Wednesday, November 21, 2012

3 WOW Wednesday: Nick James on Writing as Hobby vs. Business

Today's WOW guest is Nick James, the author of the fabulous Skyship Academy series.

When he was kid, Nick’s collection of battle-scarred action figures became the characters in epic storylines with cliffhangers, double crosses and an unending supply of imaginary explosions. Not much has changed. The toys are gone (most of them), but the love of fast-paced storytelling remains. Working in schools from Washington State to England, Nick has met thousands of diverse students since graduating from Western Washington University and braving the most dangerous job in the world: substitute teaching. Luckily, being dubbed the “rock star teacher” has granted him some immunity. He currently lives and teaches in Bellingham, Washington. You can find him on his website,, or on twitter at @nickajames.

Writing: Hobby vs. Business

by Nick James

When asked to give advice to writers who want to become published authors, there are a million things that I could say. I could harp on the “know your craft” type of thing, which is really just something that develops the more and more you write. I could talk about persistence, and how it only takes one agent/editor to love your work, so it’s important not to give up. I could talk about the value of knowing your audience and focusing every project towards whatever group you’re working for. And I could definitely talk about the importance of a good query letter (hint: they’re very important).

But instead, I’d like to jump over the hoop of actually getting the agent/publication/book deal and talk a little about what it’s like when writing changes from being a hobby to a profession. This isn’t something I see discussed all that often, but I think it’s an important reality. There are some writers who fully support themselves with their writing, and that’s something every author is working towards. Most of us, though, write books in addition to a second (or even primary) job, especially at the beginning of our careers. At this point in my career, I’m definitely in that latter group. I work as a substitute teacher in my local school district, an all but full-time position, and one that (as I’m sure you can imagine) has its fair share of exhausting days.

Sure, I wrote in my spare time while working hours like this before I was published. I’ve written as a hobby for many years. But when writing becomes a profession, certain things change. You’re not just writing for yourself anymore. You’re writing for an audience, as well as a publisher, with all the expectations and deadlines (I repeat, deadlines) that go along with that. You’re promoting your work, engaging with readers, attending conferences, reading reviews and constantly thinking about how you can elevate your career with your next project--many of this during evenings and weekends.

Now, for the advice part. And really, it’s as simple as this: Enjoy what you do. Writing should be fun, and if you’re working towards publication, I’d bet you already enjoy the craft of it. I first started writing because I loved telling stories. I didn’t seek publication until years into my hobby. I was entertaining myself, and sometimes even now I have to remind myself about those days. Of course, there are so many unbelievable aspects to being a published author, and I’m continually grateful that this is the path that I’m on, but if I didn’t enjoy what I do, things would be very different. If you’ve got that passion going in, you’re gonna be golden--whether you’ve just signed for a five/six-figure advance or you’re juggling multiple jobs while you build your career.

Crimson Rising (Skyship Academy) by Nick James

The best-selling sci-fi series continues

Following their dramatic showdown in Seattle, Jesse Fisher and Cassius Stevenson find their world's been turned inside out. The faculty at Skyship Academy is keeping Jesse a prisoner in his own home, fearful of his influence over Pearls. And Cassius, once a loyal Pearlhound for the Unified Party, has been pushed into hiding, fearful of his government's retaliation.

When Jesse smuggles a mysterious red Pearl onboard the Academy, he sets loose a destructive chain of events, which lead him to a reunion with Cassius and a confrontation with Theo -- a bloodthirsty Pearlhound with a dangerous secret.

But a larger threat looms in the stars. An enemy is gathering, with plans to exterminate the entire human race. And Jesse and Cassius might just be the lynch pins that trigger mankind's destruction.

Order Crimson Rising (Skyship Academy)

View on Goodreads



  1. Great post, except I don't like the idea that writing is a hobby until you get published. That's the mentality so many non-writers have about what we do. My father does wood work and my mother makes quilts. Those are hobbies for them because they have no intention of making money off their stuff. I might not be making money with my writing, but I treat it like a job, not a hobby. The mentality between the two is very different.

    1. Which is exactly why you will succeed, Stina. You have such an incredible work ethic and drive to perfect the craft.

      If we are writing for publication, we have to treat it as a business from the start. At the same time, we have freedom to experiment more prior to publication, freedom to try things that may fail just to see if we can make them work. Eventually, that freedom is lessened by deadlines and brands and what we owe to our readers and investors (agents and publishers).

      There are advantages to both things. I suspect we just need to enjoy and trust the process, and do exactly what you are doing. Enjoy it with professionalism and determination.

      Happy thanksgiving!

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