Writing as a career or hobby: what's your experience?

I didn’t find any threads like this, and I thought it’d be helpful to have a place to discuss the business side of writing. I’m curious what everyone’s experience is in this regard, perhaps we can learn from one another to make this life more viable. As much as it may pain our artistic souls, the reality is we all have to pay the bills somehow. There’s always a balance between doing what you love and what you need.

First off, I’m curious what everyone’s status is:

  • Full-time professional writer
  • Part-time professional writer
  • Aspiring professional
  • Hobby writer
  • Other?
0 voters

If you do write for money, what do you do?

  • Primarily IF
  • Primarily other fiction (e.g., novels, short stories)
  • Primarily nonfiction
  • Other?
0 voters

I’m a freelance writer myself. Everything I have been hired to do thus far is non-fiction, and often not super inspiring. I’ve been trying to find ways to weedle into the fiction business without totally freaking out my family lol. It’s not like we have the kind of money for me to just take off a year of work to finish a novel, and it’s hard to find time for fun writing with how much other work there is to do.

Curious how everyone else is doing in this regard. Is anyone paying the bills just with IF? A mix of styles? If so, how did you get there?

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I freelance, though I’ve not done any recently for various of reasons, one of which being working on a personal project. When I freelance, I do tabletop game design. I have zero expectation and desire to make a living off my writing.

(Also, my 9-to-5 involves a lot of report writing, but that’s only a portion of what I do.)

ETA: You may want to define terms. I initially read these as ‘Live off writing’ / ‘Makes money from writing’ / ‘Wants to make money off writing’ / ‘Does not make money off writing and maybe does not care to.’ Responses down-thread, though, are making me think I should change my answer to ‘hobbyist.’ I have made money off my writing and do plan on continuing to make money off my writing when possible, but I do not plan to make a significant portion of my income from writing.

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Writing for HG is strictly a hobby for me. I don’t think it’s feasible for anyone here to do it as a full-time job unless you’re in the top 1% of writers, and even then, you’d definitely need patreon, ko-fi, merchandising or some other peripheral income source to supplement the royalties from HG. I’m mainly doing this for personal fulfillment.

Writing a 150k word game can take hundreds of man-hours of work, if you consider that you’ll need to plan, write something, work on stat/game balancing, do self-copyediting and do self-beta testing. In theory, you can crowdsource the latter two here in this forum, but most folks here generally offer high-level feedback (which is useful for sure, but not a substitute for digging out the hard-to-find bugs and combing the text for typos and errors). Additionally, you’ll need to create your own art (which also takes time) or pay for it (which comes out of your cut from the game’s sales).

Also, that’s just half the job. The other half is marketing and PR, basically setting up a WIP thread, interacting with fans and trying to get people excited about your game. HG gives you access to a massive fanbase, but you’ll still be responsible for trying to attract a good portion of that fanbase to your work. If you’re using social media channels like tumblr to promote your game, that takes time too. Competition for eyeballs on this forum is steep (to put it nicely), so expect the marketing/PR side to be the more challenging of the two.

Writing for HG is definitely a good experience, and creating your own work is definitely fulfilling. With that said, if paying your bills is a big part of the equation, it could be challenging if you’re not a top writer. My game isn’t going to be published for another month or so, so I’m not sure how much I’ll be making. Still, if we’re talking business, having a HG game on your resume can be useful if you’re trying to get into CoG/HC or some other professional position in the creative industry.

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There is and old thread with same name. Writing as a hobby. Maybe do you find interesting:

I started making IF as purely a hobby, then moved into making money with it part-time alongside a non-creative job. After losing that job I spent a couple of years scraping by doing freelance game writing here and elsewhere with my wife’s support; this made some money certainly not enough to pay the bills. Then I worked full time for games studios for a few years while continuing to make IF part time.

In the last year I’ve done a bit of freelance game writing for studios, and have a Patreon, but mostly CoG IF writing is my focus and is what pays the bills at the moment. A big difference between now and the scraping-by years is that I published a couple of commercially successful titles which contribute to a back catalogue generating regular royalties.

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I mainly write popular science books, and have had a few successful hits; I also teach at a university. I started writing IF while I was stuck travelling the world during COVID (selling my house to go travelling the globe seemed a great idea in January 2020…), and then ended up with less time on my hands than I expected. This evolved from a love of fiction and a desire to do something different, plus the feeling that interactive narrrative was something that was still in its nascent stages as an artform. I use a pen-name mainly so there’s a separation between my fiction and my non-fiction, as they are radically different.

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I’m a mix of both hobbyist and part-time professional, because I believe that the best way to polish up my game writing and narrative design skills is to churn out games to serve as experience and to show what I can do. That’s why I entered game jams in the first place.

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Unless you’re in the tiny top percent of commercial IF writers (and for CSGs realistically that generally means having a very successful patron + very well selling games) in my opinion it’s just not feasible to substitute writing for a regular paying job. The amount you make per hour of game creation time would be way, way below minimum wage in most countries for the majority of writers in any coding language. You also receive nothing until it’s done (unless writing for COG) so have nothing to keep the power on in the meantime. It’s fine to want to aim to being in that top category, but if you have bills I to pay it’d probably be a bad idea to give up regular paying work to only rely on your next game being the one that breaks you into that “job” bracket rather than making it first and seeing how you go from there. I’m firmly in the hobby with sometimes with some extra benefits if I didn’t just release them for free category for the games I make here and elsewhere.

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I am a writer fuelled by stubborness. I dont do it for career, I am just determined to be published. But i have a job; the money I dont care. But if I want being published it is not hobby I guess.

The difference is really blurry. And I dont think really mark much why and how you write. Except for deadlines and or style of the publisher.

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I write purely for myself. I very rarely share what I write with others, it’s simply a creative outlet for me given that I work in a very non-creative field.

That being said:

It’s not like we have the kind of money for me to just take off a year of work to finish a novel, and it’s hard to find time for fun writing with how much other work there is to do.

As a freelance writer do you have to take every project that is offered to you? There is a grey area between doing nothing but writing for work and taking a year off to write the great american novel. Obviously I don’t know your precise financial situation but I’ve rarely found people that didn’t have SOME fat they could trim in their budget so they didn’t have to work as much and could focus a little more on things they find creatively/spiritually fulfilling.

Entirely fair. Everyone has unique challenges, I hope you are able to find a way to make time for doing things you love.

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My hope is to have my writing make enough fun money for me to buy unnecessary fun things and to travel. I’m in school to be a teacher, which means I’ll have summers off to travel, but probably not enough money to actually travel that much. And I love crafting stories, though the actual writing bit is still something I’m trying to get good at. Maybe after people read my work I’ll find out I’m actually pretty ok, but I haven’t gotten there yet

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My writing keeps the lights on, in that some months my royalties roughly equal my power bill.

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I totally agree, I just have some unique challenges in that regard. It’s not so much that I have a lot of work to do so much as I have very little space in my life for any work. I have significant health challenges that adds an extra layer of difficulty to pretty well everything, and a little 9 month old who takes a lot of attention (I currently only write while she naps, and there are unfortunately only so many naps in a day lol).

Currently ironing out a system to at least get some meaningful writing time in regularly, I’m sure it’ll get easier with time.

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I’m a hobby writer and have been for 20+ years. I’d like to make money off of it one day, but that’s not the reason why I write. I write because I need to, if that makes any sense. I write, because I have stories to tell and can’t do anything with them except write them.

Maybe one day, if I get a big enough following, I’ll start a patreon or something, but for now, I’m content with it as a hobby :slight_smile:

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Wow go you! That’s actually pretty impressive. My royalties will allow me to buy lunch rather than bring it with me once or twice this month if I want to :laughing:

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If you’ve had any particularly prestigious or well-known writing assignments, or performed work for any big names, you can put together your CV and try your luck with writing for the CoG label. It might be difficult, but no harm trying.

If you do get on board, you get advances, which does help from the financial side of things, as well as substantially more support (e.g. art, beta testing, marketing) from CoG.

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I chose writing as a career primarily for health reasons. When I was younger, I thought I would be able to have a sensible “day job” career and continue writing in my downtime, and that eventually, I would be able to publish a book. When it became obvious that I could no longer work full-time, I decided that it was better to put what energy I had into my creative work, with the knowledge that it would take years before it would pay off.

It still took longer than I expected, but that’s life for you.

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I’ve been lucky enough to manage writing full time, though I only dared to take that path because the company I worked for closed the local branch, and gave a generous severance package. So far, so good, we will see how long it lasts since I am the sole provider so far.

While most my time is spent on IF’s, there’s also comics and ttrpg modules. Haven’t had time to get back into proper books, it is in the works, but there’s a limit to the things I can juggle at once. The comics are mostly done now, and we’ll see if the ttrpg thing makes any money. If it does, I will probably stick with that (I am only one of a team), otherwise it’s back to have novels as a second leg to stand on. Something I’ve realized is that it’s useful to have a lot of eggs in the basket, you never know which ones are going to hatch.

So far, the breadwinner is my Patreon, which takes some time. I don’t think it slows me down very much though, the content I produce for it as things I would need to work out anyway for the story. I don’t have any issues with writers block or mental pressure there, I like having the monthly deadline for the various levels. My brain works good under pressure. The QnA is the most work, but it has also led me to think more in depth about many things, so it’s also been helpful.

While I’m still getting used to the change in schedule, it feels good. My body is recovering, my health has been bad since 2020 (well, before that to be honest, doing two jobs since 2015 is not healthy, but repression does wonders). I did underestimate the amount of administrative work it was doing this full time compared to part time though… it will be easier once I am used to it, but oh boy…

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I hope your recovery continues well. I relate to the issues that come up when doing many jobs at once - I was doing that for several years and it’s an ongoing work-in-progress getting into a more balanced, healthy routine.

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I think I might be the only person who does this as a full time job and lives off of it as a primary source of income, but I might be wrong.

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