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.
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.
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?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.