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Is the only way to have a career based off writing stories to be a self-employed author?

is there anything else I can do where I specifically write fiction as a career? #writing #author #self-employed

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David’s Answer

Great question! A query that has been haunting me with painful delight, ever since I graduated from film school. My modest experience as a filmmaker and one who writes freelance outside film production, may help with, or at least shine light on, Viviana's question.


Besides worrying about technical points, such as grammar and syntax, like the proper placement of multiple adverbs in complex sentences (a recent worry of mine), I also worry about the issues of self-employment in this industry. Though I've published critical essays on specific subjects about art films, and luckily was paid a small fee for each one of them, I certainly could not have survived on such a process. Moreover, I've yet to make real progress in pitching a successful script, at least as a money maker, or even a short story, professionally speaking, the lack of securing some true cash flow has not deterred me from keeping on trucking. Almost everyone I know in this business is, in fact, an independent or freelance writer, and they make their living from teaching at colleges and universities.


Sometimes, a few of them do get funding from organizations, such as Sodec and Telefilm, both Canadian agencies, for examples; but more often than not, such grants are the rare exceptions, coming 'round maybe every three or four years (if you're consistent with your applications).


Yet, reading about the old days of the studio system, when one could initially be hired as a script reader (good training in my opinion). Then, if persistent enough and talented to boot, one could move on and graduate, so to speak, to pitching scripts inside the huge studio organization; of course, I might be mistaken about such things since I was not there. Reality is one thing, your subjective mind is another!


We seem to be always dreaming of a golden age, imagining about that perfect writing job with a top agency, but the true facts may well say otherwise. I suppose that, in some ways not too dissimilar to ours, previous generations of writers had to cope with the same nagging worries of technical competence, as well as, issues dealing with freelancing and self-employment.


In the final analysis, you're the one who knows if the talent is there, after years of practicing the art; or else, blessed with an innate "naturalness" that goes beyond formal education and/or self training. Truly, Viviana's question is hard to answer since not too many avenues, except journalism, maybe, or as a staff writer for a particular kind of magazine (like travel stories) are there for us to pursue. There may be other professionals, more qualified than myself, able to answer her in the "positive," that is, on the issues of employment and sustain economic survival for fiction and/or nonfiction writers. My recommendation is keep on trucking with your writing, Viviana.

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Susan E.’s Answer

I say it's a little bit of both. Look around and subscribe to some newsletters about writing which will offer you contests and magazines that are looking for writers. You can even create your own blog and make a business out of that, but it's going to take a very long time and dedication.

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Gil’s Answer

Getting published can be tough and making a living out of writing can be difficult at times. I have friends who write but have other occupations - to pay the bills, etc. The best thing to do is keep writing and submitting your work to publications and contests - and don't get discouraged by rejection. I'm assuming you're interested in short-story writing. I have a few short-story collections on a website, but have had limited success with those. A writer acquaintance of mine said I should submit those stories individually, to different publications and periodicals, which is probably good advice. I was fortunate, however, to have had a long and satisfying career that involved writing. It was with the government and was not creative work but I still got to practice my craft and do freelance writing on the side. I think it can be very liberating not having to worry about where your next paycheck is coming from, and it eases the pressure on you so that you put more energy into your writing. I did fulltime freelance writing when I first got married, but my wife was working and that certainly helped a lot. The place where I went to work later, however, gave me a sense of security because of the wonderful compensation and benefits. The work involved also some travelling and I met some very interesting people.


Of course, the type of work I did might not be for everyone. But you might look into other businesses that want writers. Writing is a great talent to have and many companies need people who have that skill. But I would never recommend leaving your job or profession to pursue a fulltime writing career, unless your name is Stephen King. You're still very young - I think - so you have time. Find a job that will be your anchor and then start working from there. There are freelance opportunities out there and volunteer work that would get you noticed. Get feedback from people and start marketing yourself and your work.


Good luck.

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