I just received an email from someone considering becoming a writer. She asked:

What projects are you presently working on?

Right now I have three projects hatching: 1) The Next Novel, now in 3rd draft; 2) a short novel for non-English readers, now in the exploration stage; and 3) a collection of historical snippets about youngsters marrying.

What is your writing schedule like? I guess everyone is different,
but I struggle with setting up and sticking to a schedule (with a day
job, but even if that wasn’t the case, I don’t have the best time

I begin my writing day on rising (which is often before 6:00 am). I trick myself into this by having my (decaf) coffee fixings in my office. I break for a quick breakfast, but I generally write or revise until lunch. My afternoons are given to research, promotion, reading and correspondence.

Historical fiction is perhaps more time-consuming than other genres, but all require a full commitment. You would need to become obssessive about finding time for your writing, the more so since you have a day-job. Writing has to become a compulsion.

Over the course of your career, have you had to take on many different jobs to pay the bills while you wrote? (I’m guessing most writers do.)

I am fortunate to be married to a man who is good with money. That helps. Before I signed a contract for The Josephine B. Trilogy, I was working as a free lance book editor. Once a contract was signed, I had to give up both paying and volunteer community work in order to meet my deadlines. I didn’t earn very much money for a very long time. One should never expect to make money from writing.

Do you have any general tips for writers?

I recently answered a similar question on Leah Marie Brown’s blog. She asked what advice I would give to someone just starting a career in writing, and I answered:

1) Understand that you are unlikely to earn money being a writer, and that the only reason to pursue such a vocation is that you’re compelled to do so, simply for the love of it.

2) Understand that it takes a very long time to get to the point where you are publishable. (As in years.) It’s similar to getting a doctorate.

3) Write, write, write: regardless. Revise. (“Revision” = re-vision.)

4) Understand that this is a craft that must to be learned, so study books on the craft of writing.

5) Read constantly—especially books similar to the ones you aspire to write.

6) Build up a Net 2.0 presence: set up a website, blog, Tweet, Facebook.

7) Don’t send your manuscript out for consideration until 5 readers have told you that it’s indeed ready to go.

8) Collect rejections: it’s rare for a writer to be published without first having a stack of them. It’s an important first step. Plus, it proves that you are tough enough to be a writer.

9) Go to readings: observe how it’s done. As a writer, you will have a private self as well as a public one. Get comfortable with that.

10) Get to know other writers, on-line, off-line; join the community. Create your tribe.

11) Never give up.

Bon courage. I hope this helps. That you took the time to send me an email shows that you’re seriously considering. You said you wished to get a clear picture of the writer’s life before launching yourself into it. It doesn’t have to be all-or-nothing. I suggest you begin by taking a writing course or workshop. It’s true that writing very hard, very demanding, but every writer I know feels blessed to be able to be a writer.

What would you add to my list?