The Mindset of a Published Author – Part 1

This post is inspired by the fantastic job that the A&E channel did with Stephen King‘s biography on Halloween morning.  Talk about a determined writer.  I especially loved the point when he took charge of his writing career and treated it more like a business. 

In my pre-pubbed days, I had time to write write write and it didn’t really matter what I wrote as long as I liked it.  Today, that still holds some truth, so that much hasn’t changed.  However, other things have.

My friend Melissa Carmichael reminded me of a quote I had heard before: “Write like you’re under contract, even if you’re not.”  Now that I am, I don’t have a choice in the matter.  But, I also have to write like this is a business.  Now that I’m published regardless of format, it’s more important than ever.

With my YA is finished, it’s time to come up with new ideas.  My maternity leave is coming up and I’ll have a little time on my hands to get some writing done.  Yeah.  Yeah.  I know what you’re going to say.  That baby will keep your hands full.  I’m more than sure of that, but I’m also sure that a baby doesn’t stay awake 24-7 either.  This will be a great time to steal away some time to write, so why squander it?

By treating this like a business, that means coming up with ideas is more important than ever.  I have stories I need to write for sequels that have sold.  While those weigh heavily on my mind, I also have to fuel my need to write something new.  Balancing the two can be somewhat difficult depending upon which is screaming the loudest.  However, when I get fantastic fan mail, like the one recently where a reader said I’ve revitalized her love for werewolves, it’s hard to put aside the third book in my Hunting Club (half-werewolf) series.  So, that’s at the top of my list.  Second, I have outlines I need to work on for other stuff that is currently being shopped.   Fingers crossed there will be some good news soon because I don’t work on anything where the first book hasn’t been contracted yet.  It’s a waste of my time when I could working on something that actually has a chance at selling.

So whether you’re a published author or not, just keep in mind that your entire mindset changes when you receive your first paycheck for writing.  You have to have a plan and constantly think about where your time is most valuable.  And while we’re at it, let’s be honest.  If you were only doing it for the love the craft, then you wouldn’t be trying to land an agent or NY.  You’d be giving your work away for free.  🙂

So other than taxes, how do you treat your writing career like it’s a business?


27 thoughts on “The Mindset of a Published Author – Part 1

  1. I’m doing nothing, really. Some day maybe I’ll write for more than love for the craft, but right now it’s a matter of entertaining myself. If whatever project I’m on ceases to amaze me, then I have to find something else that will.

    • Kath, I think of you as a person who’s taking their time to hone their craft. You’re doing what I pretty much did when I first started out. I wrote what ceased me and didn’t care about getting published. I wanted a story that would rock my world first and foremost. It’s amazing how things have changed since then.

  2. I’ve entered a couple contests that get editors attention. The entire contest judged by the editors, even the original entries. If anything comes of this, I’ll let you know. For sure! Otherwise, I’m making sure my premises are high concept premises. At my stage and for what I write, I think a great premise is imperative.

    • You had better let me know, lady. 😆 I’ll hound you until the end of time, if you don’t. My fingers are so crossed for you that they look like shoelaces.

      A great premise is very important when it comes to the business side of things. That’s why many writers are able to sell on a proposal alone.

  3. You will figure it out. I am not short on ideas, but short on getting my lazy ass from the great wide web filled with funny pictures and articles and writing the ideas. I am trying to get the mind frame and it worked for a bit, but then I got sick and swamped with school work. Now it’s NaNo month and I hope to channel that work ethic and energy. 🙂

    • Here’s a tip. 🙂 Nobody will pay you to surf the internet. However, they will pay you for your stories. Keeping that in mind has cut my internet time drastically. That’s why my blogging is so irregular and I have a hard time getting back to people when the email me. Don’t roll your eyes at me. 😆 It won’t take me forever to look over your stuff. I promise. Well…unless I go into labor beforehand. That might be a setback.

      • I know, I know. That is why I changed my priorities and writing comes first thing after my mail & coffee ritual. And don’t worry about reading my stuff. In my mind labour outranks mentoring aspiring authors, so I am quite laid back about that case scenario. The worst that can happen would be to send it as it is and hope that they like it enough. I think that logic-wise it works better, but who knows.

        PS: Did you do the Alien idea and how was the Shower?

        • 😆 It was a no-go on the Alien thing. I had forgotten to get any body paint while I was at the store. *sigh*

          Mail and coffee rituals are very commonplace among writers, so you’re right in the groove. 🙂 Heck, I wish I could have a cup of coffee while I’m in labor, but I’m sure someone will have something to say about it.

          And I still plan on getting to your critque, so don’t count me out just yet. 😉

          • Ah, next time then. *grin*

            Maybe you can ask for coffee through your veins during labor. 😛

            And I trust you will get to it. You are just one heck of a multi-tasker. 🙂 And there is so much time left that I am solely focused on my novel, which is coming along.

      • I was wasting a lot of time surfing the internet. I have cut my blog posts and surfing the net back. I still check out my friends websites and blogs (Hint, Hint), only after I’ve got some serious writing done.

        Disipline and time management are extremely important when you have only a few hours here and there to write or brainstorm in-between other obligations.

        I read a post a few weeks back by Jackie Kessler that was really inspirational. She gets her workout on, five days a week, holds down her day job and takes care of home and family while still managing to pump out her books. Wow!


        • I know exactly what you mean. I’ve done a lot of surfing in my time, so I started making a deal with myself. One hour max and then I’m off to writing. So far, it’s worked. In fact, it’s worked better than I thought because I don’t do as much surfing as I have in the past.

          I’m guessing Jackie Kessler has to be on a strict schedule. BIG kudos to her! I’ve been on a schedule for a long time and it’s help in terms of my writing progress. However, with life about to take a turn–for the better, of course–it’s time to reprioritize. We working writers don’t have much time in the day, so it’s imperative that we make the most of it. 😉

  4. Great post and I cannot wait to hear your good news! Great. 😀 I’ll keep up with up because I already added you on my sidebar. 😀

    Even though I’m trying to sell a novel, I still write short stories so that my name will be noticed when I get into my darker works. 😉

    • I so know what you mean, Tyhitia. Seriously, you have no idea. Let’s just say, I’ve jumped on the short-story bandwagon, too, and leave it at that. I’m trying very hard not to jinx myself. 😀

  5. Some days I’m determined to treat this like a business, and then I fall off the wagon. I really gotta change my mind-set. Even though I’m twice published, I’m having a hard time focusing myself and knuckling down.

    Congrats on achieving that position, Marcia.

    • Thank, hon. 🙂 I’ve always seen you as a chick who’s got it together. So no matter what you say, I’m gonna keep believing that. And considering you’re thinking about writing in the hot UF market right now, I’d say you’re thinking about the business side of it, too, while combining a genre that you obviously love.

      For those of you who don’t know, check out girlfriend’s post at Magical Musings today. 😉

  6. I’m working on the mindset thing. Lately things other than writing have taken up much of my day, and I so miss the time I used to spend at my computer. I’m constantly thinking about my wip and the next story I want to write though, so it’s just a matter of carving out the time – making it a priority somewhere.

    • You want to know something, Robin? I can’t recall who said it or where I was when I had heard it, but thinking about your WIP counts. Even if you’re in the shower or taking a drive, any time you brainstorm about your project, that’s considered working on it. If you think about it, any project we take on (i.e. painting a room), we don’t just jump into it. We carefully plan and think about what we want before we actually put the wet brush to the wall. Writing is no different whether you’re a plotter or a pantser. There’s some amount of thinking that goes on prior. So, rejoice! 🙂

  7. Great post! I totally agree that you have to think of writing as a business but sometimes it sucks the fun out of it. But a true writer is able to balance the love of writing with the business of writing. 🙂

    There are days when it’s harder than others but if publication is where you want to be, you just got to buckle down and do it.

    Happy maternity leave!

    • Very true. Thinking about the business side of things has been known to suck the joy out of many projects in my past. But one thing about the business side of it, is you’ll be happier in the end that you’ve conquered that aspect. It’s called peace of mind, sister. 😀

      And man, I can’t wait for maternity leave. 😆

  8. Like you said, I have to choose where I spend my time on. I really have to prioritize my writing. And sometimes I have to choose what will be late. Like, I’m supposed to write three blurbs for three stories that are going to be released into ebook form. But I can’t, because I need to finish a novella that’s going to bring in immediate cash, LOL.

    Balancing short-term payoffs and long-term payoffs has always been a struggle for me.

    • *raising hand for immediate cash* 😆

      I know what you mean. When it comes to writing, I’ve never seen a job where balancing is a more common occurance than breathing. The only thing you can do is figure out which has the greatest return to you and let everything else fall in place. That’s the only way I know how to manage all of the projects on my plate.

      Hang in there, hon. 🙂

  9. Awwwww… and she doesn’t again, bugging my house, aren’t you?

    You couldn’t have written this at a better time for me. I actually went and listened to my–very low quality-video where I heard Kim Harrison say that quote for the first time “Write like you already have the contract.”

    I did it for a while, but I was losing my way. My mind was so focused elsewhere that I was writing very little. That changed about 2 weeks ago, when I started writing like a happy crazy person again 😀

    So how have I started writing “like I already have the contract?” I have set deadlines for myself. I have stopped giving my fiction away for free. I’m using my time in wiser ways. I’ve been reminding myself that this is might not be a business now, but I could get it there, if I work hard enough. So I’m working as hard as I can to make my love for writing into the coolest business, ever!

    Thanks Marcia, Melissa, and of course Kim.

    Now, I better get back to work 😉

    • Bug? What bug? 😉

      I’m glad you’re in the “contract writing” mode. The great thing about this is when you and a contract, you’ll already be in the groove and very little will come at a surprise. Not only that, but it gives you the time you need to focus on your writing that has probably been deprived for too long. I’m betting that’s why you’re back in your happy-crazy mode.

      And while I know there are many authors who are in favor of freebies because it gains them a new audience, at this particular time in my career, I can’t spend time writing free stories to give away on my website when I need to be pushing sellable stories to my publishers who have more far-reaching hands than I do. Someday I’ll give away freebies to gain new fans, but not now.

  10. Great post, Marcia. I’ve been thinking along these lines over the last few weeks. I’m in a holding pattern on my fiction at the moment, but I plan to get past some projects and back in the swing of things. I’ll definitely begin writing like I have that contract. Good food for thought.

    • Hey Christina! You certainly can’t go wrong by thinking along those lines. If anything, it gets you prepared for when you do. And I have no doubts that you will need it. Enjoy the holding pattern, and fingers crossed there are some cool ideas brewing in the process. 🙂

  11. Hi Marcia,

    I wasn’t going to comment on this – in fact, I’d gone away and came back to do it – because I don’t in any way want to sound discouraging, but I felt like I should say it anyway…

    I’m a writer (mainly for TV) with two small children, and what you said about maternity leave giving you more time to write struck me with some force.

    Our first child was easy, relatively, and we certainly thought we’d learned all the lessons we needed to deal with a second. We were wrong. I knew exactly how I was going to use the time after our second was born. Seven months later I’ve missed a lot of deadlines (my own, not any for other people, those I’ve hit).

    You say a child can’t cry 24/7? Well, if they have reflux, colic, or any sort of digestive issue they can give it a good try. And they only need to sleep in two or three hour bursts before they start again. And that’s before you start getting your head around sterilising things, lots of exciting new hormones, and what it’s like having a new person living in your house.

    I guess my concern is that you don’t put too much pressure on yourself to make the first few months of your baby’s life a time of great creative output. It may be, it may well be, but babies often haven’t got that memo.

    Absolutely use the time in as productive a way as you want, but if you find what you’ve actually achieved doesn’t look or feel like what you set out to achieve, don’t see that as a failure. A lot of things are going to happen that are beyond your control, and structuring stories can be tough on two or three hours’ sleep.

    My advice? (Not that you asked or need it) Take advantage of what time you can to do the work you want to do, but don’t set targets for a while. Or, at least, let the target be: coping with today…

    I wish you all the best in your great adventure, and hope that I don’t sound like I’m encouraging you not to do the things you want to do. I’m not. I’m just asking you, please, not to be too hard on yourself if it doesn’t turn out that way.

    Have fun!

    • Hi Nathaniel,

      Thanks for stopping by! And I appreciate everything you had to say, too. 🙂 Believe it or not, the only target I’m setting for myself is to get some writing done. Beyond that, there isn’t much of a plan. While I hope to get this and that done, I know once I see that cute little face looking back at me–sad, happy, mad doesn’t matter–it’s a done deal. Writing immediately goes to the bottom of the list. Knowing me, she won’t be able to sleep with me constantly watching over her to make sure she’s real and I’m not dreaming. I can’t wait to hear those little snores and feel her tiny breaths against my face.

      I firmly believe in taking are of myself in the process, too. The way I look at it, if I’m not healthy, there’s no way I can be there for my baby. I know writers who work on 2 or 3 hours of sleep to get their writing in, but that’s so not me. If I have 2 or 3 hours to spear between the colic and the reflux, I’ll be using it to reenergize. Otherwise, my creativity takes a hit. So again, writing takes a back seat. While I’m good at time management when it comes to fitting writing into my schedule, like you said, Little Bit didn’t get the memo and won’t care when it comes to her dirty diaper or next meal. I am so okay with that. 😀 Plotting, characterization, revisions. All of that will come when it comes. No pressure whatsoever.

      I’ve waited too long and invested too much for this day to come. Call me crazy, but I’m looking forward to meeting the little munchkin who’s been “roasting” inside my belly and stretching it to its limit over the last night months. In fact, she’s due to make an appearance any day now and I coudn’t be happier. Maybe I’ll be able to tell if it was really her butt sticking up almost every time the doctor measured my stomach. Nowadays, I can’t even walk by her room without stopping and smiling, wondering what it’ll be like when she’s tucked away in her crib. I know she’s going to enrich my life in a way that writing never could and I’m looking forward to it. 😀

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