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Practical Advice from Our Authors

January 14, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Q&A

Were you aware that The Divining Wand has a Q&A page where you can ask questions and/or make comments about any author you wish? Interestingly enough exactly six months after the site’s launch, the first question was posted:

I have the beginnings of a fabulous nonfiction book but I don’t have the time to finish writing it because I need to work- what I really need is to stop working and finish writing it. I am an educator of 12 years and am confused as to what to do. Do I risk my job and take time off?? What do you recommend?? I received some pretty good feedback from a “so called” publisher but there was no offer of money involved and it didn’t really go anywhere. Do you have any recommendations?

Of course this Fairy Godmother does not have the knowledge to recommend anything, but I certainly have authors/friends who do and put this question to the following:

Allison Winn Scotch (The Department of Lost and Found, Time of My Life and The One That I Want coming June 1, 2010).

Allison is also well-known for her popular 4-year old blog, Ask Allison, and responded:

“My advice would be that for a non-fiction book, she doesn’t need to finish it anyway. To sell a non-fiction book, you need only a proposal, an outline and the first few chapters – it sounds like she’s written many of those already. That said, I wouldn’t quit her job. The market is too risky, and it simply is too big of a gamble. Even if it sells, she might sell it for peanuts, as is often the case. She just needs to keep chipping away at it at night and get the proposal into really strong shape, and then take it out to agents.”

THE Founder of The Debutante Ball and legendary “giver of assistance to countless writers” Kristy Kiernan (Catching Genius, Matters of Faith and Between Friends coming April 6, 2010) said:

“No, don’t take time off from your job to write a non-fiction book. First: Finding the time to write is a choice. I wrote my first novel working full-time, and my second working part-time. It was slow going, yes, but I fit writing in around the many responsibilities in my life, and I personally know many authors who have much busier lives than I and work full-time. Second: Non-fiction requires a proposal, not a finished manuscript. Get online and learn how to put together a non-fiction book proposal<----surround that phrase with quotes and put it in Google. Third: Once you've learned everything you can about how to put a proposal together, research literary agents who handle your type of book. Again, Google is your friend. The "'so called'' publisher"' comment in your question concerns me, because it indicates that you haven't spent much time doing research on how to find a legitimate agent. The information is out there, it's easy to find, it's easy to sift through. Go get 'em, and good luck!” And Eileen Cook (Unpredictable, What Would Emma Do? YA and Getting Revenge on Lauren Wood YA), who transitioned easily from author to her counseling background, offered:

“I have a few pieces of advice:

“I never suggest anyone leave their “day job” for writing. Once you finish the book it will take at least a year, maybe longer, for it to hit shelves (assuming that you are lucky enough to sell.) Writing is not a good get rich (or even making money) scheme. Even as a full time writer people struggle to fit the “job” demands of being a writer (the marketing, interviews etc) in with the creative aspects. Holding down a day job while you write is good practice for when you may be doing both aspects. Look to carve out time either at the beginning or the end of the day to write.

“If you really feel you need some uninterrupted time off to write, consider using your vacation time as a working holiday. Take two weeks and have firm goals about what you want to accomplish. As an educator you may be able to use your summer breaks. Your employer may also have an option for you to take an unpaid leave of absence. I would encourage you to look to find a way to hold onto your job unless you have another stable source of income. The truth is most writers either hold down other jobs or have other means of financial support.

“Non fiction is different than fiction, in that you may not have to finish the whole book before selling. There are lots of great books on preparing a non-fiction proposal which will include an outline, sample chapters and a proposal on how your book will fit into the market. The proposal should take you less time than writing the full book. Armed with your proposal you can approach agents etc. If you’re lucky you may sell on proposal and be provided an advance which will cover some costs while you write.

“Hope that helps!”

My hope is that all three answers will help and thank you for asking.

Announcement: The winner of Melanie Benjamin’s Alice I Have Been is Marrgay. Congratulations to you! Now please email: diviningwand (at) gmail (dot) com with your mailing address and the book will be sent out promptly. Thank you to all who commented and do read Alice’s story…you’ll enjoy.

3 Comments to “Practical Advice from Our Authors”


  1. See, I had no idea that the Q&A section was up and running or that it was actually a place to ask questions! I thought it was a place for author interviews……I know, don’t sigh, that didn’t make any sense.

    Nevertheless…..the advice you provided from other authors was terrific! And since I’m working on a long neglected novel in progress, I’ll just have to hop over there and ask a question to redeem myself!

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  2. “Even as a full time writer people struggle to fit the “job” demands of being a writer (the marketing, interviews etc) in with the creative aspects. Holding down a day job while you write is good practice for when you may be doing both aspects.”

    Now that is the best argument I’ve read for not quitting your day job. Everyone had really valuable advice, but that one sentence… honestly, it changed my mindset. I keep thinking I’m being held back by my (part-time) job, and the truth is, I’m holding myself back. I need to change my attitude and realize that it’s never going to be free & easy going to write a book.

    Thanks so much for this! Here via Allison’s website, and oh so glad I came. 🙂

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  3. I’m with you Kristan. I often feel held back by the fact that I have a day job. I’d love to be able to devote long chunks of time to writing each day, but instead I have to find pockets of time. The hard part is that something often has to be sacrificed. Haggling minutes of my life between the things I want to do is exhausting!

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