10 Things New Writers MUST Know

Apr 30, 2014Write!

The pun is intended as you look at my latest writing royalty check. It cost someone nearly the same amount of postage to send the $0.70 check.

But I DID deposit the less-than-a-dollar sum. Because I earned it.

So many new writers I meet are wide-eyed and have great dreams of being published and make a living with their words. Many have no idea the journey it takes to become a successful writer, meaning you earn a living as a writer.

I’ve been at this occupation well over twenty years, but have only earned income for the last 9. And even then, I typically make less than a teacher’s aide. This has made for some high frustration, many questions, and discouragement. And yet, I haven’t heard God say to stop.

So as I honor Him with this ministry of words, I still butt up against this tired feeling of frustration. Making 12 cents an hour is okay for a certain amount of time, but years? And how does one combine ministry with the need to make a true living?

I am utterly fortunate that my husband makes a good income. If he didn’t, I would have had to quit and find a “real” job. I still wonder if that’s what I should do.

All that to say, making a living at writing is not impossible, but it is not typical. (Click to tweet). If you feel the nudge to write, and if you HAVE to make a living at it, you may be setting yourself up for disappointment.

Some writing tips:

  1. Don’t, don’t, don’t quit your day job to pursue your writing dream unless you have 6 months of income saved. Even more is better.
  2. Be willing to take writing or editing jobs you don’t really love. I’ve done many write-for-hire assignments where I received little or no credit, but the job was good and it paid the bills.
  3. Be sure you are not a hobby in the eyes of the IRS. You have to make money at what you do, and prove to the IRS that you continue to make money. Be sure to keep great records of what you spend. Quickbooks is something you’ll probably want to learn.
  4. Network widely. You cannot make a living at writing if you have no relationships within the industry.
  5. Find a tribe of writers you can regularly meet with. They will help you when you feel like quitting. I would not be here (as a writer) without my dear writer friends D’Ann and Leslie.
  6. If/when discouragement comes, take a step back. Rest helps you have a better perspective.
  7. Be sensitive to the people in your life who may need you to make income. If you cannot provide in a specified period of time, you may need to find a job so you can pay your bills.
  8. Be cautious of becoming like students who never leave school (keep going to school but never get a job). Attending writers conferences is great, but how you really learn to improve is to actually write.
  9. Don’t expect to “make it” right away. You must be humble enough to pay your dues, writing for free (sometimes), doing assignments that aren’t your passion, and willingly received editorial feedback without being combative.
  10. Stop worrying that other people will steal your words. Your enemy isn’t piracy, it’s obscurity. Click to tweet.

Question for writers: What has been the single most important thing that has kept you going? What discourages you?