I have reached the end of my recent programming nightmare. Or, rather, I have finished the program and have it ready for distribution. With software, the nightmare never really ends. There is always the bug that gets reported to you on an urgent basis when you are busy doing something else, usually when you’ve had your head out of the program for so long that it looks like Linear B rather than something you once wrote and understood. But for the moment, RefMod LP seems as though it's ready to charge out there and attack the project we’ve been working on.
To a lot of writers, I might seem to have the ideal day job. After all, I have big chunks of time when I can delve deeply into my stories. To others, the drawbacks might seem more apparent: when we have a crisis, it’s all-consuming, and there’s no way to “squeeze in” any writing at all.
This question of balancing the day job with the writing is one most writers face, and I’ve known few who were entirely happy with the balance. At least one writer I know is trying to figure out a way to move from a standard day job to a more writing-oriented career, trading in her current work for freelance editing and other wordsmithing.
I wonder about this. I’ve heard from too many writers who found that careers in editing or script-reading or writing advertising copy tended to use up a big portion of their writing juices—or, in the words of one, left them so self-conscious that they felt constipated.
Teaching creative writing has always been a favored option, at least in the US, but many writers—including John Gardner himself—report that they seldom get much done during the school year, and that the only advantage of the job is the long school breaks. (That said, some others seem to balance teaching and writing quite happily.)
Back in the Golden Age of paperback originals, many authors supported their writing with even more writing. Well-known writers like Lawrence Block, Dean Koontz, Brian Garfield, and Elmore Leonard learned their chops and earned their bread while writing “their own” books and also cranking out series novels, novelizations, work-for-hire, ghosting, or other secondary fictioneering.
The market for this sort of thing is far smaller than it once was—though I saw recently that Sebastian Faulks was happy to pick up the James Bond torch—but I wonder what it would be like, supporting your fiction with fiction.
Faulks apparently wrote the new Bond, Devil May Care, in six weeks, a far shorter time than his “own” novels. If you don’t have to invent protagonists, characters, style, or milieu, this whole job might be easier. Far less satisfying, I would imagine, but easier.
So, Dear Readers: in the unlikely event that such a job were offered you, would you take it? If it would let you quit your day job, would you write the novelization of Tropic Thunder, or Finnegan Wakes Again, or The Return of the Return of the King, or Pride and Judiciary: The Divorce? Would you ghostwrite/co-write Tony Blair's debut bodice-ripper or Jessica Alba's striking new novel of ideas?
(You'd be welcome to use a pseudonym, of course.)