Pull back the curtain and see how a suspense writer puts the thrills and chills together.


IWSG: Spinning in Circles

Hello Insecure Writing friends (and wonderful readers),

Does anyone else feel like they’re on a sadistic merry-go-round?

Mine looks like this…

1. I get a writing-related job to support my dream of being a full-time author

2. The writing-related job minimizes any chance of my dream coming true, because it consumes all my time, energy, and creativity

3. I leave the job to focus on being a full-time author

4. Circumstances or need result in my taking on a different writing-related role

5. Rinse and repeat

If the Dan Brown Project  taught me anything, it’s that I really enjoy being a full-time author. That may seem obvious, but when I’d attempted full-time authorship before, the lack of social contact was a struggle for me. I got lonely; I got sad; I felt like there were no tangible results of my work — yes, I was writing and publishing books, but if no one read them or cared (that’s what I believed back then) — what was the point?

This time was different, and one month was definitely not long enough. But once you’re reliant on another form of income, it’s not easy to simply walk away, especially in these ultra-uncertain times.

Being a full-time author is not an unattainable dream. I know too many of them to believe their lives are a fantasy created by writers who just want to sell us expensive courses. I do waffle on which way is best to get to the top of that mountain. Indie publishing? Trad publishing? Trad with an agent? Hybrid?

Whichever way you go, one thing is certain: it takes time. A lot of time. And energy. And creativity. All of which a writing-related job insidiously steals from you.

Any advice for me? How did you make your full-time writing dreams come true? (Retirement funds won’t help me much at this point, I’m afraid.) Or, if you’re in the same leaky Viking ship, how do you protect your writing time/energy/creativity?

One more question: I’m hoping to finally offer some of my own writing, public relations and/or marketing courses soon. Which topic(s) would most interest you?

PS: Speaking of spinning in circles, I’ve fallen behind in blog comments again (September was brutal), but will catch up this month. Thanks for your patience.

Insecure Writers Support Group Badge

The purpose of the Insecure Writers’ Support Group is to share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds. To see a full list of IWSG authors, click here.

1 part newsletter, 1 part unnerving updates,
2 parts sneak peeks of new projects.


  1. Randee

    Taking writing related jobs is how I’ve made a living for my whole career. I’d always written stories and novels, but never had the nerve/time/whatever to move forward in the publishing process. My goal now is to hopefully dial back the former while increasing the latter, but publishing pays *peanuts* compared to writing-related jobs (for me, that means articles for print and online). Seriously: It’s considered terrific to make SFWA rates at .08 cents a word; I routinely make ten times that for the articles, which take less time than fiction to work through the process.

    Still, fiction is of the heart, and so I’ve continued pursuing it. It’s just not remunerative, and may never be. You’re much further along in that area than I am so it’s about balancing paying bills, and feeling like you’re doing what you’re on this earth to do. The trick is to find that balance. And to that end, take the writing jobs that pay the best, so you can “buy back” your time for the fiction. Try to avoid the rest of the poorly-paid noise, if your expenses will allow it. That’s how I look at it. Good luck! For what it’s worth, I think you’re doing really well!

  2. Toi Thomas

    Your post brings up a good point. Is there a difference between being a full-time writer or writing full-time and or being a working writer? I feel like a lot of full-time writers also perform other writer-related roles, but I get the desire to be able to just write and still pay your bills. I almost feel like the only writers who just write are celebrity writers (like Stephen King), but I know that’s not true (just feels true sometimes).

  3. Rebecca Douglass

    I wonder if it would work better to take some kind of job that doesn’t involve much creativity at all. Would that leave more for the fiction writing? Low-level jobs that you just leave at the door when you go home definitely seem better than career-oriented jobs that want to consume your life. I just don’t now how the economics of that work out.

  4. Alex J. Cavanaugh

    Writing is a side income for me and I’m afraid I wouldn’t want the pressure of doing it full time.
    For a course, anything on marketing right now would be good.

    • Lisa S.

      Life is one big juggling act, trying to keep all the balls in the air, hey?
      I like your idea of the marketing, writing, PR courses…which hopefully could bring in some good income once you’ve established them. Also, maybe speaking engagements/professional speaker opportunities? You’ve had such an interesting life and there’s so much you could share with your writing, travels and life to motivate and inspire people.

  5. L. Diane Wolfe

    Multiple sources of income is the key. I can’t make it just as a writer, but add publisher, speaker, coach, instructor, and book formatter to the list and I can do it.

  6. Loni Townsend

    I’ve known a few people who have ended up with the same catch-22 as you. I think one guy had to partner up with other writers and pump out three or four books a month before he left behind writing for others.

    • CD Gallant-King

      Life is a roller coaster of ups and downs. Good stuff happens, bad stuff happens. Nothing is ever consistent.

      On a related note, the people I know which make a living as independent authors seem to spend more time on the business aspects than the writing, which I suppose makes sense. I guess that’s where agents and publishers came from in the first place, so the artist could focus on the art.

  7. C. Lee McKenzie

    I guess my suggestion is to just live long enough and either save your money during your working years or find a job with an excellent retirement plan. I think you’ve done very well based on your posts from the past.

  8. Mary Aalgaard

    I took a note from you and started being more regular about my writing time, and protecting it. I don’t get up super early, but I do write every morning. My favorite place for inspiration is on my deck. It’s beautiful out there right now with the fall colors. But, I’m in Minnesota, so those days are numbered. I cleaned up my office, so that has become a good space for writing. When I’m stuck, I journal. You can do it. You are already on a roll! Looking forward to the next Ghost Writers book!!!

  9. Mark Murata

    Since you’re writing experiences are at a higher level than mine, I can’t give advice. I would like to have your sort of dilemmas, though.

  10. Patricia Josephine

    It’s tough, isn’t it? I blame those pesky bills that demand to be paid. And needing to do things like eat. I wish I could give an awesome answer that would help you, but I got nothing. Sorry.

  11. Steph W

    One hour at a time until I am independently wealthy 🙂

  12. Samantha J Bryant

    I do this part time, alongside a teaching life. I set some really hard boundaries on my teaching life to make it work, and I switched to teaching Spanish to middle schoolers instead of English to high schoolers to cut the assessment load and stop pulling from the same part of my heart that writing pulls from. I’ve thought about it, but I don’t think I’d want a writing-related day job. If everything I’m doing pulls from the same well within me, that well will run dry.

  13. Lisa

    I agree with C. Lee in that you seem to have done very well before. I love your novels and blog. I too, wish to have writing be my only source but am still waiting for that opportunity.

  14. Donna Hanton

    I am soooo not in a place to give advice on this! I understand what you mean though, as when I started writing my first (awful, long-dead) book, I was working full time, and the writing always came last.

  15. Allie Bock

    I love reading your books! I dont have any advice for you on how to balance a writing job with being an author. But I do wish you the best of luck!


  16. Diane Burton

    Protect your writing time. Carve out an hour or 2 (or whatever you can afford), then only do the writing you dream about. Once your time is up, go on to that job that pays the bills, etc. Talk to Nancy Gideon (one of our IWSG) about how she managed both. I was fortunate to have a spouse who encouraged me go after my dream and helped me fund it.

  17. Shannon Lawrence

    I tried taking jobs that should have required little mental/creative energy, but they always seemed to expand to take up that energy, which meant the writing suffered. In other words, I haven’t found the right answer yet. Right now it’s school and writing. After that, I’ll try just writing for a bit, but I always end up going back to work, too. Hoping having a business degree makes it less soul draining work when the time comes.


    I think it would be hard for me to have a day job that involves creative writing, then go home and try to write my own novels. Best of luck to you.

  19. Liesbet

    A timely post on exactly how MUCH time it takes to become a successful/published/dedicated/… writer. You have come such a long way with all this, JH! And, you know there’s no easy answer, as you’ve tried a bunch of things to make being a full-time Author happen.

    Based on your post, it almost seems like finding a hands-on (physically instead of mentally taxing) job for a while instead of a writing-related job might be a nice change. Your mind will not have to focus as much, freeing space up for creativity needed in your capacity as an author and it might pay the bills?

    Not that I’m a full-time author (except to get this darn memoir published), but you know my trick: spend less money somehow. 🙂

  20. Ralitsa

    Honestly, I can’t imagine being a full time autor. I love writing, I’ts my passion and what I do best, but having a writing related job that pays my bills (and buys me new dresses haha) gives me a sence of security. Also, I need dead lines – they make my more organized. And, I’d like to know how do you manage your time as a full time author?


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.