Making it Work While You’re Mostly Working for Free

I’m waiting on the phone to ring to find out about a project I pitched yesterday while simultaneously scheduling a pitch meeting around another pitch meeting I already have set, one that is effectively killing my original plans to attend a friend’s wedding, which leads me to answering an excellent question about money with a whole lot of words on juggling multiple projects.

Heidi writes in the comments section of this entry:

[readermail]
If I may ask a question about the super secret fantasy life of a writer — how do you budget financially during the jags where you’re working flat out for free until you can catch your breath and the unexpected income arrives? …I’ve found my own 1099 income years to be sort of jarring, so I wondered.
[/readermail]

I’m sure there are many ways to do this. Unfortunately, I am not blessed with the “Rich Uncle” version, so I had to go about it differently.

My very first day of my very first tv show job, one of the more established writers said to me, “Save your money, kid.” He didn’t have to do that. I’m pretty sure I didn’t ask for any advice at all. Because of that, I thought, “That man is telling me something he wishes someone had said to him. He is literally trying to pay it backward.” So I do try to always save, particularly when I’m on a show that’s paying me every week. I put a lot of that away, knowing it’s my paycheck when I’m not staffed or waiting on a check from all my other writing, which pays about maybe four times a year.

Making it work while you’re working for free takes some discipline, some planning, and still a bit of luck. But it can happen!

If I’d been fortunate enough to be on a show that lasted more than a couple of seasons, I could tell you, “Residuals.” That’s one of the reasons we were striking so hard those few years ago.

Samantha Who? still plays in other countries, and is on Netflix streaming, so every once in a while a “little green envelope” comes in the mail from the Writer’s Guild that is my tiny cut of that pie. A very, very tiny cut. My last LGE was for around three hundred dollars, after taxes. I might get another one next year for less than that. But that show wasn’t on for very long, and I wasn’t at producer level. Someone more established on a show that lasts four seasons or five or is on multiple networks — those residuals keep you going during the times when you aren’t on staff, when you are “working flat out for free.”

But that’s not me, either. I’m going to try to answer your question with the four rules I keep in mind when I’m doing this job.
Read more

interview: The Big Idea | Whatever

What happens in this novel bears little resemblance to what happened in my own. This is not a memoir. But the emotions the main character is struggling with that cause her to believe she might actually be going crazy — that’s where this story comes from. Because when things are in limbo like that, when your life seems stuck on pause, every question appears to have sixteen thousand equally plausible answers. When I was struggling with my own answers, I never seemed to have the ones people were looking for. I think it’s because human beings have a natural, very healthy, instinct to avoid pain. Going through a divorce or signing up for roller derby says to the world, “I am about to get hurt. A lot. Seemingly willingly.” Who could understand that?

I’m always proud to be a part of anything John Scalzi‘s doing, and I’m flattered to be the featured writer in today’s The Big Idea.

I’ll tell a Scalzi story, for those of you who have wandered over here from Whatever. Read more

thank you, john.

I wouldn’t be sitting here right now were it not for the advice of John Scalzi, many many years ago at a Journalcon in Pittsburgh, where he calmly explained that it might not be the craziest thing in the world for me to attempt to be a full-time writer. Like, as a career.

He forgot to mention what I should do when I walk away from my job and smash my car to bits all in the same week. When you use different words to describe my life, I sure do sound like a bum.

Anyway, now John’s all fancy-pants and king of the sci-fi world, so he’s very busy with a deadline. This is good news for the readers of Whatever, because this month John is showcasing a different writer every day. The good news for me is that I got tagged for today. Good luck with your deadline, John. And thanks for the kind words.

Why Girls Are Weird By the Numbers

Amazon has added a brand new evil feature.

Now you can find out how many letters, words and characters are in the pages of Why Girls Are Weird. You can find out how many “complex words” I used (6%). You can find out what grade education is needed to understand the book (4.8). Sorry, third graders! Read more

More Airplane Writing

because i can.

I am blessed with a middle seat on an emergency row for my return flight to Austin. Therefore I’m going to write tomorrow’s entry today because I have enough room and time. I don’t know if my morning flight to LA will bless me with space, and I don’t know if I’ll be awake enough to write.

Read more