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Current time:0:00Total duration:8:52

Author: How I got my job and where I'm going

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I always loved writing and telling stories but specifically having like a pen or a crayon in my hand and a piece of paper in front of me and it's always something I just really enjoyed my parents have stories about finding me when I was like two or three marking up notebooks that they had but not like drawing on the marking in the lines I couldn't write yet but it's like oh yeah I just want to get these things these squiggles after the other squiggles in the lines and when I started going to grade school writing stories was always very and felt very natural when I when I come to creative projects so large-scale research project of course I'm going to write like a 90 page story at the end of it and I just kept building on that and then high school middle school I started doing a decent amount of online play by post sort of forum role-playing and fanfiction those kinds of things there was a alt starfleet RPG Usenet group that I posted on pretty aggressively from age 13 to 15 and those were excellent because they gave me a sense of readership that there were people out there who are interested in the things I was going to write and they also gave me some structure in that if I didn't write anything for a long time people would be like where the heck is max in that process I wrote a first my first long-form book like two hundred and forty thousand words a basically fanfiction for this thing and it was great in people loved it and I thought oh god I've just done this I can't sell it I can't do anything with it but I could do this again and again and again and again and I went off to college with that in mind while I was in college I wrote my first sort of unconnected to any sort of fan fiction project novel which was a big mystery novel and that was fine and interesting in a lot of ways and I didn't take any creative writing classes at college until senior year it's very fortunate and senior year to decide hey on a lark I want to do this let's see what classes can offer I took a class with an excellent really prominent fantasy writer in the field that helped me get a lot more serious about what I could do with writing what kinds of stories I could tell and there were a couple of other classes that pushed me out of the fantasy sort of bubble is sort of speculative fiction bubble into the wider literary world and really helped me gain technique then I went to China for a couple of years teaching while I was teaching I had a little bit of downtime and started and wrote a couple of more books and with every book I wrote I felt more excited to be writing the next one and I'd come up with three or four ideas for another one so it's three books while I was over there and came back to the States in 2008 2008 the financial crisis happened I was looking for work at the time that didn't go super well and as I was piecing together sort of odd jobs to stay afloat and trying to figure out what the heck had just happened there was this enormous Cataclysm that hadn't actually affected the physical world that much like nobody had knocked over any buildings and yet everyone people were out of work companies had disappeared trying to figure that out I reached for the language of fantasy and science fiction that I'd grown up and and I started thinking about bankruptcy and global financial collapse as magical apocalypses magical incidents and that was a really cool key that turned a lot of things I've been thinking about and I sat down and started writing three parts debt and that book I wrote in about nine months I spent much longer time editing it went out on submission with it two agents took about a year to land an agent after it landed an agent I got a publisher in a couple of months we sold the book to tour books I had a two book deal on offer for that as I was selling three parts debt as I was querying it and at the thing yet before I got an agent I'd started writing a second book in the same world but with different characters and so when tor offered me that 2 book deal for three parts dead I said oh well here's the second book and so I'd fulfilled that contract before the first book even came out and then I sent him another novel from my trunk basically and they said oh well here's another two book contract and so pretty soon I found myself with four books under contract zero books out and deadlines for them made it a little bit nuts to keep my job in sort of white paper research and marketing that I had at the time very conveniently my wife Steph was just graduating from law school and was starting a job at a big firm so I've been working while she was in graduate school and I decided well let's well this is kind of my graduate school I'm gonna dive in and see if I can build this thing and she was providing an enormous amount of financial stability at the time and I've been running with it ever since I've been building the business every year I've made more year more than I made the year before and more people find the books every day and it's really exciting my goals and ambitions for a decade from now are continuing to publish more books I have a kind of endgame for the Kraft sequence my main fantasy series that I've been writing for the last five years in mind and that's going to take a few years to play out and then I'm excited to try new things I'm excited to try to reach more readers I'd love to and I'm working to get some adaptions made of my projects I'd love to write more in comics a little bit and yeah trying to start a new series do new things and expand both the number of people that I'm working with and it's the number of readers that I'm finding and also the kinds of media that I'm involved the artistic advice is really simple you need to finish the things that you start you don't need to finish everything but you do need to finish stuff and then submit the things that you finish that is make sure that there the work is going out there in the world and trying to find a home and then maybe there's a third thing which is always try to get better but what better is will change from writer to writer some people have some enormous natural gifts that other people's will other people will spend weeks or years trying to develop some people will start from nothing and just progress by grinding and careful skill development to mastery but yeah finish what you start send it out there so people have a chance to buy it and then just keep getting better and write the next thing business advice is a little trickier a truism that I've heard in the field is if you keep publishing in midlist fantasy and science fiction at least it takes about ten years to build a stable strong platform that's the point at which many people have kind of figured out how they are able to persist in this business without feeling constantly like that they're struggling to keep their head above water that isn't everyone some people get out and go and do something else and that's fine but that's four people are trying to continue publishing for perpetuity so know that if you have a day job that you like it is perfectly okay to stay there as you are developing in that as you're developing your professional writing career I would say personally I would say under no circumstances should you be quitting the day job before you have like a deal in hand unless you have a particular vision of a sabbatical and in most cases you shouldn't be doing that in your first deal or first two deals make really certain before you step away from a source of stable potential income that you have enough savings to carry you through the lean times especially since writing is very peaky and make certain that you're not counting on being paid exactly when the contract indicates that you will be paid or within a certain window after things get signed sometimes stuff just can take a while mmm the other reason that I'd suggest holding on to whatever stable source you may have as you are developing your career is this will give you a much better sense of what foundation you're building from and how quickly you're building if you're growing at 10% a year if you're bringing in 10% more money every year than you brought the year before then you can reasonably project at what point you'll be able to step back and at what point will be able to fall onto a stable budget
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