Archive for May 5th, 2012

Saturday, May 5th, 2012 by Ken Scholes
The Trailer Boy Strategy for Becoming a Full Time Writer

Howdy folks and happy Saturday!  Great comments last week!

It’s been a helluva time around here.  I was four or five weeks ahead on my blog posts and barreling ahead on the last act of my fourth novel when the fickle finger of fate intervened yet again.  Four weeks ago, my stepmom fell ill and within days she was in hospice.  She passed peacefully, surrounded by her children and grandchildren, the Monday after Easter.

I’ve faced a LOT of death in my life.  And just in the last five years, my wife and I — between our two families — have lost eight people.  Four parents, two aunts, a nephew and a grandmother.  That’s a lot.

The funny thing about death is that it forces you to think about life.  And so I’ve been living out a John Denver song in my head, minus the muppets.  “I’ve been lately thinking about my life’s time….”

Over the course of that same five years, I’ve also become a novelist, become represented, landed a five book contract and written four books of a five book series and a handful of short stories, novelettes and novellas.  Not bad for a kid from a trailer.

And over the course of that SAME five years…well, nearly three…I’ve become a parent to two of the most amazing human beings I’ve ever studied in the wild.

Now, we all knew it was going to be a pretty full plate.  We didn’t know about the losses and all that they would bring to the party.  And we didn’t expect Nature’s grand twofer deal but all in all, we’ve fared well.  Lots of goodbyes and some very important hellos.  I’m really glad I waited to have kids, despite the energy trade off of being 44 and a new Dad.  I’ve had time to gain perspective about life…particularly through the lens of all the losses.   It’s made it even more clear to me that the most important investment of my time, resources, energy are my daughters.

And its made it even more clear to me that I work too hard.  I have an amazing dayjob working with great people, but even with my hours reduced to 32, it equates out to 11 hours days once I count my commute.  What could I do with that 11 hours?

A lot.  I could get back to the balanced life I believe is best for us humans, including that family time.  I could get adequate sleep and rest.  Maybe get time to read a book every week.  And with better rest and sleep and more focus, my output will increase.  My introverted needs will also be better met, cutting out all of the “peopling” that is a part of my dayjob, leaving me with the energy to take on teaching a few night classes per year at one of our nearby community colleges.

So we’ve been talking a lot since January about a Trailer Boy Strategy for Becoming a Full Time Writer.

And today, I’m going to share that strategy with you.

My goal is to be a full time writer by September 2014, when the girls go into Kindergarten.  I have two years and some change to get there, give or take.  Here are some factors that should make that possible:

1)  I have a working spouse.  This can’t be over-emphasized.  I think barring unusual circumstances (like runaway bestsellers and blockbuster movies), most writers either need dayjobs, working spouses, or some other form of income or savings over the course of their careers and certainly at the beginning.  The writing by itself can certainly make money, but it takes time and it trickles in from a lot of different rivers.  And there’s no health insurance for writers typically unless you pay for a plan of your own or have someone working with benefits.  So going full time for me hinges on Jen’s career and the benefits tied to it.

2)  I have two little people who will no longer need daycare.  It’s the cost of a mortgage basically.  And since a big part of going full time as a writer is about getting more time with my kids, I don’t mind the idea at all of being the Dad-on-duty who gets them to and from Kindergarten.

3) I have a series that earned out the advance for all five books by the time the third book was in hardcover for a few months.  So I’m already getting royalties — not tons but it’ll grow as I finish the series (there are spikes in numbers for each book that comes out — domestic and then my share of the foreign rights advances.)  And if you know anything about advances, you’ll realize that I also still have advance money due from Tor — they come to us when we turn in a book and when the book comes out.  So I have committed revenue over the next two years from those advances as I finish the series.

4)  I’m nearly finished with my series, which means within the next year I’ll be figuring out a next project and, whenever the time is right, ideally landing a contract for it.  I know whatever I do will be a slightly smaller project than five books, but I do like writing in multi-book series.  And because the Psalms of Isaak is enjoying some relative success (not huge numbers but the fans who love it are verbal about it and it’s gotten a lot of critical acclaim) I hope to tap that success by including at least one P of I related book in whatever my next pitch is.

5) Under relatively normal circumstances I have good work habits and discipline.  I know how much I can write when my brain isn’t fogged with grief or exhaustion and I have a plan for diversifying my writing business into other mediums beyond books and short stories — and to add teaching occasionally to my list.

So with all of that in mind, our plan over the next two years is to reduce our debt load to a place where, without the debt and without the daycare bill, we can afford to have me home spinning tales (and cash) out of my imagination.  Our goal is get two years of operating revenue into the bank so that I have a runway to work  from and then…off I go into the Wild Blue Yonder!

Now, the best laid plans of mice and Ken are just that.  I’ve learned enough from the last five years to know that plans can and will be interrupted by life (or death) as often as not.  But this is the goal and direction I’m setting.  I think it’s solid.

So here’s the part where you can help:  Buy my books.

Next week is theme week here at Genreality and it’s on…blogging!  By then, I also might be done with Requiem.  Woot!

And now, I’m going to meditate and reflect upon my soon-coming trip to the Scappoose Cinema 7 to see Avengers in 3D.

Avengers…assemble!  Trailer Boy out.