The Special Page

Full-time writer Jay Wilburn gives tips on how he does it...including "the other thing" that helps him financially:



Simon Clark
Ellen Datlow
Gerald Sanford
Joe McKinney
Ramsey Campbell
Joe R. Lansdale
Thorne & Cross
Christian A. Larsen

How to Throw Away Your Life and Have Fun Doing It: Full-time Writing
by Jay Wilburn

No one knows what works and all advice is bad. Sometimes the advice is bad because it is dated. Sometimes it is dated because it only worked back before everyone was doing it. Sometimes it is not advice that can be replicated successfully.

The truth is: no one knows the secret formula when it comes to writing the perfect story, to marketing the perfect way, or to executing the perfect brand. We are all just guessing even when applying best practices.

My name is Jay Wilburn and I am a full-time writer. I write horror, sci fi, steampunk, zombies, and I have ghostwritten in many other genres. I get asked a lot about being a full-time writer. It is not so much that I am wildly successful as it is that I am nobody and nothing special. I’m not known widely and my work is not breaking down doors. I’m working to change all that, but at the moment I seem to represent the attainable dream to a lot of aspiring writers. If a “nobody” can make it work, then maybe it really isn’t impossible after all.

My son got sick and started having seizures. We used up all our sick days and money, so something had to give. I volunteered to give up my teaching career and stay home to care for him and make a go at being a full-time writer. My son is much better now.

Staying home with him was the excuse; it got me out of my teaching contract, and it justified the leap…but the truth was that I wanted to leave.

You are never really ready. There is no right time to make a leap of faith unless you can measure the moment that the pain of staying the same is worse than the fear of falling with nowhere to land. The leap will never happen if you are waiting for construction on the soft landing to be complete. If you are waiting for three best sellers, you might as well admit that you never really plan on doing it.

People will always tell you it is a bad idea. Everything will get tight and you won’t know where the next dollar is coming from. You have to be able to accept financial insecurity.

But I have a secret: “the other thing.” That is that source of income outside the normal push of trying to make it with my own fiction. During that struggle, many writers do freelance writing, or niche erotica under a pen name, or corporate blog post copy freelance, or editing for a large company, etc.

For me, the “other thing” is ghostwriting.

There is a mindset that goes with ghostwriting. It is a partnership with the client who gets the credit as author. There is a respect between the two, but it is their story. It does not belong to the ghostwriter.

For a variety of reasons, stories written for clients with money and a name have potential to do better than your own fiction. You have to be okay with that. You also have to believe that you will never run out of ideas. You have to remove the notion of writer’s block from your mind. These deadlines have no room for that. They’ll fire you and hire someone else, if you can’t deliver.

I started on the freelance site Elance.com. Elance is in the process of moving over to Upwork.com, so that would be my starting point if I were beginning now.

From there, I started getting clients from writing circles and publishers out in the world. As with all business, repeat clients are gold. Some of them refer you to close friends. This happens more on the business and corporate writing side, but they will hire a ghostwriter for their pet novel too. Fiction authors want to keep you a secret.

If you are skilled with nonfiction and fiction, this makes you more marketable. If you can write with skill in multiple genre, that is good. I did not know how to write a screen play when I started, but I do now.

Romance genres have the most money flowing to ghostwriters on the low level right now. This includes everything from erotica to sweet or even Christian romances. You learn the rules of the genre or the market and you deliver a good story.

Some of these clients are houses that pump this material out. They know what they want and what makes them money and they are looking for authors that can deliver. It’s a formula. They want to hold on to the good ones and will pay more to keep you.

There are more bad or low paying jobs than good ones. You have to pick and choose your clients and build up a reputation to compete for the good jobs. It is a slow build and takes time and work. If you want to make living at it from the bottom up, you have to figure out how to produce both quantity and quality.

I’m still scraping by month to month, but this is still successful by writing terms. Before I ghostwrote, I wasn’t sure I was good enough to be a best seller, but now I know my work is that good. It is just a matter of time before others notice what’s written in my name.

Now, when I tell my kids that they can achieve their dreams, I’m not just blowing smoke. They see me do it every day.

You don’t have to ever make the insane, irresponsible choice of becoming a full-time writer. But you can, especially if you try “the other thing.”































About Jay Wilburn

Jay Wilburn

Jay Wilburn lives with his wife and two sons in Conway, South Carolina near the Atlantic coast of the southern United States. He has a Masters Degree in education and he taught public school for sixteen years before becoming a full time writer. He is the author of many short stories including work in Best Horror of the Year volume 5Zombies More Recent DeadShadows Over Mainstreet, and Truth or Dare. He is the author of the Dead Song Legend Dodecology and the music of the five song soundtrack recorded as if by the characters within the world of the novel The Sound May Suffer. He also wrote the novels Loose Ends and Time Eaters. He is one of the four authors behind the Hellmouth trilogy. Jay Wilburn is a regular columnist with Dark Moon Digest. Follow his many dark thoughts on Twitter, Instagram, and Periscope as @AmongTheZombies, his Facebook author page, and at JayWilburn.com 

Dead Song

Time Eaters

Hollywood Hellmouth

Holllywood time dead