When to go full-time writing? (Answer: Get yourself a plan.)

Quick note: I started writing this blog post last week, and then this week exploded on me, like even today. So rather than shoehorn everything into this post, just follow me on Twitter and you’ll get more up to date stuff that happens to me.

Or continue to follow me here…looks like I’m gonna have to start updating the blog more.

Also, if you look over to the right, you’ll see a new button called “Buy me a coffee!” I do talk about that in the post below, so read on, 🙂


A couple of weeks ago, the SFF community was going off on this article about a writer who had gotten a huge advance on her trilogy, quit her job, moved to New York, then was startled when her advances for subsequent books shrunk, which meant cranking out more books, and why hadn’t anyone told her something like this would happen? 

I don’t have time to dive too much into it, and anyway, other writers broke the post down better than I could

But I wanted to zero in on what happened when this writer received her first, then her second advance, because I’m pretty sure that, had if I sold my novel series and had gotten the same advances like that, I would’ve done the same thing. Not so much move to New York, or buy $15 drinks (I usually don’t do drinks at cons all that much anymore, and sorry NY, but I’m a south side Chicagoan through and thorugh), but quit my job? Absolutely. That’s the dream of all of us writers, right? That once we hit the big-time, we can say bye-bye to that nastything dayjob.  That’s why I got so excited when I finished my novel earlier this year. I was getting closer to reaching my dream. That’s means that one day, I could quit the dayjob and making this a full-time gig, right?  

But then, I started talking to my writer friends who have books out and are way more experienced in these matters than I am.  A whole lot of them told me the same thing: don’t quit the dayjob unless you have a plan. 

I also follow a lot of writers who write about the struggle of balancing writing with dayjobs, and post their yearly writing incomes to show what they’ve earned, because if there’s one thing we writers love to do, it’s talking about whether or not you should go full-time. And basically, what I got from those conversations were don’t quit the dayjob unless you have a plan.

And then, well, there was this article which talks about the decline in authors’ earnings, or even if I search “reality of becoming a full-time writer” in Google. Even the ones who are gung-ho about it say the same freakin thing: DON’T QUIT THE DAYJOB UNLESS YOU HAVE A PLAN HOLY COW IT’S ALL RIGHT THERE ALL SHE HAD TO DO WAS GOOGLE BECOMING A FULL TIME WRITER HOW COULD SHE NOT KNOW IT’S ALL RIGHT THERE AUUUGHHHHHH

Er, hm. 

It looks discouraging, true. It got me to wondering: is it even possible to make a living from writing? After talking to my friends and doing some research, the answer I came up with is: well, it depends.

Different writers have different ways to get income. For most, it involves having a dayjob. For others, it means freelancing. For even others, they have saved enough money to live on while they write, then do contract or freelance work when times are slim. There are several writers I know who do all three. There are some who do, like some who publish independently, but they have a whole lot of books under their belt and are constantly hustling to get their name out there. And then there are some full-time writers who had to go back to work due to circumstances that was no fault of their own. Being a full-time writer doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll stay a full-time writer. 

The point is, there are a lot of writers who do make a living from writing. But no one I knew was getting money from just fiction. They had learned to diversify their income streams. Some from teaching and doing speaking events. Some got their money from freelancing. Others got theirs from dayjobs. Which got me to thinking–what’s wrong with having a dayjob? What exactly am I thinking of when I say I want to be a full-time writer? 

So the real question I should be asking is not should I quit the dayjob, but am I ready to step into freelance writing full-time?

At this point, no. I haven’t sold a novel yet. I know that at this point in my life, I’m not making anything off my writing that I can quit the dayjob. I sold a couple of stories and a bunch of articles last year that netted me a whopping thousand bucks. Which…actually, is pretty darn good for someone who has a full-time job. But it’s not paying bills right now, nor does it account for other things like benefits or retirement. I still need the dayjob for that.

But it gives me a goal to work towards now. I can start planning on how to do that. I can make a business plan (shout out to Monica Valentinelli for talking to me about that). It means researching on what it meant to be a freelancer. Joining freelancing groups. Even taking a business class.  I’m blessed in that I have a partner who also works full-time and my kid is old enough that he does homework while I do writing. But we’ll have to do a lot of planning if I decide to move into full-time freelance.

And maybe that won’t happen. Maybe I’ll find that sweet spot of balancing the dayjob with the freelance job. The trick is finding the right dayjob. I actually really like the dayjob I have now–it gives me the change to move around, which is helpful for me for putting writing brainstorming on the backburner. But my ideal dayjob would be something that is flexible, even have some benefits like retirement and time off pay, and allows me to work from home.

One big thing I’m doing to generate more income is that I finally decided to create a Ko-fi account. I’m not at the point where I can generate content on a consistent schedule, but if you like what I do and if you want to support me in my writing, you can buy me a coffee! It’s not much (and I’m actually a more tea person except I’ve really gotten hooked on Nitro Coffee which is amaaaaaaaaaaazing), but it’s something, and it’s set that if I do find a way to offer content monthly, I can go the subscriber route if I want to. 

Also, I got an agent! I’m now being represented by Kristopher O’Higgins at the Scribe Agency. Looking forward to working with him to get my novel out to publishers.

So, as you can see, I got a plan. We’ll see if it works.

Last week, a woman who was attending a meeting in our building came to me and said, “By the way, I came across your website. Your stories are amazing. Why aren’t you doing this full-time.”

I could’ve just said everything I just wrote above, but what came out was, “I’m…working on it?”

She said, “I’m going to pray that you do.”

Well, alrighty.

LaShawn’s GenCon Schedule, and surprise—I’m the new editor of GigaNotoSaurus

So, let’s get the big news out the way. Remember when I made this tweet? Well, the title says it all—I’ve taken over editorial duties for the magazine GigaNotoSaurus. For those of you who don’t know, this is an online magazine who publishes one story a month, bigger than a short story, smaller than a novel. The last time I did editorial duties was back when I was an Associate Editor at PodCastle. Feels nice to dip my toes in these waters again.

That said, there’s a lot of backlogged stories for me to go through. If you submitted and you’re still waiting, please bear with me. It’s been a while since I read stories for publication. I’ll start cracking on those, starting with the oldest.

In the meantime, I’m going to be heading to GenCon this week and will be on panels at the Writer’s Symposium. Here’s my panel schedule, and feel free to come by and say hi!

Thursday, August 1

Writing About Places You Never Visited

10:00 AM-11:00 AM, Marriott Bllrm 1
How do you understand the vibe of a place well enough to translate it to your readers if you’ve never been there? Lucy A. Snyder, LaShawn Wanak, Seth Skorkowsky, and Corry Lee tell you how.

Work for Hire Writing: What Is It? How Is It Different?

11:00 AM – 12:00 PM, Marriott Bllrm 2
One way to make it as a writer is to have multiple income streams, and that could mean writing fiction for hire. LaShawn Wanak, James Lowder, Joseph Carriker, Jr., and John Helfers discuss this work.

Friday, August 2

Scrivener Demystified

10:00 AM-11:00 AM, Marriott Bllrm 4
So you’ve decided to ditch the notebook or Word to give this whole Scrivener program a whirl. Can this program make your process better? Come learn from LaShawn Wanak, A. E. Greenwood, and more

Capturing the Creepy: Getting the Details Right

11:00 AM – 12:00 PM, Marriott Bllrm 1
Horror and suspense writers want to captivate their readers without grossing them out, or worse, boring them. Lucy Snyder, Richard Byers, and others discuss how much detail is necessary.

When Characters Grieve: The Line Between Feelings and Melodrama

2:00 PM – 3:00 PM, Austin/Boston
LaShawn Wanak, Carol Berg, Devon Monk, and Jerry Gordon discuss how to show character grief without making readers roll their eyes.

Next steps and a friendly writing PSA

It’s been almost three weeks since I have finished the final edit of Weeping of the Willows. Since then, I haven’t played as many video games I wanted, but I did go down to Indy to attend Mo*Con. And if you’ve been on my FB, you’ve been seeing other ways I’ve been celebrating.

I’m now sitting down and looking at what I need to do to send this novel out. One of the first things I realized was that aside from get my novel out now now NOW, I had no clue where to start, how to do it, when to do it, or what I would be doing while the novel was on submission.

What I needed was to become organized. I needed direction.

I needed a submission tracking system.

Before I went full-time, I used to keep track of all my short story submissions in Outlook. It had been super useful. But then my job became more intense and my short story output sank so low so that I was only able to work on the novel and the occasional short story and novella novelette. Those I were able to keep track through Gmail, Submission Grinder and Habitica.

Now that I’m in my new position at work, I bring my laptop with me for writing, which means I don’t need to work across scattered apps. I also have more time to dedicate towards writing, and I have the headspace to actually plan things. With the novel being done, I need a new record management program, something more robust to keep track of queries and deadlines, and also help me get back into practice of writing and submitting short stories, as well as help me to brainstorm the next large writing project I have.

So I’ve decided to resurrect Outlook. Truth be told, I’ve always had it on my laptop for work related things, but I hadn’t opened my personal PST file since 2014. Initial impressions:

  1. I had a running list of over thirty short stories I had started but never finished. That startled me, because I don’t remember being that prolific in my writing. It’s a nice surprise, and it tells me that I can be that way again.
  2. It was also nice to see that I kept notes on the revisions of the novel. Granted the notes go back to 2014, but still that’s five years that I have been working on the final draft of my novel. It’s nice to have a record of that history.
  3. I’ve completely forgotten how much I changed Outlook to make it work for my needs. I made my own task forms, I created my own custom fields, I created my own views so that I can one click of a button, I could show which stories were being worked on, which stories I decided to trunk, which stories were rejected and needed to be sent out again, and which stories had been accepted. I was an Outlook wizard. Seeing that made me feel good….

…until Outlook saw that I had opened an old folder and rather than wait until I moved the old data to the new folder, it instead updated the folder and in doing so, wiped out all the tracking information and submission notes for every story that I’ve ever done, including the novel notes.

anime-freak-out-gif-8

Okay, so now here’s your friendly writing PSA reminding you that backups are more for just stories. If you use any project management or tracking software, be sure to back those up as well. So after I picked my beating heart off the floor, I turned off Outlook sync, went to my backup, restored the old files, moved them to the proper new folder, turned the sync back on, and now everything is backed up and fine again.

OH DEAR GOD FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS GOOD AND HOLY PLEASE BACK UP YOUR SOFTWARE I CAN’T STRESS THIS ENOUGH REALLY I MEAN IT BACK UP YOUR SOFTWARE BACK UP YOUR FRICKEN SOFTWARE GAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH

So Outlook’s up and running, and according to my novel’s task list, the next step is for me to start researching and compiling a list of editors and agents. How will I do it?

Uhhhh…that would be the next post. Although suggestions would be appreciated (hint hint)

2018 Year in Review and Eligibility Works

2018 was a bizarre year for me.

In order to explain this year, I need to back up a bit to the year of 2016. There was a whole bunch of stuff going on that year that I couldn’t really talk about online. The only way I could cope with it was by writing. So I wrote. A whole lot.

One particularly bad day, I was checking the twitters when this thread from Rachael K Jones popped up on my feed. And then, she wrote this:

That tweet stayed with me through the craziness that followed: selling our house, buying a new one, day job insanity, the election of 45. And then 2017, where I continued my push to finish the novel and got back into publishing nonfiction. All the while, the dayjob got busier and busier, and I was coming home more and more exhausted, until in May 2018, I realized that that if I was going to write more, I needed to find another job. Either one that was less intense or less hours.

So I started looking. It took way longer than I thought, considering that I hadn’t really looked for a new job in ten years. But I’m happy to say starting in February 2019, I be starting a new admin position. Same place, still full-time, but I’ll get two afternoons off to write while keeping my benefits.

It’s a start.

Oddly enough, in 2018, as I searched for a job that will allow me to write more, I got a surprising amount of fiction and non-fiction written and published. In April, my short story “One for Sorrow, Two for Joy” was published by Fireside Magazine. In July, my novelette “Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Memphis Minnie Sing the Stumps Down Good” was published by FIYAH magazine (this was originally the novella I wrote in 2016 before I cut it down to a more readable length). I also wrote a third short story that will be coming out soon, but that hasn’t been officially announced yet, so shhhh! But both the two stories mentioned above are eligible for awards, so read, enjoy, share, etc.

I also wrote a bunch of non-fiction articles, including an exploration of Nisi Shawl’s Filter House on Tor.com, a review of Janelle Monáe’s album Dirty Computer in Apex Magazine, and…heh hehe, another article that remains secret for now, but will be published sometime this year. And all of that while writing cover letters and filling out job applications and updating my resume.

Of course, with all the above, my editing input on the final draft of Willow tanked. As of today, I’ve only managed to complete 68% of the final edits. Which, actually, isn’t so bad, considering that I worked on it on top of all the other things I worked on last year but still. I laughed out loud when I saw the deadline I had originally set for myself, which was March 2018. Yeah, that sooooooo didn’t happen.

But it’s now 2019. I got some time freed up. I don’t have any writing projects pending for the next couple of months. Well, one, but it’s a quick one. And, before 2019 ended, I fixed the last major chapter that needed serious fixing (chapter 27). So all the edits from this point on should technically go fast. I’m resetting the Willow Final Edit clock to March 2019. At 68%, I know I can do it. You can cheer me on at @tbonejenkins on Twitter. And then once I’m done, I can finally tackle the goals I had written for 2018.

Butt in chair, eyes on the prize. Let’s go.

LaShawn’s WisCon 42 Schedule

WisCon 42 is coming up in a couple of weeks and I will be there! For those of you who are going, here’s where you can find me.

Friday, 5:30pm: POC Dinner
It’s our POC annual dinner! If you’re a person of color and haven’t gotten your ticket yet, sign up here. Even if you can’t pay, please sign up for a ticket so we know how much food to order. I’m also coordinating volunteers for the dinner to help with setup or cleaning afterwards, so you want to help, let me know in the comment section of this post and I’ll get in touch with you.

Saturday, 4:00pm: Steven Universe Sing-along
From “Giant Woman” to “It’s Over, Isn’t It,” Steven Universe offers a variety of beautiful songs in different genres that we can all sing our hearts out to. Hopefully we’ll be able to sing up to the latest song “A Distant Shore” and WE WON’T LIKE BE TALKING ABOUT THE NEXT EPISODE AFTER THAT BUT DANG THAT PUTS SOME OF THE SONGS IN A WHOLE DIFFERENT LIGHT NOW DON’T IT.

Anyway, I will be there.

Sunday, 1:00pm: Reading @ Michaelangelo’s — Smash the Patriarchy
Join me along with fellow readers Monica Valentinelli, David Levine and Naomi Kritzer as we read stories that will unsettle you, make you uncomfortable, force you to think and feel. Come for the stories. Leave with possibilities. I’ll be reading my latest short story, “One for Sorrow, Two for Joy”, that was published in Fireside Magazine last month.

Sunday, 2:30p: It Is Our Time: A People’s Celebration, Exploration & Analysis Of Black Panther
In which I geek out with a bunch of other people about Black Panther.

Monday, 11:30am: Sign-Out
This year, I got a whole bunch of stationary I want to use up. So if you visit me at the Sign-Out, I will write out a quick flash story on whatever subject you like. It will only be at the most a paragraph, at the most, 100 words, but hey, free story from me !

Of course I’ll also be around just to chat, so if you see me, feel free to say hi!

(Unless I’m peopled out…or working on the novel…in which case, a wave would do….)

Story Notes for “One for Sorrow, Two for Joy”, now up at Fireside Magazine

I got a new story out! “One for Sorrow, Two for Joy” is now up at Fireside Magazine, where you can read it for free, and y’all, the illustration for it…THE ILLUSTRATION!!!

I want to thank Julie Rios for taking a chance on this story, and also a big thanks to Dawid Planeta, who illustrated the story! (Did you see how he captured the jade bracelet woman?! And the basalt stone?! AAAAAAHHHHH IT’S SO AWESOME!!!)

I wrote the framework for this story five years ago as a fun writing exercise. I was trying to combine my two favorite fortune telling nursery rhymes. Monday’s Child” (Monday’s child is fair of face, Tuesday’s child is full of grace, etc.) and the Counting Crows rhyme  (one for sorrow, two for joy, three for a girl, four for a boy, etc). For the former, I’ve always been struck by that rhyme, particularly since I was born on a Tuesday, so I’ve always tried to live my life filled with grace. Also, as a kid, I had a necklace that had “Tuesday’s Child is full of grace” engraved on it. Funny thing–even as I type these words, I’m just now realizing that that pendant was probably the basis for the coins in the story. The Counting Crows poem is popular from the band of the same name, but also from a kids book The Secret of the Seven Crows. It was a mystery that involved tracking down some treasure where the clues were pictures of crows. There was some black kids in the story but I don’t know if I want to go back and read it. if I recall, the father was going to give his kids a whoopin by ‘getting a switch from a tree’. And then something about him joking that ‘maybe he’ll just get an itty bitty switch’…

Anywho, I wanted the story to be about children and crows and then somehow it turned into a creepy weird story about crows stealing dead children and I was like “ooooookay. This is getting weird. Better put this away so it never sees the light of day.”

Then 2014 happened. Ferguson happened. Eric Garner happened. Black lives matter happened. I had a miscarriage. I lost a friend to suicide, a beloved uncle to a heart attack. My dayjob went through a major crisis. We sold and bought a house in 4 months. And basically all of 2016. I stopped writing short stories and just focused on the novel. Every once in a while, I tried to write something to process my feelings but nothing seemed adequate enough.

Then in 2017, I started to get the urge to write short stories again. I went through my old journals and stumbled across the story.  Immediately, I thought, “This isn’t about crows or dead children. This is about grief.”

From there, I finished the story in two weeks.

So yeah, this story is pretty personal to me. I’m glad it got picked up, and I’m hoping it will speak to others going through their own grieving processes. And did I tell you that I love that illustration? OMIGOSH THAT ILLUSTRATION.

Book Review in latest issue of CSZ

The latest issue of the Cascadia Subduction Zone is out and I got a book review in there! I reviewed “Time’s Oldest Daughter” by Susan W. Lyons, a retelling of the Creation Story from Sin’s point of view. You can buy the issue at their website–PDF is $3, print copy for $5. There’s also book reviews from fine people such as Arley Song and Maria Velazquez, poetry from Rose Lemberg, Sonya Taafe and Nancy Kress, and an essay by L. Timmel Duchamp.