Writer’s Digest Conference 2016: How to make writing your full-time job


In this post I want to focus on the talks that taught me useful bits on making writing a career. My last post plays into that as it gives excellent advice on querying but this post is going to focus more on mechanics and your behavior.

Go Hybrid or Perish – Vincent Zandri

Vinnie gave us some personal insight by describing his life’s story. It was incredibly educational. In short, he was doing a lot of variety in his writing. He wrote copy, magazine articles, short stories, and had relationships with editors across a variety of platforms. When he finally got his big break and published his first novel, he scored big: a quarter of a million dollar advance. The figure blew my mind as it did his.

He thought he made it, he stopped writing copy, stopped doing articles and quit with all the small stuff. He no longer thought it was necessary. Shortly thereafter reality came crashing down around him when his first book flopped. He had to reconstruct his career from the bottom up, just to stay afloat. That’s why he suggests folks who want to make this their career, who feel writing is their calling, must go hybrid.

A hybrid author writes a variety of material on a variety of subjects. They write daily and keep a steady output of material.

He mentioned some good tools, Kindle Direct Publishing lets you get stories out directly to your readership. The more you have, and the more you publish, the better marketing Amazon provides you with. Each story also becomes it’s own income stream, along with any other content you’re generating, the small streams from individual projects will add up. They also don’t have to be long, I’ve seen short stories up quite frequently.

Scrivener is another good tool for organizing yourself and working out ideas, or just collecting notes and research.  Also the low price tag of $40 makes it affordable.

Kboards.com is basically a digital writer’s cafe. Having trouble with your opening? What about the end? Need help with your queries? Basically it’s a free place to go and get criticism from other writers. You could spend thousands on hiring a professional editor or you can make friends and swap stories online. It’s also a good place to troubleshoot technical issues.

On Writing and Publishing with Emily St John Mandel

I’m just gonna throw this out there, Emily was ADORABLE… and I’m not even into women. She was charming, polite and insightful as she discussed her experience with writing and becoming a bestselling author. If you’re into dystopian fiction her latest novel, Station Eleven, is an award-winning hit and international bestseller.

Emily discussed literature as a way to reclaim identity, as a home that we can return to during times of upheaval or if physically returning to your home is impossible for whatever reason. She had some great advice.

  • You must write and you must finish
  • Be ruthless with your writing time, learn to say no to social engagements, and feel no guilt when lying about why you can’t attend
  • Learn to write wherever and whenever you have the time. If you can only write during sunny weather with the wind blown from the west and the temperature at a cool sixty-eight degrees this may be more of a hobby and less of career for you.
  • Solving problems makes you a better writer, embrace them
  • A compelling query and solid samples matter more than networking and having that MFA – in other words anyone can break in
  • Being nice and friendly is worth it – no one wants to work with snooty, obnoxious writers
  • Embrace uncertainty while retaining your confidence – try your best and let the chips fall where they may. If you’re not happy with the outcome, pick yourself up and try again.

Great stuff, right? The whole while she was super encouraging even though she’d never read anything any of us in the audience had ever written. It was inspiring and insightful and I really appreciated her candor.


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