When To Go Full Time

DZ asks: As you improve your craft, do you think he will ever reach that moment where you want to write full time?

Many years ago I did write full time. Even then I made more money than your typical beginning novelist (more on that second), and it was financially challenging.

Fifteen years later (and without getting into any of my financial details), I could leave my full-time job and live comfortably on what I make off my writing.


There are some unpleasant realities, however, in the writing business. One is that without an established franchise to call my own I can’t reliably predict from book to book how I will sell and what my royalty income will be from year to year. It’s possible that due to a bad economy and the whims of popularity that I could be hard-pressed to sell another novel. Ever.

(Therefore it is very important that you all run out and buy my latest novel!)

Juxtaposed against this is my day job which is far from typical. I’m a writer and story consultant at Microsoft Game Studios. I believe we’re on the cusp of revolutionizing the art and business of video games—like where movies were in the 1930s when sound was just being added. It’s a heck of a lot of fun!

So, in a roundabout way, to answer your question: I probably won’t be quitting my daytime anytime soon.

If you want an idea of what a beginning novelist makes check out the survey that Tobias Buckell did on first novel advances. It’s grim and eye-opening!

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Nikoda asks: How do people write in collaboration. Does one person write one chapter, another person other?

First, pop over to Barb and J.C. Hendee’s website (http://www.nobeldead.com/) and look at their frequently asked questions section on how they collaborate.

I have limited experience with collaboration, but here’s how I’ve done it on the rare occasion.

It’s very easy for me to sit down with a friend and toss ideas around until we come up with a basic story outline. When it gets down to actually writing, we divide the work according to who is better at what task.

For example, my strengths involve high-level story plotting, action sequences, and to a lesser extent character design. I start each chapter, roughing it out and writing the sections I feel comfortable with, but leave blank spots with notes saying this character needs to be fleshed out…or a scene needs to be written where a character reveals some tragic flaw. I leave about half the work to be filled in by my writing partner (with notes on what needs to be written because I’m the designated plot guy).

In this method – at least on first pass – you’re both bringing to the table your individual strengths, and letting your writing partner support your weaknesses.

Then, of course, we review each others’ work, adding comments and occasionally offering rewrite suggestions.

NOTE: if you’re rewriting everything your partner is writing, you’re probably not a good match.

Once we get to the point where we’re flipping individual words around, that’s when we know we’re done. That usual takes 2-3 edit passes.

This is just one way to do it. I’m sure there are as many ways to write collaboratively as there are ways to write individually. I hope you find a way that works. Good luck!

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Baby Steps

You may have noticed there hasn’t been a lot of posting activity lately. I was going to completely redo the website—but my schedule got sideswiped by a book release, work stuff that is Ultra-Microsoft Top Secret™, and me trying to finish up the sequel to Mortal Coils.

So, I give up. Instead of trying to redo the entire site at once, I’ll be taking baby steps to break the inertia of not doing anything at all.

First there will be a new home page at the “ericnylund.com” domain. You can preview that now by clicking on the “Main website” link to the right. There’s a rough bio up as well, linked off that main page. Don’t worry; the blog part isn’t going to change (although the domain might shift over into a sub directory).

Also there are things that should have always been here like full search capability on the blog and searchable tags now on every blog entry.

Stay tuned for more updates—maybe even video blog entries.
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