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Monday, March 5, 2007

Business Practices, part 1

Writers and money are often distant bedfellows. John Scalzi wrote about what he earned in various years from writing SF. It wasn’t too shabby, considering it was just a sideline of his other work.

Let me preface this by telling you Scalzi is a successful writer with a huge following. His blog is one of the most widely read forums by a genre writer. Last I heard he gets a minimum of 12,000 hits a day.

But Mr. Scalzi is the exception to the rule. So while he makes a great role model, it sets the bar pretty high for the rest of us still trying to make a living off of writing alone.

He does demonstrate good business practices which I try to incorporate myself, so I thought I’d share some of my tips on saving money and time for the writer. Since this might be a lengthy post I’ll break it down into three.

We’ll start with the basics.

The first order of business is to get organized. Stop that groaning! You know as well as I do that it’s important. Unless you know where all your assets and liabilities are you’ll never get a handle on how you’re progressing.

Writing as a business requires several hats.

The office manager
Space & equipment: If writing is something you are going to do seriously, a dedicated place to write is paramount. Some people (like me) need absolute quiet. I can get that most days if Greg’s not here. If he is present, one of us is doomed to wearing earplugs or a head set.

Other people are fine with extraneous noise. It’s important to know your comfort level. You don’t want anything impeding your progress.

Laptop or table model? Again, comfort is key. I have both but I’ve never liked using laptops so for me the laptop is strictly for when I’m on the road.

Other equipment: Since I also do artwork occasionally, I have lots of other equipment the rest of you won’t have cluttering my desk, but things you should have are a printer, a disc holder for your programs and an external hard drive for your backups. If you can’t afford the external, invest in the smaller jump drives. I love those and carry my most important work on them wherever I go.

Put a big calendar on the wall, something you can see from a distance, and mark your deadlines and projects as you go through the year.

If you’re super organized you’ll also have a file cabinet or library with books, reference materials and a binder full of tear sheets from the work you’ve sold (this mostly applies to nonfiction).

Last but not least: Give yourself a totem. It can be anything you deem to be the protector of your computer. I have a little dog with a bobbing head. Bocephus doesn’t say much but he carries a sign that says: Each scene must advance your story. Each line of dialog must either show character or advance your story. Bocephus is very wise. Whenever I’m stuck I look up at him and he always gives me the best advice. (But I hear he originally got those nuggets from James Gunn.)

Tomorrow: Business manager