Can I Afford To Be A Writer?

Now there’s something I hadn’t considered much before. A post on Facebook recently by a lovely lady I consider to be a massive success really made me think. She is a fabulous writer and I presume she sells shedloads of books, yet she has financial problems and is as worried about money as I am.

This made me look at the writers I know through social media and the amazing fact is that most of them have other jobs. There isn’t a single Barbara Cartland among them. No lying on a chaise longue, eating chocolates and dictating to a willing secretary for any of them. There goes my cunning plan!

Seriously, though, I have known for a long time that writing isn’t something you do for the money. Unless you are a mega-selling author the chances are that you will have to keep on with the day job or prepare to live hand-to-mouth. It’s not the profession I fondly imagined in my youth, when the word “writer” conjured up the image of someone like Enid Blyton or the Pullein-Thompsons, living in the country, surrounded by ponies, attending country fairs and gymkhanas, eating cucumber sandwiches while chatting to the local vicar and patting the children on the head before sending them off to their governess or nanny so I could get on with the writing.  Sigh. Fact is, writing is something many people fit in between heading off to do their dreary “proper” job, cleaning the house, doing the supermarket dash, dropping the kids off at school and walking the dog. It’s a wonder any writing gets done at all, particularly when writers also have to Tweet, Facebook, blog and Pinterest to make sure they are actually known to anyone outside their own neighbourhoods.

I get that, and I accept it. What worries me the most, though, is can I actually afford to be a writer? I don’t mean in the sense of earning money. I mean, in the sense of paying out. I follow a lot of writers on social network sites and they are constantly discussing sending off their manuscripts for proof-reading, line editing, editing (I have no idea what the difference in all these things is by the way!) Then, if they choose to self-publish, they also have to pay out for formatting and cover design. All of this costs money. Editors, designers etc are skilled people and, quite rightly, they charge for their services. The question is, how does someone like me, with an income barely above the minimum wage and a monthly rent to pay that is over half of that, find the extra cash to pay for these services?

How can I send a novel to a publisher or agent without having it checked first? And if I can’t afford to do that I am truly stuck. Also, if I chose to self-publish I would still need an editor because no way would I want to unleash an error-ridden piece of work on a truly horrified public. And there is the mystery of cover design. I know it’s possible to do it yourself, but I don’t really have the technical savvy to do that.

How do other writers manage? I appreciate that some of them have better salaries than I do, but there must be others out there who struggle? How do they pay for all these services? Is there a secret I know nothing about?

If anyone knows the answers, send them on a postcard please – or better yet, just leave a comment!

Have a great week xx

The Dog’s Bollocks by Lynda Renham

This book was previously published with the title : The Valentine Present and Other Diabolical Liberties.

I started reading this just before I went on holiday and ended up taking it with me as I just had to finish it. It really is a very funny book, full of extremely likeable characters.
Harriet, the heroine, is a down-to-earth, ordinary girl, caught up in the most extraordinary set of circumstances that take her from life in a launderette, living in a flat in a rather dubious area with her boyfriend, Julian, to a country house in Scotland with a wardrobe full of designer clothes and an aristocratic fiance.
Unfortunately for Harriet, the fiance is as unreliable and unappealing as her boyfriend, and the only man who really floats her boat is Brice, cousin of the fiance, who is immediately suspicious of her motives and suspects that things are not what they seem.
Well, he got that right. Harriet desperately tries to cope with a trio of comical gangsters, a murdered goldfish, how to master clay pigeon shooting in one easy lesson and a boyfriend who may be missing one – or several – body parts, all the while fighting off her increasing attraction to Brice while trying to breathe in her designer corset. With the help of her best friend Fiona, she may just be able to pull this off. But with one of the gangsters missing, presumed dead, a jealous ex-girlfriend on the scene, a wily grandmother on the case and a fake engagement party to attend, things are not going to be resolved that easily.
This is a laugh-out-loud romp, easy-to-read, fast-moving, with a lovely heroine, a very appealing hero and a supporting cast of interesting characters. I would recommend it to anyone looking for a romantic comedy, with the emphasis on comedy!  5/5

Click here to buythe dog's bollocks

Feeling the Fear

When I opened the blinds this morning, what did I see? Clear blue skies and brilliant sunshine? Nope, that was yesterday. What I saw today was a dull grey sky and a street that looked decidedly gloomy. Was I surprised? Not in the slightest. You see, tomorrow I am heading off on holiday, so it was inevitable that the weather would change. I have warned everyone I know to stock up with wellies, pac-a-macs, umbrellas and to put away the suntan lotion. Summer is officially over. Sharon is going on holiday.

Seriously, I have looked at the weather forecast for the area we are going to and the prognosis isn’t as bad as I feared. There will be one day of sunshine and showers. The other days are expected to be cooler but dry. No sign of sunshine but at least any paddling we do will have to be in the sea, not down the street. I can live with that.

Frankly, I can’t get away fast enough. I am really hoping that all the fresh air will knock me out and finally mean I get some sleep each night. I am really getting fed up of waking up three or four times during the night, to lay there with all these worries and anxieties running through my mind, only to fall asleep about half an hour before the dratted alarm goes off.

September is a massive month for me. I have sent my novel to be critiqued which is truly scary, having never let anyone read it before. I have a wedding coming up – well, a civil partnership. My daughter and her partner are getting spliced and as mother of one of the brides, I am giving her away. As someone who hides from any kind of limelight (I know, you’d never guess, right?) this is a really agonizing prospect. I am very proud to do the honours, but the thought of all those people watching fills me with dread. Although, really, that’s one massive ego trip right there. I mean, who’s going to care about me when they see my beautiful daughter and her partner in their gorgeous wedding dresses? I have never been to a civil partnership ceremony before so that will be interesting, but even so, I admit, I have butterflies every time I think about it.

I also have my driving test in September. Dear God, even seeing those words in print makes me sweat. I am truly terrified and I simply can’t imagine being able to remember how to even start the dratted car up under the beady stare of the examiner. My lovely instructor keeps telling me that they’re all human and that they want me to pass. Of course, she is lying. She does it beautifully but far too often. She is always telling me I’m “fab” and that “you can do this!” She is the most positive person I know.  Sometimes, I wish I could have her sitting on my shoulder like Jiminy Cricket.

I have also got to deal with the fact that my first night out with the girls from work is looming, and as someone who has battled a form of social phobia for nearly thirty years, this isn’t something to be trite about, believe me.  As we made our final menu choices and brought in deposits yesterday I could feel my stomach churning with nerves. It’s all getting frighteningly real, and it’s not like I only have one night out to deal with. In my impulsive desire to grow, move on, change, embrace my new “fiftydom” I rashly signed up for three nights out! Sometimes I think I’m actually trying to give myself a nervous breakdown.

Then, at the end of the month, I move back in with DH after a whole ten months apart, and to be honest, that is the thing that is scaring me the most. We have both changed a lot in the last year. We have developed new interests, made new friends, lived more or less separate lives. What if it all goes wrong? What if we can’t stand to be in each other’s pockets again? What if, what if, what if…

Writers are always encouraged to think about the “what ifs”. That would be fine if I could just switch it on for the writing process, but I do it all the time in my life and I am constantly being told that I think too much.  How do you switch your brain off so that you can actually wind down and get some sleep? How do you silence the little voice that’s telling you it’s all going to go horribly wrong?

I once read a book by Susan Jeffers called Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway. It is a very positive book aimed at making you acknowledge that some things are going to scare you, but determine that it’s not going to stop you from doing them all the same. Somewhere in my subconscious I must have stored that book away, because at the grand age of fifty I seem to be breaking out of my comfort zone and pushing the boundaries. Is that a bad thing? A work colleague of mine, who is in her mid sixties and recently had a hip replacement, is auditioning for The Chase  this week, because she fancies Bradley Walsh and thinks it would be a laugh. She has also just signed up for a charity sky dive. I kid you not. Another colleague, in her early sixties, goes gliding. They make me look like the most timid, boring person ever. If they can face up to The Chaser and even take to the skies, surely I can deal with a critique, a driving test, a wedding, a night out and a house move? I can do this. Can’t I?

I’m off to Cornwall and you know what? I’m going to explore, laugh, paddle and scoff cream teas and pasties and put all this out of my head for seven glorious (though probably not weather-wise) days. The fear can wait till I get back – because, “what if” it all goes right and everything turns out perfectly? Now there’s a thought …

Have a great week xx