Writing for a living is precarious.
When you’re working full-time, the extra money that comes from selling a book seems huge. Before I took the plunge as a full-time author, I had a stable job – one I enjoyed – as a games programmer. With a stable job, you know what you’re earning; you know what you get each month; you know that it’ll keep on coming.
Every year you hope for a raise, that little salary bump which, spread over twelve months, is a pittance – but it’s a pittance that means far more than the actual amount. Because it’s extra!
Just imagine what selling a book is like! It’s bigger than any bonus you’ve ever had, sums of money that mean you can afford the luxuries like, er, paying off your credit cards, having a decent holiday, finally getting a new car, or simply having a financial cushion you’ve never enjoyed before. Selling a book – and I mean the less-than-your-annual-salary reality, rather than the buy-an-island dream – changes your life in many ways. Your hard work is rewarded. Stick on your slippers, pat yourself on the back.
Taking the leap into writing full-time turns it all on its head. The money from writing isn't a bonus any more - it's all you get. It's food, it's rent. Payment is irregular. The schedule isn’t under your control. Things you rely on get delayed. Things you hope for don’t materialise.
Everybody – agent, editor, publicist, neighbour – warned me it would be hard. When I decided to do it, I only had the courage because I knew I could get back into programming if I had to.
Since Reviver came out in 2013, I’ve had a book published each year. Not this year, though, and that makes for some difficult choices – especially as, after much to-ing and fro-ing, the movie option for Reviver wasn’t renewed.
Reviver book 3 is nearly done (for release next year) and there are other projects in the pipeline, but this business is not a speedy one.
The prospect of a proper job looms.
I know I’d enjoy a coding job, but that’s not the point. Inevitably, it will take time and energy away from my writing. I’ve had the opportunity to be a full-time author, and I don’t want it to stop. Not yet. Not if I can help it.
You see, everyone told me how hard it would be, but I hadn’t quite expected to love it so much. I'll write for food, for as long as I can.
I still have a few dice left to roll. Wish me luck!
Fun with Rockets
On a brighter note, even though this year has been complicated I’ve had a few successes. One of these has come as the result of a writing incentive, a reward for hitting my daily writing quota: I allowed myself to work on another project.
What kind of project? Well, I spent 13 years as a games programmer, writing as a hobby. So there’s a certain twisted glee that, as a full-time writer, I’ve been writing a game as a hobby. Partly, I needed to make sure my coding skills hadn’t atrophied, but it turned out to be a great incentive to get the words on the page.
What kind of game? Given that all my novels have been supernatural horror, you might expect some horrible bowel-churning terror. But no.
Actually: colourful puzzle game for all ages.
It’s called Rocket Stage Boost, it’s finished, it’s free, and I’ve put it out on Google Play. (Yeah, sorry IOS folk, but I don’t have a Mac to compile it on.) There are ads, of course, but do give it a go, and naturally give it a five-star rating WHATEVER YOU THINK OF IT! (This is Google Play, after all, where anything below five stars means ‘rubbish’.) A warning, though. If like me you’re a bit OCD, you might find it a weeny bit addictive.
In a way, this game brings me full circle. Before I wrote Reviver, I’d always wanted to write a novel, and it had always evaded me. After plenty of false starts, at last I came up with something I saw through to the end.
But I’d also always wanted to create a game. It had always evaded me. And after plenty of false starts…