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financing the Great American Novel
March 1, 2005 12:14 PM   Subscribe

I want to spend three to six months writing a novel as my primary activity. I have savings, but not enough. What kinds of work can I pick up and do, wing in and out of, make money but have maximum flexibility to do my writing? I have published two books previously and have strong well-developed skills in technology writing, web writing, some copy writing, etc., if that matters to your answer. Many thanks.
posted by lustra to Work & Money (9 answers total)
 
It sounds like you're answering your own question with the words "off-site freelance." Tech writing, web content writing, ad copywriting on a project basis can get you a good deal of money and if you're good and quick, it will hardly take much time.

However, having engaged in creative endeavors occasionally myself, if you're anything like me, I'd recommend against doing writing as a freelance. Anything that takes creative energy, at least for me, sucks it away from my creative project. Better to take a part-time job that's mindless so your brain can continue to spin at the novel -- particularly something that you're just sitting so you could even write. Security guard. Billiards hall. Those sort of sitting there with your thoughts jobs.

It depends on your creative style, though.
posted by Gucky at 12:19 PM on March 1, 2005


A paper route will add a bit of money, get you some exercise, and have you up at dawn each day.

/got nothin'
posted by furtive at 12:25 PM on March 1, 2005


I absolutely agree with Gucky. In your position, I'd not find it enticing to sit down and work on my novel for five or six hours after having churned out some technical writing for the first four hours of the day. Do something different.

A great pick-up job is catering. By enlisting with a big catering company, you can arrange a flexible schedule - say no to the gigs you don't want, and accept only those that fit into your life easily. Each catering job is different, so that's somewhat intriguing. If you serve, you can make $100-$200 for a night's work; bartending, if you can do it, will bring much higher rewards. It's physically intensive, and people can be annoying, but you might find good fodder for your work. The only other downside is that catering gigs tend to fall on weekend nights and around holidays, so your social life may suffer just a bit.
posted by Miko at 12:26 PM on March 1, 2005


When I was in college, working the graveyard shift on a hotel desk gave me plenty of time for writing my papers. It's probably a really bad choice if you're not a night owl though. I doubt I enjoy working those hours now.

Also in college, working as a mobile DJ (doing proms and weddings and stuff) was fun and only took up my Friday or Saturday nights. It's probably easier to find a service to work for than to try to book gigs on your own.

Bartending might be an option. You can probably pick up a shift here or there and get plenty of cash.

Consider a temporary service. [Shill mode on] AppleOne is great if you have some administrative or accounting skills. [Shill mode off].
posted by willnot at 2:05 PM on March 1, 2005


I actually disagree with some of the above; writing for a living, covering different topics from your fave personal projects, improves one's writing twice as fast. And creativity at work really (for me) fosters more creativity at non-work. (But I'm a spaz.)

You could weblog for a living; you could write ads (fastest bang for the buck, though most whorish feelings of shame, in my experience); you could ghostwrite; you could report. Hard work to find, though, and don't really know where to steer you to find them. (Parties? Bars? Mediabistro? Craigslist? The corner of 43rd and Broadway?)
posted by RJ Reynolds at 2:22 PM on March 1, 2005


selling shit on eBay can be a nice supplement to your income, and doesn't (necessarily) take too much time. No, really. Find old t-shirts in a thrift shop (music-related are the best), or, perhaps more your flavor - books. Get a bunch of priority envelopes/stamps and fix the postage rate, so you don't spend all your time at the post office. It's kinda great when you sell that one thing, and bam - you just paid your electric bill. I did this for awhile when I was out of a job, until I got sick of it.
posted by hellbient at 3:03 PM on March 1, 2005


Try software training. I'm in your position in reverse- I started out with web design and video editing and started to teach freelance software training classes- teaching people how to use Photoshop, Indesign, HTML, Flash, etc.

Now I write tech books as well and the work is split about 50/50. I find it works really well because the solitary writing gets balanced by the exposure to you know, live people.

It's ideal for someone in your position if you can find a good company to work for- usually the software classes are two days a pop and the pay is usually pretty decent 300$/day around major cities. More if you are willing to travel.
What's nice is that the work is cleanly defined- on day two when the class is finished, so are your obligations- no clients calling you back for redos, no extended deadlines.

E-mail me @ the addy in my profile if you want more info. Not sure what apps you know, but try a search on Adobe's site for training providers in your area (they probably teach more than just Adobe stuff) and then try to get your foot in the door.
posted by jeremias at 3:14 PM on March 1, 2005


Not sure what the requirements would be for your locale, but substitute teaching, as I understand it, is often a matter of "can you work today?" or "can you work all this week?" and you can say yes or no, according to how you feel that day! Temp jobs, as willnot mentioned, would be similar, although not as close to a day-by-day gig. They would also give you different experiences and could broaden your social circle--maybe this would be helpful for the novel? There are also day labor jobs that work the same way, only they'd be in construction or factories or the like.

I'm inclined to say the suggestion of bartending would be the best scenario in that you'd get to hear and see and experience a lot of stories, social interaction, and all that sort of 'writerly stuff.'
posted by kimota at 4:16 PM on March 1, 2005


Many thanks to everyone for posting your ideas. They are all in my notebook now and I am actively following up on most of them. Good writing to you all!
posted by lustra at 3:41 PM on March 3, 2005


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