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Being A Disciplined Author, by Julian Stockwin

Gone are the days of tapping away on a typewriter in a garret! Not only do modern writers have to produce around 100,000 words of very polished text each year but they have to fit in all the various other activities demanded of them.

Money matters 

As soon as you start working on your book you need to put in place a system for keeping tabs of any expenses incurred in the production of your work. Once you’ve sold the rights to your manuscript I recommend you find an accountant who is familiar with publishing. Try not to just throw all the receipts into a box without sorting them first. It makes life much easier if you set aside a certain amount of time each month to annotate receipts, etc. You’ll thank yourself when your accountant starts reminding you that you are close to the deadline for getting for his paperwork to him.

A big question you’ll have to face is whether to give up your day job. Publishers pay an advance for a manuscript but this will be delivered in instalments – on signing, on delivery and on publication. If you have an agent, they will take 15-20% of that, then more will have to be set aside for the tax man. You need to calculate very carefully whether you can afford to live on your writerly earnings alone. If you do give up the day job make sure that you discipline yourself to dip into the money carefully, not blow a large amount all at once. If your book is a hit you might be anticipating big cheques through the post, but royalties are set against any advances and may not come for some time.

Budgeting time 

Once your book comes out it is important to keep your work and yourself in the public eye as much as possible, but this must be balanced against actual writing time.

If you are working at home full-time, it is tempting to think you’ll just attend to a few domestic tasks before you start work. DON’T. Devise a schedule of working hours and stick to it. If you were in the workplace you wouldn’t get up and tell your boss you are going shopping for two hours, would you?

I love classical music and I thought it would be nice to have it in the background as I write but I found it too much of a distraction. You need to focus completely on the world you are creating.

I aim to be at my desk at 8:30 am. Around 11:00 Kathy and I usually take a short break for coffee and then resume work until lunch at 1:00 pm. Following my practice in the Navy I often take a forty minute nap after lunch, and then we may take a stroll into Ivybridge. (We live just a couple of minutes’ walk from the centre of the village). I find I am at my most creative in terms of writing in the morning so afternoons are mostly reserved for research and answering emails. Reading my growing library of resource material is a necessary but most enjoyable part of the job!


Julian Stockwin’s author website:

Julian Stockwin’s bio page


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BetrayalVictoryQuarterdeck     Blood of the ReichThe Leopard Sword (Empire)A Christmas Homecoming

Writing Historical Novels


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