Challenge,  On Writing,  publishing,  workshops

What Does It Take to Be a Full Time Writer?

What Does It Take To Be A Full Time Writer?

I’ll talk about that question below.


The Day

Meetings from 1:30 until around 5:30 at WMG offices.

I also got my long-awaited three volumes of Smith’s Monthly paper editions into the office. (Delayed at the printer.) They will be going out to subscribers together in a day or so, as soon as we get them all packed up.  Wonderful fun to see all three issues together like that, and looks like the next three will show up together as well in about a month, then we will be back on a regular monthly basis.

Went home for a short nap, then off to dinner with some writer friends. Wonderful time. Hadn’t seen two of them in a dozen years or so. Just like no time had passed. Except we had to have the standard old-people medical conversation that happens among people who have managed to survive past 65. (grin)

Then home to do e-mail, then I worked for a time with Kris on part of the challenge I am doing. I’m going to add in a level of exercise as well with an end goal of four months. I can handle four months. I can almost remember stuff for four months. (grin)

So now it’s about 3:30 a.m. and I am going to go start a new novel. I’ll report that progress tomorrow night. And yes, I  know I am planning on a short story per day starting on Friday, but this is only Wednesday.


New Workshops Announced

In August, Writing Mystery and Reader Expectations workshops will start. Taking sign-ups now. Got a hunch both of them might fill.

All July workshops have room and will start next week. All are limited to five writers max. Some of the July workshops, because of the time of great forgetting, only have one person in them and a few of them have no one signed up yet.

I am putting up here the August workshop schedule as well since those seem to be fitting people’s schedules better and we are taking sign-ups for them. Two new workshops are bolded.

All details at

Class #1… July 5th … Author Voice
Class #2… July 5th … How to Write Thrillers
Class #3… July 5th … Adding Suspense to Your Writing
Class #4… July 5th … Plotting With Depth
Class #5… July 5th … Character Development
Class #6… July 6th … Depth in Writing
Class #7… July 6th … Advanced Character and Dialog
Class #8… July 6th … Cliffhangers
Class #9… July 6th … Pacing Your Novel
Class #10… July 6th … Teams in Fiction

Class #11… Aug 2nd … The Business of Writing
Class #12… Aug 2nd … Expectations (Writing on the Rails)
Class #13… Aug 2nd … Writing Mysteries
Class #14… Aug 2nd … Ideas into Stories
Class #15… Aug 2nd … Teams in Fiction
Class #16… Aug 3rd … Depth in Writing
Class #17… Aug 3rd … Plotting With Depth
Class #18… Aug 3rd … Writing Fiction Sales Copy
Class #19… Aug 3rd … Writing and Selling Short Stories
Class #20… Aug 3rd … Advanced Depth

Classic Workshops and Lectures are also available at any time.


Topic of the Night: A Question

I got a question from a writer in the comments about what full time writers there were and if I would recommend some of them to study to see how full-time writers did it.

Well, I am about the only long-term full-time writer who does this level of honest blogging about my life. But my way of doing things is not the only way by a long, long ways.

I tell writers to find their own way. What works for me might not work for you. You will only know if you experiment, but most won’t. It seems writers right from high school know what is right for them and breaking out of that belief system is almost always what holds writers back.

But all that said, there are some basics I have mentioned before about full-time writers and traits we all seem to have in common. Not all, but many. And we did a workshop on this very topic for a while about two years ago called “Essentials” which was basically the essentials needed to make a living with your writing. I’ll have to go back and see if that workshop dated.

So let me list a few of the top factors I see among my friends and other long-term professionals. For example, one of the writers I had dinner with sold his first novel about two years after I sold my first short story back in 1974. And he and I are both still writing.

Top factors (my opinion only):

1… Complete and total love of story of all types.

We consume story and always have, it seems, from movies, comics, books, games, you name it, if it has a story, we consume it.

2… Writing is not work, it is who we are.

Sure, we might get discouraged and stop at times or do something else, but writing is always there and it is always who we are. It never occurs to us we have put in a long day when we are writing. For anyone else that would be like saying, “I put in a long day today living.”

3… We are, almost without exception, prolific in our own ways. 

Definition of prolific varies, but as years go by, the numbers add up. Often with many long-term writers, much of the writing is hidden in various ways, from articles to introductions to nonfiction books to blogs and on and on.

4… We study craft all the time and never let business get far from our attention at any given moment. 

This varies from writer to writer, but all long-term writers I know are good with business in one form or another, really good with taxes, and have adapted their lives around the writing, not the writing around the lives.

5… Longer-term writers like me and Kris, almost without exception, try to help younger professionals when we can.

Most are not as overt as Kris and I or Dave Farland or Judy Lyn Nye or Keven J. Anderson and others. But it is there, either by apprentice like Mike Resnick does or by writing books like Stephen King does or giving speeches like Neil Gaiman does.

6… We have never stopped for very long.

In other words, we are the ones who didn’t quit when knocked down, when things went bad, when the money stopped and no one would buy our work. Long-term writers are writers who never knew the word quit, or at least not for very long.

In our new bookstore, we have lots and lots of older science fiction books, and I can run my hand down the line of books and see name after name that were either hot young writers at one point or sold a few books and quit.  They are now what-ever-happened-to writers.

The difference between me and them. I’m still here and writing and they quit.

The secret to being a long-term writer? Don’t stop.

Now I got to go start another novel. Night.


Totals For Year 3, Month 11, Day 29

Writing in Public blog streak… Day 1,015

— Daily Fiction: 00 original words. Fiction month-to-date: 66,600 words  

— Nonfiction: 000 new words. Nonfiction month-to-date total: 1,400 words 

— Blog Posts: 800 new words. Blog month-to-date word count: 19,800 words

— E-mail: 9 e-mails. Approx. 700 original words.  E-mails month-to date: 468 e-mails. Approx. 31,900 words

— Covers Designed and Finished: 0. Covers finished month-to-date: 2 Covers


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  • D J Mills

    “The secret to being a long-term writer? Don’t stop.”

    Thank you. That statement sums up I think a writer does. Writes stories. 🙂

    The added bonuses are enjoying the process, surprises I come up with for enjoyable characters, and sales as each new reader discovers my stories. 🙂

    All fun, including working for myself at home. 🙂

  • B

    I know you and Kris have dedicated writing computers and I’m pondering investing in one myself so I was wondering how vital do you think it is for productivity? And along that vein, what do you use for portability for using every spare 15 min to write? Would you also recommend that portable device be solely dedicated to writing?

    • dwsmith

      I think it’s a critical and easy tool, Bibi. As for portability, that’s a different thing. I tend to use my iPad, Kris uses her laptop. Then we move the stuff to our writing computer when home.

  • Bob Calverley

    Dean, I think what you mean is a full time independent fiction writer. Let’s face it, there are thousands, if not millions of folks out there who write for a regular paycheck. I did that as a newspaper reporter and later as a PR flack. Let’s face, it is often very hard work. I’ve written hundreds of stories that I didn’t especially enjoy and some I absolutely hated. You think writing a story about the murder of a child is fun? Investigating stupid, incompetent or corrupt politicians and other public officials is hard tedious work followed by the frustration of trying to satisfy countless second-guessing idiot editors and lawyers. There is satisfaction when you finally nail the bastards, but it’s short-lived. I guess the point I’m trying to make is that writing should be seen as a professional endeavor. It doesn’t come naturally. You have to work at it and learn. And it’s not always a joy. If you want to get paid as a freelancer, you better be prepared to write stories that are other people’s ideas and write stories the way a less than competent editor thinks is the right way to write. I remember a wise, and very disagreeable, editor at a newspaper where I worked a long time ago telling me that every reporter ought to make sure they had enough cash on hand to tell editors like him to go to hell, and quit. When you have a family to support, it takes a long time to reach that goal, but I’m there now. So of course, now I can agree with you!

    • dwsmith

      Bob, Yeah, I’m a fiction writer and sometimes I forget to repeat that I only talk about fiction writing. Thanks for the reminder. I need to keep making that clear that I am not talking about all writing, just fiction writing.

  • USAF

    “Longer-term writers like me and Kris, almost without exception, try to help younger professionals when we can.Most are not as overt as Kris and I or Dave Farland or Judy Lyn Nye or Keven J. Anderson and others. But it is there, either by apprentice like Mike Resnick does or by writing books like Stephen King does or giving speeches like Neil Gaiman does.”

    Id be one of the first to thank you for all you do. Thanks Kris and Dean. I agree with your list too, and also who you left out who run under the guise of helping others, but mostly helping themselves, Im afraid.

    Keep going Dean, live long and strong.

  • USAF

    and did you mean, I though, or did I misundertand, that you challenged us all to write a story a day? I started whe you mentioned it and now have three stories. They are really weird tho. Since I read your words, I have been waking up with a new story plot every morning and have to rush to write it down. Talk about writing into the weeds, as you say. Lol

    • dwsmith

      Oh, hope, just told you all what I was doing. If anyone wants to do their own challenge along with this craziness, feel free.

    • J.M. Ney-Grimm

      USAF, I love the idea of you rushing to write down your story every morning. I hope you keep going! Although that’s your business, not mine, of course. 😀

        • J.M. Ney-Grimm


          I’m 57k into what I estimate will be a 120k novel, so no short story challenges for this writer right now. But this morning I eagerly rushed to the computer to write today’s words before the kids woke up. I’m over the “one-third hump,” I think, and into that glorious storm of storytelling that sweeps me away once I reach a certain point in the writing.