What does the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan, China last November mean for the writing world? Is this the end of capitalism as we know it? Can we look forward to a violent socialist revolution? Will e-book sales fly through the roof? The pandemic is bound to take a toll on what has always been an unstable, oftentimes fruitless profession. Social distancing measures should provide ample time for writing in isolation (and a heaping of anxiety for those struggling to make ends meet), not to mention plenty of dystopian inspiration too.
But writing simply doesn’t pay the bills. So how can writers make a living in times of crisis? For those in search of literary wisdom, fantasy author Isabella Hunter sheds light on her inspirations, daily routine, and how to get by as a writer.
Which genres are you most drawn to and why?
I write fantasy and horror. It’s what I was brought up reading and it’s what I enjoy writing. My dad had a massive influence on my reading as a child and I want to be as great as the authors I grew up reading. I have recently also been writing romance. I don’t have any published but they are all out for submission at the moment. I think it is important for an author to have a well-rounded grasp of more than one genre, as even if you are writing a fantasy novel it may have romance elements. I find it is really helping me expand my horizons and I hope I have the same success in romance as I have with fantasy and horror.
How difficult is it to make a living as a writer?
I have a full time job. I can not live on my writing, even if you condensed all my writing earnings ever, I couldn’t live for a month on it. Most publications I have been in, you get a contributor’s copy and a nominal fee. The most I have ever earned for a story is £33. These stories take two weeks at the minimum to write and edit. The ones that pay per word add up. I have one on submission at the moment and if it is accepted I’ll earn in the region of £300, but for something that took a month to write, this isn’t a viable option. Plus, many publishers of anthologies don’t like doing royalties as it is a lot harder to deal with, so once you’ve been accepted, you’re not going to receive any more income from it. In rare cases, you can find people who accept reprints but you need to read your contracts carefully to make sure you are able to send it out again.
Tell us about your daily writing routine…
I have a daily word count I like to hit of four hundred words. It isn’t much but it keeps me writing. I find consistency is much better for me. Some days I will massively exceed my word count but as long as something gets on the page that is what counts. Even four hundred words a day, five times a week (because I give myself rest days) gives over a hundred thousand words in the year. But burnout is the real enemy, which is why I like to play it slow and steady rather than put too much pressure on myself. Sometimes it is hard to get the words down on paper but I’ll push myself until I reach my word count. You can edit four hundred bad words, but you can’t edit nothing.
How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your routine?
I am in a high-risk category so I have already been self-isolating but I have now been placed into twelve week isolation. I am unable to work from home at the moment, but that may change soon, meaning I have been focusing heavily on my writing. It keeps me sane. I know we shouldn’t bully ourselves to feel we have to achieve something during this period, but for me it keeps me mentally active. I have been exceeding my word counts by quite a margin each day but I’d rather keep it low and make sure to give myself time for indoor exercises as well as downtime.
Ms. Hunter’s latest story, ‘The Fox Maiden’, is available for purchase now: books2read.com/Mythica.
We would also recommend her blog: isabellahunter.blog/published-work//
and don’t forget to check out her Facebook page for regular updates on her past and future work: www.facebook.com/writerisabellahunter/.
Written by Isabella Hunter and Michael Conroy.