Ten years ago today I quit my day job.
Money had been saved, a novel was in the drawer, and my tech job was winding down. So I said, “Hey, I wanna work at home in my pajamas.”
For the first month, however, I got up, put on real clothes, and worked from nine to five. I was afraid of turning into a Howard-Hughes-like guy wandering around with Kleenex boxes on my feet. But after a month I got an agent, and after five I had a two-book deal (paying a whopping $9,000), so I did relax a little.
I’ve been crunching the numbers for that ten years, and here are the results.
Novels published under my own name: 13
Powerpuff Girls choose-your-own adventures (also under my name): 3
Goosebumps ghost-written: 5
Legal thrillers ghost-written: 1
Short stories published: 6
Essays published: 3
Interviews published: 1
Years before I made enough to write only as me: 8
Total ghost-written words: 240,000
Total words published under my own name: 1,015,000
That last statistic just curls my hair. It comes out to 100,000 words a year, which even with the ghost writing is only about 300 words a day. Still, there’s rewriting too, you know. And page proofs. Research. Thinking. Sick days.
And here are some things I realized:
1. Writing part-time is like going out with somebody; writing full-time is like living with them. It’s not just that you write more . . . your whole relationship to writing changes. For example, when writing has moved in and doesn’t pick its socks up off the floor, it’s not cute anymore, just hateful. But on the other hand, you know writing in ways you couldn’t have otherwise.
2. Writing too many books in one year = shingles. And you do not want shingles.
3. I crossed the million-word mark when Specials came out, and that was my first book to make the NY Times bestseller list. So that’s the rule, I guess.
4. Living with another writer totally rocks, even if it means you can’t leave your socks on the floor.
5. It’s worth it to pay for your own author photos, so you can look as silly as you want:
Credit: Samantha Jones, who in all fairness said I should take off the sunglasses
Ah yes, there’s one other thing that happened in that ten years . . .
Yesterday and today I wrote the first 1,427 words of Leviathan, my next trilogy, set in alternative-history airship heaven!* It’s really fun, and I can’t wait to write another million words. (But no shingles, dammit!)
*Book 1 comes out September 2007, so don’t be holding your breath. In the meantime, The Last Days comes out September 2006, and will get me up to 1,090,000 words.
101 thoughts on “A Decade of Freelance”
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