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How I Became A Full Time Author

After nine years of working in the police, I’ve given in my notice to work full time. How do I feel? Amazing. How did I do it? Read on …

Fell into Writing

I first fell into writing in 2012, when my family and I had a life changing experience in our home. If you’re interested, you can read about it here. But when it came to publishing my true story, I didn’t expect to get very far. Nobody was more surprised than me when it took off. All we wanted was to get our story out there, but it seemed people enjoyed my writing too. After spending a year writing my first book, I had been bitten by the bug and did not want to stop there.

I decided to write something I would enjoy, putting my experience in both the police and paranormal into play. And so the DC Jennifer Knight series was born. I was thrilled when editor Keshini Naidoo enjoyed it, and offered me a three book deal with publishers Bookouture, just on the strength of book one, Don’t Turn Around. But it was not all plain sailing. I was working full time as a detective constable, had a family of four, and was contracted to produce a book every six months.

Reaching Burnout

Most mornings I got up at 5.30 for work, dealing with high risk victims of domestic violence on a daily basis. It was an hour long commute each way, so I brought my Macbook on the train, and when I could squeeze into a spare seat, I used the time to write. I usually wrote for an hour when I went to bed too, the only time my house is ever quiet. Someone told me once that being a full time author is hard. Well, working full time and writing is twice so. I admire anyone who can do both, I did it full on for three years, and by the end, I was reaching burnout. I kept the picture below on my desk at work, and looked at it every day.

every-single-day-you-make-a-choice

Late nights, long working hours in a demanding job, a family bereavement, and no days off were taking its toll. By Christmas, it had got the better of me, and I was signed off sick from work with stress. So I used the time to write. And I could see light at the end of the tunnel. I also knew that something had to give. I could not go back to my full time job and continue to write. So it was time to make a decision. On 3rd March, I gave in my notice in the police.

So what were the turning points that made it financially possible to make such a daring move?

  1. I invested in myself. I spent time producing my self published book, hired an editor and paid monthly for her services. I spent a long time researching, reading books on marketing, publishing and honing my craft. As I said, I didn’t expect my book to take off, but I at least wanted to give it a fighting chance.
  2. I worked as hard as I could. I love writing, it’s like breathing to me most of the time. But some days I came home from work after a hard day and just wanted to vegetate on the sofa. Sometimes I could not get a seat on the train to write, or it would be cancelled and I wouldn’t get home until seven or eight. Getting my word count out on days like those meant working until one in the morning, and getting four or five hours sleep. This isn’t a ‘poor me’ story. This is me, explaining that sometimes you’ve got to put the hours in to achieve your dreams.
  3. I never stopped believing. As well as hard work, you have to believe you can do it. It’s not an easy road, but if you have natural talent, self belief and a will to succeed, you’ll make it. I watched the movie ‘The Secret’ (available on iTunes and Netflix) about thirty times. I devoured books on the law of attraction. I still do. And believe me, it works.
  4. Support. You’ll need it by the bucketload. My husband has been my biggest supporter, and has encouraged me all the way. If you don’t have support at home, then go out and find it. Join a Facebook group, join a book club, get together with like minded people and share your stories. You need to become very relaxed about things like housework, and make sure everyone pulls their weight at home.
  5. Finding the right people. Being signed with my publishers Bookouture was a massive turning point, and the DC Knight series sold in the high five figures in the first year. Getting signed by my fantastic literary agent Madeleine Milburn was also a huge factor in my future career. I then decided to write crime without the paranormal aspect, in order to reach more readers, and Bookouture signed me for a further three book deal for my DS Ruby Preston series. This brings me well into 2017, which helped me feel ready to take the plunge.

 

If you’re anything like I was, you’ll be reading this article thinking, that’s all very well, but where’s the answers? How do you actually make enough money to leave your job? The truth is, there is no magic formula. In four words: put the work in. I’m grateful for my job in the police, for the fantastic people I’ve worked with, and the experiences which have provided me with the backdrop for my writing career. But I’m so looking forward to the summer, working in the garden and spending time with my kids. Life is incredibly short. Do what you love. And when you get there, drop me a line below and tell me how you did it. 🙂

 

Comments & shares very welcome. Picture courtesy of Stocksnap.

This Post Has 42 Comments
  1. There are no words to describe how emotional I felt reading that Caroline. I’m so proud of you and I also know exactly how you feel, one day I hope to be able to do exactly the same.

    Love Helen xx

    1. Aww thanks lovely, I’m looking forward to reading your blog when you do. Keep digging that tunnel, even if it feels like you’re using a spoon sometimes, you’ll get there. 😉 x

  2. Well done. A huge step, which can’t have been taken lightly. “Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.”

  3. Very inspiring. Suppose I better get my ass in gear then. Good luck and well done you! Also my birthday was 3rd March, that’s a sign! Mags x.

  4. This is a massive inspiration to me and so familiar to my own circumstances.
    I too was a detective in CID, and resigned following a re-evaluation of life after the sudden death of my father and birth of my only daughter only weeks later. I moved with my ‘new’ family to the coastline, and for a period I was jobless and extremely homesick, But then fate showed its hand, and by chance I met a successful author who motivated me to write. I began a story. Guess what? …a paranormal detective series. I employed freelance editors and ‘flirted’ with an agent or two, but then, right at a critical stage, I contracted viral meningitis. The effects were devastating to my cognitive ability for well over a year, limiting my capacity to write effectively. But now,I’m more determined than ever, and your story and courage to follow your dream is more than inspirational to me. I will follow your career and books with great interest, and I wish you tremendous success. x

    1. Thanks James, I used to love reading posts like this when I was working full time. Yes, police work can be very demanding. Hope things work out the way you want them to, just keep going. 🙂

  5. Again, congratulations to you. Wonderful to see that with good support and such hard work by you and I guess determination, your dreams have come true.
    I have been in nursing for so long but am so disallusioned by it I am thinking of retraining in something completely different but feel afraid. At 53 New Zealand is also beckoning . You story gives me some courage. X

    1. Thanks Lucy, and I’m glad if I’ve inspired you. Life is too short to spend it doing something you are unhappy with. Best of luck. You’ll get there. x

  6. I signed a three book deal in January and am trying to juggle writing with working full time – not easy is it? I long for the day that I can quit the day job and concentrate on wring the books. Well done, you are an inspiration.

    1. Hi Colette, no it’s not easy at all, but keep the end goal in mind at all times. I’m so glad you liked the piece, I used to find articles like these very inspirational when I was digging my tunnel out of my job, it’s good to pay it back. Congratulations on the book deal. Just keep digging! 🙂

  7. Hi Caroline! I’ve had my first book published and completely understand every word that you have written. So inspiring. I hope that I can keep going as you did. Just about to start my second so finding your words seems like a gift. Thank you 🙂 x

    1. Thanks Julie, I’m so glad you found my words at the right time. I used to keep an online journal (its called Day One on the app store) and in it, I wrote about the days that were tough, in the hope that one day I would look back and realise how lucky I was when I had given up my job. Now I’m reading back, I know I won’t ever take it for granted. I still work long hours, and I write every day, but I love what I do and its the freedom that I enjoy the most. I know you will too, just come back and tell me when you do. x

  8. Caroline I have been following your journey because I think you are so so inspirational- you are so real,relateable, funny (memes!) , open and very honest about the highs and challenges you have faced to realise your dream. I wish you every continued success- absolutely brilliant x

    1. Thanks so much Coll, you’ve made my day! Sometimes I wonder if I should tone down my personality, but then I think, that’s who I am, and if I put a smile on someone’s face then all the better. 🙂

  9. Hi Caroline,
    Nice blog. I’m writing my first novel at 50. I work full time as you and have 4 children at home. OK, does it count if 3 of them are 20-23? But they’re in college and still take up some time (and I’m still glad they are here!). I cannot quit my job and never would unless it was too stressful or I was making money as a writer. So, I just need to put my butt in the chair and write.

    1. Hi Catherine, thanks for your lovely comments, and yes your kids are always kids, regardless of their age! Having daily word goals helps a lot with writing 😉

      1. Congratulations for achieving your dreams. Strange thing is I too have a similar job, not in the police but coaching those who have offended and based my first novel on this. In the last 18 months I have lost my Mother and Brother, worked full time and had personal problems but never gave up on my dream. Madalaine gave me a 3 chapter review 3years ago which was very positive that gave me inspiration. I re wrote, edited and re wrote. Now its time to re submit. I am one of lifes hard workers and believe I can and will.

  10. Dear Caroline:

    I was looking in the Amazon program and came across the book, “Paranormal Intruder”, so I read some of the information that was written about the book including the story about it. I am writing to ask if you need any help getting rid of the intruder??? I am a Methodist Pastor and I deal in Deliverance Ministry among other things. I worked with a Catholic Priest doing an exorsism for a 12 year old girl. I’m not a normal Pastor because I do this stuff for people. I am going to send my card with an email so you know who I am. I specialize in Normal/Abnormal Psychology, Emergency Medicine as I used to be a Paramedic before I retired, Bereavement, Grief Counseling, Deliverance, and Inner Healing. I’m Congenial, Good Listener, Compassionate, and Supportive.

    I will leave it with you, Caroline, so you can decide what you want to do. Just to let you know I will not mind helping you and your husband. If this Intruder is making him loose his health, it must be very strong in you residence. BLESS YOU AND YOUR HUSBAND, AND BLESS THAT HO– USE!!!
    YOURS IN CHRIST,
    REV. DON SCHRAM

    1. Many thanks for your kind gesture, but thankfully since the exorcism, things have much improved.

  11. Hi Caroline,

    Enjoyed your honest account of becoming a full-time author and empathised a lot with your journey, literally in some cases, especially your comment about when you could squeeze into a spare seat. I used to have a 1.5 to 2 hour commute, there and back and often, coming back meant standing squashed in with other hapless commuters, at least for half the journey. I used to use the time thinking about what I was going to write.

    Thankfully, now, with more time to write and recording, then using a transcribing software, I can get a lot more done.

    1. Thanks Tom,
      It’s all about priorities, isn’t it? People say they don’t have time to write, yet spend hours on social media. I say to people, even if they write 500 words a day, that’s the first draft of a book in six months.

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