Category Archives: Starting a Career

Investments of Time, Capital and Ego

The hobbyist writer creates for their own enjoyment and satisfaction. They write the story they feel driven to tell and will sometimes share it with a few close friends and family. Most professional writers start at this point. However, if you want to make a living from your writing, you must take the commitment a step further and start a small business. This means dealing with contracts and finance, being involved in all stages of the production process and comporting oneself in a professional manner whenever in public. I know, I just sucked all the romance from being a professional writer. Honestly, I wish that someone had taken off my rose colored glasses and forced me to don the business hat long before I did. You see, only the writer-as-businessman point of view provides the tools and perspective to create a meaningful career.

Creating stories is both a profession and a trade; writers generate and exploit intellectual property. Therefore, starting a writing business must be approached with the same thoughtfulness regarding initial investment and training as one would give to starting any other commercial enterprise. Would you ever consider opening a bakery without first buying ovens and ingredients? No. Could an aspiring doctor be successful without any sort of medical training? Of course not. Why then, do people expect writing to be different? Typically, the first batch of money goes into whatever is going to generate revenue; it is why many small businesses start in someone’s garage or kitchen. In the case of writing, the money maker is the writer’s skills and public image.

First, the writer must have some physical means of recording their thoughts in a way that can be transmitted to others. The specifics vary for each individual, based on their own experience and preferences. Some prefer direct entry into a laptop, while others prefer to write in a notebook, and yet others, like myself, prefer to dictate. I’d recommend experimenting with a few methods and then using what works for you. For many years, I only typed my stories out manually, but eventually bought Dragon Naturally Speaking. The text-to-speech feature helped a great deal with my editing, but dictating in front of my computer resulted in only a slight improvement in my rate of text generation. The problem was that I still spent too much time editing to realize the true benefits of dictation. I later took the advice of a writer I greatly respect and purchased a digital recorder to do my initial drafting. After training Dragon to do the transcription, my initial productivity has jumped significantly. By experimenting with my methodology, I was able to see significant gains.

The second thing the writer must invest in is their skills and craft. Sure, there are countless seminars, craft books, and online tutorials that promise to make you an international best seller, for a price. There are also excellent degree programs and teachers willing to pass on knowledge. They all help, but no amount of studying will allow a writer to entirely bypass years of practice. Investing in one’s craft means being brutally honest with yourself or having people who are willing to dispel your delusions for you. It means being able to think and consume critically about every piece of media you interact with on a daily basis. It means forcing yourself to write new material and edit old manuscripts until they are the best they can be, and then having the courage to let go of a piece and show your work to others. At some point, you will be disillusioned and despairing; internal and external voices will insist that you are wasting your time. That is the moment that you should know that what you are doing is meaningful. A writer’s craft can only be improved by investing and risking their time, pride, and effort. Without struggle and pain, there is no improvement, only stagnation.

The final element a writer must be willing to invest in is their persona. Readers will often become a fan of an author rather than a specific property, allowing the creative professional to maintain an audience from project to project. This realization has caused many contemporary authors to spend as much time on their own personal branding and networking as they do on an individual story. As an example, soon after donning my business hat, I hired someone to do both my graphics and web design for I realized that I had no talent there and so hired out. I have invested time in maintaining my presence on, here on the Fictorians and on my Facebook page. All these things take time away from writing my stories, but the investments have paid off through the networks of professionals and support structures I have built. Likewise, I have spent thousands of dollars on conventions, and have even gone so far as purchasing a specific set of clothes that I wear when making professional appearances. By creating a “look,” I have made myself clearly identifiable and memorable in a way that fits with my other branding efforts. It is time and money up front, but I’m gambling that the investments will pay off later.

I have many things demanding my physical, mental, and temporal resources. Whenever I make an investment as the writer, it is with a clear goal in mind. Though I am still in the investment stage, I always am looking forward. I will be a professional writer some day, making my sole living through my art. It took a series of small hints from a number of different sources to guide me onto the path of professionalism. In order to build a successful business, I must invest wisely and with purpose.

My Writing Journey

A guest post by Monique Bucheger.

The journey of becoming a writer and/or a published author is different for everyone who does it. My journey began in high school when my creative writing teacher, Mrs. Johnson, encouraged me to transfer the stories in my head to paper. This endeavor started out as multiple class assignments and quickly turned into a love of storytelling. I wrote a lot of short stories in high school and then branched out into larger works.

Shortly before I turned 18, my husband proposed and I agreed to marry him. Everyone wished us well, except my creative writing teacher. She shook her head and said, “You are too smart to get married so young.” When I asked her what that meant, she sighed and said, “If you get married now, you’ll have a bunch of kids, but you won’t write the books that you need to write.”I assured her that I could do both.

Twenty-two years later, I had twelve kids (and am very grateful to have them) and no books, and was (and am) still married to the same man. Then one day, Mrs. Johnson’s son went up in the Space Shuttle Endeavour, and I started thinking about her more. In return, she began haunting me (she had died a couple years before). After I kept hearing her ask, “So, when are you going to write those books, Monique?” I decided it was time to keep my promise to her.

I remembered a fun, spirited twelve-year-old half-orphan I had created as a tween. Before long, I started writing her story. Then I wrote more of her story. And I kept right on writing. My “story” took on a life of its own until I had a book the size of four novels—which I broke into three.

Then the real work began. I exchanged chapter critiques with other writers and realized that simply writing 300 pages of a story didn’t make it readable and publishable. I met amazing people who took the time to explain what I was doing wrong—and right—with my storytelling and I learned the value of both editing your book until it shines and hiring a good editor to make it even better.

I found people like David Farland, an internationally best-selling author, who is also a wonderful teacher. His love of story and his knowledge on how to craft a great story is inspiring. Dave is open and approachable and willing to help those who ask. He has several online classes as well as weeklong workshops.

Life experience, interests, passions, and hobbies also have great bearing on how and what an author chooses to write. The years I didn’t write, I devoted to my family and became a foster mother to over 100 kids.

Now I write realistic fiction—think Judy Blume or Beverly Cleary—two of my literary heroes. The four published books in my “Ginnie West Adventure ” middle-grade series deal with tough subjects like child abuse, abandonment, being orphaned, and alcoholism in uplifting and empowering ways. It also deals with other subjects important to kids: friends, family, fitting in, figuring out how the world works, horses, finding acceptance, and other assorted adventures.  I like to think the series does so with a bit of humor and grace.

I want abused kids—and the people who care about them—to make sense of a world they’d rather not live in and to realize certain things are not their fault. Most importantly, I want kids to know they have power to change things. Choosing how you react to an event—good or bad—is powerful. And whether you let it defeat you or strengthen you can be life-changing.

The truth is, real life can be messy and it can be hard. It can also be fun, invigorating, exciting, and full of wonder. I try to embrace each of these elements—and more—in each book I write. Recently—I have met several readers who have told me that my series has influenced them in a positive way.

Formerly abused kids (who are now adults) have found comfort in my series. Mothers have shared with me that they have read my series with their kids and had meaningful conversations about how child abuse happens and what it means to be a good friend—both subjects I deal with in my series in an age appropriate way.

Last month three different tween girls told me they love the relationship between my main characters, Ginnie and Tillie—fun-loving BFFs who are trying to figure out this thing called life—together, in spite of being tossed some pretty crazy plot twists. The girls really care about Ginnie and Tillie and want to know what will happen to them.

Not long ago, a friend devoured my first three books in two days and informed me, “You know the Wests are family now, don’t you? I love them.” It is during these moments I find validation and strength in my decision to become a published author … and these moments are why I keep writing.


Guest Writer Bio: When Monique Bucheger isn’t writing, you can find her playing taxi driver to one or more of her 12 children, plotting her next novel, scrapbooking, or being the “Mamarazzi” at any number of child-oriented events. Even though she realizes there will never be enough hours in any given day, Monique tries very hard to enjoy the journey that is her life. She shares it with a terrific husband, her dozen children, a son-in-law, an adorable granddaughter, two cats, and many real and imaginary friends. She is the author of several books and plans to write many more. Monique’s Musings can be found at:



believe-ticketI had a long list to think about when presented with this month’s theme: The Greatest Gift I’ve Received as a Writer. Numerous people have helped me along my chosen path, giving me the kind of gifts you don’t buy with money, but with time. There have been a lot of conventions and seminars, paid for from our family budget in lieu of my birthday or Mother’s Day presents, which have influenced my direction as a writer. But the most recent gift I’ve received, and the most touching, has been the support from friends, fans, family, and even strangers in supporting my recent Kickstarter project to publish Noble Ark.  Not because of the money.

The gift of friendship: The fact that within minutes of announcing the project, I had my first two backers, both of whom pledged for the highest-cost items, left me dumbfounded. Both people are friends and fellow-writers, I don’t think either cared about the reward, but they wanted to support my efforts and jumped at the opportunity to do all they could. I have amazing colleagues and friends.

The gift of fans: One of my beta readers has become particularly encouraging about my work. Not only did she pledge for the Kickstarter, wanting all the books in the series when it’s finished, but she also asked if she could do preliminary editing. She reads a lot, and the fact that she considers my books to be among the best she’s ever read, let’s just say, I feel the love.

Family and the Widow’s Mite: Of course, my family stepped in, and some of my family members contributed in huge ways.  The amounts didn’t matter, but I know that some of them have very tight budgets right now. My children could have waited until the books were finished, buying  them at cost, but didn’t. My oldest son, living in the Ukraine, found the Kickstarter and donated funds he didn’t have. My oldest daughter, in college, threw in funds as well (though I’m not sure if that means it was her money, scholarship money, or my own money coming back to me). Perhaps the most touching, my twelve year old spent the last $7 in her spending-money account–and she doesn’t get much–to show her support. I can’t easily express my reverent appreciation for the people who sacrificed, despite their difficult economic challenges, to show me encouragement. I’m in awe.

Strangers: One of the funnest aspects of the Kickstarter was having total strangers contribute, sometimes finding me on fb and asking to join my fan page. How cool is that? I’m eager for the opportunity to put my book in their hands, hoping they’ll love what they read as much as I love writing it. They give me hope that someday my writing can reach beyond my small circle of friends and family, and be read by people around the world.

The best gift of all that came from my Kickstarter was not the funding, but the belief in myself and the path I’m pursuing. Isn’t that what Christmas is all about? As they say in The Polar Express,  “BELIEVE.”

Sit Down and Shut Up

I admit it. I’m a slacker. I have no discipline in my life. It practically takes an act of Congress to get me to do my dishes. I’d rather sit around and spend my days swimming through a sea of imagination. Whether reading books, watching movies, or daydreaming, I’m not big on the real world, and as I live alone, I don’t have anyone around to tell me I can’t. But, that doesn’t help me get the stories in my head out. It doesn’t help me get to the next level.

Oh, I could just wait for inspiration, or that terrible urgent need that comes along that makes me write because, if I don’t, my head will explode. That happens, but not often enough to produce any complete story with any speed. I have friends who do that. Who complain that they can’t finish anything because they had “writers block” or they’re living with world-builder’s disease.

My particular demons aren’t original. I get knocked down often by periodic depression. I get  mired in the difficulties of trying to construct a plot from the myriad wonderful moments I’ve concocted in my head and often like a complete failure. I forget how much I love writing. But I’ve learned the best thing for it is to keep plodding along. Even when I’m not feeling it. Even when I’d rather be reading that new book I bought. Even when I know the scene I’m writing is complete crap and will probably get cut in the next revision. It doesn’t matter. Every crappy line is one step closer to the good stuff. Every cliche is one sentence out of the sludge that keeps me down.

I’ve said it before on this site, and I will probably say it again and again. The only way to truly defeat the nagging doubts, the distracting delays, the fear that the story will never be ready, or whatever the current issue that keeps the story locked away where no one can read it, is to plant my butt in the chair and keep writing.

So, whenever I get a little lost or down or frustrated, I remind myself that no one is making me write. If I’m having trouble, it’s my own damn fault. I might feel as if writing, when I’m especially inspired, is a need rather than a want, but like the doubts that eventually creep in, that’s really just in my head. Thus, it’s up to me to get over whatever is holding me back. It’s a heady and terrifying thing to think about. It’s also easy to forget.

But even when I do forget, eventually, my inner critic slaps me in face and shouts at me to sit down, shut up, and write. This ridiculous story isn’t going to write itself.