The Professional Writer, One Model

I follow a lot of writers on Twitter and Facebook, and I read quite a few writers’ blogs. It’ll be no big surprise that lots of well-established writers, at least genre writers, still have day jobs. They sell their work regularly but the advances alone are not enough to live on. Contrary to wonderful wish-fulfillment fantasies like the TV show Castle (one of my favorites) it’s a rare genre writer who achieves true wealth solely by writing.  J.K. Rowling, Stephen King, Dan Brown and John Grisham are exceptions, unicorns who fill the rest of us with envy.

Even professional writers who support themselves and their families with writing may not only write books. When I look around for a genre model of the professional writer, I don’t have to look too much farther than John Scalzi. Scalzi made the news a few years back with an unusual (good unusual) contract with Tor Books, a contract that means he probably won’t have to worry about how he is going to pay the bills for the next ten years (or nine now). Even Scalzi writes other stuff. He is a guest columnist for the L.A. Times, and his journalism and opinion pieces show up other places once in a while. And Scalzi keeps a blog. He puts up new content every single workday. Sometimes the content is just a photograph of a pretty sunset or one of his cats. Sometimes it’s a music video. Once or twice a month he posts a photo of all the Advanced Reader Copies that have come to his house for him to review/blurb, and asks his readers which ones have caught our eye. Often he writes about something related to the business of writing. Often he writes about politics; both national politics and the politics of the irascible, opinionated and vehement community of speculative fiction fans.

Scalzi has produced a blog for twenty years, along with numerous books. That takes discipline.

I can barely get two posts a week up.

I do write other stuff. I put up a weekly column at Fantasy Literature about 48 weeks out of the year, and about four reviews a month. Still, when it comes to my own blog I lack the discipline to create content for it, so this is an area where Scalzi impresses me.

I think there are lots of organizational tools, calendars and so on, that would help, but at the end of the day (or in my case the week) there still has to be a topic to discuss and words on the screen. And for Scalzi’s dedication to this, I admire him greatly.

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