "what should I do"s just simply a bit down after a high.

I think I'm still going to ask for a career break of 6 months early next year, the worst that can happen is they say no.

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wordfactory · 17/10/2011 15:30

I make my living through writing novels. I sell in quite a few different countries so the cumulative affect of the advances is a decent income.

I do supplement it though with running a number of businesses because a. I am greedy and b. you never know when the book advances are going to dry up.

That said, of my firends who write, the vast majority make their living from a patchwork of ancilliary writing related work (lecturing, mentoring, editing, reviweing). This pays for them to write their books.

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HauntedHengshanRoad · 03/11/2011 11:14

My first book is coming out in February, but I still have my day job (copywriting and journalism) because I can't be sure of being able to live off the royalties. The advance went to pay off a credit card bill and fund the research.

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minitoot · 30/12/2011 20:53

This is a very good point:

It can take years to get a book published, I know writers who have worked on one book for 10 years before an agent signed them.

I gave up my day job when I got the contract for books 2&3. I had to deliver both within a year and I didn't feel I could do that and work as well, even part-time. But OMG, was/ am I broke after the first year :) It's not so bad now because I have some CW teaching work and a new contract for 3 books, but I would think incredibly carefully before giving up work. On the other hand, you have a partner with a sensible wage coming in (I have a partner without a sensible wage coming in) if s/he's up for supporting you and you think you can live on one salary, why not go for it? You could even do an MA in Writing or something if you want a more structured way of spending your time writing. And you might find that the time away from employment gives you inspiration for other kinds of work you might like to do, apart from writing.

All I will say is: it's difficult to make ends meet as a freelance writer. Every income/ contract you get is short term, and you have no idea if you will have any income at all once that runs out, so it's hard to plan ahead. Your advance is pre-tax, and even those (rare) 6 figure advances do not go as far as you'd think after tax, and remember they are also for at least two books - they are not an annual salary - and advances tend to go down. Royalties tail off over the years. Books go O/P. Long term you'll almost certainly need another income source. And a writer will never get a mortgage (unless you're, like, Terry Pratchett). Most writers earn minimum wage, if that, and survive on tax credits. The galling thing is that everyone who's not a writer assumes writers are loaded... :)

OTOH... I actually think that, despite all the drawbacks, being a writer puts you in a slightly better position than many conventionally employed people now that the crisis/recession has hit. There isn't that much more room for the industry to shrink, and at least writers can't be made redundant.

Good luck whatever you decide :)

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