I’m a mystery writer like most of you. After years of fighting to find an agent and a publisher, I did. Lowcountry Bribe, the first in The Carolina Slade Mystery Series, was released from Bell Bridge Books in February 2012, and it’s doing well. During the 14 years of struggle to become that mystery writer, however, I had to earn a living elsewhere. They don’t pay you while you’re writing those novels, so to remain a writer, I had to diversify my skills a bit. You need to as well if you want to devote yourself to the business of words.
You are not a traitor if you write other than mystery, or pen other than novels. Many writers make ends meet via a variety of methods, and nothing says you can’t do the same.
As I wrote, rewrote, and edited my novel, I kept wondering at what point I’d reach the right caliber to pitch to agents. Sure, I had a critique group, but still, I wanted a different degree of validation. So I submitted my work-in-progress to contests. First chapter, first paragraph, even first line, and finally, full manuscript competitions. Once I began placing in some, and winning a few, I felt more self-assured. Not only that, but I could put contest wins in my query letters! I landed an agent, and those contests put $750 in my bank account.
We are more than mystery writers. We have many talents, interests, and skills. Once you cast aside humility, and boldly list all your abilities, you soon learn you have what it takes to submit pieces to a wide cadre of magazines. When I initially could not sell my manuscript, I pitched every magazine I could think of, ultimately publishing in mags about teens, colleges, landscaping, business, women, and writing. I developed a wider network, honed my writing to a new level, and again, put money in the bank.
You’ll find as many grants as you do magazines, and like the variety of magazines, you have to pitch and convince the reviewer on the other end that you are the best person for selection. They are just as competitive as any other aspect of this business. Grants exist for library research, retreats, scholarships / fellowships, presentations, even personal development. I was enabled to speak to a third grade class about how to write a story, centering it around pirates, their subject matter at the time.
Whether corporate, government, or private, entities need writers, and with benefits being so expensive, they often contract out their work. Write articles for newsletters, write biographies, create employee handbooks, or compose resumes. Seek paying blogs, and yes, they do exist. Serve as a consultant, addressing writing, your novel’s subject matter, marketing, publishing, or just your great motivational voice. I’ve advised people on organizing writing schedules, how to edit, even how to take personal strengths and develop a platform. Some have contracted me to write their resumes. Quite a few asked me to research markets, grants, and literary agents to match their skills because they didn’t want to take the time and were willing to pay me to do it. An organization initiating a website for college bound teens requested I pen five articles for them on scholarships. I was a writer for hire, and there was little I’d decline.
Each bit of income paves the way for you to write your first love, fiction. Surprisingly, you may come to love the world of writing pieces that earn money. That quicker gratification is intoxicating, especially when the dollars add up. What’s key is recognizing the talents you possess, interests you have, and abilities in your repertoire, because each and every one opens a door to some sort of writing income. And what’s even better is that with each word you put on a page, nonfiction or fiction, your writing ability grows . . . and it grows faster than you ever fathomed.
C. Hope Clark is editor of FundsforWriters.com, a website and family of newsletters that cover contests, markets, grants, publishers, agents and employers seeking writers. Writer’s Digest selected FundsforWriters.com for its 101 Best Websites for Writers for the past twelve years. Hope will be speaking at Killer Nashville during two sessions: 1) Grants for Writers – Where to Find ‘Em, How to Get ‘Em, and 2) Funding Streams that Enable Your Writing Career: Using Your Strengths to Earn a Living. www.fundsforwriters.com / www.chopeclark.com Hope is also a mystery author, with her recent release of Lowcountry Bribe, Bell Bridge Books, February 2012. While she would write mystery fiction all day and night, she learned that platform and branding sometimes means expanding one’s horizons.
(The Killer Nashville Guest Blog series is coordinated by KN Executive Director Beth Terrell (http://www.elizabethterrell.com/). To be a part of this series, contact Beth at firstname.lastname@example.org.)