Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Guest post by Michele Corriel

This week I’m out of town doing a marathon of school visits in Sarasota, Florida. My friend Michele Corriel has graciously agreed to do a guest post.

I used to have a day job. I got up in the morning, shoved breakfast in my mouth and in the mouths of my family and scooted out the door into traffic to show up at an office. The good part was that I got a monthly paycheck. The bad part … well, you know the bad part.

That was almost ten years ago.

It wasn’t that I didn’t love my job. I was a journalist and a pretty good one. I’d won tons of awards. But one day the person who owned the newspaper (yes, it was owned by one person!) sold the paper. So it was either join a conglomerate whose only care was to improve the bottom line or go out on my own.

I decided, with encouragement from a friend, to try freelance writing. This would allow me to write from home, manage my own time, work on my novels, and get paid. And although I’ve had a few bumps along the way, I’ve never looked back. Almost every year since I started freelancing I’ve made about the same amount of money I made while working at the newspaper. But it wasn’t easy.

Nobody told me when you first start freelancing you need to take every job that comes along. I wrote for bridal shows, Christmas catalogs, community newsletters, animal shelters, basically I wrote for anybody who would pay me. But I also made great headway on my own work, which kept me writing all that other junk. It also got me a great reputation. I never missed a deadline. I never handed in anything without quotes from reliable sources. And, no matter how much someone paid me, I never sent off anything that wasn’t the best thing I could write about that subject.

I started to send out queries to magazines I wanted to write for … and I got assignments from them, too. In fact, for a few years I had a regular art column in Frontier Airlines’ magazine, wild blue yonder.

With all that under my belt I seriously started to work on a novel I’d been thinking about. And I’d gotten myself into excellent writing shape. By that I mean I’d organized my day to produce as much work as I could in the time I had. I had to be finished by 3 pm to pick my daughter up from school and get her to swimming. So I woke up early, got my husband and my daughter out the door, and got up to my office by 9 am every day. I’d break for lunch (one hour) and then finish up by 3 or so. I still keep this schedule although I don’t have to pick my daughter up anymore (she’s driving!).

My secret to a successful writing life is to know my own strengths and weaknesses: I’m more creative in the morning and more able to do drudgery work (transcribing interviews, editing work or taking notes) in the afternoons. And I always find time for an hour of reading. It’s very important to feed your reading brain.

Last year I had my first middle grade novel published and my next book will be out in 2012. I obtained a great agent and as my freelance work levels off my personal writing increases.

Michele Corriel lives and writes in Belgrade, Montana, where she is also the Regional Advisor for the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Her debut middle-grade novel, FAIRVIEW FELINES: A NEWSPAPER MYSTERY (Blooming Tree/Tire Swing Press) came out last fall. Her second book, WEIRD ROCKS (Mountain Press), will be out Spring 2012. She is represented by The McVeigh Agency.


  1. Great to hear your story Michele. I really admire you. I have some idea how hard you have worked, as I tried freelancing for a about eight years. My earnings were so low, I reached the point where it was more of a drain than a benefit. I have cut back and simplified my life and do without a day job. Luckily my husband has health insurance and is supportive of my fiction efforts. Not everyone has the liberty, I have, but it has required sacrifice as well.

  2. I definitely know about taking every job. I looked at my finances from last year at tax time and discovered that I had about equal amounts from writing freelance articles, doing private paid critiques, and teaching classes/workshops, with the smallest amount from royalty payments (no new book sales in 2010). It's great that you've made it work for you and are able to shift more of the work toward fiction!

    Chris Eboch
    NEW! The Eyes of Pharaoh: a mystery in ancient Egypt